A City Set On a Hill
Surviving the Seventieth Week by Reforming Fundamentalism and Establishing Cities of Refuge
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Interpretational Filters
Copyright 2010 by Raul E. Lopez, MD, MDiv

The premise of this book stands or falls on whether or not the rapture occurs toward the end of the seventieth week. Therefore, we will first address the timing of the rapture. The New Testament is very clear that an event will take place which includes the resurrection of dead believers in Christ and the transformation of living believers. After the resurrection and transformation, both groups together will ascend to meet Christ in the air and will then be in His presence for ever. Because living believers (members of the true church) are taken up from the Earth, the event is called the Rapture of the Church. The Apostle Paul describes this event as follows. "Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (I Corinthians 15:51-52).

There is little disagreement among conservative Christians over the occurrence of this event, rather, disagreement is centered around the timing of the rapture. The Pre-Tribulational System of Theology teaches that Jesus Christ will come again twice, once at the beginning of the seventieth week to rapture the Church, and once at the end of the seventieth week to set up the Millennium. It also teaches two resurrections, one at the rapture before the seventieth week and one at the end of the seventieth week. The Post-Tribulational System, which we support, teaches one second coming of Christ and one Resurrection of believers, both occurring at the end of the seventieth week at the same that transformation of living believers occurs.

Post-Tribulationalism comes in various flavors. There are several sub versions of this view. Some people believe that Jesus returns exactly at the end of the seventieth week. Some believe that He returns a short while before the end of this period. Some put a gap between the rapture and the second coming. Each of these sub views has a name. There exists the classical post-trib view, the newer pre-wrath view, and an intermediate post-trib pre-wrath view. This author believes that the Bible is purposely not clear enough to resolve such minute issues. However, the premise of this book is that the rapture occurs towards the end of the seventieth week closely connected with the second coming of Jesus Christ to the earth. Whether or not it occurs exactly at the end of the seventieth week or exactly at the second coming of Christ is not important to the argument of the book. What is important is whether or not the rapture occurs at or before the beginning of the seventieth week. If it does not, this means that the true church must also confront many of the judgments of the seventieth week along with the rest of humanity.

I would like to begin the discussion on the timing of the rapture by posing a simple question. What happens to the unsaved children of believers at the rapture? If the rapture occurs at the beginning of the seventieth week then those unsaved children of believers who are old enough to have reached the age of accountability will be left orphans in a world about to enter the most horrific period of human history. These children will probably become wards of a state controlled by the Anti-Christ. On the other hand, the children of unbelievers will have parents, and some of these adults might become saved and guide their children to salvation during this time. Some might argue that these children of raptured believer who are left behind are hardened rebels who have probably rejected the gospel after hearing it many times. However, growing up in a Christian home I had several friends from church and Christian school who were saved in their teens and preteens. My own brother was saved when he was nine and is now a deacon and music minister in his church. A nine year old child is probably beyond the age of accountability and would, consequently, miss the rapture.

In a way, the Pre-Tribulational Theological system teaches that the most unfortunate people in the world are the children of believers. This is counter to the tenor of the teaching of Paul "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy." (I Corinthians 7:14) and of Peter "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, [even] as many as the Lord our God shall call." (Acts 2:39). The Post-Tribulational system is more in keeping with the general tone of scripture. It provides a simpler more straight forward interpretation of the passages which address the rapture, and are associated with less interpretational problems. Let us look at some of these passages now. But first we must determine which passages should be our primary focus.

When I first started formal training in theology it troubled me that there could exist such a person as a liberal theologian. It seemed to me a contradiction that someone could spend a lifetime studying the Bible in minute detail and still reject its basic teachings. However after thinking about this I came to two conclusions. First of all, anyone can study a work of literature without believing it. I once saw a book called "The Science of Star Trek". This was simply a work on the quasi-scientific assumptions upon which this collection of literature is based. It did not mean that the author believed that any of it was really true in the real world, only that it was an accurate analysis of the fictional world presented in this work. Some students of the Bible treat the Bible like an influential work of fiction.

However, many people who study the Bible, including liberals, actually believe the Bible to a greater or lesser extent. This led me to my second conclusion, we all see the Bible through interpretational filters which are based on our environment, experiences, and decisions. Different people look at the Bible through different types of filters. If I see the world through a red filter, it will look different than if I use a green filter. Sometimes filters can actually make the image look clearer because it removes some of the glare. A polarized filter cuts out light which is reflected off the surface of objects in the form of glare and actually allows the eye to see images with brighter colors and greater contrast. We all see the Bible through interpretational filters. Otherwise Christians would follow the command in Deuteronomy to not eat pork. "And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it [is] unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase." (v. 14:8). A person's philosophy of interpretation of the Bible is of great importance because it determines the meaning of the text of scripture for that particular person. However, the only appropriate interpretational filters for Biblical passages, that is, the equivalent of polarized glasses, are other passages of Scripture.

I wish to present two principles of interpretation which we will use to help determine the timing of the rapture. First of all, statements in the Bible should be taken literally unless the context or other more clear passages of scripture indicate that it should be taken symbolically or less literally. Secondly, when weighing the literalness of two passages on a particular subject, the one which addresses a subject directly should be given more weight than one which mentions it in passing while addressing a different subject..

In order to determine the timing of the rapture, we will base our study on the direct words of our Lord on the subject as found in Matthew 24. It is important to emphasize that these are the direct words of God in the flesh Himself. It seems that among many evangelical Christians, the words of Paul are given a higher standing than the words of Jesus, using the excuse that the words of Jesus were uttered under the Old Covenant, while the words of Paul were written under the New Covenant. However, the mission of Jesus was to institute the New Covenant, so His words are of highest authority. He commanded His apostles to "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing themin the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matthew 28:19-20). Notice that the teaching of Jesus is normative for all church age believers.

Of course, the words of Paul do not contradict in any way the words of the Lord, since those portions of the Bible, like the rest of the Bible, were also inspired by the same God who spoke through Jesus. However, when the words of Paul are given more authority and lifted above those of the rest of the Bible, they are stripped of their context and they are then prone to being twisted to fit preconceived interpretations. The Apostle Peter must have foreseen this tendency and warned against it when he wrote "even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all [his] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as [they do] also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction" (II Peter 3:15-16). This verse could not have more clearly addressed this tendency by some modern evangelicals to take the words of Paul out of context.

To avoid twisting the words of Paul, we will base our study on the direct teachings of Jesus and then use other passages to amplify and clarify this passage. This will primarily involve comparing Matthew 24 with Revelation 6 and other pertinent passage.

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