An 'exchange of views' on the Pre-trib rapture

During the 'Q&A' session with Tony Higton on the subject of endtime events Donald Cameron responded at length with rebuttals to Tony's writings. His letter is published in full below with Tony's replies.
 

Trib viewsResponse and subsequent reply concerning article: 'Will there be a sudden, secret Rapture?'
 
Legend: Donald Cameron's response to the original article is in plain text.

Quotes from Tony's article are in blue.

Tony replies to Donald are presented in green and indented.

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Before disagreeing with Tony Higton over the Rapture of the saints, I would emphasise that there are many other important things with which I would agree with him.
 
Tony Higton has done a very convincing job indeed – but of what? Of knocking down an Aunt Sally, which he has set up as a very inaccurate and misleading caricature of Dispensational Pre-Millennialism (in other words Pre-Tribulationism). I am a Pre-Tribulationist, and am questioning neither his sincerity not his integrity, but I am appalled that he should have sought his facts only from others who, with similar ignorance of overall Pre-Tribulationist understanding, have adopted an entirely negative stance. It does not require much faith or knowledge to knock others.

Before I dared to write my first book on Bible prophecy I made a point of acquiring and reading a dozen books by the “prophetic opposition” (whose views incidentally differ very widely from each other).I have seen all his arguments before, some many times – some more than sixty years ago. I think I detect the influence of the exceedingly inaccurate work of the American journalist and propagandist, Dave McPherson. From now on I will follow Tony Higton’s practice in his dealing with Stephen Sizer, and simply refer to him by his first name.
 
I was brought up on Dispensational Premillennialism and read a great deal on it, including many issues of the Prophetic Witness magazine. I was General Director of the Church’s Ministry among Jewish People based in Jerusalem for some years and had a great deal of contact with those holding to Dispensational Premillennialism
 
It is a great pity that Tony does not state at the outset, for the benefit of those unfamiliar with Bible prophecy, that practically all Pre-Millennialists see the Rapture as, firstly, the resurrection of the bodies of all Church saints, to be reunited in the air with their spirits and souls, which will have been with the Lord in Heaven since death, and, secondly, the catching up (Latin raptare) of all living believers to receive their immortal, incorruptible bodies. Pre- and Mid-Tribulationists believe that we will immediately be taken, as befits the espoused Bride of Christ, to the Father’s House, where our Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ, has gone ahead to prepare a place. The traditional Jewish marriage procedures are referred to in New Testament prophecy. The coming of the bridegroom to take his bride to his father’s house was usually sudden and unannounced - in secret! The main Rapture texts are Jn 14:1-3, I Cor 15:40-44, 51-52, I Thess 4:14-17.
 
I have, I think, in my article already dealt adequately with John 14:13 and 1 Thess 4:14-17 showing that they do not teach a pre-tribulational rapture. However I will add that it seems clear to me that 1 Thess 4:13 to 2 Thess 2:12 are referring to one event – the second coming of Christ. We should ignore the chapter divisions which were not in the original and note that within 7 verses (1 Thess 4:16-5:3) Paul speaks of coming of the Lord to rapture the saints and inescapable destruction falling on unbelievers as he comes like a thief in the night on the day of the Lord.
I do not think it is legitimate to make this - which is contained in a few consecutive verses - refer to different events. Someone reading without preconceptions would see it as describing one event. Paul goes on (1 Thess 5:4) to say that believers should not be surprised by that day (when judgment falls) like a thief. If the saints are in heaven with Jesus what is the point of that warning. They would hardly be likely to be surprised. They would only be surprised by this day when judgment falls if they were still on earth.
 
I also dealt with the parable of the ten virgins (Matt 25:1-13) and showed why it does not teach a pre-tribulational rapture. It is true that the NT emphasises the sudden unexpected coming of Christ, including in references to the wedding of the Lamb. But on the other hand Jesus gave numerous signs which would precede and point towards his return (Matthew 24).
Paul writes that the arising of the man of lawlessness would indicate the approach of the return of Christ. We should also note that Rev 19:7-9 puts the wedding of the Lamb much later on than those who believe in a pre-tribulational rapture do. It is associated with the fall of Babylon (the godless world system) and the defeat of the Antichrist (“beast”).
 
1 Cor 15:40-44, 51-52 is a wonderful passage about the resurrection of the body. However, it associates that with the “last trumpet.” It seems likely that this is the same “loud trumpet call” of Matthew 24:31 which clearly is not on the occasion of a secret rapture but rather of an event seen and mourned over by the whole world.
Jesus says: “And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matt 24:30-31). Here the Lord coming to rapture the saints is clearly seen by the whole world who mourn, presumably at the threat of judgment. It is also after the tribulation ("distress") v. 29. Prof Leon Morris comments that the last trumpet is the “last among events on earth. It marks the end of things as we know them.”
 
A PARODY OF PRE-TRIBULATIONISM
I quote in italics Tony writing about the Pre-Tribulation Rapture view and add my own comments:
Here is a Potted History of this View:”
  1. “Early church leaders and their godly descendants for 1800 years didn’t hold this view.” WRONG! Many examples can be found, although admittedly it was not until about 1830 that it began to be widely propagated. Note the manipulative use of the word ‘godly’ –  manipulative, because many holders of opposing views were anything but godly, though no doubt some were. Indeed, Dispensationalism was found among some Church Fathers like Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria. In 1595 Napier, the Edinburgh mathematician, wrote a table of seven dispensations, as in turn did Isaac Watts, Edwards, Poiret (1713), JN Darby and CH Scofield.
 
I do not think you are correct about the early church leaders. You mention Irenaeus and it is true that he wrote: “And therefore, when in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this, it is said, There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, neither shall be. Matthew 24:21. For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome they are crowned with incorruption.” (Against Heresies (Book V, Chapter 29).
But in the same breath as he refers to the tribulation he refers to it being “the last contest of the righteous” and of them overcoming before they are crowned. He also writes of: “the resurrection of the just, which takes place after the coming of
Antichrist, and the destruction of all nations under his rule” and speaks of the church as those who have suffered tribulation” (Against Heresies (Book V, Chapter 35).
 
You also mention Clement of Alexandria who quotes a woman who says he escaped from a beast because he cast his care on God and then says “You have escaped from great tribulation on account of your faith, and because you did not doubt in the presence of such a beast. Go, therefore, and tell the elect of the Lord … that this beast is a type of the great tribulation that is coming. If then ye prepare yourselves, and repent with all your heart, and turn to the Lord, it will be possible for you to escape it.” (Vision Fourth. Concerning the Trial and Tribulation that are to Come Upon Men. Chap. 2.)
The context clearly shows that he is predicting the saints overcoming the tribulation by trusting the Lord, not by being removed from the tribulation.
 
 
“In 1830 Margaret Macdonald had an End Times vision and began to teach the rapture of what we would call Charismatic Christians only.” 
A HALF TRUTH and seriously misleading, because the original transcript of that vision, though frequently ignored by those to whom it is embarrassing, is freely available and differs widely from what Pre-Tribulations believe. This vision demonstrates that she was much nearer to being a Post-Tribulationist, which Tony calls ‘Historic’ and states has a lot more credibility!!!” Moreover Darby was emphatically not what would today be loosely termed ‘Charismatic’.
 
Margaret Macdonald speaks of tribulation but it seems to me she is speaking primarily of present rather than future tribulation. She speaks of “the awful state of the land” and the “blindness and infatuation of the people.” She says: “Now there is distress of nations, with perplexity, the seas and the waves roaring, men's hearts failing them for fear.” She sees being filled with the Spirit (which was happening around her) as the sign of the Son of man. She added: “No need to follow them who say, see here, or see there, for his day shall be as the lightning to those in whom the living Christ is. 'Tis Christ in us that will lift us up - he is the light - 'tis only those that are alive in him that will be caught up to meet him in the air. ….. then shall we be caught up to meet him.”

She goes on: “Oh there must and will be such an indwelling of the living God as has not been ….. This is what we are at present made to pray much for, that speedily we may all be made ready to meet our Lord in the air - and it will be. Jesus wants his bride. His desire is toward us. He that shall come, will come, and will not tarry. Amen and Amen Even so come Lord Jesus."  I’m fully aware that Darby was not charismatic (having been a members of the Brethren).
 
 
 
“Edward Irving, Scottish Presbyterian preacher, then taught this view. John Nelson Darby, an Anglican priest, probably heard this view from the above.”
WRONG! The last thing that Darby would have called himself is a ‘priest’, a Pre-Reformation hangover. He was a champion of the New Testament doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. He was however a curate. Admittedly Irving was initially one of the same Albury group who studied Bible prophecy together from 1825. But why single out the one who was later declared to have heretical views in other areas and ignore, Drummond, Tweedy and Bellett?  

Ten years before this Darby learned one of the key elements of his prophetic views at Trinity College, Dublin, where professors began to realise the extent to which a restored Israel features in end-time prophecy. Dean Graves was described in 1811 as “One of the few in this country, in late years, who turned his mind fully to the prophecies relating to the conversion and return of the Jews”. Darby learned more directly from Scripture when recovering from illness about 1829.
 
I used the word “priest” because that is the terminology the Church of England and Church of Ireland use. After one year as a deacon Darby would have been ordained “priest.”  That is the official term used. In the Anglican church it is short for “presbyter.” (Old English preost, related to Dutch and German priester, based on ecclesiastical Latin presbyter 'elder').
 
“Darby influenced American lawyer, Cyrus I Scofield, who wrote the notes for the Scofield Bible.”
SOME TRUTH HERE, though it might be more accurate to bring in the intermediary roles of Dwight L Moody and others who had been directly influenced by Darby. Scofield’s dispensations are more akin to Watts’s than to Darby’s.
 
Darby was a brilliant scholar and Trinity College classical gold medallist, destined for a profitable career as a barrister – Lincolns Inn and Dublin. He gave all this up to become a curate. His self-sacrificial charitable works among the poor and needy so impressed the great Cardinal Newman, that he praised him highly for his spirituality and good works. This tribute is still on record.
 
Facts about the early history of Pre-Tribulationism and the Plymouth Brethren are now freely available; they do not confirm this strange analysis by Tony. Manchester University has an extensive archive; Dr Paul Wilkinson used these in his lengthy thesis published by Paternoster in 2007, “For Zion’s Sake - Christian Zionism and the Role of John Nelson Darby”. I recommend it highly. But before that there were other excellent Pre-Tribulation text books, which I can only assume Tony has never read, such as Anderson, Baines, Barnhouse, Baxter, DeSilva, Dennett, Flanigan, Fruchtenbaum, Gaebelein, Hunt, Ironside, LaHaye, Meyer, Moody, Pentecost, Ritchie, Ryrie,  Scott, Scroggie, Seiss, Unger, Vine and Walvoord,
 
I have read widely scholars of different persuasions (and benefitted from the teaching of a number of the authors you mention). I have also brought scholars of different persuasions together for residential consultations on the subject. I major on thinking prayerfully, theologically and creatively about the interpretation of Scripture. I don’t rely on the views of any writer. I should add that I fully accept the authority of Scripture as the Word of God.
 
His sequence of “Secret Rapture – Great Tribulation – Second Coming – Millennium is somewhat manipulative, but not wildly out. As a Pre-Tribulationist, I would prefer: Rapture – Beginning of Sorrows – Great Tribulation – Armageddon – Millennium – Eternal State
 
It is sad that, twice already, you think I’m being manipulative
 
Darby hated the expression ‘secret Rapture’, thought to have been coined by a certain Captain North. In some ways the Rapture will be very public indeed, inasmuch as, just like Enoch thousands of years before, believers will suddenly no longer “be found” (cf Enoch in Gen 5:24). The only precedent we have of a resurrection never to die again is that of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. That was not witnessed by those on earth. Does Tony therefore talk of the Lord’s ‘Secret Resurrection’? I doubt it. The term ‘Second Coming’ is never recorded in Scripture; the nearest we can find is in Heb 9:28. Most ‘Pre-Tribs’ would apply it to the whole sequence (around seven years on earth) between the Rapture and Coming in Power in much the same way as we would consider Christ’s First Coming to include everything from Bethlehem to the Ascension (around thirty-three years).
 
I use the term “secret” simply as shorthand for the fact that Dispensationalists say the world does not see the saints actually being raptured.
 
Tony writes: The New Testament nowhere says that there are two returns of Christ – the Rapture and then later the Second Coming”. Most Pre-Tribs would call the second event the Coming in Power, to distinguish it. I wonder whether he has noticed that the Old Testament, which is all those who were alive at Christ’s First Coming had available, nowhere says that there were to be two separate comings of the Messiah? Did that negate the facts? Of course not! However, devout men perceived that there were marked contrasts among prophecies of His coming, just as today many of the few believers who accord the study of prophecy a prominence which reflects the vast amount of space allocated to it in the Bible, perceive a contrast between the Rapture and Coming in Power. Some of the old rabbis concluded that there must be two Messiahs, Messiah Ben-Joseph, the suffering Messiah, and Messiah Ben-David, the triumphant kingly Messiah. They were of course wrong – the prophecies referred to be the same Messiah but at different times. Think about it!
 
I know that the OT was not fully aware of the two comings of Christ but I believe my article gives good reason for thinking there are not two future returns.
 
Tony says that the word for meeting, Greek apantesis, in context “apanthsin tou kuriou eiV aera” –“to meet the Lord in the air” (I Thess 4:17), is that used of Greek dignitaries being met formally. Vine’s Expository Dictionary confirms this. But Tony’s speculation, that this implies that ANY use of this verb implies those going out to meet the dignitary having to return to base, has no foundation in the root of the Greek word. In fact Vine himself believed precisely the opposite, and that the Rapture will be to Heaven. To be fair to Tony, he did not originate this pseudo-exclusive meaning of ‘meet’; it has been around for a long time. Most of his claims appear to be recycled from identifiable sources.
 
What I actually wrote was “When Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 he used the Greek word apantesis. Although we can't be certain, it seems likely that he had in mind the Greek approach to an official visit to a city by some dignitary. When such an important person visited the leading people and others would go out to meet him then escort him back into the city. It seems likely therefore that 1 Thess 4:16-17 means that believers are caught up to meet the Lord and escort him back to earth (not disappear with him to heaven). Many scholars agree with this view and, as we shall see, the general teaching of the NT seems to support it. I don’t see any “speculation, that this implies that ANY use of this verb implies those going out to meet the dignitary having to return to base” but rather a tentative statement. (By the way, I deliberately read scholars but I did do Greek and Hebrew myself at college).
 
He quotes Jn 14:1-3, which is about the Lord’s coming FOR us and not TO us, immediately following His promise of going to prepare a place for us. We are going to His place before He comes to our old place. Dozens of texts confirm that He was going to His Father’s House, which is where that prepared place must be, though it is twice said to descend, probably once at the beginning of the Millennium, and then, following the destruction of the world, in the eternal state of the New Heaven and a New Earth. When He first returns visibly to earth, we will be seen to follow Him.
 
I think my comments on John 14 showed why I do not think it refers to a pre-tribulational ‘secret’ rapture. You seem to ignore my argument there.
 
ISRAEL’S RESTORATION
Before discussing this, I must emphasise that in no way whatsoever is Tony Anti-Semitic, rather the reverse. In fact his love for Jews is demonstrated in his past work in Israel. Like me, he recognises that Israel must not be regarded as being fault free – far from it! Neither does God see it so, as the Scriptures eloquently emphasise. He also mentions elsewhere the problem in any such discussion of ‘Zionism’ (not a Bible word) meaning different things to different people.

He takes a strong stand against that iniquitous teaching, called Replacement Theology, which teaches that the Church has for ever in all respects replaced Israel, thus denying God’s unconditional covenants and effectively making Him a liar. He believes that God has miraculously preserved the Jewish people down through the centuries and will bring Israel to a recognition of Jesus Christ as their Messiah, and that the Holy Land is still preserved for them. He is intensely aware of the Signs of the Times which point to the Lord’s Return ever becoming nearer. Much of our disagreement is over timing, and this in turn affects other perceptions.
 
Tony states regarding Darby’s view of Israel:
  • “Israel and the Church belong to different ‘dispensations’ (ages).” PARTLY TRUE!
  • God had different plans for Israel and the ChurchTRUE!
  • “Whatever God said to Israel should never be applied to the Church and vice versa.”  UNTRUE! It depends entirely on context – sometimes it applies and sometimes it does not.
 
He continues on this theme and states that he disagrees with Darby’s analysis.
It is noteworthy that that what he calls ‘Historic Pre-Millennialists’ are split between those who would agree that Israel features in end-time prophecy as in the first two point above, and those who disagree. I wonder whether he is aware. On such a key prophetic issue it is no united front. They emerged as very much the minor Pre-Millennial party in the eighteen thirties and forties.
 
I am aware of differences on this issue amongst historic pre-millennialists. Your comment gives the impression that Historic (or Classical) Pre-millennialism only emerged in the 19th century. However it was the majority view during the first three centuries of the Christian era. It draws its name from the fact that many of the early Church fathers such as Irenaeus, Papias, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Hippolytus, and others held this view.
 
Then Tony gives a warning: “Be careful not to read into the Bible what you want to find in it.” Well, that seems reasonable enough. But then he seems regarding Israel to follow another policy: “If it’s in the Bible and you don’t like it, ignore it!” This certainly seems to be his policy regarding Israel in prophecy.
 
I am sad that you think I would deliberately ignore the teaching of Scripture.
 
In fact it lies at the core of his dismissal of a Pre-Tribulational Rapture, because, if you do not believe that God has future purposes for Israel DISTINCT FROM THE CHURCH, you will be compelled to deny a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. I have devoted two chapters to this in my book, “Rapture Sooner Not Later” (John Ritchie Ltd, 2013), and much longer in my lengthy “Apocalypse Facts and Fantasies” (Twoedged Sword Publications). Those who do not believe in God’s future purposes for Israel almost invariably have an eschatology in inverse proportion to that which Holy Scripture devotes to it. Tony tells us more of what he does not believe than what he does. He does not discount all such future purposes, but, compared with Pre-Tribulationists, he limits them.
 
Regarding Israel’s future in Bible prophecy, let me refer to a few of the numerous passages available:
  • Look at the entire ‘Messianic Mission Statement’ as it is sometimes called, in Isa 61:1-9.
  • Then note in Lk 4:19-20 that in the Nazareth synagogue, Jesus, at the start of His ministry, read from that statement and closed the scroll mid-sentence, announcing the start of the Acceptable Year of the Lord, and leaving the Day of Vengeance of our God in abeyance. I believe that this Acceptable Year will end at the Rapture.
  • Note that, when the city of Jerusalem rejected Jesus at the end of His ministry, He said to them: "I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!'" (Matt 23:39). Observe that Jesus said “until” and not “unless”. Do we believe the Son of God?
  • Jesus went on to say, referring to the dispersion which was to start in AD 70, "And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Lk 21:24). This puts paid to preterist nonsense, to which I am pleased to note Tony does not appeal.
  • Note that restoration follows Christ’s return: "That He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:20-21). Far too often these prophecies are brushed aside as merely ‘pictures of Heaven’ – how pathetic an excuse when we think of all that is actually said about Heaven.
  • Note that the Church Age, which started at Pentecost, is to have a closure day, which, far from being the end of the world, is to complete the fulfilment of the Isaiah 61 prophecy referred to above, and indeed  many other prophecies: "Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: 'After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; so that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the LORD who does all these things'” (Acts 15:14-17).
  • Note that when Jesus Christ returns, it will be to earth; it will be to the very spot from which He ascended: “And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south” (Zech 14:4). Then read what goes before and after that verse; it has much to say about God’s future purposes for Israel, when “living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea And half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur. And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be-‘The LORD is one, and His name one’” (Zech 14:8-9). That is the start of the Millennium.
 
It strikes me that Tony is neither Post- nor Amillennialist, but a sort of Post-Tribulationist, though I am not sure how consistent a one he is. As such he would see the Church remaining on earth during the Beginning of Sorrows and the Great Tribulation; this leaves little or no room for the Jewish witness of the 144,000 of Revelation chapter 7, which is easy to believe provided we are prepared to accept that God created DNA!
 
One major point where I believe Tony goes wrong is in what is meant by “Your people” when Daniel is addressed by an angel. Elsewhere I have noted Tony saying that in Dan 12:1 this merely means “God’s people”: "At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book” (Dan 12:1). The juncture is clearly the same as what the Lord calls Great Tribulation (Matt 24:21; in Rev 7:14 it is the Great Tribulation. The timing of Michael’s stand and the Devil’ ultimate pursuit of Israel conforms to Revelation 12. Now look at Gabriel’s words to Daniel after his exemplary prayer of intercession for his people at the end of their Babylonian captivity: "At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision: ‘Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy” (Dan 9:23-24). I am sure that Tony is familiar with the import of the seventy heptads (weeks of years) of Gabriel’s message in the subsequent verses, and of the detached seven years, bisected by the Abomination of Desolation, which Jesus confirmed as being yet future and associated with the end, not the beginning of the long diaspora (Dan 9:24-27) - truth which two Gospel writers order us to understand (Matt 24:15, Mk 13:14).
 
All seventy heptads or septennia are for Daniel’s people, not merely the first sixty nine (483 years). I feel that Tony should ask himself why, if Daniel’s people were in the first sixty-nine septennia, they should not be in the final one, and why, if the Church was not in the first sixty-nine septennia, they should be in the final one! He would find that Pre-Tribulationist understanding is consistent. 
 
This and the following four paragraphs are condensed from my book, “Rapture Sooner Not Later”. It is only fair to accept that at first sight Post-Tribs like Tony seem to have a case in seeing the Rapture in Matt 24:31 and in Mk 13:27: "And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt 24:31). Tony sees this as a description of the Rapture; I don’t believe that it is, though it is certainly about the Lord’s Return in Power.
 
Now whoever the ‘elect’ are, obviously they must be redeemed. At different times all categories of believers are classed as elect. These are evidently the scattered godly Jewish survivors of the Great Tribulation; there is ample linguistic precedent. Dr Graham Scroggie writes: “We must distinguish carefully between three Elections – (a) The Elect Nation (Isa lxv:9,22), which is all Israel; (b) The Elect Remnant (Joel ii:32), very frequently referred to throughout the Old Testament, and by which is meant the Jews who are saved during the Tribulation, the faithful in the hour of Jacob’s trouble; (c) The Election of Grace (Rom xi:5), which is composed of those Jews who, during this dispensation, receive Christ Jesus as Saviour. This truth is most important in the context in which it appears (Rom ix – xi).” The Elect Remnant are clearly the ones gathered at Matt 24:31 after their final Holocaust or sifting and refining. In the Epistles the Elect are always the Church; but the Gospels are not epistles!
 
Chopping and changing Bible versions to find the one which best suits one’s purpose is manipulative, unless confirmation is readily available from parallel passages; in this instance it is. The Weymouth translation renders Matt 24:31: “They will bring together His own People to Him from north, south, east and west--from one extremity of the world to the other.”  Now Weymouth’s is a lightly paraphrased version, but he does get over the problem that the word for heaven includes not only God’s dwelling place, the third heaven, but also the starry heavens and the atmosphere or firmament. The mention in both Matthew and Mark of the four winds and compass points confirms that this is earthly and not heavenly, as Post-Tribs assume. We find further confirmation of the earthly origin and destination of the gathered ones in Zechariah: “Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the LORD: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the LORD” (Zech 2:6).  It is the fulfilment of Isa 27:13: “So it shall be in that day: the great trumpet will be blown; they will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria, and they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem.” Ezek 34:13 is similar: "And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country.”….. The scene is very much a restored earthly one and not the home Christ is currently preparing for us. Deut 30:4 reads: "If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you”.  “It shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left…” (Isa 11:11). Few passages are more clearly both terrestrial and Millennial than this part of Isaiah 11. None of these are Rapture passages. Anyway, are the souls of unresurrected believers really as scattered in Heaven as the Post-Trib understanding of Matt 24:31 suggests? Surely not!
 
There is a striking contrast between Matt 24:31 and Mk 13:27 quoted above and the gathering to the Judgment of the Nations (Matt 25:31-32), when both redeemed and unsaved Gentiles will be brought in together for Jesus to separate. At His coming the segregation of the Gentiles is not an angelic responsibility, although their collection will be. (End of extract).
 
I may disagree with Tony on major details, but am glad to share with him a commitment to explore the prophetic Scriptures. However until he comes to accept that all God’s unconditional promises to Israel – a united 12 tribes Israel – are faithful, I doubt if we will have enough common ground to agree on the timing, and indeed the nature, of the Rapture.
 
All Scripture quotes are NKJV.
 
DONALD CB CAMERON
Formerly Council Member of the Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Scripture Readers’ Association (SASRA) and Prophetic Witness Movement International.
 
Donald, your description of my position is wide of the mark. Let me briefly outline what I believe about Israel in the End Times:
 
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AN OUTLINE OF OT TEACHING ON ESCHATOLOGY
by Tony Higton
 
I shall now outline the OT teaching on eschatology, putting it in chronological order as I understand it, relating it to NT chronology. However, I am not being dogmatic about this chronology because it is not always clear from the OT text.
 
Prophecies about a return to Israel by the Jewish people have begun to be literally fulfilled and this suggests other prophecies about Israel could be literal too.  Also the world’s longest continuing hatred: anti-Semitism, shows that Satan is aware that God has a purpose for the Jewish people even if some Christians are not.
 
There is OT-inspired symbolism, including in titles such as the Lamb of God, but I do not think it is credible to treat all this prophecy as symbolical of, for example, the church. One principle of interpretation of Scripture is that the text is literal unless there is very good reason that it cannot be. However, we also need to avoid speculative literalism.
 
1.Israel will return from exile throughout the world
 
See http://www.prayerforpeace.org.uk/christianzionismbiblebias.html. Various passages say that the nations will bring back Israelites and support them - including with their riches Isa 60-62 (Isa 14:2; 43:6; 49:22-23; 60:9).   Jesus himself predicts that the Jewish people would regain control of Jerusalem in the End Times (Luke 21:24).
 
2.Israel will turn to Christ
 
Zechariah prophesies that Israel will look on “the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.” God will “cleanse them from sin and impurity” (Zech 12:10-13:1). Scholars see this as referring to Christ.
 
Some people believe that after the terrible international attack on Jerusalem which Zechariah prophesies, will lead to the death of two thirds of the population of Israel, it is the remaining one third who turn to Christ (Zech 12-13). The main thing is that Israel turns to Christ. Paul confirms this in Rom 11:25-27.
 
The impact on the world of so many hundreds of thousands of Jewish people turning to their Messiah would obviously be huge.
 
3.The Antichrist will arise and eventually be defeated in Israel
 
Daniel prophesies about a “little horn” (symbol of political power) which “spoke boastfully” (Dan 7:8). This is associated with “one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven” to receive eternal “authority, glory and sovereign power” so that all nations and peoples worship him. (Dan 7:13-14). The NIV is surely right to see the horn as “The antichrist, or a world power sharing in the characteristics of the antichrist.” The son of man is Christ.
 
Daniel also predicts that a ruler will “set up an abomination that causes desolation” which Jesus relates to the End Times in Matthew 24:15. Similarly he speaks of a king who “will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods” (Dan 11:36).
 
Paul predicts the “man of lawlessness” who “will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thess 2:4). This is the Antichrist.
 
4.There will be an unprecedented time of “great distress”
 
The common term for this is “The Great Tribulation.” Jeremiah calls it “a time of trouble for Jacob” (30:7). This teaching is paralleled in the NT (e.g. Matt 24:21-22).
 
5.There will be an international attack on Jerusalem
 
Again I have written elsewhere in some depth about the battle of Armageddon (See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=422).  Ezekiel predicts the invasion of Israel by Gog (ch. 38). Zechariah predicts that all the nations will attack Jerusalem (12:1-3; 14:1-2) and two thirds of the people will be struck down (13:8-9).
 
6.The Lord will return to the Mt of Olives
 
In his vision Daniel sees “one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Dan 7:13-14). There are various interpretations of this passage and some say it has nothing to do with the Second Coming. However it seems to me that Jesus’s words: “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory” (Matt 24:30) refer to Daniel’s prophecy and relate them to the Second Coming.
 
Zechariah foretells that after the international attack on Jerusalem: “On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem…” (Zech 14:4). It seems clear that this refers to the Second Coming.
 
7.The Lord will bring judgment for the wicked and blessing for the obedient
 
The Second Coming is the Day of the Lord foretold by various prophets (Isa 11:4 cf. 24:1-12, 17-23; 26:20f; 27:1; 34:1-4; 63:1-6; Obad.15-16; Zech. 14:3, 12-15). Joel prophesies that when the Lord restores the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, he will “gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat” (Jerusalem) to judge them for their maltreatment of Israel (Joel 3:1-16). Ezekiel says something similar (Ezk 38:18-23; 39). Zephaniah says that the Day of the Lord will be “a day of wrath – a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness” (Zeph. 1:15). Haggai writes that the Lord will “shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land’” (Hag 2:6). The theme is taken up in 2 Thess 1:5-10; 2:1-5; Rev 19:11-21.

However, Amos foretells that the Day of the Lord will also be a day of judgment on those who are disobedient in Israel. He gives a warning to those in Israel who long for the Day of the Lord as a judgment on the nations but who are religious hypocrites (Amos 5:21-24).
 
On the other hand, the Day of the Lord will bring freedom, blessing and security for Jerusalem, justice for the poor (Isa 11:3-5 cf. Joel 3:17-21; Zech. 12:4-5, 7-8 cf.14:10-11; Obad. 17-21).

AN OUTLINE OF OT ESCHATOLOGY: THE TEMPLE WILL BE REBUILT?
 
Ezekiel has a very detailed vision of a new temple which is to be built (Ezekiel 40-48) and I have written elsewhere in some detail on the various interpretations of this (See the FULL VERSION at http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=422). Paul talks about Antichrist setting himself up in God’s temple (2 Thess 2), which sounds literal.
 
However Ezekiel also says David will be king, a river will flow out from under the temple to the Dead Sea, the land will divided amongst the 12 tribes (yet 10 have been lost) and that God will dwell in the temple for ever (whereas the ‘temple’ is now the church 1 Peter 2:4 ff). Many people would not see these predictions as literal.
 
More important, as we have noted, God would not want the sacrificial system to be re-established because it has been replaced by Jesus. However the Temple Institute in Jerusalem is working hard to achieve it and it is not beyond the bounds of credibility that the Jewish people will rebuild the temple (though it would involve many difficulties and dangers), and although not blessed by God, this would be used in his purposes.
 
8.The nations will come to Jerusalem to worship?
 
Isaiah’s prophesies that “many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa 2:2-3 cf. Mic. 4:1-2). More than that, Zechariah warns that those nations who do not go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles will be punished (Zech 14:16-19).
 
However, the idea of the whole world literally coming to Jerusalem to worship is totally impractical. I suppose it could be representative leaders from all the nations. Some Christians would see this as symbolical of the nations coming to embrace the Gospel which came from Jerusalem.
 
9.Christ will reign on earth?
 
This is another controversial subject. Some people believe in a literal Millennium (a literal rule of Christ on earth). Others see it as symbolical of his ultimate victory over evil and his spiritual rule on earth. The prophets predict such a Millennium. Isaiah prophecies that the Messiah “will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever” (Isa 9:6-7 cf. Ezk 37:24-28; Mic 5:2-4; Zech 14:9).  The Lord will reign on Mt Zion (Isa 24:23).
 
John writes about a millennium rule of Christ in Rev 20:1-6. Satan is bound for a thousand years, so could no longer deceive the nations. Saints and martyrs reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
 
The prophets say that the Lord will establish peace on earth (Isa 2:4 cf. Mic 5:2-4).  He will bring about harmony in nature (Isa 11:6-9).  There will also be supernatural fertility in nature (Isa 35:1-2 cf 32:15-20; Ezk 34:25-31; Ezk 36:29-30, 34-36; Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13-14).
 
Will this idyllic scene be literally worked out in a millennial reign by Christ on earth? There is symbolism in the prophecies and a possibility that it is referring to the new heavens and new earth. But I’m inclined to believe there will be a literal Millennium, which is certainly the emphasis of the Prophets. My reason for saying this is that it seems to be appropriate for Jesus to be totally vindicated before all nations in this present world before a final rebellion, the destruction of the Antichrist, death and hell. Another aspect is that it would be a final correction of anti-Semitism, vindicating and fulfilling God’s choice of the Jewish people by displaying his rule over believing Israel within the wider Body of Christ.
 
10.There will be a new heavens and a new earth
 
The Lord says: “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth …. The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain” (Isa 65:17-19, 25).
 
This is similar to the passages which I have related to the Millennium and relates to Jerusalem and Mt Zion. But it also relates strongly to Revelation 21 where John described the new heaven and earth in terms of the New Jerusalem descending from heaven. He describes it in similar terms to Isaiah (he is quoting Isaiah 25): “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev 21:4).

Conclusion
 
We must bear in mind the NT teaching that there is neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ, the Old Covenant has been superseded by the New Covenant, the church is the flowering of God’s eternal purpose through Israel and any continuing purpose God has for Israel as a nation is dependent on her obedience to God and turning to Messiah.
 
However it is also clear that God has not finished with Israel. Biblical prophecy about the return of the Jews to Israel is being fulfilled. The OT teaches (in harmony with the NT) that Israel will return from exile throughout the world and will turn to Christ. The Antichrist will arise and be defeated in Israel and there will be an unprecedented time of “great distress” culminating in an international attack on Jerusalem. The Lord will return to the Mt of Olives and will bring judgment for the wicked and blessing for the obedient.
 
It is possible that the Temple will be rebuilt and that representatives of all the nations will come to Jerusalem to worship. It seems likely that Christ will have a literal millennial reign on earth. Ultimately there will be a new heavens and a new earth.
 
Footnotes:

Donald CB Cameron  is a former Council Member of the Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Scripture Readers’ Association (SASRA) and Prophetic Witness Movement International (PWMI).

Rev. Tony Higton is a active-retired Church of England minister and former General Director of Church's Ministry amongst Jewish people (CMJ).

The above 'dialogue' relates to an earlier article. Any responses to the article on this page can be made on the thread associated with 'Will there be a sudden, secret Rapture?'
 

Donald Cameron / Tony Higton, 27/03/2014

NOTICE: - The 'Response' facility on some articles may be restricted to CT site members. In these circumstances comments/questions from non-site members should be sent to the Editor by e-mail: editor<atsign>christianstogether.net

Christians Together in the Highlands and Islands > Survival Kit > An 'exchange of views' on the Pre-trib rapture