What Is the Prewrath Rapture?
There are many misconceptions today about a newly coined rapture position called "the prewrath rapture." In this column, I want to take a look at the cornerstones of this position.
First, it is important to understand something about rapture positions and Christian doctrines in general. There are two aspects to a doctrine: the cornerstones of the doctrine itself and the secondary issues that surround it. For example, when it comes to the rapture, a cornerstone of a position is where, in the order of end-times events, the rapture occurs. A secondary point is whether or not, after the rapture, individuals can be saved. The issue is timing. Whether or not individuals can be saved after the rapture has nothing to do with timing of the rapture itself and often becomes an unnecessarily distraction in the discussion.
This is what often occurs in the discussion about the prewrath rapture, and all rapture positions, really. Proponents of one position or another focus in on these secondary points and often completely ignore the core issues of the doctrine itself. I recently visited a Web page by a posttribulationist critiquing the prewrath position who never addressed the basic prooftexts for the prewrath rapture. Instead, the page focused on secondary issues like the cutting short of the tribulation, whether or not the Antichrist could continue to have authority during the Day of the Lord, and the like. Never did he address the basic prooftexts that the prewrath position gives for the timing of the rapture itself.
Defining Classic Prewrath
So let's look at what the classic prewrath rapture teaches:
When Jesus returns to Earth, He will do so only once (Acts 1:9-11).
This return is seen in Matthew 24. Jesus describes the abomination in the temple, the great tribulation, and then a triple sign of sun, moon, and stars that is followed by His return (Matt. 24:30).
His return is heralded both by the triple sign of sun, moon, and stars and the blast of the trumpet. At this time, with Jesus visible in the sky, the elect are gathered.
The prewrath view holds that the rapture event, the gathering of believers at the blast of the trumpet, is seen in three passages: Matt. 24:31, 1 Thess. 4:16-17, and 1 Cor. 15:51-52. It holds that all three of these passages are describing the same event.
Putting these together, the prewrath rapture position holds that the rapture occurs at Jesus' bodily return as described in Matthew 24:29-31.
Where, in the order of end-times events does this occur? The prewrath view holds that the triple sign of sun, moon, and stars described in Matt. 24:29 is unique in prophetic history. It occurs only once. We see this sign again in Rev. 6:12-13 - the sixth seal.
Therefore, putting this together, the Second Coming of Christ and the rapture of the Church occur after the sixth seal.
The term "prewrath view" arises because scripture teaches that God's wrath is contained in the Day of the Lord (Zeph. 1:14-18, Isaiah 13:6-13, et. al). According to Joel 2:31, the Day of the Lord begins immediately after the sixth seal.
Therefore, the return of Christ and the rapture of the Church occurs immediately before God's wrath as contained in the Day of the Lord. Hence "the prewrath rapture."
The prewrath view also holds that the seals, trumpets, and bowls occur in succession -- first the seals, then the trumpets, then the bowls. Because the abomination of desolation occurs at the midpoint of Daniel's 70th Week (often mistakenly called "the Tribulation"), this places Jesus' return sometime after the midpoint of the 70th Week (or halfway through the Tribulation), and after the start of the great tribulation, but before the end of the 70th Week.
Know Your Pillars
This is the classic prewrath position in a nutshell. There may be debate over secondary issues, but the issues listed above are those that determine the prewrath view and distinguish it from all others.
In recent years, a new position has arisen that calls itself "prewrath" that holds that the rapture occurs after the seventh trumpet. While calling itself "prewrath," it is really a posttribulational position. Often, proponents will use the term "posttribulation and prewrath," which is a helpful and accurate description that distinguishes it from the classic prewrath position.
This is why it's so important to distinguish the foundational pillars of rapture doctrines from secondary beliefs. This enables believers to readily distinguish between different doctrines and evaluate their core teachings against scripture without being distracted by tangential issues.