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Questions to Ask at the ‘Ice v Kurschner’ Prophecy Debate: The Gap

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Dispensationalist Thomas Ice and semi-dispensationalist Alan Kurschner will be debating the “rapture” question on September 25th in Plano, Texas. The debate thesis is: “The Church Will Face the Antichrist Before the Rapture.” Kurschner is taking the affirmative (prewrath, semi-dispensational position) and Ice is taking the denial (pretribulational, full dispensational position).

Put simply, Thomas Ice will defend the view that the church is raptured – taken to heaven – prior to the beginning of a supposed future seven-year tribulation period. Alan Kurschner will defend a newer end-time “rapture” view known as “pre-wrath.” According to the pre-wrath view, Christians will suffer great tribulation as the result of Satan’s wrath at the hands of the Antichrist and his surrogates sometime during this seven-year period, but they will be spared the wrath of God.

Question No. 1: Mr. Ice and Mr. Kurschner, both of you are defending a “rapture” position that assumes there is a gap between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel’s prophecy found in Daniel 9:24-27 that has been ongoing for nearly 2000 years. Could you show the audience, from the reading of the text, that there is mention of a gap -- a parenthesis in prophetic time -- where the prophetic clock has stopped for Israel?

Both positions are dependent on the claim that the 70th week (seven years) of Daniel’s 70-weeks-of-years (490 years) prophecy found in Daniel 9:24-27 has been separated from the 69 weeks (483 years) by a gap in time that at this point in history is nearly 2000 years long.

In reality, Ice and Kurschner are debating a topic that is not taught in the Bible.

The only way to get the needed seven-year tribulation period for any of the five rapture positions (pre-trib, mid-trib, partial rapture, pre-wrath rapture, and post-tribulational) is to manufacture it from Daniel 9:27 since there is no mention of a gap between the 69 weeks of years (483 years) and the 70th week (seven years). The years run consecutively without interruption.

Ice Kurschner debate

In the dispensational view, the prophecy clock is said to have stopped at the end of the 69th week (483 years) and will not start up again until the beginning of the postponed 70th year. While the pre-wrath places the so-called “rapture” later in the seven-year period, the position still requires the postponement/gap/parenthesis view to get the needed seven-year tribulation period.

The convenience of the postponement or gap position is that the 70th week and Millennium, former dispensationalist Philip Mauro (1859-1952) [1] writes, become "the convenient  and promiscuous dumping place of all portions of Scripture which offer any difficulty; and the unhappy consequence is that many prophecies which were fulfilled at the first coming of Christ, or are being fulfilled in the age of the gospel, and many Scriptures, such as the Sermon on the Mount, which apply directly to the saints of this dispensation are relegated to a distant future, much to the loss of the people of God and to the dislocation of the Scripture as a whole."

Mauro continues:

"The 'postponement' system doubtless owes its popularity it enjoys to the circumstances that its method is both safe and easy. It is safe because, when a fulfillment of prophecy is relegated to the Millennium, it cannot be conclusively refuted until the time comes. All date-setting schemes owe their measure of popularity to the same fact. It is easy because it relieves the Bible student of the trouble of searching for the meaning and application of difficult passages." [2]

Are there any examples in Scripture where a specific number of days or years are given where there is a gap or a postponement of the given number?

Forty Years and No Gap

There are twelve forty‑year time periods with no gaps: (1) Moses is in Egypt for forty years (Acts 7:23); (2) Moses is in Midian for forty years (Acts 7:30); (3) Moses and Israel are in the wilderness for forty years (Deut. 8:2); (4) Othniel judges Israel for forty years (Judges 3:11); (5) Barak judges Israel for forty years (5:31); (6) the land of Israel "was undisturbed for forty years in the days of Gideon" (8:28); (7) Israel is enslaved by the Philistines for forty years (13:1); (8) Eli judges Israel for forty years (1 Sam. 4:18); (9) King Saul rules Israel for forty years (Acts 13:21); (10) King David rules Israel for forty years (2 Sam. 5:4); (11) King Solomon rules Israel for forty years (1 Kings 11:42); (12) King Joash rules Israel for forty years (2 Chron. 24:1).

God's judgment upon Egypt was to last forty years: "A man's foot will not pass through it, and the foot of a beast will not pass through it, and it will not be inhabited for forty years" (Ezek. 29:11).

In addition to the forty‑year intervals of time, there are thirteen forty‑day time periods found in Scripture. In each case, there is no mention of a gap (Gen. 7:4, 12; 50:3; Ex. 24:18; 34:28; Num. 13:25; Deut. 9:18, 25; 1 Sam. 17:16; 1 Kings 19:8; Ezek. 4:5; Matt. 4:2; Acts 1:2).

Seventy Years and No Gap

Let's look at how the Bible presents the seventy‑year time period. Because Israel refused to honor the Jubilee years -- seventy in all -- God sent the nation into captivity for seventy years so the land could enjoy its long overdue Sabbath rest (Lev. 25:1-13, 18-22): "Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies' land; then the land will rest and enjoy sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living in it" (Lev. 26:34B35, 43; 2 Chron. 36:21B23; Jer. 25:12; 29:10). Is there any indication of a gap in this seventy‑year period? No! It is the near termination point of this seventy‑year period that provokes Daniel to ask of the Lord when the "calamity" -- seventy years of captivity -- will come to an end (Dan. 9:2). What justification did Daniel have for asking God about the end of the judgment period? Was it presumption? No. He took God at His word: seventy years meant seventy years.

The seventy‑year period of captivity is a pattern for the “seventy weeks” in Daniel 9:24. From this alone we can conclude that since the seventy years of captivity were consecutive with no gap or parenthesis, the “seventy weeks” must also be consecutive, seeing that there is nothing in the text stating otherwise.

Daniel bases his prayer for restoration to the land on the certainty of the re‑establishment promised by God when the seventy years were completed (Jer. 29:10). God made a covenant. What right do we have to conclude that God would somehow change the way time is ordinarily kept when we come to the use of seventy in the same chapter (Dan. 9:2, 24)?

According to dispensational principles, could God have placed a “gap” between the sixty‑ninth and seventieth years of Israel’s captivity, adding, say, a hundred years and still maintain that He had kept His word? There is no way He could have done it and remained a God of truth.

But what if God came back and said, “I didn’t actually add any years; I just postponed the final year by means of a ‘gap’ of 100 years. The ‘gap’ consisting of 100 years, which you assume to be additional years, should not be calculated in the overall accounting.” This would mean that 170 years would have passed for a captivity that was only to be 70 years. Using “gap logic” the Bible could still maintain that Israel was in captivity for only seventy years. Let's call this what it is: nonsense.

What would we think of such a deal? Could God ever delay keeping His promise in such a way and still be called a covenant‑keeping God? No! And yet this is exactly what dispensationalists do with the “seventy weeks of years” (490 years) of Daniel's prophecy. A “gap” of nearly two thousand years supposedly does nothing to change the integrity of a prophecy specifying the passage of only 490 years.

If we can’t find any gaps in the sequence of years in these examples, then how can a single exception be made with the “seventy weeks” in Daniel 9:24-27? Some maintain that the passage in Daniel lends itself to inserting a gap because of the division of weeks: seven weeks, sixty‑two weeks, and one week. Since there is no gap between the seven and sixty‑two weeks, what justification is there in inserting a gap between the sixty‑ninth week (seven weeks + sixty‑two weeks = sixty‑nine weeks) and the seventieth week?

One prophecy writer insists that the language of Daniel 9:26 is so clear that it is obvious that a gap exists between the two final weeks. Interpreters, he writes, “stumble and fall on the simple language of the text itself. There is but one natural interpretation C and that is the one which regards the events of verse 26 as belonging to a period between the sixty‑ninth and seventieth weeks, when God has sovereignly set aside His people Israel, awaiting a time of resumption of covenant relationship in the future, after Israel has been restored to the land. [3]

As has already been noted, the text doesn’t say anything about “a period between the sixty‑ninth and seventieth‑weeks.” There can be no “period between” any time period, whether seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, or years unless a period of time is expressly given. It is impossible to insert time between the end of one year and the beginning of another. January 1st follows December 31st at the stroke of midnight. There is no “period between” the conclusion of one year and the beginning of the next year.

Culver, therefore, begs the question. He first must prove that a period of time should be placed between the sixty‑ninth and seventieth weeks before he can claim that there is a “period between” the sixty‑ninth and seventieth weeks. The “simple language of the text” makes no mention of a gap. As Hans LaRondelle points out, the text does not read, after the sixty‑two weeks “but not in the seventieth.” [4]

The book of Revelation is supposed to be about this end-time fiction of a seven-year period taken from the final week of Daniel’s 70 weeks of years, but you will search in vain to find the phrase “seven years” in the final book of the Bible. With all the numbers in Revelation, one would think that something as important as this end-time period of seven years would be mentioned. It’s not.

The “great tribulation” mentioned in the book of Revelation (7:14) was happening in John’s day. How do we know? Because John writes, “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 1:9). How could John have partaken in something that at this point in time has not happened?

For the sake of argument, let’s take the postponement/gap/parenthesis position. Who’s to say the “time in between” isn’t a reference to a different event? Maybe there’s only a 40-year gap leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem that took place in AD 70. It’s much more believable since there was a great tribulation (one that John was a part of of), the temple was destroyed, and an unbelieving remnant of Jews suffered judgment.

Conclusion

The Pre-wrath position makes the same mistake as the dispensationalists do by separating the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 9:24–27 from the first 69 weeks when nothing is said about such a separation, gap, or a “mystery parenthesis” in the passage. Daniel is told that “70 weeks is decreed” (9:24). It’s a single unit of time. “The student of the Hebrew text will note that the masculine plural [70 weeks] is here construed with a verb in the singular (is decreed). The seventy heptades are conceived as a unit, a round number, and are most naturally understood as so many sevens of years.” [5]

Terry writes the following in his commentary on Daniel:

"The foregoing interpretation seems on the whole best to satisfy the import of this mysterious prophecy of the 70 weeks. The consummation to which it points is the 'end of the age' of which Jesus spoke in Matt. xxiv, and the relentless war, which ended in the desolation of Jerusalem, occasioned the "time of trouble" mentioned in chap. xii, 1, such as never previously befell the nation. Comp. Matt. xxiv, 21. In fact, there are weighty internal reasons for the conjecture that [Daniel] chap. xii, 1-3, is the true conclusion of this prophecy of the 70 weeks, and all that comes between in chaps. x and xi are a later interpolation

"To sum up all in a single paragraph, the seventy heptades represent an indefinite period extending from the end of the exile until the final disruption of national Judaism by the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. This was a period of nearly six centuries (from B. C. 536 to A. D. 70). The symbolical number 70 is divided into three parts of 7, 62, and 1. The first indicates the period of restoration from exile ; the third the end of the age - the last days of the pre-Messianic era, conceived vividly as a single heptade. The intervening period of sixty- two heptades is of course the undefined space of time between the restoration from exile and the final heptade of consummation. The seventieth heptade is the time when Messiah appears, establishes a new covenant with many, and, to use the language of Isaiah (liii, 10), it pleases Jehovah to bruise him and to make his soul an offering for sin, and so to supersede and do away the temple sacrifices. The end of that eventful heptade is signalized by the total destruction of the Jewish sanctuary, which pouring out of judgment on the desolate was the sign of the coming of the Son of man and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness. This was the eonic crisis, which, according to Heb. xii, 27, 28, marked the removal of the temporary and the typical and the coming of 'a kingdom that cannot be shaken.'" [6]

Harry A. Ironside (1876-1951) wrote in his book The Great Parenthesis the Mystery in Daniel’s Prophecy, [7] that “this Great Parenthesis is the true key to a right understanding of prophecy.” If there is no parenthesis, there is no key, therefore, the pre-trib and pre-wrath positions cannot be made to work. This debate is about a position that is not found in the Bible, a gap that can't be found.

Alan Kurschner wrote that I am  "not a scholar, but a popularizer." He is correct. Of course, I’ve never claimed to be a scholar, but I can read what scholars have written on the subject. Kurschner also wrote that Thomas Ice is not a scholar "by any meaningful sense of the term" and that he's "slopping" and "dishonest."

With that bit of ad hominem attack leading the way, it should be a very interesting debate.

But a person does not have to be a scholar to see that there is no mention of a gap in time between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel’s prophecy. Old Testament commentator Ernst Hengstenberg (who was a scholar) asks, since “exactly 70 weeks in all are to elapse, . . . how can anyone imagine that there is an interval between the 69 and the 1, when these together make up the 70?” [8]

Here’s what two other scholars have to say about there being a “time in between” the 69th and 70th week: "The notion of a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week is contrary to a vision of chronological sequence. The prophecy is remarkable for its precision as it fits the event concerning Jesus of Nazareth.” [9]

One more scholar:

“Verses 26 and 27 then describe how, in the midst of the final week (that is, of the last seven-year period, and therefore in the spring of A.D. 30), He would bring to an end the Old Testament economy by His death. There could hardly have been a more miraculously accurate prediction than was this! The 490 years then conclude with the three and a half years that remained, during which period the testament was to be confirmed to Israel (cf. Acts 2:38).” [10]

You may also may want to take a look at Philip Mauro's The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation. While I don't agree with everything Mauro writes, it's a good introduction to the subject by a former dispensationalist.

I take up this topic and others in the following books: Is Jesus Coming Soon?, Last Days Madness, Why the End of the World is Not in Your FutureLeft Behind: Separating Fact from Fiction, Prophecy Wars, 10 Popular Prophecy Myths Exposed and Answered, The Early Church and the End of the Worldand Identifying the Real Last Days Scoffers.

  1. Mauro wrote the following in the Introduction to his book The Gospel of the Kingdom: With an Examination of DISPENSATIONALISM and the "Scofield Bible": "Yet I was among those who eagerly embraced it (upon human authority solely, for there is non other) and who earnestly pressed it upon my fellow Christians. Am deeply thankful, however, that the time came when the inconsistencies and self-contradictions of the system itself, and above all, the impossibility of reconciling it s main positions with the plain statements of the Word of God, became so glaringly evident that I could not do otherwise than to renounce it." []
  2. Philip Mauro, The Hope of Israel: What Is It? (Boston: Hamilton Brothers, 1929), 114–115.[]
  3. Robert Duncan Culver, Daniel and the Latter Days (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1954), 150.[]
  4. Hans K. LaRondelle, The Israel of God in Prophecy: Principles of Prophetic Interpretation (Berrian Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1983), 173.[]
  5. Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, [1898] 1988), 201.[]
  6. Milton S. Terry, The Prophecies of Daniel Expounded (New York: Hunt and Eaton, 1893), 87.[]
  7. Harry A. Ironside, The Great Parenthesis: Timely Messages on the Interval between the 69th and 70th Weeks of Daniel's Prophecy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1943), chap. 1.[]
  8. E. W. Hengstenberg, The Christology of the Old Testament, and a Commentary on the Predictions of the Messiah by the Prophets, 4 vols. (Washington, D.C.: William M. Morrison, 1839), 3:143.[]
  9. Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants (Wheaton, IL Crossway, 2012), 563–564.[]
  10. J. Barton Payne, The Imminent Appearing of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962), 148-149.[]

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