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Where does pretribulationism get the belief that God does not work with Israel and the church at the same time? To answer this question, we must turn to one of the most important and fundamental prophecies recorded in the Bible, which is found in the book of Daniel:
Seventy weeks have been determined concerning your people and your holy city to put an end to rebellion, to bring sin to completion, to atone for iniquity, to bring in perpetual righteousness, to seal up the prophetic vision, and to anoint a most holy place. So know and understand: From the issuing of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until an anointed one, a prince arrives, there will be a period of seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. It will again be built, with plaza and moat, but in distressful times. Now after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one will be cut off and have nothing. As for the city and the sanctuary, the people of the coming prince will destroy them. But his end will come speedily like a flood. Until the end of the war that has been decreed there will be destruction. He will confirm a covenant with many for one week. But in the middle of that week he will bring sacrifices and offerings to a halt. On the wing of abominations will come one who destroys, until the decreed end is poured out on the one who destroys. (Dan 9:24–27)
The prophet Daniel anguished over the sins of rebellious Israel praying to God and confessing on behalf of his nation and asking for mercy, forgiveness, and repentance. While Daniel was praying, God sent a prophetic word through the angel Gabriel. Daniel was told that God would take a block of 490 years out from history: “Seventy weeks [i.e. 490 years] have been determined concerning your people and your holy city to put an end to rebellion, to bring sin to completion, to atone for iniquity, to bring in perpetual righteousness, to seal up the prophetic vision, and to anoint a most holy place” (Dan 9:24). In the subsequent generations after Daniel, 483 years of 490 were fulfilled at the time of Christ’s earthly ministry; however, the last seven years remain to be fulfilled. When the last seven years are fulfilled in the future, completing Daniel’s 490 year prophecy, the prophecy of Israel’s salvation will be accomplished.
The question remains how Daniel’s prophecy by pretribulationism concludes that God does not work with Israel and the church at the same time. It is predicated on a fundamental, flawed assumption. They reason that since the church did not exist during the first sixty-nine “weeks” (i.e. 483 years), it therefore cannot be present during the last seven years (i.e. “week”) that will take place in the future. This is fallacious for three reasons. First, it is illogical, a non-sequitur. The church does exist now and therefore is present on earth. That would be like saying because my three-year old son did not exist four years ago, he cannot exist next year. The logic does not follow. Second, it is an argument from silence. Daniel’s passage is specifically addressing Israel (“concerning your people and your holy city”). It also relates unbelieving Gentiles who will be oppressing Israel during this time. Daniel’s prophecy is not making claims of excluding the church, because the church is not in the picture at this time! Pretrib teachers are making Daniel’s prophecy say more than it intends. The assumption of the church being excluded from the last seven years is being read into the prophecy. The prophecy is a positive statement for Israel, not a negative statement for the church, which did not exist at that time. The New Testament through its progressive revelation then reveals the overlay of the church during the final seven year period of Daniel’s prophecy, viewing God working with Israel and the church simultaneously to accomplished his purposes. God’s revelation of Daniel’s prophecy is augmented with more information from the New Testament, just as much of Old Testament prophecy is described more in detail in the New Testament (e.g. who the Messiah is and what he does). Third, pretrib theology typically calls Daniel’s seventieth week a “Jewish” week. But more accurately it should be called a Gentile week, because Daniel’s prophecy reveals that all seventy weeks (including the last week of seven years) will be characterized by Gentile domination. Only after this block of 490 years is completed and thus fulfilled, Daniel says, will Israel be restored in salvation, not before. God has been working with both Israel and the church in the past and in the present and he will in the future. Both Israel and the church will find opposition from the Gentile nations until Jesus returns, the topic we now turn to.
Links mentioned in the episode
Why Charles Ryrie’s Concern about Progressive Dispensationalism Was CORRECT! – Ep. 133