What validity, if any, should be given to the Prewrath Rapture theory?
In a book titled The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church by Marvin Rosenthal, this earlier reliable proponent of the pretrib position altered his view and suggested that the Rapture will take place twenty-one months after the time designated by the midtribulationists and five and a half years after the pretribulation position. In other words, the Church would be destined to face the terrors of the Tribulation before the period of God’s wrath occurs.
The problem with this view is that rather than the Church looking forward to the return of Christ, the focus now shifts to the fearful expectation of the coming of Antichrist. No longer is the Church safe from the Tribulation, but is now present during the first three-quarters of this most horrible period in history.
When first presented to the public, this end-time, theological bombshell resulted in enormous confusion and dismay in many theological quarters. While to date it has been largely dismissed as improbable and unbiblical, it is still important to recognize that this position is shot through with speculation and misinterpretation of Scripture-primarily because it tampers with key verses that for more than one hundred years have been the theological bedrock to the understanding of the Rapture and what has, for the most part, been a pretribulation view.
For the Christian, the pretrib position must remain paramount because it encourages us to look forward to that “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13)-that any-moment-return of “the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” The pretrib view promises that Christians will not endure the great terror of that day when Antichrist rules, when hordes of pestilences invade our world, when incurable diseases strike humankind with abandon, and when the atmosphere of earth as we know it deteriorates to where planet earth is unlivable and the air not fit to breathe.
The prewrath view puts Christians in the heat of battle.
The brilliant scholar Dr. Gerald B. Stanton writes: “Rosenthal contradicts himself on the extent of God’s wrath and the time of the Second Coming of Christ. While his sincerity may be beyond question, many of his definitions appear to be homemade and supporting evidence is completely inadequate. … Rosenthal is in serious error when he attempts to set the time of the Rapture three-fourths of the way through the seven years of judgment and wrath, some 1,890 days after the Antichrist makes his unparalleled covenant with Israel. . . . The Lord’s people should not be confused by vehement argumentation designed to set the day of His appearing.“
If Rosenthal were correct in his assumptions, a prewrath Rapture would be the Christian’s ultimate nightmare, hardly the “blessed hope” promised in Scripture. Tim LaHaye makes the point: “It would be a non-event, for there would be few if any Christians left to rapture at this time. Could any Christian take Antichrist’s mark and thus survive to be raptured? Indeed not. Revelation 14:9-10 makes it clear that ‘those who worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark’ will be consigned to hell. ”
Since the publication of Rosenthal’s book, virtually every reviewer has brought its limitations and biblical inaccuracies to light-primary among them the issue of imminence.
The prewrath theory destroys the sense of expectation, demotivates the body of Christ, and puts the believer’s focus on evil rather than good. The only solace given to Christians in the prewrath theory is that they will be raptured before the great Battle of Armageddon-small comfort since the Church would have already endured the worst of the great Tribulation judgments. Fortunately, while disruptive in some circles over the years, Rosenthal’s theory has never gained ardent followers.
Posttribulationists (those who believe the Church of Jesus Christ will endure the terrible period of the Tribulation) like to use this verse -“Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:22) – saying this passage proves the Church will remain on earth because we are the “elect.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
Many do not realize that God has two elect groups on earth.
• The Church
• The Jews
There is the Church (see Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:2), but that is not the group referred to in Matthew 24:22.
How do I know this?
Isaiah 42:1 speaks of the Jews as God’s elect. So does Isaiah 45:4; Isaiah 65:9; and Isaiah 65:22.
How does one know that the Jews are the elect for whom the days are being shortened in Matthew 24:22?
It’s important at all times to keep the biblical text in context, and this is especially true here.
First of all, this elect group is to flee from Judea to the mountains. Judea is the Holy Land, the area where Christ walked and ministered in human flesh (see Matthew 24:16). They are not to flee on the Sabbath day (shabbat) (Matthew 24:20). According to Exodus 31:13, the Sabbath day is to be eternally practiced by the Jews. In Mark 13:9, we find that they are beaten in the synagogues… not in the churches. We don’t meet in synagogues because we are the Church (see Acts 2:47).
Finally, all these events take place in the area of Jerusalem (see Luke 21:24). The elect, therefore, at this time in history, are Jews, God’s chosen people, the Israelites. Because of their history of rejecting Jesus Christ as Messiah (Savior), God, in His foreknowledge, has set up a different schedule for the Jews as a nation.
Because the true Church, all born-again believers, wholeheartedly accept Christ as Savior (John 1:11-12), they are called to heaven to escape the Tribulation period, or Time of Jacob’s Trouble.
During this time of disillusionment and despair, the Jews as a nation will finally recognize Jesus Christ as Messiah and King in the midst of their suffering (Romans 11:26). This clarifies Matthew 24:22 which states, “But for the elect’s sake [Israel, Deuteronomy 7:6-7] those days shall be shortened.“
The judgment seat of Christ for the Church then occurs in the heavenlies as the Tribulation judgment hits the earth with massive force. Both elect groups are being prepared for the Millennium-one in heaven, the other upon earth. At the conclusion of this Time of Jacob’s Trouble, Christ returns with an army of believers and judges the nations on the basis of their rejection of Christ and their treatment of Israel (Matthew 25:31-46).
WHAT, WHEN, BEFORE or AFTER
What is their role in the great revival to come?
When will that revival take place?
Before or after the Rapture?
In one of the best books in print on the last days, Escape the Coming Night, by Dr. David Jeremiah, the author titles one of his chapters “Revival during Hell on Earth.” What an apt description of the Tribulation. It will indeed be hell on earth-something we have already described, but that we’ll continue to refer to throughout this book. Here’s how Dr. Jeremiah describes the Tribulation Hour judgment of a “groaning planet.“
First, the white horse gallops onto the world scene carrying the man of deception, the coming world dictator; second, the red horse claws the air, abolishing any semblance of peace on earth; third, the black horse appears, creating hunger and economic disaster; fourth, the pale horse spreads deadly plague in its path.
The fifth seal reveals the martyrs of the Tribulation, and the sixth seal unleashes one of the most devastating earthquakes.
What a gloomy backdrop!
No wonder the question is asked, “Who is able to stand?”‘ Who indeed?
Monstrous catastrophes will afflict the earth and its people. But then, we see that God sends His angels to seal His people off from final judgment. A reprieve, it seems. Light at the end of a dark tunnel. Once again God protects His own-even as He spread His covering wings over Noah and his family, shielding them from extinction; Rahab the harlot, carried to safety by means of a sturdy scarlet rope; Daniel spared from a den of hungry lions; Moses swept to safety from the bulrushes of Egypt; Lot and his family rescued before the terrible fire fell on Sodom; and the protection of Israel’s children through a dabbing of blood on the doorposts of their Egyptian homes.
God has provided protection for His people-the children of Israel-throughout the annals of biblical and secular history. Now He promises to protect them once again-during the end times-giving them the opportunity to know the Messiah they so long rejected.
Who will be the minister of God’s salvation during this time?
The Jews themselves-God’s chosen people.
Scripture gives ample proof that God can do anything at any time. I do not expect there will be a great revival before the Rapture because 2 Timothy 3:13 states, “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” John also spoke about the latter-day Church in Revelation 3:15-16: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.“
Presently some of our churches are so cold that we could have signs above the doors stating: First Church of the Deep Freeze, Dr. Jack Frost, Pastor. However, there is going to be a great revival.
It will occur during the seven-year Tribulation period when 144,000 Jews (Revelation 7:4-8) will circle the globe, preaching the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 24:14), declaring the good news: The King is coming! At that time, the Bible says, “All Israel shall be saved” (Romans 11:26). That means Jews.
A GREAT MULTITUDE
They have trusted in the blood of the Lamb.
They have been cleansed.
Both Jews and Gentiles are saved during the greatest revival in history, because at that time, God says, “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28).
Yes, there will be a great revival, and it will occur after the Rapture.
In all probability, the Rapture will convince many that all these things they heard about Jesus and the Bible are, in fact, true, persuading them to want to know the Lord before it is too late.
A MESSAGE OF HOPE FROM DR. JACK VAN IMPE