A recent Pulpit & Pen column was titled The Trouble with Tribulation. Written by P. E. Harris, its focus was an attack on pretribulationism. Articles of this type are often condescending and ill-informed. It’s a pity they’re shared indiscriminately. In this case the author implies that pretribulationists expect a walk-in-the park life and to be raptured out before things get difficult. I don’t know any sober pretrib leader who teaches a tribulation-free ride in this life. In fact we’re told to expect tribulation in this world (John 16:33; Rom 1:9).
He suggests that pretribulational leaders are cultic:
With eschatology, all the rules are thrown out so they can change the meaning of words (just like cult leaders do) to support their aberrant end-time doctrines.
Blames Darby and Scofield (obligatory):
Somehow through the writings of John Nelson Darby and C. I. Scofield, these concepts got intermingled and confused. To many evangelicals, Darby and Scofield are prophets of equal worth to the original 12 apostles. To them, when Scofield speaks, God must surrender to his interpretation.
Associates pretribulationism with money and flimsy hermeneutics:
There is a massive multi-million dollar industry dedicated to the assumption that the great tribulation is equal to the wrath of God. These proponents of the pre-tribulation rapture make millions of dollars writing books and making movies assuring Christian they do not have to suffer persecution or tribulation for their faith prior to the rapture. But these massive, complicated and bulky theories are held up by the flimsiest of Scriptural speculation and wordplay. It is like trying to lift the weight of an elephant off the ground using a kite string.
I presume the Left Behind franchise is partly the target of his displeasure. Does it follow that pretribulationism is incorrect because someone made millions via fiction books? Should one judge the heart of a person they haven’t met? Dr William Watson (Dispensationalism Before Darby) once met with Tim LaHaye to share his research. He writes:
He [LaHaye] liked my research, but was more interested in sharing Christ with our waitress! Evangelism was his top priority. He even told me, that the Rapture should not be an end in itself, but a means of bringing people to Christ.
Harris assumes tribulation and God’s wrath cannot be coterminous. He uses Greek terminology as if it supports his points. In fact tribulation can and does arise from God’s wrath. These elements aren’t mutually exclusive (Rom 2:8-9). No attempt is made to address pretrib reasons as to why the Great Tribulation constitutes God’s wrath. Nor does the writer demonstrate why Satan’s wrath can’t coexist with God’s wrath. God uses others as instruments of His wrath (Isaiah 10:5-6 etc).
The final chapter admonishes readers to be “sober” and “spiritually prepared” for future tribulation or for martyrdom. He reminds us that this isn’t our home. Few pretribulationist would disagree. But merely expecting to be in tribulation isn’t a panacea. We must continue to abide in Christ and trust in Him. And obviously he assumes pretribulationists do not.
Given the references to the shortening of the tribulation, I’m guessing Pastor Harris holds to the prewrath view. In any future article I’d like to see some interaction with discussions presented by Renald Showers in Maranatha – Our Lord, Come! and The Pre-Wrath Rapture View – An Examination and Critique.
P. E. Harris appears to harbor a prejudice against a system he disagrees with. His essay punched out the usual straw men accusations. That he’s the pastor of a church supports a point I’ve been making about the lack of grace by some leaders in these discussions. What a shame.
For the record here’s a small sampling of titles by pretribulational authors. These refute allegations that pretribbers teach cozy rides in this life:
Dr. John MacArthur has several books:
1) Hard to Believe – The High Cost and Infinite Value of Following Jesus
2) The Power of Suffering: Strengthening Your Faith in the Refiner’s Fire (you don’t have to wait for the “tribulation”)
3) Slave – The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ
Read honestly, these books are uncomfortable. The authors’ intent is to promote wakefulness and boldness in the reader’s life. They are meant to spark action now, not idle waiting for an imminent “escape.”
As for Pulpit & Pen, one would expect a Discernment Ministry to be more discriminating than to publish this sort of bias.