AGAINST THE DEFENSE:
PRETRIB vs. PRE-WRATH
By: R.G. Wallace
Todd Strandberg wrote an article for PropheZine called, "Defending
the Pre-Trib Rapture," that attempted to refute the prewrath rapture
view. This article is offered in defense of pre-wrath and as a refutation
of Mr. Strandberg's article.
The first "defense" Todd discusses is:
My answer to this might very well be controversial, but it needs to be said. It does not matter whether a "view" on prophecy, or on any doctrinal issue for that matter, has historical support. What it needs is BIBLICAL support, and ONLY biblical support will give any viability to whatever view is being advocated. People throughout history can be wrong. The church fathers could be, and indeed were, wrong in many areas. It does not matter whether they believed in a pretrib or post trib or prewrath rapture, for where you find one person to lend "historical" support to a particular viewpoint, you can always find another person to lend "historical" support to an opposing viewpoint. Thus, we are forced back to the Scriptures once again as our only authority on spiritual reality and doctrinal issues. So I will not make much of a fuss over all this concern about finding a pretrib rapture reference that predates Margaret MacDonald. Nor shall I place much value on Pseudo-Ephraim, whom Todd references as follows:
Ephraem the Syrian ... said in 373 AD,
To which I reply, as I indicated above: it is irrelevant. We MUST, after all, appeal back to the Bible and not place too much value on "historical" pros and cons.
Todd's next defense concerns:
I do not know whom Todd has read for information about the prewrath rapture viewpoint, but the two "in-print" proponents have never stated that "the Seventh Trumpet blown in Rev. 11:15-18 is the same last trump Paul spoke of in 1 Cor. 15:51."
Now, I cannot defend Robert Van Kampen or Marvin Rosenthal on all points that they teach concerning the prewrath view, for just as there are variances of understanding in the pretrib view, so also among prewrath proponents there are such variances. Nor, for that matter, is my intent to defend THEM at all, but to adequately represent the prewrath view as it can be demonstrated within the Scriptures.
However, on this point, since we have a clear statement of misrepresentation, it is necessary to correct it.
Robert Van Kampen writes in "The Sign" (p. 493):
And Marvin Rosenthal, in "The Prewrath Rapture of the Church", dedicates 8 pages (187-194) to the subject; he indicates, as seen by comparing the two charts on pages 147 and 194, that the two trumpets are not the same. Furthermore, he writes on page 193,
The seventh trumpet is not the "last trumpet" spoken of by Paul. They should not be equated but are separate and distinct. Paul's use of the phrase "the last trumpet" refers to the call to assembly in the context of the Roman games, or even in a military context. Either of these would be Paul's frame of reference in referring to the "last trumpet." In both of these cases there was a preliminary trumpet (sometimes there were two) and then the last one which was a call to assembly. Paul's "last trumpet" is the call to assembly for the gathering of the saints. He would have no knowledge of John's vision and the seven trumpets. Even though the Holy Spirit "melds" all of Scripture, it is not advisable to interpret Paul's use in any way other than that indicated by the cultural context of the day, in which the "last trumpet" spoke of the "call to assembly."
That is what will occur at the rapture. It is called THE trumpet of God at 1 Thess. 4:16, because it is at this time that He will "call" for the gathering of His people (the elect) to meet Him in the clouds of the sky. Nor does it require the "actual" occurrence of one or two trumpet blasts before it, for the image in Paul's mind focuses simply on the final blast, which is the "call to assembly."
The seventh trumpet, on the other hand, is clearly the last in a chain of seven which involve the pouring out of God's wrath upon the earth. The first 6 trumpets constitute the throwing of the fire of God's justice to the earth (Rev. 8:5) and the 7th trumpet announces the out pouring of the FINAL wrath of God via the bowls (Rev. 11:18-19; 15:1; 16:1).
Todd continues in reference to trumpets:
First, before I deal with Todd's "three problems," let me say that the sounding of the trumpet in no way gives evidence for a posttrib rapture. What it does, however, is to give us a warning sign BEFORE the Day of the Lord arrives. How this affects one's view, then, is determined by how he defines the time parameters of the Day of the Lord. If the Day of the Lord begins at the start of Daniel's 70th week, then the trumpet sound occurs there. If the Day of the Lord begins at the end of the 70th week, then the trumpet occurs there. If the Day of the Lord begins at some as-yet-undisclosed time DURING the 70th week, then the trumpet will sound at that point.
Todd's first problem with this trumpet issue is:
Concerning this, the idea of "sounding an alarm," I find no contradictions. A trumpet blast, after all, can serve two purposes. I suggest that the Day of the Lord begins very shortly after the rapture takes place. This will probably need to be demonstrated in future articles, if opportunity arises. But given this premise, no matter whether the Day of the Lord begins just before the 70th week of Daniel or sometime within its seven-year time span, there IS associated with that Day not only a trumpet of assembly for the church (1 Thess. 4:16; 1 Cor. 15:52) but also a trumpet of "alarm" for those who are unprepared. Is there any reason that it cannot be the same trumpet blast that accomplishes both purposes? As suggested earlier, the correct placement of the beginning of the Day of the Lord is crucial to an accurate understanding of the whole end-times program.
Todd offers his second objection concerning the trumpet of Joel 2:1:
The rapture ITSELF, as the translation of the saints, most certainly occurs in "the twinkling of an eye". However, that does not mean that there cannot be a trumpet announcing Christ's return at that time. Paul says that it is AT the last trumpet that the rapture takes place. This suggests that the trumpet sounds FIRST and then the gathering occurs. For there to be a trumpet sound several minutes before the actual "snatching up" occurs does not violate anything at all -- not even Imminency, for that matter. The trumpet sounds, EVERYONE hears it, the unbelievers are caught off guard and panic, and the church is gathered. That is what happens when Jesus returns AT the Day of the Lord.
Todd's third problem along these lines:
I think a more detailed analysis of Joel chapter 2 will show that the trumpet at verse 15 is contemporary to Joel, and not related to the end times.
Joel 2:1-11 is prophetic in nature, warning the nation of Israel of the arrival of the Day of the Lord, DURING which a great Northern army will invade her land.
At verse 12, it says, "yet EVEN NOW, declares Yahweh, return to Me." Verses 12-17 comprise a section which is contemporary with Joel and is his warning to the people of Israel to recover NOW from their spiritual and moral rebellion, and to get right with God. In other words, the reality of the future national crisis is applied to the contemporary crisis in the nation at the time of writing. Thus, there is no contradiction in having a trumpet at verse 1 AND at verse 15, for there it is blown as a warning to the nation in the time of Joel to recover.
Todd's next defense concerns The First Resurrection. The argument is made, "There can not be a pre-trib rapture because to have one would require a second resurrection at Christ's return to earth." This conclusion is drawn from Revelation 20: 5-6:
This issue is pertinent only to the post trib objections to pre trib (as well as to pre-wrath, for that matter), and is not a problem for this writer.
However, when Todd discusses the 144,000 Jewish converts, he suggest something that I would like to address.
I suggest that these 144,000 are NOT standing before the throne of God, but are actually viewed on the earth (represented by Mount Zion at verse 1) where they are engaging in their evangelistic activities. The ones who are before the throne are the harpists. At verse 5, the phrase, "before the throne" is mentioned again, but is given minimal support by the manuscripts. Not even the "majority text" has it. I suggest that Revelation 14 picks up from the same point in time as Revelation 7, when, after the rapture, the 144,000 are converted and become bond-servants of God to represent the Messianic promise to those on the earth. I do not see a "resurrection" of the 144,000 at Revelation 14. John sees them in "vision" format, on Mount Zion which is on the earth; they are clearly CONTRASTED with the harpists who are IN heaven (v. 2). The voice is from heaven, the harpists are in heaven (v. 3), and the phrase "and they sang before the throne" refers to the harpists singing in heaven. No one could learn the song that the "harpists" were singing except the 144,000 who are still on the earth. Again, the two groups are contrasted.
In verse 4, "follow the Lamb wherever He goes," does not mean that they walk behind Him physically everywhere, but that they are "faithful" to follow Him wherever He leads, just as the faithful believer does right now here on earth. "Purchased from among men" explains the phrase in verse 3, "purchased from the earth"; it does not mean that they were purchased OUT OF, as in LEAVING, the earth, but that they were purchased from among men AS FIRSTFRUITS to God and to the Lamb. This means that they were the FIRST ones to be saved AFTER the rapture of the church.
In verse 5, the phrase, "before the throne" is not in the best Greek manuscripts and is an addition that should not be considered as God's word.
It is much more likely that the 144,000 go into the millennial kingdom and spearhead the new civilization of Jews in Palestine.
Although Dwight Pentecost does not view Rev. 14:1 as "picking up" from Rev.7:1-8, he does recognize that the 144,000 are preserved alive to enter into the Millennial kingdom to reign with Jesus. He writes:
Todd's next defense is in reference to 2 Thessalonians 2:1-6:
I must take exception to Todd's statement that 2 Thess. 2:1 "is obviously the pre-trib rapture." The only thing that is obvious is that it IS referring to the rapture. And the natural flow of the language indicates to me that the two events mentioned in verse 1, "The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" and "our gathering together unto him" are in actuality JOINED together as BOTH occurring at the event designated as The Day of the Lord. (The choice of terms, "Day of Christ" or "Day of the Lord," is a textual problem that is not pertinent to this particular article.)
There is no rationale that allows me to see two different events in these
three terms. The same correlation is made in 1 Thessalonians.
At the time of the writing of the second letter, these believers had become concerned that this EVENT had already occurred. So Paul writes, "Now we request . . . CONCERNING" Christ's coming and our gathering to Him, that you guys not be upset by reports "to the effect" that the Day of the Lord has come. Here, he equates the three terms as referring to the same event. The Thessalonians are thinking that the Day of the Lord has already come, that is, that Christ has already returned and that the gathering has already happened.
The whole point of this passage is to tell them that certain things must occur BEFORE what they are concerned about can happen. In calming them, Paul makes a very important equation of terms. And, yes, this also places two events BEFORE the coming of the Lord and our gathering together to Him.
Todd's next defense concerns the issue of persecution.
Of course, Todd's melodramatics are not necessary, for the real issue is whether the Bible gives reason to "expect" such roughing up or not. I daresay that no one WANTS to be here during the oppressive reign of the beast, and I certainly won't argue with the Lord should He just "happen" to come back before it all starts. However, once again, the appeal to what the Bible says must be paramount in our discussion of these things, and not emotional desires pointing in one direction or another.
To be fair, I must agree that JUST BECAUSE Jesus and the disciples suffered persecution is no reason that the church should expect to go through the tribulation. However, there is certainly NO PROMISE OF EXEMPTION from persecution activity, whether it be what the early church encountered specifically (John 15:18-21), or what the godly should expect in general (2Thess. 3:12).
This paragraph, of course, is totally unnecessary and irrelevant to the Biblical truth we are trying to discern. I trust that Todd will refrain from such judgmental embellishments should we have opportunity to advance this discussion.
Todd holds forth a promise that may not be stated as "clearly" as he suggests:
I agree with this verse totally! However, the passage fails to define exactly WHAT that wrath might be. There is nothing in the context that defines the time of "wrath" as the tribulation.
Todd Quotes Rev. 3:10,
As Todd should be well aware, Revelation 3:10 is a passage that has been bandied back and forth for many years. Perhaps the details of this passage might be a subject for further discussion. However, let me summarize the problems. We have two different ideas in trying to explain what "keep thee from" means. And we have two different ideas in trying to identify "the hour of temptation." Good scholars on both sides have provided their insights and no resolution is at hand, except in the mind of each party respectively.
Too much is made of Rev. 3:10. It cannot be used as a "proof text" for pretrib, prewrath or posttrib. And although pre-tribbers want to use it as just such a proof text, the proper view of a pre-wrather should be that the use of the Greek words involved does not establish absolutely that these believers are taken out before the "hour" begins, but can very easily (as demonstrated by their use elsewhere) indicate preservation "within" the hour (as discussed quite adequately by Robert Gundry).
Thus, I suggest that Rev. 3:10 NOT be used as a "proof text" for either view, but that the solution be found elsewhere, with Rev. 3:10 being called upon for support rather than proof.
Now Todd breaks ranks with the standard pre-trib position by advocating a partial rapture view. This is what I meant earlier when I said that even within the various "theories" there is not total agreement as to the details.
This, of course, is another side issue, but I believe the idea of a partial rapture is totally inconsistent with the reality of Union with Christ, in which all those who have believed in Christ share. Let me review the standard view concerning partial rapturism.
John Walvoord provides 26 pages in opposition to the partial rapture theory (The Rapture Question, pp. 105-125). He provides 3 points in summary on pages 124 and 125:
Dwight Pentecost offers 6 pages in opposition to the theory (Things to Come, pp. 158-163), and summarizes:
Todd's next line of defense relates to:
"There is no secret rapture" is the beginning declaration of a large percentage of messages that attack the rapture. Rarely is this statement backed by supporting scriptural evidence, and Todd also failed to provide any "supporting scriptural evidence." A few people will cite Rev 1:7 "every eye shall see him" as proof that the rapture will not be a secret event. Of course, I would immediately note that "every eye shall see him" is the second coming. However, let me suggest that whether there is a "secret" rapture or not has absolutely no bearing on any view of the tribbers.
Nevertheless, let's look at Rev. 1:1-7.
Verse one: God gave this information to John "to show to His bond-servants." What bond-servants might that be? The church?
Verse three: HAPPY the one who reads, hears and heeds the things which are written in it. This promise of blessing is given to the church as the recipients of the book of The Revelation.
Verse four: John writes TO the seven churches that are in Asia. This is a clear reference to the church on the earth.
Verse five: "To Him who loves US and released US from OUR sins by His blood." This is a reference to the church on the earth who are the recipients of the book.
Verse six: "And He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father." This refers to the function of the church on the earth as per 1Peter 2:9.
Verse seven: "Behold He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him."
Who was given the promise of His return? The church.
To whom is this book (at least this portion) written? The church.
Who is in view in verses 1-6? The church.
For what reason, then, do we address the last and concluding verse in the INTRODUCTION of the book ... to someone OTHER THAN the church? Why switch like that? Is this "foreign" to the expectation of the church? Look at Acts 1:9-11:
Verse nine: Jesus was lifted up and a CLOUD received Him out of their SIGHT.
Verse eleven: This Jesus will come in JUST THE SAME WAY as you WATCHED Him go into heaven.
If Todd does not care for the use of Revelation 1:7 to indicate a "visible" return of Jesus at the rapture, he needs to give evidence as to why the verse should be disassociated from this section which deals ONLY with the church and the promise that was given to the church.
Todd's next line of defense deals with:
I will deal only with what Todd brings up. This is another area that may require separate and more detailed discussion. Todd suggests:
Actually, I make no such appeal. It is unnecessary. The truth of the matter is, "no one knows the day or the hour."
However, Jesus taught that we could know the SEASON.
That is exactly what He teaches in Matt. 24:32-42. The signs of summer are the events of the tribulation described in verses 9-28. When we see those signs of summer, then we know that summer is near: we know that the Lord's return FOR US is near.
Furthermore, on what basis does Todd make Matt. 24:42 refer to the rapture of the church? He ought to apply some consistency. IF Matt. 24:29-32 does NOT apply to the rapture, THEN v. 33-42 CANNOT apply to the rapture. But, as it is, the entire passage does indeed apply to the return of Jesus for His church, when He will remove His church and pour out wrath on the world.
Todd would have us all avoid monkey business:
I again challenge the view that DIVIDES Matthew 24:29-42. Talk about monkeying around! This is a major problem for most pre-tribbers. I say "most," because some see the sinking ship of appealing to Matthew 24 for pretrib support, and abandon it before they go under with it. In fact, Our Lord was so restrictive about the rapture he said its occurrence would come as a total surprise. "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." (Matthew 24:44)
Now IF the phrase, "the Son of man cometh," in verse 42, refers to the rapture, then to what does the phrase, "the Son of man coming" refer in verse 30?
Todd appeals to the 1260 days:
This cannot be proven. Nowhere does the Bible say that Jesus will return 1260 days from the Antichrist's "session."
The closest it comes is at Matt. 24:29, which indicates that Jesus returns "immediately after the tribulation of those days." But there is no place that tells us WHEN that tribulation actually ends -- except the suggestion at Matt. 24:22 that "those days" will be "cut short," which could mean that His return comes SOONER than 1260 days after the midpoint of the week. In such a case, we preserve "no one knows the day or hour."
But there is confusion in the pretrib and posttrib camps that views Jesus' descent to the Mount of Olives as His second advent. Todd continues:
The Day of the Lord is the second coming. This is the very coming the angels were talking about at Acts 1:11:
This is the second coming. The arrival at Armageddon is associated with His physical descent to the earth, arriving first in Edom, then going to the Mount of Olives, and then to Armageddon.
The next point of defense deals with:
I really have nothing to address here, except to suggest that whether the "restrainer" is the Holy Spirit or someone or something else, there is absolutely no hint in the passage that indicates it is the rapture that removes the restrainer. There is nothing that associates the restrainer with the church or with the church's removal from the earth. It is not a strong position if one argues a particular view from the standpoint of assumption.
Todd's next defense addresses:
I certainly do not agree with replacementism and, for the most part, pre-wrath proponents are faithfully dispensational. However, the reality of dispensations does not REQUIRE that the church be removed from the 70th week. In a previous edition of PropheZine, I provided an article that harmonizes dispensational theology with the presence of the church in the 70th week of Daniel. It need not be reproduced here, but can be found on the PZ site as "Prewrath and Dispensations." To summarize, there has always been a transitional period between the dispensations, when God changed from one evangelistic agency (dispensational administrator) to the next. There was a 40-year period between AD 30 and AD 70 which served as the transition from the previous administrator (Israel) to the new administrator (the church).
When God returns to the nation of Israel as the administrator of His truth on the earth, there will be another transitional period, during which the church will be present to "pass the baton" back to Israel by providing an accurate gospel message. When the rapture occurs at the Day-of-the-Lord arrival of Jesus, the 144,000 Jews of Revelation 7:1-8 will have accurate gospel information to accept and will thus trust in Jesus as the Messiah. A short time (possibly just a few days) will be required for each one of these to come to terms with the rapture reality and the gospel of Jesus Christ which they have been hearing. That is why the four angels are told to delay the administration of "fire from the altar" until the 144,000 become saved (are sealed).
When you consider the change in focus, during the tribulation, from the Church to Israel, the pre-trib rapture provides a good explanation for this transfer of attention.
And if that change of focus does not occur in the tribulation, as Jesus described it, but more accurately, after the sixth seal, when the focus is indeed shifted to the 144,000 Israelites, then the rapture of the church AT THAT POINT IN TIME (sixth seal) also provides a good explanation.
In closing, let me appeal to reason and not emotion;
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