“8. One of God’s main stated purposes behind the Tribulation is to bring national Israel to repentance – the “time of Jacob’s trouble”. This purpose needn’t involve the Church, and in order for God to operate under Old Covenant procedure as the beginning of the process, He must remove the Church, since the Old and New Covenants are incompatible. (Daniel’s 70 Weeks and Dispensational Theology).”
First I would like to point out that even among those who do subscribe to a pre-millennial view of eschatology, Dispensationalism by no means finds total acceptance. Even leaving aside the Orthodox, large numbers of Protestants don’t accept strict Dispensationalism. There are some who reject it outright; there are those who have tried to redefine or modify it; there are those who accept some of its doctrines, but not others.
There are two main passages for this discussion, but others could be brought in to emphasise the Jewish aspects of the eschaton (e.g. Romans 10-11).
“Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it. For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him: but they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them. Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the Lord; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet I will not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.”
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”
These two passages clearly have the Jews in mind: “O my servant Jacob, saith the Lord; neither be dismayed, O Israel“; “re determined upon thy people [Daniel’s fellow countrymen] and upon thy holy city [Yerushalaim, Jerusalem]“. Few would dispute that. These two texts alone offer real insight into how God views His people Israel and what He intends for them, especially when they are put alongside parallel passages from Paul, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Isaiah et al.
From Jeremiah we see that God will destroy the Gentile nations that abused His people Israel. This is an outworking of promises/statements that can be found in these two passages:
Gen. 12:3 “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
Zech. 2:8 “For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.”
God will also raise up “David” to be king over the Israelites in the future. This promise has been interpreted in two main ways:
a) David is literally David the son of Jesse, who ruled Israel after Saul. He, as an OT saint, will be raised up on the Last Day by Christ and entrusted with rule, just s the 12 Apostles sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 Tribes of Israel. Some see David in the cryptic references to the “prince” in Ezekiel 40-48, who rules Israel subordinate to God in the Millennium.
b) “David” is actually a reference to Christ, the promised “King of the Jews”, who rose from the dead, and will come to rule from Israel during the Millennium.
Jeremiah also says that God will give Israel rest and peace in their land, never to be troubled again. This is considered to have two aspects:
1. Spiritual rest, because they have accepted Jesus the Messiah. They now have peace with God; they are cleansed from their sins and forgiven.
2. Physical rest: they can now live peacefully in their land because God has no further need to chastise them with invading armies as he did in the days of the Judges, the days of Assyria, the days of Neo-Babylon, and the days of the Romans.
Daniel presents us with a similar picture, but in different terms. Gabriel reveals to him what tasks God has given Israel (“to finish the transgression…”), and affirms that it will be done: God’s promises given through the prophets will be fulfilled. Gabriel also reveals that a specific time-frame has been given for this task: 70 “Weeks” or “Sevens”. A literalist reading of this passage, taking a “Week” or “Seven” as a period of seven years, places a period of 483 years (corresponding to 69 Weeks) between the Persian decree to rebuild Jerusalem (not from Cyrus but one of his successors – probably Artaxerxes) and the crucifixion of Jesus (“Messiah the Prince”). This was the view of Hippolytus (and possibly Jerome) and was championed by Robert Anderson in the 19th century. It also corresponds to the historical record (albeit some fine tuning is needed given calendar changes over the years).
But now we encounter a problem. Given Christ’s crucifixion at the end of Week 69, what of Week 70? The literalist reading of this passage is confirmed by the support it finds in the historical record. The logic of non-contradiction demands, if you accept 69 of those Weeks as literal 7-year periods, that you accept the final Week as a literal period of 7 years. Thus the famous phrase amongst serious eschatologists: “Daniel’s 70th Week”. The problem for the literalist is the location of this Week. Preterists, who seek a 70 AD fulfilment for this prophecy, want to locate the final Week in the 1st century AD; they want the causing of the “sacrifice and the oblation to cease” and the “overspreading of abominations” to be one of two options:
A) Jesus causes the Temple system to cease because His once-for-all-time sacrifice has made it redundant (and because the Jewish leadership has rejected Him).
B) The Romans took away sacrifices by besieging Jerusalem and destroying the Temple. They put “abominations” in it when they brought in their standards, which had Roman eagles on them and Jupiter’s/Zeus’ thunderbolt – i.e. symbols of paganism and emperor-worship.
The futurist objects to the preterist’s handling of the Week and the language of the passage. If the desolation of the Temple by the Romans happened in the middle of the week, then what happened to “he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week“? As a Josephus scholar (my MPhil was spent researching his writings), I can testify to the fact that there is no historical recordof a treaty for seven years being created which was then nullified by the Temple’s desecration in 70 AD. No such treaty exists. Some try to get around this by claiming that the covenant was Christ’s New Covenant. But this is problematic for three reasons:
A) Christ’s Covenant is not limited to 7 years.
B) Christ doesn’t break His promises (blasphemy of blasphemies), but this passage presents the desolation as the breaking of a covenant.
C) The logic of the passage demands equating the one who confirms the covenant with the one who “overspread[s]…abominations”. Do you really want to approve a theology that says Christ overspreads abominations?
Thus not many accept this identification; nevertheless, many preterists try to uphold the 70 AD interpretation for the abominations at the middle of the Week. But where did the rest of the Week go? They cannot produce the first half because they cannot produce the covenant that begins it. And they cannot produce the second half because they cannot produce the fulfilment of the promises at a 3.5 year period following 70 AD, i.e. c.74 AD.
What are those promises? Well two of them are: “to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy“. Was vision and prophecy sealed up in 74 AD? Nope, because for it to be Christ would have had to come by that point. “Surely no-one makes that claim”, you say. If only…unfortunately full preterism exists, one of whose promoters is NT Wright. I’m glad to see that Jess disapproves of his eschatology, as do I. A critique of his claims can be found here: http://www.joelstrumpet.com/?p=6773 ; http://www.joelstrumpet.com/?p=6799 . What about anointing the most Holy? Well, there are a few possible options for that: Christ, the Temple, the saints – sing out if you can produce any other options. But again, there is no record of any of these being anointed in 73-5 AD. Christ already is the Messiah, and His Baptism was His public anointing; the Temple was destroyed and thus couldn’t be anointed; the saints haven’t been glorified yet and were already “anointed” for mission at Pentecost. Thus the preterist cannot affirm a literalist reading for the 69 Weeks while maintaining his position on the 70th Week: it’s one or the other.
The futurist on the other hand affirms that Daniel’s 70th Week is still future to us. A partial version of this also appears to have been the view of Hippolytus. He appears to have put half of Daniel’s 70th Week in his future: i.e. Abomination of Desolation to Parousia, 3.5 years. He thought the Parousia would occur in 500 AD, and thus the Abomination of Desolation would happen c. 496 AD. (I am uncertain what Hippolytus did with the first half of the Week; I’ll need to read him again.)
Both the futurist and the preterist (although I haven’t met one who’d admit this) place a gap between Weeks 69 and 70. Even assuming the preterist position, there’s a gap between the end of Week 69 in c. 30 AD and Week 70, running c.66-74 AD. Critics of the literalist approach will argue that no gap is implied in the text. If no precedent for this existed in Scripture, then I’d have to bow to the argument. But precedent actually does exist, and is even presented by our Lord Himself.
In Luke 4 Jesus reads a passage from Isaiah, and tells his audience that the passage is fulfilled in their hearing. He ends, “…the acceptable year of the Lord.” What you may not know is that Jesus actually stops halfway through a sentence in Isaiah. He does not affirm that the rest of the sentence is fulfilled in their hearing. The rest of the passage runs like this: “…the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.” (Isaiah 61:2-5) The rest of this passage is clearly eschatological in nature: Jesus did not cause the Jews to rebuild cities that had been made desolate during His first Advent, and He didn’t pour out His Wrath at that time. The only way around the (non-implied) gap in Isaiah and its application in Luke is to heavily allegorise the passage or to claim that Jesus returned in the first century AD (full preterism), a view rejected by orthodox Christians. There are also passages that involve non-implied gaps between the first and second Advents. The frequency of such occurrences in Scripture has led theologians to create a term for the phenonomenon: “peak to peak”. In other words, the prophets see Peak 1/First Advent and Peak 2/Second Advent, but miss the valley inbetween – the current Church Age. One such passage is Micah 5: it contains Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, but it also includes Christ’s defeat of the Assyrian/the Antichrist, which He did not do in His first Advent.
So far so good. Bosco and I are in fact on the same page for most if not all of this material. We both agree that Daniel’s 70th Week is still future and that the Church was born in the gap between the 69th and 70th Weeks, viz. Resurrection Sunday and Pentecost.
But the question I ask as a pre-wrather is whether the Church’s unmentioned presence during this unmentioned gap necessarily implies her departure from earth before the 70th Week begins. The Apostle Paul tells us that the Church is a “mystery”, kept secret until she was revealed at Christ’s coming (e.g. in Matt. 16): Eph. 1:7-12; 3:1-7; 5:30-2. Even the prophets didn’t have a clear conception of her. Given the prophets’ silence on her creation, they might also be expected to be silent on her departure from the earth. The problem is that the prophetic utterances concerning the Church’s departure situate it with reference to God’s Wrath and don’t make clear the departure’s relation to Antichrist’s persecution. The silence of the Daniel passage means we can’t infer in either direction (viz. pre-70th-Week-rapture or non-pre-70th-Week-rapture) with certainty. We simply aren’t furnished with criteria in this passage to say whether the Church is present or not.
The other issue is that pre-tribbers try to build covenantal theology into this passage without specifying the basis within the passage for determining the relationship between covenant and time. Everyone can agree that the Old Covenant ended and the New began when Christ sealed it by His Blood shed on the Cross, the Apostles being the first to partake of the Covenant by their participation in the Eucharist on “Maundy Thursday” and receiving of the Holy Spirit on Resurrection Sunday. The Crucifixion is expressed in these words in our Daniel passage: “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself“.
[Incidentally, after Messiah’s crucifixion comes the description of the Romans’ destruction of Jerusalem, before, not during the 70th Week, contra the preterists: “the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary“.]
So we have warrant from the combined witness of Scripture for noting the beginning of the New Covenant in this passage from Daniel. But there is nothing in this passage or anywhere else in Scripture that indicates that the Old Covenant resumes with the beginning of the 70th Week. And this is the crux of the Dispensationalist argument for a pre-tribulational rapture: i.e. the Old Covenant is put back into force; it’s incompatible with the New Covenant: therefore the partakers of the New Covenant must be removed from earth.
The references that do exist in Scripture for sacrifices taking place in the first half of the 70th Week do not indicate whether these sacrifices are being performed licitly as in the days of Moses or whether they are simply happening: i.e. the difference between prescriptive and descriptive. Thus my argument from a previous post still applies:
“When we look at Rev. 11:1, it is far from clear that God requires such sacrifices from faithful Christians, and it is not clear who the offrants are other than Torah-compliant Jews. Nobody disputes the fact that at least one of God’s aims in Daniel’s 70th Week is to bring national Israel to a place of repentance and belief in Jesus their Messiah. It is quite logical that the Temple should play a role in that process as it did in the OT days leading up to Christ’s first Advent. But given Christian knowledge of Christ’s relationship to the sacrificial system, especially as set forth in Hebrews, it remains far from clear why God should require the one who already believes in Christ to observe such a system, as opposed to a non-believer. After all, why did Paul argue so strongly against the Judaizers?
“The presence of the Temple does not ipso facto nullify the New Covenant (after all, it was still around in Paul’s day). There is nothing in Rev. 11:1 that implies salvation is now once again dependent on such sacrifices, and passages in the Prophets requiring the Gentiles to sacrifice to God are freely admitted by pre-tribbers to be Millennial in context, and not Tribulational. Lastly, we should remember what Christ said in Matt. 23:38-39, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” If the Temple is desolate until the Israeli national leadership admits that Jesus is the Messiah, then the Temple is desolate (and not sanctioned) until the Parousia at the end of the Great Tribulation, and not before.”
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