Friday, May 26, 2017

Restoring Unity to Paul’s Epistles: A Refutation of Tom Ballinger’s Defense of the “Acts 28” Theory, Part 6 (Changed at the Third Woe?; Delivered from the Coming Indignation)

We shall all be changed…at the third woe?

Since it is at the sounding of what Paul called the “trumpet of God” and the “last trump” that both the living and dead members of the body of Christ are introduced into a state of immortality and incorruption, it would seem that whoever is sounding this trumpet is the authorized agent by whom the dead and living saints that Paul had in view are to be vivified. Given this fact, I believe it is Christ himself who will be the one trumpeting at this future time, for only Christ has been given the authority to vivify the dead.

Ballinger, however, believes that the identity of the implied trumpeter in 1 Cor. 15:52 is the seventh of the seven unnamed angels referred to in Revelation 8:2: ”If Paul said they would be raised at the last trumpet, it means that there are other trumpets blown before it. There is no denying the fact that before the Second Coming of Christ trumpets are going to be blown. In Revelation 8-11 there will be at least 7 trumpets blown before Jesus comes. In I Corinthians 15 Paul said the dead would be raised at “the LAST TRUMPET.” If there are 7 trumpets blown before He comes, to which trumpet is Paul referring? That’s easy: it’s number 7 in Revelation 11:15…”

That Paul, in 1 Cor. 15:52, had in mind the sequence of trumpet-soundings referred to by John in Revelation 8-11 is simply assumed by Ballinger and others who hold to his “post-tribulational” interpretation of 1 Thess. 4:15-17 and 1 Cor. 15:51-52. Apart from one’s already holding to this particular interpretation, I find it doubtful that one would even be motivated to try and understand the “trumpet of God”/“last trump” referred to by Paul as being identical with the trumpet that will be sounded by the seventh messenger in Rev. 11:14. Paul certainly doesn’t say that he had this particular sequence of trumpet-soundings in view in 1 Cor. 15:52, and it’s unlikely that either he or the original recipients of I Corinthians were even aware of such a sequence.[1] In any event, there is nothing said by Paul or John that demands the interpretation affirmed by Ballinger.

The key to biblical interpretation is not merely the comparison of like words (such as “trumpet”), but rather the context of various passages of Scripture. And when we compare the context in which the “last trumpet”/”trumpet of God” is referred to by Paul and the context in which the trumpeting of the seventh angel is found, the differences - both in what is said and what is not said - are great enough to warrant the belief that the two events are not the same. The context of Revelation 10-17 and that of 1 Corinthians 15:52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 are completely different.

The sounding of what Paul called the “trumpet of God” and “last trumpet” is associated with the descent of Christ from heaven to rescue those who are not appointed to indignation from indignation by removing them from the earth (1 Thess. 1:10; 4:15-17; 5:9-11), while the trumpeting of the seventh angel is associated with further calamity and indignation coming upon the inhabitants of the earth (Rev. 11:18-19). In fact, the trumpeting of the seventh messenger is said to bring about the third “woe” in a sequence of three “woes” (Rev. 8:13; 9:12; 11:14). And these three “woes” will have been preceded by four earlier trumpet-related calamities (Rev. 8:6-12) which – like the tumultuous events that will be brought about by the breaking of the seven-sealed scroll - can all be understood as expressions of God’s indignation or “wrath.”[2]

However, nowhere does Paul say or hint that the sounding of the “trumpet of God” at Christ’s descent from heaven will result in calamity or “woe” for anyone (nor is the trumpeting of the seventh angel said to be accompanied by, or to result in, the descent of the Lord himself from heaven, the voice [singular] of the “Chief Messenger,” the rousing and rising of the dead in Christ, the change of the living, or the snatching away of any saints to meet the Lord in the air). Thus, while the sounding of the “trumpet of God”/”last trumpet” is associated with a time before God’s indignation begins (for it is that which will sound when the time comes for those not appointed for indignation to be removed from the earth), the trumpeting of the seventh messenger will occur during (and near the end of) a period of time that will already be characterized by God’s indignation.

Delivered from the Coming Indignation

Before explaining his view concerning the nature and duration of the coming “wrath” or “indignation” from which the saints to whom Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians would be saved, Ballinger writes: ”People use I Thessalonians 1:10 to try to prove that the resurrection in I Thessalonians 4 takes place before the tribulation period begins. They point out that it says that they would be delivered from the “wrath to come,” and that they were not appointed to wrath in I Thessalonians 5:9.”

Since the only way that Paul qualified the “wrath” referred to in 1 Thessalonians was by saying it’s “to come” or “coming,” I think that it would be reasonable to believe that those to whom Paul wrote are not appointed to – and thus aren’t in any danger of facing - any future indignation (in contrast with their being delivered from some future indignation after having already gone through a time of indignation). We’ll see, however, if Ballinger provides us with any compelling arguments that should lead us to reject this view.

Ballinger goes on to write: However…Paul also told them that the Day of Christ which was His coming and their gathering together unto Him was not at hand, for it was to be preceded by a falling away and the revelation of anti-Christ, which all takes place during the tribulation, not before (II Thessalonians 2:1-6). You cannot ignore these facts when reading I Thessalonians 1:10.

Paul did not, in fact, tell the Thessalonians that the “Day of Christ” was to be “preceded by a falling away and the revelation of anti-Christ.” Although the KJV has “day of Christ” in 2 Thess. 2:2, the oldest and most reliable manuscripts have “day of the Lord,” and most English translations have made this correction. Moreover, Paul need not be understood as saying that the day of the Lord would not begin until after the apostasy and the unveiling of the man of lawlessness had occurred. Rather, Paul’s use of the word “first” in v. 3 (prōton) was most likely intended to convey the idea that the events referred to in verses 3-4 will be the first in a sequence of events that will occur during the day of the Lord (and as thus marking the beginning of this period of time rather than being precursors to it).

In any case, Paul’s words in 2 Thessalonians 2 do not support Ballinger’s view that the snatching away (which Paul refers to in v. 1 as “the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to Him”) will be preceded by the events referred to in verses 3-4. Instead (as as I’ve argued in greater depth elsewhere), there is good reason to believe that the issue to which Paul is responding in this chapter would not have even arisen had Paul previously taught the Thessalonians that the snatching away would take place sometime after the “apostasy” and the unveiling of the man of lawlessness had occurred.

Ballinger continues: The question then that we must answer is, “What then is the wrath to come”? That expression appears 3 times in Scripture: Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7 and I Thessalonians 1:10. In Matthew 3 and Luke 3 it is identified as the day that Jesus comes in fire to burn up the chaff after He gathers the wheat into His garner. That day of wrath is at the very end of the tribulation. He will gather out the believing remnant right before “the wrath to come” (II Thessalonians 1:7-9; Jude 1:14-15; Revelation 19:11-21; I Thessalonians 5:2-9; II Peter 3:10; Malachi 4:1-3). It’s the wrath of I Thessalonians 5:9 that they were not appointed to receive, the “wrath to come” from which they were delivered [according to I Thessalonians 1:10].

According to Ballinger, when Paul referred to “the coming indignation” (or “wrath to come”) in 1 Thessalonians, he didn’t have in mind all indignation that is to come. Rather, Paul simply had in view the very last part of the indignation that is to come – i.e., the “vengeance” which, in 2 Thessalonians, Paul wrote will be dealt out to unbelievers when Christ is unveiled “from heaven with his powerful messengers,” and which will result in “eonian extermination from the face of the Lord” for “those who are not acquainted with God and those who are not obeying the evangel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:7-9). According to Ballinger, then, the only indignation from which Paul was reassuring the Thessalonian saints they would be rescued by Christ (via the snatching away prophesied in 1 Thess. 4:16-17) is the indignation which is going to be suffered exclusively by unbelievers on the day when Christ returns to earth. I find this view to be problematic for at least two reasons.

First, the idea that believers will have to be removed from the earth in order to be spared from vengeance that will be dealt out exclusively to the remaining unbelievers on the earth at Christ’s return just doesn’t make much sense. Consider the calamity that is associated with the pouring out of the “first bowl,” as described in Rev. 16:2 (and which, chronologically, is after the seventh messenger sounds his trumpet). We’re told that an “evil and malignant ulcer” will come on “those of mankind who have the emblem of the wild beast, and worship its image.” This expression of God’s indignation is specifically for a certain category of humans (“those of mankind who have the emblem of the wild beast, and worship its image”). Similarly, the “vengeance” that we find referred to by Paul in 2 Thess. 1:7-9 is not something that will be directed toward everyone on the earth when Christ returns; it is reserved for, and directed at, unbelievers only. Why, then, would believers have to be snatched away at this time?

Ballinger’s view would be a little less puzzling if those whom he believes are to be snatched away are being removed from the earth because – as I believe - they’re being relocated to another realm (i.e., heaven). But this isn’t what Ballinger believes. According to Ballinger, since 1 Thess. 4:15-17 has to do with Christ’s “Second Coming,” those being snatched away are coming right back down to the earth almost immediately after leaving the earth! While this point is not, in itself, evidence against Ballinger’s view, the puzzling nature of such an event suggests that something may be amiss with Ballinger’s interpretation. Moreover, given all of the calamities that will have already come upon the inhabitants of the earth during the months and years leading up to Christ’s return, why would God wait until the very end of this time of indignation to remove believers from the earth, when they won’t even be the ones whom the angelic agents of God’s vengeance will be “targeting” at this time?

The second (and, to me, biggest) problem with this view, however, is that it seems to be contrary to the sequence of events revealed by Christ himself. According to Christ’s “parable of the darnel of the field” (Matt. 13:24-30), the “darnel” is to be “culled first” when harvest time comes (i.e., before the “grain” is “gathered into the barn”). Christ provides his disciples with the key to understanding this parable in verses 36-43. There, we read that, at the end of this eon, the “Son of mankind shall be dispatching His messengers, and they shall be culling out of His kingdom all the snares and those doing lawlessness, and they shall be casting them into a furnace of fire…Then shall the just be shining out as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

Since, according to Christ’s parable, the darnel is culled and bound into bundles before the grain is gathered, we can conclude that, when Christ returns at the end of the eon, the “just” will be remaining on the earth while the wicked are “culled out of the kingdom” via the agency of the dispatched messengers. It is only after the unrighteous have been “culled out of the kingdom” that the righteous (those believers who “endured to the consummation” and survived the time of “great affliction”) are then assembled by Christ’s messengers from their scattered locations throughout the earth. Similarly, in Christ’s explanation of the parable of the dragnet (Matt. 13:47-51), we’re told that “the messengers will be coming out and they will be severing the wicked from the midst of the just. This, too, conveys the idea that it is the wicked – not the “just,” or righteous - who will be removed from the earth at the time of Christ’s return. Thus, there seems to be a chronological discrepancy between what Christ reveals concerning events taking place at his end-of-the-eon return, and Ballinger’s view concerning the timing of the snatching away.

But what about the “impending indignation” referred to by John the baptist in Matthew 3:7 and Luke 3:7? John need not be understood as referring exclusively to the indignation that will come upon the unrighteous on the literal day of Christ’s return. Instead, the “impending indignation” can be understood as that which will characterize the entire 3½ year-long period leading up to, and climaxing with, Christ’s return at the end of the eon. In Luke 21:34-36, Christ declared to his disciples: ”Now take heed to yourselves, lest at some time your hearts should be burdened with crapulence and drunkenness and the worries of life's affairs, and that day may be standing by you unawares, as a trap, for it will intrude on all those sitting on the surface of the entire earth. Now be vigilant, on every occasion beseeching that you may be prevailing to escape all these things which are about to occur, and to stand in front of the Son of Mankind.”

Is the “day” that Christ had in mind here (the day which “will intrude on all those sitting on the surface of the entire earth”) the literal day of his return to earth? No. As in many places in Scripture, the word “day” is being used figuratively to refer to a period of time having certain characteristics which distinguish it from what came before (see, for example, Jeremiah 30:5-7; Zechariah 14; John 8:56). In this case, the “day” in view is the period of time that is elsewhere called the “day of the Lord” – specifically, that period of time in which “all these things which are about to occur” will be occurring.

But what “things” did Christ have in mind? In the “Olivet Discourse” (of which Christ’s words in Luke 21:34-36 are a part), Christ focused primarily on events that will be taking place in Israel, and which will most directly impact believers who will be living in and around Jerusalem during the final 3½ (some believe 7) years leading up to his glorious return to earth. In Luke 21:20-27, we read the following:

“Now whenever you may be perceiving Jerusalem surrounded by encampments, then know that her desolation is near. Then let those in Judea flee into the mountains, and let those in her midst be coming out into the country, and let not those in the country be entering into her, for days of vengeance are these, to fulfill all that is written. Yet woe to those who are pregnant and to those suckling in those days, for there will be great necessity in the land and indignation on this people. And they shall be falling by the edge of the sword and shall be led into captivity into all nations. And Jerusalem shall be trodden by the nations, until the eras of the nations may be fulfilled. And there shall be signs in the sun and the moon and the constellations, and on the earth pressure of nations in perplexity, at the resounding of the sea and the shaking, at the chilling of men from fear and apprehensiveness of that which is coming on the inhabited earth, for the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then they shall be seeing the Son of Mankind coming in a cloud with power and much glory.”

The tumultuous events taking place during these “days of vengeance” (and which Christ described as indignation on this people”) are clearly part of the “all things” which, in verses 35-36, Christ said were “about to occur,” and concerning which he told his disciples to “be vigilant, on every occasion beseeching that you may be prevailing to escape.” Significantly, two of the same words used by John the Baptist in Matthew 3:7 and Luke 3:7 appear again in Christ’s discourse (Luke 21:21, 23). Consider the following:  

John the Baptist in Luke 3:7: “Progeny of vipers! Who intimates to you to be fleeing from (pheugo) the impending indignation (orge)?”

Christ in Luke 21:21, 23: “Then let those in Judea flee into (pheugo) the mountains… for there will be great necessity in the land and indignation (orge) on this people.”

In both verses, we find that people living in the land of Judea will be in need of “fleeing” from future indignation (significantly, we read in Rev. 12:6 and 12:13-17 that those who heed Christ’s exhortation and flee from the place where this coming indignation will begin will be miraculously protected by God for the remaining days of this eon). That both John and Christ would use the same two words in such close proximity to each other - and especially in the same Gospel Account (i.e., Luke’s) - is unlikely to be a mere coincidence. Based on the above data, a reasonable conclusion to draw would be that John and Christ both had in mind the same period of time, and that the “impending indignation” referred to by John should be understood as including (without being limited to) the events referred to by Christ in his Olivet Discourse (which will begin approximately 3½ years before Christ’s return).

For the sake of argument, however, let’s say that, in Matthew 3:10-12 (and in the parallel passage from Luke), John is putting an emphasis on the climactic time when, at the end of the eon, Christ will come with “all his holy messengers” and deal decisively with all remaining unbelievers on the earth at his return (i.e., the wicked who will have survived the prior day-of-the-Lord indignation). Even if this is the case, we can still understand the “impending indignation” to which John referred in v. 7 as including much more than the events occurring on the actual day of Christ’s return (for it is only the earlier events that will occur during the time of “indignation” from which an Israelite will be able to “flee”).

Ballinger goes on to say:  “…and it so happens that, when the seventh trumpet is blown in Revelation 11, a resurrection of the Saints takes place, they are judged and rewards are given out to them (read Revelation 11:15-18; also read II Corinthians 5:8-11).”

Actually, we are not told that there will be a “resurrection of the Saints” (or any resurrection at all) when the seventh messenger trumpets. What we are told is that, after the sounding of the seventh angel’s trumpet, the twenty-four elders declare that “...the nations are angered, and Thy indignation came, and the ERA for the dead to be judged, and to give their wages to Thy slaves, the prophets, and to the saints and to those fearing Thy name, the small and the great, and to blight those who are blighting the earth.” That which is said to have come is the ERA, or SEASON (karios), in which this and other events take place - not the events themselves. There is no mention whatsoever of a resurrection taking place when the seventh messenger trumpets. However, when the “trumpet of God” referred to by Paul sounds, we are told that there will be an IMMEDIATE resurrection/vivification of believers.

Part 7: http://thathappyexpectation.blogspot.com/2017/05/restoring-unity-to-pauls-epistles_90.html




[1] There is no evidence that Paul had received revelation concerning these seven messengers and the specific calamities resulting from the sounding of their trumpets during the day of the Lord; rather, it was to the apostle John - while he was on the island of Patmos - that this particular prophetic information was revealed, and it was John who was chosen to make it known. And given the fact that there is compelling internal and external evidence pointing to John’s having written this work near the end of the first century – i.e., during the reign of Caesar Domitian, circa 95-96 AD - it’s unlikely that the saints in Corinth to whom Paul wrote would have even been familiar with such a sequence of trumpet soundings. Moreover, even the earlier dating that some propose for the writing of Revelation – i.e., circa 65-66 AD (during the reign of Caesar Nero) would be too late for the original recipients of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians to have knowledge of the sequence of trumpet-soundings revealed to John and recorded in Revelation 8-11.

[2] For a more in-depth defense of this position, see part three of my study on the timing of the snatching away (http://thathappyexpectation.blogspot.com/2016/01/a-study-on-timing-of-snatching-away_68.html).

No comments:

Post a Comment