The first response to the posttrib position is written by Craig Blaising coming from a pretrib point of view, but perhaps more importantly he writes from a Progressive Dispensational point of view. This is important because much of the Historicist viewpoint that Douglas Moo had written into his essay serves as foundational for his presentation of the posttrib rapture. Blaising starts off by noting the disagreements with these foundational points. Of interest is the difference in how the term “tribulation” is played out. Blaising doesn’t like that Moo states that tribulation is against believers, meaning the final tribulation will also be against the people of God. He would rather say it (the great tribulation) comes upon the world with believers having to suffer as this event comes upon the entire world in general. He also points out that Moo never clarified if he believed in a future seven year tribulation, which is true.
He takes issue with Moo’s approach that there is nothing to exempt believers from tribulation. He insists that the pretrib position acknowledges that there will be believers within the great tribulation, but that the church is promised exemption from this unique, future time of tribulation. He points to Revelation 3:10 as proof, which is surprising since this was not a major point in his original essay. When he dealt with this verse he was not dogmatic at all, but now this is the only significant counterpoint he has to Moo’s assertion. He terms Moo’s exposition of the Day of the LORD as shallow, stating that he missed the point that the entire complex of events includes tribulation and wrath together. Of note he states that Joel 2:30-31 describes Day of the LORD features “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD”. Quoting Blaising, “It is as if two days of the Lord are combined in one extended event complex.”
Blaising addresses Moo’s examination of the three rapture passages (John 14:3, I Corinthians 15:51-52, and I Thessalonians 4:13-18) by stating that Moo is assuming (not proving) that each one is describing a posttribulational event. He believes he has proven that each one is describing a pretribulational event. Blaising dismisses Moo’s attempt to link I Thessalonians 4:16-17 with Matthew 24:30-31 as insufficient. He believes that they both describe a divine descent, just not the same one. In I Thessalonians 5, he disagrees with Moo that the Day of the LORD overtakes unbelievers and believers alike. He sees the passage describing the Day of the LORD as overtaking unbelievers, but believers are delivered at the onset of the day. Concerning II Thessalonians 2, Blaising believes his primary essay has addressed this point.
Regarding the Olivet Discourse, Blaising points out that Moo’s approach is odd and at times contradictory. For instance, Moo believes that the Olivet Discourse describes the final tribulation, but then later asserts that it only describes the ongoing tribulation of the church. Also, the idea of the “local significance only” presents difficulties when applying the passage to Daniel, from whence is derived the prophecy of the abomination of desolation. Blaising believes that the 70AD pattern and the end times tribulation pattern overlap in the Olivet Discourse, showing that the temple could be destroyed without resulting in Christ coming. Concerning Revelation 20:4, Blaising does not believe Moo has sufficient evidence against the pretrib rapture or in favor of a posttrib rapture.
Hultberg has more in common with Moo in that they both believe the church will enter the final tribulation (Moo’s term) or the great tribulation (more common term). The majority of his response is based in the book of Revelation. He examines the passages that Moo has portrayed as arguing for a posttribulational rapture, meaning at the very end of the 3 1/2 year period.
First he goes to Revelation 11:11-12 which Moo has suggested could represent the rapture. This is a difficult comparison because while Hultberg sees a chronology in the book of Revelation, Moo doesn’t necessarily believe anything is chronological. Surprisingly, Hultberg agrees that this passage could imply the rapture, but the timing is where the difference lies. Moo has suggested that the 1260 days of the two witnesses occur during the first half of the final tribulation while the 3 1/2 days occurs during the second half, actually being equated with the second half. It seems that while Hultberg agrees that the two witnesses prophesy during the first 3 1/2 years, he believes they are killed sometime during the final 3 1/2 years. The 3 1/2 days being equated with 3 1/2 years is weak evidence according to Hultberg. He points out the chronology of Revelation 6-7 undermines the earthquake of the seventh trumpet being the same earthquake of the sixth seal. At the fifth seal, God’s wrath is prayed for but delayed. At the sixth seal, God’s wrath is portended. Only after the sealing of the 144,000 and the (prewrath) rapture of the church is the wrath of God brought to earth being mixed with the prayers of the saints. When the seventh trumpet is blown, this signifies that God’s wrath is complete. This shows that the earthquake which occurs just before the seventh trumpet is not in the same time frame as the sixth seal.
While Moo was not dogmatic about Revelation 14:14-16 describing the rapture, Hultberg takes this as an opportunity to reassert what he has presented in his primary essay, this time stacking it up against Moo’s views (hey that rhymes). He points out Moo’s description of the scene as a parousia scene including the Son of Man coming on a cloud. Building on this, he paints a different picture of the chronology surrounding the passage than Moo’s non-comittment to any chronological structure. He sees Revelation 12-16 as a subunit whereby John prophesies again after eating the contents of the little scroll. The Danielic persecution of God’s people is described with the background beginning with satanic opposition in the garden of Eden in chapters 12-13. God’s intervention on behalf of His people is described in chapters 14-16. The three angels announce the impending judgment, Revelation 14:6-12, the Son of Man harvests the earth at the parousia, Revelation 14:14-16, finally the judgment comes when the angel reaps the vintage, Revelation 14:17-20. In chapters 15-16 this is expanded as we see those who are victorious over the beast standing before God in heaven, then the bowls are poured out as the final wrath of God. Hultberg notes in favor of an extended period of time for the Day of the LORD wrath the fact that during specific plagues in the trumpets and bowls that time is given for humanity to repent, Revelation 9:20, 16:9, 11. This runs contrary to Moo who has asserted that the Day of the LORD is a singular event, although he never commits to a one day limitation.
Hultberg takes the time to address one more point which he felt was substantial evidence in favor of a posttrib view. Moo has asserted that Revelation 20:4, when describing the first resurrection, must include the church and Old Testament saints as well. He has brought in I Corinthians 15 which quotes Isaiah 25:8. This is good evidence of a posttrib rapture because all OT passages place the resurrection of the righteous as the kingdom of God is being established here on earth, or completely after the final tribulation. Hultberg responds to this in two ways. First, he suggests that the mention of the trumpet in the corresponding passages may correspond with the regathering of Israel, but then again it may correspond with an attack on Israel as God comes to their defense. The second way he responds is to point out the ambiguity of these OT passages stating that the temporal relationship of events is not always clear. He suggest that perhaps these OT resurrection passages are post-millennial.
I personally see a great advantage to reading the responses of each position to the others. I think many of us have wondered, “what would a prewrather say in response to this?” Here we have many of the answers of how each would respond to differing issues. It also expands upon some of the material which is contained in the primary essays. I have tried to present each case and responses without bias, but that’s really impossible. It is obvious that I am prewrath. Still, the main body of material in the book is contained in these posts. To follow up, I will write a bit more on how Hultberg’s presentation of prewrath differs with the classic position as taught by Rosenthal, VanKampen, Cooper, and others. I will also try to comment on how it stacks up with my position.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman