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Last Days Mockers (Thomas Ice)

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Know this first of all, that inthe last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their ownlusts, and saying, “Where is thepromise of His coming? For eversince the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginningof creation.” For when theymaintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavensexisted long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, throughwhich the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But the present heavens and earth byHis word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment anddestruction of ungodly men. -2 Peter 3:3-7

Peterwarns us in his second and final epistle that mockers would arise in the lastdays denying our Lord’s second advent. What is the Apostle Peter saying in this passage? Are we currently living in the “last days”of which he spoke? Who are themockers to which Peter is referring?

The LastDays

TheBible has almost three-dozen references to the last days, end of days, etc.[1] A majority of those passages refer tothe seven-year tribulation period, but Peter has in mind the last days of thechurch age, which is supported by the context. Peter wants the church to know “first of all” that therewill be a “time of trouble which will precede the close of the present age (2Tim. 3:1-5; 1 John 2:18-19).”[2] We are living in this time today.

Peter’swarning for our day is that “mockers will come with their mocking.” This phrase is also repeated in Jude 18without reporting to his readers an account of their mocking as we have here in2 Peter. Jude just says there willbe mockers in the last day. Lenskitells us, “Yes, the first thing they should know or realize is that ‘mockersshall come at the days’ end,” meaning that the second thing to realize is theParousia itself which shall come after these mockers have appeared.”[3] In the same vein Mayor notes, “Theexistence of these scoffers is a proof of that which they deny. It is one of the appointed signs of theapproach of the last day.”[4]

Sohere we are in the twenty-first century, it has been about 2,000 years sinceChrist left earth for heaven and we see last days mockers all around us. Certainly unbelievers and liberals denya future second coming and apply a uniformitarian rationale to this issue asdescribed in verse 4. However,there are others, even within Christendom, who deny that there will be a futuresecond coming of Christ. Chiefamong them are full preterists.[5] Also, partial preterists,[6]while still clinging to a future second coming, by and large scoff at those whobelieve the traditional understanding that Matthew 24 (see also Mark 13; Luke21), Revelation 1:7 and 19 teach a second return of Christ that is still futureto our time.

PreteristMocking of Future Return

GaryDeMar has become a partial preterist who seems to go out of his way to mockChristians who believe that Christ could come at any moment. Even though he admits that Christ willreturn in the distant future[7]the clear emphasis in his ministry is upon why Jesus cannot return in our dayand mocking those who believe He can. “We are not end-time scoffers,”[8]insists DeMar. Oh really?

Inhis book Last Days Madness, DeMar tells the story from Aesop’s fable of the shepherd boy whocried wolf and declares, “In the same way the people of God-the sheep-areharmed by continual shouts of ‘the end is near!'”[9] He continues, “By crying wolf and beingwrong each time, the church is perceived as unreliable.”[10] The fact of the matter is that Christ’sreturn is a one-time event. Justbecause some have been wrong in the past does not prove that He will not returnin the future. That is the pointPeter makes in 2 Peter 3 when he notes that such an assumption is undermined bywhat the mockers willingly ignore (3:5). They ignore God’s past intervention in history when He created the worldand judged it globally at the Flood (3:5-6). Just as in Aesop’s fable, the wolf did come, so also, Jesuswill return one day in the future. Just because Jesus has not returned in the past does not mean he willnot in the future.

TheDissolution of The Heavens and Earth

DeMardoes not think that last days mockers will ever come in the future since he believesthat the 2 Peter 3 passage was fulfilled by a.d.70. “But the day of the Lord willcome like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and theelements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works willbe burned up” (2 Pet. 3:10). Hesays, “the coming judgments were near for those who first read Peter’sletter. The scoffers were aliveand well in the first century. People have a right to mock and scoff when they read that Jesus was tocome within a generation and nearly 2000 year have passed.”[11] Are there no last days scoffers in ourday? How could there be last daysscoffers in our day if 2 Peter 3 was fulfilled 2,000 years ago? However, has 2 Peter 3 already beenfulfilled?

Afirst century fulfillment is so bizarre that even fellow partial preterists donot agree with DeMar on this point. Ken Gentry has given five reasons why 2 Peter 3 will be future and wasnot fulfilled in the first century. “First, the thrust of the book seems to promote a spiritual perseverance in anticipation of the historicallong run-a long run that ends up in the eternal new creation,”[12]notes Gentry. “Second, the mockersscoff at the promised second advent of Christ due to the long wait associatedwith it (2 Pet. 3:2-4, 9). Despitethe trials to come soon (2:9), Peter even suggests it may be thousands of yearsbefore Christ’s return, in that the delay is based on God’s time rather thanman’s . . . (3:8).”[13] When one realizes that 2 Peter waswritten within four to five years from the time that DeMar says it wasfulfilled, there would hardly be reasonable time for any fulfillment.

“Third,the longsuffering of the Lord is due to a process that is necessarily age-long. . . (2 Pet. 3:9) . . . (2 Pet. 3:15a). The process of calling the ‘all’ to ‘repentance’ unto salvation is onethat spans the entire inter-advental era and is still continuing today.”[14] So if DeMar’s view were true, thenthere was only a four to five year window of opportunity for salvation. Gentry further notes, “The way that we’hasten the coming of the day of God’ (3:12) is by evangelistic endeavor.”[15] DeMar’s first century fulfillment viewmakes no sense and is not workable at all in light of this passage. “Fourth, the reference to theunraveling and conflagration of the heavens and the earth is expressly tied tothe material creation. Hence, itseems clearly to refer to the consummation and not to a.d. 70.”[16] “Fifth, the strong detailed language ofthe destruction of the heavens and the earth seems to go beyond apocalypticimagery, referring to the actual consummation . . . (2 Pet. 3:10) . . .(3:12).”[17] This final point is such anunderstatement.

Conclusion

Clearlythere are last days mockers within the unbelieving world who deny the futurepossibility of Christ’s return due to an anti-supernatural bias. Those are obvious. It is also obvious that full preteristswithin Christendom do not ever believe that Jesus will return in the futurebecause they say He returned in a.d.70. The more subtle approachconcerning this matter is practiced by some like Gary DeMar who not onlyridicules those of us who believe that Christ could come at any moment but alsothink that the last day mockers have already come and gone. Such a view blinds one to the warningthat Peter issues in this passage since they do not believe it to be a possiblethreat to the church today. Iguess we will have to wait a little longer for Christ’s return to actually takeplace so that the mockers will become aware to the truth of Peter’s words. Maranatha!

ENDNOTES


[1] For a discussion of the different nuances ofthese phrases see Thomas Ice, “Are We Living in The Last Days?”www.pre-trib.org/article-view.php?id=36.

[2] D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Judge: AnExpositional Commentary(Greenville, SC: BJU Press, 1989), p. 142.

[3] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of TheEpistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), p. 338.

[4] Joseph B. Mayor, The Epistle of St. Jude andThe Second Epistle of St. Peter(Minneapolis: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers [1907] 1978), p. 147.

[5] Preterism is from a Latin word meaning “past,” or”gone by.” A full preterist is onewho believes that Christ has already returned in a.d. 70 and He will not return in the future.

[6] Partial preterists believe that most of thepassages that the church has historically thought to refer to a future secondadvent were fulfilled in a.d. 70,but that a few passages still teach a future second advent.

[7] The only three passages I have ever seen DeMargive in reference to a return of Christ are Acts 1:9-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52.

[8] Gary DeMar, Meet theReal Last Days Scoffers
: A Response to Ed Hindson’s “The New Last DaysScoffers”-Part 2,www.americanvision.org/articlearchive/05-27-05.asp.

[9] Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession ofthe Modern Church, (PowerSprings, GA: American Vision,1999), p. 29.

[10] DeMar, Last Days Madness, pp. 29-30.

[11] DeMar, Meet the Real Last DaysScoffers.

[12] Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., He Shall HaveDominion: A PostmillennialEschatology (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics,1992), p. 302.

[13] Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, p. 303.

[14] Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, p. 303.

[15] Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, p. 304.

[16] Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, p. 304.

[17] Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, pp. 304-05.

Necessity of an Interval between the Rapture and the 2nd Coming

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Necessity of an Interval between the Rapture and the 2nd Coming

 

by: Thomas Ice

 

Building upon the article “The Rapture & The Second Coming: An Important Distinction” in our previous issue of Pre-Trib Perspectives, we now will see that a gap of time is needed between the rapture and the second coming in order to facilitate certain events spoken of in the Bible. Such a needed time interval provides strong support for pretribulationism.

 

A PRE-TRIB INTERVAL

Numerous items in the New Testament can easily be harmonized by a pre-trib time gap of at least seven years, while other views, especially postribulationists, are forced to postulate scenarios that would not realistically allow for normal passage of time. The following events are best temporally harmonized with an interval of time as put forth by pretribulationism.1

 

THE BEMA JUDGMENT

2 Corinthians 5:10 teaches that all believers of this age must appear before the judgment seat of Christ in heaven. This event, often known as the “bema judgment” (see also Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 4:2-5) from the Greek word bema, is an event never mentioned in the detailed accounts connected with the second coming of Christ to the earth. Instead, the second coming brings with it God’s judgment of unbelievers, usually expressed by some form of the Greek word krinô. Thus, it can be established from the biblical text that the bema-judgment applies only to church age believers, while the krinô-judgment is for unbelievers.

The Bible indicates that each individual within the Body of Christ will appear before the bema in association with Christ’s return for the church (i.e., at the pretrib rapture). Dr. Robert Gromacki notes:

the judgment will occur immediately after the coming of Christ for believers. . . . Earlier, Paul wrote: “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come . . . (I Cor. 4:5). Thus, this is not an ongoing judgment that each Christian experiences on earth or right after death. It is a once-for-all event that occurs right after the appearing of Christ (I Thess. 4:13-18).2

Since the normal transaction of such an evaluation would require some passage of time, the pre-trib gap of seven years nicely accounts for such a requirement.

 

CHRIST’S BRIDE IN HEAVEN

In conjunction with the bema judgment, Revelation 19:7-10 pictures the church as a bride who has been made ready for marriage (with “fine linen,” which represents “the righteous acts of the saints”) to her groom (Christ). The bride has already been clothed in preparation for her return at the second coming with Christ to the earth (Rev. 19:11-18). It follows that the church would already have to be complete and in heaven (because of the pre-trib rapture) in order to have been prepared in the way that Revelation 19 describes. This requires an interval of time which pretribulationism handles well.

Apparently the bride’s preparation and the bema judgment are different illustrations of the same event. The bema focuses on the process of judgment, while the bride pictures the results. Dr. Ed Hindson explains:

Whatever view one holds in regard to our Lord’s return, one thing is clear in prophetic Scripture, the marriage occurs in heaven (Rev. 19:7-9) before the triumphal return of Christ with His redeemed church at His side (Rev. 19:11-16).

Non-pretribulationists are at a virtual loss to explain how the church got to heaven prior to returning with Christ at the battle of Armageddon. At best, some suggest they are “caught up” after the Tribulation only to return immediately with the Lord. This arrangement, however, leaves little or no time for the wedding!3

 

THE 24 ELDERS IN HEAVEN

The 24 elders of Revelation 4:1-5:14 are best understood as representative of the church. Dr. Charles Ryrie explains:

In the New Testament, elders as the highest officials in the church do represent the whole church (cf. Acts 15:6; 20:28), and in the Old Testament, twenty-four elders were appointed by King David to represent the entire Levitical priesthood (I Chron. 24). When those twenty-four elders met together in the temple precincts in Jerusalem, the entire priestly house was represented. Thus it seems more likely that the elders represent redeemed human beings, . . . the church is included and is thus in heaven before the tribulation begins.4

If these elders refer to the church, then it would mean at least two things: 1) It would necessitate the rapture and reward of the church before the tribulation and would require a chronological gap for them to perform their heavenly duties during the seven-year tribulation. 2) It would also show that the completed church was already in heaven before events of the tribulation begin.

 

THE JUDGMENT OF GENTILES

It would be impossible for the judgment of the Gentiles to take place after the second coming if the rapture and second coming are not separated by a gap of time. How would both saved and unsaved, still in their natural bodies, be separated in judgment if all living believers are translated at the second coming? This would be impossible if the translation takes place at the second coming, but it is solved through a pretribulational gap.

Dr. John F. Walvoord points out that if “the translation took place in connection with the second coming to the earth, there would be no need of separating the sheep from the goats at a subsequent judgment, but the separation would have taken place in the very act of the translation of the believers before Christ actually sets up His throne on earth (Matt. 25:31).”5 Once again, such a “problem” is solved by taking a pretrib position with its gap of at least seven years.

 

POPULATING THE MILLENNIUM

At the second coming, non-martyred Believers who come to faith in Christ during the tribulation are not translated, but carry on ordinary occupations such as farming, building houses, and the bearing of children (Isa. 65:20-25) during the subsequent millennium. This would be impossible if all saints were translated at the second coming to the earth, as posttribulationists teach. Because pretribulationists have at least a seven-year interval between the removal of the church at the rapture and the return of Christ to the earth, this is not a problem because millions of people will be saved during the interval and thus be available to populate the millennium in their natural bodies in order to fulfill Scripture.

Dr. Steven McAvoy concludes:

The fact that the judgment of the nations occurs before the millennium and thus provides for the population of the millennial earth, constitutes a strong argument for pretribulationism. For a posttribulational rapture would leave no sheep for this judgment. If pretribulationalists are correct in placing this judgment before the millennium then posttribulationalism suffers a serious blow.6

 

ISRAEL’S FUTURE

A time interval is needed so that God’s program for the church, a time when Jew and Gentile are united in one body (cf. Eph. 2-3), will not become commingled in any way with His unfinished and future plan for Israel during the tribulation. Dr. Renald Showers notes:

All other views of the Rapture have the church going through at least part of the 70th week, meaning that all other views mix God’s 70-weeks program for Israel and Jerusalem together with His program for the church.7

A gap of time is needed after God completes His program with the church, so that He may conclude His plans for Israel. Only with an interval of seven years, as postulated by pretribulationists, can God’s program be harmonized in a non-conflicting manner.

 

CONCLUSION

The pretribulational rapture of the church not only fulfills a biblical need to see a distinction between the translation of church-age saints at the rapture, before the second coming, but it also handles without difficulty the necessity of a time-gap, which harmonizes a number of future biblical events. This requirement of a seven-year gap of time adds support to the likelihood that pretribulationism best reflects the biblical point of view.

 

ENDNOTES

1 Many of the points in this article are taken from John F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question: Revised and Enlarged Edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), pp. 274-75.

2 Robert G. Gromacki, Stand Firm in the Faith: An Exposition of II Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978),pp. 84-85.

3 Edward E. Hindson, “The Rapture and the Return: Two Aspects of Christ’s Coming” in Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy, eds, When the Trumpet Sounds (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1995), p. 156.

4 Charles C. Ryrie, Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1968), pp. 35-36.

5 Walvoord, The Rapture Question, p. 274.

6 Steven L. McAvoy, “A Critique of Robert Gundry’s Posttribulationalism” (Th.D. dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1986), p. 203.

7 Renald Showers, Maranatha Our Lord, Come! A Definitive Study of the Rapture of the Church (Bellmawr, N.J.: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc., 1995), p. 243.

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