THE FIVE BASIC RULES FOR INTERPRETING THE BIBLE
- Accept the meaning of Scripture in its most normal, natural and customary sense.
- Take Scripture in context.
- Compare Scripture with Scripture.
- Before truth is realized, all seeming Scriptural contradictions must be harmonized.
- Watch for near/far prophetic applications in Scripture.
“The Five Keys to a Face-Value Hermeneutic”
-Robert Van Kampen, The Sign, Crossway, p. 9
Dispensationalism is a theological system by which God is seen in terms of different “workings” (dispensations) from Creation until the end of time. Dispensationalists divide Scripture into seven sections or distinct ages as a means of explaining the unique purposes of God during each one. Out of this “seven different ages” view of history and the future, the Pre-Tribulational Rapture position (PTR) was formed.
Imminent means “impending” or “ready to take place at any moment.” According to its leading advocates, “the imminent return of Christ for his Church” is the pillar on which Pre-tribulation Rapturism (see PTR below) rests. If Christ comes before the next dispensation commences, then his return must be “at any moment.” This position—exclusive to Dispensational Pre-Millennialists—teaches that no more signs are necessary prior to Christ’s return; so, the Lord’s coming will be sudden and unexpected.
The Pre-Tribulational Rapture (PTR) position affirms that Jesus will soon come physically, in power, and with a demonstration of great glory, to establish his Millennial Kingdom on earth. This literal approach to Scripture goes on to claim that the Lord’s taking up of his church (i.e. rapture) begins a seven-year period they commonly refer to as “The Tribulation Period”. (See “70th Week of Daniel” below)
Since their teachers maintain the true church will be taken up before the seven-year Tribulation Period begins, the PTR view is the rapture of those who belong to Christ can be at “any moment”.
The Pre-Wrath Rapture (PWR) position also presents a literal Pre-millennial view. It differs from PTR in that it divides this age’s last seven years into two parts. The first and longest segment is what PWR advocates refer to as “Satan’s wrath.” This part was characterized by Jesus as “the beginning of birth pains”. Later, within the same period, birth pains give way to “hard labor”. Terrible times increase in intensity until the world experiences an unparalleled time of distress.
After the time of great distress is complete, God’s people are rescued and “the time of God’s wrath” commences. It begins on the Day of the Lord. The PWR position further holds that the Day of the Lord or Day of Judgment includes simultaneous, one-after-the-other events such as signs in the sky, a great earthquake, the rapture, and the sealing of the 144,000. Specifics about the length of the two segments may differ among PWR advocates, yet all maintain the rapture is the deliverance of the saints from Satan’s wrath. The Lord’s appearance cuts off or ends any possibility of further harm to his elect.
The Rapture is the “taking up,” the physical gathering upward of God’s people in the clouds to meet the returning Christ in the air. Though the word “rapture” (Latin, meaning “taken up”) does not appear in English translations of the Bible, support for the term is Biblical (cf. 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18). The rapture’s timing has been a subject of debate among Bible-believing Christians for some time. At what point, does the “taking up” occur and what immediately follows? The purpose of the “gathering upward” is also a point of confusion. In my opinion, this confusion is due to PTR’s influence. Because of PTR’s widespread appeal, the rapture has been disregarded as the saint’s “rescue” from great distress; then argued to be “resurrection”, which it is not.
The 70th Week of Daniel is the yet unfulfilled last seven years of this age. The term is derived from the prophecy in The Book of Daniel (9:24) and the prophet who received promise of it from God. The 70th Week is initiated by a treaty between representatives of the people of Israel and antichrist or his representatives. The 70th Week is a reference to the 70th or last of the 70 weeks of years (seventy years x seven years) of God’s sentence on Judah (the Jews) for their grievous sins of idolatry and rebellion.