Robert Gundry’s The Church and the Tribulation

41LpmNCXZtL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Robert H. Gundry is a New Testament scholar of no small reputation (and, occasionally, no small controversy: see here and here) whose work needs to be reckoned with. I find him curious at times and, frequently, quite helpful. So when I saw that he had published a book in 1973 that is considered by some to be the most stalwart defense of the post-tribulational position, I decided to read it.

The Church and the Tribulation is indeed an important work. Agree with Gundry or not, the depth of scholarship in this work, the seemingly exhaustive and careful consideration of the primary eschatological texts, and Gundry’s consideration of the various arguments and counter-arguments lend this work a certain weight. There is way too much shallow writing and thinking about eschatology in the conservative Christian book market, so works of genuine scholarship ought to be celebrated whether they are for your position or against it. Prior to reading Gundry’s work, I would have said that George Eldon Ladd’s The Blessed Hope was the most important work arguing for post-tribulationism that I have read (I do *not* claim that I have read enough to be able to have an opinion on “the most important work” on this or that position overall). Now I would say Gundry’s book is.

The book is a very detailed look at a very large number of passages as well as, at the end, an overview of the historical development of the pre-tribulational position. But to summarize, let us just say that Gundry does not see a pre-tribulational rapture of the church in the pages of the New Testament and does see a great deal of evidence for the presence of the church on earth during the tribulation. He offers a very interesting look at the whole question of the relationship between Israel and the church and offers a pretty strong biblical pushback against dispensational assumptions on this point (showing, for instance, how certain prophecies spoken over Israel were clearly fulfilled in and by the church). Gundry’s section on the Olivet Discourse is also an interesting pushback against certain dispensationalist assumptions and should be considered. The section on imminence is quite interesting and Gundry argues therein that a close examination of New Testament passages concerning expectation and watchfulness apply consistently to a post-tribulational rapture. Furthermore, he unpacks the phrase “the day of the Lord” and persuasively shows that it cannot include the tribulation and is to be applied to Christ’s return at the end of the tribulation.

That day cannot begin until after the revelation of the Antichrist and the apostasy, after the ministry of Elijah, after the celestial phenomena between the tribulation and the posttribulational advent, in short, not until after the tribulation. Paul’s admonition to be prepared for that day and his explanation that Christians will recognize the approach of that day require a connection between the last generation of the Church and the arrival of the day of the Lord. Hence, the Church will continue on earth throughout the tribulation until the beginning of that day. (Kindle Location 1577)

I think, after a first reading (and I intend to re-read this work sooner rather than later), that this is a sufficient conclusion to reach: if one holds to a pre-tribulational rapture or if one is curious as to the question of the timing of the rapture, Gundry’s book should be read. If, after having read it, you still hold to the pre-tribulational rapture, ok. But you will have engaged a serious and substantive counter-proposal in your reading of Gundry’s book and you will be the better for it.

Highly recommended!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *