Principle Of Probability

In John MacArthur’s book, How To Get The Most From God’s Word, I was excited to read about the principle of probability in validating prophecy.  He mentioned that the strongest objective argument for the validity of Scripture comes from fulfilled Bible prophecy.  He added that the principle of probability could objectively prove the validity of the prophecy if the event occurs exactly as prophesied with incredible odds.

John MacArthur is a well known cessationist.  Though he is correct that prophecy in the primary sense has ceased¸ I believe he errs in not believing in the possibility of prophecy in the lesser sense at all.  (Please see footnote.)  Let me explain.  I believe prophecy as in special revelation in the Bible is complete, but the gift of prophecy in the lesser sense (such as the prophecy of a global famine by Agabus in Acts 11:27-30) is still possible. This type of one-off message must not be confused with the ridiculous frequent fortune telling practiced by some.

For such message to be valid as prophecy in the lesser sense, it must have incredible odds of probability to start with.  For example, if I prophesy an earthquake this year in a particular country like Japan, the probability is actually pretty high, say 50%.  The odds of difficulty will be compounded if I prophesy the month, the day, the city, the exact building that will collapse and finally subsequent visions to reinforce the first vision and the message as well.  By then, the odds will be so incredible that when all these details occur according to the prophecy, it is incomprehensible to deny it is not a message from God.

Just a few prophecies concerning our Lord would yield incredible odds of probability which could only proved Him to be the Messiah – born in Bethlehem, of the tribe of Judah, raised in Nazareth, betrayed with 30 pieces of silver, died on the cross, and men casting lots over his garments.

Agabus’s prophecy of a global famine will not twist the doctrine of salvation a bit and is inconsequential to Christian spiritual growth in his or her daily walk with Christ. So the significance probably was something which would affect the ordinary life of the Judea Christians at that time.   In this particular case, the famine brought hardship on the Judea Christians which the Antioch Christians were able to help by preparing such relief for them upon learning of a coming global famine.  They sent the relief later through Paul and Barnabas to the elders in Judea.

Footnote :

“…in the primary sense of prophets, as vehicles of direct and fresh revelation, it seems we must say that this charisma is no longer given. There is no longer anyone in the church who may dare to say, “The word of the Lord came to me, saying…” or “Thus says the Lord.” It has been argued, however, that prophets may be used in other and lesser senses. Some think there may be men today like the prophet Agabus (Acts 11:28; 21-10-11) whose function is not to add to revelation but to foretell some future event. This is possible. But both church history and personal experience make me cautious…”  – John Stott, Baptism and Fullness.


All Israel Shall Be Saved

Rom 11:25-28
25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will banish ungodliness from Jacob”…28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.

I have always wondered why the Jews do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah over the centuries. That is because they believe in only ONE advent of the Messiah to establish His glorious reign on earth which is prophesied in the OT.   Even when our Lord appeared to the apostles speaking much about the Kingdom of God during the forty days after His Resurrection,  the apostles still asked for the specific time that God will restore the kingdom of Israel.  A clear evidence of the very consuming hope in the psyche of the Jews that one day,  the Messiah will restore the Kingdom of Israel and reign in glory as prophesied in the Scriptures.  Acts 1: 3-8.

(But Christians believe in 2 comings – the First Advent and the Second Coming – so that all prophecies of the initial suffering and the eventual glorious reign of the Messiah on earth are not contradicted.)

They can only believe in ONE advent of the Messiah in glorious reign. And not a crucified Messiah which is a stumbling block to them. 1 Cor 1:23.

So when the fullness of the Gentiles has come and Christ Jesus finally returns to reign on earth for 1000 years, the nation will see that the Messiah has finally come to reign and BELIEVE in Him. To them, it is the PROPHESIED COMING finally and not the first advent of a crucified Messiah.

I believe ALL ISRAEL does not mean every single Jew. It means the majority of the nation. They are still saved by faith alone in Christ Jesus.


Why Pre-Tribulation Rapture Seems More Plausible

I have always wondered why the Jews do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah over the centuries.  That is because they believe in only one coming in the advent of the Messiah to establish His glorious reign on earth which is prophesied.  But Christians believe in 2 comings – the First Advent and the Second Coming – so that all prophecies of the initial suffering and the eventual glorious reign of the Messiah on earth are not contradicted.

Similarly, can the post-tribulation position be holding out zealously that the Rapture and the Second Coming is one single event instead of 2 separate events ?

As I studied the different positions, I separated common argument tricks such as red herring, argumentum ad hominem, straw man and weak analogy argument from each position.

I have noticed the evidence supporting the arguments against pre-tribulation rapture in favor of post-tribulation are mostly Scriptural references that will have different interpretation knowing the exact meaning of its key phrases in Greek text.

The pre-tribulation rapture seems more plausible to me after weighing the evidence, considering the main arguments against each position, and taking the position that best include all Scriptural references with the “least” contradiction.    I now believe in 2 separate events – the Rapture and the Second Coming – instead of one so that all prophecies concerning these events are not contradicted.

1 Thess 4:16-17 and 1 Cor 15:51-52 clearly refer to a Rapture in the future.

I will start from the weaker evidence to the stronger evidence to explain my position in a pre-tribulation rapture.

  1. The first evidence is based on imminency.  Many Scriptural verses exhort that Christians should be looking for the Lord to come at any time.  If the church has to go through the tribulation, then we cannot be looking at Christ our Lord coming at any moment.  He cannot come for at least 7 years, since we are not in the Tribulation now, and when it comes, it will last for 7 years first.
  2. The Church is not mentioned in Rev 6 to Rev 19 as being on earth. It is strange that Apostle John did not mention the church as he described the tribulation of Daniel’s 70 weeks and the church’s role.  Instead the 144,000 Jews from the 12 tribes were mentioned.
  3. The Epistles have no specific warning and advice for the church to prepare for the kind of tribulation found in Rev 6 to 18. They have vigorous warning on spiritual apostasy, calamities and present persecution unlike that of the Tribulation but strangely silent on such traumatic event.
  4. Several verses promising believers that they will be kept out of God’s wrath will be contradicted as many martyrs die during the Tribulation. Rev 3:10; 1 Thess 1:10.
  5. (2 Thess 2: 7-9. the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders…)   The Holy Spirit who now restrains lawlessness will be out of the way before the Lawless One is revealed.  That implies the true church in which the Holy Spirit indwells has to be out of the way as well.
  6. If the Rapture and the post-tribulation coming of our Lord is one event just prior to the start of the Millennium, coinciding with all the goats being removed and all sheep given glorified bodies in the judgment of sheep and goats,  then who will populate the earth and rebel with Satan against our Lord at the end of the Millennium ?  It only make sense if the Rapture happens before the Tribulation and there are new believers during the Tribulation who survive it when the Lord returns with His saints with glorified bodies to reign at the start of the Millennium, and their future descendants are still capable of sin during the Millennium. (Isa 65:20; Rev 20:7-10).
  7. The events at Christ’s post-tribulation coming differs completely from that of the Rapture. The most detailed texts in Matt 24 and Rev 19 do not mention Rapture at all.
Rapture    1 Thess 4:13-18 Christ’s Post-tribulation Coming 1 Cor 15:50-58
Scenario of coming Christ comes in the air and returns to heaven.  1 Thess 4:17 Christ comes to the earth to dwell and reign.  Matt 25:31-32
Gathering of believers Christ gathers believers. 1 Thess 4:16-17 Angels gather the elect.  Matt 24:31
Reward or Judgment Christ comes to reward. 1 Thess 4:17. Christ comes to judge.  Matt 25:31-46.
Resurrection Resurrection is prominent.  1 Thess 4:15-16. Resurrection is not mentioned.
Departure of believers and non believers Believers depart from the earth.  1 Thess 4:15-17. Unbelievers are taken away from the earth.  Matt 24:37-41.
Believers and non believers remaining on earth Unbelievers remain on earth while believers are raptured and resurrected. Believers remain on earth.  Matt 25:34.
Christ’s Kingdom on earth Not mentioned during Rapture Christ came to set up His kingdom on earth.  Matt 25:31-34.
Glorified bodies Believers receive glorified bodies.  1 Cor 15:51-57 No one receive glorified body at this second coming.

*Evidence is mostly gleaned from the article “Why A Pretribulation Rapture ?” by Richard Mayhue and the Believers’ Bible Commentary on 2 Thess 3.

Regardless of holding whichever position, it is inconsequential to our common salvation.   Our Lord only wants us to stay watchful, eagerly await His Return and care for His people meanwhile.

The 7 Year Tribulation period will be unprecedented in terms of terrible distress.  Escaping this wrath does not mean we will not face many lesser tribulations, which will increase exponentially in intensity, from the beginning of birth pains to the arrival of Antichrist on center stage.