A Serious Problem for the Rapture Doctrine
Don K. Preston
Daniel 2 and 7 are passages that predicted the establishment of the Messianic kingdom. This is almost universally acknowledged. Daniel 7 and chapter 2 are virtually parallel in their predictions of the establishment of the kingdom in the days of the Roman empire, the fourth beast.
In Daniel 7, the prophet sought to know the interpretation of the vision, and the divine interpretation was given in verses 19-27. And, that interpretation flies in the face of the modern dispensational rapture doctrine.
Remember that the rapture doctrine says that at the rapture, the church is removed from the earth, and is not on earth during the tribulation period. In addition, we are told that the church was not foretold anywhere in the OT prophecies. However, consider the following.
Daniel 7: 25 says that in the days of the persecutorial little horn, “the saints shall be given into his hand.” Now, we have but two choices here:
1.) The saints must refer to Old Covenant Israel during the tribulation period just prior to Christ’s second coming. This is, of course, the dispensational view.
2.) The saints are the church, the body of Christ, being persecuted at the time of Jesus’ parousia. This, contra the dispensational view, is the correct view, and we can prove it from the writings of the dispensationalists!
Thomas Ice and Tim LaHaye list 2 Thessalonians 1:4f as a Second Coming text. John MacArthur agrees, saying of 2 Thessalonians 1:4-7, “Only His glorious, triumphant return can fulfill the hope of the saints.” Dwight Pentecost lists 2 Thessalonians as a Second Coming text as does Walvoord and Zuck. Do you see the problem? It is a huge problem for dispensationalists!
2 Thessalonians 1 is speaking to and about the church. It is not speaking to or about Old Covenant Israel!
2 Thessalonians 1 says that the church would be under persecution at the time of Christ second coming.
2 Thessalonians 1 says that the church (that was suffering on for the kingdom, 2 Thessalonians 1:5) would receive relief (anesis which means relief) from their persecution “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven” (2 Thessalonians 1:7f).
Thus, it is the church that is identified as “the saints” in Daniel 7:25!
Now, since Paul said he preached nothing but the hope of Israel found in the Old Covenant prophecies (Cf Romans 16:25-26; Acts 24:14f), this means that we should be able to find the doctrine of 2 Thessalonians 1 in the Old Testament. And what we find is that 2 Thessalonians 1 fits Daniel 7 to a “T”!
The bottom line is that Daniel posited the persecution of the saints– not total deliverance from persecution, but relief from it– for the saints, immediately prior to the second coming of the Lord.
Paul said that it was the church – specifically the Thessalonian church!– would be undergoing persecution at the time of Christ’s parousia and the Thessalonian church would be given relief from its persecution, at Christ’s second coming.
You cannot say that Daniel 7 applies exclusively to OT Israel and has nothing to do with the church, for Thessalonians posits the church as under persecution at the second coming, just as Daniel posits the persecution of the saints at that time. At the very least, if one took the view that Daniel speaks of Israel, and Thessalonians speaks of the church, this is still fatal to dispensationalism! This still means that the church is one earth, under persecution, at the time of Christ’s second coming!
The irrefutable words of 2 Thessalonians 1 coupled with Daniel 7 proves the dispensational rapture doctrine wrong on several counts.
A.) It proves that the OT did predict the church.
B.) It proves that the church would endure the Tribulation.
C.) It proves that the second coming of Christ was in the first century, in the lifetime of the Thessalonians. Christ could not give the Thessalonians relief from persecution, at his parousia, if the Thessalonians (not some vague, timeless “church”) were not actually being persecuted at the time of his coming!
For an extended discussion of the problems that 2 Thessalonians 1 presents for dispensationalism, see my book Leaving the Rapture Behind, available on this website. And, for an extended discussion of the relationship between Daniel and Thessalonians, see my We Shall Meet Him In The Air: The Wedding of the King of kings, also available on this website.
Don K. Preston