The Gospel of Grace Fellowship Eschatology Series and some miscellaneous thoughts about rapture timing division.
Back in 2010 Eric Douma conducted a series on eschatology. Much of the series’ focus was on rapture timing. I’d already become familiar with many of the sources Douma drew from, and had reached somewhat similar conclusions. The series disappeared from the original website when Douma and Bob DeWaay formed their own fellowship. They are now back online.
I often see comments by former pretribulationists who were raised pretrib. Then, for whatever reason, they decide to “check Scripture” for themselves. They often become rapture activists. One such gentleman recently told of doing his own careful study and then “suddenly” coming across Robert Van Kampen’s book (The Rapture Question Answered). I suspect that in many cases these accounts are offered up as validation. The notion is that people are raised pretrib; but once they pray about it, check Scripture for themselves, and/or read the right book, they’ll change if they’re honest. Many prewrathers are former pretribbers who’ve taken that path.
As a side note: Van Kampen claimed the answer to the rapture timing question was “plain and simple.” Yet by his own admission he arrived at his conclusion through “study and grappling.” Darrel Cline’s review of TRQA is fairly tough at times. I don’t agree with everything but his criticisms of Van Kampen’s inconsistencies are generally solid.
Douma was initially open to the prewrath system. Meanwhile Bob DeWaay questioned how anyone could be certain about rapture timing. Following a challenge they conducted an investigation into the subject. The exercise resulted in an affirmation of pretribulationism. My upbringing was in an amillennial system (prophecy was never discussed). When I became premillennial, I assumed posttribulationism. Like Douma and DeWaay, I changed positions after being goaded to study. However, switching to another system after prayer and study doesn’t automatically validate the move. What do we make of evangelicals who move to Rome etc?
Interestingly Van Kampen’s daughter Kristen and her husband David Wisen do not openly promote her father’s system. I cited Kristen in an early blog post. Back then she wrote of the Great Commission:
Therefore, Matthew 24:14 is fulfilled, not through the efforts of man, but through the gospel angel. Many people believe that through missionaries, once the gospel reaches the whole world, we can usher in the return of Christ – almost like God is waiting for us to get it done. But Revelation explains to us that God will take this into His own hands. It doesn’t mean we don’t evangelize, because we are to be obedient to the great commission in Matthew 28, but I think it is an interesting end times note.
The link is now broken. Moreover, if you go to the Harvest Bible Church website you’ll find nothing regarding rapture timing in the “What We Believe” and “Doctrinal Statement” pages. Note this generic statement:
We believe in and expectantly await the glorious, visible, personal, premillennial return of the Lord Jesus Christ. The blessed hope of His return has vital bearing on the personal life, service, and mission of the believer (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). We believe in the bodily resurrection of both the saved and the lost. The lost will be raised to judgment and experience eternal wrath in hell. The saved will be raised to eternal joy in the new heaven and new earth in the manifested presence of God (Acts 1:3, 9; Hebrews 7:25-26).
This is not to say the Wisens no longer espouse Van Kampen’s system. The use of the word “expectantly” rather than “imminent” is a dead giveaway. And they do, after all, still retain prewrath advocate James MacDonald in a teaching role after he was removed from a leadership position. But HBC’s mission focus doesn’t seem to be dependent on emphasizing Van Kampen’s theory.
I think it’s a good calculated move which avoids division. The solid friendship between R. C. Sproul and John MacArthur was nurtured within the context of mutual love for the Lord and concern for the lost – not eschatological differences. This is a great lesson for us all.