Introduction

Book Review of New American Commentary, Revelation: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scriptures, Paige Patterson, 2012

 

Disclaimer: while this review is critical in nature, it’s not my place to judge Patterson’s motives, sincerity, or faith. All believers will stand before Jesus Christ very soon to give an account —starting with myself. The critical standard applied to Mr. Patterson’s book should be equally applied to my review based on the Word of God.

Note: This review will critically examine Dr. Patterson’s rationale for a pre-tribulation rapture. It will not review the remainder of the book.

This review will expose a pre-trib rapture position built by Patterson (the author) on eisegesis (reading into the text).

On page 36, Patterson’s #1 reason for supporting a premillennial position is that several early church writings support this biblical conclusion. Patterson is correct that the early church supported premillennialism, but does not give consideration that the early church also supported a posttribulation rapture; historically, it was upheld until around the mid 1850’s. The appealing doctrine that Christ will return and save the church before the tribulation is not supported exegetically by one passage using the grammatical and contextual method of biblical interpretation for church doctrine.

Eight, non-explicit biblical assertions are provided by Patterson for a pretribulation rapture. These will be examined under the search light of Scripture.

Reason #1

Please consider Patterson’s number #1 reason why the church will be absent [for] the tribulation [words inside brackets are mine]:

The rationale for a posttribulation rapture of the church is hard to establish [Not true; this review will provide biblical evidence] [what follows isn’t the rationale for the posttribulation rapture from Scripture]. The saints of God are said to reign with Christ on the millennial earth. But if the church is in, though not the object of, the tribulation, and if true believers alive at the Lord’s coming are caught up to Christ at the parousia (1 Thess. 4:15–18), what could be the purpose of this rapture when they return immediately to the earth? If, on the other hand, the church is removed from the earth prior to the tribulation and returns with Christ at the outset of the millennium, then the exodus of the church makes sense. First, the church is not left to suffer the outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth. Second, events such as the bema, the judgment seat of Christ, and the marriage of the Lamb have time to take place in heaven” (Patterson, 2012, page 41).

First, please consider that Patterson’s #1 reason that the church will be raptured prior to the tribulation doesn’t come from a passage of Scripture in context. This renders his commentary as questionable. The only acceptable standard for the establishment of church doctrine is the Word of God using established principles of biblical interpretation. Patterson sadly builds his theology on a foundation of sand that will not withstand the test of Scripture.

To my knowledge, no posttribulation rapture proponent uses Patterson’s false rationale for his or her basis. The early church believed in a posttribulation rapture because it’s found explicitly in the Word of God.

The clearest passages for a posttribulation rapture are probably found in Matthew 24:3 to 25:51; Mark 13:24-27 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12.

Please consider Matthew 24:29-31: “Immediately AFTER the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect [the rapture] from the four winds [entire planet], from one end of heaven to the other” (ESV).

This passage is concrete evidence that Christ comes “after the tribulation of those days.” Other passages will be covered.

Patterson, in error —writes, “First, the church is not left to suffer the outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth” (page 41). But the church is never promised an exemption from the tribulation. Secondly, God’s wrath is never directed at his own children as Patterson seems to suggest. So all the tribulation saints will experience the wrath of God. How bizarre. Most Christians will be martyred because God will allow the antichrist to make war against His saints (Matthew 13:5-7; Revelation 7:9-14; 13:5-7). 

Another point from Patterson outside of the contextual biblical realm is that “…the bema, the judgment seat of Christ, and the marriage of the Lamb have time to take place in heaven” (page 41). Eternity is a long time. God doesn’t have a time restraint. We are on HIS schedule.

He writes, “what could be the purpose of this rapture when they return immediately to the earth?” (page 41).

Using Patterson’s line of thinking, one could question why the raptured saints don’t appear suddenly in heaven? Why does God meet us in the clouds (earth’s atmosphere) to turn around and go back to heaven? But all these assumptions are nonsense. Church doctrine must come directly from “thus says the Lord” to be truth.

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air [earth’s atmosphere], and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This verse leaves the saint hanging in the clouds. It doesn’t say that we will be “caught up” to heaven prior to the tribulation. 

Please consider the words of Jesus to the new church:

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 1And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come [to earth] in the same way as you saw him go into heaven. [He was taken from their presence and went up.]” (Acts 1:9-11).

I will not leave you as orphans [Jesus was speaking to His disciple who would become the church.]; I will come to you [on earth] (John 14:18).

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him [on earth]” (John 14:23).

Reason #2

Here is a summary of his second argument:

Therefore, if every true believer is glorified at a posttribulation rapture and if only believers enter the millennium (Matt 25:31–46), how is the millennial kingdom repopulated?” (page 41-42).

Let’s address a problem that Patterson and others use to counter a posttribulation rapture view. This objection is sometimes called, “who will populate the millennium?” Because this is a book review, only one possible explanation will be provided.

The Jews will not repent as a nation until the time of the Gentiles end (Revelation 11:1-2; Romans 11:25-27; Matthew 23:37-39). Their full repentance is prescribed to happen when they see their Messiah come “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Matthew 24:29; 23:37-39; Revelation 1:7; Zechariah 12:10). These Jews enter the millennial kingdom.

The Gentile kingdom occupants will surely be tribulation dwellers (who will not take the mark), who will help the tribulation saints and will repent when they see Christ come in glory to rapture His saints. This could explain why they are surprised to be chosen: “Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers [likely persecuted believers], you did it to me” (Matthew 25:37-40).

Reason #3

Patterson writes, “The first three chapters of the Apocalypse mention the churches extensively. But beginning with chap. 4, the explicit mention of the church never occurs again in the Apocalypse. Unquestionably, one can argue that the church appears under other symbols or expressions, and a case can be made for that view. This does not change the unusual shift from frequent mention to total absence. If, however, the plan of God moves back to a distinctly Jewish focus for the events of the tribulation (also called the time of Jacob’s trouble, Jer 30:4–7), then for the church to be absent from the events of the period, which constitutes the majority of the text of the Revelation, is not surprising” (page 42).

Patterson recklessly adds another unsupported column to his unbiblical thesis with a “word fallacy.” The false notion that the word “church” must be present after Revelation 4 has been fabricated as a theological necessity. When this principle is applied to other books of the New Testament the results are disastrous. Several books don’t even contain the word “church.” Therefore, we must conclude that they were written to tribulation saints and not the church. Patterson uses cult like hermeneutics to endorse the teaching that the church will be spared the tribulation.

There are rapture passages that don’t even contain the word “church” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, John 14, 1 Corinthians 15:51-57). It would be reckless and absurd to require the word “church” to validate them.

Patterson should take his readers to Revelation where the church is in heaven (supposedly) and find the word “church.” But the standard he uses to argue the church is absent he can’t use to argue the church has been removed. I don’t doubt that Patterson is a sincere man. When the Bible is interpreted under a grid with presuppositions —the outcome must match the suppositions.

Patterson, states that the word “church” is excluded after Revelation 4. He did not inform his readers that the word “churches” is found in Revelation 22. It states, “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things FOR THE CHURCHES. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Vs. 16). If the church has been removed, why is Jesus stating that what was written was “for the churches?” The words of Jesus are truth.

The Apostle Paul believed the church would enter the tribulation. He writes, “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, [the rapture of the church] we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you [this includes this commentary] in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God [the midpoint]. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5). Paul had warned them previously that the antichrist is coming. 

We can believe the Word of God or we can listen to fleshly appealing doctrines of men. If the Bible is our authority for faith and practice, we believe it as written, or we are deceived.

The Apostle Paul writes in Revelation 1:7a, “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.” Please consider that he is writing to church age Christians and calls them “saints“. The title “saint” continues throughout the book of Revelation, before, during, and after the tribulation —all the way to heaven.

He wrote, “If, however, the plan of God moves back to a distinctly Jewish focus for the events of the tribulation (also called the time of Jacob’s trouble, (Jer. 30:4–7), then for the church to be absent from the events of the period . . . is not surprising” (page 42).

The teaching that God must remove the church from earth so He can work with the Jews during the tribulation is not supported biblically. God is not a one-track God who must remove the church so He can work with the Jews. The church is Jews first, Gentiles second —one body. Secondly, a Jewish revival takes place when their Messiah returns sometime after the tribulation ends (Revelation 1:7, 11:1-2; Zechariah 12:10; Romans 11:25-27; Matthew 23:37-39).

Finally, Jesus is with the church until “the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Please consider the great commission and the end of Matthew: “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). If you desire to know more about “the end of the age,” please see Matthew 13:39-49; 24:3; etc.

Reason #4

Patterson writes: “In Rev. 3:10, a remarkable promise is made to the church in Philadelphia. “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth” (page 43).

He continues,

Second, the promise to Philadelphia is exemption from that trial . . .the promise ‘I will also keep you from the hour of trial’ implies absence from the scene and hence the taking away of the church before the tribulation” (page 43).

Patterson is correct on several conclusions, but incorrect on others. Jesus addressed the seven churches individually. Only one church is promised preservation: “I will keep you” (Revelation 3:10). Secondly, the church of Philadelphia is specifically told that they would be preserved and it’s not because of a rapture!

Jesus spoke to the church of Philadelphia (out of the other six churches) and explained why this church would be preserved from the “hour of trial.” The reason stated is —”Because you have kept my word about patient endurance.

The Greek verb for the word “keep” (“from the hour of trial“) according to Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament, means, “to cause a state, condition, or activity to continue, keep, hold, reserve, preserve”; “of being protective . . . from someone or something” (Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament, 3rd ed.; 2001; electronic version).

Patterson writes the outlandish supposition that “to keep you from the hour of trial” implies “absence from the scene and hence the taking away of the church before the tribulation” (page 43).

Moreover, the passage he used for reason #4 (Mat. 24:21–22) describes the great tribulation and goes on to describe the rapture! In other words, he is arguing for a pretribulational rapture using a passage that describes the great tribulation (second half) that goes on to declare a posttribulation rapture. He stole a passage from another context that contextually and grammatically destroys his argument! Patterson personifies well the difficulty experienced by those who continue to promote a fleshly rapture before the tribulation.

Reason #5

The New Testament seems unanimous in its proclamation of the imminent return of Christ. Numerous passages illustrate this point, including Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:4; 1 Thes. 1:10; Jas. 5:8; Rev. 3:3; and especially Titus 2:13. Few contest this doctrine of the immanency of Christ’s return . . . If, for example, posttribulationism is invoked, then it is possible to count from the beginning of the reign of Antichrist and know that seven years later Christ will return, thereby nullifying the doctrine of the immanency of Christ’s return. Or, to be even more precise, from the moment when the prince that shall come (Antichrist) defiles the temple (Dan. 9:27) after precisely 1,260 days, Christ will return to the earth . . . All views of the relationship of the church to the tribulation, except that of pretribulationism, face this same difficulty” (page 43).

For the sake of argument, if one assumes that the doctrine of imminence is biblical, it no less proves that Christ will return before, during, or after the tribulation. This despairing argument reflects the desperation within the pretribulational camp —it offers no guarantee that Christ will return prior to the tribulation.

The passages promoted by Patterson don’t teach true imminence —that nothing prevents his immediate arrival. There are, however, pending events.

In Matthew 25:24-25, we are told of “false christs” and “false prophets” that will appear and “perform great signs and wonders” BEFORE Christ returns:

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise YOUR heads [the church], because YOUR redemption [the church] is drawing near” (Luke 21:25-28).

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know [church] that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see [church] all these things [see entire passage], you know [church] that he is near, at the very gates” (Matthew 24-32-33).

But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, [already happened] then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:23-24).

“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, [when:] at the last trumpet [last means last. There are multiple trumpets in revelation that have not sounded]. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you” (Revelation 3:3). Those of the church at Sardis who did not repent and wake up would experience His coming as a “thief” not knowing “at what hour I will come against you.

Patterson writes, “But such a view, posing no problem for either amillennialism or pretribulation premillennialism, introduces a significant conundrum for all other perspectives of the relationship of the church to the tribulation” (page 43).

The suggestion that the post-tribulation view is false because one could count the days and know when Christ returns is more mischaracterization and falsehood. Christ will come “immediately AFTER the tribulation of those day” (Matthew 24:29a). Verse 33 goes on to say, “So also, when you see all these things [that were provided in verses 4-28], you know that he is near, at the very gates.”

“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time [not third time], not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:27-28). Those who endure the tribulation will be eagerly waiting for him. Few Christians today are “eagerly waiting” for Him.

He continues and writes, “This not only eliminates the possibility at the imminent return of Christ but also has the unfortunate result of rendering Jesus mistaken when he said that no one knew the time of Christ’s return (Mat. 24:36, 42, 44)!” (page 43). Please notice that Patterson continues misusing the very verses that contextually indicate that Christ comes after the tribulation. So it’s not possible to know when!

Reason #6

Few texts in the Bible present as much difficulty for interpreters as the prophecy of Daniel’s 70 weeks in Dan. 9:20–27 . . . While it is conceivable that this seventieth week is somehow contemporaneous with the era of the church, no convincing argument has been marshaled in favor of such a view; and to see the prophecy as relating specifically to Israel in the absence of the church, which has been transported to heaven, is more logical” (pages 43-44).

Patterson continues building unsupported columns. When the contextual & grammatical method of interpretation is substituted for an interpretation based on assumptions, the Bible becomes a platter to serve one’s theology. Patterson’s argument is that the tribulation is concerning Israel and therefore the church has to be removed without providing one verse as proof. Again, the church is without Jewish/ Gentile distinction in Christ.

The time of the Gentiles must end before Israel is saved. Please see Matthew 23:37-39; Romans 11:25-27; Luke 21:24 and Revelation 11:1-2 (end of second half of tribulation).

Reason #7

The posttribulationist faces similar difficulties. If the church is still present on the earth at the time of this sealing [144,000], why are these Jews not assimilated into the church, as was the case for John, Peter, and Paul? Nothing in the further discussion of the 144,000 in Rev 14:1–5 lends any evidence for the presence of the church, suggesting that once again the age of the Gentiles has past, the church has been removed, and once again the focus is on Israel during the great tribulation” (page 44-45).

He writes, “Nothing in the further discussion of the 144,000 in Rev. 14:1–5 lends any evidence for the presence of the church…” (page 44-45). There is nothing in this passage that indicates the church is excluded. Patterson makes the argument that the 144,000 don’t meet his standard of assimilation as “John, Peter, and Paul.” But 2000 years later, times have changed. It could be argued that the church today doesn’t meet his standard of assimilation. Again, what ever happened to the practice of using passages in context with explicit quotes for the establishment of doctrine? Patterson can’t provide one verse that contextually and grammatically teaches his doctrine so he resorts to human arguments.

Reason #8

Revelation 12 introduces the reader to a radiant woman who gives birth to the Messiah . . . The church must be prepared for suffering and persecution because she was promised that inevitability (John 16:18–20). But there is evidence for the intervention of Christ on behalf of his bride, taking her from the wrath that will surely come” (pages 44-45).

Most scholars identify the woman in chapter 12 as Israel and/or the church. This scene begins the second half of the tribulation. This woman births the Messiah who rules over every nation. Patterson claims that this scene “reflects a Jewish era from which the church is absent” (pages 44-45). Once more, Patterson doesn’t provide a shred of explicit evidence —just assumptions that the church is absent the earth.

Peter believed, “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God” (1 Peter 4:17).

Jesus believed, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:15-17).

Thanks for reading this review. Your feedback is welcomed. Please keep your eyes on Jesus Christ and His Word. In Christ! 🙂

 

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