Updated: Sep 16, 2021
Let me start off by saying that many teachers and theologians I respect, hold to a Pre-Wrath eschatological viewpoint. Just because one believes the Rapture is Pre Wrath, does not mean they are a heretic or apostate. It just simply means they have a different starting point for when they think the Rapture could occur. They come to this conclusion wrongly though, for a variety of reasons, all of which I will gladly debunk here today.
The Pre-Wrath position has been argued and made popular by men like Robert Van Kampen and Marvin Rosenthal. It posits that the rapture of the church takes place after the Seal judgments found in Revelation 6, but before the “Wrath of God” starts. In order to arrive at this position, you’d have to change or manipulate six key concepts in the Scriptures:
The Restrainer as the Holy Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:7)
The unity of the believers making up the Body of Christ (Galatians 3:28)
The flow of the Bible is irrelevant (Revelation 1:19)
The 70th week of Daniel (time of Jacob’s trouble) is not just about Israel (Daniel 9:24)
There is a difference between the “wrath of man” and the “Wrath of God”. (Revelation 6:15-17)
The Bible very clearly lays out key markers along the way to show the shifts in change of administration; the fall from grace, the flood, the call of Abraham, the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai, the Messiah on the cross, Pentecost, and the 70th Week of Daniel. These events very clearly, and often in painstaking detail, mark significant changes in the administration of God’s dealing with mankind. So too must sound doctrine be built off of clear concepts and fundamental ideals that the Bible spotlights predominantly.
Where churches get in trouble, is when they try and build doctrine off of vague text, or take passages out of context, as such is the case with passages about snake handling (Mark 16:18) or baptizing the dead (1 Cor. 15:29).
Where the Bible ‘changes gears’, it does so in a clear and straightforward fashion. There is no ambiguity to it, no second-guessing.
We need to remember that anyone can twist the Bible to say anything they want it to say, if they try hard enough. If that weren’t the case, you wouldn’t have the plethora of denominations (Christian or otherwise) that we have today. The key is to have a consistent view of scripture. The Pre-Wrath view is not consistent.
When the resurrected Jesus walked with the disciples along the road to Emmaus, He pointed out ALL the scriptures (the Old Testament) that pointed to Him, beginning with Moses. The Apostle John didn’t go into any details about what was said, but we can make an assumption, that Jesus starts off with the books of Moses, which means He would have started in Genesis. So let’s start there as well.
The Principle of It
In Enoch’s case, God ‘took him’ up without seeing death prior to the flood. One critic of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture scoffs at the notion that Enoch could be used, seeing as he was taken up hundreds of years prior to the flood. I gently reminded him, that people lived for hundreds of years back then, so it would have been within the realm of a lifetime.
Interestingly enough, Jude tells us that of all the words that Enoch would have spoken in his 365 years of life, the only recorded one we have is his foretelling of the time when the Lord would return to exact judgment on an evil world coming WITH His saints (Jude 1:14).
Out of the entire antediluvian world alive at that time (possibly in the billions), only Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. So he, along with his family (totaling 8 persons) went alive onto the ark with the animals and THEN God brought judgment onto the earth.
Some might say, Noah wasn’t taken from the earth, he had to endure the flood. True, but consider these two points:
In the building of the ark, Moses chose the word “kopher” in Hebrew, which means essentially, ‘atonement’ or ‘ransom’ to describe the covering of the ark both inside and out. This is the only time in the Scriptures that it is used this way.
Secondly, the ark rose above the earth as the floodwaters lifted it up. That might seem inconsequential to some, but it wasn’t as if Noah had to work to keep the ark afloat. He didn’t even steer it, because it landed exactly where God wanted it to land. This is also telling in that God, in His longsuffering, allowed mankind to drop down to less than ten people before cataclysmic judgment was wrought upon the whole earth. We will see this same principle applied later with Abraham and Lot.
“Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25 NKJV)
The first thing we should start out by showing from Scriptures is that NOWHERE does the Bible show God’s people suffering His wrath along with the wicked.
This principle, as laid out in the second half of Genesis 18 is quite extensive, even going down from 50 people to just 10. Even for just 10 people, God was not willing to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. This just isn’t an Old Testament principle, the Apostle Peter reiterates it in his epistle as well (2 Peter 2:7-9).
We see that God saved Noah BEFORE the Flood. God rescues Lot BEFORE the destruction of Sodom. Both Noah and Lot prefigure that great schism that God would establish with Abram and the Jewish nation.
Here is one of those great ‘schisms’ in the administration of God’s grace as we move forward though, in that dealing with Israel, God allowed them to go through the tribulation. Granted, God had eternal and irrevocable covenants with the Jewish people (Gen 15, 17; Exodus 2:24; 2 Samuel 7) and conditional covenants with Israel, based upon their obedience and disobedience (Exodus 19:3-9, 24:1-3).
When Israel strayed, God allowed their enemies to become numerous and overcome them. When they obeyed, nothing was withheld from them. This was the case until their final 70-year captivity by the Babylonians, when God revealed His most extensive and detailed plan, to His prophet Daniel, that the Jews had a set time remaining for them.
When God gave Daniel, through the angel Gabriel, the 70 Weeks Prophecy, it was specifically given to Daniel’s people (the Jews) and to his holy city (Jerusalem). It was to confirm ahead of time, what events would transpire for the Jewish people.
Israel would have a total of 490 years, as it would be broken up by 70 weeks of years. At the 483 year mark or the 69th week, their Messiah would be ‘cut off’ but ‘not for Himself’. He would be sacrificed in other words for the sins of the people. What God doesn’t mention, is that there would be an almost 2,000-year gap, between the 69th and 70th week.
Two points to make here are, no one I know of has argued that the Church existed before Jesus established it in principle in Matthew 16:13-21 and in fulfillment in Acts 2:1-4. Instead, they argue that either the Church was grafted into Israel (Hebrew Roots) or that the Church replaces Israel (Replacement theology), neither of which are either scriptural or logical.
Secondly, in what God chose NOT to reveal to Daniel, a Jew, about His plans for the future. When Daniel inquired, Gabriel essentially said, don’t worry about it, this will get unveiled at a later time. (Daniel 12:8-10).
And so the ‘mystery’ of the Church, along with the other five mysteries would be revealed some 500 years later by none other than the Apostle Paul.
Dr. Chuck Missler is fond of saying that “pattern is prologue” in terms relating to prophecy. In terms of the Greek mindset, we expect prophecy to be: prediction + fulfillment= true prophecy.
In the Hebrew mindset, pattern is prophetic. A great example of this is the Passover. In fact, all the feasts would serve as an example of God’s prophetic calendar. So too, we have in the Rapture of the Church a picture in view of a Jewish wedding, and how the model of that ties in with the building of the bride of Christ and our ‘catching up’ prior to that great and terrible day.
The Pre-Wrath and Post-Tribulation eschatological positions simply do not FIT any model that can be related back to the Jewish wedding allusion as referred to in John 14:1-3.
One of the main problems with the Pre-Wrath position is there is no consensus in the Pre-Wrath community on when it starts since the Rapture for them is not tied to the imminent return of Christ, but watching certain events transpire.
If they believe that the Church has to go through at least the first six Seal Judgments, then the judgments themselves become the mile markers…and that would be totally based on the perspective of the audience alive when they happen.
To the early church, they may have viewed a certain Caesar or emperor as the Antichrist. To the church in the Dark Ages, it may have been Mohammed. To the Medieval Church, it was the Pope. To the World War II generation, it was Hitler. See how this works? That’s part of what makes it such an untenable position.
Pre-Wrath posits that the Church would by and large jump like rats from a sinking ship the moment true persecution comes knocking. While that may have a ring of truth to it here in the west, it hasn’t happened elsewhere in the world who are presently experiencing great persecution.
The church in Smyrna, (the persecuted church) was promised ten periods of persecution. Those periods came and went, and they did not have the intended effect that Satan had hoped. Instead of stomping out the church, it caused it to spread even further and faster which is why Satan had to resort to a more subtle plan of attack, which would come in the subsequent churches by means of corruption.
While I would agree that many who claim to be Christian here in the US might abandon the faith IF persecution did rise up in earnest, I would wager they weren’t Christian, to begin with. The Apostle John noted even back then that…
“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” (1 John 2:19)
The truth is, is that the Bible was written for the common man. Sure, it has levels and applications that would baffle theologians for millennia and could be read in any number of ways that can make debaters of the best of us.
The atheist and skeptic read its pages and remain completely ignorant of its content, while the cultist must take passages out of context to make it fit whatever particular spin they want to sell. The missing ingredient that makes the Bible impossible for the unregenerate to understand is the Holy Spirit.
So while there are many views on how the end will occur, only one can be correct.
When you stand back and take a look at the picture in its totality, you see clearly that God’s plan is not a haphazard one, chocked full of inconsistencies and unknowable truths.
God wants us to know His plan. But He also wanted to keep it a secret until the right time, which is why He waited until the Apostle Paul to reveal it.....Stay tuned for Part II.