I know that title in and of itself is likely to evoke a response. But that’s OK because iron sharpens iron, and we could all use a little provocation to use gray cells. I hope in this post to explain why I believe this position best explains the Biblical evidence on the second coming. At the same time, I will be explaining why I believe the other views are lacking in Biblical support.
REASON #1: Only dispensational pre-millennialism, properly understood in context, is logically coherent and consistent with foundational doctrines expressed in the five Solas of the Reformation.
Implicit in the views of “historic” premillennialism and its various tribulational views (mid-trib, post-trib, and pre-wrath), along with amillennialism and postmillennialism, is the belief that the church is not good enough to be allowed into a glorified state until it has been subjected to the unspeakable horrors described in Revelation 6-19, thereby earning the privilege of being glorified. In other words, these other views, whether explicitly or not, teach that the Church, the Bride of Christ, must undergo the judgment of God along with an unbelieving world which rejects Christ.
By extension, these other views are thereby endorsing a form of salvation by works, such that they teach Christ will only return when the Church has thereby proven itself worthy of His return by enduring faithfully through the period known as “the Great Tribulation.” This is akin to a wealthy man, taking his betrothed to someplace like Harlem, Hell’s Kitchen, Watts, or Cabrini Green, leaving her there with no visible means of support or protection, and declaring that if she can survive and remain pure and faithful to him for an indefinite period of time, then he will return sometime to wed her because she will have proven herself to be worthy. In the meantime, that wealthy man is using all his resources to destroy those very communities while making no provisions to ensure his beloved’s safety, purity, and fidelity.
Pre-tribulational premillennialism, takes very seriously key promises of Scripture ignored by the other views: Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. [Romans 5:9*] …and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. [1 Thessalonians 1:10] For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. [1 Thessalonians 5:9-10].
The other views will point to such passages as 2 Timothy 3:12 to justify their teaching that Christians must endure persecution. But in such a case, those holding to one of those views are distorting and twisting Scripture. While persecution occurs in this age and will occur against those who become Christians in the interim between the Rapture and the Second Coming, Revelation 6-19 makes it clear that what is happening on earth is not persecution, it is God’s wrath being poured out on unbelieving humanity which is no longer content with being totally depraved and has instead embraced utter depravity. [Revelation 6:16-17; 11:18; 12:12; 14:10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19; 19:15].
In summary, all views of the Second Coming except for pre-tribulational premillennialism present an eschatology of salvation by works and human merit, not salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
REASON #2: Only pre-tribulational premillennialism is consistent with the Scriptural teaching and pattern that God protects and shields His people from judgment.
Two examples from Genesis: God removed Noah from the Deluge by providing a warning via divine revelation and a means of escape [Genesis 6-9]. God removed Lot and his family from Sodom before destroying those cities [Genesis 19].
In another example, when the Israelites prepared to lay siege to Jericho, Rahab was given a covenant sign by which she and her household could be spared from the judgment being visited on Jericho [Joshua 2:15-24; 6:22-23].
When Jerusalem was besieged by the Babylonians, those of faith were provided a means to escape the judgment to come upon that city [Jeremiah 21:8-10; 27:12, 17; 38:2, 17].
The pattern in Scripture is clear: warning, a means of escape for those who are of faith, and judgment poured forth on those who are unbelieving.
The warning has been given in Revelation 6-19. Those who are of the faith will be given a means of escape from the wrath to come, while the unbelieving will face that wrath.
REASON #3: Only pre-tribulational premillennialism is consistent with the Scriptural teachings that the Old Testament priesthood which was destroyed in 70 AD will be restored and that a Davidic king will again reign in Jerusalem.
Mid- and post-tribulational premillennialists, amillennialists, and postmillennialists are in agreement that the OT priesthood was forever set aside and that the throne of David in the Old Testament prophecies is somehow to be interpreted as Christ sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven.
I am not convinced of such assertions because, in the first place, there is no basis for either assertion based on exegesis of Scripture. Such assertions are based on allegorical (aka “spiritualized”) interpretations of Scripture.
In the second place, such assertions deny other Scriptures. The prophet Jeremiah spoke of the Levitical priesthood in such terms that if the covenant God made giving them the priesthood was ever set aside or annulled, the universe itself would become undone [Jeremiah 31:27-37; 33:1-26].
To suggest, as those holding other views do, that these prophecies have an allegorical interpretation or were transferred to the Church, is to suggest that God engages in obfuscation and deception. The picture of God painted by amillennialists, post-millennialists, and mid-/post-trib premillennialists is one of a God who does not keep His promises and deceives His people by hiding behind cleverly worded evasions and equivocation. In other words, the picture of God presented in these other views is a cosmic con artist engaging in a bait-and-switch scam and not a gracious and loving God.
REASON #4: Only pre-tribulational premillennialism is consistent with the picture of the restored kingdom as presented in the Old Testament.
The Old Testament presents a picture of a restored kingdom in which people plant crops, harvest them, give and take wives in marriage and produce offspring [Isaiah 62:1-9; 65:17-25; Amos 9:11-15; Zechariah 8:1-8]. The other views present these prophecies as having been fulfilled in the return from the Babylonian exile. However, the passage in Amos speaks of a restored Davidic dynasty (which did not occur when the exiles returned from Babylon). The passages in Isaiah and Amos also indicate that the Jewish people would never again be removed from the land. Since the Jewish people were removed into exile and dispersed in 70 AD, subsequent to their return from the Babylonian exile, we cannot logically or honestly say these prophecies were fulfilled in the return from Babylon.
Nor can we say these promises have been transferred from physical Israel to the Church as “spiritual” Israel, for there is no exegetical or logical warrant for such a belief.
REASON #5: Only pre-tribulational premillennialism is consistent with the Biblical teaching that we must conduct our lives in such a way as to always be ready for His appearing and that this appearing will be unattended by any signs [Luke 21:34; 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 4; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3; 16:15], while at the same time teaching that when He returns to reign, His return will be visible and preceded by signs [Zechariah 12-14; Luke 21:25-28; Acts 2:19-20; Revelation 6-19].
REASON #6: Only pre-tribulational premillennialism presents the Second Coming in a way which makes it a “blessed hope” [Titus 2:13] and a “comfort” [1 Thessalonians 4:18].
Because the other views require a believer to first endure the wrath of God before experiencing the relief of the Second Coming, there is little hope or comfort, since any relief must be earned through endurance and perseverance in spite of judgment.
There are other reasons for accepting the pre-tribulational premillennial rapture [John Walvoord gives a list of 50 reasons in his book The Rapture Question]. Obviously, I have only skimmed the surface. In my next blog, I will attempt to answer some of the common objections to the pre-tribulational premillennial view of eschatology.