Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord: What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Return of Christ

cbd.jpgKurschner, Alan. 

Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord: What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Return of Christ

Pompton Lakes, NJ: Eschatos, 2013. Pp. 238. Paper. $14.95.

Eschatos MinistriesAmazon

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With thanks to Alan Kurschner for this review copy!

Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord (hereafter ABDL) is a thorough, intelligent, and provocative treatment of the eschatological events associated with the seven year tribulation period spoken of throughout Scripture, but most especially in the book of Revelation. Let’s face it; we live in an age where certain eschatological views are ridiculed, namely premillennialism. Catholic and Orthodox believers are ashamed of their chiliastic roots while Lutheran and Reformed Protestants have largely maintained the amillennialism of the church they sought to reform.

It’s refreshing then, when we find an author—in this case Alan Kurschner, founder and director of Eschatos Ministries—who’s willing to examine and explain the biblical data from a futurist, premillennial perspective, without resorting to the type of sensationalism that we’ve seen popularized by the likes of Hal Lindsey, Jack Van Impe, John Hagee, or even in Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ Left Behind novels. Perhaps the reason for this is that Kurschner, unlike those just named, approaches matters from a prewrath position on the timing of the rapture.

ABDL is divided into three major parts with six appendices. Part 1, “The Antichrist’s Great Tribulation” makes the case for a seven year tribulation period, halfway through which the Antichrist will be revealed and persecute the church in unprecedented ways. Part 2, “The Rapture of God’s People” shows that according to Jesus, Paul, and John (following the prophets) that there will be a number of celestial disturbances signaling the Lord’s return and the church’s deliverance. Part 3 “The Day of the Lord’s Wrath” presents Jesus and Paul’s teaching on the Day of the Lord with an examination of the judgments recorded in Revelation.

Certain things are taken for granted throughout ABDL such futurism, premillennialism, and the fact that Antichrist will be a literal figure as opposed to a world system or spiritual disposition. Kurschner also takes for granted that Jesus will return and rapture his people, so the reader will search in vain for a defense of these points. For that they can turn to the various articles on his helpful website. But given these assumptions Kurschner presents a reading of the Gospels, Paul, and Revelation that I find compelling.

Before reading this book I was always unclear about the differences between the mid-tribulationist view of the rapture and the pre-wrath view, but now I get it (thanks in large part to the many helpful charts that aid Kurschner’s exposition)! I think there’s much to commend the pre-wrath view as Kurschner presents it, which is to say that the church will indeed experience tribulation, as we do in many ways already, but we will be delivered from God’s wrath, which is clearly promised in many passages of Scripture. Pretribulationists tend to conflate tribulation and God’s wrath, but holding these two in distinction really does help to make sense of a lot of Paul’s teaching, especially in 1-2 Thessalonians.

Given this distinction, a pretribulation rapture is no longer necessary, which has huge practical implications. It provides no reason for an escapist mentality. It prepares believers to be ready to suffer for righteousness’ sake. It also helps to make sense of Paul’s exhortations that believers will not be taken by surprise when the Lord returns (although I’m not quite convinced that Kurschner’s reading deals the death blow to the doctrine of imminence suggested on pp. 131-36 cf. 188-92). But it also seems that Kurschner has a firm grasp on the practical importance of eschatology more generally.

There’s a popular slogan that says, “In the essentials unity; in the non-essentials liberty; in all things charity.” It’s a nice sentiment, and one that most would agree with, yet there’s always the issue of what counts as essential or non-essential. Speaking from personal experience, eschatology seems to be the stock example of a non-essential when this phrase is introduced. What is it about this particular locus of systematic theology that we find so elusive as to think that what we believe about last things doesn’t rate with what we believe about God or salvation?

I’d venture to guess that many people simply don’t know what to do with eschatology. They know enough to believe that Jesus is going to one day return but past that it’s anybody’s guess. Some even quip that they’re pan-tribulationists because whatever happens it will all pan out in the end (pun intended, unfortunately). Kurschner rightly notes that correct eschatology matters (74-75) and shows just how Paul put this into practice. But Kurschner doesn’t stop at Paul reassuring the Thessalonians that they haven’t missed the resurrection; he takes the opportunity to present the gospel (113); call believers to self-examination and repentance (120, 123); and to test rather than assume our salvation (125).

While there’s certainly room for debate and disagreement among believers on these issues, we mustn’t pretend that they’re not important and that all eschatological beliefs are created equal. ABDL provides much fodder for future conversations and merits engagement from proponents across the eschatological spectrum. Wherever one ultimately lands on these issues, they’ll thank themselves for having wrestled with Kurschner’s interpretations and their implications.

B”H

5 thoughts on “Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord: What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Return of Christ

  1. Even though the author of this review thinks Alan Kurschner does well in expositing the Prewrath view from scripture he is still unwilling to budge on that most cherished of all Pretribulation tenants: imminence. He sees Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord as useful for providing much “fodder for future conversations,” not as a book expositing truth. Oh well, we’ll take what we can get. I am sure that Alan Kurschner will welcome the chance to become the target of discussion on eschatology because his book Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord makes it clear that the Prewrath view is well supported from scripture. I am thankful that the reviewer is encouraging people to read the book, if only for the sake of conversation; for that is one thing that the Pretribulation camp is usually reluctant to do: debate the issue.

  2. Doug: Careful how you state things. I’m willing to budge on imminence; I’m just not convinced that the case, as made in this book, necessitates it. Alan has said on his website that he has another book in the works that directly addresses this issue in detail; I’m looking forward to reading it! I’ve also said that I think there’s much to commend the prewrath view and that given the distinctions made in the prewrath view that a pretrib rapture is no longer necessary. You seem to be upset for some reason that I can’t discern. It seems to me that I’ve conceded the heart of Alan’s argument! It’ll just take a bit more convincing that imminence isn’t compatible with prewrath.

  3. Nick: thank you for the thoughtful and (overall) positive review of Alan Kurshner’s, Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord. As a recovered pretribulationist (now prewrath), I heartily recommend Kurshner’s fresh, quite readable approach to the timing of the rapture.
    So many in the pretrib camp are afraid to re-examine their beliefs, often for fear they’ll slide into amillennial or covenant theology error. This fear is unfounded. All prewrath does is correct some key errors in the pretrib grid.
    A great practical paradigm-shift is the likely outcome for believers, when they realize that the final generation of the church will face the Beast from the Abyss & his Great Tribulation. This shift involves the realization that there’ll be no Early Boarding Pass for the church, when the great red dragon is thrown down to the earth. Scary, yes, but it was also scary for the early church.. for centuries, until Constantine. Read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.
    Who wouldn’t prefer a get-out-of-jail pass? But that shouldn’t drive one’s exegesis concerning the timing of the rapture.
    The Great Tribulation is not the eschatological Day of the Lord (DOL). The wrath of Satan’s ‘Antichrist’ is _not_ the wrath God in the 70th week. The targets, timing, nature & purpose of those two wrath campaigns are different. Pretribbers turn a blind eye to this distinction which scripture itself consistently makes.
    The single most devastating argument against both Pretrib and Imminence is Paul’s 2nd letter to the Thessalonians. This ‘calm yourselves’ letter makes no sense (from a normal, face-value hermeneutic) if the rapture is pretrib (before Daniel’s 70th week). If pretrib was biblical, Paul could have saved a lot of writing by simply reassuring his 2 Thess recipients that, “..the Day of the Lord hasn’t overtaken you _because you haven’t been raptured yet!_… Hello? ” Instead, Paul identifies (by way of reminder) a series of countdown signs that must occur before the DOL, that his readers were supposed to watch for, and that haven’t occurred yet. Paul assures the body of Christ church that they’ll be delivered from the wrath to come. The entire context of those promises is God’s eschatological DOL wrath.
    Lastly, I look forward to Mr. Kurshner’s separate book on Imminence. In my studies, this is the key, a priori error of pretribulationism. Imminence as defined by classical dispensationalism (i.e. no predicted biblical events must happen before the rapture.. shortened to: ‘any moment coming’) is the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes. There are numerous verses which rightly indicate that Christ’s return might have occurred in the lifetime of the early church. They can be applied to any given generation, down through history. But that is NOT the same thing as imminence, classically defined.
    IMO, the burden of proof, the exegetical onus on the matter of imminence does not rest with those challenging imminence. It rests with those advancing this pernicious teaching that a) is not found in scripture and b) was not held by the early church. Witness: the Didache w/its acknowledgment that they early fathers fully expected to encounter the wrath of the eschatological ‘Antichrist’.
    I have no problem with a doctrine of ‘any moment coming’ if narrowly applied to that last generation of the church that witnesses the DOL ‘Sign’ (after the 6th seal). One might argue for an intra-tribulational imminence, where the exact, split-second moment of the rapture is unknown after the 6th seal is opened. But given the polluted definition of the term ‘imminence’, and given that the rapture only happens after several signs appear (removal of restrainer, great apostasy/man of sin appears standing in the holy place, celestial disturbances), I think the term imminence should be replaced with something more accurate, like: Expectancy.
    While I think Mr. Kurshner (& other prewrath adherents) have effectively taken down this phantom doctrine, I look forward to Alan Kurshner’s book refuting Imminence. Unfortunately, it may amount to writing a technical analysis of why the Emperor is simply… uh…..neked.
    Best regards to those in Him who love His word. Nick: thanks again for your thoughtful & considerate review of Mr. Kurshner’s great new book, and allowing me to chime in.
    -Greg Anderson
    San Diego, CA

  4. You write, “What is it about this particular locus of systematic theology that we find so elusive as to think that what we believe about last things doesn’t rate with what we believe about God or salvation?” My answer is: 1) Revelation about God and salvation are clearly given more emphasis and clarity in the Bible. Conclusion: God wanted us to know more about, be more sure about, and be more convinced about eternal salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, than He did on the timing of His glorious return. 2) If you’re wrong about Who God’s Son is (salvation truth/faith – Acts 4:12) you’ll spend eternity separated from God. If you’re a genuine believer, yet wrong about the timing of His return, you’ll be a mistaken pre-wrath, pre/mid/post-tribber who will meet/greet his Savior at an unexpected time. Conclusion; there is an infinite difference in the two mistakes. 3) While I generally agree with and appreciate your review of Alan’s book, and I do teach the pre-wrath position; yet details of eschatology remain “elusive” (why do so many good theologians differ?) while salvation truth is far and away more important – as it is more black and white in Scripture. Conclusion: the timing of the rapture is “non-essential” compared to salvation truth. I haven’t asked him, but I’m guessing Alan would agree.

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