If there was no physical translating of the living saints on AD70, as Preston et al insist, then we have some troublesome scenarios. But first a little background.
The Nature of the Rapture
I believe that both dispensational futurists and many preterists have misconceptions concerning the rapture. Most futurists are mistaken in both the timing (that it is still future) and the nature of it (that it will be grave-emptying worldwide event). But many preterists, also, err on the other extreme. They imagine that it will be a postionally change for Christians – and it certainly will be that! – yet leaving the believers still on Earth after that event. That last part is a serious misreading of Scripture, just as erroneous as that of futurists. This teaching comes from well-known authors Don K. Preston, Rod Bell, and others. But it does not come from Christ or His inspired Apostles.
Elsewhere in my articles I have shown from Scripture the true nature of the rapture, how it was a once for all event that released the faithful believers who had died in Christ and, at the same time, gave sudden relief to those who were still living, both going up to meet Christ in the air.
Sometimes it helps to nail a point down by way of illustration. In this article I am going to flesh out three scenarios there not only fictitious, but could never be true. The purpose is to show just how this imagined raptureless eschatology of Preston et al would have played out. Hopefully the reader will see that their eschatology would have been a profound disappointment, an egregious cheat on the hopes of the suffering saints.
Imagine there are three Christians. All three are alive on Earth at the time of the Parousia: Joseph of Jerusalem, Miriam of Rome, and Javier of Hispania (Spain).
1. Joseph of Jerusalem. He is one of many who was part of the church in Jerusalem, having been converted when hearing the preaching of Peter when he was a teenager. He was grieved for decades with the spiritual downturn he witnessed in his city, just like Lot was. He was present when Herod Agrippa gave a sobering speech about the futiity of fighting Rome. Events worsened in the land of Judea and dissatisfaction with Roman rule becomes outright rebellion. And when Joseph sees how the priests polluted the Temple he remembers the words of Jesus, Mark 13:14, to flee to the mountains. He takes his family with him and does just that. They find safe haven in Pella1 and are joyfully waiting for Christ’s promised return. What a relief to be free of both their bellicose countrymen and the Romans! At first dubious, his wife and two daughters are convinced and become Christians as well. Their place in Pella is not as good as their house in Jerusalem, but they had to leave it behind, as well as most of their belongings. But they consoled themselves on the reward that surely must come soon.
What happened after AD 70. See the first footnote below. Not only were these Christians taken out of harms way (per Don Preston’s view) but harm came to them. Read the eyewitness account of Josephus below.
2. Miriam of Rome. In the market she noticed an odd-looking man with bad eyes. She avoided him just to be safe. But she is surprised when she sees him again in their meeting (of all places!) with fellow believers. And she is struck by his depth of wisdom and knowledge of the Law and the Prophets. Who IS this man? She felt that he must be a true believer. She was especially impressed when his letter was read after he had left. What wonderful promises that Messiah would be coming soon and that he would give us relief from our enemies and the hardships of this world. She had a hard time making a living and now her young son was seriously ill. She clung to the promises she heard preached. “No more tears!” And that her husband who died last year would also see His return!
But none of this happened. Hardships continued. Christ did not come. At least, not that she could tell. Her life was even harder. Her son died and now she was a widow. Where is Christ? So many promises she heard and not one fulfilled!
3. Javier of Hispania lives on the very fringes of the Roman Empire, on the Atlantic coast of what is now Northern Spain. He was a sailor by trade, now retired. As a young man he had worked in various docks in Rome. In one of these voyages he had met a Spanish lady whose friend had returned years ago from Jerusalem. She told Javier everything her friend had told her, about Jesus of Nazareth and of the miracles she had personally seen. After long discussions and her insistence that a time is coming soon when He will return to judge the world Javier is overwhelmed by this testimony. He has a deep conviction that this must be true. Javier becomes a Christian. He returns to his own town where, as far as he knows, he is the only one who believes in Christ. What loneliness! His wife and, after a while, even his two children make fun of his odd belief in this Jewish god. Though he is grieved by their disbelief he continues to pray for them, knowing that the Day when Christ returns must surely be very close.
But after a decade and then another decade goes by he wonders where he went wrong.
1. Eusebius’s Church History (3.5.3)
2. It is wishful fiction on the part of reconstructionists like Bargil Pixner who maintain that the Christian Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem and start building a physical Church of Zion. Much more convincing is the eyewitness report of someone who actually lived through these times and many of these events, Josephus. What would have happened to our fictional Joseph of Jerusalem and his family? Read the eighteenth chapter of Josephus’s War of the Jews.
“The Calamities And Slaughters That Came Upon The Jews.
Now the people of Cesarea had slain the Jews that were among them on the very same day and hour [when the soldiers were slain], which one would think must have come to pass by the direction of Providence; insomuch that in one hour’s time above twenty thousand Jews were killed, and all Cesarea was emptied of its Jewish inhabitants; for Florus caught such as ran away, and sent them in bonds to the galleys. Upon which stroke that the Jews received at Cesarea, the whole nation was greatly enraged; so they divided themselves into several parties, and laid waste the villages of the Syrians, and their neighboring cities, Philadelphia, and Sebonitis, and Gerasa, and Pella, and Scythopolis, and after them Gadara, and Hippos; and falling upon Gaulonitis, some cities they destroyed there, and some they set on fire, and then went to Kedasa, belonging to the Tyrians, and to Ptolemais, and to Gaba, and to Cesarea; nor was either Sebaste [Samaria] or Askelon able to oppose the violence with which they were attacked; and when they had burnt these to the ground; they entirely demolished Anthedon and Gaza; many also of the villages that were about every one of those cities were plundered, and an immense slaughter was made of the men who were caught in them.“
3. Mark 13:20 And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days. Notice carefully that the only thing saving the elect still on the Earth is that those days were cut short. Those who escaped to places like Pella, according to this verse, would not have survived even in their hiding place. As Josephus reported, there were no safe zones. They were only saved by the days being cut short. And how were they cut short? By the rapture! And how were they saved from the destruction that would still go on for many months? They were no longer on the Earth!