Seven Arguments for a Pre-Tribulational Rapture – Pt. 2

In our last post, we looked at the nation of Israel and how the fact that it still exists as an entity that is distinct from the Church supports a belief in the rapture. With this weeks post, we are still dealing with the topic of Israel. Specifically, in the manner in which the Tribulation is said to relate to Israel.

Argument 2: The Nation of Israel and the Stated Purposes of the Tribulation

With the understanding that the Church and Israel are two distinct entities, this next argument becomes much weightier. The point of this argument is to show that the Bible ascribes purpose and goals to the Tribulation period. We will be looking at two in this post.

Two main purposes for the Tribulation:

1. To execute judgment on the wicked and in the process take back the earth from Satan and those who do his will.

Although God will be executing judgment on the earth during the Tribulation, it is obvious that God does not need seven years to accomplish this. So from this, it can be understood that the execution of judgment is not the primary purpose God has in mind for the Tribulation. It would seem that the primary purpose would be the following point. [1]

2. To prepare the nation of Israel for the Messiah and the Messianic Kingdom (the Millennium).

There are a multitude of passages that show Israel as the primary subject of God’s focus in the tribulation. We will briefly look at a few before focusing on what is perhaps the most important passage that shows this point.

Jeremiah 30.7 – “Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s distress.” (NASB)

Deuteronomy 4.30 – “When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey His voice.”

Daniel 12.1 – “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.”

Ezekial 20.37 – “I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.”

Zechariah 13.8-9 – “In the whole land, declares the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.'”

Matthew 24.15-20 – “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the Prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.”

It should be evident from these passages that during the Tribulation, Israel is the body of people that God intends to move and direct and work with on a spiritual level. Jeremiah specifies that the Tribulation is named and characterized as a time of trouble for “Jacob,” indicating the Jewish nation by referring to their namesake. We also see multiple times that even though the tribulation will lead to much death and destruction, it will also lead to the nation of Israel returning to the Lord and crying out for Him. But if the above passages could be questioned, Daniel chapter 9 paints a much clearer picture.

Daniel Chapter 9 

This chapter opens with Daniel stating that he has read in the book of Jeremiah that God had decreed the Jewish exile in Babylon would last only seventy years (vs. 2). After reading this, Daniel records a prayer he makes to the Lord. Over this prayer (4-19) we see that Daniel specifically has the Jewish people in mind as he asks God to let His anger with Israel dissipate as the 70 years are nearing their finish. Our current focus with this prayer is in Daniel’s use of pronouns and the named people groups. “We have sinned” (5), “but to us open shame… to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel” (7), “we have sinned against Him” (11), “let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem” (16), etc. The request of Daniel’s prayer is explicitly focused on the people of Judah and the city of Jerusalem. As Whitcomb says,

It is of great importance that we recognize what Daniel prayed for – and what he did not pray for. He did not pray for the spiritual well-being of the church, the Body of Christ. He did not pray for the spiritual prosperity of the saints of all ages. He did pray for “Thy city Jerusalem, Thy holy mountain.” …This distinction is highly important because God’s answer is just as specific as Daniel’s prayer. The answer sent by God through Gabriel centers exclusively on Jerusalem and Israel, and thus bypasses the entire church age. [3]

God responds to Daniel’s prayer and sends the answer via the angel Gabriel (20-23). The answer Daniel receives is remarkable. God gives Daniel a prophecy said to be “for your people and your holy city” (24) of “seventy weeks,” with various events happening at specific intervals during those weeks. To put it simply, each week was to be understood as a period of seven years (giving a total of 490 years) [4].

In this prophecy we see God give six goals or purposes for the seventy weeks that must be fulfilled by the end of the 490 years. They are: 1) to finish the transgression, 2) to make an end of sin, 3) to make atonement for iniquity, 4) to bring in everlasting righteousness, 5) to seal up vision and prophecy, 6) to anoint the most holy place. Goals 1-3 were accomplished by Christ on the cross (though they have not yet been applied to Israel as a nation, fulfilling the New Covenant). Goal 4 looks to a time when everlasting righteousness will be experienced by national Israel. Goal 5 most likely means the time when the glorified Christ is with His people, where His presence will serve as the fulfillment of all prophecy. Goal 6 is probably looking forward to the Millennial temple. [5]

How does this prophecy of 70 weeks relate to the tribulation and the rapture if the focus is on Israel? The answer lies in the statement that after 69 weeks have passed, “the Messiah will be cut off” (26). This is a reference to the crucifixion of Christ. Daniel then records that after the Messiah is cut off, the “prince who is to come” will make a covenant, or peace treaty with Israel for one week (seven years), but in the middle of the week will break the covenant (26-27). This 70th week is best understood as the coming Tribulation period. It was stated above that after Israel rejected Christ, the nation was set aside and God then initiated the Church age. This Church age falls between the 69th and 70th weeks, and when the 70th week (the Tribulation) starts God’s focus will return to Israel.

And thus, we have another reason to believe that the Church will not be present during the Tribulation, thereby lending support for the notion that the church will be removed by way of a pre-tribulational rapture.

Our next argument in this series will deal with the idea of the church being excluded from the wrath of God.

[1] Benware. 217.

[2] See also: Deut. 4.30; Dan. 21.1; Ezek. 20.37; Zech. 13.8-9; Matt. 24.15-20.

[3] John C. Whitcomb, Daniel, 126. Qtd. in Benware, 218.

[4] The use of the term “week” to denote a period of seven years is not unique to Daniel. Take for example the story of Jacob working for Laban for seven years to take Rachel as his wife. After Laban deceived Jacob and gave him Leah instead of Rachel, Laban told Jacob to work another seven years in order to take Rachel as his wife. Genesis 29.27 then says “Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you shall serve with me for another seven years.” The terms “week” and “seven years” here are used interchangeably.

[5] Benware. 219.

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