Three Views on the Rapture: Pretribulation, Prewrath, and Posttribulation

Alan Hultberg Zondervan, Grand Rapids December 21, 2010
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In this book pretribulationalism is defended by Craig Blaising, of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; the prewrath rapture is presented by Alan Hultberg, of the faculty of the Talbot School of Theology; and the posttribulational view is defended by Douglas Moo, of the faculty of Wheaton College. After each author presents his view, the other two writers give responses, and a rejoinder is presented by the original author.

After Blaising discusses “the time of the end” in Daniel, he considers Jesus’ teaching in the Olivet Discourse and points out that “the structure [of the Discourse] is precisely that of Daniel’s seventieth week”—the Antichrist, war, persecution, and the abomination of desolation (p. 44). This whole complex of events “is thereby meant to be taken as the day of the Lord” (ibid.). In discussing 1 Thessalonians 5 Blaising correctly argues that the deliverance of believers in this passage is the rapture, and when Paul referred to the day of the Lord, he was speaking of the seven-year tribulation (pp. 53–54). Also the tribulation events in Revelation 6 are part of the day of the Lord (pp. 59–61). Blaising explains that the verb threvw in Revelation 3:10 means “kept away from,” not “kept through.” Blaising spends a few pages toward the end of his chapter discussing the relationship of the pretribulational rapture to dispensationalism.

After Hultberg and Moo gave their responses, Blaising wrote in his rejoinder, “Moo and Hultberg appeal to inaugurated eschatology to argue that various features in the Olivet Discourse and Revelation are fulfilled in the history of the church, not in a future tribulation. However, this is a category mistake. . . . Inaugural fulfillment does not preclude but rather confirms and guarantees fulfillment in the future” (p. 103). Blaising also notes that his two colleagues “question the integrity of the seventieth week as a unified eschatological period” (p. 104), and he responds to this position. He also discusses Hultberg’s and Moo’s efforts to extricate the seventieth week from the Olivet Discourse (pp. 105–6).

Hultberg argues for a prewrath rapture, a view first presented by Marvin Rosenthal in The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church (Nashville: Nelson, 1990). Hultberg posits the view that the church will enter the second portion of the tribulation before God’s wrath is poured out in the last fourth of the tribulation. He also says the rapture is in Revelation 7 and 14. But Blaising shows that that is an inappropriate identification (p. 164). Hultberg believes that the day of wrath will arrive with the sixth seal judgment, with the rapture occurring just before that. Besides placing the rapture in the latter half of the tribulation, this view greatly reduces the length of the day of the Lord.

Moo argues that the day of the Lord is a brief, posttribulational event. The “complex of events, including judgment on God’s enemies and deliverance for God’s people . . will occupy a very short space of time” (p. 272). He says the words “kept from the hour” in Revelation 3:10 refer to a spiritual protection, not a physical protection. But as Blaising points out, “certain biblical themes that are key to the question—themes such as the day of the Lord and Daniel’s time of the end—are not given the consideration they require. As a result Moo’s argument is unconvincing” (p. 255).

Readers will appreciate the seven-page chart (pp. 276–82) that summarizes the views of these three presenters on passages in Daniel, Matthew, 1 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, and Revelation. This book will help readers wrestle with the several issues involved in seeking to determine what the Scriptures teach on the rapture. This reviewer feels that the strengths of the pretribulational position (and the weaknesses of the other views) continue to favor that view of the rapture, which Paul called the believers’ “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).

—Roy B. Zuck

July 1, 2012
 

Biblotheca Sacra

This review appeared in the Jul-Sep 2012 vol. 169 no. 3 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.

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