Pretribulation Rapture Signpost #1: Premillennialism
By Jonathan C. Brentner
Why do we believe that the rapture will happen before the tribulation? There are a number of signposts in Scripture that point us in the direction of which I will write about in the coming weeks. I will start with premillennialism.
Premillennialism is the belief in the thousand year reign of Jesus before the eternal state (see Rev. 20:1-10). Those who hold to this position believe in a literal seven year tribulation after which Jesus returns to earth to setup His kingdom and rule over the nations from Jerusalem.
This is why affirming a belief in these things must come first. The timing of the rapture does not matter if one denies the reality of the tribulation and relegates the judgments of Revelation 6-16 either to history or to allegory with hidden spiritual meanings.
In order to establish a solid basis for providing biblical evidence of a pretribulation rapture, we must first show how why amillennialism, the belief that there is no millennium, contradicts the Word of God.
Amillennialism Makes God a Breaker of Covenants
Most amillennialists believe God replaced Israel with the church after the Jews rejected His Son. They change to the physical promises to the nation into ones with spiritual significance for the body of Christ. Another strain of amillennialism errantly asserts that Jesus fulfilled all covenants God made with Israel.
Both the above theologies deny the literalness of all scriptural prophecies relating to the millennium, Israel, and the tribulation.
In other words, they make God a liar and a breaker of covenants. Let me explain why I say that.
In Psalm 105:8-11, the Psalmist tells us in no uncertain terms that God’s promise of land to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is “an everlasting covenant.” It’s not only impossible to regard Jesus as fulfilling the promise of physical land to Israel; it contradicts the clear words of Scripture regarding the enduring nature of that promise.
In words that cannot be regarded as allegory or explained away in any other way, the Lord through the prophet Jeremiah states that Israel will remain a nation in God’s eyes as long as the “fixed order” of day and night exists (Jer. 31:35-37). The prophet repeats this promise in Jeremiah 33:23-26 for the Israelites in his day who were saying the Lord had rejected them.
he rising of the sun each day testifies to Israel’s abiding place as a nation in the eyes of the Lord.
In words that cannot be explained in any other way, Paul tells us Romans 11 that God has not rejected Israel as a people or nation and that someday they will turn to Jesus as a people.
Though amillennialists will argue to the contrary, their beliefs assault the character of God as One who keeps His promises to us. As Paul said in Romans 11:29, “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” This applies to Israel as well as to us. Just as with Israel, we are forever secure!
Amillennialism Cannot Explain Jesus’ Promise to His Disciples
In Matthew 19:28, Jesus made this remarkable promise to His disciples, “And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” These early followers of Jesus had no other way to understand this apart from reigning with Jesus over a restored nation of Israel.
The only other way to interpret this is for Jesus to have meant something other than He said with a hidden spiritual meaning that His disciples could not have understood at the time. Is that not deception by any other name?
Did the disciples retain a literal hope in this promise after Jesus’ death and resurrection, after listening to Jesus tall them about His place in prophecy and giving them a supernatural understanding of it (Luke 24:44-47)? Yes, they did; we see this in a question they asked just before the Lord ascended into heaven.
In Acts 1:6 they asked Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” In response, Jesus did not reprimand them for such a foolish question or dispel any of their hopes. He told them that their timing was wrong and diverted their attention to the task at hand, that of taking the Gospel to the world (Acts 1:7-8).
Amillennialism Began with an Effort to Combine the Bible with Platonism
As I explained in another post, amillennialism began with an effort to combine the teachings of the Bible with those of the pagan philosopher Plato.
Augustine, the one who led the way in the turning the church from premillennialism to amillennialism, said the idea of feasts and physical blessings of the millennium were repulsive. He resorted to the use of allegory in order to make biblical prophecy fit with the influence Platonism upon his thinking, which teaches that anything physical was evil, even the promised blessings of the Lord’s future kingdom.
Calvin described the hopes of the disciples for a restored Israel in Acts 1:6 as “gross and terrestrial” reflecting the continued impact of Platonism upon the church during the Reformation.
Furthermore, those who seek hidden spiritual meanings in biblical prophecy cannot explain how the writers of the Old Testament could switch from accurately predicting events related to Jesus’ first coming to allegory in practically the same breath.
They cannot provide a satisfactory reason, for example, why Isaiah could write with precision Jesus’ birth as a baby and then in the next sentence write allegorically about Jesus’ reign on the “throne of David” (Isa. 9:6-7).
As he wrote the book of Revelation, the apostle John made it abundantly clear that He was writing down the words he heard from Jesus, the events that unfolded before His eyes, and the words he heard others speak. John wrote as an eyewitness in the same way he wrote his Gospel.
Amillennialism Leads to Further Erosion of Biblical Truth
Over the course of time, amillennialism leads to a further erosion of biblical. It happened after the time of Augustine and it will happen again with the resurgence pastors, teachers, and writers who today deny the reality of the tribulation, millennium, and a future for Israel.
By relegating of large portions of Scripture to allegory, amillennialism opens the door wide to further abuse of God’s Word. If the apostle Paul did not really mean what he wrote about God not rejecting Israel in Romans 11:1-2, for example, then perhaps we can apply other meanings to his words elsewhere. Do you see how quickly the slide downward happens with the use of allegory to interpret the Bible?
This open door not only leads to a variety of false teachings regarding the future, but also over time diminishes the truths of the Gospel as amillennialism continually undermines the sanctity of God’s World.
Amillennialism Negates God’s Purpose for Revealing the Future
God possesses a passion for revealing the future. We see this clearly in Isaiah 46:9-11, “…I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’…I have spoken and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” God loves to reveal the future; it demonstrates His sovereignty over time and history. It proves the veracity of His word given to us through the writers of Scripture.
Jesus fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies with His first coming. The Lord revealed these things to the prophets so the Jews would recognize their Messiah and so we recognize God’s purpose in sending His Son to the world. God reveals the future far in advance so we will trust Him.
We see this in Jesus’ words in John 14:29, “And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.” He told His disciples what was about to happen so they when His words came true they would believe and not panic at what was about to happen.
Those relegate future biblical prophecy to allegory or assert that it has all been fulfilled negate God’s purpose for giving us prophecy about the end times. He reveals the future so people will believe when they see His ancient words come to life before their eyes, just as we do today.
Amillennialism Overlooks the Miracle of the Current Day Israel
As a result of their use of allegory to explain away future biblical prophecy, those who hold to amillennialism today remain blind to the fulfillment of prophecy unfolding before their eyes. It’s like they have a veil over their eyes when we explain how prophecy relates to the events of today and why Israel’s existence demonstrates that we live in the last days.
From start to the present day, the miraculous rebirth and preservation of Israel as a nation fulfills God’s promise of future blessings for His people. This is not yet the millennial restoration of the kingdom to a repentant Israel, but today we certainly see the beginnings of God’s promise to His people found in Ezekiel 36:22-37:28.
My purpose in this brief refutation of amillennialism is to demonstrate the validity of premillennialism, for those of us who believe in a literal tribulation and millennium.
There are two important reasons why we must start with premillennialism when discussing the biblical support for placing the rapture before the start of the tribulation:
1. It makes no sense to discuss the timing of the rapture if one does not believe in a literal rapture or millennium. This makes the Lord’s appearing for His church a non-event.
2. Secondly, premillennialists have a higher regard for the words of Scripture in prophetic passages. Without such respect for the literal meaning of prophecy, it’s not possible to establish a basis for a pretribulation rapture.
Stay tuned for more signposts pointing to the reality of the pretribulation rapture!