I want to briefly respond to a few objections that pretribulationist Mike Stallard had made against the prewrath position. I have heard similar objections by others, so I hope my response here will be instructive.
On the Celestial Disturbances
In 2002 at the Pre-Trib Study Group, Mike Stallard wrote, “An Analysis of the Use of Cosmic-Sign Passages by Proponents of the Pre-Wrath Rapture Theory.” Stallard argues that the seals of the scrolls are expressions of God’s wrath, with the aim of making the entire 70th week of Daniel the day of the Lord’s wrath, he asserts:
“[M]en are already hiding from the wrath of God during the sixth seal and are not simply preparing to hide.”
This is not correct since the context clearly indicates that the cosmic disturbances and earthquake are the cause for the ungodly hiding in the caves, hence the reason they recognize the impending wrath of God. The text reads:
“Then I looked when the Lamb opened the sixth seal, and a huge earthquake took place; the sun became as black as sackcloth made of hair, and the full moon became blood red; (13) and the stars in the sky fell to the earth like a fig tree dropping its unripe figs when shaken by a fierce wind. (14) The sky was split apart like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place. (15) Then the kings of the earth, the very important people, the generals, the rich, the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains.” (Rev 6:12-15 NET).
In addition, in verse 15, it begins with the Greek “then” (a progressive kai), which in this context is resultant from a previous causal action. Incidentally, other pretribulationists appeal to the aorist tense-form of the Greek verb behind “hid.” But the aorist tense-form does not grammaticalize time. Only context and/or lexeme give us time. (See Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson, p. 68; also, Greek grammars by Porter, McKay, et al.)
In Revelation 7, between the sixth and seventh seal being broken there is an interlude of two groups of people being delivered. The second group in vv. 9-17 is the church who came out of the great tribulation (cf. Matt. 24:15, Rev. 7:14). Then in Revelation 8, we have the seventh seal broken, which introduces formally the wrath of God, which are the contents of the Scroll: the trumpets and bowls.
On the celestial disturbances in Isaiah, Stallard writes,
“[T]here are some interesting questions about the timing of these cosmic signs [Isaiah 13:10]. Isaiah 13:6 and 13:9 appear to warn that these things occur during the day of the Lord, which we normally associate with the tribulation period” (emphasis his).
The two verses he cites are as follows:
“Wail, for the LORD’s day of judgment is near; it comes with all the destructive power of the sovereign judge. (9) Look, the LORD’s day of judgment is coming; it is a day of cruelty and savage, raging anger, destroying the earth and annihilating its sinners.” (Isa 13:6, 9).
Where in these two verses does he infer that the celestial disturbances from v. 10 occur “during” the day of the Lord? We are not told. If anything, it suggests that the celestial disturbances will announce the day of the Lord, since it says, “for the LORD’s day of judgment is near; it comes with all the destructive power of the sovereign judge.”
And this would be consistent with the prophet Joel: “The sunlight will be turned to darkness and the moon to the color of blood, before the day of the LORD comes- that great and terrible day!” (Joel 2:31).
If Stallard seeks to determine a temporal relationship between the celestial disturbances and the day of the Lord, he should seek to interpret the implicit in light of the explicit with respect to the Isaiah text.
The Great Tribulation is Against Believers, Not Unbelievers
A definitional tenet of the prewrath position is seeing a proper distinction between the Antichrist great tribulation against God’s people and the day of the Lord’s wrath against the ungodly (a qualification is that the great tribulation will also be against the unbelieving ethnic Israel who does not capitulate to Antichrist [Rev 12:13–17]). Pretribulationists conflate (or confuse) the two making God’s wrath mediated through the Antichrist against unbelievers and believers. But Revelation 13 teaches that Antichrist will be persecuting believers, not unbelievers.
[T]he passage [Matthew 24:22] in question says that “no life” would be saved unless God shortened this time. Yet, it is clear that life continues on after the rapture in a pre-wrath scheme until the Second Coming itself. The verse does not limit itself to “Christian life” in the first part of that verse. Such an assumption is arbitrary. It is much more natural to interpret the statement of Jesus to mean that, if the tribulation lasts longer than seven years, everyone on earth would die.”
The “life” that Jesus is speaking of is clearly referring to believing life, not “everyone on earth.” Stallard arbitrary disconnects “life” from the qualification of what kind of life found in the second half of this verse: “Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” (Matt 24:22 NASB). The context of the great tribulation in that passage is the Antichrist’s (not God’s) wrath in the suffering of believer’s lives. Unbelievers are nowhere in view in that passage; hence the reason Stallard failed to provide any examples.
Misuse of Noah and the Flood in Genesis 7:10
Dr. Michael Stallard writes:
“The floodwaters did not begin until Noah and his family were in the ark for a full week according to Genesis 7:10.”
He is responding to the prewrath tenet that the same day that the rapture happens will be the same day that the day of the Lord begins. We point out that Jesus cited the flood as an example to show this back-to-back nature of God’s deliverance of his people and his pouring out of his wrath:
“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage–right up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:26-27).
Jesus is explicit that it was the very day Noah entered the ark, “right up to the day.” What does “right up to the day” mean for Stallard? We are not told. He then appeals to a proof text of Genesis 7:10:
“And after seven days the floodwaters engulfed the earth.” (Gen 7:10).
That is all we are given by Stallard. There was no attempt to show how this verse supports his assertion. He is assuming that the seven days began after Noah and his family entered the ark. But that is not what the verse, nor the context, says. The context is clear that the seven days refers to God’s command to Noah to get animals into the ark before seven days come to pass. Here is the context:
“The LORD said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, for I consider you godly among this generation. (2) You must take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, the male and its mate, two of every kind of unclean animal, the male and its mate, (3) and also seven of every kind of bird in the sky, male and female, to preserve their offspring on the face of the earth. (4) For in seven days I will cause it to rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the ground every living thing that I have made.” (5) And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him. (6) Noah was 600 years old when the floodwaters engulfed the earth. (7) Noah entered the ark along with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives because of the floodwaters. (8) Pairs of clean animals, of unclean animals, of birds, and of everything that creeps along the ground, (9) male and female, came into the ark to Noah, just as God had commanded him. (10) And after seven days the floodwaters engulfed the earth.” (Gen 7:1-10).
But that is not all! If one continues to read, they will see even a more explicit statement that it happened on the same day:
“In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month–on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst open and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. (12) And the rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. (13) On that very day Noah entered the ark, accompanied by his sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, along with his wife and his sons’ three wives. (14) They entered, along with every living creature after its kind, every animal after its kind, every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, everything with wings. (15) Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life came into the ark to Noah. (16) Those that entered were male and female, just as God commanded him. Then the LORD shut him in. (17) The flood engulfed the earth for forty days. As the waters increased, they lifted the ark and raised it above the earth. (18) The waters completely overwhelmed the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the waters.” (Gen 7:11-18).
So Jesus’ use of the flood story is accurate and fitting: two events of deliverance and judgment, back-to-back, on the very same day.