Answers to Reader Questions
Q: I have a question about Daniel 7:13-14. It says, “...with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.” It doesn't sound like Christ coming to earth as we usually interpret it, but more like Christ going up to God in heaven. This of course, is a preterist argument, which states that when Christ ascended after His resurrection the "spiritual" kingdom of God was established (v. 14). Any thoughts about verse 13 and its mention of Christ coming up to the Ancient of Days?
A: Admittedly, this is a difficult passage. However, notice that not only does Jesus come to the Ancient of Days, but He does so after the beast is slain and his body is thrown into the lake of fire. This event is also described in Revelation 19, but it occurs after the appearance of Christ with His armies. Thus, it is out of order with all of the rapture positions, including the preterist position.
Therefore, when interpreting this vision, it is important to remember that...
1) It is a vision, so like a parable, it isn't necessarily to be taken as consecutive or literal in every point; and
2) It comes from the Old Testament, a time in which the details of the end-times were deliberately obscured because it was not yet God's timing to reveal them.
I dealt with this a little bit in a footnote in the book. It doesn't speak exactly to the point you are asking about, but maybe it will help:
It must also be remembered that even Daniel did not understand many of his own visions (Daniel 12:8). Therefore I would rather use Jesus' description to interpret Daniel's vision than Daniel's vision to interpret the Olivet Discourse.
* To support the contention that the Son of Man in Matt. 24:31 does not refer to the rapture but to Jesus' Coming at Armageddon, many scholars refer to Daniel 7, which describes the Messiah coming on the clouds, then immediately setting up His Millennial kingdom. Because Jesus borrows from the language of this passage in His Olivet Discourse, this leads to their conclusion that Matt. 24:30 is also at Armageddon, no matter how many similarities there may be to the sixth seal. There are several considerations to be taken here. First, prophetic literature often uses the foreshortening of two events so that they appear to be temporally successive, even if they are separated by long spans of time (Isa. 61:1-2, Dan. 12:1-2, and John 5:29). This is a technique called "telescoping." In this case, the telescoping resulted from the fact that the Church Age, which now separates the 69th from the 70th Week by 2,000 years, was a mystery to the Old Testament prophets, which is why they struggled to understand the chronology of their own writings (1 Peter 1:10-12). There are also several non-consecutive events described in this passage that tell us that, not only are the events telescoped, but they are nonconsecutive as well. This includes the books being opened prior to the slaying of the beast and Jesus' coming on the clouds after the beast has been cast into the fire. Therefore, this passage should not be used to override the clear
order of events given by Jesus in the New Testament. Douglas Moo makes this point, saying, "Inasmuch as the rapture is clearly revealed only in the New Testament, the decisive evidence for its timing with respect to the [great] tribulation must come from the New Testament also. Furthermore, it is sound hermeneutic procedure to establish a doctrine on the basis of the texts that speak most directly to the issue" (Three Views on the Rapture, Ibid., p. 172).
Q: I read somewhere that the Lord would judge the world with fire. I have searched and searched and can't find the reference anywhere. I was going over Revelation and noticed that we don't see the Lord using fire as a means of his wrath/judgment until after the seventh seal. Can you help me? Also something that you might already know is that the word “tribulation” is not used after we see those who have come out of the Great Tribulation (Rev 7:14).
A: There is a very good reason that you don't see fire and brimstone used until after the seventh seal. That's because God's wrath is not contained in the seal judgments. Although the seals are part of God's plan for the 70th Week, they are a time of cleansing and purification for the Church, not God's wrath. God's wrath is poured out as part of the Day of the Lord, which starts with the seventh seal. So the fact that you do not see God using fire to judge the world until after the seventh seal is exactly what we would expect.
As for the word “tribulation,” you are right once again. In Matthew 24, Jesus describes the first five seal judgments (corresponding to Rev. 6:1-11), during which the world will finally meet the Antichrist, and the Church and Israel will experience the Antichrist's wrath during the Great Tribulation. In verse 29, however, Jesus says, “After the tribulation of those days...,” then goes on to describe the sixth seal (Rev. 6:12-17), His coming on the clouds, and the raptured Church in heaven. This verse makes it absolutely clear that the Great Tribulation ends before the sixth seal. Thus, the fact that the last mention of the word “tribulation” is Rev. 7:14, referring back to “those who come out of the great tribulation,” is perfectly consistent with this chronology.
As for the exact verses about judgment by fire, you might be thinking of 2 Peter 3:10-12: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?”