With the recent rerelease of Zondervan’s latest edition of Three Views on the Rapture, people are bound to ask the big question, “So who won the debate?” After any debate, critics from all sides will appear out of the woodwork to throw in their two cents offering critiques as to who appeared victorious and who just appeared. After reviewing every section of the book, including the critiques, I now offer you my orange review of who the winners are in this round of debates.
If the contest concerned graciousness and charity, Douglas Moo would undoubtedly be the winner. His conversation was worded so as to cause little hurt even though the disagreement was at times great. He sincerely complimented those who he was critiquing. In this category, Craig Blaising would be the loser. His accusations many times crossed the line into areas that were not even being debated. One example was whether or not one could call themself a Progressive Dispensationalist if they did not agree with him on one particular matter. Another example is in calling a foundation “shallow”, which is a less than flattering term, rather than debate the foundation from scripture with a superior point of view. Let others decide if the foundation is shallow.
Concerning the rapture debate proper, I believe the PreWrath Rapture was presented as the most scripturally sound position. Hultberg did a fantastic job of keeping his thesis on the subject matter. While Blaising may have done better in presenting the Olivet Discourse in such a way as to deal with Preterist objections more adequately, that was not the point of this debate. In three clear passages, Matthew 24, Revelation 6-8, and Revelation 14-16, Hultberg outlined how the rapture would take place after the great tribulation, before God’s wrath, at the sixth seal/cosmic signs, at the coming of Christ, and beginning the Day of the LORD. Blaising could only insist that he had previously proven that Daniel’s 70th week, the Day of the LORD, and the great tribulation were all interchangeable terms, something which he had not clearly done. Moo had to rely on presenting the second coming as one simple event which takes place rather quickly, not allowing for an extended period of time. When Moo conceded that Revelation could portray the rapture in the passages that Hultberg had suggested, he undermined his own position which stated that the rapture does not result in believers going to heaven, but instead are brought into the presence of Christ. The passages [which Moo conceded could be the rapture] picture believers in heaven after the great tribulation and just before the wrath of God.
In second place would be the PostTrib position. Moo presented clearly that the rapture occurs after the great tribulation. He also showed that other positions make the end times more complex than they need to be by trying to separate Christ’s coming into different phases. Scripture is united on the timing for Christ’s coming, each passage being complimentary to the other. Where Moo lacked was in specifics concerning Revelation chronology, although he admitted upfront that Hultberg knew the subject better than he. He also was vague when it came to how the Historicist viewpoint jived with other passages. Sometimes the passage being quoted was Historicist in nature (having an ongoing fulfillment until the end of the age), but other times a passage in particular was not Historicist and Moo brought in an outside element.
In third place would be the PreTrib position. Blaising has presented a better PreTrib outline than most others have. He has evidence to support the Day of the LORD being an extended event, but when it came to proving that this extended event lasts seven years and is coextensive with Daniel’s 70th week, he could not make a clear case. His detractors clearly showed that he was subtly presenting two second comings in order to have one line up with the scriptures and the other line up with his definition of imminence which leads to the PreTrib Rapture position. Further, in Blaising’s critique of Moo, he suggests that there are two Day of the LORD complexes. When faced with evidence that the Day of the LORD cannot begin until certain signs are fulfilled (i.e. Elijah, cosmic signs), his essential response was that the Day of the LORD complex would begin before the Day of the LORD begins.
Overall though, readers will be the ultimate winners. Every rapture position shone forth that scripture was united on the second coming of Christ. The Olivet Discourse passages, the Thessalonian letters, and the book of Revelation all were unanimously quoted, dissected, and presented as referring to the same second coming of Christ. There was no attempt whatsoever on the part of any position to say that a certain book was speaking of a different second coming. With all positions presenting such a united front, this will encourage every student of the end times to study, not just one or two end times passages, but every end times passage in the scriptures in order to be obedient to Christ’s teachings. No matter what your rapture position, or who you believe won the debate, the result will be the same, increased study of the Word of God. So what are we waiting for? Let’s study God’s Word.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman