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This is an excellent article on Posttribulationism by William Arnold III. I highly recommend it to my readers.

2. The Biblical Basis for Post-Tribulationism

By William Arnold III

One Rapture Passage · "The Rapture," a bad term? · 1 Thess 4:15-17 · 2 Thess 1:5-10 · 2 Thess 2:1-3 · Rev 20:4 · 1 Cor 15:50-55 · Matt 24:29-31 · Luke 17:26-31 · 2 Peter 3:8-15

One Rapture Passage

If we are going to try to decide when the rapture takes place then we must first go to the rapture passages and see what the Bible actually has to say about this event. Naturally, if we want to know when this event will take place we should look where it is discussed. The problem is that there is only one "rapture passage" in the Bible: 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Only Paul mentions the church being caught up in the air, and he only says it in this one passage. Therefore, this must be foundational to any discussion of the rapture. Since this is the only place in Scripture where the rapture is mentioned, all other passages that are taken to be "rapture passages" must have some connection to this verse. In other words, how would someone claim another passage as a "rapture passage," without first proving that the same event is being described as is in the one rapture passage in the Bible? This is very significant to the discussion, because the next closest passage to this one is Matthew 24:27-31, which specifically states that it takes place "after the tribulation."

Another passage that is commonly referred to as a "rapture passage" is 1 Corinthians 15:52. Although I would agree that this is describing the same event, the rapture is not specifically mentioned here. The reason we connect the two is because similar events are mentioned. Both passages mention a trumpet and the resurrection of believers. Because of this, we conclude that these are both the same event. However, as I already mentioned, Matthew 24:27-31 has much more in common with the one clear rapture passage. Notice the similarities:

Matt. 24:27-31
1 Thess. 4:15-17
1 Cor. 15:52

 

1. Called he parousia, “the coming” (27)

2. Jesus appears in heaven (30)

 

3. Coming on the clouds (30)

4. Angels present (31)

5. Great sound of a trumpet (31)

6. ---

7. Gathering of the elect (31)

 

1. Called he parousia, “the coming” (15)

2. The Lord descends from heaven (16)

3. . . . with them in the clouds (17)   

4. Archangel present (16)

5. Shout and trumpet of God (16)

6. Dead in Christ will rise (16)

7. We are caught up to meet him (17)

 

 

1. Called he parousia, “the coming” (23)

2. ---

 

3. ---

4. ---

5. At the last trumpet (52)

6. Dead will be raised (52)

7. ---

 


"The Rapture," A Bad Term?

It may come a surprise to some that the word "rapture" is not in the Bible.1 When we realize that Scripture does not speak of the rapture but rather says that at the coming of the Lord we will be raptured (caught up), it sheds new light on the discussion. It is misleading to speak of the rapture and then to ask when the rapture will take place. The Bible only mentions the coming of the Lord and says that when he comes we will be caught up together to meet him. But pre-tribulationists start by talking about the rapture and the second coming as if they were two separate events and then claim that post-tribulationists confuse the two. The fact is, however, that the Bible does not make this distinction. Instead, it uses the word "coming" (parousia) when we would expect to see the word "rapture" if indeed this were a different event.

It is also interesting to note that the New Testament does use at least two other words to describe the return of our Lord, and once again no distinction is made. They are: apokalupsis, "revelation" and epiphaneia, "appearing." Both of these Greek words are used as the hope of the church (1 Cor. 1:7; 2 Tim. 4:1,8; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:7,13; 4:13) and in clear second coming passages (2 Thess. 1:7; 2:8).2 It would seem very strange then for the writers of the New Testament to use at least three different words interchangeably to describe two different events that are separated by seven years. In other words, it would be confusing to use these three words to speak of two different events without distinguishing the two events. We would expect them to use different words for different events (such as rapture and second coming maybe?). How are we able to distinguish what Scripture does not?3

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

When we take a closer look at our "rapture passage," we see that Paul is not describing a new event but is explaining that at the coming of the Lord the dead will be raised. Notice how he begins his thought in verse 13, "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope." This sets the tone for what he is about to discuss. It is what he will be addressing, his "thesis statement" if you will. We then see him develop his theme of the dead in Christ as he goes on:

[14] For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. [15] For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. [16] For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. [17] Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. [18] Therefore comfort one another with these words. [1 Thess. 4:14-18]

Paul’s point to the believers at Thessalonica is that they need not worry about their dead loved ones. Jesus will resurrect them when he returns. He says that this will take place at "the coming of the Lord." There is no hint that this is any different than the coming which everyone was expecting–the one that Jesus told his apostles would take place "after the tribulation" (Matt. 24:29). We would also expect that the eschatology Jesus taught them would be the same as what Paul was teaching, unless we have reason to believe differently.

It is primarily this lack of evidence for multiple comings that is the basis for post-tribulationism. When it is realized that there is only one coming, post- is the only position. All agree that Christ is coming after the Tribulation, so if there is only one coming (or one stage of his coming as some prefer to call it), then the rapture must occur after the Tribulation.

2 Thessalonians 1:5-10

[5] This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. [6] For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, [7] and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, [8] dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. [9] These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, [10] when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed -- for our testimony to you was believed. [2 Thess. 1:5-10]

As mentioned earlier, a frequent charge against post-tribulationism is that they fail to distinguish between rapture passages and second coming passages; however, since we never find the word rapture in the Bible, what we label as a rapture or second coming passage will depend on our view of eschatology. If we believe that the church will be raptured prior to the Tribulation then any passage speaking of Christ coming in judgment will be labeled a second coming passage and any passage which speaks of his coming as a hope for the church will then be labeled as a rapture passage. This can at times be arbitrary and even circular. However, there is at least one passage which positively links the two as one event. In 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, Paul clearly states that God will give the believers rest when Jesus comes in flaming fire, dealing out retribution (v. 7,8). Then he goes on to say that the unbelievers will pay the penalty, "when he comes to be glorified in his saints on that day" (v. 9,10). There is no other conclusion than that the coming for the saints and the coming to execute vengeance are the same coming.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-3

[1] Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, [2] that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. [3] Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction [2 Thess. 2:1-3]

Once again, we see Paul laying out his subject matter at the beginning. He is going to be speaking, "with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him" (verse 1). Then he states that the Day of the Lord,4 "will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction" (verse 3). This is the most clear denial of an "any moment" rapture as one could imagine. There really is not much upon which to expound. This passage speaks for itself. But if I may paraphrase, Paul is saying, "With regard to his coming and our gathering, that will not happen until . . ." It also seems quite clear that Paul links the coming of our Lord with our gathering together to him, because he is going to speak with regard to both. I fail to see where in the passage Paul goes on to talk about the gathering after discussing the coming if we assume these are separate events.5

Also, Paul is making a point here. He stresses in verse 3, "let no one in any way deceive you" (which is a double negative in the Greek, a very strong negation). He says this as if someone would try to tell them otherwise.6 But he is very emphatic for them not to be deceived, because it will not happen until these things happen first. "It will not come" is in italics in the KJV and NASB, thus signifying that it was supplied by the translators. However, it necessarily is demanded by the rules of grammar in the Greek and is thus translated by every major translation.7

Furthermore, if we follow Paul’s flow of thought from verse one to verse two, he seems to link the "coming of our Lord" with the "day of the Lord." Not only is this the most logical way to understand this passage, but in my opinion it fits best with all of the other "day of the Lord" passages which will have bearing later in the discussion.

Finally, it would seem strange for Paul to tell them that the antichrist must come first if he knew they would not be around to see it. Why even say this at all? Why not tell them that the rapture must come first? It seems that he is warning them that this is what the church is to look for. Also, as we will see in chapter 7, this is how the early church understood this.

Revelation 20:4-5

[4] Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. [5] The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. [Rev. 20:4-5, emphasis added]

That this is taking place after the Tribulation is obvious. People are sitting on thrones reigning with Jesus. Both sides are in agreement at this point. But what to me seems equally clear is that the Bible states this is the first resurrection. If the rapture is to be preceded by the resurrection of believers (1 Thess. 4:15-17; 1 Cor. 15:52), and this is the first resurrection, then the rapture must be after the Tribulation.

For a pre-tribulationist this cannot really be the first resurrection. If the rapture takes place before the Tribulation, and the resurrection takes place before the rapture, then the first resurrection had to take place at least seven years before this time. They will usually say that this is the third or fourth phase of the first resurrection, which neither this nor any other passage teaches. The literal reading of this passage is that there has been no resurrection before this (aside from the Lord himself, of course). I fail to see what would be the significance of saying, "This is the first resurrection," if there had already been several resurrections of believers prior to this time. The book of Revelation was written to churches, who had hope of a future resurrection. When they read, "This is the first resurrection," the most natural thing for them to assume is that this is the one they were waiting for.

Also, if the church is not included in this resurrection, then John never does mention the resurrection of the church. Why would he leave out such an important event, especially when it was to the church that he was writing? He would have left them wondering where they fit into this picture. Of course, the way in which one views the order of the book of Revelation has a bearing on the discussion, but this will be dealt with in the next chapter.

1 Corinthians 15:50-55

[50] Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. [51] Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, [52] in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. [53] For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. [54] But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. [55] "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" [1 Cor. 15:50-55]

This passage and 1 Thessalonians 4:17 are probably the two most common passages people think of in relation to the rapture. We often hear it said that we will be caught up "in the twinkling of an eye" (verse 52). However, I think it will come as a surprise to many that the rapture is nowhere mentioned here. All it states is that a trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised and we will be changed. That’s it! This passage leaves us on the earth with changed bodies. Of course, I am not denying that Paul is describing the same thing here as in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. However, as was pointed out earlier, the reason we connect the two is because of the similar events that are taking place.

It is also interesting that Paul begins this discussion with his statement about how the living will inherit the kingdom (v. 50). We know that this will take place at the second coming. It seems as though Paul is saying, "Even the living will be changed in order to enter the kingdom in glorified bodies." This entire chapter is about the resurrection and Paul had already stated that you must first die to receive a glorified body (vv. 35-38, 42-44). Then he states in verse 50 that you cannot inherit the kingdom with a mortal body. The question naturally arises, "So what about those who are still alive when Christ returns? Will they be excluded from the kingdom?" Paul goes on to reveal the answer to this mystery by basically saying, "Look, those who are still living will not have to die to receive an immortal body but will be transformed while they are still alive." Not everyone will have to die first, but everyone will be changed (v. 51). He goes on to say that this is because the perishable must put on the imperishable and the mortal must put on immortality (v. 53). When Jesus returns, even those who are still alive and in their mortal bodies must be changed in order to inherit the kingdom, because it is itself imperishable (v. 50).

Verses 23 and 24 have been used by some to teach the multiple-phase coming that we discussed in the preceding section. With reference to the resurrection these verses state, "But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at his coming, then comes the end." Now this does show multiple resurrections: Christ, those who belong to him at his coming, then the end. In other words, the resurrections are: the Lord himself, the first (general) resurrection, then the second resurrection. This does not show multiple phases within the first resurrection but seems to preclude such an idea.

If the resurrection of "those who are Christ’s at his coming" takes place at the rapture, then John’s "the first resurrection" (Rev. 20:5) also takes place at the rapture, or it isn’t even mentioned here. It would seem strange that what John called the first resurrection–as if it were a very significant event–would be completely overlooked by Paul’s discussion of the order of resurrections. If indeed "those who are Christ’s at his coming" is a reference to the second coming, then either Paul does not mention the rapture (which would seem equally as unlikely, since he is writing to the church), or the rapture occurs at the second coming. That the latter is true is demonstrated by statements in the book of Revelation showing that those who die during the Tribulation would by all means be included in "those who are Christ’s." This is seen in passages such as Revelation 6:11; 7:14; 12:11, 17; 14:12; 17:6; 20:4.

Matthew 24:29-31

[29] But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. [30] And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. [31] And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. [Matt. 24:29-31]

As was already pointed out, this passage has more similarities to the one rapture passage (1 Thess. 4:17) than any other passage in the Bible. However, since it explicitly states that it is "after the tribulation," pre-tribulationists claim that this is not the rapture, although they readily claim 1 Corinthians 15:52 as a rapture passage based on fewer similarities. Since they go to great lengths attempting to prove this, I must take some time in reaction to their position.

One reason they deny that this is the rapture is the claim that Jesus was talking to the Jews here, and this passage does not apply to the church. Well, Jesus was talking to the disciples (Matt. 24:3), and it is true that they were Jews. Naturally, the gospel had not been given to the Gentiles yet, so most everything Jesus said was to Jews. Jesus lived in Israel. Whenever he spoke he usually was talking to Jews. If Jesus talking to Jews makes a passage inapplicable to us, then that would take out most of the gospels. In this instance, though, he was talking specifically to the disciples in private (v. 3). These men were the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20). In my opinion they represent the church better than anyone. Furthermore, Jesus had already told Peter "Upon this rock I will build my church" in chapter 16 and given the disciples instructions for church discipline in chapter 18.8

This discourse was prompted by their question, "What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" (v. 3). The disciples were asking him what they should look for in connection with his coming. Jesus went on to describe the Great Tribulation. The disciples lived after this awaiting his return and telling others about it. It does not seem reasonable to think that this was not really the coming they were to look for. Why answer them with a description of the Great Tribulation followed by a description of his coming in the clouds–with the sound of a great trumpet and the gathering his elect–if really they were going to miss all this by means of a pre-tribulation rapture? Would this not be what they went out and taught the church just a short time later?

Also, they asked him about events concerning sunteleias tou aionos, "the end of the age." Four chapters later, Jesus ends the Great Commission with the statement, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20, emphasis added) using the exact same words and speaking to the same people, and everyone applies the Great Commission to the church. Furthermore, they were instructed to make disciples, baptize, and teach until "the end of the age" (28:19-20). The most reasonable conclusion is that the church will be here until the end of the age.

Probably the main reason pre-tribulationists claim that this passage pertains only to Jews is that Jesus gives special instructions to those who will be in Judea at this time (Matt. 24:16-20). It seems that the reason he does so is because this is when the antichrist will break his covenant with Israel and set up the "abomination of desolation" (v. 15). This is very central to this time period and even marks the midpoint of the seven years. It is a key event worth discussing whether we are talking to the church or to Israel. Also, the Old Testament was the only Bible the disciples had at this time. He naturally builds on what they already knew. They had read in the book of Daniel about this time of great distress "such as never was" and about the abomination of desolation (Dan. 11:31; 12:1-2, 11). Jesus is adding to the knowledge that they already had.

Since the antichrist will be in Judea at this time as he sets up the abomination in the temple, and immediately after this he will begin persecuting God’s people, then we would expect the Lord to give instructions for those who will be in Judea at this time. This does not make the entire discourse a "Jewish passage." Also, part of the disciples’ question was about the destruction of the temple (v. 3) which is in Israel.

It is also interesting that Jesus said in verse 9, "Then they will deliver you to tribulation" [emphasis added]. Tribulation, then, is not the "wrath of God" but is the persecution of man. Tribulation is what Christians suffer for being Christians.9

Also, we have no reason to believe that what Jesus taught here is any different from what Paul later taught about the Lord’s coming (1 Thess. 4:17; 1 Cor. 15:23, 50-52). If I was a first–century Christian and heard Paul talk about the parousia of the Lord for the first time, I would have no idea that he meant a completely different event. He uses the same words, describes the event in an amazingly similar manner, and gives us no reason to think he had anything else in view. Basically, what I am saying is that the eschatology Jesus gave Paul is the same as the eschatology he gave the other disciples here.

Furthermore, when we combine this with what Jesus went on to say about his parousia, it seems inescapable that he is speaking of the same event:

[27] For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. . . . [30] And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. [31] And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. . . . [37] For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. [38] For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, [39] and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. [40] Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. [41] Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.10 [Matt. 24:27, 30-31, 37-41]

Luke 17:26-31

In a very similar account in Luke, Jesus again compared his coming to the days of Noah and of Lot:

[26] And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: [27] they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. [28] It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; [29] but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. [30] It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. [31] On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out. [Luke 17:26-31, emphasis added]

Here Jesus shows that God came in judgment on the same day that the believers were saved. Then he says that "it will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed" (v. 30). My point is that the rescue and the destruction both happen on the same day. Both the rapture of the church and the coming in judgment happen at the same time. When Jesus returns it will be a "blessed hope" (Titus 2:13) to those who know him and judgment to those who don’t (2 Thess. 1:7-8).

2 Peter 3:8-15

[8] Now, dear friends, do not let this one thing escape your notice, that a single day is like a thousand years with the Lord and a thousand years are like a single day. [9] The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. [10] But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; when it comes, the heavens will disappear with a horrific noise, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze, and the earth and every deed done on it will be laid bare. [11] Since all these things are to melt away in this manner, what sort of people must we be, conducting our lives in holiness and godliness, [12] while waiting for and hastening the coming day of God? Because of this day, the heavens will be burned up and dissolve, and the heavenly bodies will melt away in a blaze! [13] But, according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness truly resides. [14] Therefore, dear friends, since you are waiting for these things, strive to be found at peace, without spot or blemish, when you come into his presence. [15] And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as also our dear brother Paul wrote to you, according to the wisdom given him, [16] speaking of these things in all his letters. [2 Peter 3:8-15, NET Bible]

This passage has traditionally been understood to be describing events after the Millennium. Because of this, the "day of the Lord" has been understood to continue through the Millennium with these events taking place at the end. It is difficult to understand in this way when it is described as coming "like a thief" (v. 10). Plus this phrase "like a thief" is usually used with reference to the second coming of Christ. Also, Peter seems to be describing an event that the believers are presently waiting for (v. 12, 14) and which is connected with God’s promise (v. 9). Furthermore, he states that Paul wrote of these things in his letters as well. All of this does not support a post-millennial event. Their basis for a post-millennial understanding is the reading "burned up" in verse 10 (KJV, NASB11). This is translated from the word katakaio. The idea is that if the earth is going to be burned up at this time, then this could not take place before the Millennium, because Christ is going to rule on this present earth for a thousand years during the Millennium.

However, the reading "burned up" is probably not original. There are several variant readings in the Greek manuscripts, and many translations favor the reading heurethesetai such as the NIV and NET, "laid bare;" the NLT, "exposed to judgement;" the NRSV, "disclosed;" and the NAB, "found out." This is also the reading favored by the NA27/USB4 Greek Text. Concerning this variant the NET Bible comments:

One of the most difficult textual problems in the NT is found in v. 10. The reading heurethesetai, which enjoys by far the earliest and best support (aleph B K P 1241 1739text et alli) is nevertheless so difficult a reading that many scholars regard it as nonsensical. As Bauckham has pointed out, solutions to the problem are of three sorts: (1) conjectural emendation (which normally speaks more of the ingenuity of the scholar who makes the proposal than of the truth of the conjecture, e.g., arga for erga with the meaning, "the earth and the things in it will be found useless"); (2) adoption of one of several variant readings (all of which, however, are easier than this one and simply cannot explain how this reading arose, e.g., the reading of P72 which adds luomena to the verb - a reading suggested no doubt by the threefold occurrence of this verb in the surrounding verses: "the earth and its works will be found dissolved"; or the simplest variant, the reading of the Sahidic MSS, ouch preceding heurethesetai – "will not be found"); or (3) interpretive gymnastics which regards the text as settled but has to do some manipulation to its normal meaning. Bauckham puts forth an excellent case that the third option is to be preferred and that the meaning of the term is virtually the equivalent of "will be disclosed," "will be manifested." Thus, the force of the clause is that "the earth and the works [done by men] in it will be stripped bare [before God]." We might add that the unusualness of the expression is certainly in keeping with Peter’s style throughout this little book. Hence, what looks to be suspect because of its abnormalities, upon closer inspection is actually in keeping with the author’s stylistic idiosyncrasies. The meaning of the text, then, is that all but the earth and men’s works will be destroyed. Everything will be removed so that humanity will stand naked before God.12

On the translation "celestial bodies" for stoicheia in verses 10 and 12, it comments:

Grk "elements." Most commentators are agreed that "celestial bodies" is meant, in light of this well-worn usage of stoicheia in the second century and the probable allusion to Isa 34:4 (text of Vaticanus). See Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, 315-16 for discussion.13

If we accept the reading of these translations, then the passage is not saying that the earth will be burned up but that the heavenly bodies will be dissolved, and the earth and mankind will alone be left before God. This is quite in harmony with Jesus’ description of the second coming. Alluding to Joel 2:31, he said that the sun and moon will be darkened and the powers of the heavens will be shaken (Matt. 24:29). Isaiah 34:4 and Revelation 6:14 add that during this time the sky is rolled up like a scroll (compare "the heavens will disappear," 2 Peter 3:10). The Old Testament ties the darkening of the sun and the moon with the stars as well in passages such as Isaiah 13:10, Ezekiel 32:7-8, and Joel 2:10; 3:15. Isaiah 60:2 states that darkness will cover the earth before the glory of the Lord appears. Joel 2:2, Zephaniah 1:15, and Amos 5:18-20 describe the day of the Lord as a day of darkness.

So if the events in this passage take place at the second coming, and if these events were what the believers in this epistle were to look for, then our hope and our expectation is the second coming. That the latter is true is evident in such places as verses 9 and 10: "The Lord is not slow concerning his promise . . . but the day of the Lord will come." If we follow Peter’s flow of thought, it as though the promise in view here is fulfilled in the day of the Lord. The church is to be looking for and expecting the event described in this passage. Verses 12 and 14 state that we should be waiting for and hastening the coming of this day. Concerning the latter verse the NET further comments:

The Greek verb used in the phrase strive to be found is the same as is found in v. 10, translated "laid bare." In typical Petrine fashion, a conceptual link is made by the same linkage of terms. The point of these two verses thus becomes clear: when the heavens disappear and the earth and its inhabitants are stripped bare before the throne of God, they should strive to make sure that their lives are pure and that they have nothing to hide.14

The conclusion we must draw, then, is that the church is expecting to see these events take place and should strive to be ready when they happen. This would hardly be applicable with a pre-tribulation rapture scenario.

 


Footnotes

1. Actually, we get the noun "rapture" from the Latin Vulgate where the verb harpadzo "caught up" is translated as "raptus." My problem is not so much with the word itself, but, since this is a verb and not a noun, it is a reference to the action "caught up" which takes place at the event "the coming," not to the event itself. Using the noun "rapture" in our discussion leads one to believe that this is an event in and of itself. In fact, I have seen Pre-Tribulationists even make the statement, "The Bible never says that the rapture will take place after the Tribulation." This is a meaningless statement, since the Bible never uses the term. <back>
2. These Greek words are not always translated "revelation" and "appearing" in each of these occurrences. This is simply their usual translation. <back>
3. Furthermore, the rapture has traditionally been taught to be a secret event so as to distinguish it from the second coming where the Lord is revealed in all his glory. Therefore, it would seem strange to use the words "revelation" or "appearing" for this event. These words better describe the second coming. This is why Pre-Tribulationists used to say that the "revelation" and "appearing" were specific references to the second coming after the Tribulation. However, as we have seen, Scripture does not allow for this distinction. <back>
4. The King James, following the Textus Receptus, reads "Day of Christ." <back>
5. It is interesting as well that when he speaks of "our gathering together unto him," he uses the word episunagoge which is the cognate noun of episunago, the word Jesus used when he spoke of gathering together his elect in Matt. 24:31. <back>
6. Compare also to the warning in 2:15 & 3:14-15. <back>
7. See E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech used in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), 52-53. <back>
8. 16:18 and 18:17. It is also interesting these two verses are the only occurrences of the word ekklesia (church) in any of the gospels. <back>
9. See chapter 5, Tribulation. <back>
10. For a discussion of this word "taken" see chapter 5, Take. <back>
11. The NASB reads, "some ancient manuscripts read discovered" in a footnote. <back>
12. NET Bible (N.p.: Biblical Studies Press, 1999), 732, note 2. For information see: www.NETBible.com. <back>
13. Ibid, 731, note 12. <back>
14. Ibid, 732-733, note 17. <back>