Pastor Bob (7 Sep 2014)
""Error of Pre-Wrath Rapture""

All Doves:

A huge error made by those that hold to a Mid-Tribulation and Pre-Wrath Rapture is that of assuming the Gospel of Matthew, and, concluding that Jesus' words in the New Testament is meant for the Church.  It is erroneous to conclude Matthew's words are for the Church.  Jesus was addressing the Jewish folks of His day, not the future Church, which Jesus only alluded to first in Matthew 16:18.  This is one of those examples where only a Dispensational interpretation of Scripture offers a cohesive and comprehensive message that makes sense. 

The fact is that Matthew 24 is not for the Church.  Nothing in the text of Matthew 24 requires a Church-centered interpretation and a careful examination shows it to be specifically addressed to Israel.  Most of those holding to a position other than a Pre-Tribulation position make erroneous conclusions in regards to the entire Olivet Discourse due to assuming that because the Gospel of Matthew is within the New Testament corpus text.  For years, every Methodist, Nazarene, Wesleyan, Presbyterian, Christian, Church of Christ pastor that I knew could never present a formidable argument for the Olivet Discourse referring to the Church.  Because they did not see the distinct difference between Israel and the Church, they were in a double bind, and I saw myself in the same camp dilemma.

In the first place, Jesus had only noted the Church in two passages of Matthew, 16:18 and 18:17.  You will not find the word, anywhere in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.  The first reference to the church is in the book of Acts, chapter 2:47; with a total of 18X additional references in the book of Acts.  There are no recorded words to the effect by Jesus Christ that it would interrupt Daniel's 70 Week Prophecy, and thus leaving one week of seven years unfulfilled.  As far as the disciples knew, they were 483 weeks into Daniel's 490 year prophecy and were only 7 years short of the end of the age.  That is precisely why they were so surprised to hear Him say everything would be torn down without one stone left standing upon another.

And even as He was explaining how the end of the age would unfold, He never mentioned the subject of the Church.  Had He done so, they wouldn't have asked Him if He was going to restore the kingdom to Israel while they were standing on the Mount of of Olives following His resurrection in Acts 1:6.  This has led to some experts to conclude that all of Matthew 24 deals with Daniel's 70th week from Israel's perspective alone.

The fact is that it is Israel much more than the future Church who has been and will be persecuted and put to death, and hated by all nations -(Matthew 24:9).  It's Israel who has to stand firm to the end to be saved -(Matthew 24:13).  Israel is warned to flee into the mountains of Judea when they see the abomination of desolation -(Matthew 24:15-16).  Israel has to pray their flight will not take place on the Sabbath or in winter -(Matthew 24:20).  Israel has to be wary of false Messiahs -(Matthew 24:23-24).

Also, there's no mention of the Church ever being "the elect" in the Gospels.  In the only two references to the Church in Matthew, He did not use any form of the Greek word for "elect".  The first clear reference of the Church as the elect did not happen until Romans 8:33 which Paul wrote twenty years after the resurrection of the Lord Christ Jesus.  On the other hand, Jesus was called God's "elect" in Isaiah 42:1.  Israel was called God's "elect" in Isaiah 45:4; 65:9; 65:22, and angels were called His "elect" in 1st Timothy 5:21.

To think that the disciples would have understood the Lord to be referring to the Church in Matthew 24:22, 24, 31 is not justified, nor substantiated anywhere and thus is an unwarranted assumption.

A plain sense reading of the book of Revelation tells us that the time of God's Wrath begins with the seal judgments -(Revelation 6:16-17) and ends with the Bowl judgments in Revelation 15:1.  The fact that those believers holding the Mid-Trib and Pre-Wrath do not accept that means they haven't accepted God's Word as written.

The seventh trumpet of Revelation 11:15 is never called the last trump in the Bible, as in 1st Corinthians 15:51-53, or the trumpet call of God, as in 1st Thessalonians 4:16-17.  It is simply the final trumpet in the series of Trumpet judgments.  It's not blown on Earth but in Heaven.  Also, there is no connection between the seventh trumpet and the Second Coming.  Revelation 11:15 tells us that in Heaven the seventh trumpet signals that the Lord has taken command of the kingdoms of the world, but His return to Earth doesn't begin until Revelation 19:11-16.

The trumpet of Matthew 24:31 cannot be the last Trump of 1st Corinthians 15:51-53 either because it's the Lord's signal to His angels to round up the elect in Heaven.  At the Rapture the trumpet call of God is to alert believers on Earth.  Also He's sending angles, (plural), to do this.  In 1st Thessalonians 4:16-17 only the archangel is mentioned in connection with the trumpet call of God.  And finally, in Matthew 24:31 the elect He was speaking of are already in Heaven.

While Mark 13:26-27 tells us the angels will gather His elect from both Heaven and Earth, In Mark's account no mention is made of a trumpet.  This means while the trumpet will not be heard on Earth, there will be members of His elect still on Earth.  These are people who will have survived the Great Tribulation and became believers in the process.  But it does not imply or mean they are part of the Church.

The idea that the separation of the Rapture/Resurrection from the Second Coming would require a third coming does not make sense, nor does it stand up under scrutiny for several reasons.  First, at the Rapture the Lord doesn't come to Earth to get us, we go up in the clouds to meet Him.

Second, if every time He left Heaven to come to Earth was a "coming" then this Second Coming would have taken place on the day He was resurrected.  In the morning, He told Mary not to cling to Him because He had not yet ascended to His Father -(John 20:17).  Hebrews 9:11-12 tells us He was going to sprinkle His blood on the altar in the Tabernacle in Heaven.  But that afternoon He was back on Earth where He met two disciples on the road to Emmaus -(Luke 24:13-16).  Who knows how many times He's been back and forth since then?

Third, the Second Coming is a particular event where He publicly descends to Earth in power and great glory to take His position as King of the whole Earth.  The number of times He's been here and back in the mean time is really irrelevant. 

"And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.  For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day."  -(John 6:39-40). 

The phrase "last day" appears twice in these verses.  The Greek word here for "last" "eschate" from its root "eschatos" means "Last, least, final, farthest, extreme, latter", in this specific case the "last in time or place".  It often refers to the last one in a series of events.   The first resurrection, the resurrection of believers, is such a series.  Jesus Christ was the first fruits.  Then we have the Church -(1st Thessalonians 4:16-17), then the Tribulation martyrs -(Revelation 20:4), and then the Old Testament believers -(Daniel 12:2).  These are all part of the first resurrection, which is not a single event, but a single "type", those who are resurrected to eternal life.  There is no requirement that they all have to happen on the day of the Lord's Coming, this is an assumption.  In fact, only the tribulation martyrs are specifically indicated to be resurrected on that very day.  Jesus could very easily have been referring to Old Testament believers, some of whom were no doubt standing before Him as He spoke, who will also be resurrected at the time of the Second Coming.  The point of this is that you cannot use John 6:39-40 to prove a Post-Trib Rapture of the Church.

"If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened" -(Matthew 24:22).  John, who heard the Lord speak these words first hand on the Mount of Olives, also heard the duration of the Great Tribulation described by the Lord again as being 42 months long -(Revelation 11:2) 1,260 days long -(Revelation 1:6) and 3-1/2 years long -(Revelation 12:14).  Using the 360-day year these are equivalent times.  The detail is further evidence that Christ Jesus wanted to impress that time frame upon His audience.

There are only two possibilities here.  Either John made a huge mistake or the Lord didn't mean He would shorten the number of days.  The Great Tribulation is one of the most carefully measured periods of time in the Bible beginning with Daniel 9:27, where it's half of seven years, Daniel 12:7 where it's time, times, and a half -(3-1/2) and the three references noted in the paragraph above.  They are all the same.

Many scholars have interpreted Matthew 24:22 to mean if the Lord didn't put a stop to the Great Tribulation at its appointed time but let it run its course no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect He will bring it to a close at the appointed time.  This is consistent with the various measurements.  Therefore the assumption that the Great Tribulation will be shortened is not a good one to adopt as your cornerstone for a Pre-Wrath position.

The question to ask is, does Matthew 24:29 equal Revelation 6:12?  "Immediately after the distress of those days the Sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken"  -(Matthew 24:29).  Jesus was quoting Isaiah 13:10 where the context is the after effects of the day of the Lord.  "I watched as he opened the sixth seal.  There was a great earthquake.  The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind -(Revelation 6:12-13).  John was quoting Joel 2:31 where the context is a sign that the day of the Lord is coming.

The two verses are similar but not the same.  Matthew 24:29 shows one of the results of the day of the Lord, whereas Revelation 6:12-13 describes a warning that precedes the day of the Lord.  Later on in the book of Revelation the Sun is so hot that it burns people -(Revelation 16:8-9), but when the Sun goes out in Matthew 24:29 it will never come back -(Revelation 21:23-24).  The two verses do not describe the same thing.  Therefore there is no justification for saying that Revelation 6:12-13 is describing the end of the Great Tribulation.

The saints of Revelation 7:9-17 are not the Church!  They are from every nation, tribe, people and language so they are of both Jewish and Gentile origin.  They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, so they are saved believers.  They will serve God day and night in His Temple, but are not called priests, and they have no other responsibilities so they are not Kings, so they are not the Church.

In Revelation 7:14 one of the elders tells John they have come out of the Great Tribulation, but the English translation is misleading.  The Greek word translated "out of" literally means out of both the time and place of the event being referenced, in this case the Great Tribulation.  This means they will have been martyred during the Seal judgments.  According to the Pre-Wrath view the Seal judgments are the Great Tribulation.  But the Greek language of Revelation 7 says they will be martyred before the Great Tribulation, which in a chronological reading of the book of Revelation begins on Earth in Revelation 13.  So for these reasons the martyrs of Revelation 7 cannot be the Raptured Church.

The Pre-Wrath Rapture uses terms that do not appear in the Bible, such as (Man's Wrath, Satan's Wrath, etc.).  It re-interprets parts of Matthew 24, and violates the chronological order of the book of Revelation.  Of all the Rapture positions, it's the most difficult to justify from a Biblical standpoint.  From a Dispenstional hermeneutic, it's impossible!

The Bible is not a book of multiple choices.  There's only one God, one Heaven, one Earth, one Israel, one Church, one Savior, one way to salvation, and ONE Rapture of the Church.  The only Rapture position that is true to a literal, contextually pure interpretation of Scripture is the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, and its coming soon.  You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah.  In fact, one of the best books that goes into detail on what I have dealt with here is named by that expression, 'Footsteps of the Messiah' by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum. 

The major error of the Pre-Wrath Rapture position is in assuming too much from the Gospel of Matthew.  No matter how much you twist and torture Matthew to fit their way of thinking on Daniel's 70th Week prophecy, there is no way to come to an honest interpretation of Scripture, other than the Pre-Tribulation Rapture position.  Their first error is based upon an erroneous understanding of ecclesiology, and then they make an erroneous understanding of eschatology.  Even more detrimental is their effort to view Scripture through an allegorical interpretation of all Scripture.   You can try to jam the puzzle pieces together anyway you want, but unless all the pieces fit perfectly together, you have merely deceived yourself and confused others.  The Mid-Trib and Pre-Wrath is a hopeless end in itself.

Keep looking up,

God bless

Pastor Bob