by guest contributor Darrin “The Orange Mailman”
For some time, I have seen how the end of Isaiah 26 supports the framework of the PreWrath Rapture. In verses 19-21 we see that the resurrection of the righteous occurs as the LORD comes forth to pour out His wrath upon sinful men. Just before this in verses 16-18 the nation of Israel is seen going through the final stages of the time of Jacob’s trouble, also known as the great tribulation. The analogy of a woman going through the pains of child birth is used. As she gets closer to the time of delivery, the pain gets worse and she cries out. But that just shows how near she is to being delivered. Israel will be going through this time of discipline in order to bring her to the place of repentance. When she cries out (in repentance) then God steps in on behalf of His people. The result is that the righteous dead are resurrected. Then there is an invitation for God’s people to come behind closed doors in order to be protected while the LORD comes out from His place to punish the earth for its sinfulness. Here is the passage:
O Lord, in distress they sought you;
they poured out a whispered prayer
when your discipline was upon them.
Like a pregnant woman
who writhes and cries out in her pangs
when she is near to giving birth,
so were we because of you, O Lord;
we were pregnant, we writhed,
but we have given birth to wind.
We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth,
and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen.
Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead.
Come, my people, enter your chambers,
and shut your doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
until the fury has passed by.
For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place
to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity,
and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it,
and will no more cover its slain.
The PreWrath Rapture position states that the time of Jacob’s trouble (the great tribulation) will be occurring during the last half of Daniel’s 70th week. Israel will be disciplined during this time and come to repentance. When that occurs, the LORD descends from heaven with a shout, He resurrects the righteous dead, then the living righteous are raptured up to meet Him in the air receiving their resurrection bodies without having to experience death. They are temporarily taken to heaven in order to escape the eschatological wrath of God which will be poured out at the second coming of Christ. This wrath is poured out during a period of time known as the Day of the LORD, which immediately follows the great tribulation. This results in a natural reading of I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 5:1-11 as one passage. Also notice how Romans 11:15 tells us that the repentance and acceptance of Israel will result in life from the dead (resurrection). A comparison with Isaiah 26:16-21 makes for a great study.
I was surprised to read Joel Richardson makes a connection between the final stages of birth pangs (which results in Israel’s repentance and deliverance) and the beginning of birth pangs in Matthew 24:4-8. Just because similar terminology is used does not always mean there is a direct parallel. The context of Matthew 24:4-8 is completely different from Isaiah 26:16-21. The question at the beginning of the Olivet Discourse is, “What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” The disciples are finally starting to realize a difference between the first coming of Jesus in humility and the coming of Jesus the Messiah in power and glory. The answer that Jesus gives begins with a description of events that are not to be confused with signs of the end of the age. Let me explain.
Jesus starts out by saying not to be deceived. Jesus doesn’t want the disciples to fall for a false sign. He states that many will come in His name and deceive many people (but don’t be deceived because that is not a sign of His coming). He also states that there will be wars and rumors of wars (but don’t be deceived because that is not a sign of His coming). At this point in verse 6, Jesus says not to be alarmed (throeo) when these things come to pass because they must occur but the end will not be at that point.
Then Jesus names off several things at once and places them all in the category of the beginning of birth pangs. He names nation rising against nation, kingdom rising against kingdom, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. It is interesting that the word for being alarmed is only used in the new testament three times. All three times it is used as an admonition not to be [falsely] alarmed about the coming of Christ, see Matthew 24:6, Mark 13:7, II Thessalonians 2:2.
Since Jesus states that these things are not to be signs of the end of the age or signs of His coming, the disciples could be assured any time something of that nature happened that the coming of Christ was not close at hand. An earthquake could occur and it was not a sign of Christ’s coming. A famine or disease could break out and this was not an event at which to sound the alarm. A change of governmental powers? Not a sign of Christ’s coming. This is why I believe these beginning of birth pains are general events all throughout history not necessarily related to the end of the age. Romans 8:18-25 tells us how creation is groaning (in the pains of childbirth) and longing for deliverance from the curse of sin. This groaning is not a sign of Christ’s coming either. It tells of general events throughout history like wars, earthquakes, famines, and pestilences designed to make us eager for Christ’s coming, but not acting as a harbinger for it.
After these events which Jesus terms “the beginning of birth pains” (or pangs, whichever you prefer), He then describes persecution for the word of God as the gospel is being preached, see Matthew 24:9-14. This should not have been a new revelation for the disciples. In fact, when Jesus sent out the twelve disciples to preach the gospel He warned them at that time that they would be persecuted and sometimes put to death, see Matthew 10:16-24. The language which Matthew records here directly parallels the language that Jesus used in Matthew 24:9-14. The point is the same: as the gospel is being preached, the disciples will experience tribulation and persecution for their association with the name of Jesus. Anytime persecution or tribulation arises on account of the word of God, it is not a sign of Christ’s coming.
It is only when Jesus describes the sign of the abomination of desolation that we begin a sequence which we can safely say that Jesus meant to be a sign of the end of the age, see Matthew 24:15-31. From here, we see the sequence of the abomination of desolation, then the great tribulation, then the glorious coming of Christ. This great tribulation is not a different kind of tribulation than the persecution which the disciples would experience prior to this. The only difference is the intensity. It is still persecution which occurs as the gospel is being preached. It is still persecution for association with Jesus Christ. It is still against the disciples (the elect). At the same time, God will be dealing with Israel in order to bring her to repentance. Here is the final stage of birth pains (as opposed to the beginning) which will result in Israel’s deliverance. The two should not be confused.
Right now as we speak, we can expect persecution for association with Jesus Christ. After the abomination of desolation, this persecution will become so intense that it is termed the great tribulation. But after Israel repents (being provoked to jealousy by the Gentiles, see Romans 10:19, 11:11) our deliverance will be at hand. After the resurrection and rapture, the people of God will be safely protected as the LORD comes to pour out His wrath during the Day of the LORD. That’s the basic thought behind II Thessalonians 1:5-8. Our relief from affliction will be granted when Christ comes in power and glory. Take a look and see for yourself.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman