Kurschner, Alan. Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord: What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Return of Christ. Prompton Lakes, NJ: Eschatos Publishing, 2013.
Will Jesus rapture us before the Great Tribulation? According to 2 Thess. 2:3, he will not. Alan Kurschner, a noted pre-wrath proponent, marshalls a number of arguments showing the error of the pretribulation rapture theory. Throughout the argument he makes use of numerous charts and diagrams. It’s common among Reformed types to ridicule prophetic charts, but I can’t really think of a better teaching tool.
In its simplest form, Kurschner’s argument goes like this
Beginning of birth pains —– Revealing of Antichrist —- Great Tribulation —- Parousia —-Outpouring of God’s wrath — The End.
Our dispensational friends say that Daniel’s 70th week is the Great Tribulation. Since Christians are exempt from God’s wrath (1 Thess. 5:9), the Church is exempt from the Great Tribulation, Kurschner responds that Daniel’s 70th week starts before the wrath of God; therefore, the church is there for part of it.
Central to Kurschner’s argument are the parallels between the Olivet Discourse and Paul’s teaching in Thessalonians. This suggests that Paul learned it from Jesus, but in any case it shows that Paul and the gospel writers are talking about the same events.
Kurschner correctly argues that Antichrist will be a specific individual. (Yes, I am aware that Antichrist only appears in the Johannine literature, but you know what I am talking about. Don’t split hairs). Mark uses the masculine participle for standing (hestekota; cf Kurschner 12).
Kurschner’s most important argument is that the Lord’s Coming will be a single, yet complex event (17). He will return in glory to get his church, but that won’t end world history. He has other things to do as well (e.g., come up from Bosrah, stand on the Mount of Olives and split it wide open, etc). We see a parallel to Christ’s first coming. When we say Christ was born as a baby, we don’t reduce all of the First Coming to the manger-event. His first coming also included the rest of his life.
Outline of Events
1) Beginning of Birth Pangs. Against preterism and historicism, Kurschner argues that Jesus reveals a cluster of conditions that must happen before his return (Matt. 24:27, 30). If this cluster happens in proximity to the Lord’s return, then both partial preterism and historicism are ruled out. Historicism is ruled out because the birthing metaphor suggests proximity to that generation.
1.1) The birth pangs encompass False Christs, Wars, and Famines (20).
2) The Great Tribulation. This begins when Antichrist causes the Abomination of Desolation, which leads to martyrdom et al. As Kurschner notes, “If the church is raptured before the Antichrist, then why does Paul so passionately warn believers concerning the Antichrist’s deception at his revelation” (42).
The heart of the book is Kurschner’s analysis of Revelation, and it is this which initially gave me the most trouble. If it is true that the Seals/Bowls/Trumpets are sequential, and if the church is raptured around chapter 7, then it is hard to see how the Trumpets aren’t at least coterminous with the seals. Kurschner solves this problem by noting that the Trumpets follow a parenthesis in chapters 12-14. John warns the believers not to take the mark of the Beast; this only makes sense if the events in chapter 13 happen before the events in chapter 7. The parenthesis argument works, though I think it probably needs its own monograph.
Per Revelation, the problem for pretribulationists is that the saints in Revelation 6 were martyred by Antichrist, yet they are pleading to God for the outpouring of his wrath. This signifies several things: the saints are in the tribulation, yet God’s wrath hasn’t happened. Therefore, the Tribulation isn’t coterminous with God’s wrath.
Kurschner has several fascinating appendices detailing the structure of revelation and what the earliest fathers taught about the rapture (hint: It’s pre-wrath; see the following: Didache 16.4-5; Hippolytus On Daniel II.7; Irenaeus V.30.3-4).