Dr. Robert Gundry
of Westmont College, a leading posttribulationist, stated in a personal letter
to Thomas Ice in December 1995 that the presentation of Pseudo-Ephraem' s sermon
by Demy and Ice has " renewed my interest in the topic." 
What topic? The rapture
debate! Gundry authored a landmark
book presenting a new form of posttribulationism in 1973 titled The Church
and the Tribulation and had not produced a book on this subject
until the summer of 1997 when First the Antichrist appeared.
Included in First the Antichrist is a 27-page response to the claim of Timothy Demy and Thomas Ice
that Pseudo-Ephraem' s (PE) sermon " On the Last Times, the Antichrist, and the
End of the World" contains a pretribulational statement. It
should come as no surprise that Gundry disagrees with our conclusion.
that if our interpretation of PE' s sermon is correct, then " his dividing the
second coming into two stages separated by a definite period of years called
' the tribulation' would put the essential elements of pretribulationism
centuries and centuries before the late eighteenth or early nineteenth
century."  So
why does Gundry think that PE is teaching posttribulationism?
Gundry' s Disagreements
admitting that if PE is speaking of a pre-trib event then it does contain " the
essential elements of pretribulationism" (p. 161), Gundry implies that it is
not a pre-trib statement because certain elements of a complete
pretribulational statement are missing.
He cites the omission of " a coming of the Lord," " a resurrection of
deceased Christians and translation of living ones," and " a heavenly
destination." Of course, an
argument from silence is no argument at all. The statement from PE' s sermon of " and are taken to the
Lord" would imply a coming of the Lord as well as a heavenly destination. As long as we are arguing from silence,
would it not be stretching the imagination to think that the Lord resides in
heaven? Further, the vocabulary of
" taken" is the same as that used to describe the transportation of Enoch to
heaven (Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5).
There are many omissions in these biblical statements that a similar
critic could cite to argue that Enoch was not really taken to heaven.
PE speaks of the
bodies of dead Christians going unburied during the tribulation because of the
fear of Antichrist' s persecution upon all. Gundry believes this is at odds with a pre-trib
understanding of the sermon (164).
This is no problem at all since pretribulationists believe that there
will be converts to Christianity during the tribulation. These bodies are those of post-rapture
converts during the tribulation.
manufactures another " problem" because of an allusion to a resurrection, even
though it is not explicitly mentioned in the text (169). Though not clear in section 10, Gundry
appears to be saying that PE speaks of a single resurrection and not a multiple
resurrection required from pretribulationism. This point is hardly a proof for Gundry since he must assume
that PE' s statement relating to the rising of the sleeping ones is connected
with the unburied Christians during the tribulation (169). Even if this is granted, and a
resurrection is meant, this would not contradict a pretrib understanding of
Section 2 of PE.
Pretribulationists believe in a resurrection of tribulation saints at
the end of the tribulation.
In this section,
Gundry argues for a posttrib understanding of the phrase " to meet."
further problem for the pretrib interpretation of Pseudo-Ephraem' s sermon
arises out of this same and final Section 10. The deceased righteous are told not only to " arise" but also
to " meet Christ." The Latin verb
translated " meet," occurrite (more
literally translated " run to" or " hasten to" ), is cognate to the Latin noun occursum,
" meeting," in the supposedly
pretrib passage of Section 2: " . . . prepare ourselves for the meeting of the
Lord Christ." Since Section 10
explicitly and indubitably puts this meeting after the tribulation, the
parallelism of terminology with Section 2- and also with the phrase " for a
meeting of the Lord in air" in Paul' s description of the rapture (1 Thess.
4:17, translated literally)- indicates that PseudoEphraem sees the meeting
in Section 2 as occurring after the tribulation and therefore as differing from
the saints' being gathered and taken to the Lord " prior to the tribulation"
according to a slightly later passage in section 2. (170)
is conceded that there is a cognate relation between the two nouns. However, the immediate context of any
statement is the greatest factor in determining specific meaning. Gundry is fond of going to another
passage that he believes provides the meaning he desires and bringing that
context into the passage under discussion as proof for his understanding. This is an exegetical fallacy according
to James Barr. " The error that
arises, when the ' meaning' of a word (understood as the total series of
relations in which it is used in the literature) is read into a particular case
as its sense and implication there, may be called ' illegitimate totality
transfer.' " 
Gundry has imported the meaning of " meeting" from Section 10 and
asserted that it has the same meaning in Section 2.
Instead, " meeting
of the Lord Christ" in Section 2 is better governed by its immediate context,
which is described as a gathering " prior to the tribulation," whereby, those
gathered are " taken to the Lord."
The meeting in Section 10 is clearly said to occur " when the three and a
half years have been completed," which for PE is the length of the
tribulation. Gundry' s attempt to
reverse the meaning of PE' s pretrib statement in Section 2 falls to the ground
when taken in the context that PE' s sermon provides.
Gundry' s next
distortion occurs when he spins the meaning of " gather." He provides over a dozen pages of
material from Ephraem the Syrian and shows the manifold ways in which he uses
view of the foregoing evidence, it seems an understatement to say that Ephraem
and his tradition make heavy use of Jewish pilgrimages to Jerusalem as a symbol
of all nations' being gathered evangelistically and taken to the Lord in
Christian conversion. This use is
neither obscure nor rare. It is
clear and frequent, and it appears throughout a wide range of his
writings. We have every right,
then- indeed, every obligation- to apply the use to Pseudo-Ephraem' s sermon,
drawing as it does on Ephraem' s works and those attributed to him. (183)
Out of all the
dozens of uses cited by Gundry for " gather" in Ephraem, we admit that he rarely
uses it in an eschatological context.
Yet, this is without dispute the way in which PE is using the term. To say that because Ephraem uses gather
on numerous occasions evangelistically does not mean that this is the way PE, a
totally different individual, uses it on a specific instance. Gundry engages once again in
illegitimate totality transfer. If
gather in PE is an evangelistic gathering, then it should be obvious from the
context of PE' s sermon. It was
apparently obvious in the individual citations from Ephraem that each use has a
particular nuance, since Gundry was able to classify each of them from their
immediate contexts. Not once did
he have to go to other passages to determine Ephraem' s specific use in a given
text. While providing us with
interesting information on how Ephraem, who is not PE, uses a particular word,
it does nothing to assist us in understanding PE' s use of the word.
Gundry' s exercise
provides proof that PE did not borrow his idea of a pretrib gathering from
Ephraem. Paul Alexander tells us,
" Bousset . . . observes that PE normally does not depend on Ephraem but that
both use the same apocalyptic material.
What does Alexander mean by " the same apocalyptic material?" He is speaking of the same general
themes such as Antichrist, Gog and Magog, The Last Roman Emperor, etc. It is within this context that
Alexander cites PE' s departure from the same apocalyptic material and notes
concerning the subject of shortening the time of the tribulation because PE
does not include such a notion in his sermon.
Gundry recognizes that Alexander understands PE' s statement at this
point to be that of a physical removal of " the saints and Elect of God" before
the tribulation- a pretrib statement.
It is significant
that the late Paul Alexander (d. 1977) understood this passage as a
pretribulational translation of " the saints and elect." He could hardly have been influenced by
his beliefs in his interpretation, since he appears to have been Greek Orthodox. Alexander arrived at a pretrib
understanding of PE from reading the sermon in its own context. Because of his expertise in the field
of Byzantine literature and history in general and Byzantine Apocalypticism in
particular that he arrived at his conclusion which supports that of Dr. Demy
Gundry, we believe that Section 10 is speaking of Christ' s second coming to the
earth. Thus, his arguments that
Section 10 is a reference to the posttribulational return of Christ are not in
In spite of the
fact that Gundry has put forth a heroic effort attempting to prove the
unprovable, he has not been able to deliver. Gundry' s contention that the passage is merely an
evangelistic gathering cannot be supported by the clear context of PE' s
sermon. PE' s sermon stands as a
testimony that at least one individual taught something resembling a rapture
before tribulation as early as the fourth century. True, this statement does not contain all the elements of
pretribulationism, but it contains enough to elicit a serious response from a
leading posttribulational scholar.