Though circumstance defies, I felt I must put this down quickly. I realize I've said as much many ties before, but feel this more urgently to be stressed now than ever. By its nature, my calling and part in the body has exposed me, far more than I could wish, to the inner workings of many strong and compelling lies that powerfully oppose and threaten the church's readiness to escape the unparalleled deception that Jesus said would both precede and accompany the unequaled tribulation.
Even now, throughout the far greater part of professing Christendom, the tribulation without parallel or equal, "the tribulation, the great one" (literal translation of Rev 7:14), is believed to be past. The tribulation has come and gone with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. A fast growing community called 'preterist' believe that Jesus' post-tribulational return has also come and gone, some stoutly affirming that the resurrection is also past. This, since Dan 12:1-2 so unequivocally connects the resurrection to the unequaled tribulation.
A less popular but still thriving view, particularly among Adventists groups, is the so-called 'historicist' view of Revelation. This view sees the 'great tribulation', not as a brief period of time at the the end, but as extensive and ongoing throughout the inter-advent period. Many historic pre-millennialists view the half week (the 3 1/2 years of Daniel and Revelation), as beginning with the ascension, basing their view on Rev 12's presentation of the catching up of the man child, followed immediately in vision by the great tribulation.
Most evangelical lovers of Israel who painfully expect an Antichrist invasion of Israel, do not expect to be directly impacted by this great, unparalleled deception. They expect rather to be in heaven celebrating the marriage supper while the Jewish people experience their greatest hour of anguish without the church's witness. This means that those living on this side of the rapture will not be so critically and decisively benefited by taking close heed to Jesus' directive to read and understand Daniel in order to escape the deception that would imperil the very elect. The saints of the tribulation are regarded as belonging to another company of saints that is not the body of Christ.
Regardless then of one's view, any fair minded student of scripture should at least appreciate the reasonable cause for concern, taking at least some sense of what is ultimately at stake in one's perspective on the time and meaning of the tribulation and the question of the church's relation to it. Of all the competing views, the one that most insults and sleights the sacred trust of the cannon, and the Reformed doctrine of the perspicuity of scripture, is the lazy indifference that comfortably proclaims that it is impossible to know much that is definite or certain when it comes to eschatology. But it is Jesus Himself that prescribes with utmost clarity and simplicity what I like to call, "the plain man's plain path through the millennial maze."
Even before understanding the 'what' or the 'when' the great tribulation, before discovering its approximate duration and then most importantly its meaning and purpose. Even before knowing what 'the' abomination of desolation might be, there is one simple directive that Jesus gives towards escaping the great deception that would threaten, if possible, the very elect. In Mt 24:15 Jesus is basically shouting, "pay attention to Daniel!" But much more particularly, He directs His sheep to one specific event that Daniel describes in considerable detail. In sum, He commands us to go to Daniel, find this particular event, "the abomination of desolation", and to be careful that we understand what we read.
The reasons for this simple obedience will prove most crucial, not only towards escaping the great deception, but to a glorious unfolding of the whole sweep of God's costly investment in scripture and history by which His Name is most fully glorified in all the earth. It is for the church's greater vision of God. Jesus well knew this to be the key that would open up the sealed vision that those of understanding (the 'maskilim' of Dan 11:32-33, 35, 12:3, 9-10) would be proclaiming during the last persecution. According to Rev 7:9, 13-14, the testimony of tribulation saints will result in the evangelization of an innumerable host who come out of 'the tribulation, the great one' (Rev 7:9, 13-14). This is not tribulation in general, the common experience of all Christians in this age (Acts 14:22), but much more specifically, this is the great tribulation, as evidenced by the use of the double article in the Greek text.
Moreover, when one traces the oft recurring theme of a final, unequaled tribulation and its centrality in the plan of God, so much opens up concerning the nature and goals of God's covenantal structure of history, and the conflict that rages over the authority of the Word, not only as to the moral and spiritual claims of the covenant, but particularly that greatest of all offenses, most calculated to test and reveal the heart, namely, God's sovereign prerogative to choose as He will choose. This deep seated protest and presumption of entitlement traces all the way back to Satan's original envy (Ps 2; 48:2; Isa 14; note esp, verse 13; Eze 28). It is the basis of all antisemitism. It is why the Antichrist will be encamped on Mount Zion when the Lord returns (Dan 11:45).
I believe that at least part of the problem lies in what we bring to the scripture. When many read the Lord's plain directive in Mt 24:15, they do not read it with virginal simplicity. "I will go to Daniel and read of this event and pray to understand". Too often, there is already pre-conceived notions that have decided in advance what one will find, and even much more by what one must NOT find.
When we obey this all too neglected directive ("let the reader understand") with an honest and open heart, uninfluenced by preconceived notions, we are only part way there. It is here we learn that revelation, skill, and insight came to Daniel when he "set his heart to understand" (Dan 10:12), just as the prophets before and after him would "inquire and search diligently" (1Pet 1:11). We are called into the fellowship of mysteries that require searching out with intense, holy desire, not for pragmatic self interests, not even only for the purpose of avoiding deception. We are to have the attitude of "come and see" the place of His dwelling, the beauty of His courts, the secrets He has reserved for His friends. Our passion must be His glory, His wondrous handiwork, His costly investment, His manifold wisdom, and His greater glory in the fellowship of a 'hidden wisdom' ordained to our glory. It is therefore most interesting how the mysteries of God can be so well hidden in such plain sight.
It is not they they are intellectually obscure. On the contrary, there are basic protections built right in by the way that scripture interprets scripture. We will take for our best example what we find when we very simply obey Jesus by going to Daniel to look for the abomination of desolation. Jesus well knew that by so doing, we would discover, not only the meaning of this particularly event, but very importantly what precedes and what follows. This one event, by how it is set in history as climactic to the larger history of covenant and promise, wondrously pulls together and sets in order all the scattered strands of all the prophetic writings, even those of the NT. (see footnote below). *
Jesus well knew that this simple obedience would be the key that opens up, not only the order of the key signal events of the end, but Daniel's prophecy establishes the eschatological framework for the whole sweep of redemptive history from Genesis to Revelation. So what do we find concerning this event that will prove such a protection against deception and a key to opening up and setting in right order the framework of prophecy? I submit it is by a simple refusal to separate what God has joined.
I cannot here begin to confirm by example, but in all my study, every system of interpretation of prophecy, of which I'm aware, very obviously goes off at one of three places. Each of these is an example of separating what God has joined, but only by great violence to the text. I can only show a couple of examples.
The abomination of desolation is mentioned four times in Daniel (Dan 8:11; 9:27: 11:31; 12:11). In all four places,it is accompanied by the removal of the regular, daily sacrifice. In Dan 12:11, the sacrifice is taken away 1290 days from the time that Daniel and all the righteous are raised from the dead (Dan 12:1-2). In Dan 9:27, the sacrifice is caused to stop at the mid point of Daniel's final week. This is 3 1/2 years from the end.But what end? What kind of end would Daniel have understood? Was he wrong? This is greatly, I think very 'interestedly' debated, depending on prior presuppositions.
So a sacrifice stops 3 1/2 years before the final persecutor is destroyed. In Dan 9:27 the half week begins when the sacrifice is stopped. Is the "end" that ends the half week of Dan 9:27 the same "end" that brings the deliverance of Daniel's people and the resurrection of the righteous in Dan 12:1-2, 7, 11, 13? That is a question to be decided, but you can see how God has wisely given us pieces to a puzzle but not without also providing us a plain path through it.
What and where is this sacrifice? Neither Jesus nor Paul specifically mention the sacrifice, but both speak of a great violation and desecration that takes place in the temple in Jerusalem, as John will connect the temple to the final treading down of Jerusalem in Rev 11:1-2, again describing the half week of Daniel's prophecy. There is no need to specify the sacrifice since Daniel has supplied this at every mention of the abomination. And it is clear that a temple service in the 'holy place' in Jerusalem is not going to exist without a sacrifice, which, of course, cannot continue beyond the point that the Antichrist imposes himself.
Stubbornness comes when such things as presuppositions and preferences, even fears induced by taunts and the gross caricatures of a convenient 'guilt by association', are permitted to bias an objective handling of the evidence. All of this works to hinder us from making the otherwise obvious connections. The Lord sets a wise and perfect trap, particularly in the Word itself, for the pride of self reliance and the momentum of crucified presumption. The interpretation of scripture is itself a test of the heart.
It is the power of our presumption that robs our objectivity to make the otherwise obvious connections. For example, where in 52 A.D. when Paul is writing his second epistle, would the 'temple of God' be understood to be standing? It is preposterous to imagine that, apart from any qualification to the contrary, Paul would have expected the Thessalonians to have any other kind of edifice in mind, particularly since he is so plainly 're'-establishing the same order of events revealed in Daniel, referenced by Jesus, and rehearsed during his earlier visit. This is even further confirmed by noting Paul's use of language taken over from the Lord's Olivet prophecy (compare, "our gathering together unto Him" (2Thes 2:1) where Paul is quite obviously citing Jesus' well known reference to the "gathering together of His elect" (Mt 24:31).
Particularly in view of all that both testaments affirm of the climactic day of the Lord, it becomes quite impossible, even exegetically dishonest, to try to separate the resurrection of the righteous from the tribulation of the half week in Daniel and Revelation. This is why those who believe the tribulation passed with 70 A.D., but believe the resurrection is yet future, are called 'partial preterist'. In contrast, those who believe, not only that the tribulation is past but that the resurrection is also past, call themselves "consistent preterist", for good reason.
But before all the confusion and debate, it is plain for all to see what Daniel would have understood from his own prophecy. Go and learn what Daniel had inherited from the prophets that went before him who prophesied of these same events and goals of covenant and promise. For Daniel, the end of the 70 7's could only mean one thing, the end of gentile domination over captive Israel and the long expected (rightly expected) "post-tribulational" kingdom of God on earth. To suppose otherwise exposes an interested bias, apparently formed by presumptive prior conclusions. It is not enough to say that this was merely the immature hope of OT believers, since the basic order is clearly re-affirmed in the NT (Mt 24; Mk 13; Lk 21: Acts 3:18-21; Ro 11:25-29; 2Thes 2; Rev 6-20).
This has gotten too long for any but the most patient and determined, but you see my point. The neglect to follow through on the Lord's prescribed means of 'understanding' is not, of course, a blanket panacea against every possible form of deception, but it is going to be necessary. It is necessary now, not only for preparation against the ultimate deception, but for the much fuller picture of the overall context of the gospel, what I like to call, "the glory of the story".
It will be required of the church, or will it?. This brings the crucial question of the relation of the rapture to the resurrection of the OT saints, another example of separating what God has joined. This squabble of comparatively recent origins significantly appears just in time to stand between a complacent Laodicean church and readiness to be those 'maskilm' who have the key of interpretation that can instruct many and turn many to righteousness (Dan 11:32-33; 12:3). That this task should be delegated to a company that has only recently come to faith (no need for elders?) defies the biblical conception and definition of the body of Christ. It especially defies Paul's definition of the church (defined as the corporate assembly of regenerate saints), as "the pillar and ground of truth".
Once the context has been restored, we can begin to inquire of the very important question of the church's role, and of what God has invested in granting the last sufferers a very certain and definite knowledge of the time. This will be a merciful provision intended to get the church to the place it needs to be for the ultimate witness. Thankfully, prophecy assures us that "those having understanding" (the body?, of course the body!) will be ready. Anyway, you get the idea. It's a burden I have.
I fear we get too taken up with all the details, as there are indeed crucial details, but not to the neglect of the more critical, life saving basics, the plum line of holy simplicity that will bring us to an otherwise impossible unity, as we become more and more constrained, searched, pruned, and emptied by the ever clearer light of fulfillment that does not depend on getting it all right. The great falling away is greatly facilitated by the church's dereliction precisely here. For all the wrong reasons, though ordained as judgment, the church will not awaken to the truth of these things until the end is very near. But because judgment 'must' begin at the house of God, and in no small part because of the testimony of the Spirit of prophecy, the sleeping Bride will awaken, and when she does, hallelujah, what a glory! It will be the sweetest bitter, as the Jew will see his Messiah shining through weak jars of clay, a sight they'll not forget for a thousand years.
* It is no wonder then that Daniel is situated at the center of the seven millennia of God's prophetic schema of history, the "middle of the week", so to speak. Interestingly, when Daniel asks, "how long till the end of these wonders?", we understand the primary application will be the final 3 1.2 years, but another viable, perhaps dual application would be that from Daniel's place in history, there would be 3 1/2 millennia till "all these things would be finished". On that view, which I think compelling, this would include the thousand year reign of Christ and His saints.