Published at: 19/09/2021

Also available in fr

Photo by Sammy Wong on Unsplash

Interpreting the Bible

A frequent argument against many a Bible teaching is that it is not based upon clear and direct teaching but that human logic and analysis is being used to draw an inference that the Bible itself does not directly support. It calls attention to what is good exegesis (an explanation or critical interpretation of a text).

The argument goes this way: Inference is when you take two or more Bible verses that are related in topic and then, based upon what each one says, draw a conclusion which is beyond what either of the verses say. A common criticism is that the teaching is human interpretation that is beyond what the Bible teaches. The argument is that we are like Greek philosophers that could take a proposition and draw all manner of conclusions.

Two ways to understand the Bible are given in this video.

Calvinism Limited Atonement

An example of inference which many Bible believers consider a wrong understanding, arises from putting together the case for Calvinism's Limited Atonement. The Calvinist position is that Jesus did die for everyone, but his atoning death will only save those whom the Father purposed to save. Explanation given here The point of limited atonement is that only the "elect", those who are reconciled with God will be saved. It opposes the concept of universalism, that all will be saved. Calvinism in general and Limited Atonement in particular are much discussed theological issues that I will not explore here other than to use it as an example where people use specific Scripture verses to support their position which may mean one side emphasises certain Scriptures and downplays others and opposing points of view do the reverse emphasis. If that seems vague or difficult to appreciate hopefully you will keep in the back of your mind as we consider whether or not there is a Rapture and in what order of time it might take place.

Propositional logic, also known as sentential logic and statement logic, is the branch of logic that studies ways of joining and/or modifying entire propositions, statements or sentences to form more complicated propositions, statements or sentences, as well as the logical relationships and properties that are derived from them

Rapture inference

Psalm 23

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me: (Personal)

John 14:3 Tree of Life Version

If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to Myself, so that where I am you may also be. (Personal)

Acts 1

After saying all this—while they were watching—He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 While they were staring into heaven as He went up, suddenly two men stood with them in white clothing. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you keep standing here staring into heaven? This Yeshua, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.”

1 Thessalonians 4: 17

Then we who are alive, who are left behind, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air—and so we shall always be with the Lord. (Collective group)

The inference is that Jesus personally comes to a believer at the point of death to bring them into His Father's house. The second inference is that at some time all believers who are alive will be caught up into the clouds to meet the Lord.

Is this what the Bible plainly teaches? Most would say yes but many argue the second inference is not a Rapture. Note that only believers saw Jesus after his resurrection and only believers saw him go up into the sky. Judas Iscariot missed out.

Tribulation inference

Is 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5 the same event as 2 Thessalonians 1: 7-10?

2 Thessalonians 1: 7-10

when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, punishing those who don’t know God, and to those who don’t obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus, 9 who will pay the penalty: eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes in that day to be glorified in his saints and to be admired among all those who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

Revelation 19

I saw the heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it is called Faithful and True. In righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has names written and a name written which no one knows but he himself. 13 He is clothed in a garment sprinkled with blood. His name is called “The Word of God.” 14 The armies which are in heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in white, pure, fine linen. 15 Out of his mouth proceeds a sharp, double-edged sword, that with it he should strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod.Psalm 2:9 He treads the wine press of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 He has on his garment and on his thigh a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Matthew 24

then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. Then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 31 He will send out his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together his chosen ones from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

Punishing and striking the nations who are mourning the appearance of Jesus seems to be a qualitative difference from the previous type of appearing where believers are taken to be with Jesus.

Another important difference is that instead of being in the clouds Jesus will land on earth.

Zechariah 14

Then Yahweh will go out and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. 4 His feet will stand in that day on the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in two, from east to west, making a very great valley. Half of the mountain will move toward the north, and half of it toward the south.

The inference is that there are two different types of return of Jesus, one for believers and one for unbelievers. One is to take believers to the presence of God, the other is to punish the unbelieving world and rescue the people of Israel.

Despite the strong expressions of difference in this interpretation of the future, there are really only two issues separating the pre-Tribulation Rapture and PreWrath Rapture. One issue is whether the rapture will take place at some midpoint in the Great Tribulation rather than precede the tribulation- a question of timing. The second issue is more substantial. Are there certain events required to take place before the Rapture? The preTrib view says no, the midTrib view says yes.