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With Antichrist possibly about to be revealed . . . the Church is still on earth.

The "Pre-Wrath Rapture Teaching" Evaluated

- by Rhett Totten, MDiv - (c) 1999

Within the last ten years, a new teaching concerning the timing of the rapture, known as the "Pre-Wrath" rapture position, has been publicized. This position is presented in The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, by Marvin Rosenthal, as well as in The Sign (Crossway, '92) and The PreWrath Rapture Position Explained, both by Robert Van Kampen. --These two authors are currently two major proponents of this viewpoint.

In its favor, the pre-wrath rapture position correctly recognizes that the "Day of the Lord" begins soon after the end of the great tribulation, which is in agreement with the combined teachings of Matthew 24:29-31 along with Joel 2:30-31. In addition, the pre-wrath position espouses a more scriptural viewpoint (as compared to a pre-tribulational position), since the pre-wrath position recognizes that the Church (the body of Christ) will go through the time of the great tribulation on earth, during which it will face the persecutions of the Antichrist --which is the biblical view, as is demonstrated elsewhere on this web-site. For those who read the scriptures using a normal, straight-forward (literal) hermeneutic, the pre-wrath view is a welcome recovery of some of the ground lost in the popularization of the pre-tribulational viewpoint.

In one way, however, the Pre-Wrath teaching is somewhat similar to the Pre-Tribulational (or Mid-Tribulational) viewpoint, because the Pre-Wrath view separates the time of the rapture (catching up of believers) by a period of months (or perhaps even a year or more) from the time of Christ's glorious 2nd coming and "landing" on earth (when he starts his millennial reign). The Pre-Wrath position paints a picture of an initial phase of Jesus "coming" near the earth in a "fly-by" operation (right after the 6th seal) to rapture the church off of the earth, to then take it away to heaven for several months or more (during which the trumpets of Rev. ch.8 & 9, and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, as well as the bowls of wrath occur), before Jesus later "comes" back in a final phase to actually "land" and stand on the Mt. of Olives, to stay on earth for his millennial reign. (see Van Kampen's book The Sign, p.298, 340, & chart in back).

In another way, the Pre-Wrath position is fairly similar to the Post-Tribulational rapture position --but with a shift in emphasis on the issue of God's wrath at the 2nd Coming. This is the case, since the Bible (and Post-trib view) does say that great wrath will be dispensed by Christ against the ungodly by at the time of his Second Coming (see Rev. 19:11-18; 2Thess. 1:7,8). -- However, some important scriptures have been de-emphasized (or ignored) in adopting the Pre-Wrath view ...and some of the failings of this view will next be explained.

The "Parousia"

Like the Pre-Trib view, the Pre-Wrath teaching ignores the basic and straight-forward meaning of the word "Parousia," which renders the Pre-Wrath view a somewhat muddled concept. However, a study of the Greek word "Parousia," as it is used in the New Testament, gives a clearer and more consistent picture of Christ's Second Coming :

The New Testament Greek word "Parousia" (pronounced "pah-roo-SEE'-ah"), when used concerning Christ, is a "technical" term --which means that it has a very specialized and focused meaning. In the NT useage, Christ's "Parousia" speaks "nearly always of his Messianic advent in glory to judge the world at the end of the age" (Greek-English Lexicon by Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, p.635); --16 of the 17 usages have this specific meaning. --Christ's "advent" is his arrival on earth. The "Parousia" of Christ in the NT essentially always indicates Christ's glorious (2Thess.2:8) 2nd Coming and arrival on earth as the judge of the world. Christ's Parousia in the NT never indicates an invisible, non-glorious phase of Christ's coming. In English translations of the Bible, Christ's "Parousia" is usually translated as the words "coming" or "presence," and it necessarily includes the idea of Christ's glorious "arrival" to earth in order to be personally with mankind on earth. The Parousia is the time of the Rapture (1Thess.4:15-17) and also the time when Christ slays Antichrist (2Thess.2:8). This all happens together. When the Parousia occurs, this means that Christ must arrive and land upon the earth in order to be present as the judge of the world. This "judging" would include the dispensing of Christ's great and furious wrath at the 2nd Coming. - - - The fact of everything involved in this unified Parousia-event does not allow for a time where Christ has previously raptured the church and then is not present on earth for months or a year, as some "Pre-Wrath" proponents posit (according to Van Kampen's view of Pre-Wrath, apparently). The Pre-Wrath view does not seem to take this crucial word into consideration.

The Pre-Wrath proponent needs to go no further than this --for the time being-- until he has re-read the above paragraph and looked up every verse and absorbed the clear picture of the Parousia.

To further clarify this word: Outside of the Bible, "Parousia" was used in NT times to indicate the coming of a ruler or official who was just arriving at a city in order to continue on into the city in order to be "present" with the people in that city. It never meant that the ruler merely drew near to the region outside the city, only to pass the city by and leave --without entering in to be with the people. --The word definitely did not mean that the ruler came near, only to then turn around and leave for a number of months or years before returning. The proper picture of "parousia" rules out the "fly-by" concept where the Lord does not continue his descent to complete his arrival to be present with people on earth. -- Both the Pre-Wrath and the Pre-Trib views are mistaken in teaching this "fly-by" concept in an initial phase of the 2nd Coming, with an appreciable amount of time passing before Christ actually lands on the earth.

Next, considering several verses which speak of Christ's Parousia, is highly informative on his Second Coming and the rapture.

In 1 Cor. 15:23, Paul brings out that the resurrection of believers in Christ will happen "at his Parousia" ("when he comes" in glory to judge the world). Then in 1 Thes. 4, where Paul describes the Parousia ("coming") of the Lord (v.15), we read that this is the time of the saint's resurrection and rapture (v.16,17). The resurrection and rapture of the saints (born again believers) is connected to, and is part of the Parousia.

Adding to this concept, historically, : "When a dignitary paid an official visit or parousia to a city in Hellenistic times, the action of the leading citizens in going out to meet him and escorting him on the final stage of his journey was called the apentesis..." (F.F.Bruce, in New Bible Commentary, p.1159) (my emphasis).

In harmony with this historical picture, Paul states in 1Thess.4:17 that the resurrected and transformed saints will be caught up (raptured) to "meet (Gk=apentesis) the Lord in the air", in order to escort him on the last little portion of his arrival to earth at the Parousia (which is Christ's arrival to earth at his glorious Second Coming). ---If Jesus were to come down and snatch these people away from the earth for several years (or hold them above earth's atmosphere for a number of months), it would not fit with the picture portrayed by these two Greek words, "parousia" and "apentesis". It would not be an arrival, but more of a "fly-by." -- In 1 Thess. 3:13, it is because of Christ's catching up of believers to "meet" him in the air, followed immediately by their escorting (apentesis) of Christ as he completes his arrival to land upon the earth, that Paul says the Parousia (coming) of our Lord Jesus is "with all his holy ones," as he descends to the earth.

Both the pre-wrath and pre-trib views destroy the importance and meaning of the "parousia," by wrongly separating the rapture from Christ's landing on earth by a significant period of time, with no good scriptural justification for doing so. In the actual biblical picture, there is no room for a period of years or months crammed into the middle of the Parousia event, as Christ descends and arrives at the earth in his Second Coming. Perhaps his descent might last half a day, or one day or two, ...but several months or years seems unwarranted scripturally, and actually does violence to what the Bible actually portrays.

And the next point is critical:
In 2 Thess. 2:8, Paul looks ahead to the end of the Great Tribulation as he mentions the destruction of the Antichrist "whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his Parousia (coming/arrival)." ...This verse clearly tells us that the Parousia (which includes the saint's resurrection and rapture) will be the powerful and glorious event of "splendor" which will destroy the Antichrist at the end of the Great Tribulation. The Parousia is the time of Christ's wrath and judgment --including Armageddon. And Jesus also depicts his Parousia as glorious and powerful: "For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the Parousia of the Son of Man" (Mat. 24:27). --The Parousia is not secret and invisible. In the Parousia, Christ himself will be gloriously and blindingly visible to the whole world, believers will be raised, raptured and glorified, and the Antichrist along with many non-believers will be slain by a wrathful (and gloriously visible) Christ right after the rapture. Maybe that time of wrath will last for a few days. We should see it that way in our mind's eye.

So, it is clear from all of this, that the reign and authority of Antichrist will extend right up to, and will be ended by, Christ's glorious Parousia (arrival to earth), since the Bible says the Parousia is the time of Antichrist's destruction. Any gap of 6 months or more in the middle of the Parousia (as is seemingly taught by Van Kampen's version of the "Pre-Wrath" position) is disruptive and nonsensical to the meaning of the Parousia event. The Parousia is Christ's powerful and glorious Second Coming ---by which the Antichrist is destroyed and the rapture of believers will also occur within that relatively short period of time. The Parousia is also the point at which Christ initiates and fights the Battle of Armageddon (he is the main combatant).

Note, however, that some Pre-Wrath proponents say that they do not necessarily teach a period of several months or at least weeks between the rapture and Christ's touch-down on the earth, but only perhaps a few days during which the wrath (& the Battle of Armageddon) takes place. ---But if that is true (and Van Kampen is out of step), then I have no problem with their viewpoint ...and it is basically Post-Tribulationism. -- In that case, there need not be another postion with a special name (the "Pre-Wrath" view), which would be a "distinction" without any real difference.

The "Epiphany"

In the New Testament, the Greek word "Epiphany" means the glorious "visible appearance of the Lord Jesus on earth at the end" of the age (New Int'l. Dict. of N.T. Theology, Vol.3, Colin Brown, p.319) (my emphasis). To those ancient Greek-speakers and listeners, the well-understood meaning of this word "epiphany", is the glorious appearance of God on the earth, so that men see God standing there. --Thus, the "epiphany" of Jesus can be nothing other than the glorious and visible post-tribulational Coming of Christ when he ends up standing on the Mount of Olives --on the earth.

In 2Thess.2:8, Paul declares that it is the "epiphany" of Christ's "parousia" which destroys the Antichrist. Therefore, combining these two terms in this verse, it is the time of Christ's glorious arrival (parousia) and epiphany (appearing) as the glorious Deity arriving to stand on earth which brings about the destruction of the Antichrist.

Since the rapture occurs at the time of the parousia (which is the word "coming" in 1Thess.4:15), along with the epiphany (2Thess. 2:8), ---the time of Antichrist's destruction is also the time of the rapture.

Next, we also read that Paul exhorts Timothy to "keep this commandment without spot or blame until the appearing (epiphany) of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Tim.6:14). Paul says to persevere faithfully until the big goal is reached : the post-trib "epiphany." Thus, we must logically deduce and realize that Timothy's (and the church's) struggle against sin and the flesh will not come to an end (by being glorified at the rapture) until the same time when the Antichrist is destroyed by Christ's glorious "epiphany" (as we saw in 2Thess. 2:8).

Therefore, in contradiction to the pre-wrath position, the church's rapture and glorification will not occur some 6 months prior to the day of Antichrist's destruction (as the pre-wrath rapture position teaches).

In addition, Paul tells Titus: "we wait for the blessed hope ----the glorious appearing (epiphany) of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13). Thus, the "blessed hope" we look to and wait for is not some secret disappearance 6 months before the destruction of Antichrist (as in the pre-wrath rapture teaching), but rather, our "blessed hope" is the glorious and visible epiphany of Christ's Coming to earth, at which time we will be raptured and the Antichrist will also be destroyed. There is no good scriptural reason to posit a longer period of 6 months or more between the rapture and the destruction of the Antichrist.

The Seals, Trumpets & Bowls

It is apparently important to the pre-wrath position, that the Seals, Trumpets and Bowls of the book of Revelation run consecutively (without overlap), however this does not appear to be the best way to envision their occurrence. Instead, there is good reason to believe that they run somewhat concurrently.

We should point out that in all three series --the Seals (Rev.6), Trumpets (Rev.8-11), and Bowls of Wrath (Rev.16)-- it seems to be that the seventh item in each series occurs at the Second Coming of Christ.

Very importantly here: We know that the Seventh Trumpet occurs at the 2nd Coming (at the Parousia, when the Millennium begins) because Revelation 11:15 says, "the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ."
--The Pre-Wrath proponent should not just read on at this point, but think about that verse: The contents of the Seventh Trumpet in Revelation 11:15 is the fact that the world has just become the kingdom of Christ. Therefore, it is unavoidable that the Seventh Trumpet is at the point of the Second Coming of Christ, when he has just raptured the church and landed on earth (Parousia) to become earth's King and Judge, and to start the millennial kingdom.

Since the Seventh Trumpet happens at the end of the tribulation and the beginning of Christ's earthly kingdom, and then in the book of Revelation the apostle John drops back to an earlier point in time to write about the seven Bowls of Wrath, we wonder why John would write this way:

In his book, The Church and the Tribulation, (Zondervan, (c) 1973), Robert Gundry points out that this concurrent arrangement by the apostle John is favored by the "Semitic style of Revelation ...according to which the seals, trumpets, and bowls will find somewhat concurrent fulfillment." Also, the fact that later descriptions "add more detail is a well-recognized feature of narratival style in Semitic literature" (Gundry, p.75).
--In similar fashion, in Genesis chapters 1, 2 and 3, the re-descriptions of all or parts of the creation process are different descriptions that cover different sections of the same time-period of creation.

So, similarly, the three different series of the seals, trumpets and bowls in The Revelation would start at different times, run somewhat concurrently and all end together at the Second Coming, approximately thus:

SEALS:  1            2            3            4            5                                       6 7
TRUMPETS: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
BOWLS: 123456 7

(Note: Similar to the New Year's illustration below, the Seals & Trumpets may actually be much more spread out and lengthy than this shows.
Altogether, the seals may run for years, while the Bowls of Wrath could possibly run their course in 24 hours.
Trumpets might start after the 5th Seal starts. The Bowls might start after the 6th Trumpet starts.
But all three sevens should line up straight, as they occur together at the 2nd Coming,
...since we know the seventh Trumpet is at the 2nd Coming (Rev.11:15), and so is the seventh bowl.)

To illustrate that "Semitic Style," consider a similar way of describing something familiar to us. The above situation (with the seals, trumpets & bowls) would be very much like leading up to the same start of the New Year, by giving three series of seven different things:

Now, the above three series are described separately, one after the other, but they run somewhat concurrently, and end together at the same event, even though they cannot start at the same time. Obviously, the 7 days are contained in the last part of the last month, and the 7 hours are located in the last part of the last day. This is quite analogous to the series in Revelation which describe the Seals, Trumpets and Bowls which all end at the same time. We should realize that the Semitic literature used such methods of description. It is because of such a Semitic descriptive method, that when we come to the sixth seal of Revelation (Rev.6:12-14), we have just come out of the great tribulation (Mat.24:29-31), where the Seals and Trumpets are about all finished, and the wrath of the Lamb is about to begin (Rev.6:16,17). It is at this point that the rapture occurs (Mat.24:29-31) --which is part of the parousia and epiphany of Christ-- while the 7 bowls of the wrath of God take place (which could all take place in less than a day).

In view of this very likely interpretation of the Scriptures, there is no good reason to posit a six-month period (or more) between the rapture and the glorious return of Christ to the earth, as the Rosenthal/VanKampen pre-wrath position holds. Indeed, the word studies given above, steer us away from such a position.

More Word Studies and Issues

There are other pertinent word-studies that could be carried out, which would bring us to the same conclusions as the above word-studies of "parousia" and "epiphany", however, for the sake of time and brevity the reader is encouraged to also look at the studies of the Greek words "apokalypse" and "phaneroo," found in this web-site's article entitled "The Church, Tribulation and Rapture" (link is also below).

Proponents of the pre-wrath position bring up other issues which we address on this site -----such as the Church being subject to God's wrath if it stays on earth during the trumpets----- where the answers also turn out to be essentially the same as those given to pre-tribulationists.


In several ways, the pre-wrath viewpoint (which puts the rapture after the great tribulation) is quite similar to the post-tribulational view, and is a welcome development as compared to the pre-tribulational view, -----but so far as the pre-wrath view portrays the coming of Christ as being split up into phases of "the rapture" and "the glorious" coming (and even other little "comings" inbetween), the pre-wrath viewpoint develops some of the same sorts of weaknesses and failings that pre-tribulationism (& mid-trib) has. It would seem apparent that if these problems are corrected, many who have been considering the pre-wrath view, will finally end up adopting the post-tribulational viewpoint.

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Link to Site With Pre-Wrath Position:

Current Events And End Times Prophecy - by Wes Peters

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Questions or Comments? :

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