A Book Review/Critique on “The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation” By: John Walvoord

A paper written by me in 2006.

Review on “The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation”

In the following pages I will be sharing what I learned from the book “Blessed Hope and the Tribulation” as well sharing my review on it.To be completely honest, I was not entirely to impressed by the book.This being the case, I will attempt to be careful with my choice of words as well as straightforward. However, all that being said, I will say this paper comes from a sincere heart as a brother in Christ.

Dr. John Walvoord begins his book with stating that Posttribulationalism is growing within the conservative Evangelical Theological Society. He states that he thinks that Posttribulationalist do not use a literal historical grammatical exegesis. He also claims that they spiritualize a lot of prophecy where it does not fit their system. Within the first 40 pages of the book I got the impression that all Posttribulationalist were bad Christians. In all honesty, I believe if I had not done a thorough study of the Scriptures myself, as well as, speak with multiple Postribulationalist,  I would leave Dr. Walvoord’s book thinking: Posttribulationalists haven’t stuidied the topic of eschatology much, and when they do they have no clue how to study it.  I do not think I can count using all my fingers and toes how many times he affirmed that they use inconsistent logic and reasoning mixed with poor exegesis as well as spiritualizing the text.

However, I will say in the midst of saying this continually (feeling almost brain washed) he rarely demonstrated in his book any specific passages that they supposedly spiritualized when stating the problems they had. The only passage he appealed to was the 70th week of Daniel.  Even if Walvoord was able to prove this (which he hasn’t done, due to not responding to many different interpretations that take the 490 years of Daniel to be literal), I do not see this meaning they suddenly now spiritualize all scripture on eschatology to mean what they want it to mean. This is the only passage he cites as being “spiritualized.” Walvoord also makes the statement,

Practically all scholars who deny the inerrancy of the Bible are Posttribulationalist

even though he never attempts to prove this. I was not aware that liberals even believed in a second coming of Jesus. However, according to Walvoord most scholars that discredit the infallibility of the scriptures believe Jesus is coming back again.

The whole book I felt as though he was building a straw man argument only to make his view seem superior. I will now deal with some of the arguments from the two views that he gave for Pretibulationism.

Dr. Walvoord starts the arguments with one commonly used with Posttribulationalist.The argument goes like this: “Pretribulationalism is unheard of in the whole entire church history up until 1820 A.D. at the very earliest. If this was a teaching of the Bible from the apostles then it would have obviously been somewhat heard of, but everyone was a Posttribulationalist.” Dr. Walvoord starts with an important point, whatever was taught and was not taught is not the final authority, but rather the Word of God.  I am grateful for this statement because I feel too often in this debate too much is placed on this argument.

However, after stating this, he attempts to argue anyways how the Posttribulationalism that is taught today is a more modern teaching than Pretribulationalism.  I have to say this is one of the most crazy things I ever heard right next to KJV-only teachings and that Christian rock is of the Devil.  Dr. Walvoord states,

However, the fact that most Posttribulationalists today do not accept the doctrine of imminency as the early church held it diminishes the force of their argument against pretribulationalism.

Can I just ask why?  If there is one difference that does not affect the teaching that Christ comes after the Great Tribulation this would not make this a new teaching.  If the early church was going through much trials and tribulations it is not abnormal for them to think they had entered the tribulation. Therefore, I do not see the logic behind Dr. Walvoord’s argument.  Besides all this, if history was not that important of a factor, why does Dr. Walvoord even feel the need to make this argument?

Dr. Walvoord then presents the major views of Posttribulationalists in the next few chapters and then goes to scripture to exegete to show how these passages could be misunderstood and how they should be understood according to him. This is where Dr. Walvoord makes some major blunders. Walvoord recognizes the burden of proof is on Pretibulationist to demonstrate from Scripture that there is more than one resurrection for believers in the Bible.  On page 50 Walvoord attempts to prove this by going to I Corinthians 15:23, 24. Walvoord says,

The idea that the first resurrection can be in more than one stage is taught in I Corinthians 15:23, 24.Three stages (tagma) of the resurrection of the saints are included: Christ, first; those at His coming, second; and those at the end, third.

In other words, Walvoord is claiming that 1 Corinthians 15:23-24 is teaching three “stages” of the resurrection. Let’s take a look at what I Corinthians 15:23,24(NASB) says,

But each in his own order:  Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.

I do not know how Dr. Walvoord found three stages in this passage. Personally, I was greatly shocked when I saw how he placed it in his book. Paul is clearly teaches there are two stages of the resurrection, that is,  Christ being the first and the second being all the saints at His coming. If this is the case, then Postribulationalism would seem to be the more accurate representation of at least this passage (on a side note, Walvoord as a Pretib and Premil advocate needs to display four resurrections not 3). The passage states clearly that Christ must reign until He has placed all things under His feet, the last enemy being death. When is death defeated? Well if you continue in I Corinthians 15 it clearly teaches when the rapture takes places at the last trumpet. For then will come about the saying “oh death where is your victory, oh death where is your sting?” (paraphrased from I Cor. 15:54-55).When Christ returns at the “last trumpet” death will be destroyed and “then comes the end”when Christ hands over the kingdom to His Father. The order is Christ and those at His coming, then comes the end. There are no three stages as Dr. Walvoord states.

Second, when dealing with Matthew 24 he claims that Posttribulationalists always use this passage as a proof text for a Posttribulational Rapture, but that he believes there is no rapture or resurrection mentioned in the passage.  Matthew 24:31 (NASB) says,

And He will send forth His angels with a GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

Now despite the fact that the language (great trumpet, gathering God’s elect, etc.) in itself sounds as though it were a rapture and resurrection, please notice from where the angels are gathering the elect. The verse previous to this clearly says the Son of Man is coming in the clouds and then the next verse states that they will gather the elect from the four corners of the earth and bring them to the sky. This would seem to be a rapture text, and based on its Biblical placement, it seems to be a passage teaching of at least a rapture “immediately after the Tribulation” (Matthew 24:29).In the Mark account of the same message he clearly states that the angels are gathering the elect “from” the earth and “to” the heavens. Clearly the Bible teaches a rapture takes place after the tribulation. However, can Dr. Walvoord show a clear passage that plainly states Christ comes before the tribulation for the church? So far, we have seen how I Corinthians 15 teaches the resurrection comes in the order of Christ (which has happened) and then those who are His at His coming which we plainly know happens “immediately after the tribulation” (Matt. 24:29, NASB). I then am constrained to believe and teach only which scriptures teach and not add to it. If there is another coming and resurrection to believe it must be proven from scripture first.

Now, Dr. Walvoord also stated that nowhere in scripture does it speak of one general resurrection of all the saints of all the ages. However, he does not respond to the multiple text that are even appealed to by those who believe this.  How can one make such a claim and not at least repond to these text (such as 1 Corinthians 15 shown above).  However,  I will provide another text that teaches a general resurrection. In John 6:37, 40, 44, 54 (NASB) which says,

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. . . This is the will of Him who sent Me, that I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. . . No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. . . He who eats my flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

Jesus clearly said that all that He would redeem, He would raise them up on the “last day” not to be confused with “last days”. This text would appear to be teaching one big general resurrection to me of all the saints of all ages.

There are a lot more passages I would like to dive into that Dr. Walvoord quoted or claimed taught Pretribulationalism, however, space does not permit me to do this. I am open to questions or biblical correction. My desire is to learn to know the truth. I am genuinely seeking the truth, and if I am wrong I would desire to know. However, at this point scripture seems to be clearly teaching me otherwise.

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