Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Book Write-Up: The Coming Flood, by Jeremy Wells

Jeremy Wells.  The Coming Flood: A Call for the Endurance and Faith of the Saints.  LED Ministries, 2016.  See here to purchase the book.

In The Coming Flood, Jeremy Wells argues against the pre-tribulational view of the rapture and offers thoughts on parts of the Book of Revelation.  For Wells, Gentile Christians will not be raptured to heaven before the Great Tribulation but will be slaughtered by the Antichrist.

Here are some of my thoughts:

A.  Many defenders of the pre-tribulational rapture view note that there is no explicit reference to the church in the Book of Revelation.  They claim this is because the church was raptured to heaven prior to the end-time events that the Book of Revelation describes (God’s wrath on the earth, the Antichrist, etc).  For pre-tribulationalists, the church is not mentioned in the Book of Revelation because it is not on earth during those end-time events.  Wells has another explanation for the absence of the church in the Book of Revelation: all Gentile Christians will be killed by the Antichrist.  This is a rather grisly explanation, but I also question whether it adequately replies to the pre-tribulational argument.  Couldn’t a pre-tribulationalist ask why the Book of Revelation does not say that the Antichrist kills the church, specifically?

Speaking for myself personally, I think pre-tribulationalists make too big a deal about the lack of an explicit reference to the church in the Book of Revelation.  The Book of Revelation presents followers of Jesus Christ on earth.  Are they not the church, even if they are not explicitly called that?  I have no major objection to Wells’ argument that, according to eschatological biblical writings, there will be saints on earth during the eschaton and that they will be persecuted, many even killed.  But I question whether the Antichrist will successfully kill every single Gentile saint, as Wells argues, and I also do not think that “global genocide” should be offered as an explanation for the absence of an explicit reference to the church in the Book of Revelation.

B.  Wells believes that the Gentile saints will be slaughtered, whereas God will preserve the Jewish saints until the time of the Second Coming.  A question that occurred in my mind is why God has a different policy towards the Jewish saints than God has for the Gentile saints: Why does God preserve one group, but not the other?  To his credit, Wells offers an answer to this question, and the answer is rather sensible.  You will have to read the book to find out what it is!  I will also add that, notwithstanding my reservations in (A.), I do think that Wells is wrestling with a real dilemma in Scripture.  On the one hand, God wants to preserve the lives of the elect in the end-times (see Matthew 24:22).  On the other hand, there are indications in biblical writings that righteous people in the end-times will be persecuted and even killed.  How does Wells attempt to resolve this dilemma?  He says that God will preserve the lives of the Jewish Christians, but not the Gentile Christians.

C.  Wells has good arguments for his position regarding the rapture, but also undeveloped arguments.  His best arguments appear in Appendix C, which is entitled “Rapture FAQs.”  A good argument in that Appendix is that Jesus coming as a thief (see I Thessalonians 5:2) does not necessarily mean that the rapture is pretribulational, for Jesus says he will come as a thief in Revelation 16:15, and that chapter depicts events “just before the second coming” (Wells’ words).  Wells also offers the interesting argument that the removal of the restrainer in II Thessalonians 2:6-7 refers, not to the rapture of the church before the rise of the Antichrist, but rather to Michael the archangel desisting from his restraint of the Antichrist (cp. Daniel 10:21; 12:1).

Wells’ argument about the Church of Philadelphia had potential but was undeveloped.  Revelation 3:10 affirms that Jesus will keep the righteous Philadelphian church from the hour of temptation that will befall the world, and many pre-tribulationists see that verse as a text of support for the pre-tribulational rapture.  Wells responds, however, that Jesus also implies in v 12 that the Philadelphian Christians are overcomers, and overcoming, in the Book of Revelation, often implies endurance of persecution (Revelation 12:11).  For Wells, v 12 indicates that the Philadelphians, too, will suffer persecution at the hands of the Antichrist.  That is a fairly decent argument, but how would Wells then interpret v 10, the verse that pre-tribulationists like to cite?

D.  Revelation 7 talks about the 144,000 people from the tribes of Israel whom God protects from God’s wrath on the earth.  The tribes of Dan and Ephraim are notably absent from that list, and Wells attempts to explain why.  His explanation of Dan’s absence is rather conventional: Dan is left out because it is evil.  Wells’ explanation for Ephraim’s absence was new, and interesting, to me.  Many interpreters explain Ephraim’s absence the same way that they explain Dan’s: Ephraim was a center of idolatry in the Hebrew Bible, so Revelation 7 leaves it out.  Wells, however, went a different route.  He notes that Ephraim in Genesis 48:19 is called a multitude of nations, so he interprets Ephraim, not as a tribe, but as the Gentile Christians in the Book of Revelation, the great multitude of Christians from different nations in Revelation 7:9.  For Wells, Ephraim is not listed among the 144,000 Israelites because Ephraim is not Israelite: it is a multitude of nations, or Gentiles.

This explanation raises questions, of course.  So often in the Hebrew Bible, Ephraim is treated as an ethnically Israelite tribe, not as Gentiles.  Wells does not account for this in his book.  Wells critiques the post-millennialists and a-millennialists because they have a symbolic, non-literal interpretation of the Book of Revelation, but I wonder if his interpretation of Ephraim is itself symbolic, non-literal, or at least unfaithful to Ephraim’s literal, biblical significance.

At the same time, I think that Wells is wrestling with a real issue: How could Ephraim be a multitude of nations, if it were just one Israelite tribe?  What did Jacob mean or envision when he called Ephraim a multitude of nations?  I grew up in Armstrongism, and it embraced British-Israelism, as it claimed that the United States and Britain were descended from the lost ten tribes of Israel.  My recollection is that Armstrongites believed that Ephraim was the British empire, and that was how Ephraim was a company of nations.

But there are alternative ways to explain Ephraim being a multitude of nations.  Keil-Delitzsch interpret it in reference to Ephraim’s sizeable population in the times of the Hebrew Bible, and also its status as the head of the ten Northern tribes of Israel.  Satisfying or not, that may be the best explanation out there.

E.  Wells talks some about the psychological effects of the pre-trib rapture doctrine and his own doctrine.  Wells can empathize with those who like the pre-trib doctrine because it offers them comfort: they are happy that they will not have to suffer the horrors of the Tribulation!  On the one hand, Wells seems to be trying to reassure them that they will not lose that sense of comfort by embracing his position: they are still going to the same place (to be with God), even if that comes after their death at the hands of the Antichrist, rather than before the Tribulation!  That is an interesting way to look at the situation: Why fear anything, including the Tribulation, if your destiny is to be with God?  On the other hand, Wells appears to acknowledge that embracing his position does entail hardship that is absent from the pre-trib position.  For Wells, if Gentile Christians will be slaughtered at the hands of the Antichrist, then they need to prepare themselves spiritually for that, becoming stronger in their faith.

F.  Wells tends to approach the Book of Revelation with a newspaper in hand, or, at least, with his own observations of current events.  That leads him to intriguing interpretations.  I do not regard them as authoritative, but as intriguing.

G.  The book could have been better organized and better written.  Its grammar was all right.  But it could be rather elliptical, at times.  Perhaps the book would have been better had Wells presented at the outset his own personal story of how he changed his mind on the rapture.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Bookcrash.  My review is honest!

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for this. I made a couple of remarks here:

    http://www.alankurschner.com/2017/02/18/book-review-the-coming-flood-by-jeremy-wells/

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing that with me, Alan. I think I have come across your work before, through Nick Norelli's blog. Or I have heard of the pre-wrath position, and you have written books on that, I see on your web-site.

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  2. Ah yes, Nick's blog. Excellent. Thanks again for the review!

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