"Pre-Wrath" Or "Pre-Trib" Rapture?
This is the time of year when the world publicizes the birth of our Lord
- but mostly in order to make merchandise of Him. Christmas is big business,
generally promoted by godless merchants whose only interest is in using
the occasion to make a profit. One day they will stand before the Christ
of Christmas as their Judge.
Rather than pointing the finger at others, however, each of us ought to
examine carefully his own heart. Are we, too, attempting to use Christ for
our own ends? Do we embrace Him merely as an escape from hell to heaven
while basically living for self? Or are we truly eager for His will to
be "done on earth as in heaven," beginning with complete submission
of ourselves to Him in everything?
Let this Christmas season be a solemn reminder that the One Who was born
in Bethlehem is soon to return to this earth in power and great glory to
execute judgment. First, however, He will take His own to His Father's
house of "many mansions," where "we must all appear before
the judgment seat of Christ" (2 Cor. 5:10).
Then will come that heavenly marriage and honeymoon. We could be caught
up at any moment to meet Him in the air. That "blessed hope"
causes this earth to lose its attraction, purifies our lives and motivates
us to win the lost because we believe the time is short.
Our removal from earth to heaven will allow the Antichrist to be revealed
to rule over the revived Roman Empire. It has been exciting to see the
worldwide dimensions of that "last days" kingdom begin to take
We have noted that the collapse of communism opened the door for the fulfillment
of a dream first voiced by Gorbachev and the Pope: a United Europe extending
"from the Atlantic to the Urals." From that base of power a "new
world order" will emerge - a concept long ridiculed as Utopian nonsense
but now accepted and even taken for granted.
Talk of a new world order now falls naturally from the lips of President
Bush and other world leaders, who seem unaware that their brave new world
will be ruled by the Antichrist.
Plans call for earth's division into ten regions (the "ten toes"
of Nebuchadnezzar's image signifying the revived Roman Empire?), each with
its own security council and a strategic strike force for maintaining peace
and preventing a recurrence of events similar to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
Thus the stage is being set for the fulfillment of an amazing prophecy:
"And in the days of these kings (represented by the ten toes) shall
the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed... it
shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms" (Dan 2:44).
Christ's birth in Bethlehem came at the precise time God had planned (Gal.
4:4) and, like His death, was intimately related to the Roman Empire. Likewise
the revelation of the Antichrist will be at a pre-ordained time (2 Thess.
2:6) and will require the presence of the revived Roman Empire.
It is only fitting that the evil Empire which crucified Christ should be
revived so that He can destroy it at His Second Coming.
We have previously given numerous reasons why the church must be raptured
at the beginning of the seven year tribulation period. Once the dominant
believe among evangelicals, the pre-trib rapture is falling increasingly
The latest attack upon this belief is found in Marvin Rosenthal's "The
Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church: A New Understanding of the Rapture, the
Tribulation and the Second Coming. " This book's novel ideas cannot
be supported by Scripture, and Rosenthal's attempts to do so create numerous
Nevertheless, we have received so many letters asking about the book from
people who were swayed by it that a brief critique seems necessary.
Rosenthal, long a confirmed pretribulationalist, has abandoned that position
and "now believes that the Church will have to endure the persecution
of the Antichrist." His basic thesis is that the church will "not
escape all of the oppression of the 'Tribulation' period, "but"
will escape the wrath of God, which will be poured our...during the second
half of the 'Tribulation' period."
Numerous problems immediately arise. Since the Antichrist, according to
Rosenthal, must appear first, the church is no longer watching and waiting
for Christ but for Antichrist. Moreover, even after the Antichrist takes
control of the earth the church cannot look for Christ until she has suffered
considerably under that "Wicked" one.
If Rosenthal is correct, then one can no longer expect Christ at any moment.
Imminency has been lost, and with it the "blessed hope" that
sustained believers for centuries.
If the church must remain on earth to face Antichrist, then Christians
would refuse to take his mark or to worship his image. As a result, they
would all be put to death. We are told: "And it was given unto him
(Antichrist) to make war with the saints and to overcome them...and he(the
false prophet) had power to...cause that as many as would not worship the
image of the beast should be killed...and that no man might buy or sell,
save (except) he that had the mark...of the beast...(Rev. 13:7, 15-18)
Clearly the church, Christ's bride, must have been removed, for the Antichrist
could not make war with and overcome her against whom our Lord said, "the
gates of hell shall not prevail" (Matt 16:18).
Then who are these "saints?" They can only be those who have not
come under the strong delusion (2 Thess 2:10-12) because they previously
never heard and rejected the Gospel.
Millions will believe in Christ during the Great Tribulation - and they
will pay for their new-found faith with their lives. John tells us: "After
this I beheld...(in heaven) a great multitude, which no man could number,
of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues...before the throne,
and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes...These are they which came
out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white
in the blood of the Lamb." (Rev. 7:9-14)
A "pre-wrath rapture" would hardly be a "blessed hope."
In fact, it would be a non-event, for there would be few if any Christians
left alive to rapture at that time. Could any Christian take Antichrist's
mark and thus survive to be raptured? Indeed not! Revelation 14:9-10 makes
it clear that those who "worship the beast and his image, and receive
his mark" will be consigned to hell.
In building his unbiblical thesis, Rosenthal falls into a number of other
errors. He insists that 2 Peter 3:10-11 "is not talking of total annihilation
of the earth" because Peter earlier said that the world of Noah's
day "perished," yet it was not totally annihilated.
The analogy fails, for Peter includes in the future judgment the heavens,
which he specifically says "shall pass away with a great noise"
while the very elements of which all is composed "shall melt with the
fervent heat." It certainly sounds like the destruction of the entire
universe, during which "the earth also and the works therein shall
be burned up."
In its place, God will create a "new heavens and a new earth, wherein
dwelleth righteousness" (v13). It is gross error to interpret specific
language calling for the complete consumption by fire of the entire universe
as merely a surface cleansing of the earth because that was what happened
at the flood. He also suggests that this "cleansing of the earth"
will take place before the Millennium whereas Revelation
21 clearly places it at the end of the Millennium.
Rosenthal goes to the non-canonical book of Maccabees to try to prove that
the "falling away" that Paul refers to in 2 Thess 2:3 is a Jewish
apostasy and has nothing to do with the church. Yet Paul is writing to
Christians, not to Jews. He has already given warning many times about
the coming "falling away," as have Peter and Jude.
They repeatedly refer to apostasy among professing Christians. The writer
to Hebrews deals with the same theme in chapter 6. To suggest that because
the book of Maccabees refers to a Jewish apostasy, this is then what Paul
is talking about, is insupportable. Most of those whom Paul was addressing
at Thessalonica were converted Greeks who would have no reason to associate
"apostasy" with an incident in Jewish history involving Antiochus
Epiphanes, a story they probably didn't even know.
Moreover, Israel was already in apostasy when Paul was writing: she had
rejected and crucified her Messiah and was persecuting Christians. So to
suggest that Paul is declaring that some future apostasy is coming to an
already apostate and unbelieving Israel is illogical.
One error leads to another. The author asserts that signing the pact with
the Antichrist "will be Israel's great apostasy" (pp. 205-207).
That an already spiritually apostate Israel would be going into apostasy
by signing a political/military pact with the world ruler again makes no
sense. Moreover, Paul says that the apostasy precedes the revelation of
the Antichrist (2 Thess 2:3). To avoid the obvious contradiction of having
Israel sign a pact with Antichrist before he's been revealed, Rosenthal
proposes a new meaning for "revealed."
He says that it doesn't mean when Antichrist steps from obscurity into power,
but when he puts his image in the temple and Israel recognizes that he is
the Antichrist. Yet Paul says that the Antichrist will be revealed not
through the placing of his image in the temple, but when "He who now
hinders (i.e. the Holy Spirit in Christians)...is taken out of the way..."
(2 Thess 2:7,8).
How could apostate Jews who have rejected Christ be hated of all nations
for Christ's names sake?! It is one thing to recognize that the Antichrist
is evil, and something else entirely to believe that Jesus is the Christ.
That will only happen to Israel when He appears to rescue her at Armageddon
Rosenthal suggests that "the Antichrist is a man who lived before...He
will literally be raised from the dead: (p.208). In fact, he suggests that
this man ruled an ancient kingdom that impacted Israel, so he has been dead
for at least 2,500 years. Marvin tries to proves this "resurrection"
from the Scripture which says "I saw one of his heads a though it were
wounded to death" (Rev 13:3. Not to recover from what seemed to John
"as though it were" a mortal wound is a far cry from bringing
back to life a totally decomposed 2,500-year-old corpse!
He then uses the same scripture to say that this man will suffer a mortal
head wound in the middle of the 7-year pact with Israel and be raised from
the dead. By what rule of exegesis does one prove two contradictory theories
from the same scripture? Lack of space prevents dealing with the many
other errors in "The Pre-wrath Rapture."
Christ's repeated warnings that He would come at a time when one would
least expect Him (Matt. 24:44; Luke 12:40, 21:34-36) cannot be reconciled
with Rosenthal's thesis. Surely as Antichrist's persecution and slaughter
of the church proceeded, the dwindling number of surviving Christians would
long for and expect the rapture.
Yet Christ depicted conditions upon earth during the last moments before
His catching away of His bride as a time of such ease and boredom that:
"While the bridegroom tarried they all (even the five 'wise' virgins)
slumbered and slept" (Matt 25:5). Either Christ was mistaken or Rosenthal
Even though God's wrath had not yet been poured out, a church that was
enduring Antichrist's wrath, involving the most vicious persecution and
slaughter of Christians in history, would not be sleeping any more than
a church that found itself in the midst of Armageddon! Rosenthal's "Pre-wrath"
theory thus suffers from the same contradictions as a "post-trib"
rapture. Much of the Christmas scene promotes false concepts that will
help Antichrist pretend to be "Christ." The promise of "Peace
on earth" announced by the angels at the birth of Christ will not be
realized until He personally reigns from David's throne in Jerusalem as
the prophets foretold.
Be not deceived by any call for a "new world order" that promises
peace without the presence of the Prince of Peace. May His joy be your
strength as you seek to glorify Him in your body and spirit, which are His
(1 Cor. 6:20). Let us maintain a pure witness until His return. He's coming
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