I believe the scriptures clearly teach a PreWrath Rapture. Christ returns, raptures the church, then the wrath of God is poured out. This coming and rapture cuts the great tribulation short, bringing the persecution of Christians to an end. This basic teaching has been taught in some form or another for quite some time. Two men collaborated and gave this idea a name. Marvin Rosenthal and Robert Van Kampen are considered the founders of the PreWrath position, even though others taught these ideas before they began writing from within this label. The position worked. It distinguished itself from Post-trib which sometimes waffled on the issue of whether the church would suffer the eschatological wrath of God. It also nailed down the timing of the rapture to the gathering of the elect in Matthew 24:31 and the sixth seal in Revelation 6, but excluded a seventh trumpet rapture.
As clear as these issues are, there is one other issue that Pre-Wrath has brought with it that is creating a problem. In an attempt to provide a chronological framework for Revelation, Rosenthal and Van Kampen have created a contradiction of sorts. In studying the Post-Trib positions, it was standard to overlap the seals, trumpets, and bowls in some way or another. Most Post-tribbers would affirm that the seventh seal, the seventh trumpet, and the seventh bowl all bring Daniel’s 70th week to a close. However, in studying from a Pre-Wrath perspective, it becomes obvious that the seventh seal introduces the Day of the LORD which is contained in the seven trumpets. So there must be continuity between the progression of the seven seals into the seven trumpets. Instead of overlapping chronologies such as these:
Seal 1 > Seal 2 > Seal 3 > Seal 4 > Seal 5 > Seal 6 > Seal 7
occurring at the same time as…
Trump 1 > Trump 2 > Trump 3 > Trump 4 > Trump 5 > Trump 6 > Trump 7
occurring at the same time as…
Bowl 1 > Bowl 2 > Bowl 3 > Bowl 4 > Bowl 5 > Bowl 6 > Bowl 7
Pre-Wrath introduced this sequence:
S1 > S2 > S3 > S4 > S5 > S6 > S7 > T1 > T2 > T3 > T4 > T5 > T6 > T7 > B1 > B2 > B3 > B4 > B5 > B6 > B7
This solved a huge problem, namely that the seventh seal introduces the trumpets which contain God’s wrath and therefore the seals and trumpets cannot overlap. Now PreWrath takes the bowls and places them following the trumpets. This means that the bowls must occur after Daniel’s 70th week is completely over since the seventh trumpet brings Daniel’s 70th week to a close. At first glance, this may seem like a good move, PreWrath takes the 30 days which follow Daniel’s 70th week mentioned in Daniel 12:11 and makes the connection that this is when the bowls must occur. But placing the bowls in this sequence creates two distinct problems.
The first problem is a direct contradiction with Revelation 13:5. In Revelation 12, there is no continuity with Revelation 11. The seventh trumpet is blown, the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of Christ, and we reach the end of Daniel’s 70th week. Then begins chapter 12 which takes us back to the beginning. Chapters 12-16 all describe the war of Satan against the church, specifically revealing the nature of the beast through whom he will work. As John sees the beast rise from the sea, it is declared that the beast is given authority to continue for 42 months, meaning the last half of Daniel’s 70th week. The narrative continues describing the beast, his rule, the fate of his followers, and his ultimate destruction. The logical view would lead one to believe that this all occurs within 42 months. But if the bowls are located outside of that 42 months, then the beast continues for longer than 42 months. During the pouring out of the bowls, notice how the beast still has a throne, a kingdom, followers, the ability to supernaturally deceive, and the ability to wage war, see Revelation 16. So it would seem like the best view would be to place the bowls within the 42 months since the beast’s authority is pictured during the bowls. Moving the bowls outside of this 42 month period contradicts Revelation 13:5.
The second problem is one that PreWrath has used to prove that the trumpets chronologically follow the seals. The continuity of the story has elements that unfold during the seals and reach their conclusion during the trumpets. One example is the sealing of the 144,000. Before the Day of the LORD can be unleashed, the angels hold back the wind, then the 144,000 are sealed for protection. During the trumpets, those which have been sealed are protected from God’s wrath. Another example is the cry for vengeance at the fifth seal. This cry for vengeance is forestalled, then when the angel with the censer brings the prayers of the saints before the LORD, then vengeance is accomplished through the trumpets. Another example is the prohibition of the harm of earth, sea, and trees until after the 144,000 are sealed. Once the 144,000 are sealed, the first four trumpets contain references to the earth, sea, and trees being harmed. There is a definite story-like continuity from the seals to the trumpets.
It is this type of reasoning that would lead us to see Revelation 12-16 as one continuous thought flow with no break. Satan begins to persecute the church. When he can’t get at the woman, most likely a supernaturally protected Israelite remnant, he begins to utilize the beast from the sea. The beast declares war on the saints in Revelation 13. In Revelation 14 the fate of the beast followers is declared. In Revelation 15 those who gain victory over the beast are pictured in heaven. In Revelation 16 the beast has the wrath of God poured out on him and his kingdom. Can you see the direct continuity here? Revelation 12-16 cannot be divided as they explain one chronological sequence. PreWrath uses this logic to prove that the seven seals occur, then the seven trumpets occur. Now let’s apply the same logic. Revelation 12-15 occurs, then the seven bowls occur. There should be no attempt to insert anything into Revelation 12-16, but that is what PreWrath does.
PreWrath tries to link the seventh trumpet and the third woe with the seven bowls. The argumentation that PreWrath authors attempt to use is either vague, confusing, or just not there. Believe me, I have read all this stuff. I point to Van Kampen first. He assumes the bowls are located in the 30 days that follow Daniel’s 70th week, but he provides no scriptural basis for this assumption, and he is far less than certain that this is even the case. Here is his quote from The Sign, page 352. “Although the exact time and duration of the bowl judgments is not specified, all seven, along with the battle of Armageddon, must transpire within a timeframe that is less than four weeks in total.” This is his proof en toto. Rosenthal does a little better since he provides an excellent case that the trumpets must follow the seals in sequence. But then when addressing the issue of the chronology of the bowls, he simply has none. His case is basically that since the seventh seal introduces the seven trumpets, therefore the seventh trumpet introduces the seven bowls. While he spends considerable time in his Revelation commentary proving pretty much beyond a shadow of a doubt that the seventh seal leads into the Day of the LORD and the trumpets, he spends absolutely no time examining how the seventh trumpet leads into the seven bowls. In Rosenthal’s presentation, because the bowls are described after the trumpets, this means they are chronologically after the trumpets and therefore after Daniel’s 70th week is over since the seventh trumpet brings Daniel’s 70th week to a close. When interacting with a view similar to mine in Zion’s Fire Volume 21 Issue 1 (Jan/Feb 2010), he makes this comment. “Because there is similarity between some of the trumpets and bowls, many commentators suggest that they overlap and run concurrently. These same commentators tend to play down the significant differences between the trumpets and bowls. The unfortunate result is that they make a hodgepodge out of the chronology of the Book of Revelation.” Rosenthal simply states that any alternate chronology is hodgepodge without proving his case. He spends no more time on this issue. It was pointed out to me that Charles Cooper has written an article which proves this issue, and I will deal with this in a separate post.
For now, let me suggest that PreWrath is absolutely correct, but this peripheral issue which is not essential to the PreWrath position is incorrect. Placing the bowls outside of the 42 months contradicts Revelation 13:5 and interrupts the story-like chronology of Revelation 12-16. There is no hodgepodge to a chronology that has the bowls occurring within the same timeframe as the trumpets. Both are describing events that bring God’s wrath during the Day of the LORD. Both the seventh trumpet and the seventh bowl bring to an end the governmental systems of this world. Both lead into the kingdom come.
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