Lengthly Discussion on the timing of the Rapture, the Place of America in the Tribulation, and Whether or not the Church goes through the Tribulation
I wanted to bring what I think is an intelligent discussion to everyone’s attention. One of my readers (Daniel) put forward a very smart comment and analysis that is extremely well-written. Doug Krieger, my co-author, colleague, and good brother, responded most thoughtfully to Daniel’s comment, and given that I disagree with a number of issues with Doug Krieger (who remains my friend and colleague… we intend to write a sequel to The Final Babylon soon now), I felt it important that I clarify for my readers (and those who want to know), how I articulate the timing of the Rapture and the various points of this discussion. I hope you enjoy it.
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June 5, 2014 at 8:26 pm (Edit)
To: S. Douglas Woodward
Re: Possible Reference to America in Revelation 3
I bought your book The Final Babylon: America and the Coming of Antichrist several months ago for my father, who has been deeply impacted by this book and has come to a much better appreciation and understanding of Bible prophecy through this resource.
The question of where America fits in the prophetic scenario has so confused the leading prophecy scholars of our day that it has been a major reason that the prophetic scenarios of the Bible have not been accepted by more people. After all, if America is not in Bible prophecy, then it is hard to picture the events of Revelation, Daniel, and the other prophetic passages of Scripture happening in our generation, since America is such a powerful force in the contemporary world.
I completely agree with your assertion that contrary to an unexplained silence, the Bible actually has many references to the United States of America, chief among them Jeremiah 50-51 and Revelation 18. I often discerned from reading these passages that they might be speaking of the U.S., yet the consistent opposition to this possibility made me doubt whether I was right on this. Thanks to your study, I now am confident that the U.S. plays a major role in the end time scenario and that the coming of the Lord is all the more imminent for our generation!
Page 21 of The Final Babylon mentions that you adhere to the pretribulational view of the Rapture, which I also agree with. The Bible seems to be very clear that true believers in Jesus Christ will not be on earth during the Great Tribulation, since this period of suffering is a judgment on the world for the rejection of the Savior.
I have noticed an interesting possibility in Revelation 3 that defends the pretribulational Rapture and may also be a direct reference to the United States of the last days, which I would like to share with you.
In the passage directed to the Church of Philadelphia, we read:
7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘These things saith He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth:
8 I know thy works. Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it. For thou hast a little strength, and hast kept My Word, and hast not denied My name.
9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but do lie — behold, I will make them to come and worship at thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
10 Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I will also keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth.
11 Behold, I come quickly; hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from My God, and I will write upon him My new name.
13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches!”
The key verse of this passage is verse 10, which is promising believers exemption from the Great Tribulation and is one of the main passages that pretribulationists like me use to bolster our argument.
However, there is another possible application in this letter to the Philadelphian church that directly concerns your thesis about America in prophecy.
A good number of Bible scholars believe that the Seven Churches picture historical time periods in church history, extending from apostolic times to the return of Christ, though not negating their practical significance to literal local churches of the First Century. According to this argument, the Ephesus church represents the First Century believers, Smyrna the church under persecution of imperial Rome, Pergamon and Thyatira the compromised church of the Middle Ages, Sardis the dead Protestant churches, Philadelphia the active missionary movements of the last days, and Laodecia the lukewarm Christianity that is most prominent in our day. Thus, we should look for applications of the Seven Churches throughout church history, rather than merely the original recipients in what is today Turkey.
“Philadelphia” is interesting since several cities in history have borne this name, but it is most famously associated with the United States, since both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were penned in this city! It was the capital of the U.S. for a time and could arguably be considered the birthplace of the American system of governance that has swept across the world in the past two centuries. One wonders, could the “church in Philadelphia” be saying rather literally “the church in America”?
Many times in Scripture, nations are referred to be their capital or most prominent city (Jerusalem for Israel, Damascus for Syria, etc.), and this could be such a case!
There are several other reasons for believing that the church addressed here are the true believers in the U.S. Consider:
• It has an open door. While the United States has had many failures and may not be as much of a Christian nation as some evangelicals today would like to believe, as you explained well in The Final Babylon, the fact remains that the freedom of religion guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, coupled with relative financial prosperity, has given American Christians an unparalleled opportunity to fulfill the Great Commission. While the church has been lagging in recent years, as apostasy creeps in, during much of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, the influence of American Christianity in the spread of the gospel is undeniable.
• This church has a little strength. True believers in America have never been powerful; they have never had the backing of civil authorities as in some Catholic countries, for example. Yet there has been a notable number of Christians in America that have used the resources that they do have to do great things for God.
• This church is challenged to deny the name of the Lord. This is a good description of Christianity while America has been a nation. American Christians have had to combat evolutionism, humanism, and New Age doctrines that all deny the Lord.
• This church dwells among many counterfeit believers. America has many true Christians, but many more pretenders! Probably only a small percentage of those that claim the name of Christ in America are really believers, and this is what is pictured here. Also, it particularly talks of those that claim Judaism and yet do not follow God. America, more than any other nation, has large numbers of Jews that are Hebrew by birth but are thoroughly liberal, rejecting the Old Testament commandments.
• They will be kept from the Tribulation. This means that this church will be on earth until the Rapture! This would fit America, since the Scriptures (Jeremiah 50-51, Revelation 18, etc.), seem to explain the existence of the U.S. even during the Great Tribulation hour.
I wish to make it clear that I do not believe that all churches in America are Philadelphia; on the contrary, the lukewarm Laodecian movement better characterizes the majority of American Christendom. Yet it is undeniable that America has produced many great saints of God (D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, etc.), that have impacted their world and have devoted their whole lives to the message of the Gospel, and it is that remnant that Christ might be describing in the Philadelphia church.
It is notable that the Philadelphia letter does not mean a bright future for America as a nation, only the believers therein!
I am not dogmatic about connecting Philadelphia with America, but I do think it is an interesting possibility.
May the Lord bless you and keep you!
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Doug Krieger says:
June 10, 2014 at 5:50 am (Edit)
Daniel – I would like to commend you in your observation regarding the characteristics of the Philadelphia Church’s “historical” expression in reference to America; furthermore, we might take that another step forward (for AFTER Philadelphia comes Laodicea – i.e., the Church in Laodicea); and, of course, there is no question that today’s “American Church” given its excessive predisposition to all things apostate, “emergent”, “have need of nothing” and not knowing they are poor, wretched, miserable, blind and naked . . . even so, it appears that Philadelphia is THERE, no doubt, but the golden lampstand that is Laodicea befits the condition of the Western Church, especially that of America, to the “T”…
Now, as most of our readers and those bold enough, as yourself, to make comments in reference to THE FINAL BABYLON and see in her finality the silhouette of her whose cup was once golden in the hand of the Lord but which has now become full of putridities (aka “abominations”) – what shall we then do?
To many who embrace the Blessed Hope as the secret, pre-tribulational rapture of the Church, there is not much we can do aside from “keep looking up” for “our redemption draws nigh” or, as Brenda has said: PREPARE FOR TAKE OFF!
However, I would like to present the contrarian perspective here – in that, as most of you may already know, Doug Woodward and Doug Krieger concur on the identity of the Final Babylon but not on how the final week of Daniel’s 70th plays out. If one embraces the pre-tribulational rapture of the Church, one must as Dr. Gerald Stanton of the PreTribResearchCenter has recently said:
“The Rapture is signless, and will be unannounced and largely unexpected. It is next on the revealed program of God, and is so presented in the Scripture that every generation may enjoy the hope, challenge and other blessings of His appearing. We are all exhorted to watch but no one can know the day nor the hour when the Bridegroom will come (Matt. 25:13).” (The Doctrine of Imminency…Is It Biblical?, Dr. Gerald Stanton, PreTribResearchCenter, 2014)
Notwithstanding Dr. Stanton’s interpretation, I w0uld ask the question: Is not Israel’s rebirth and the en-gathering of the exiles in UNBELIEF (as Dr. Tommy Ice declares) one of the foremost SIGNS of the “end of the age?” Or is Israel, as the current president of Dallas Theological Seminary, Dr. Mark Bailey, has recently suggested, nothing more than a “prophetic possibility” or his precise words regarding Israel’s immediate materiality (even in unbelief): “I don’t know what that means?” This was followed by Dr. Bailey’s injunctions: Christians should not politically support Israel.
Indeed, we might also consider this: If the pre-tribulational rapture is a signless event then how can the Church in Philadelphia be the church that is destined for the pre-trib rapture in that it would be mandatory for it to be on the earth prior to any secret pre-trib rapture and, furthermore, the Laodicean Church which most definitely constitutes the antithesis of Philadelphia as an historic fulfillment (as well). In other words, both of these “historic churches” must needs be historic in order for them to “escape the hour of trial which is to try the whole earth,” etc. but this would be impossible if the SIGN of such a Church would not be on the Earth in preparation for the secret pre-trib rapture of the same.
Furthermore, and it would appear, according to other pre-trib theologians like Dr. Arno Fruchtenbaum, that we are currently living in the reality of Matthew 24:6-8 known as the “beginning of sorrows” or the “birth pangs of the Messiah.” Therefore, is not this, as well, another SIGN of the coming “tribulation period”? Israel is a sign of the coming of “Jacob’s Trouble” – both the Church in Philadelphia and Laodicea constitute additional SIGNS of the pending rapture of the Church.
Again, if the secret-pretribulational rapture of the Church is such a SIGN-LESS event, then why are we so enamored with any of these supposed SIGNS – or are these SIGNS simply inconsequential, irrelevant, peripheral, only significant to National Israel, having nothing whatsoever to do with the Church; although Philadelphia and Laodicea’s “historical implications” appear to constitute “SIGNS OF THE TIME”? This then raises the entire issue raised by Jesus Himself that we are enjoined to DISCERN THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES.
My question I think is “objectively valid.” How can the secret-pretribulational rapture of the Church be a SIGN-LESS EVENT, as Dr. Stanton and many other eschatologists proclaim when the aforementioned, and many other such prophetically fulfilled and fulfilling events stand out as glaring SIGNS? In particular, either Israel is or is not the fulfillment of Bible Prophecy. Dr. Tommy Ice who is the Executive Director of the PreTribRaptureCenter (where Dr. Stanton’s articles on the pre-trib rapture appear) after his disclosure of Dr. Mark Bailey’s proclamation on Israel’s “ambiguous prophetic appearance” (i.e., “I don’t know what that means.”) said this:
“Israel will be gathered in unbelief, before the tribulation in order that God may complete His plan for National Israel. The current nation of Israel is the beginning of fulfillment of just such prophecy. Modern Israel is the result of God’s direct intervention in history. I believe that those who speak contrary to this will be found to be fighting God.”
It appears that Dr. Ice’s comments are directed at Dr. Mark Bailey: “I believe that those who speak contrary to this will be found to be fighting God.”
Are we witnessing MAJOR FISSURES within the “pre-trib persuasion?” It is the conviction of this author (Doug Krieger) that Israel’s rebirth as a nation state is fast becoming the major SIGN of the pending “tribulation” ipso facto Israel is the greatest SIGN of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ which is preceded by the 70th Week of Daniel which in turn is preceded in the theology of the pre-tribbers, the pre-trib rapture; therefore, by the standard methods of logic the materiality of the State of Israel constitutes the MAJOR SIGN of the coming of the Son of Man for the Church – ipso facto, the so-called pre-trib rapture is NOT a signless event!!
Since the secret-pretrib rapture is NOT a sign-less event the entire “house of the imminent return of Christ” (aka the “doctrine of imminency”) to the Earth “FOR the saints” is built on a false premise; i.e., the “any moment” return of Christ to the earth.
Rick Warren’s deprecation that they who study Bible prophecy are “wasting their time” and are, worse “arrogant” because “No man knows the day nor the hour, nor the Son, but only My Father” has caused a great deal of confusion and dismay among those who “anxiously await the Son of Man.”
First of all, the phrase “nor the Son” does NOT appear in the Greek text of the major manuscripts nor the Greek Interlinear–nor in the KJV, nor in the Darby Version (an avowed Dispensationalist). Likewise, the “KNOW” and “DAY” found in Matthew 24 is directly found in context of the judgment associated with Noah. Noah’s generation did not KNOW the DAY…”until the DAY that Noah entered the ark…and did not KNOW until the flood came” (Matthew 24:38-39).
Do you think for one minute that the Son of Man does not know when when He is coming for the Church? “He that has seen Me has seen the Father!” “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” The Father and the Son are INTIMATELY aware of the coming again of the Son of Man, trust me on that one. Rick Warren’s superficial understanding of “nor the Son” fits into his world-view – don’t be deceived by his “twisting of the Scripture.”
Furthermore, Jesus used the DAYS of Noah to highlight the ATTITUDE of those of Noah’s generation who did NOT KNOW THE DAY because they were not WATCHING – and, by the way, Noah KNEW precisely the DAY: “Then the LORD said to Noah, ‘Come into the ark, you and all your household . . . for after SEVEN MORE DAYS will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made.” (Genesis 7:1-4)
Could it be that these SEVEN DAYS mirror and/or are a “type” of the 70TH WEEK of Daniel’s Prophecy yet to be fulfilled–i.e., spoken of as “one seven-day time frame” or “week” but constituting 7 years? I simply bring this incredible “discovery” to our attention – the ALMIGHTY spared Noah and his family and gave them those 7 days to get into the ark – they did NOT endure God’s wrath upon the Earth–that’s the key that both pre-trib and post-trib agree upon. However, the 7 days notification was obvious and the SIGN was the very building of the ark itself.
Was Noah’s generation watchful or did God’s wrath come upon them as a THIEF IN THE NIGHT? Absolutely as a THIEF, but to those of us who are WATCHING and LOVING HIS APPEARING, He will not come as a thief, and we who know Him will know that the Bridegroom is coming for us and we will be ready!
Therefore, brothers and sisters, remember this: The BLESSED HOPE is the glorious appearing of the Great God and our Savior Jesus Christ. It is JESUS CHRIST, He is our Blessed Hope. God has given us the SIGNS OF THE TIME and has enjoined us to DISCERN THE SIGNS OF THE TIME – Israel, the birth pangs of the Messiah, the condition of both the Philadelphian and the Laodicean churches are present at the time of His Coming in Glory.
If we are enjoined to “endure unto the end” – if the Church uses the parables of readiness found in Matthew 24:36-51 and Matthew 25 – how can we use them if they do not refer to ourselves – were these parables of watchfulness (one taken the other left behind, etc.); walk (10 virgins); talents (dealing with our service to the Lord) . . . are all these parables given to NATIONAL ISRAEL or to the Church? The strict dispensationalist says they were written to National Israel and that the object of their encouragement does not involve the Church . . . will someone be bold enough to justify their use to this brother and re-direct them to National Israel only and NOT as “nice things to know” to the Church?
Yes, we are “not destined to wrath” – that is, we are through the blood of Jesus Christ made perfect in Him and are no longer under the “judicial wrath” of the Almighty but have been pardoned from the prison-house wherein we were held captive prior to finding Christ as our Savior and our acceptance of His pardon! But this has NOTHING to do with the pending WRATH OF GOD and THE LAMB which is relative to the final judgment upon the Earth, as was the case in Noah’s days. [WOODWARD ADDED THE EMPHASIS]
The Bible in the Revelation speaks clearly regarding the “short time” and the “devil’s great wrath” which endures for 42 months (Rev. 13) under the “administration” of the “beast.” I posit the question: Can the Wrath of the Lamb and the “Devil’s Great Wrath” (wherein he, the beast, is given authority over all the earth for 42 months) be considered conflated, simultaneous, at the same time? I don’t think so – it is not until the final pouring out the 7th Vial that Babylon’s tripartite judgment is rendered in Revelation 16 at the very conclusion of the WRATH OF THE LAMB – the SEVEN-FOLD TRUMPET and the SEVEN VIALS commence in Revelation 8 and the opening of the 7th Seal – this commences the very WRATH OF GOD and THE LAMB and must needs occur at the terminus of the Devil’s Great Wrath. [WOODWARD ADDED THE EMPHASIS]
It is imperative that the Church, as Corrie ten Boom has enjoined us, realize that we are being prepared for “tribulation” but that we are in “training” for the WORD OF GOD and THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST. Jesus’ TESTIMONY reached its zenith when He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and gave relentless testimony, knowing full-well it would cost Him everything – but He was “cut off” BUT NOT FOR HIMSELF (Daniel 9:26). He went to the cross for His Bride – are we willing to lay down our lives for the brethren – and who is sufficient for these things? Only by the grace that is in Christ can we bear such a testimony as Corrie did or as Jim Elliott did or as virtually all the Apostles did! Brethren – please pray and reconsider these vitally important matters of “witness and testimony” before the Lord.
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June 11, 2014 at 4:30 pm (Edit)
My brother is most eloquent and is almost infinitely patient and long-suffering to write such a thoughtful epistle to my readers! We do disagree of course on numerous things (and agree on many others) for I believe that the period of God’s wrath upon the earth, while connected directly to the Day of the Lord, is for a longer period… to my mind an undisclosed period… We disagree on the interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 5:1-9. I will focus on this passage. It is at the heart of the discussion.
I believe the context is eminently clear that we are NOT dealing with judicial wrath against the individual, but we are dealing with the wrath of God to be poured out in the last days against an unbelieving word, but especially against Babylon, the children of the night, aka those who carry the Mark of the Beast. Verse 1 states we are dealing with ‘the times and the seasons’ and Paul states that they have no need since they have already been taught, however, he will reinforce what he has previously taught them in person. Verse 2 states we are talking about ‘the day of the Lord’. Verse 3 ‘the sudden destruction’ that comes upon those who are children of the night… not the children of the day. Therefore, the wrath is directed at the children of the night. Verse 4 through 7 discuss the distinction of the two peoples… different peoples… those who are children of the day are addressed in Verse 8 are admonished to put on the helmet of salvation, knowing that they are saved and should in no wise be doubting this. Why? Verse 9 tells us, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” To suggest this verse is dealing with judicial wrath is to suppose that the argument has shifted from ‘the day of the Lord’ to the Lake of Fire, the destiny of those who are children of the night, but obviously, at least 1,000 years distant.
Verse 9 is the culminating verse that communicates we will NOT experience the wrath which is directed at the children of the night, those who are not sober, who are not watching, who are apt to be caught unawares and experienced sudden destruction. The children of the day are sober and do watch. They will NOT experience the wrath of God for they are not appointed to wrath which is slated for the day of the Lord (the context of this passage). This does not mean that they will not be subject to the devil’s wrath. They have been and if God allows them to remain on earth during some portion of the Tribulation (perhaps most of it as my brother Doug Krieger asserts), they will be persecuted and many will be martyred. Doug Krieger asserts that the wrath of Satan and the wrath of the Lamb are distinct. I believe this is likely to be so and that the wrath of God follows the wrath of Satan. Exactly when one ends and the other begins I cannot be certain. However, it seems clear that the Wrath of God, which I believe the Church is excluded from, takes place in the second half of the Tribulation (aka the Great Tribulation). This does now mean that I believe in a mid-tribulation rapture. The rapture of the Church, could happen at any time. This means that it could happen prior to the beginning of the Tribulation period. Is Daniel’s 70th week the same as the Tribulation? I do not believe that the two need be perfectly synonymous. I believe it is perfectly clear, however, that the time of ‘greatest tribulation’ is AFTER the man of sin is revealed and that the wrath of God as described in revelation, beginning with the sixth seal (the great earthquake) is the starting point for that wrath. Therefore, I agree with David Lowe that the first five seals happen before God’s wrath is poured out (I do not see the first four seals as God’s wrath… but general conditions that prevail upon the earth prior to the time when God’s wrath begins).
So will the children of the day experience the wrath of Satan? Yes. But this passage is discussing the wrath of God. And, plainly, the entire passage is dealing with ‘the day of the Lord’. Is it possible that we will be preserved through the wrath of God and be protected from it? Yes. But the traditional view is that those who are sealed by God and stand against Satan successfully (and are not harmed by Satan) prevail up to the time of the revealing of the Antichrist. But the principal of God separating the godly from the ungodly and placing them apart (like Enoch who was ‘raptured’) or within a safe confine for preservation (like Noah and his family) or removing them from wrath (such as Lot and his family who escaped Sodom and Gomorrah’s judgment) is a scriptural principle that I find compelling and directly applicable to the day of the Lord and the righteous, the children of the Day, being separated from it entirely.
The question for me is, When do the specific actions of God, His wrath, break forth? It seems clear that it is related to the ‘day of the Lord.’ How long is this and when will it begin? We know that the Day of the Lord cannot begin until the man of sin is revealed and that which restrains his appearance is taken away or removed. That is the centerpiece of the debate. Is this the Holy Spirit? The believers otherwise known as the Church? That is classic dispensational teaching and that is the teaching to which I adhere.
Notwithstanding there are challenges to this teaching and my good brother Doug Krieger is most adroit at pointing those out. He does his very best at trying to reconcile the challenges but does so by assuming that the Day of the Lord does not occur until the very very end of the Great Tribulation (30 days prior to the return of Jesus Christ to the world when ‘every eye shall see him.’
However, I prefer to remain in the camp of dispensationalism until I find scriptural reasons to reject those teachings that have served me well for my six decades upon this earth. Where we strongly AGREE is that the destruction of Babylon happens toward the latter portion of the Great Tribulation. We do not believe that America will be destroyed or dismantled prior to Daniel’s 70th week. We believe it is the essential character that the wrath of God is directed against. Religious Babylon, centered around the Vatican, is a portion of Babylon. But the economic and political/military Babylon, we believe is America. The Beast himself with his kings will turn against Babylon and burn her with fire. Is this just religious Babylon or is it also the nation-state which focuses the power of Babylon? Of not, I am not yet sure at this moment in time.
I hope this lengthy response and discussion is helpful to my audience.