The Pre-Wrath Rapture
Is there any validity to this concept?
Let’s begin with some definitions and clarifications. The term, Rapture, refers to the idea that a day will come when Jesus will appear in the heavens, at which time the dead in Christ will be resurrected to meet Him in the air and to receive their glorified bodies. Living believers will be taken up also and will be translated en route from mortal to immortal. Both the resurrected believers and the living ones will then return to Heaven with Jesus. This event is viewed by most as being separate and apart from the Second Coming of Jesus when He will return to earth to reign for a thousand years.
The word, Rapture, does not appear in English language Bibles, but it can be found in the Latin Vulgate translation of Jerome, which served as the basic Bible of the Western world for over 1200 years, from 400AD to 1611 when the King James Version was published. The word appears in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. In English versions it is expressed as “caught up.” The concept of the Rapture can be found in many other places in the New Testament — for example, in John 14:1-4 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-53.
One other thing that needs to be made clear about the Rapture is that it is a promise to the Bride of Christ, which is the Church. It will not include Old Testament Saints. They will be resurrected at the time of the Lord’s Second Coming, at the end of the Tribulation (Daniel 12:1-2). The Tribulation Martyrs — those who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior during the Tribulation and who are killed for their faith — will also be resurrected at the time of the Second Coming.
The Question of Timing
Among those who believe in a Rapture of the Church, there is disagreement as to the timing of the event. Until recent years, there were three concepts of the Rapture’s timing:
- The Pre-Trib View — This is the idea that the Rapture will take place before the Tribulation begins.
- The Mid-Trib View — This viewpoint places the Rapture in the middle of the Tribulation.
- The Post-Trib View — According to this view, the Rapture and the Second Coming are all one event that takes place at the end of the Tribulation.
The “Pre-Wrath” View
In 1990 Marvin Rosenthal presented a fourth viewpoint in his book, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church. Rosenthal was not the originator of this new viewpoint. Rather, he was the one who popularized it with his book.
The person who conceived the “Pre-Wrath” view of the Rapture was a man named Robert Van Kampen (1938-1999). Van Kampen became one of America’s richest men through his involvement in investment banking. During his lifetime he accumulated one of the largest private collections of rare and antique Bibles in North America.
In the 1970’s Van Kampen began developing the “Pre- Wrath” concept of the timing of the Rapture. Once he had completed his work on the concept, he started trying to find a well known person in the field of Bible prophecy to endorse his new view. That person finally turned out to be Marvin Rosenthal, who at the time was serving as the director of a very influential ministry called Friends of Israel. Rosenthal tried to convince the board of the ministry to abandon its commitment to the Pre-Trib view and accept the new viewpoint. They refused, and Rosenthal was forced to depart. He went to Florida where he built the Holy Land Experience — a Christian theme park which has since been taken over by the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Today, Rosenthal serves as the director of Zion’s Hope, a ministry located in Winter Garden, Florida.
Rosenthal’s book was financed by Van Kampen’s fortune, and he mailed out thousands of copies to pastors all over America. Later, Van Kampen wrote his own books about the “Pre-Wrath” view, the most important being The Sign (1992).
The Meaning of the “Pre-Wrath” View
The “Pre-Wrath” view of the Rapture argues that the first three-fourths of the Tribulation is the wrath of Man and the wrath of Satan, and not the wrath of God. Therefore, the proponents of this view argue that the Church will suffer through the first three-quarters of the Tribulation since the Church is promised protection only from the wrath of God.
Those who espouse this viewpoint of the Rapture’s timing believe that the Seal Judgments are the wrath of Man and Satan and that they continue throughout the first half of the Tribulation and into the second half, right up to the three-quarters point, or shortly thereafter. They place the Trumpet Judgments in the last quarter of the Tribulation and the Bowl Judgments in the first 30 days following the end of Daniel’s 70th Week of Years.
Objections to the Viewpoint
I have a number of objections to this concept of the Rapture’s timing.
1) The Name — I object to the name given the viewpoint by its proponents. The name is both confusing and vague. It is confusing because both the Pre-Trib and Mid-Trib views are “Pre- Wrath.” The Pre-Trib view argues that the entire 7 years of the Tribulation (Daniel’s 70th Week of Years) constitutes a pouring out of the wrath of God. The Mid-Trib view takes the position that only the second half of the Tribulation is the period of God’s wrath. So, Rosenthal’s name for his viewpoint does not distinguish it from the Pre-Trib and Mid-Trib views. All three are prewrath views.
The “Pre-Wrath” name is also vague because it does not give a clue as to when the Rapture occurs in relation to the Tribulation. The name of the Pre-Trib view signifies a belief that the Rapture will occur before (pre) the Tribulation begins. The name of the Mid-Trib view clearly indicates a belief that the Rapture will occur in the middle of the Tribulation. The name of the Post-Trib view puts the Rapture after (post) the Tribulation. But the name, “Pre-Wrath” gives no indication of when the Rapture will occur with relation to the Tribulation.
For that reason, I have decided to call the “Pre-Wrath” view the Three-Quarters Tribulation Rapture viewpoint. And I will be abbreviating it throughout the rest of this article as the “3/4 Trib Rapture.” I have given it that name because its proponents believe the Rapture will occur about three-quarters of the way through the Tribulation, or shortly thereafter.
2) The Chronology — I object to the 3/4 Trib Rapture because it violates the chronology of the book of Revelation. The sequence of events that is pictured in the book of Revelation clearly places both the Seal Judgments and the Trumpet Judgments in the first half of the 70th Week of Daniel. And the Bowl Judgments are clearly contained within Daniel’s 70th Week, near its end. The 3/4 Trib view scrambles all this. As you can see in the diagram above, the Seal Judgments are continued over into the second half of the 7 year period, the Trumpet Judgments are moved from the first half to the end of the second half, and the Bowl Judgments are appended to a 30 day period after the close of Daniel’s 70th Week!
3) Imminence — One of my strongest objections to the 3/4 Trib view is its destruction of the imminence of the Lord’s return. The Bible emphasizes that the Lord could return at any moment and that we should live looking for His return (Matthew 24:44, 1 Corinthians 1:7, Philippians 3:20, Philippians 4:5, Colossians 3: 4, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:6, Titus 2:13, and Revelation 16:15). The 3/4 Trib view says the Lord cannot return until after the Antichrist appears, the Jewish Temple has been rebuilt and the world has suffered through about 5 years of the wrath of Man and Satan. Thus, according to the 3/4 Trib view, we should be living looking for the Antichrist and not Jesus Christ.
Rosenthal asserts that the Bible never says that any prophesied end time events could not occur before the Rapture. He is correct. The re-establishment of Israel is an example. The war of Gog & Magog could prove to be another example. Imminency does not preclude the fulfillment of some end time prophecies before the Rapture. Rather, it asserts that none have to happen before the Rapture can occur.
4) The Wrath of God — Another strong objection I have to the 3/4 Trib Rapture view is its mistaken concept of the sovereignty of God. The view attempts to distinguish the wrath of Man and Satan from the wrath of God. Both Man and Satan operate under the sovereignty of God. That’s why Psalm 2 pictures God sitting in Heaven laughing at the evil plots of the world’s political leaders. His laughing is not motivated by a lack of concern. He laughs because He has the wisdom and power to orchestrate all the evil of Man and Satan to the triumph of His Son.
Further, the Bible portrays God pouring out His wrath both directly (Sodom and Gomorrah) and indirectly (the destruction of both Israel and Judah). God poured out His wrath upon the rebellious northern nation of Israel by allowing the Assyrians to conquer it. He even referred to the Assyrians as “the rod of My anger” (Isaiah 10:5) and “My war-club” (Jeremiah 51:20).
When the prophet Habakkuk complained about God doing nothing about the evil of the southern nation of Judah, the Lord revealed that He was going to pour out His wrath on that nation through Babylon (Habakkuk 1:6). And when the Lord was finished with Babylon, He raised up the Medes and Persians to conquer the Babylonian Empire, referring to the conquering army as “My consecrated ones” (Isaiah 13:3).
During Daniel’s 70 Weeks of Years, much of the wrath of God will be executed through the Antichrist, but it is still the wrath of God.
5) The Tribulation — I object to the way in which the 3/4 Trib Rapture view denies that the first half of Daniel’s 70th Week is part of the Tribulation. The fact of the matter is that both halves of Daniel’s 70th Week are referred to in the Scriptures as a time of tribulation. Matthew 24:9 refers to the first half as “tribulation,” and Matthew 24:21 classifies the second half as “great tribulation.” Incidentally, Jesus’ reference to the second half as the “great tribulation” does not mean it will be worse than the first half. Rather, Jesus called it that because He was speaking to a Jewish audience, and the second half of the Tribulation will be when the Antichrist will try to annihilate the Jews.
6) The Purpose of Daniel’s 70th Week — I object to the way in which the 3/4 Trib Rapture view distorts the purpose of Daniel’s 70th Week. Daniel 9:24-27 makes it clear that the purpose of Daniel’s 70 Weeks of Years is to accomplish six things among the Jewish people:
- To finish transgression
- To make an end of sin
- To make atonement for iniquity
- To bring in everlasting righteousness
- To seal up vision and prophecy
- To anoint the most Holy Place
Just as the first 69 weeks of years (483 years) of the prophecy had nothing to do with the Church, neither does the final week of years. The last seven year period of Daniel’s prophecy is about the accomplishment of the purposes listed above among the Jewish people. Accordingly, the entire period of Daniel’s 70th Week is referred to in Jeremiah 30:7 as “the time of Jacob’s trouble.” There is no purpose for the Church during Daniel’s 70th Week.
7) The Church — I object to the 3/4 Trib Rapture view of why the Church must be present during the Tribulation. Incredibly, the argument has been proclaimed that the Church must suffer “for purging and purifying.”1 The Bible says that the blood of Jesus is sufficient to cleanse us of all sin (1 John 1:7). The idea that the Church needs to be purified creates a Christian Purgatory, which is a blasphemy of the blood of Jesus. Furthermore, why is it that only the end time Church deserves this fate?
8) The Seal Judgments — I strongly object to the 3/4 Trib Rapture view that the Seal Judgments do not constitute any portion of the wrath of God. The judgments originate at the throne of God when Jesus begins to open each seal (Revelation 6:1). Further, they are referred to as “the wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:16-17).
9) The Length of Daniel’s 70th Week of Years — I object to the fact that the 3/4 Trib Rapture view extends Daniel’s 70th Week by 30 days beyond the 7 years or 2,520 days it is supposed to run (Revelation 11:3 and 12:6). There is just no scriptural basis for this extension.
10) The Day of the Lord — I object to the 3/4 Trib view of the Day of the Lord. Rosenthal contends that it begins with the opening of the 7th Seal, and he therefore argues that the wrath of God does not begin until this point.
The problem here is that the Day of the Lord is a term that is used in many different ways in the Bible, and it must always be interpreted in context. There are places when it refers to specific national judgments from God, as when Israel was destroyed by Assyria (Amos 5:18-20) and when Judah was destroyed by Babylon (Lamentations 2:21-22 and Ezekiel 13:5). In like manner the fall of Babylon is called the Day of the Lord (Isaiah 13:6- 13).
But there are also times when the term refers to end time events. In this regard, it sometimes refers to the return of Jesus at the end of Daniel’s 70th Week (Isaiah 2:10-22, Joel 3:9-17 and Zechariah 14:1-9). In other end time contexts, the term is used in a broader sense. For example, in Zephaniah 1:14-18 it is used to refer to the entire period of the Tribulation when “all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy…” In 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 it says the Day of the Lord will come at a time when people are feeling safe and secure — which would be at the beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week, after the Antichrist negotiates a treaty that guarantees peace for Israel. But the prophet Isaiah repeatedly uses a shorthand version of the term — “in that day” — to refer to the Millennium (Isaiah 4:2-6). I therefore think that in reference to the end times, the broad use of the term refers to the period of time from the beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week to the end of the Millennium.
Another problem with Rosenthal’s concept of the Day of the Lord is that he has it beginning at the point where the Seal Judgments are followed immediately by the Trumpet Judgments. How could that be? The Bible says the Day of the Lord will begin with people celebrating peace and safety (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3). What feeling of peace and safety will exist when the world is experiencing the Trumpet Judgments? This must be a reference to the treaty of peace the Antichrist will negotiate at the beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week and which will mark the beginning of the Tribulation (Daniel 9:27).
We are currently in the Day of the Spirit (Acts 2:17 and 2 Corinthians 3:8). Daniel’s 70th Week plus the Millennium constitutes the Day of the Lord. The Eternal State will be the Day of God (2 Peter 3:12).
One of the strangest parts of Rosenthal’s book is chapter 16 (pages 215-230). In this chapter he attacks the Pre-Trib Rapture view as espousing two separate comings of the Lord. He then proclaims: “There is not even a hint — anywhere — of two separate comings” (page 222).
In response to this attack, I would like to point out that the Pre-Trib view does not present two comings of the Lord. Instead, it advocates an appearing of the Lord (the Rapture) followed at least 7 years later by the coming of the Lord (the Second Coming). Jesus does not return to the earth at the Rapture. He appears in the heavens for His Church, receives them, and then returns to Heaven with them.
But what is so weird about Rosenthal’s attack is that his end time viewpoint presents multiple comings of the Lord — so many, in fact, that it is hard to chart them. Take a look at the chart again. The first “coming” of the Lord I have shown is the Rapture. But Rosenthal has several other “comings.”
At the end of Daniel’s 70th Week, Jesus returns to earth to save Israel from annihilation, after which He returns to Heaven. Then, at the end of the “30 days of Reclamation” Jesus returns again to defeat Satan at the Battle of Armageddon. Following the “45 days of Restoration,” Jesus returns to Heaven, gathers His Church, and returns to begin His thousand year reign. So, Rosenthal has a total of four “comings” of Jesus, yet he has the audacity to assert there is only one “coming” of the Lord and he condemns the Pre-Trib view for having two!
This amounts to mass confusion. Rosenthal recognizes the problem and tries to cover it by stating that Jesus has a “continuing presence” on the earth after the Rapture, and thus His four comings are really only parts of the one Second Coming. This is all nothing but semantic smoke. In the Pre-Trib view the Rapture is also followed by a “continuing presence” of Jesus on earth as He launches the wrath of God with the Seal Judgments and oversees the continuing implementation of God’s wrath with the Trumpet and Bowl Judgments, after which He returns to earth to reign.
A Cornerstone Verse?
A friend of mine, Michael Pfeil, recently published a book in which he defends the 3/4 Trib Rapture viewpoint.2 He argues that the cornerstone verses for the view are Revelation 6:9-10, which read as follows:
9) When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained;
10) and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Pfeil’s argument is that these are martyrs killed for their faith during the first half of Daniel’s 70th Week. He then says that if they are victims of God’s wrath, then they are calling out for vengeance against God! He argues, instead, that they are victims of the Antichrist and are crying out for vengeance against him — and this, in turn proves that the first half of Daniel’s 70th Week constitutes the wrath of Man and Satan, and not the wrath of God.
The problem with this argument is that when the wrath of God is poured out, it falls on the just and the unjust unless God specifically promises protection to believers. He has promised the Church such protection (1 Thessalonians 1:10). He has also promised that He will protect the 144,000 Jews who are sealed by His Spirit at the beginning of the Tribulation (Revelation 7:1- 8 and 14:1-5).
But He has made no such promise of protection for those who receive Jesus during the Tribulation. They will suffer just as Daniel and his cohorts suffered when Judah fell to the Babylonians. The rain falls on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45), and the just who suffer martyrdom during the Tribulation will cry out for vengeance against their executioners.
The 3/4 Trib Rapture concept does not pass the test of the Scriptures. Even worse, as Jack Van Impe has put it, the concept is “the Christians’ ultimate nightmare” rather than their “blessed hope”3 (Titus 2:11-13).
1) Alan Kurschner, “Prewrath — What Is It?” www.AlanKurschner.com.wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Prewrath.pdf, page 1. See also: Cooper Abrams, “Fatal Flaws in the Modern Pre-Wrath Rapture Position,” http://bible-truth.org/Pre-Wrath.html, page 12.
2) Michael E. Pfeil, Rapture of the Church: Bound for Heaven, BUT…” (Bloomington, IN: Westbow Press, 2013).
3) Jack Van Impe, “What validity, if any, should be given to the Prewrath Rapture theory?” www.jvim.com/newsletter/pastissues/ 2012/20120723.html, page 1.