THE PRETRIB AND PRETERIST ARGUMENT FROM SILENCE
Pastor K. Kirkland, Valdez Apostolic Church, Valdez, Alaska
Both Pretribs and Preterists (“Partial” Preterists) use this line of argument. It goes something like this. The second coming in Matt. 24:29-31, “immediately after the tribulation of those days,” has to be something altogether different from the rapture event in 1 Thess. 4:15-18 (the only undisputed passage on the rapture). They cannot possibly be the same event because of the differences between the two, they say.
While both passages speak of angelic involvement, Matthew has angels gathering together the elect, while Paul mentions only "the voice of the archangel." Matthew is “silent” about the voice of the archangel that Paul mentioned. Pretribs and Preterists conclude Matthew and Paul must be talking about separate events, thus the supposed proof for the Pretrib and Partial Preterist doctrines, the “argument from silence.”
But there is more “proof,” we are told Matthew is “silent” about a resurrection taking place at the post-tribulation event, while Paul makes it the main event. Matthew is also silent about the famous “catching up” (“rapture” in Latin) in the Thessalonian passage. Feinberg sees another dissimilarity, ”Notice what happens when you examine both passages carefully. In Matthew the Son of Man comes on the clouds, while in 1 Thessalonians 4 the ascending believers are in them.”
The Preterists make the same sort of argument. R. C. Sproule, well known Partial Preterist, has quite a list of things he finds in Paul but not in Matthew: “Where does Paul mention the darkening of the sun (Matt. 24:29), the moon not giving its light (Matt. 24:29), the stars falling from the sky (Matt. 24:29), the powers of the heavens being shaken (Matt. 24:29), all the tribes of the earth mourning (Matt. 24:30), all the world seeing the coming of the Son of Man (Matt. 24:30), or God sending forth angels (Matt. 24:31)?”
No small point to a Partial Preterist, it is essential to their system to have Mattthew describing astronomical calamities (the darkening of the sun, etc.), which they say was fulfilled in 70 AD (figurative fulfillments). Paul, they say, describes the rapture as a separate event, an event which has not taken place yet. Which, we might add, is about the only difference between the “Partial” Preterists and their brethren, the “Full” Preterists. They both interpret the whole of prophecy, Matt. 24 and the Revelation, as already fulfilled (fulfilled in 70 AD), with but one exception (by the "partials"), the rapture in 1 Thess. 4.
We’ve stated the Pretrib and Partial Preterist argument from silence, but just how valid are they? According to Post-tribber, Tim Warner (his website: Answers in Revelation), not valid at all, he characterized such arguments from silence as “classic logical fallacies,” and prove nothing. Just how far are Pretribs and Preterists prepared to go with such reasoning? To give just one example (there are many others in the Bible), the accounts of Christ’s resurrection in the gospels, let's follow Warner here:
Mary and Mary Magdalene go the tomb. They see an angel, who speaks to them. The
way it is written, the account seems to suggest that the women witnessed the
angel rolling the stone away from the tomb.
Mark: Mary and Mary Magdalene go to the tomb. Upon entering it, they see "a young man" who tells them that Jesus is risen.
Luke: We're told that "women" who had followed Christ from Galilee (in Chapter 23) go to the tomb and, while they are wondering where Jesus' body is, suddenly two men are standing by them in shining garments.
John: Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb (no other women are mentioned), finds Jesus gone, and tells the disciples. She later returns and sees two angels in the tomb.
Note the differences between the accounts. No two of them are exactly the same in the details they convey (and there are other differences that I've not included in the above summaries), yet Christians believe that there are reasonable explanations that harmonize them. The accounts do not contradict one another, they simply provide different details concerning the same event."
But why is it Pretribs and Partial Preterists can’t seem to see this? They are certainly going to see the different accounts of Christ’s resurrection as the same event, howbeit with different details, so why can’t they on the second coming? They can’t because their system won’t allow them. Their theoretical systems calls for two separate parousia events, or comings, therefore they interpret Matthew and Paul accordingly.
Pretribs read Matthew and Paul with theoretical bifocals perched upon their noses, they see two of everything, two second comings, two last trumps, two first resurrections, two elect peoples of God. All they need do is try reading them without their bifocals, they would see, not two of everything, but one of everything, one second coming, howbeit with different details. Pretribs and Partial Preterists read their respective two of everything into the word of God. They think they see two, but there is really only one.
The two the Pretribs see, of course, is different from the Partial Preterists, for instance, the Pretribs see a parousia before the endtime tribulation, and one after it, Partial Preterists, on the other hand, see a parousia event in 70 AD, another one at the end of our prophetic vacuum era (with all prophecy fulfilled, nothing prophetic remains to be fulfilled, thus they live in a "prophetic vacuum"). And yet the Pretribs and Partial Preterists who make these respective dualist arguments claim to be “oneness?” Go figure. (I’m writing this article as a One God Apostolic to One God Apostolics.)
Christ’s Olivet Discourse in Matthew uses “parousia” (coming) as a singular post-trib event), 24:3, 7, 37, 39, the only “parousia” mentioned in the discourse. Yet Paul uses the same word, 1 Thess. 4:15, to describe what Pretribs and Partial Preterists say is a different event. Logic would dictate if Paul was, in fact, referring to a different event he would have used some sort of different word or term to differentiate it from the post-trib parousia in Matthew. Since Matthew and Paul use the same word, logic would dictate that they are talking about the same “parousia,” howbeit with different details.
The Pretrib and Partial Preterist “argument from silence” assumes that Christ was supposed to tell us about every detail of his parousia in Matthew 24; obviously, he didn’t. The same with Paul. But why didn’t they? Simply because they were addressing different audiences with different concerns. Their descriptions of the singular parousia were tailored to the concerns of those they were talking to. The Pretrib and Partial Preterist “proof” for their doctrines, various arguments from silence, prove nothing at all.
There is another side to all this “argument from silence” business. It can be reversed, it can become a double edged sword. For instance, where is any mention in Matt. 24 of any other parousia besides the post-trib one? Christ is utterly silent about it. He is about to leave his disciples, it is his primary concern to tell them of what is to take place in the long intervening period before he comes again, with special emphasis on the endtime tribulation.
If ever there was a time and place for Christ to tell them of two parousias, it was here! If it were true, he would have put great emphasis on it. He could hardly be silent about it. He had much to say about the tribulation, but he is utterly silent about a pretribulation parousia taking place before it. He is utterly silent about any other parousia except the post-tribulational one
Likewise, why didn’t Paul set forth two parousia events in the 1 Thess. 4 rapture passage? According to the Pretribs, Paul is supposed to be setting forth new revelation. We agree, if there were two second coming events, this is surely the place for him to set it forth as a new revelation. We would expect it to be clearly, and unambiguously defined here. Moreover, this was not just the place to set forth the rapture, but to define it as a pre-tribulation event. But he was utterly silent about the tribulation, he didn’t mention it at all. If the rapture he described was supposed to take place before the tribulation, surely this was the place to say so. If he had, the pre vs post issue would be settled right then and there, the two comings vs singular coming issue would be settled right there. But he was silent about it.
Since Paul is utterly silent about a two stage second coming (that he is supposed to be revealing), we conclude his parousia, his rapture event, has to be the same as Christ’s in the Olivet Discourse. He wasn’t setting forth something different from Christ, he was merely giving us more information about that same event.
K. Kirkland, Pastor - This article is Copyright © 2011, All rights reserved.
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