Pity the poor disciples of Yeshua! Those who have read the end of the Gospel accounts find it all too easy to poke fun at the poor clods. We chuckle when they are confused by Yeshua’s predictions of His death or that they are constantly saying and doing the wrong things. But let’s be honest and admit that we would have been just as confused in their circumstances, and honor them for following the Lord even when they had to walk blind.
After several days of intensive and hostile grilling from Judea’s religious leaders, Yeshua stormed from the Temple, proclaiming that Jerusalem would not see Him again until its people were ready to say together, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Mat. 23:39, cf. Psa. 118:26). His disciples ran after Him, trying to bring Him back by pointing out the beauty of the Temple, which had been rebuilt by Herod in a bid to buy the goodwill of the Jewish populace. Yeshua’s response is to declare that it would be torn down to its foundations.
At this point, they start to get it. They know that the Messiah is going away, though they still don’t understand the nature of that leave-taking. They also understood that this was not to be a permanent departure, that the Messiah would come back again. He would not simply forget His promises to Israel and His disciples. For all that we can chuckle at their confusion and stumbling steps, these four unlettered fishermen who approached Yeshua on the Mount of Olives—Peter, Jacob, John, and Andrew (Mark 13:3)—understood the sanctity of God fulfilling all of His promises better than many seminary-trained theologians.
There are two questions asked, and Christian commentators have debated for centuries which one Yeshua answered. Was His prophecy solely about the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, or did He look beyond that and speak of His bodily Second Coming.
The answer is both. And while this post is going to focus on the future fulfillment, that does not mean that the preterist view of the Olivet Discourse is wrong, just that it is incomplete.
By laying out the timeline of events of the 70th Week and the Olivet Discourse and using the Abomination of Desolation as the linking point, and then placing the seals of Revelation 6-7 next to their corresponding events in the Olivet Discourse (e.g., matching up the white horseman with false messiahs, the red to wars and rumors of wars, etc.) we end up with the following timeline:
If you’re familiar with standard pretrib timelines of the 70th Week, you may already have noticed a major difference here. For example, here is the 70th Week as laid out by Clarence Larkin, which has been pretty much followed by pretrib authors since:
Note that Larkin has interpreted Revelation as running completely in order. However, in order to do so, he has crowded the seals together into about the first quarter of his timeline. By necessity, this means that he expects the heavenly lights to dim at least twice, at the sixth seal and at the Second Coming. However, this ignores the basic principle of comparing Scripture-to-Scripture, or as the rabbis call it, G’zerah Shavah. Furthermore, this view ascribes no significance at all to the sixth seal, whereas the tone of Revalation makes it clear that this seal is a pivotal event:
The kings of the earth, the princes, the commanding officers, the rich, the strong, and every slave and free person, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains. They told the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of his wrath has come; and who is able to stand?” (Rev. 6:15-17)
The great day of wrath is the event called in the Tanakh the Day of Hashem or Day of the Lord. The prophet Joel also describes it as beginning with the event of the sixth seal: “The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes” (2:31).
This means that everything before the sixth seal cannot be the Day of the Lord, the time of His wrath. And that is exactly what we find in Revelation:
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been killed for the Word of God, and for the testimony of the Lamb which they had. They cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, Master, the holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” A long white robe was given to each of them. They were told that they should rest yet for a while, until their fellow servants and their brothers, who would also be killed even as they were, should complete their course. (6:9-12)
Why is this so important? Because in the pretrib view, all of the 70th Week is the Day of the Lord, the time of the Holy One’s wrath. And since we are assured that we are not appointed to wrath (1Th. 5:9), then it must follow that the Rapture must occur before the 70th Week, so often dubbed “the tribulation period,” begins.
But what if the whole of the 70th Week is not the time of God’s wrath? What if a significant part is the time of the Adversary’s wrath, per Rev. 12:12? Suddenly, one of the major legs on which pretribulationism stands has been kicked out from under it.
Next time, we will continue this line of argument, demonstrating from other Scripture-to-Scripture comparisons that the Second Coming described in Matthew 24 and the Rapture described in the letters to the Thessalonians are one and the same. Until then,