Why an Obsession with Eschatology is a Waste of Time, Part 13

Posted By on July 24, 2010

I want to start this post with something I’d do in class during my teaching days at Christian colleges that I think will make this post — which is about the question of whether there is such a thing as a rapture or not — more comprehensible.

When I taught through New Testament Survey or Bibliology I’d invariably need to talk about how the gospels disagreed with each other on many occasions. This of course is a favorite launching pad for biblical skeptics, who love to talk about the contradictions in the gospel stories about Jesus. I used to give some illustrative examples of where Matthew, Mark, and Luke (and occasionally John) would have slightly different details of the same story, or different dialogue, or present items in a different order. I’d ask the question, “which one is wrong — or are all of them wrong?” (I liked to push buttons in class — I’ve walked into many a freshman Bible class and looked at dozens of faces that were all expressing the same sentiment: we dare you not to bore us with the Bible).

Anyway, it was always fun to get feedback in that session to my questions. After watching them squirm for a while I’d point out the obvious — there was another alternative: they could all be right, yet disagreeing. I’d pull out a newspaper story on something they’d no doubt heard of (some great tragedy or current event) and show them that any given national newspaper could (and did) run a story on that event but they would invariably disagree, even when the reporter had asked the same questions (sometimes even of the same person at the same press conference). But differences in wordings, the way the writer arranged the information, and presentation of dialogue (they were invariably snippets, though germane) did not compromise accuracy. Even when one included something the other didn’t, students could see that was part of the journalistic enterprise — selection of material depending on audience, space constraints, “angle”, etc.  But none of that meant that something that wasn’t identical had to be wrong.

It was easy to apply this to the gospels. Given that more than one story about the same person, events, and places could differ, yet that should not be presumed to mean there were errors, maybe it was a good idea to try and harmonize the stories first and see how they could all be parts of a greater whole. Mark that thought.

So what’s the point?

Well, among Christians who have some sense of obligation or interest in ideas like the inspiration of the Bible and its inerrancy, the idea of harmonizing material in the gospels — and in the Bible in general — is second nature. It’s part of the “interpret the Bible with the Bible” approach to hermeneutics. Point A is harmonized with point B. Passage A is better understood by merging it or harmonizing its content with passage B — putting things together gives us a fuller picture of what the Bible says about XYZ.  Harmonizing apparently contradictory items is so common, so accepted as an interpretive technique, that it’s hard to imagine the opposite — keeping passages apart, as though they taught opposite ideas, as a way to get a full picture of something.  JOINING is much more common than SPLITTING.

And yet SPLITTING is precisely the hermeneutical approach that *must* be employed to have a rapture.  Sound odd?  Then you haven’t read much about the doctrine.  Here is a short list of examples. My point is that IF you separate (split) these items, you come out with the idea that the second coming and a rapture are two different events, BUT if you merge all these events — if you harmonize (join) them to remove contradictions — then there is no rapture.

RAPTURE: Meets believers in the air. 1 Thes 4:15-17; Acts 1:9-11

SECOND COMING: Meets Israel on earth, Zech 14:4-5; Rev 19.

RAPTURE: Christ does not touch earth.  Acts 1:11

SECOND COMING: Christ comes to stay for 1000 years. Rev 20; Mal 3:2-4

RAPTURE: For the church. 1 Thes 4:15-17; 1 Cor 15:51-55

SECOND COMING: For Israel and tribulation saints. Rev 19; Mal 3:2-4

[On this one, recall the obvious — that Galatians 3 says the church has inherited the promise that Abraham would have a seed – a spiritual seed – the “Israel that is real Israel, but not ethnic Israel – Romans 9:1-6]

RAPTURE: To keep promises to the church.  Jn 14:1-3

SECOND COMING: To keep promises to Israel through OT prophets.

[ditto the above on whether the Church and Israel can really be split like this coherently.]

RAPTURE: “With” souls of saints to get bodies. 1 Thess 4:14-18

SECOND COMING: “With: saints and angelic armies. Rev 19

So, are you a splitter or a joiner?  You cannot have a rapture if you employ the JOINING hermeneutic that is so commonly used to avoid contradiction in the gospels (and throughout the Bible).  For those who believe in a rapture the question is therefore simple:  why would you want to harmonize the gospels to avoid contradictions, but then not harmonize passages about the return of Jesus to avoid contradiction?

In other words, WHY is splitting prophecy texts the better interpretive strategy than joining, like basically everywhere else? Is the text driving that approach or is it a theology brought to the text that drivews the decision? This is a fundamental question that everyone who embraces a rapture must coherently answer (but few have ever even considered since it doesn’t appear in popular prophecy books).

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69 Responses to “Why an Obsession with Eschatology is a Waste of Time, Part 13”

  1. Travis Love says:

    Something that was told to me. In the different accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, look at it from the perspective of a cold case detective. When police interview eyewitnesses they analyze or compare the accounts with each other. If they are exact in detail it is a red flag that the story was rehearsed or some one is lying. But it is better if the events are the same but the details are a little different. It shows (as you eluded to with the reporters) is that there are different perspectives seeing the same event. Some people are going to find some details of the event of more value then, let’s say, the other eyewitnesses would. So each eyewitness is going to remember details that are most relevant for them, and recall that.

    I also agree with the joining scripture. It s something I tried flexing my “muscles” when studying Lazarus and the Rich Man. For my very first big blog, I walked through the Luke 16:19-31 account verse by verse (nearly) to match with other scripture and show it was about the impending gulf between Israel and the Gentiles, not Hell.

  2. David Medici says:

    Dr. Heiser,

    Whether we ought to split or join texts is always a matter of judgment, which, of course, varies from person to person, being subject to their knowledge and their motives. But what a text actually says — as opposed to what an interpreter says it says — is much easier to determine. In that regard, I disagree with much of your Rapture vs. Second Coming dueling scriptures.

    1 Thes 4:15-17 and Acts 1:9-11 do not in any way conflict with Zech 14:4-5 and Rev 19. The former assert where believers will meet Christ, whereas the latter assert where Christ and his entourage will go thereafter. To keep them separate would leave us hanging in mid-air, literally. These verses almost beg coupling.

    Acts 1:11 does not in any way conflict with Rev 20 and Mal 3:2-4. The former merely asserts that Christ will return in the same manner as the disciples witnessed him leave, viz., a literal and visible descent from heaven to earth. It does not in any way assert where he will thereafter go, whether some earthly or heavenly destination.

    1 Thes 4:15-17 and 1 Cor 15:51-55 also do not conflict with Rev 19; Mal 3:2-4. The former assert what Christ will do with the saints upon his return, the latter what he will do with Israel. There is no conflict unless one brings to the verses the presupposition that Christ’s return will result in one and only one act. But, if the multitude of verses that assert the governance of the nations by Christ and his saints are even considered superficially, it would make entire sense that the returning king, Christ, assembles his ruling council, the saints, and proceeds to the Earth whereupon his governance is effected.

    I am equally at a loss to see how promise-keeping to the Church (Jn 14:1-3) can in any way be thought somehow incompatible with promise-keeping to Israel. If the apostles were promised rule over the tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28) and if Israel was promised righteous rulers (Isaiah 32) is not the fulfilling of one promise compatible with fulfilling the other?

    I fail also to see how 1 Thess 4:14-18 conflicts with Rev 19. The former says nothing about disembodied souls coming “to get bodies” and the latter says nothing about bodies whatever. How bodies are provided to dead saints and how the physical bodies of living saints are transformed are matters addressed to a greater or lesser degree elsewhere.

    I disagree with this particular post on several levels. First, on the means by which you attempt to defend your split vs. join dialectic, I disagree that your selection of scriptures demonstrates your point whatsoever. On that score you have failed rather patently, in my opinion. Second, as to the point in general, that one must choose to split or join, I also disagree. Whether to split or join depends entirely upon what the texts actually say, not upon what the interpreter (you) says they say. Where the texts actually make contrary statements, splitting is a viable option; where the texts agree, joining is a viable option; and where the texts address different subjects, splitting or joining in a matter of prudential judgment in the light of other scriptures which may provide a mediatorial linkage. I believe an eye of even moderate discrimination will see that your treatment of the texts evidences a complete disregard to what is said and what is not said.

    • MSH says:

      you seem to be assuming I am taking a position as a splitter. I’m not. If you have not been following this thread on eschatology up till now (it’s 13 parts now), please do so, lest your comments appear to other readers as uninformed. I don’t care what position anyone takes, and I’m not advocating for splitting. It’s about showing examples of how the rapture position handles certain things — splitting is required. I took the examples from pre-trib rapturist sites.

  3. Jonnathan Molina says:

    @david: I fail to see your logic as it applies to Dr. Heiser’s point. For example, you say that “whether to split or join depends entirely upon what the text actually says, not the interpreter…where the texts actually make contrary statements, splitting is a viable option…” etc, But isn’t that the whole emphasis being made about those who, when encountered with contrary statements in the gospels, join **rather** than split in an effort to maintain a whole account of the life of Jesus vs. the less appealing alternative of a disjointed picture which seems at odds with God’s purpose…SINCE what the text says isn’t clear on the surface? I understand the post to mean that we normally do this with the gospels yet somehow skip out on this when it comes to the 2nd Coming and “rapture verses”. So it’s a valid point he makes, then, that the different “dueling” verses could be–just like the gospels–different viewpoints and details of THE SAME EVENT (you could say as viewed by different people, i.e. Israel/Church) and not **of necessity** two different instances.

  4. Skeptical says:

    Jonnathan, you wrote so much, but without saying anything. MSH presents an alleged “necessary splitting” to believe in a rapture. David demolishes this false necessity. It is not more complicated than that. I was doing to make some of the same points as David, but he beat me to it.

    I have a very different perspective because I do not regard “the bible”, which is simply a collection of writings made over a span of millennia, as perfect. OF COURSE there are minor inconsistencies from one writer to the next. The writers are not perfect, and neither is the writing. I do not worship “the bible”, I worship the God described therein.

    The inconsistencies are minor. But they exist. You can read reams of pathetic, feckless, intellectual diddling which tries to “harmonize” Mark 6:8 and Luke 9:3. There is no reconciliation possible. This doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead as Messiah. It just means that imperfect humans told me about it.

    The whole “joining vs. splitting” argument is a red herring. The issue is finding the truth, whether by “coming together”, “rightly dividing” or any other method.

  5. Robbie says:


    Should we be looking for the Rapture within this decade, given the 3rd Temple will now be rebuilt?


  6. Jonnathan Molina says:

    @skeptic There’s inconsistencies in the text? You don’t say! The point is that the rapture is not self-evident…and to some Dr. Heiser’s position may not appear it either, but: they’re both possible and that’s all I’m saying here. To wit, I don’t “worship the bible” and don’t require it to be perfect…but your logic and hermeneutics should be solidly compatible. IMO I don’t see why you see such fault in the post’s claim. The fact remains that it’s possible to merge these verses and see one event not two. Dr. Heiser’s joining vs. splitting, agree or not, is a valid point to be made to anyone who believes they have *settled the issue* (i.e. “finding the truth” on the rapture.)

  7. Gary says:

    Robbie, I sure hope you are kidding. Brazil?

  8. Skeptical says:

    Jonathan, it is obviously possible that those pairs of verses from MSH refer to the same individual events, and not separate ones. But it proves nothing. It doesn’t even persuade. It’s just a possibility.

    The preterist position is probably the ultimate example of “Joining”. But it’s also highly discredited. The idea that “Joining” is more likely to be right than “Splitting” is just a completely empty and useless academic position. Every question, concern, interpretation and issue is based on the information available, not on the techniques for assimilating it.

    “they’re both possible, that’s all I’m saying here”.

    You used A LOT of words to say that 😀

    • MSH says:

      But that is the essential point. My goal (hate to keep repeating it) is that we all need to see clearly the assumptions that are brought to various passages and issues. And it starts well before the rapture becomes a question. If one has already presupposed certain things about the covenants, THOSE decisions will move on to a rapture query or dismissal of it altogether. NONE of this rises or falls on ONE of these issues. It is the cumulative nature of all the issues and the decisions brought to them on presuppositional and hermeneutical levels that lay the roadmap for everyone.

  9. Jason says:

    In my opinion it is alot easier than what everyone is making it out to be. The rapture and the second coming are two distinct EVENTS. For example – II Thess. 2:1-2 is very clear grammatically that this is most likely the case (See, Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, p.290) Quote: ‘Since the TSKS construction involves impersonal substantives, the highest degree of doubt is cast upon the probability of the terms refering to the same event’

    The real question is whetehr these events are seperated by a 7 year tribulation or whether they happen SIMULTANEOUSLY. The pre-tribers falsly assume that the opposition must have it as the same event and use that as an excuse to assume that the ‘gathering together’ event takes places 7 years prior to the ‘coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ event. Nothing can be further from the truth – no need for a special coming prior to the 2nd coming or a special resurrection prior to the 1st resurrection. The pre tribers add inference upon inference while creating out of thin air different catergories for the coming of the Lord and the resurrection.

    As stated before the rapture is just the resurrection for those who are alive in Christ when he returns. The dead in him will rise first then we who are alive and reamain shall be caught up togehter with them in the air…

    It is all Bibilical and nice and tight – whether there is a tribulation is irrelevent with the a post-trib scenerio.

    • MSH says:

      This is certainly the case with the post-trib scenario. Realize that Wallace isn’t inspired. Historic premillers aren’t going to be fazed by his argument.

  10. Jason says:

    MSH – I realize Wallace is not inspired – but he does come pretty close :)

    I find it hard to argue with his methodology. Everyone must employ one to arrive at their theology/eschatology.

    Why wouldn’t Historic Premillers be fazed by his argument (do you mean the TSKS argument or something else?)?

    By the way the Daniel article really convinced me that at least Daniel is not refereing to an antichrist nor a tribulation. As far as the Book of Rev. I feel I may be on way to a different conclusion on that as well.

    I love this blog – Great Job MSH.

    • MSH says:

      On Wallace (and I like him a lot), it’s simple. So the “substantives” are impersonal and he uses the TSKS to argue that impersonal substantives are not the same event. A historic premiller would say “no kidding” — the coming and the ingathering are two different aspects of the Day of the Lord — which is not a single event but a whole series of things.

      • str says:

        To me, it seems pretty obvious that Paul here refers to two aspects of one event, namely “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him”. If one takes this as two, the sequence would imply that the Lord comes first and then we are gathered.

        There is absolutely no basis in Scripture or elsewhere for a separate event called “rapture”. If it weren’t for dispensationalist nonsense, we wouldn’t even talk about it.

        • MSH says:

          here’s a joiner!

          • str says:

            A moderate joiner, at least.

            I see no reason to split what Paul in the passage has joined to create a split-off event that nobody else talks about. Here it is not me, it’s Paul!

            I surely am a joiner when it comes to joining the gospels as they narrate the doings of the same man during the same time.

  11. Gary says:

    Skeptical said “The preterist position is probably the ultimate example of “Joining”. But it’s also highly discredited.”

    Please do not combine the “Partial Preterist” with the “Full Preterist”. The partial preterist position has not been discredited. If it has, I’d like to know the references, so I can read them. As a reminder, partial preterists believe that the second coming, resurrection, and final judgement is still in the future.

    Although, I must say that I am accepting of whatever other people’s positions happen to be. But the partial preterist position does not require “joining” or “splitting” verses. The basic premise lies in stand-alone versus that have to do with time-frames. Unless the writers of the bible are tricky, and try to fool people (I personally believe the bible was written in a straight forward way, for the people of their time, as well as the people now). So how could someone mis-interprete verses like:
    Rev 1:1
    Matt 16:28
    Luke 9:27
    Matt 24:34
    and a multitude more that are similar, and indicate events (Kingdom of God) are to happen soon, not in 2000+ years (unless you “join”, and take a day is like 1000 years, and assume the writers of the bible are being tricky, and make the bible irrelevant for people around 33 AD).

  12. Gary says:

    We have to be careful. Tim Lahaye might write a new book, “Left Behind in Brazil”, which will generate a brand new following and doctrine.

  13. Cognus says:

    I just can’t help myself here… beat me if you must.
    13 Parts on this topic seems obsessive to me.

    • MSH says:

      why keep reading? Obsessed? People wanted me to cover the topic. The obsession part deals with how people make this the core doctrine of their faith and a lifelong pursuit. I haven’t, don’t, and won’t. Once I’m done, it will end —- but will you keep reading about prophecy?

  14. Nobunaga says:

    very witty, you can cover Eschatology in less i suppose. Whats your blog and i will follow you :)

  15. Travis Love says:

    @Gary, I agree with you 100%. I consider myself a partial preterist (though this title is not sufficient). I think the “a day is like a 1000 years’ is taken so far out of its context that it is not even funny. If you read just one verse back it says that “the world that was and now is was destroyed and is now being saved by fire unto the DAY of judgment and destruction”. It continues immediately by saying “but remember a DAY is like a thousand years…” It mentions a specific day, then defines its length. Why people misuse this is astounding. There is more involved and surrounding these passages, but I don’t have space to get into it all.

  16. Robbie says:

    Gary: Left Behind in Brazil is hilarious. However, what is not at all funny is that those who are left behind are the poorest of poor who could have used some of the proposed $200,000,000 for this extravaganza. .

  17. Skeptical says:


    This was a bad idea for a topic when it started, and it has gotten no better after 13 attempts. You are proving nothing (as you constantly remind us) but definitely taking every opportunity to “keep on writing”.

    So, fully understanding that you are standing up for nothing (at least in theory), we then analyze the substance of your post: 1) The rapture can only be supported by “splitting” texts, and 2) ‘splitting” is worse than “joining”.

    At this point I am sure that you are denying (2). Then why did you bring it up? What is the point of identifying “splitting” or “joining” at all? The elaboration on hermeneutical technique tells us nothing unless one or the other is preferred.

    Then we jump back to (1), which was blown apart and is no longer even being defended by you or anyone else.

    So, after very basic review, we are left with: 1) The rapture does not require “splitting” text to be true, and 2) “Splitting” and “joining” are irrelevant to the truth of the rapture.

    You are an obvious expert on ancient and biblical texts. You have done ground-breaking work which is totally based on your expertise. However, when you leave your area of expertise, you radically overestimate your cleverness, and make all kinds of claims and assertions which do not stand up to cursory scrutiny. You are not “smarter” than the vast majority of committed Christians who “waste their time” trying to unravel escatology. You are just much more prone to academic pseudo-dismissal.

    • MSH says:

      and you keep reading – funny how that works!

      My point — and I will try to simplify even more — is that, if one looks at all the passages that speak of “a coming again” of Jesus and says “hey, I think they all refer to the same event,” then one will not come out with a rapture (you can’t, since all rapture views have a rapture AND a second coming. Those are the joiners (“they all refer to the same event”) and they will harmonize the passages, using the same perspective that most people bring to the gospel narratives. A second person will come along and say “hey, I see some differences in these verses that speak of ‘a coming again’ of Jesus — that must mean there are two separate events.” Those are the splitters. They *won’t* try to harmonize all the verses. Rather, they will postulate a rapture and a second coming.

      I think this is perfectly clear. If you don’t follow after this one, there isn’t much I can do for you.

    • MSH says:

      BTW, I’m not clever. My trick is to affirm the obvious. It isn’t magic.

    • str says:

      “The rapture does not require “splitting” text to be true”

      Indeed. Though rapturist split verses a lot (and actually have made their origins from the supposed “division” in Romans 16:17-18 KJV), it is not splitting that enables their thinking but misreading.

  18. Gary says:

    On the antichrist, I have to mention,

    1 John 2:18 “so now many antichrists have come” note now and many.

    1 John 4:3 “spirit of antichrist..it was coming…and now it is in the world already” note now already.

  19. Janina says:

    First of all I’m quite disappointed by some comments. There is no need to be rude. And no one is forced to read or contribute to the blog.

    Anyone with an open mind will be inclined to go back to the scripture and check it all – it is a challenge. The best approach is to always allow for possibility that our “understanding” could faulty. Only then we can “grow in grace and knowledge”.

    I think the whole point of the matter is to be careful with any assumptions – if one starts with the erroneous premise it’s impossible to come to correct conclusion.

    Now back to the topic at hand. I must admit that in my nearly 3 decades of Bible study only during last few (very few) years I’ve gotten to read (thanks to internet) about the popular views of the rapture. Frankly I don’t see 70 weeks of Daniel in that connection.
    70 weeks refer to Jewish people, regardless if they’re completed or not.

    Maybe there is an “alternate ending” (pun intended) – no splitting no joining – maybe a combination of both.

    Peter Gentry’s article does not answer all the questions.
    1. Does “many” refer to Israel only or others as well?
    2. Why would the covenant be “strengthen” for “one seven” if Christ supposedly came to bring everlasting covenant?
    3. Matt 24:15 and Mark 13:14 – Christ’s own words: “abomination STANDING” in the holy place – what does it mean? How to reconcile this with Christ being “most holy” temple as Gentry puts it.
    4. Torn veil – to me symbolizes access to the most holy, separation done away

    The article is very eloquent, uses “proper” tools and yet it feels like the explanation is forced in some places.

    Another thing – I think I’ve mentioned it before – Scripture presents God’s “firstborn sons” with rights and privileges: Israel, Christ and the church.

    Does Christ = Israel = Church?

    When Scripture talks about “Jacobs” trouble does it refer to Church or physical Israel?
    (Is Church now called “Jacob”?)
    Promises of earth possession were given to Abraham’s “seed” – and now seed equals church – Ezechiel talks about division of the land among twelve tribes – is the world going to be divided by twelve?
    Has the man of sin been revealed?
    Has The Day of The Lord passed?
    What about coming of “Elijah” first?
    How long is the “tribulation”

    I don’t quite understand why Eschatology must hang on Daniel 9 – there is much more to it than that.

    • MSH says:

      I like all your questions — good illustrations of how much there is to think about — and why anyone who thinks they have all this nailed down is either ignorant or foolish (maybe a bit of both).

  20. Robbie says:

    Skeptical, if you have earned or when you do earn a PhD, let me know, I would love to read your dissertation. Mike’s discussion on this subject has been very well reasoned and timely. I’ve poked around evangelical views of eschatology since Larkin’s charts were in vogue and invoked. I witnessed the meteoric rise of Hal Lindsey and his Late Great Planet Earth. For some, his doctrine is right up there with Luther’s sola scriptura. He was, is and is to come Zondervan’s veritable eschatological sacred cash cow.

    For nearly 40 years, I watched prophecy ‘teachers’ make merchandise of God’s people with doctrines that were at best theologically suspect, and at worst a deliberate, calculated means and attempt to make money off. In my opinion, they are worse than the money changers of Jesus’ day because they are global with their influences.

    The North American church as a whole has suffered needless, unnecessary ridicule and scorn from those outside the faith because of these poorly researched and ill contrived sophistries. Elsewhere, Christians have suffered incredible persecution with no Rapture in sight. On my book shelf there sits the incontrovertible proof that Hal Lindsey and his ilk have no idea what they are talking about: The 1980’s: Countdown to Armageddon.

    “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” forty years ago and relegated the Rapture and Great Tribulation theo-babble to the dust bin. If you really want an interesting perspective on the Apocalypse, check out Madame Guyon’s Christ our Revelation.

    • MSH says:

      Thanks Robbie, but Skeptical is gentle and mild compared to what I’ve gotten over the years online. You don’t take 20 trips before a radio audience of 15 million (Coast to Coast) and not get a lot of vitriol spewed at you.

  21. Skeptical says:

    My dissertation proposes experiments to produce evidence of non-linearity in quantum mechanics. I do not believe you would “love to read it”.

    I obviously disagree with your characterization of the material as “well-reasoned and timely”. This particular episode (13) is completely devoid of accurate content or persuasive evidence. When confronted with this truth, MSH retreats to the “I’m not trying to prove anything” position. I believe he is very successful in this pursuit! Perhaps you should agree with him, as well. He is attempting to demonstrate that no eschatological position is triumphant, so no one should worry too much. Unfortunately, this post is an accidental proof that some positions are much stronger than others. This defeats MSH’s entire, wordy enterprise.

    I am very familiar with “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”, Hal Lindsey, and the other rapture proponents of the 1980s. Your personal viewpoint is too narrow: There have always been religious con men, wrong teachers, and there always will be. I’m not reading anything here by MSH which is remotely addressing this separate issue.

    If your point is that “We should all be more skeptical,” then it might well be true. MSH is supposedly proving that “Obsession With Eschatology is a Waste of Time”. It’s an enterprise which is thankfully bearing no fruit – at least in the first 13 posts.

  22. Jason says:


    I think MSH’s point is that the obsession is driven by the presupposition that their postion is absolute and so clear that it is beyond question, not curiosity and reading about what the Bible says about eschatology. “Obsession With Eschatology is a Waste of Time” because it (in MSH’s view) can not be nailed down.

    Whether some positions are more stronger than others is irrelevent. The point is that it is that no position solves all the issues. Hence if your obssesion is to nial it it down – you are mistaken – and therefore it will be a waste of time. Actually, contrary to your position the 13 posts and your frustration with them reflects this fact.

    Why are you so snotty about it anyway?

  23. Nobunaga says:

    We all seem to be hot under the collar about something but what is it ?

  24. drmaryann says:

    I think the fact the dialogue is so testy and the discussion is becoming personal proves Mike’s point. What you believe is based on some assumption that may be logically flawed. You have to admit, it has made us all think. On a personal level, I have been motivated to study the scriptures with a more open mind, realizing that God is not giving up a basic 2+2=4 type of formula. He says to search the scriptures to find HIm and to recognize the life He offers. I put the end times under the category of one of God’s mysteries and am coming to not be concerned about the details of 70 wks, etc. Rather, I am more inclined to look at His majesty and sovereignty. While an obsession with eschatology may be a waste of time, Mike’s blog has been very much the opposite for me.
    By the way, you would be bored with my dissertation also, Sketical.

  25. rode says:

    dito drmaryann…

  26. Nobunaga says:

    Agree also drmaryann.

  27. Skeptical says:

    It’s embarrassing that so many readers consider this discussion to be “hot under the collar” or “testy” or that I am “snotty”. This is how debates read. It is how debates are *supposed* to read. If you can’t stand the extremely low heat…

    The one thing I have not done is resort to name-calling. “Whoever calls his brother ‘Fool’ will be in danger of the fires of Hell.” That’s what Christ said. MSH starts out by declaring that trying to understand the end of the world is “A Waste of Time”. Not polite, not friendly. Could even be considered “snotty” by non-fanboys.

    Then we have people like Jason who apparently think that “if it is possible to hold more than one position, no matter how weajk, then studying that issue is ‘A Waste of Time'”. It’s possible to believe that Jesus was just a normal, ordinary man who was the first to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is called the Arian position and you can build a relatively strong Christianity from it. Is it worth researching, discussing, even “obessessing” over?

    It’s possible to believe that the Holy Spirit was lost to believers in the early chuch, and only restored when Joe Smith found ancient gold tablets in a hole in upstate New York. You can build a whole “Christian” religion from that belief. Worth exploring?

    It’s possible to believe that God spoke to a woman named Ellen White about strict dietary codes and only meeting on Saturday. Will you argue with those who take this position? Is it worth it to argue?

    I can go on and on… the point is the same. Where more than one position exists, we often choose one and defend it. This is not “A Waste of Time” as MSH contends. This is how truth comes into the world in Age of Grace.

  28. Nobunaga says:

    Dialogue and discussion is one thing and you make some valid points, could it be said in a more productive manner ? Debate (didn’t know this was one ?)

    I Don’t think Eschatology issues are a waste of time either and going by the title of the blog i dont think Mike was saying that. Think the “obsession” with it was the point but he can speak for himself. I would hope to see people take as much interest and obsess over the Gospel as much as they do end time theories.

    Luke 21:36 pretty much sums up my end time stance, at the moment, i’m open to learn and study and look at all angles of the text, this is what i get from this blog.

  29. Jonnathan Molina says:

    @skeptical said:( MSH) is attempting to demonstrate that no eschatological position is triumphant, so no one should worry too much. Unfortunately, this post is…proof that some positions are much stronger than others. This defeats his entire, wordy enterprise.

    “Some” positions may be stronger, but no One position is…(else there would be no need to continue the debate, right?) So, MSH accomplished his goal: an obsession with eschatology is a waste because based on the available texts you can not come up with just One, sure-fire doctrine that everyone can agree upon; it seems that was never God’s intention to begin with…just to ensure we live holy lives and are looking forward to a final resurrection and judgment which is the main concern.

    And I’m sorry, but if more than one position exists and you still decide to choose one (weak or strong –i.e. “not strongest”) and spend your life defending it blind to all reason that is an INCREDIBLE waste of your time and resources. If God providentially allowed us to live in a country and age where information js practically boundless and at your finger-tips with the freedom to pursue our beliefs, then we’d be fools not to avail ourselves of good thinking skills, the facts, and an open-minded “test all things” approach to come to the best God-honoring conclusions–not blindly hammering our presuppositions and delusions into whatever texts we find (like the Joseph Smiths and Hal Lindsey’s of the world)…THAT is how truth comes into the world in the age of grace.

    • MSH says:

      good job Jonnathan – I never said all positions were of equal weight. I said they all have problems and are all driven by certain presuppositions. Skeptical needs to read a bit more closely.

  30. blop2008 says:


    I agree with the above, you took it too seriously and probably over-read the title of this series into the posts. It’s not so inflammatory. Simply ask questions and challenge the inputs; not need for flames (Im exaggerating).

  31. Travis Love says:

    Is there going to be any discussion in future articles about how the Feasts of the Lord play into determining how the end time or rather the Great Day will play out? Just like Passover, Unleavened bread and First fruits was put forth to show Christs first coming, Trumpets, Atonement (Judgment) and Tabernacles have a lot to say about His return and millennial reign…

    • MSH says:

      I don’t think so. Peter’s article naturally hit this a bit with the 70 sevens. These are only factors if one assumes that there is a 70th week out there yet to be fulfilled (i.e., of what use is tracking such things *without* that assumption — what would you be tracking?).

  32. Jason says:

    @MSH: I guess that is another area of doubt – is the Day of the Lord a series of events going on over an extended period of time or is it when the Lord returns in a single day?

  33. Skeptical says:

    MSH has writes that I “need to read a bit more closely”, a vague, ad hominem criticism. Will MSH defend his original, and now debunked, contentions:

    1) You must be a “splitter of texts” to believe in a rapture, and
    2) Splitting is worse than joining.

    Repeating myself, I will restate that it is pointless for MSH to bring up “splitting” and “joining” unless he claims one is superior.

    This leaves us with the still-standing conclusion that

    1. “Splitting” is not required to believe in a rapture
    2. “Splitting” is not worse than “joining”.
    3. This installment of the series is pointless.

    “There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

    Obsession is not always a bad thing.

    • MSH says:

      so, in other words, taking all the passages that refer to a return of the Lord as one event still produces two events? Huh? This is simply incoherent. And asking you to read more closely is an ad hominem attack? Would it help if I said please?

  34. Jonnathan Molina says:

    @skeptical So now spiritual devotion and academic obsession (e.g.) are the same thing? Where else was an aging, god-fearing Jewish widow of the 1st century supposed to go (not to mention that the “she never left the temple” part smacks of hyperbole to me…surely she had to go to the bathroom and eat like everybody else)? Also, notice that the text doesn’t tell us what Anna prayed and fasted *about* (but there you go: see what happens when you step beyond the confines of scripture and jam your presuppositions in there?). For all we know, she was inspired by the Holy Spirit right then and there about who Jesus was, etc. as she was praying about her neighbor’s sick kid. There’s no need to read into it that she had been praying “specifically” about the end times for decades (or Day of the Lord which is what the Jews would call anything having to do with eschatology during that time, I imagine), which seems to be what you’re implying.

    Your continuing…*need*…to focus in on the “split/join” thing as somehow invalid, proves that you’re not getting the posts at all. A) MSH already has said (multiple times) that he isn’t claiming any view is superior B) He’s just pointing out that, hermeneutically, the texts involved in arriving at the rapture-then-2nd coming idea must be separated from their larger framework (future glimpses of “the Day of the Lord”, be that an actual day or a prolonged series of events over an unspecified amount of time) to get there; i.e. the various prophecies and epistle verses don’t HAVE to point to two events and, in fact, may work better as describing one whole act. Thus, believers in a rapture are, in fact, splitting–whether they know this or not–the verses from their context and rearranging the pieces to fit a theory (which is all the rapture really is in the end) if this is true. But the picture is clearer when you harmonize them (join) within the historical context of the Bible and its asserted, ultimate ends..if it seems that this is superior, it’s only because it makes the most sense…there’s no actual way to prove it’s intrinsically superior since either view leads to the same conclusion: Jesus triumphs and Christians are reunited with Him. So where’s the fire?

  35. haibane13 says:

    Just to be clear if you join the texts then there is no rapture as we know it or no rapture at all ?

    • MSH says:

      If you view ALL the texts that speak of a return of Jesus as a second coming (one event — coming TO EARTH) then you’d have no textual material for a second, separate event (rapture – “in the air” but not returning to earth). A post-tribber could still *say* that there are two events since they combine them into one — but I hope you can see that’s just semantics.

  36. Ed Roberts says:

    to MSH… I am sure there are many of us that would say thank you for taking the time to write a blog on this subject with your valuable insights… please don’t cut this series short because a few don’t appreciate your posts….

  37. Skeptical says:

    As my final note on this mess, I would like to make two points:

    1) The Jews before Christ were major “joiners”. The overwhelming majority never even considered the possibility that Christ would incarnate, leave, and then return later. They expected Him to appear, conquer the world, and rule it forever. When Christ said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is inside of you,” it sounded like an hilarious cop-out to them. There was no hint or foreshadowiing of a worldwide Holy Spirit who is available to all.

    2) The Jews before Christ were aware of two separate roles for Messiah. One was the “suffering servant” e.g. Isaiah 58, the other was the worldwide King e.g. Genesis. They really never came up with an explanation, they just knew it was a big problem.

    I make these points to say that ‘splitting” was proven correct in the most important event of human history – the Resurrection. Christ split a sentence in half when announcing Himself while reading in the temple.

    Maybe the phrase, “slower than the third coming of Christ” isn’t so funny after all…

  38. Skeptical says:

    I am definitely understanding WHAT is joined or split in regards to the Rapture. I am describing the “big picture” of “splitting” and how it was NECESSARY TO RECOGNIZE JESUS of NAZARETH as MESSIAH.

    This is important because you are clearly supporting “joining” in your original post. There is no other way to read it, and no other point in bringing up the entire “splitting” or “joining” red herring. So, in the most important “joining” of history, the Jews got it wrong, rejected Messiah, and were wiped off the map for the next 1900 years. This is the strongest possible evidence that “splitting” is okay.

    At this point, both your original points have been completely disintegrated. You are not even attempting to defend them. This entire rhetorical exercise will hopefully serve as a reminder that a plurality of possible outcomes does not bear on the importance of the search in any way, shape or form.

    Officer: What are you doing, sir?
    Drunk: I’m looking for my car keys. I dropped them.
    Officer: The street light is very bright here. We would see them if they were here.
    Drunk: Yes, I dropped them over there in the shadows.
    Officer: Then why are you looking here?!
    Drunk: The light is better here!

    He is looking in the wrong place, for the wrong reason. The fact remains that finding his car keys is very, very important – and definitely not “a waste of time”.

    • MSH says:

      I honestly don’t care one way or the other. I stressed joining since my guess is that most readers have heard (over and over again) the idea of a rapture and second coming. I really could care less.

  39. Jerome Smith says:

    Only today did I reach this site from a link in my Logos 4 software homepage, I think it was. I came here while waiting for an update for the software to complete. I seem to always be the latecomer to the party!

    I am very much interested in studies pertaining to the doctrine of the Rapture.

    I must say, “Skeptical” in his most recent post on this thread makes very good sense to me. On that basis, the superiority of the “splitter” is surely proven over that of the “joiner.”

    At my own website in the October, 2010 archives I have posted 21 Rules of Interpretation.

    These are my own, a set of rules I developed for the benefit of my senior high school students to follow when attempting to write an interpretation of a work of poetry. One of my graduate professors said she thought the idea was absolutely absurd.

    Nevertheless, I stand by my 21 rules indeed, though back then my listing contained just twelve.

    One rule I have found to be exceedingly important is that we must take care to distinguish things that differ. For example, there is no good reason to apply a meaning to the term “elect” found in Matthew 24:31 to anyone now in the Christian community, for the reference at the time it was spoken was certainly Jewish. Furthermore, Matthew 24:31 has no reference to or bearing upon the Rapture of the Church. It has to do with the final regathering of the Jews after the Great Tribulation to their national homeland in physical Israel in fulfillment of the Covenant promises to Abraham and David.

    I only have had time today to read this Part 13, on “Why an obsession with eschatology is a waste of time.” It surely is a waste of time when the subject is approached “wrong end to.” Many popular writers have failed to do sufficient homework in careful Bible study before launching their sometimes highly successful writing projects.

    I think I may have done more homework in studying these subjects than any of them have, and I am still learning, and perfectly willing to learn something new. Sometimes when I learn something new, that changes “the whole picture,” or at least a pertinent part of it.

    I submit that my work, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, is sufficient evidence that I have done a serious amount of homework already.

    • MSH says:

      now I’m curious how you’d find a link here from Logos (especially since I work there).

      • Jerome Smith says:

        I’ve been wondering that too, but this evening I am again waiting on downloading, installing, and indexing another Logos 4 update, and you can see I made it back again!

        Now I see how I did it. Nothing too fancy. I clicked on an article link on the Logos 4 home page on my computer. It took me to the “Logos Blog,” which on the right lists “Blogs of Logos Employees” or something like that.

        This time I clicked on The Naked Bible site by Michael Heiser, and here I am.

        Last time I believe I was reading an article you had written, and on that basis, went to this site.

  40. Dean Fry says:

    I find it interesting that those who talk of rapture generally do not deal with the rapture of Enoch or Elijah, nor do they deal with the resurrection of the dead that is recorded in Matthew 27:52-53. If it is true that the living will not precede those who have fallen asleep, then we see why Moses apparently showed up in a physical body at the transfiguration. (Why not mention the empty graves to advance the gospel? See Luke 16:31 and 20:27)
    Who, what, when, where, how, and why. I Thessalonians 4:13-18 does not answer the when question, so that has to be interjected from another place. In I Corinthians 15 the time is at the last trumpet. Since the last enemy to be destroyed is death, is this the trumpet that announces that victory? Or is it another as some have claimed. There must be a rapture/resurrection to come until the day of victory over death. What we do not know is how many others there may be, since there have been three recorded already.
    What is meant by first resurrection? The very first one or the next one to come? Or is it a matter of rank or importance?
    Off my topic: the Jews before Christ were splitters as well as joiners. In the questioning of John the Baptist, it is apparent that they considered the Prophet spoken of by Moses as a different person from the Messiah. We recognize them as being the same person, Jesus.

  41. Image of Creaor says:

    I used to study eschatology but no more. I don’t see the point. The only thing I see that is important is to love one another as the creator loves us. I see now that credentials or lack thereof is moot in the creators sight. Spending energy on the subject does not feed the hungry nor clothe the naked. The vast majority get lost in the ego of study and debate and forget their primary purpose to feed and help the creators children. To persuade to leave the governments to their own devices and join hands while laying down the weapons given them by the governments to embrace one another in the creators love. God is love. When one understands the truth the creator has given us one realizes these dialogues are empty and are not feeding the creators children.

    Rapture? Who cares. We all go sometime…. In the creators time. The belief in or not in changes not the love of the creator for me nor alters my purpose for which I was created.

    That being said I on a base level as a a mere human which does enjoy things which do not feed enjoyed MSH on Art Bell. Cheers

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