REVELATION, TRUMPETS AND MILLENNIAL PROBLEMS
© 2008 Don K. Preston
One would think, by reading the literature, and listening to the "prophecy experts" that Revelation is a veritable bastion for the defense as well as promulgation of the dispensationalism. Every dispensationalist quotes and alludes to the Apocalypse with confidence, affirming that we are today living in the days of fulfillment, or that the fulfillment is just around the corner, as soon as the Rapture occurs. What seems to have escaped the notice of so many Biblical students is that Revelation is a total refutation of the dispensational paradigm.
Now, clearly, in a short article, we cannot delineate all of the problems posed by a careful examination of Revelation. However, we can point out a few major exegetical problems with their claims when compared with the text. To that we proceed.
It is vitally important to understand that the millennial view of Revelation is that the visions flow consecutively, not concurrently. The visions are not repeated visions of the same events in different form with different emphasis. In other words, the millennial view is that beginning with the Rapture, which they claim is envisioned in chapter 4:1f, the book unfolds to reveal the events of the seven year Tribulation period. The 7 Seals open the Tribulation period, and as the 7th Seal is fulfilled, it reveals the 7 Trumpets, to be fulfilled in the middle of the Tribulation. When the 7th Trumpet sounds, it reveals the 7 Vials the closing period of the 7 year Tribulation.1
With this before us, we want to explore the implications of the millennial doctrine in regard to two or three areas: 1.) The predictions about Jerusalem, 2.) The predictions about the vindication of the martyrs, 3.) The predictions about the resurrection, 4.) The predictions about the kingdom. We will demonstrate that the millennial insistence on the consecutive nature of the visions of Revelation actually serves to destroy the millennial construct.
THE PREDICTIONS ABOUT JERUSALEM
In a two day public debate with Thomas Ice and Mark Hitchcock, Hitchcock affirmed that Revelation 11-16:18 is concerned with the yet future fate of Jerusalem during the Tribulation period.2 Well, if this is true, then Jerusalem of the Tribulation period is not the place to be!
Consider that under the 7th Trumpet the "great city" is destroyed by an earthquake (11:13f), and that in chapter 16:17-18, the "great city" is once again destroyed by a great earthquake! Remember that according to the millennialist the time of the Trumpets in chapter 11 is in the middle of the Tribulation while the time of the Vials of chapter 16 is at the end. That is only a 3 ½ year period of separation, but to the millennialists it is a vital distinction. So, according to the millennialists, Jerusalem will be destroyed by massive earthquake, twice, within a 3 ½ year period of time. But this is not the end of Jerusalem’s woes during the proposed Tribulation.
It is also critical to understand that in Revelation 11 and 16 Jerusalem is the focus of God’s wrath. Now, this is in direct conflict with the millennialists who believe that during the Tribulation period Jerusalem is the "innocent victim" of the anti-christ’s wrath. But this is not the picture presented by the Apocalypse.
In Revelation 11 Jerusalem is depicted as the city guilty of rejoicing over the martyrdom of the two witnesses, and consequently, judgment comes. In Revelation 16:6, judgment on the great city is justified, "for they have shed the blood of saints and prophets." Thus, the judgment of Jerusalem, that great city, per Ice and Hitchcock, is because of Jerusalem’s culpability for shedding the blood of the saints. And, according to the consecutive vision theory, Jerusalem must be judged for her blood guilt in killing the saints at the sounding of the 7th Trump, and then judged once again for killing the saints, at the pouring out of the 3rd (and 7th!– Revelation 16.17f) Vial! Is there place for this in the millennial view? No.3 This is a major problem!
THE VINDICATION OF THE MARTYRS
A great deal could be said about this theme in Revelation, but space will not permit. What can be said is that Revelation is deeply concerned with the vindication of the martyrs of God. Scene after scene is focused on their long suffering plight, and God’s promise to vindicate them. One thing that needs to be noted is that if "the great city" of Revelation 11-16, is different than the "great city" Babylon in Revelation 16:9- chapter 18, then one can only conclude that two great cities were, or are to be, the focus of God’s eschatological vengeance on the slayers of his saints. This is patently wrong, for Jesus undeniably posited one entity, and one entity alone as guilty of killing the saints, "It is not possible that a prophet perish outside of Jerusalem" (Luke 13:31-33).4 Let’s take a closer look at the vindication of the martyrs in Revelation.
In Revelation 6, the time of the 7 Seals, the souls of the martyrs cry for vindication and judgment against their persecutors (v. 9f). The answer to their prayer is under the 6th Seal, the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord. Per the millennial paradigm therefore, the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord, in vindication of the martyrs and judgment of the persecutors, should occur at the end of the first 3 ½ year period of the Tribulation. Does the millennial paradigm have a place for the Great Day of the Lord in the middle of the Tribulation period? No. There is no place for the Day of the Lord in the middle of the Tribulation. But this is not the only problem.
The Great Day of the Lord is the time for the vindication of the martyrs and judgment of their persecutors. This is under the 6th Seal, in the middle of the Tribulation per the millennial view. However, in Revelation 11 we also find the time of the vindication of the martyrs, at the judgment of Jerusalem. It is at this time that the city that killed Lord is judged, "Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead that they should be judged, and that you should reward Your servants the prophets and saints." (Revelation 11:18).
Thus, so far, we have two vindications of the martyrs and two judgments–including the resurrection, 11.16f!), of the persecutors. One at the 6th Seal, and the other at the sound of the 7th Trumpet. A valid question at this point would be, who are the persecutors in Revelation 6? And, what is the context for their vindication at the Great Day of the Lord? In other words, in Revelation 11, the time of vindication and judgment is clearly set within the context of the judgment of the city "where the Lord was slain."
But, the judgment of chapter 6 is not as clearly delineated. Furthermore, this cannot be because, according to millennialists those saints are not raised until the Second Coming, at the end of the 7 year Tribulation.5 Further, this judgment cannot be the time of the vindication and resurrection of the church saints, since the martyred church saints are resurrected at the Rapture, 3/12 years before the scene of Revelation 6.
So, just who is it that is being vindicated in this scene? It can’t be the church martyrs because the millennialists insist that the 7 year Tribulation has nothing to do with the church. It cannot be the Old Testament martyrs or the Tribulation martyrs because they are not vindicated/resurrected until the end of the 7 year period. Yet, undeniably,
if one takes the millennial view of things, there has to be a coming of the Lord, the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord, at the 3 1/3 mark of the Tribulation. But this is not all the problem.
Not only does Revelation 6 depict a time of the vindication of the martyrs, Revelation 11 does as well, as just seen. However, Revelation 16 also depicts the time of the vindication of the martyrs at the pouring out of the Vials. Revelation 16:4, the time of the 3rd Vial or Bowl, anticipates the time of the judgment of those who killed the prophets and saints, "You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was, and who is to be, because You have judged these things, for they have shed the blood of saints and prophets and you have given them blood to drink" (16:4). Then, in verse 17f, the judgment actually falls on the persecuting city, Jerusalem.
In other words, Revelation depicts three distinct times for the vindication of the martyrs (if one accepts the consecutive view of the visions)! What is more, two of those times (Revelation 11 and 16), are positively identified as the judgment of Jerusalem, if one accepts the delineation between "the great city" (i.e. Jerusalem) and Babylon, made by Hitchcock/ Ice and the dispensationalists.6 Do the dispensationalists believe that Jerusalem will be judged, twice, during the Tribulation period, for shedding the blood of the martyrs of God? Unequivocally not!
To be sure, the millennialists do believe Jerusalem is destroyed during the Tribulation period, but it is not for persecuting the saints. It is at the hands of the anti-christ. (Fast, 111; Answers, 192). In other words, per the millennialists, Jerusalem is innocently and unjustly persecuted by the anti-christ. However, the problem is that in Revelation 11 and 16 the judgment on "the great city" Jerusalem is distinctly stated to be for shedding the blood of the saints and the prophets, including Jesus! Per Revelation "the great city" is anything but innocent, or unjustly persecuted. Her judgment comes from God. This flies in the face of everything the millennialists believes.
But, I mentioned that there are three vindications of the martyrs, and judgments of the persecutors, and so there are. We have the judgment in Revelation 6, that in Revelation 11, and then in Revelation 16.7 That is, we have a vindication of the martyrs under the Seals, a vindication under the Trumpets, and a vindication under the Vials! Per the consecutive view of the visions, as posited by the millennialists, this has to be three distinct vindications, and three distinct judgments of the persecutors! Let me reiterate and re-emphasize, that the millennialists have no place in their construct for any of this! Yet, to take the consecutive view of Revelation and then accept what the text says, demands that there are three distinct times of vindication and judgment of the martyrs and their persecutors.
This raises the question about the identity of the persecuting power as identified in Revelation. Ice and Hitchcock admit that Revelation 11-16 is speaking of Jerusalem. Well, that means that Revelation 11-16 posit Jerusalem as the persecutor of God’s saints during the Tribulation period! The millennialists do not believe that is true!
If Revelation 11-16 posits Jerusalem as the persecuting power, who is the persecuting power behind the scenes of the 5th Seal in chapter 6? And, who is behind the persecution in chapter 20?
The bottom line is that the theme of the vindication of the martyrs as found in Revelation is an insurmountable problem for the millennialists. Revelation identifies Jerusalem as the persecutor of the saints, yet the millennialists do not believe that is true. Revelation depicts the judgment of the persecutors at the middle of the Tribulation period, at the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord, yet the millennialists do not believe in that. Revelation posits three different vindications of the martyrs during the Tribulation period, yet the millennialists have no place for this in their view. The theme of the vindication of the martyrs and judgment of the persecutors is very destructive of the millennial doctrine.
THE RESURRECTION AND THE REVELATION
To say the least, the millennial view of resurrection is confused and confusing. Ice says there are several stages of the resurrection.8 There is, "the resurrection of the church at the rapture," the resurrection of Old Testament saints and the Tribulation martyrs at the Second Coming, the resurrection of all millennial believers after the millennium, and finally, the resurrection of the unredeemed at the end of the millennium. (Fast, 166+) Unfortunately for the dispensationalist, this is not supported by the text of Revelation.
Remember that the martyrs of Revelation 6 would be vindicated and judged at the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord (6:12f). This is the resurrection! For clarity, it should be noted that Ice (or whoever truly wrote Charting), says that the prayer of the martyrs (Revelation 6:9f), is not actually fulfilled until Revelation 16:4-7 (Charting, 60). This is a blatant contradiction of their view, however. And worse, it violates Revelation 6.12f. The Day of the Lord that occurs under the 6th Seal is the fulfillment of their prayer! This is a major problem for the dispensationalist! Per the text, one is forced, if you accept the consecutive vision theory, to posit the Day of the Lord in the middle of the Tribulation period. Yet, there is no such tenet in millennialism.
Furthermore, at the sounding of the 7th Trumpet–and remember that this is the time of the judgment of the city "where the Lord was slain," it is announced, "Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead that they should be judged and that you should reward your servants the prophets." This is the fulfillment of Daniel 12, the time when the prophets would be rewarded, i.e. resurrection (Daniel 12:2, 9-13). In other words, the resurrection of the Old Testament saints is at the sounding of the 7th Trumpet. But the sounding of the 7th Trumpet is in the middle of the Tribulation period, per the millennialists. Again, this is problematic for the dispensationalists since, as you can see above, they posit the resurrection of the Old Testament saints at the Second Coming. Revelation 11 posits the resurrection of the Old Testament saints 3 ½ years before the Second Coming!9
There is another problem with the sounding of the trumpets and the millennial paradigm that seems to have escaped the notice of most commentators. At least I have not found any that are discussing the issue. The problem is for the pre-tribulational dispensationalist.
In Charting the End Times and his other books, Ice says that 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 speaks of the rapture.10 However, 1 Corinthians says that the resurrection would occur at "the last trump." Now, Biblically, there are only 7 eschatological Trumpets, and they are found in Revelation. But when do the 7 Trumpets of Revelation sound? In the middle of the Tribulation period according to the millennial paradigm! And, not only does the 7th Trump sound in the middle of the Tribulation period, it is at the 7th Trumpet that the resurrection occurs, in total agreement with 1 Corinthians 15.
What this means is that Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, or whoever wrote the books with their names on them, are actually, of scriptural and logical necessity, mid-tribulational rapturists!
In logical form the argument would appear like this in sortees form:
Major Premise: The resurrection at the rapture would occur at the last trump (1 Corinthians 15:51-53; Ice/LaHay
e, or whoever actually wrote their books)
The resurrection at the rapture would occur at the last trump (1 Corinthians 15:51-53; Ice/LaHaye, or whoever actually wrote their books)
Minor Premise: But the last trump is the 7th Trump (Revelation 11:17f)
But the last trump is the 7 Trump (Revelation 11:17f)
Conclusion: Therefore, the resurrection at the rapture would occur at the 7th Trump.
Therefore, the resurrection at the rapture would occur at the 7 Trump.
Major Premise: The resurrection at the rapture would occur at the 7th Trump (Revelation 11)
The resurrection at the rapture would occur at the 7 Trump (Revelation 11)
Minor Premise: But the 7th Trump sounds in the middle of the Tribulation period (Ice/LaHaye, or whoever actually wrote their books.)
But the 7 Trump sounds in the middle of the Tribulation period (Ice/LaHaye, or whoever actually wrote their books.)
Conclusion: Therefore, the resurrection at the rapture occurs in the middle of the Tribulation period.
Therefore, the resurrection at the rapture occurs in the middle of the Tribulation period.
The conclusions are inescapable. If Ice and LaHaye really believe that 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 is the rapture, then unless they can prove that the "last trump" is somehow different than the 7th Trump of Revelation (even though resurrection occurs at the 7th Trump), they cannot avoid the reality that the rapture is in the middle of the tribulation! Perhaps they should rename their organization "The Mid-Trib Research Center."
It is obvious that the Trumpets sound nothing but trouble for the millennial paradigm.
THE KINGDOM AND REVELATION
Not only does the doctrine of the resurrection pose severe problems for the millennial view of Revelation, but their doctrine of the kingdom is virtually destroyed by their own construct of the consecutive visions.
According to the consecutive vision tenet, the kingdom should not come until the pouring out of the 7th Vial. The Seals and Trumpets are preceding events that only prepare for the 7 Vials, and the ultimate establishment of the kingdom at the Second Coming in chapter 19. The problem is, according to Revelation, the kingdom is established in the middle of the Tribulation period!
Revelation 11 says that when the 7th Trump sounded: "And there were loud voices in heaven saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever!’" (Revelation 11;15). In other words, the kingdom is established at the sounding of the 7th Trump. But the 7th Trump is in the middle of the Tribulation period according to Ice and LaHaye’s books!
The fact that Revelation 11 posits the kingdom at the 7th Trump totally destroys the millennial view of the Second Coming. It destroys their view of the 70 Weeks of Daniel 9. It destroys their view of the rapture. It destroys their view of the resurrection.
Notice that Revelation 11 does not announce the future establishment of the kingdom under the 7th Vial. It does not announce any eschatological future events at all. It declares fulfillment and consummation under the 7th Trumpet, and that being true, the millennial idea of consecutive visions is falsified.
This brief article has introduced and examined only a fraction of the problems that Revelation poses for the millennial paradigm. However, the issues examined here are vitally important to the millennial view of things, yet, as the reader can see, destructive to that paradigm. You simply cannot affirm that the 7 Seals are fulfilled, then the Trumpets are fulfilled, and then, finally, the 7 Vials are fulfilled without demanding, logically, that the events of the 7 Trumps are fulfilled in the middle of the Tribulation period. However, that being true, it follows inescapably, that the rapture, the resurrection, and the kingdom all occur in the middle of the Tribulation period. And that means that the pre-tribulational view is totally falsified by their own statements and placement of these events! I say again, the sounding of the Trumpets sound nothing but trouble for dispensationalism!