Updated: Jul 5, 2021
Any eschatological view that either puts the church into the 70th Week or denies bible prophecy outright or in part, is heretical in nature. The reason it is heretical is that it purposely argues against what the Scriptures actually teach. Understandably, it is a serious thing to charge a position (or even a promoter of said heresy) with the charge of being heretical. But it's time to take off the kid-gloves and call things as they are. If something is heretical, we need to simply call it as such.
Regarding biblical Christianity, what is heresy? Second Peter 2:1 says, “There will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” From this verse, we see that heresy is anything that denies the teaching of Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 11:19, Paul takes the church to task for having heresies among them—heresies that led to schisms in the body. These verses touch on both aspects of what constitutes heresy in the church: denying the doctrines God has given, and dividing the body He has created. Both of these are dangerous, destructive actions that are soundly rebuked by Scripture. See also 1 John 4:1-6; 1 Timothy 1:3-6; 2 Timothy 1:13-14; and Jude 1. (Source)
With that definition, let us set the record straight once and for all, upfront, and in bold font. The Bible teaches only ONE eschatological view of prophecy. Just like the Bible teaches only ONE soteriological view on salvation. Just like the Bible teaches only ONE ecclesiological view on the church. The Bible is NOT a choose-your-own-adventure book. The minute you start treating it as such, you begin encountering a number of problems.
Those who abandon the normal, literal, grammatical, and historical interpretation of Holy Scripture are the very reason WHY we have so many different viewpoints on every major doctrinal position. It is because they follow personal interpretations, dreams, visions, or a “word of knowledge,” and that causes many to depart from what the Word actually says.
I believe this is how most (if not all) cults begin. When one chooses not to accept the Bible for what it says (in context to the surrounding passage) then what you are in effect doing, is creating a choose your own adventure book where your personal interpretation trumps what the text actually says.
Neither are we promoting wooden-literalism, as Hank Hanegraaf (the Bible Answer Man) has often accused us of adhering to. We dispensationalists simply adhere to a common-sense approach to understanding Bible Prophecy. For the record, Mr. Hanegraaf has since eloped from Protestantism into the Eastern Orthodox realm seeking a more visually enlightened experience as it were.
So what is common sense interpretation?
“When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.” –Dr. David L. Cooper (1886-1965), founder of The Biblical Research Society
Therefore, what this means is that…
1. The sum and substance of this most important rule is that one should take every statement of the Scriptures at its face value, if possible. 2. The following is an analysis of the adjectives "primary," "ordinary," and "usual."
"Primary" emphasizes the original, inherent idea in the term.
"Ordinary" and "usual" are practically synonyms, especially in this definition, "usual" being employed for the sake of emphasis.
"Literal" is used to emphasize the thought that every word must first be taken literally as expressing the exact thought of the author at the time when it was used; and one is not to go beyond the literal meaning of the Scriptures unless the facts of the context indicate a deeper, hidden or symbolic meaning. (Link)
As to departing from the literal, grammatical, historical hermeneutic, this is not new. People have been twisting, perverting, reinventing, and wordsmithing the Bible for the last two thousand years without fail because everyone is gifted with the curse of opinion. From the first century Gnostics to the poor misguided hipsters in the Emergent Church movement. From Origen to Rachel Held Evans, everyone wants to put their own spin on the Bible to force Scriptures to contort to the norms of their day.
Now, people might accuse me of being overly harsh regarding people who pervert the Bible to their own gain, but how one interprets, the Bible is significantly important. Here are just a few examples of how things turn out badly for those who abuse bible prophecy.
The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) used their eschatological hermeneutics of amillennialism (which they adopted from Augustine) to justify that there was no literal Kingdom Come. They believed that they (the RCC) were the Kingdom and used this divine mandate to institute the power of the papacy, the Crusades, Indulgences, and the numerous Inquisitions, which resulted in the torture and deaths of hundreds of thousands
Jim Jones infused social justice and communism into the Gospel and then persuaded 900+ people to kill themselves by drinking purple Kool-Aid
Heaven’s Gate founder Marshall Applewhite convinced his 38 followers that suiciding themselves was the only way to be delivered onto the passing Hale-Bopp Comet. [Applewhite was a former Presbyterian seminary student]
David Koresh founded the Branch Davidians (a sect of Seventh Day Adventists) and ended up getting himself and 79 of his members killed because they believed he was some type of messiah figure
Harold Camping's failed 2011 rapture prediction misled thousands of his followers into financial ruin, broken relationships, personal and professional embarrassment, etc.
See here for more doomsday cults listed here that pervert Scripture
So yeah, hermeneutics actually matter.
Trust me when I say that there is a lot of bad hermeneutics going around out there around the internet. This equates to there being many pseudo-Christian groups, posing as legitimate Christian ministries, who are nothing more than theological wolves in sheep’s clothing preying on the biblically illiterate.
Back to the topic at hand. I suppose this is what irks me the most about the Pre Wrath position, is that it muddies the prophetic waters for what is clearly and biblically defined as our 'Blessed Hope' (Titus 2:13). As one famous radio personality once said, it (false teachings on the rapture) changes the blessed hope into the blasted hope.
However, Scripture warns us that in the last days, this would be the norm. Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, and Jude all warned exhaustively about being deceived about false messiahs and how the last days would come to pass.
While I will not put Pre Wrath (PW) devotees into the classification of a cult carte blanche, I would absolutely point out their position goes hand in hand with cult agendas in that it puts the onus back on man to “do something.” The PW position puts that “survivalist” mentality back onto the believer, in that instead of looking up for our deliverance, we are expected to fight our way through the first five Seal Judgements. This is similar to why cults love “works-based” salvation. It puts man back in charge of dispensing salvation through their varied and lengthy list of dos and don’ts.
The PW position is theologically misguided and has major doctrinal issues apart from eschatology. Since Bible Eschatology is tied in with every other major theological doctrine, if your eschatology is messed up, the rest of them will be as well. Here are the issues with PW in descending order from bad (faulty) to worse (heretical):
They presume themselves to be the historic view. I suppose if you count the 1970s as historic, then sure. Meanwhile, they accuse Pre-Tribulation and Dispensationalism as being “man-made” all but ignoring Robert Van Kampen- the man who invented the Pre-Wrath view in the 1970s.
Their name is intentionally deceptive. They are no more Pre-Wrath than Mormons are Latter-Day Saints. They can only call themselves as such, by redefining what tribulation (Greek-thlipsis) and wrath (Greek-orge) means, and when then muddy the waters on what it begins.
The PW timing is inconsistent with all other "wrath of God" rescues, such as with the Flood and Sodom-Gomorrah destruction. Noah and Lot were delivered before the event, not three-quarters of the way through it.
They redefine and reduce Daniel’s 70th Week from being seven years down to three and a half years. Daniel was told it is seven years (in keeping with the rest of the 70 Weeks- Daniel 9:27)
They apply a wildly inconsistent historicist approach to their interpretation of Revelation (ex…World War 2 was the Red Horse, Ethiopian starvation in the 1980s was the Black Horse, etc., COVID-19 the Pale Horse, etc., etc.) Obviously, this then varies greatly amongst its promoters.
PW dogmatically places the Rapture of the Church inside the text of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) when Christ had not yet even revealed this mystery (Greek-musterion) to His disciples. Christ guardedly reveals this mystery several days later in His Upper Room Discourse the night before His crucifixion (John 13-16)
In order for the PW view to work, it must distort three other theological Christian doctrines;
Soteriology- PW denies the eternal security of the believer
Ecclesiology- PW confuses the identity and purpose of the Church (ekklesia) with Israel in the Olivet Discourse (Daniel 9:24, Matt. 24:15-21)
Israelology- PW supports (either implicitly or explicitly) replacement theology confusing the church for Israel
It denies the role the Holy Spirit plays in restraining sin in the world. They largely presume Michael the Archangel as being the Restrainer.
The biggest heresy about PW is that it denies Christ's role as the initiator of the Seal Judgments. Even though Christ is the ONLY ONE in the entire universe found worthy to take the sealed scroll from the Father, the ONLY ONE found worthy to even look at them, and the ONLY ONE worthy to open them, somehow, according to the PW view, the Seal Judgments are not His wrath, but the wrath of man, the Antichrist, and Satan.
According to Revelation 5:1-7
And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.
So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”
And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.
Here are questions I have for the Prewrath devotees. I have asked these in the past and usually found Pre Wrathers either unwilling or unable to answer them coherently. Keep in mind; this is using the PW view of how things play out as the backdrop.
If the Seals 1-5 are not the wrath of God but are in fact, the wrath of man/Satan/ Antichrist...HOW do they (man/Satan/Antichrist) initiate said judgments? If something is yours, by definition, then you own it. If you own it, then you must possess it. So do they somehow sneak away five of the seven-sealed scrolls from Christ? As the old saying goes, possession is 9/10th of the law.
If the Church is on the earth when these Seals are opened, how can we know conclusively when that first Seal has been opened? Since the opinions on this varies, who's opinion is correct? Van Kampen's? Rosenthal's? Kurschner's?
How is the "wrath of man" or "wrath of Satan" any different from what has already occurred in our past history? In the 20th Century alone, we have documented hundreds of millions killed due to crime, war, persecution, starvation, genocide, pestilence, murder, abortion, the holocaust, etc…and yet, we could not point to a single moment when the rider on the white horse has arrived.
If the first Seal is marked by the arrival of THE Antichrist (rider on the white horse), and we (the Church) are still here, HOW will we know who it is? Paul states in 2 Thess. 2:7-8 that the man of lawlessness (The Antichrist) cannot be revealed UNTIL the one who restrains, is taken out of the way.
Who/what is "the one who restrains?" Here are your options-
Michael the Archangel (Michael serves as the 'celestial' protector over Israel [Dan. 12:1], not all believers; also Paul never mentions this angel in this epistle)
Human Government (Luke 4:5-6, 1 John 5:19)
The Holy Spirit filled/sealed Church (Matt. 16:18-19, Eph. 4:30)
Satan (Matt. 12:25-26)
What physically happens on the earth when "the one who restrains" is removed?
How will we (those of us on earth) know exactly when this happens?
In Revelation 3:10, Jesus tells the Church at Philadelphia (and those who have an ear to hear) that I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. If this is not a picture of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church, then what is it? If it has already happened, when and where did it happen?
Why does Jesus make a distinction between "those who dwell on the earth" and presumably, those who do not?
Since when do those who do not dwell on the earth (presumably heaven or hell), have to worry about any issues on the earth anyway?
Why would Jesus make this distinction in light of this seeming redundancy?
Since the PW position has born again believers going through most of the Tribulation, they will either be faced with taking the Mark of the Beast or becoming martyrs, AND Revelation 13:7 states it was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, who exactly is getting raptured?
The book of Revelation divides itself into THREE parts (Rev. 1:19)-
things which you have seen
the things which are
the things which will take place after this
Why does the PW view ignore the clear dividers in Revelation (Chapter 1, Chapters 2-3, and Chapter 4:1-2 in favor of a theological position that intentionally adds confusion to the body of Christ?
I'm fairly certain smarmy PW ministries will come back and attempt to misconstrue the contents of this lengthy article as either oversimplifying or misrepresenting their views. Perhaps, since PW largely depends on personal interpretations, dreams, visions, etc. to concoct their intentionally confusing eschatology, the latter could be true. However, to the former, I've attached links at the bottom that go into the level of depth these naysayers can find to nullify their complaints.
What can be assured though, is that they will weasel their way out of actually addressing these questions directly, but will instead, go ad hominem. That should tell you all you need to know about the supposed legitimacy of their theological theory. However, so as not to be accused by the PW pit bulls of misleading people about their beliefs, I will use their own words to describe what they say they believe.
Many of us were told that the church will be “raptured out of here before the Antichrist’s arrival.” The Bible, however, teaches the church will first experience the Antichrist’s great tribulation. Then, at some unknown day and hour, Antichrist’s persecution will be cut short by the return of Christ to resurrect and rapture believers before the day of the Lord’s wrath—hence, Prewrath. (Courtesy of Alan Kurschner)
Interestingly, the PW view has some of the exact same estranged eschatological views as a fairly well-known cult known as the Worldwide Church of God (Herbert W. Armstrong). So either it is the chicken or the egg we do not know for certain, but either Van Kampen and Marvin Rosenthal adopted some of Armstrong’s views on eschatology, or Armstrong adopted Kampen’s view on eschatology. Either way, as the old sayings go- birds of a feather…
I came across an article published by the Worldwide Church of God, the cult founded by H. Armstrong. I was amazed to find that these people hold to the identical view of Rosenthal when it comes to the Great Tribulation as being totally distinct from the Day of the Lord. Here is how they explain it: "Is the ‘Great Tribulation the same event as the ‘Day of the Lord’? No. They are totally different….The Great Tribulation is not the time of God’s wrath, but rather the time of the wrath of Satan the devil….The Day of the Lord is clearly shown here [in Matt. 24] to come after the heavenly signs [of Matt. 24:29]. The time order is: first, the Tribulation—Satan’s wrath; second, the heavenly signs; third, the Day of the Lord—God’s intervention. The same time sequence is revealed in Revelation 6, speaking of the seven seals. The fifth seal represents the Great Tribulation, followed by the heavenly signs, then the Day of the Lord or God’s wrath (verses 9-17)" —The Good News of the World Tomorrow, March 1986, p. 13. Hence, some of Rosenthal’s ideas are not new. The Worldwide Church of God cult has been teaching these things since 1986 and probably long before that. (Link)
In closing, the entirety of the Pre Wrath center of gravity seems hyper-focused on adding confusion to what the word of God says. Wrath is not wrath. Tribulation is not tribulation. The Day of the Lord is not the Day of the Lord. The Church is not the Church. Israel is not Israel. Seven years is not seven years. They seem hell-bent on wanting to overly complicate the simple, and completely dismiss the obvious. There are three simple truths in relation to the prophetic scriptures we must always keep in mind.
Christianity, by its very nature, is apocalyptic. Not only does our bible contain the history of creation, our heritage, and our faith, but also its conclusion. God is not the author of confusion, and thus, whether it's our beginning, our middle, or our end, the Bible lays these truths out in a simple, consistent, manner.
Jesus warns repeatedly, that a) He is coming back, and b) it will surprise everyone when He does. If His return is predicated on the element of surprise (it is), then it must not be dependent upon any event(s) to precede it. IF the Church has to enter into the most chronicled period of human history, marked by 21 major signs and wonders, and to which, we exit before God's wrath, then we will neither be surprised nor living in any kind of normalcy as to mark the element of surprise.
Lastly, ANY view that puts the Rapture of the Church anywhere other than at the beginning, is DEPENDENT upon something else to precede it.
As I stated at the beginning, the Bible only teaches ONE eschatological view, and that view is the TRUE pre-wrath position (since all seven years is God's wrath), which is the Pre-Tribulation (or Pre-70th Week) Rapture of the Church. Like any other view that departs from this Biblical truth, is in fact, a heresy because it intentionally changes God's word to favor some lesser position. This includes but is not limited to:
Amillennialism (denies the physical coming Kingdom of Christ)
Preterism (attempts to place all future prophecy in and before 70AD
Post-Tribulationalism (confuses the church with Israel)
Post Millennialism (makes the Church responsible for Christ's coming kingdom)
Partial Rapture views (makes the Rapture predicated on our worthiness).
Some might think it harsh that I am addressing these as heresies because they are only incorrect on non-salvific or 'tertiary' doctrines. Several years ago I might have agreed, however, if I am going to be consistent in my own hermeneutics, the Bible makes no such distinctions as to what is important and what is not. It is all-important, every jot and tittle (Matt. 5:18). It is our responsibility as believers, to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).
We should note that the four Gospels not only share a unique perspective of Christ's life, death, and resurrection, they do so with four particular audiences in mind. Since the Olivet Discourse is present in three of the four Gospels (Synoptic Gospels), it is of interest to note the Gospel of John has replaced the Olivet Discourse with the Upper Room Discourse. Why is that? As many have concluded for millennia, the Gospel of John was the last Gospel written and John had the Church in mind as to its audience. As these final days draw to a close, let us not be bogged down with intentionally complicated theories of men, but rest easy in our blessed hope, which, is Christ's promise to return for His Church.
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:1-3