Azaly/ Mountjoy Discussion on the Rapture

jesus ascends in clouds

NEW TESTAMENT OPEN UNIVERSITY

October 19, 2015

"[All] too often we bring a prejudiced view to the Bible texts. Even our definitions of words are too frequently loaded with a bias that essentially proves our conclusion. In essence, we have guaranteed the triumph of our conclusion before we begin to reason from the facts, just by our definitions.

Our prejudices and our fears prohibit us from doing what is required: Honestly, and diligently reading an entire passage based on its context. After forming an interpretation, we must repeatedly test and refine our interpretation by comparing it to all the words in the text, looking for contradictions as well as support - all the while, ignoring the tug of our human allegiances. ... This takes time, and regrettably patience is not one of our innate virtues. Plus, we like to be right. Therefore, too often we rush to judgment, gravitating toward words that support our view, while unconsciously dismissing troubling words that detract from our cherished conclusions. Those words that aggravate, we promise to answer another time, but conveniently, that time never comes and our prejudiced conclusions stick. Even worse, if we are not careful, our heart becomes hardened in our original conviction, because we believe our doctrines overcame careful examination. When in reality, our beliefs and our heart were never truly opened to serious challenge." Insearchoftruth.org.

Introductory Remarks

It is an unfortunate but true fact that Christians (for the majority of at least the last five or six hundred years) have not been united or unanimous in their views, understanding or interpretation of Bible prophecy. Nor have we defined terms, concepts or ideas in many uniform ways. Consequently, a discussion around the issues that are taken up below are sure to arouse, not only interest, but also debate, and possibly some sparks as well. But what will be helpful for us? I think stepping back (a bit) and taking in what is being offered and doing so without feeling obliged to agree OR instantly shoot down what is being said.

More to the point, the use of terms like "Rapture" (in my opinion) are not absolutes, but could be merely allowable for the sake of discussion. Personally, I think a better term for what the Apostle Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 is "translation"—or better yet "resurrection."1

I do realize that when two Christians who believe in Realized Eschatology use the word "Rapture" it can conjure up negative connotations that are associated with that from idealogies (and idealogues) that have always disagreed and battled valiantly against (for example) the likes of Dispensational Premillennialists. In reflection, I would say we could use such a word with caution or else eliminate it altogether.

Another issue I detected was an undue deferrence to spiritualization of motifs in the Old and New Testaments. Explanations of "air" and "clouds" and "caught up" etc. can be points of contention, but I think we need to discuss and air (no pun intended) our several views.

Since Jesus arose from the dead on the third day, and since he ascended into the clouds ten days before Pentecost in A.D.33, it seems troubling to me that being cought up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air means metaphorically and not literally. Jude 14 and 1 Thessalonians 1:6-9 seem to promise ACTUAL (not merely conceptual) promises of Divine, angelic and saintly intervention at the change of era (which we all agree was at stake in the A.D.66-70 Jewish rebellion).

I am not completely familiar with all the Preterist books that have come out in modern times, but from what I have seen, the thought occured to me that it is entirely possible to toss a bad set of ideas out and manufacture a completely new set of concepts, terms and definitions which are EQUALLY slanted and invalid.

Please do not misunderstand, I am not asserting that these talks and studies mean my conclusions are equal to the voice of God (they are not). What I want is what I believe you want: The best interpretation that can be had, and one that carefully observes and considers all the facts surrounding a chapter, passage or verse. We also don't want to be guilty of making a man an "offender" for a word when we know good and well what meaning is really intended. For example, we can be faulted by Oneness Pentecostals for the use of the word "Trinity."

And while it is certainly true that the word Trinity does not exist in the Bible, the concept can be robustly defended with a Bible.  The problem with objections to the word Trinity is that animosity to that idea can stand in the way of someone making an effort to see the Biblical collection of ideas that stand behind the word.  But everyone can play the same game, as it will be noted that the word "Oneness" and "Pentecostal" are also not Biblical terms (but we DO know what people mean when they use these two terms together or singly, right?). My point is: let's be above petty quibbling, if at all possible.   Everyone would mutually benefit and appreciate a shared sense of forbearance, understanding and patience.

And now to the talk.

Andrianus: How do you explain the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17? Physical Rapture or Spiritual Rapture?

Mark: I will get back to you. Hey! How are you? Do you have a copy of Josephus? 1 Thess. 4 happens at Revelation 12:5.

Andrianus:People flying into the sky ?

Mark: Let me get the quote from Josephus....
"the doors of the Temple were opened on a sudden, and a voice greater than human was heard, that the gods were retiring, AND AT THE SAME TIME THERE WAS A GREAT MOTION PERCEIVED, AS IF THEY WERE GOING OUT OF IT. . ."

Andrianus: How about the living people at that time?

Mark: God only took certain ones. The reason I know everyone did not go is because the Jerusalem Church fled into the wilderness of Pella at the very time certain ones were caught up to God's throne (See Revelation 12:5, but note 6 and 14, too and 17).

The difference between Atavism and Preterism is that [many] Preterism believe whoever was left behind were not ready or were"bad." The Book of Revelation does not depict the woman fleeing to the wilderness as "bad" in Revelation 12:1. Nor does it depict the remnant ones who got left as "bad" in Revelation 12:17.  I would say that the belief that the whole Church was caught up to heaven and whoever was not got left behind is not a nuanced idea at all.

Andrianus: Thank you.

Mark: Does it make sense?

Andrianus: Why does God only take certain ones and left the other Christians behind?

Mark: I have thought about it a lot!. I think whatever happened was according to his purposes.  I don't think it is possible to know or even understand all or even a fraction of God's motives.

[1]The Jerusalem church (the woman) fled to the wilderness (to a place prepared for her). On this, see Revelation 12:6 and also verse 14. But after the 1,260 days she came back and set up the Camp of the Saints ( note Revelation 20:9 INFERS that in between the wars such an entity was there for Gog and Magog to surround; it is a direct inference). So God needed the Church to continue after the Second Coming.

But all Christians in Judaea did not flee to Pella. What happened to them during the war? The other Chrisitans who did not go up (in Rev. 12:17). According to the very next chapter there were saints that would be made war with by the blasphemous Sea Beast (see Revelation 13:5-7). Now, these other Christians (if they stood the test, see Revelation 13:got killed in Rev. 13:18. And they end up in heaven in 15:1-2. See?

Andrianus: Do you know any historians who wrote of Christians missing or going up in A.D.70?

Mark: No, I know of none. But number one, technically (and really, factually) the Seventh Trumpet would have been blown at the BEGINNING of the Jewish War (in A.D.66). I base this on Revelation 11:1-2 which reads,

"And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.

2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months."

I also base what I teach on Revelation 13:5, which reads,

"The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven" (New International Version).

Both texts give the exact same number: 42 months. The former puts Jerusalem's desecration for 42 months, and the latter puts the Beast's rule, authority and power for 42 months. If, then, the period lasts 42 months, that would be three years and six months, basically. But that would have to mean that what we are looking for would have to END in A.D.70. However, if it ends in A.D.70 it HAS to begin at least in A.D.66.

Now the way the matter is portrayed in Revelation chapter 12, the woman is given protection from the dragon for 1,260 days. Note both Revelation 12:6 and 12:14? The length of time in both verses equal three years and six months.  The bottom line is that the events in question would not happen at the END of the three years and six months, but at the BEGINNING. In other words, in A.D.66.

Now, as far as anyone observing or reporting an event like people disappearing, no, we don't have records of anything specifically saying that. But it must not be forgotten that Paul said that such an event would happen in "the twinkling of an eye." The Greek expression "ἐν ἀτόμῳ" means "in an atom of time." Just think about any typhoon you ever been in or any flood you've experienced and how confusing everything is. Just imagine if something like a Raptured happened [at the very same time a disaster was in process], how would you know who got Raptured missing or who got drowned to be found later on? Similarly, in a time of war (like the first revolt) we DO have Josephus and Tacitus telling us that SOMETHING strange happened at the Temple where "the gods" in " great motion" suddenly left the Temple through the doors and into the sky where armies were fighting.

Andrianus: Thanks.

Mark: I hope this helps.

Andrianus: The Rapture is the most difficult [idea] to explain to the Futurists. Often they ask for proof that we don't have.

Mark: We DO have suggestions of something highly unusual, even if it is not hard proof! I asked you do you have a copy of Josephus?  [Many] Futurists will admit the CONTEXT of the Rapture; that is where we have the advantage. The Rapture HAS to happen at the Seventh Trumpet (See Revelation 11:15-18 and Revelation 12:10-12).

Andrianus: Yes, I have the copy, thanks. I know about this passage : "the doors of the Temple were opened on a sudden, and a voice greater than human was heard, that the gods were retiring, AND AT THE SAME TIME THERE WAS A GREAT MOTION PERCEIVED, AS IF THEY WERE GOING OUT OF IT. . ."

Mark: Okay. The Futurist will falsely believe that the Rapture happens at the FIRST Trumpet (but they are mistaken). I convinced an Orthodox priest with that passage and he is STILL open to Atavism. My point is that we DO have history that shows Michael fought Satan and the something really strange happened in Jerusalem at that very same time (just like Revelation 12:7-9 teaches).

"Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him."

History is on the side of the New Testament (and specifically the Apostle John) that something like this was going to happen shortly after the Book of Revelation was written (Revelation 1:1, 3 and 7). They cannot claim "history is silent"; they cannot claim that it never happened before.  The best they can say is that it is going to happen twice.

Andrianus: Yes, I agree with you.

Mark: Watch this Andrianus: The Futurists teach that EVERYBODY (ALL the saved) get to go. That is NOT true. Even if it did happen in the future, the SAME thing [that happened in the past] would have to happen again. The church would lose some people to the throne of God, the Jewish church would still have to flee into the wilderness of Gaza (or wherever) and some other Christians would be tempted to take the mark of the beast, etc, etc.

I believe interpreting the Bible with its relevant history is a strong position, but sometimes the people I think will accept it do not, and the ones I think won't, do.  I find that Orthodox and Catholics seem more open to it [but you never can judge who will and who won't].

Andrianus: How can you convince people who cannot accept Atavism ? I am trying very hard but they will not listen to me.

Mark: No, you cannot convince them. Don't try too hard. Remember them and bring them before God when you pray. You will be surprised how he works if you remember to say their name to him and ask him to help them. God is very kind and it is the Holy Spirit's work to convince and to convict.

Andrianus: Thanks

Mark: Ok, God bless you, man! smile emoticon

Andrianus: God bless you too.

Addendum

After reflecting on this discussion over the past few days, I began thinking that it was a good idea that we had it. For these reasons:

[1] We have deep differences that have not been plumbed so far in any of the materials we have posted so far.

[2] There are many Preterist concepts and ideas that I think need to get a good second look.

[3] The idea of "Sola Scriptura" is a STRONGER idea in Full Preterism than it is in Atavism. This admission may worry you, but I hope you will stick around for the discussion about what that means. Of course I feel strongly about what I believe as anyone who believes the Bible and the Bible alone should be the final arbitor of the discussion. But I want to take up the challenge and maintain that Christians would not have a very good idea of what happened in A.D.70 (if anything at all) without a copy of Josephus in hand. In other words (I would argue) though the Bible is certainly true, to argue from the Bible ONLY that prophecy even came to pass in the years 66 through 136 would be like arguing from SILENCE. In fact, that is what the enemies of Preterism WANT to do (argue from the Bible [alone] that it never says those things ever happened already).  But the Bible will never say any of the Apocalyptic prophecies "happened already" because the Bible is a written book and it is completed.  If Jesus came back today, will the Bible suddenly change and say so?  Probably not!

But the very Atavist principle of the Bible AND history is at stake if we take a prophecy like 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Revelation 12:7-9 and REJECT Tacitus and Josephus who say that battalions were SEEN fighting in the SKY and a VOICE (GREATER THAN HUMAN) was HEARD. The Bible itself says Jesus would descend from heaven with a SHOUT and if we lean away from this stunning peace of historical verification, then THAT (to me) is a huge tragedy—and a direct violation of what the New Testament advocates for itself and stands for! And, to be honest, that is one of the reasons I have NEVER been crazy about Full Preterism and do not (AND WILL NOT) put total credence in the questionable idea of "Sola Scriptura."  If we want to study the Bible without the imput of independent, but relevant history that, in and of itself, will seriously skew the results of our inquiry and we should be willing to follow that kind of logic wherever it leads and not be hypocritical about it and use Sola Scriptura whenever we don't want to face something the Bible says.  It is no different that a Oneness Pentecostal objecting to the Trinity just because that exact word is nowhere to be found in the Bible, while they name their churches "United Pentecostal" and call themselves "Oneness Pentecostals."  

Please understand me: I am willing to fight for what I believe to be right and true without also implying that I am (somehow) God's mouthpiece.  God bless!

Note

1 Another important aspect of this discussion that we should not overlook is this: If the Apostle Paul asserts that the translation of the saints happens at the last trumpet and the Book of Revelation specifically states that are seven of them (Revelation 8:1), is it possible that the change of the saints would happen at the FIRST trumpet, but not the SEVENTH one?  And, moreover, if the trumpets were all blown before the Destruction of Jerusalem (Revelation 11:15 cf. Revelation chapters 17, 18 and 10:1-4) how can we get this to happen in a historical context after the fall of Jerusalem?  I do not see how it is possible!

The main point of all our Second Coming discussions is this: the New Testament, from the Gospel According to Matthew to the Book of Revelation is entirely consistent with what it advocates about the return of our Lord; there are no mixed messages about him coming in the lifetime of his contemporaries and at the same time coming soon in every other generation after that.  Matthew chapter 10 and all the passages, chapters and verses after that can be seen correctly in the light of the civilization of the Second Jewish Commonwealth, which, at the time of Jesus, the Apostles and the first Christians, was on it way out.  That is why the Bible speaks of the Last Days (because that is what those days, indeed, were).

Our interpretation and outlook on this issue means that the Apocalyptic events of the New Testament happened as and when expected and their fulfillment supports the foundation, existence and continuence of Christianity, world without end (Isaiah 9:6-7 cf. Ephesians 3:21; Revelation 11:15).

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Caption: Jesus in the clouds.  Source: heartlight.org