The pre-wrath rapture theory is the newest of the four theories we are presenting. It was first developed by Van Kampen in the 1970’s, and then endorsed and made popular by Marvin Rosenthal, through his book The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, published in 1990.
The main distinctive of this view is the belief that the rapture does not occur until about three-fourths of the way through Daniel’s 70th week. Though there are some similarities to both the partial rapture view and the mid-trib view, this theory has plenty of unusual features (see diagram). Rosenthal’s book, though intriguing to many, seems, in my opinion, to be lacking in biblical scholarship.
I have eight points to this theory, with my rebuttal. We will take the first three points in this article and the last five points in the part 2.
1. The sequence of events. According to this theory, the sequence of events of the 70th week of Daniel, plus 30 days, are as follows (see diagram): The first 4 seals will last for 3 ½ years. This period they call the beginning of birth pangs. The 5th and 6th seals will last for the next 1 ¾ years. This period they call the Great Tribulation. The rapture of the church occurs just before the 7th seal, which opens the seven trumpet judgments. The trumpet judgments will last for 1 ¾ years. This period they call the Day of the Lord and the wrath of God. The seven bowl judgments begin immediately after Daniel’s 70th week and will last for 30 days. This 30 day period is an extension of the wrath of God and the Day of the Lord.
Rebuttal. In Revelation 12:6 and 13:5, we are given information that shows us the midpoint of the Tribulation; it is when the antichrist is given authority to make war with the saints (all believers on the earth), when he breaks the covenant with Israel, when he takes his seat in the temple and displays himself as being God (2 Thess. 2:4), and when Israel flees into the wilderness to find refuge. This event happens just after the sounding of the seventh Trumpet (Rev. 11:15); so this means that both the seals and the trumpets occur during the first half of the Tribulation, and not strung out over the entire seven years as the pre-wrath theory contends.
Though we don’t see the bowl judgments until Revelation 16, I think they come very shortly after the sounding of the seventh trumpet and after the midpoint of the Tribulation; for it is the seventh trumpet that introduces the bowl judgments. Also, since the very first bowl judgment is poured out on those who take the mark of the beast and who worship his image, we must surmise that this judgment would transpire very shortly after these things are put in place by the antichrist (see Rev. 13:15-17).
Therefore, we must conclude that the bowl judgments probably begin no more than a few months after the midpoint of the Tribulation, and will last through the duration of the Tribulation. And we know that they will last until the end of the Tribulation, because the sixth and seventh bowls are involved with gathering the armies to Armageddon, and with great catastrophic events just prior to Armageddon and Jesus Christ’s glorious appearing.
To lay out the sequence of events plainly; (1) the rapture happens sometime before the signing of the covenant, which begins the Tribulation; (2) the seals happen just after the signing of the covenant, and will last about one quarter of the way through the tribulation; (3) the seventh seal introduces the seven trumpets, which will last until the midpoint of the Tribulation; (4) the seventh trumpet introduces the entire second half of the Tribulation (the Great Tribulation), which will include seven bowls of judgment that are pointed mainly at the antichrist and all his evil works; and last, (5) Armageddon and the second coming happen immediately after the seven year Tribulation.
Also, there is a 30 day period and a 45 day period (Dan. 12:11-12) that transpires between His return and the beginning of the millennial kingdom. The 30 day period, I think, is for the judging of the nations (Matt. 25:31-46), and the 45 days, I think, is for the restoration of the earth and the setting up of the new kingdom.
2. The name pre-wrath rapture. This theory was given this name because they believe that the church will be raptured just before the wrath of God comes, which they believe will come with the trumpet and bowl judgments. They teach that the seal judgments are also wrathful; but these judgments are not the wrath of God, rather they are the wrath of man and Satan; and the church is called to endure this wrath for their own good.
Rebuttal. The entire basis of the theory is not valid, because all of the judgments, including the seals, originate at the throne of God and are referred to as the wrath of the Lamb (Rev. 6:16). Moreover, as Dr. David Reagan has pointed out, “Both man and Satan operate under the sovereignty of God…He has the wisdom and power to orchestrate all the evil of man and Satan to the triumph of His Son.”11
Therefore, we must reject the category of the pre-wrath rapture theory labelled “Wrath of Man and Satan,” for we must recognize that Satan and the antichrist (and any other man) are tools in the hands of God. He will use them to bring His terrible wrath; and we must not think that a tool of his wrath will deliver any less wrath than if He would deliver it Himself.
3. This theory denies that the first half of the 70th week is part of the Tribulation. They teach that those years (under the judgment of the seals) are merely the beginning of birth pangs (Matt. 24:8) and does not count as tribulation. They teach that the Tribulation doesn’t start until the midpoint of the 70th week (under the 5th seal). However they maintain that the church must go through the 5th and 6th seal judgments, which they call the Great Tribulation, because it is not yet the wrath of God.
Rebuttal. It is hard to tell where the first half of the Tribulation begins, from Matthew 24. It either begins at verse five, or verse nine, and then continues through to verse 14. But nonetheless, in verse nine it mentions “tribulation;” hence we must conclude that there is tribulation in the first half; and then, from verses 15 through 28 is descriptive of the second half, which is the “great Tribulation,” mentioned in verse 21.
The mention in verse 8 of “merely the beginning of birth pangs,” and then in verse 9 the words, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation,” may suggest that the 7-year Tribulation does not begin until verse nine. However, this language also may indicate that the events in verses 5 through 8 are just the beginning of the Tribulation and that it will get much worse. But nonetheless, there is no reason to believe that God’s wrathful tribulation, known as “the Tribulation,” does not exist through all of the 7-years, which the church can have no part of.