The Prewrath Rapture

Below is a recent article written by BRIAN MELIA for Prophecy Today. Link at the bottom of the article.
This article explores the prewrath position of the rapture. This view proposes that the rapture of the church takes place after the revealing of the Anti-Christ, between the 6-7th seal. This would mean that the generation of believers alive in that final hour would see the rise of The Anti-Christ and go through the great tribulation, or persecution of the Anti-Christ, but would be removed before the wrath of The Lamb. There is room for varying views on the rapture and this is something we are not dogmatic about, but this article provides good food for thought!

Paul taught that believers who are alive when the Lord returns will be translated directly into their resurrection bodies to join believers resurrected from the dead: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1Thes 4:16-17). This event of being ‘caught up’ (Greek ‘harpazo’) is referred to by many as ‘the rapture’– deriving from the Latin translation of this verb.

Zondervan has published the book ‘Three Views of the Rapture: Pretribulation, Prewrath or Posttribulation1 which is an updated second edition, replacing the mid-tribulation view of the first edition with the prewrath view. This reflects the fact that many pastors and teachers have switched from other views to the prewrath view.

Concerning the second coming of Jesus, prewrath teachers regard it as a complex, whole event that encompasses the resurrection and rapture of those who belong to the Lord, the judgments upon Antichrist and those who oppose the Lord, the rescue and restoration of Israel and the establishment of the Lord’s millennial kingdom reign. The Scriptures describe multiple events as taking place in the Lord’s return. For instance, Paul describes this coming as including the gathering of the saints (the rapture) and the destruction of ‘the lawless one’ (the Antichrist), using the same Greek word for ‘coming’ (‘parousia’) in both verses (2Thes 2:1, 8).

A future seven-year period

Amongst those who take a futurist approach to interpretation (believing for instance, that most prophecies of the book of Revelation are yet to be fulfilled) the seventy ‘sevens’ prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27, is very significant. The passage describes a period of 490 years (seventy ‘sevens’). A number of scholars have demonstrated how the first sixty-nine ‘sevens’ of 483 years, beginning from the command of Artaxerxes to rebuild Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:1-9), predicted exactly the year of the crucifixion of Jesus – “the Anointed One will be put to death”. However, the final seven years in these key timings for the nation of Israel are still to come, and, according to Daniel 9:27, will include at the halfway point an abomination in the temple. Jesus refers to this “abomination of desolation” as the event that leads to the time of unparalleled persecution known as the “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:15, 21 ESV).

Correcting the Thessalonian church’s misunderstanding about the timing of the Day of the Lord, Paul gave further details about this abomination, explaining that the day of the Lord could not come about until the man of lawlessness (the Antichrist) is revealed: “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2Thes 2:3-4).

Paul then described one who is holding back or restraining the appearance of the Antichrist, and the associated satanic power of lawlessness, until the appointed time (2Thes 2:5-8). Bible teachers who say that the Church will not experience the great tribulation, often claim that the Holy Spirit is the restrainer, in line with their view that the church is raptured before this unparalleled tribulation. However, a convincing case can be made that the restrainer is a powerful angel and may well be the archangel Michael. Michael has a specific role in God’s purposes for Israel in the final years of this age (Dan 12:1). Michael and his angels fight against Satan and his angels and prevail and eject them from heaven (Rev 12:7-9). Also, it is an angel who chains Satan in the Abyss during the Lord’s millennial reign (Rev 20:1-3).

The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord

Many Bible teachers, call the whole final seven years period of Daniel’s prophecy ‘the tribulation’ or ‘the tribulation period.’ However, prewrath scholar Alan Kurschner, in his book ‘Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord’,2 states that the expression ‘the tribulation period’ is misleading as “it neglects the biblical distinction between the great tribulation and the day of the Lord” (p13). This distinction is crucial. I highly recommend Dr Kurschner’s book.

The Greek word, ‘thlipsis’ is often translated ‘tribulation’ or ‘distress’ in referencing the persecution of Christians and Israel. Following the abomination of desolation, Antichrist’s actions, inspired by Satan, will initiate ‘the great tribulation’: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matt 24:21 ESV).

Of this time of future intense persecution in the great tribulation, Jesus said: And “if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matt 24:22 ESV). The phrase ‘cut short’ (Greek ‘koloboō’) means to cause something to be reduced in number or extent. This completely fits with Jesus words: “But about that day or hour no-one knows” (Matt 24:36). In contrast, some would argue that the view that Jesus gathers the saints at the very end of the final seven years of Daniel’s seventy sevens prophecy conflicts with no-one knowing the day of the Lord’s return.

Taken to safety

Those amongst the elect who survive the great tribulation are then rescued. “And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matt 24:31). Concerning this sudden gathering of the saints in the rapture, Jesus also says: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and one left” (Matt 24:37-40).

Many Christians reading this passage think that because some versions such as the NIV (above) and the KJV and NKJV use the word ‘took’ for those killed in Noah’s flood, then those ‘taken’ in the repeated phrase “one will be taken and one will be left” must also be taken in judgment. However, two different Greek words are used in these verses. The phrase “took them all away” referring to those killed in Noah’s flood, uses the Greek verb ‘airo’. The ESV and RSV translate this phrase “the flood came and swept them all away”.

However, the Greek verb used in “one will be taken and one left” (vs 40 & 41) is ‘paralambanō’ which means ‘to take with oneself’ or ‘to join with oneself’ or ‘to receive’ or ‘to bring someone along with.’ ‘Paralambanō’ is used: of Joseph both taking Mary to be his wife and taking Mary and the baby Jesus into Egypt (Matt 1:20,24, Matt 2:13-14), and also of Jesus taking Peter, James, and John with Him to the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt 17:1). In John 14:3, Jesus promised his disciples: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back, and take you to be with me, that you also may be where I am” – where the Greek verb used for ‘take you’ is again ‘paralambanō’. Thus, we can conclude that Jesus takes the believers who are still alive alongside himself, in safety, as he cuts short the great tribulation and it is the unrepentant sinners who remain on earth who are in danger of being killed in judgments of the trumpets, bowls and Armageddon, described in Revelation.

In harmony with this interpretation, it was the wicked in Noah’s day who rejected God’s warning, who were left to the judgment of the flood and killed, while those on the ark were protected from the worldwide waters of judgment. The flood began on the very day that Noah and his family were shut in the ark (Genesis 7:11-13). Likewise, concerning the destruction of wicked city Sodom, Jesus said: “But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:29). To parallel “as it was in the days of Noah” (and Lot) the judgments of the day of the Lord are poured out immediately after the rapture.

The first six seals

Prewrath scholars believe that the first six seals of Revelation 6 are not part of God’s wrath but describe events that must happen before the Lord’s return. For instance, the fifth seal describes faithful martyrs slain in persecution crying out for vengeance. This cannot be part of the wrath of God, otherwise the Lord is inflicting wrath on those who belong to Him, and we know that the promise to the Church is: “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Thes 5:9).

At the sixth seal, the day of the Lord’s wrath is clearly impending, and the associated judgments are about to break upon the earth. Those who have resisted the Lord in unbelief react with terror: “They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?’” (Rev 6:16-17). Signs accompanying this impending wrath include celestial disturbances, such as the sun turning black like sackcloth and the moon turning blood red (Rev 6:12-14, Joel 2:30-31, Matt 24:29). The opening of the seventh seal releases the contents of the scroll: the consecutive, cataclysmic, worldwide trumpet and bowl judgments of the day of the Lord’s wrath. This event is so awesome that it produces “silence in heaven for about half an hour” (Rev 8:1). This awed silence at the prospect of the judgments of the day of the Lord is also prophesied by Zephaniah: “Be silent before the Sovereign Lord, for the day of the Lord is near” (Zeph 1:7). These judgments include those on the armies of nations intent on destroying Israel (Zech 14:1-4, Joel 3:1-3).

Rapture before the seventh seal

Thus, the resurrection and rapture take place just before the seventh seal pronounces the day of the Lord’s wrath. Revelation describes the resurrection and rapture of the saints as taking place between the opening of the sixth and seventh seals: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’.” They are described as coming “out of the great tribulation” (Rev 7:9-10,14) including those previously described at the fifth seal as martyred souls “under the altar” (Rev 6:9).

So, to summarise the prewrath view3: There is an important biblical distinction between the great tribulation (Antichrist’s satanically inspired persecution against the Church and Israel) and the day of the Lord’s wrath (against unrepentant sinners). The great tribulation begins with the ‘abomination of desolation’ committed by the Antichrist at the midpoint of the final seven years of Daniel’s ‘seventy sevens’ prophecy. The great tribulation is ‘cut short’ at an unknown day in the final half of this seven years, by the Lord gathering the saints in the rapture which is followed immediately by the judgments of the day of the Lord’s wrath.

Concerning interpretation of Biblical prophecy, followers of the Lord Jesus certainly hold a range of different views. However, I believe we can all agree with John’s prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20).

Article from Prophecy Today UK by Brian Melia

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