The word Rapture comes from the Latin word rapeimia. It means rapid. It appeared in the Latin translation of 1 Thess.4:17. The Greek word translated rapere in Latin is harpagesemetha from harpazo. It means catch away, catch up, pluck, pull, take by force. It is a derivative of aireomai which means to take to oneself, to choose, to prefer. It means caught up, snatched. It is used to describe when Jesus will appear in the air, and snatch or catch up the saints by the word of His power to meet Him in the air, and for ever remain with Him. It is one of the highlights of the many events of the second coming of Christ. The major controversy raging over the issue of the rapture relates to its time and timing. By timing is meant the sequence of events that will lead to the rapture, and by time is meant the exact point in the end times at which it will occur. The exact time in the sequence of events of the end times(eschatological timeline) at which the rapture will occur has yielded many views. In this article, we shall examine four of those views.
The appellatives of these views relate to the 70th seven of Daniel’s 70 sevens prophecy(Dan.9:24-27). We are now in the prophetic gap between the 69th and the 70th week or better still 70th seven. That gap is also called the Gentile interlude, the Timeless Period or the Church Age. The 70th seven of Daniel is the last seven years, according to Hebrew calendar, of the times of the Gentiles. This period of seven prophetic years is commonly divided into two equal halves of three and one-half years, or 42 months or 1,260 days each. The starting point or the terminus-a-quo is the signing of the peace agreement between Israel and the antiChrist(Dan.9:27). The mid-point of this period is marked by the breaking of the peace covenant between Israel and the antiMessiah by the antiMessiah when he defiles the Holy of Holies of the rebuilt Jewish Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. The terminus-ad-quem of the 70th seven is the death of the two witnesses, whose ministry will last for three and one-half years, 42 months or 1,260 days(Rev.11: 3). Majority of biblical scholars across the spectrum of rapture views are agreed, their ministry will occur within the second half of the 70th seven. If the ministry of the two witnesses begin at the mid-point of the 70th, and last for 1,260 days, at the end of which they are overcome and killed by the antiMessiah, it therefore follows they died on the last day of the 70th seven of Daniel.
Some biblical scholars call the whole of 70th seven of Daniel, The Tribulation Period. This is not appropriate inasmuch as it builds an a priori case for the Pretribulation rapture position. To avoid this trap, we shall simply refer to it as the 70th week or better still, the 70th seven of Daniel. The first half they designate the Tribulation, and the second half they call the Great Tribulation, because the Great Tribulation begins at the starting point of the second half of the 70th seven of Daniel, which as we have seen is the Middle of the 70th seven. This also is not biblically accurate and appropriate, inasmuch as the Great Tribulation does not last the whole length of the 70th Seven, that is three and one-half years, 42 months, or 1,260 days. Those days shall be cut short, that is the days of the of The Great Tribulation(Matt.24:22). Pretribs believe that the Great Tribulation lasts the entire length of the second half of the 70th week of Daniel. That it is amputated in their own understanding means that God could have permitted it to last longer than three and one-half years. This is the view of Dr. Renald E. showers of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry’s Institute Of Jewish Studies, Cairn University.
At the moment, to some in the Church, the debate over the timing of the Rapture may appear esoteric with no real dangers involved, and will pan out in the end. But sometime in the future, a generation of believers numbering in the billions shall enter the 70th week of Daniel to experience the horrors of the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist, then the matter of the timing of the rapture will no longer be esoteric academia.
That true believers in Christ shall be exempt from the eschatological wrath of God in the day of His wrath pretribs like John F. Valwoord and Leon Wood; midtribs like L. Gleason Archer Jr. and J. Oliver Boswell: postribs like George Eldon Ladd and Robert H. Gundry are agreed. The Scriptures unmistakably assert that the saints are exempt from the wrath of God(1 Thess.1:10, 5:9). Since the saints are promised deliverance from the eschatological wrath of God, and all are in accord, what then is the bone of contention? The issues centres around the following questions. What is the wrath of God? When does it occur? What method will God use to deliver His people. Will God remove them from the world or merely protect them while in the world throughout the period of His wrath?
The Pretribulation Rapture View.
The pretribulation rapture view posits that the rapture will take place before the start of the 70th seven of Daniel. Central to the pretribulation rapture position is the doctrine of imminency. The doctrine of imminency states that no prophesied event will take place before the rapture can occur. In other words , the rapture will be signless and can occur at any moment. Did Christ teach His disciples the rapture would occur at any time when He told Peter he would grow old, be dressed by others and carried to where he would not like to go(Jon.21:18)? Some pretrib writers put a gap of up to seven years between the rapture and the commencement of the 70th week. There are no Scriptures that support that teaching.
This view is also called Pretribulationism or Pretribulation Rapturism. The holders of this view are called Pretribulationists or pretribulation rapturists, or pretribbers for short. This is by far the most popular view amongst Evangelicals. It is not however the oldest rapture position. It is neither the view taught by the Lord Jesus Himself, nor by the foundation Apostles of our Lord Jesus the Christ nor by the Church fathers and their immediate disciples. This view is not supported by the Didache.
The origin of this view is traceable by some through association to a charismatic visionary teenager call Margaret MacDonald, who claimed she was told by the Holy Spirit, the Church will not go through the tribulation in 1828. However this association is false. What Margret Macdonald said was that the church will go through the Great Tribulation which God will use to purify the Church for rapture. It was said to be picked up by J. N. Darby and the Plymouth brethren in England. J. N. Darby has been expounding this view several years prior to the publication of the pamphlet by Margret MacDonald. This view caused a rift between J.N.Darby and Dr. Samuel P. Tregelles. It was Edward Irving, a physician and a prolific Pentecostal writer who did more than anyone else to popularize this view in England and Great Britain. It made its way across the Atlantic to America in the late 19th century. It caused frictions and divisions, the details of which are beyond the scope of this article. In America, it was Dr. C.I. Scofield who popularized this view by making it a major facet of his work in the 1917 edition of Scofield Reference Bible.
It later became the official and exclusive position of Dallas Theological Seminary, and the primary view taught at Moody Bible Institute(MBI). Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founding president of Dallas Theological Seminary, and His successor, Dr. John F. Walvoord, and Dr. Harry Ironside were advocates of this view. Amongst the early champions also were men like Arno Gabelein, James Gray and Ruben Torey. These men are stellar personalities whose scholarship are outstanding, but that alone does not make a view right or wrong but Scriptures only. As far back as 1744 Morgan Edwards, a welsh man who founded Brown University in the US, writing from University of Bristol, England, advocated this view. According to Dr. Thomas Ice, there are dozens of other documents traceable to as far as the 280s AD advocating this view. However no Church or denomination was known to have adopted this view as the official view on the rapture from this period.
Central to the pretribulationists rapture position is the doctrine of Imminence. The doctrine of imminence was concocted by pretribulationists to buttress the pretribulation Rapture position. There is not a single verse of Scripture that implicitly or explicitly supports either the doctrine of imminency or pretribulation Rapture position. All the verses of Scriptures quoted to buttress imminency support expectancy. Expectancy means that any generation of believers could enter the 70th seven of Daniel, encouter the Man Of Sin, experience the horrors of the Great Tribulation, but be raptured before God pours out His wrath upon the living wicked earth-dwellers, adorers and worshippers of the Dragon-Beast.
Understanding that certain prophesied events must occur before Christ’s return, J. Barton Payne wrote, The death of Paul and Peter, the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and the spread of the gospel(The Great Commission) mean the early Apostolic Church could not have held an “any moment view of the Lord’s coming.
John Sproule, in summing up his comments on imminency wrote, Pretribulationism can ill afford to rest upon the shaky foundation of traditionalism and eisegetical(reading into the text what is not there) statements. If it’s heart is debatable and inductively determined doctrine of imminency then, perhaps, an exegetical heart transplant may be in order. If pretribulationism is evidence of theologians integrity, then those saints who lived from the first century to the late 19th century get no ribbon of orthodoxy. If pretribulation Rapture position is the badge of orthodoxy, whatever happened to millions of godly saints who for 18 hundred years did not hold this view. Men like Peter, Paul, Matthew, John Wesley, Charles Wesley, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Matthew Henry, John Knox, John Hus, William Carey, John Calvin, Isaac Newton, George Whitfield, A B. Simpson, George Mueller, John Newton, Jonathan Edwards, John Wycliffe, John Bunyon, and many other godly saints who preached the church will go through the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist before being raptured before the outpouring of the wrath of God upon the wicked earth-dwellers and adorers and worshippers of the Dragon-Beast begins.
Pretribulationism teaches that the Church is exempt from the eschatological wrath of God. However, the proponents of this view are unable to distinguish between the wrath of God and the wrath of Satan. They also teach that the 70th week in its entirety is the period of God’s wrath. Their insistence that the 70th week is the period of God’s wrath necessitates the evacuation of the Church from the Earth before the commencement of the 70th week. There are no Scriptures that incontrovertibly support that the entire 70th week is the period of God’s wrath.
When Satan is cast down to the Earth in the middle of the 70th seven, he came down having great wrath. Therefore woe to the inhabitants of the Earth, for Satan is come down unto you having great wrath(Rev. 12:12). He possesses the antiMessiah, gives him his seat, power and great authority. Then begins the Great Tribulation(Rev.13:2). Therefore, the Great Tribulation(the fourth seal), martyrs under the altar in heaven(the fifth seals) are the Great wrath of Satan. If it were not so, God would be responsible for the persecution of the saints and the death of the martyrs under the altar, the fourth and fifth seals of Rev.6. The wrath of God does not begin until after the sixth seal, the cosmic disturbances with which God amputates the Great Tribulation(Rev.6:12-17). For the Great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand? To some pretribulationists, the whole of the the 70th week is the wrath of God. But we can see that the first five seals of Rev.6, are the wrath of Satan. In the middle of the 70th seven when he is cast down to the Earth, he has great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time. The church is exempt from the wrath of God, but not from the wrath of Satan. For God has not appointed us unto wrath(1 Thess.5:9). The two great errors with which the pretrib rapture position is saddled are the doctrine of imminency, and inability to distinguish the wrath of Satan from the wrath of God.
Dr. John F. Valwoord recognized the fact that “neither posttribulationsm nor pretribulationism is an explicit teaching of the Scriptures; the Bible does not in so many words state either.” The pretrib position also permits contradictions. They teach that Matt.24 is not applicable to the Church, and therefore should be relegated to the Jewish waste paper basket; they use Matt.24:36 to support their doctrine of imminent rapture.
The pretrib rapture position has only one merit: namely the exemption of the Church from the wrath of God during the eschatological Day Of The Lord. On the other hand, they confuse the wrath of God in the the Day Of The Lord with the whole length of the 70th week of Daniel, thus making God culpable of the events of the first three and one-half years of the 70th week and the atrocities perpetrated by unregenerate men during the Great Tribulation which occurs in the second half of the 70th week of Daniel.
Of late, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins have further popularized this view with their eschatological novel, The Left Behind series. This series, 16 volumes in all, each volume a bestseller. Each volume sold over 80 million copies. There are children’s editions and videos based on the series. I read them all: good pieces of literature, but no doubt biblically inaccurate. What I do not understand is why God is responsible for the death of His servant Donny Moore. These men have become multimillionaires propagating a biblically inaccurate rapture view.
The Midtribulation Rapture View.
The Midtribulation Rapture position is more recent in origin than the pretribulation rapture position. It began in 1941, when its major advocate, Norman B. Harrison published his work, The End: Rethinking The Revelation. Others who championed this cause are biblical scholars like J. Oliver Bussell, Harold J. Ockenga, and L. Gleason Archer Jr. It was particularly attractive and enthralling to those who were disenchanted and disillusioned with both the pretribulation and posttribulation rapture positions. They see it as a mediating position. This view posits that the catching away of the saints will occur midway, three and one-half years into the 70th seven of Daniel, the so called tribulation period, immediately prior to the Great Tribulation. These scholars distinguish between the wrath of God and the wrath of Satan, but associate the commencement of the wrath of God with the beginning of the Great Tribulation in the middle of the 70th seven of Daniel. But if the wrath of God begins in the middle of the 70th seven, at the beginning of the Great Tribulation, then God would be held accountable for the persecution of Israel, the Jewish people and the righteous perpetrated by the antiMessiah during the breaking of the fourth and fifth seals of Revelation 6. As we have proven earlier, the wrath of God does not begin until the breaking of the 7th seal, after the Great Tribulation had been amputated ( koloboo ), by the cosmic and celestial disturbances at the breaking of the sixth seal of Revelation 6.
Norman B.Harrison believed that the wrath of God is to be associated with the Great Tribulation, and that the wrath of God does not begin until the blowing of the seventh trumpet. This is preposterous. The seventh trumpet judgment is sounded on the 5th day during the 30-day reclamation period, after the expiration of the 70th seven of Daniel. When the seventh trumpet is sounded, God Almighty reclaims His rule over the Earth. And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders , which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, we give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to there thy great power, and hast reigned, and the nation’s were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the Earth. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His Temple, The Ark Of His Testament(Covenant ): and there were lightenings, and voices, and thundering, and an earthquake, and great hail(Rev.11:15-19).
As we can see Harrison erred in starting the wrath of God at the middle of the 70th seven and in associating the beginning of the wrath of God with the blowing of the seventh trumpet. The wrath of God begins with the breaking of the seventh seal, after the cosmic disturbances. The seventh seal has no judgment of its own, but opens into the seven trumpets. The seventh trumpet has no judgment of its own but opens into the seven bowls. At the interlude between the sixth and the seventh trumpet judgments, the two witnesses are killed at the completion of their ministry on the last day of the 70th seven, but before the second woe which occurs after the resurrection of the two witnesses on the fourth day of the 30-day reclamation period. And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascended out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and killed them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the Great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and a half, and shall not suffer their bodies to be put in the graves. And they that dwell upon the Earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and send send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the Earth. And after three days and a half, the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them who saw them. “And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were afrighten, and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly” ( Rev. 11:7-14).
The ministry of the two witnesses which corresponds with the second half of the 70th seven ended on the last day of the 70th seven. That same day or early the 1st day of the 30-day reclamation period they were overpowered and killed by the antiMessiah according to the scriptures. Three and one-half days later, that is, the fourth day of the 30-day reclamation period, the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet, and they heard a great voice from heaven, saying , come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in cloud, and their enemies beheld them. The same hour, there was a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were afrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe is past; and behold, the third woe cometh quickly. Thy wrath mentioned in verse 18, had already began at the opening of the seventh seal. If the first six trumpets are not God’s wrath, what are they? We can see that the Midtribulation Rapture position erred in starting the wrath of God at the middle of the 70th seven, and in associating it with the sounding of the seventh trumpet. They correctly understand that the Church is exempt from the wrath of God, but fail to accurately interpret the timing of the start of the wrath of God. It is the same problem with the pretribulation Rapture position, which correctly understands that the Church is exempt from the wrath of God, but makes no distinction between the wrath of Satan which begins with the start of the 70th seven, and is intensified at the middle of the 70th seven, when Satan is cast down to the Earth, having great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time; and the wrath of God which begins with the breaking of the seventh seal after the breaking of the sixth seal which interrupts the Great Tribulation ( Rev.6:19; 8 ).
Midtribs like pretribs recognize that the Church is exempt from the wrath of God. They also make a fundamental distinction between the wrath of God and the wrath of Satan. Dr. L. Gleason Archer Jr, said there are two sources of wrath during the 70th of Daniel.
“It simply regards the first three and a half years, during which the Antichrist will increase his power and mount his persecution against the church, as a less tribulation, not nearly as terrifying or destructive of life as those fearsome plagues that will dominate the last three and a half years. In other words, this interpretation makes a clear division between the first half as the period of the wrath of man, and the second half as the period of the wrath of God. For the reasons adduced . . . we understand that the final generation of the pre-Rapture church will be subject to the wrath of man, but spared from the wrath of God.”
Commenting further he adds, “. . . when we speak of the “wrath of man” as the distinctive feature of the first half of the “week,” we mean that the wrath of the Antichrist and his associates in government is the dominating feature on the stage of this drama. . . . But as the second half of the week comes into play, with the church safely removed from the scene, the indignation of the Lord breaks forth with overwhelming, supernatural power. . . . Hence we rightly speak of this period as the “wrath of God.”
It is agreeable and of critical import that a division should be maintained between the wrath of Satan perpetrated by his human intermediaries, associates and mediators on the one hand, and the wrath of God administered by His angelic reapers. Satan’s wrath marks the beginning of the second half of the 70th week of Daniel(Rev.12:7-17). Like the pretrib rapture position, the flaw in Dr. archer’s position is his incorrect assessment of the nature of the 70th week in relation to the timing of the rapture. According Dan.9:27, Israel is in state of relative peace and tranquillity for the first three and one-half years following the peace pact between her and the antiChrist while the rest of the world is embroiled in wars, commotions, rumours and threats of wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes as the antiMessiah seeks to consolidate his grip on the rest of the world. But precisely from the midst of the week, Satan and his minions, the First Beast and the false prophet will execute a reign of terror against Israel and the people of God. The epicenter of the Great Tribulation is the land of Israel, and its Holy City, Jerusalem. This reign of terror does not last the entire 42 months of the second half of the 70th week. Satan will give power to the antiChrist and the false prophet who will act on his behalf.
On the other hand, Rev.6:12-17 indicates that the wrath of God begins with the breaking of the sixth seal. Rev.15:1 indicates the wrath of God will end with the outpouring of the bowl judgments by the seven avenging angelic reapers. The wrath of God will bring the wrath of Satan to an abrupt end. It therefore follows that both the Great wrath of Satan and the wrath of God occur during the second half of the 70th week in contradiction to the view of the midtribs which teaches that only God’s wrath will occur during the second half of the 70th week. Even more egregious is the fact that this view contradicts Matt.24:36 by indicating that the rapture will occur at the midpoint of the 70th week. However, the midtrib rapture view has these two merits:
(1) Exemption of the Church from the wrath of God during the eschatological Day Of The Lord; and
(2) Distinction between the wrath of God and the wrath of Satan.
The Posttribulation Rapture Position.
Posttribulation rapturim teaches that the Church will go through the entire 70th seven of Daniel, the so called Tribulation Period. They see the entire 70th seven of Daniel as the time of God’s wrath, after which Christ will return to the Earth. Unlike the two other views we have examined, Pretribulation rapturism and Midtribulation rapturism, the Posttribulation rapturism does not exempt the Church from the wrath of God. This view is totally unbiblical because the Church cannot go through the wrath of God. For God hath not appointed us unto wrath, but to obtain salvation by out Lord Jesus Christ(1Thess.5:9). Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, and the stars shall fall from the heavens, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son Of Man in the Heavens: and then shall all the tribes of the Earth mourn, and they shall see the Son Of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, and He shall send His angels with a great sound of the trumpet, and they shall gather together His election from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other(Matt.24:29-31). The Great Tribulation must be distinguished from the Tribulation Period. The Tribulation Period is the same as the 70th seven of Daniel. It is seven years in duration. It is divided into two equal halves of three and one half years each, or 42 months, or 1,260 days. The bibical year is based on the Jewish calendar which is lunar. One month is 30 days, and one year 360 days. Three and one half years is 42 months or 1,260 days. The Great Tribulation occurs in the second half of the 70th seven, but is cut short by the cosmic disturbances, the sixth seal of Revelation 6(Rev.6:12-14). But the 70th seven itself, the Tribulation Period is not cut short. According to Matt.24:29-31, the gathering together of the elect from one end of the heaven to the other, occurs after the [Great] Tribulation of those days, after the sun is darkened and the moon will not give its light, not after the Tribulation Period. This view is not supported by any Scriptures at all.
The classical defence of posttribulationism was made by Alexander Reese in his book, The Approahing Advent Of Christ. This rapture position was modified by Robert Gundry in his book, The Church And The Tribulation. Robert Gundry who is a premillennarian, believes that the Tribulation Period is not primarily a time of divine wrath. According to Robert Gundry, the wrath of God will begin very near the end of the Tribulation Period, and will include the bowl judgments and the battle of Armageddon. He believes the rapture will occur before the wrath of God is poured out, therefore the Church will be kept from the wrath of God which he believes will cover a very brief period of time.
Some posttribs recognize the involvement of both the wrath of God and that of Satan during the 70th week of Daniel. Dr. Douglas Moo’s view of posttribulationism is that the Great Tribulation will be the persecution of the saints by the antiChrist, and will last for the greater part of the second half of the 70th week. That the wrath of God will be concentrated in the very last part of the week. The wrath of God will be limited to the eschatological day of the Lord. Dr. Douglas Moo argues that the eschatological day of the Lord will be “decisive intervention of God for judgment and deliverance.” Inasmuch as the eschatological day of the Lord involves both judgment of God and the deliverance of His people, Dr. Moo argues that the eschatological Day Of The Lord and The Great Tribulation cannot be the same. Dr. Moo noted,
“Several factors suggest that it is not. First, no reference to the eschatological ‘day’ in the New Testament clearly includes a description of the Tribulation. . . . Second, Malachi 4:5(the coming of Elijah) and Joel 2:30-31(cosmic portents) place what are generally agreed to be Tribulational events before the Day. . . . Third, Paul seems to suggest in 2 Thessalonians 2 that the Day cannot come until certain, clearly tribulational, events transpire.”
2 Thess.2:3 clearly indicates that the Man Of lawlessness(KJV, man of sin) is revealed before the eschatological Day Of The Lord begins. Consequently, posttribs contend that the eschatological Day Of The Lord follows the Great Tribulation that starts at the beginning of the second half of the 70th week but is cut short before its expiration(Matt.24:22). Paul teaches that the parousia of our Lord Jesus The Christ, terminates the reign of terror by the man of sin. Posttribs then reason that the parousia must occur postribulationally at the end of the 70th week. Again Dr. Moo comments,
“The Parousia is indisputably posttribulational in Matthew 24:3, 27, 37, 39 and in 2 Thessalonians 2:8. . . . On the other hand, the Parousia of Christ is explicitly stated to be an object of the believer’s expectation in 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:13; James 5:7-8; and 1 John 2:28. . . . If, then, believers are exhorted to look forward to this coming of Christ, and this coming is presented as posttribulational, it is natural to conclude that believers will be present through the Tribulation.”
The posttrib position as announciated by Dr. Moo, has the following merits:
(1) Like The pretrib Position, it holds to the exemption of the Church from the wrath of God during the eschatological Day Of The Lord;
(2) Like the midtrib Position it distinguishes between the wrath of Satan and the wrath of God during the 70th week of Daniel;
(3) Unlike these two other positions, it distinguishes between the Great Tribulation and the eschatological day of the Lord.
The Great Tribulation and the eschatological Day Of The Lord do not cover the same period during the second half of the 70th week. The eschatological Day Of The Lord follows the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist.
The wrath of God does indeed include the bowl judgments and Armageddon; in fact, Armageddon is the last portion of the seventh bowl judgment(Rev.17-19). Armageddon is the terminus-ad-quem of the Wrath Of God. The wrath of God does not cover a brief period of time, neither does it begin at or near the end of the seven-year Tribulation Period. Rather the wrath of God begins at the breaking of the seventh seal, after the cosmic and celestial disturbances and the appearance of the Shekinah in the heavens. As a matter of fact, the cosmic disturbances, the sixth seal is preludial to the wrath of God. After the Tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon turned into blood, then will appear the sign of the coming of the Son Of Man in the Heavens, the Shekinah, then He will send His angels to gather His elect. Behold He cometh with the clouds, and every eye shall seen, even those who pierced Him, and all the kindresds of the Earth shall wail because of Him, even so, Amen(Rev.1:7). Christ’s word revealed to John the revelator is in perfect agreement with His word to His disciples in the Olivet Discourse. And then shall appear the sign of the Son Of Man in the Heavens: and then shall all the tribes of the Earth mourn, and they shall see the Son Of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Cloud of heaven signal power and glory. Why do the tribes and the kindreds of the Earth mourn? Because they know God is about to punish the world for their evils. All their atheism, idolatry, evolution, and humanistic philosophy cannot save them from the wrath of Him that sitteth upon the throne. They will know that evolution is a scientific farce, a sham, that God is real, and He will certainly punish the world for their evils. They will cast their idols of gold and silver, the images of the antiMessiah they have made for themselves to worship, to the moles and to the bats, to hide in the rocks, and in the mountains, and the ragged rocks for fear of The Lord, and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake terribly the Earth(Isa.2:19).
And I beheld when He had broken the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, the moon became as blood(blood moon; apparently the only reference to the blood moon in the entire Scriptures is in relation to the Day of His wrath); and the stars fell to the Earth, even as fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were move out of their places. And the kings of the Earth, and the Great men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and the rocks, FALL on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the Great Day Of His Wrath is come: and who shall be able to stand?(Rev.6:12-17). There is a harmony of the Scriptures here. Isaiah, Joel, Matthew, and Revelation all show that the Day of the Lord or the Day of His wrath, is preceded by the cosmic disturbances, but Matthew shows explicitly that the Day of the Lord is preceded by the rapture or gathering together of His elect. Although the wrath of God includes the bowl judgments, it does not begin with them. It begins with the trumpet judgments at the breaking of the seventh seal. And this occurs way into the second half of the 70th seven. The fifth trumpet judgment alone lasts as long as five months. At the expiry of the 70th seven, there is but 30 days to Armageddon. And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days(Dan.12:11). The cessation of the daily sacrifice, and the abomination of desolation have the same terminus-a-quo, so also the Great Tribulation, that is the Middle of the 70th seven. From the midpoint of the 70th seven to the end of Armageddon, is 1,290 days. That means that from the end of the 70th seven to Armageddon is 30 days. The Day of God’s wrath ends at Armageddon. The fifth trumpet alone last five months. If the wrath of God begins at the expiration of the 70th seven, how can the wrath of God be fulfilled in this short period of 30 days when the fifth trumpet alone lasts as long as five months? So, the wrath of God cannot occur at the end of the 70th seven. In other words, the wrath of God cannot be postttribulational. Therefore this view is fatally flawed. It is biblicaly inaccurate.
We can see that the flaw of the posttrib position is its timing of the rapture. By its placement of the rapture at the end of the 70th week, there is insufficient time allowed for the trumpet and bowl judgments which are sequential and progressive to occur. The Scriptures do not permit overlap of these events. There is also no time to permit the conversion of the remnants of Israel and the Gentiles who shall repopulate the Earth in their mortal and nonglorified bodies in the Millennium.
Even far more ridiculous is the position that the believers will not be evacuated physically from the Earth during the eschatological Day Of The Lord, but will be protected from it as if under a big umbrella. This fanciful view annunciated by Dr. Robert H. Gundry does not measure up to biblical scrutiny.
The posttrib fancy that the believers who are caught up to heaven shall be immediately returned to the Earth is not in conformity to the harmony of the sequence of events and eschatological timeline in the Scroll Of Revelation. Dr. Paul Feinberg recognized this necessity.
“To begin with it is important to see the need for saints in nonglorified, physical bodies. While the Millennium will see the radical reduction of evil and the flourishing of righteousness, sin will still exist. . . . There will be sickness and death (Isa. 65:20). . . . All of these are not usually thought of as a part of the life of those who have been glorified.”
The Sheep And Goat Judgment ( Matt.25:31-35 ) indicates that some Gentiles will survive the Great Tribulation and the wrath of God to enter the Millennium. Isa.19:18-25 clearly indicates that both Jews and Gentiles will repopulate the Earth in the Millennium in nonglorified mortal bodies. The resurrected saints in the glorified eternal immortal resurrection bodies do not sin. They will reign with Christ for a thousand years. Some other earthly kingdom constituents will sin. It therefore follows that there must be sufficient time between the rapture and the beginning of the Millennium to permit the salvation of these mortals in their nonglorified bodies who will repopulate the Earth in the Millennium.
There is another position called the partial rapture theory. It is indeed a theory, and therefore will not merit any considerargion in this article. We shall now consider the Prewrath Rapture position.
The Prewrath Rapture Of The Church.
Dr. Charles Cooper defined the Prewrath Rapture Position as a biblical synthesis of Pretribulationism, Midtribulationism, and Posttribulationism, together with a refinement of the timing issue that brings harmony to all the rapture passages in question. Every uquestionable truth from each of the three Positions is kept while errors from from each position is discarded. The major area of disagreement with each of the three positions relates to the timing of the rapture. The Prewrath Rapture position teaches that the church will go through the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist which is the wrath of Satan, but will be raptured before the wrath God begins, when God cuts short the persecution by the antiMessiah with cosmic disturbances, when the sign of the coming of the Son Of Man appears in the heavens, before the breaking of the seventh seal, which is the commencement of the Day Of The Lord. The Scriptures consistently teach that the rapture will occur at the last trump. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians: Behold I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but will shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at The last Trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed(1 Cor.15:51,52).
The same Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians wrote: But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the endear in Christ shall rise first: then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up(harpagesometha, raptured) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words(1 Thess.4:13-18).
In Matt.24:29-31, part of the Olivet discourse which we already quoted in this article, Christ addressing His disciples as they sat on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Temple Mount, across the Kidron valley, said that after the Tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars shall fall from the heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son Of Man in the Heavens. And all the tribes of the Earth shall mourn because they see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. They are mourning because they suddenly realise that there is God, and He is coming to punish them for their evils. All the kindreds of the Earth shall wail. And those that pierced Him(Rev.1:7). Then shall He send His angels with the great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds(corners), from one end of the heaven to another.
In order to understand when the rapture takes place, we must understand first what is meant by the last Trump or trumpet. In order to understand the last trumpet, we have to go to the OT to understand the use of the trumpet in ancient Israel. In ancient Israel, the trumpet is blown to call a solemn assembly. God commanded Moses, make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them, that thou mayest use them at the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps. And when they shall blow with them, all the assembly shall assemble themselves to thee at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation(Num.10:2-3), on Israel’s feast days, and to prepare for war. And if you go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then you shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and you shall be remembered before the Lord your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies(Num.10:9). With respects to the conquest of Jericho, Joshua was commanded by God to instruct the priests to blow the trumpet(Josh.6:4-6,8-9,13-16,20). The judge Ehud blew the trumpet before he led the children of Israel into battle against the oppressive Moabites(Judg.3:27-30). Gideon and the three hundred men that were with him blew the trumpet before they obtained victory over the Medianites(Judg.6:34; 7:7-8,13-16,20,22).
During the reconstruction of the wall of Jerusalem, when they were under the threat of an attack, Nehemiah instructed the Jews: “and I said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, the work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another. In whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, report ye there unto us, our God shall fight for us .”(Neh. 4: 19-20). When announcing the Day Of The Lord, the outpouring of the wrath of God, the prophet Joel wrote, “blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain. Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is near at hand”(Joel 2:1). It is unmistakable, the trumpet is blown before the day of the LORD. The prophet Zephaniah wrote, “The day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteneth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord; the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of waste and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fortified cities, and against the high towers.”(Zeph.1:14,15). So, the day of the Lord cannot include the Millennium as contradicted by the definition by Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost.
The last Trump is the final eschatological outpouring of the wrath of God. But God hath not called us to wrath, but to obtain salvation throughout our Lord Jesus Christ(1 Thess.5:9). So, it is evident that the Church is exempt from the wrath of God. The last Trump will be blown, to call the people of God into His presence, hold a solemn assembly, and to go to war with the living wicked earth-dwellers. The scepter shall not depart from Judah, neither the law giver from between his feet, until His coming, and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be(Gen.49:10). The gathering of His people occurs at His coming. And His coming is preceded by the back-to-back sign given in the sun, moon and stars. There will be no secret rapture as we have been told by the pretribulationists. When Jesus is coming to rapture the Church, the heavens will blaze it forth. All the natural lights of the universe shall be extinguished. It shall be very dark and cold, the Earth will be frozen. It shall be the appearance of the Son of Man in the heaven that shall dispel the darkness and defrost the Earth.
The whole world shall be mourning because of the dire condition of the Earth, and because of the sudden realisation by the unbelivers that God is, and that He is about to punish them for their evils, and they are not able to stand His wrath(Rev.6:17). The saints are rejoicing because, they know Jesus is about to rescue them from the Earth, and the persecution by the antiMessiah which has just been cut short by the darkened and frozen universe. To them it is the Day of Christ. It has a positive connotation. But before God goes to war with living wicked earth-dwellers, He dispatches His angels with the sound of the trumpet to gather together His elect from all corners of the Earth, from one end of the heaven to the other. The gathering of the saints from the four corners of the Earth is done by the angelic reapers. In interpreting the parable of the sower, Jesus told His disciples that the harvest is the end of the ages, and reapers are the angels. When the Church is raptured and the 144,000 from the twelve tribes Israel are sealed, God is about to punish the wicked inhabitants of the earth for their evils(Rev.7). The seventh seal is broken, and there emerges the seventh angels with the seven trumpets(Rev.8). The breaking of the seventh seal is the Last Trump. The seventh seal has no judgment of its own but opens into the seven trumpets. The seventh trumpet has no Judgment of its own but opens into the seven bowls. Therefore, the seven trumpets and the seven bowls are contained and comprehended in the seventh seal, the last Trump. The seventh bowl ends in Armageddon. It is incredibly disingenuous for anyone to event a pretribulation rapture from this scenario. We have just outlined the events of the end times as they occur. Those who preach rapture before pretribulation, are earger to get the Church out of the Earth before the consummate battle of the ages. If the saints are not here, who is the antiChrist antagonizing?
The Prewrath Rapture position is not new. What are new are other views we have presented earlier. The Prewrath Rapture position is the historic position of the The Lord Jesus Christ, the foundation Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Church fathers and their immediate disciples. It is supported by the Didache. It is the historic position of the Roman Catholic Church and the orthodox protestants like the Anglican and the Methodist etc. What is new is the designation Prewrath Rapture given to this position by Malvin J. Rosenthal and Robert van Kampen of blessed memory in their wonderful works on eschatology, The Prewrath Rapture Of The Church, and the The sign respectively. What is new is the systematization of this position by the above named authors. Assigning a designation to an old theological position does not make it new. There is no record anywhere that the Church will not go through the Great Tribulation as a doctrinal position of any Church or denomination until it surfaced amongst the Plymouth brethren in Great Britain in the 1830s. It is mind boggling that any intelligence person who is not dishonest to himself, who has no personal hobby horse to ride, an axe to grind or cause to champion, will read 2 Thess.2 and Matt.24:29-31, and come to the conclusion that the Church will not go through the tribulation. It is incredulous that any normal person who is unwilling to deny the evidence of his senses will read the Olivet Discourse in Matt.24,25, and relegate it to the Jewish waste paper basket when it is obvious Jesus our Lord was addressing His disciples who were representative of the protochurch. How could any normal person who is not diabolically deceived read Matt.24:29-31, and event Armageddon and the millennium out of it. They say those who were taken were taken into the millennium and those left were destroyed at Armageddon. In the sequence of events outlined above according to the Scriptures, we have not reached the end of the 70th seven, let alone Armageddon which occurs 30 days later after the end of the 70th seven. We can see what a monumental problem it creates, to defend a biblically unfounded position. But these men are not deterred; rather, they sink more and more into the abyss of Pretribulational error.
According to Charles Cooper, the Prewrath Rapture Position stands on the following four pillars.
(1) As do all the other three rapture positions, the Prewrath Rapture Position holds that the saints shall not go through the wrath of God during the eschatological Day Of The Lord.
(2) Like those who hold to the Midtrib position, the Prewrath Rapture Position makes a distinction between the wrath of Satan administers by His intermediaries and associates, the antiChrist and the False prophet, and the wrath of God administers by His avenging angelic reapers.
(3) Like the postribs, the wrath of God will be preceded by the persecution by the antiChrist, the church of God will experience this persecution. Indeed it is directed against the saints of the Most High. “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.” ( Rev.13:7 ).
(4) The Prewrath Rapture Position adds a fourth pillar that the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist will be cut short with cosmic and celestial disturbances in order to preserve some saints alive for translation at the rapture. “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” ( Matt.24:22 ). The object of antiChrist’s reign of terror and persecution shall be removed from the scene of persecution on Earth and the surviving remnants of Israel who were not branded with the mark of allegiance to Beast shall be taken into protective custody in Azel(Zech.14:5). This is a refinement of the three previous views, and provides ample time for the wrath of God to be executed upon the disobedient. No disingenuous ways are fabricated for the church to be present while the wrath of God rains down on the wicked earth-dwellers. It provides ample time for the salvation of the one-third remnant of Israel and the unbranded unbelieving Gentiles.
There is a consensus Of opinion from all sides that the eschatological day of the Lord involves the final judgment of God and the deliverance of the saints. Both Drs Craig A. Braising and Darrel L. Bock wrote in reference to 1 Thessalonians:
Deliverance in the Day of the Lord is a special theme of 1 Thessalonians. At His return, Jesus “delivers us from the wrath to come”(1:10). Paul teaches the church that the Day of the Lord will not “over take you like a thief”(5:4). . . . In the context, this deliverance would seem to be the blessing of resurrection and translation into immortality which Christ will grant His own at His coming(1 Thes. 4:13-18), an event which is called the Rapture. . . . This deliverance, or rapture, would appear to coincide with the inception or coming of the Day of the Lord, since that is the focus in 1 Thessaolonians 5:2-4.
In his book, Things to come, J. Dwight Pentecost wrote:
The only way this day could break unexpectedly upon the world is to have it begin immediately after the rapture of the church. It is thus concluded that the Day of the Lord is that extended period of time beginning with God’s dealing with Israel after the rapture at the beginning of the tribulation period and extending through the second advent and the millennial age unto the creation of the new heavens and the new earth after the millennium.
Dr Pentecost is one of the foremost advocates of pretrib rapture. Although his definition of the eschatological Day Of The Lord is erroneous, however, he recognizes it occurs after the rapture. The Prewrath Rapture Position teaches that the eschatological day of the Lord will be signaled by the back-to-back sign given in the Sun, Moon, and Stars as spoken by the prophet Joel. In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus indicates that His parousia will be preceded by the the Great Tribulation and will immediately follow the sign given in the Sun, Moon, and Stars by the prophet Joel which marks the inception of the eschatological Day Of The Lord. In His revelation to Apostle John, the apocalyptist, Jesus also indicates that the sign given in the Sun, Moon, and Stars will signal the day in when His wrath commences. This sign given in the heavenlies corresponds with the breaking of the sixth seal of Rev.6, And is associated with the cosmic and celestial disturbances. If one compares the seals of Revelation to the events outlined in the Olivet Discourse, one would see that the raptures occurs after the commencement of the 70th week of Daniel, after the midpoint of the same, and the Great Tribulation shall have been cut short by the sign of the eschatological day of the Lord and the parousia of Christ given in the Sun, Moon, and Stars. The exact day and the hour is not revealed in the Scriptures(Matt.24:36). However, when the sign is given, it will announce to the whole world the inception of the eschatological Day Of The Lord.