Eschatos Ministries is dedicated to teaching biblical prophecy from a futurist, premillennial, prewrath perspective.
Prewrath eschatology teaches that the rapture and the onset of the day of the Lord’s wrath will happen back-to-back on the very same day. The day Christ returns arriving on the clouds to resurrect and rapture his people will be the very same day that his eschatological judgments begin to unleash on the world for an undetermined length of time. To be sure, the day of the Lord will not all happen in a single day, only its inception occurs on the day the rapture happens. God’s purpose is to deliver his people then initiate his wrath on the same day.
This same-day, two-fold event contains significant implications for the pretribulational notion of “imminence,” the belief that Jesus can return at “any moment.” Since Scripture teaches that prophesied events will happen before the day of the Lord—the celestial disturbance (Joel 2:30–31), Elijah’s coming (Mal 4:5), the apostasy and revelation of the Antichrist (2 Thess 2:1–4)—then by necessity they will take place before the rapture. Consequently, the pretribulational teaching of imminence is rendered invalid.
The majority of pretribulationists believe the day the rapture happens will be the same day, or the next day, the day of the Lord’s wrath begins (albeit, the wrongly place it as the beginning of the seven year period). So this biblical reality of events happening before the day of the Lord becomes problematic for their theological system. Some pretribulational teachers, accordingly, recognize this salient implication that contradicts their eschatological theological system. But rather than move away from their position and embracing the prewrath interpretation, they feel the need to continue to defend pretribulationism. Their attempt to resolve this problem, then, is to posit a “gap” of time—days, weeks, or months—between the rapture and the day of the Lord’s wrath. This schema then allows for the prophesied events mentioned above to occur during this “gap” before day of the Lord but after the rapture. Thus, the pretribulationist aims to “protect” their teaching of imminence by using this interval argument.
We would expect the apostle Paul to be consistent with Jesus on this point, since Paul draws so much of his eschatology from Jesus’ teaching. And sure enough, we shall see that Paul also taught the same day that Jesus returns in the clouds the righteous will be delivered and the punishment for the wicked will begin.
We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith flourishes more and more and the love of each one of you all for one another is ever greater. As a result we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and afflictions you are enduring. This is evidence of God’s righteous judgment, to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which in fact you are suffering. For it is right for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to you who are being afflicted to give rest together with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels. With flaming fire he will mete out punishment on those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will undergo the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his strength, when he comes to be glorified among his saints and admired on that day among all who have believed—and you did in fact believe our testimony. (2 Thess 1:3–10 emphasis mine)
In 2 Thessalonians 1:7, Paul instructs that the church will experience affliction right up to the initial day of the revelation of Christ:“and to you who are being afflicted to give rest together with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.” Then we are told that two things will happen on the initial day of the revelation of Christ. First, believers will be given “rest” (i.e. delivered). This is certainly a reference to Paul’s first epistle in his rapture teaching of the deliverance of God’s people at Jesus’ future coming, parousia (1 Thess 4:13–18). Second, the day they will be given rest is “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels. With flaming fire he will mete out punishment on those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess 1:7–8). Again, Paul is making reference back to his first epistle, but in this instance it is to the day of the Lord’s wrath that will immediately follow the rapture (1 Thess 5:1–9).
Paul then reiterates this point explaining that “on that day” when the godly are united with Christ he will begin to judge the ungodly: “They will undergo the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his strength, when he comes to be glorified among his saints and admired on that day among all who have believed—and you did in fact believe our testimony” (2 Thess 1:9–10). So for believers alive at that time “who believe our testimony” (v. 10), that day will begin eternal rest; but for unbelievers who “do not obey the gospel” (v. 8), it will begin eternal unrest. In other words, there will not be any delay between the rapture of the righteous and the day of the Lord’s judgment upon the ungodly. The Lord’s coming will be twofold: deliverance and judgment, back-to-back, beginning on the same day.
Not all pretribulational teachers agree that Paul’s teaching indicates this back-to-back nature of deliverance and eschatological wrath. For example, Richard Mayhue writes,
Paul is not writing a detailed, chronological, or even precise prophetic treatise here, but rather is wanting to give the Thessalonians hope that, in the end, God’s righteousness would prevail. Like Old Testament prophets (cf. Is. 61:1–2; 2 Pet. 1:10–11), Paul has compressed the details so that the range of time is not apparent, nor are all of the details. The apostle is plainly assuring the Thessalonians that there will certainly be a coming day of retribution for their persecutors. As a result, this text has no bearing on determining the time of the rapture.*1*
To be sure, we can agree with Mayhue on two points. First, it is true that Paul is not writing a detailed account; rather he is compressing the details in a summary of judgment. Paul is summarizing the gamut of judgments that the ungodly will experience from the first day of the day of the Lord’s wrath, up to, and including, their eternal destination in hell. He is emphasizing judgment qua judgment, not intending to describe the whole complex of judgment elements. This we can agree. Second, we can agree with Mayhue that Paul is giving “hope that, in the end, God’s righteousness would prevail” and “assuring the Thessalonians that there will certainly be a coming day of retribution for their persecutors.”
We must, however, disagree with Mayhue’s assertion that Paul does not use temporal language. This is demonstrably false. Paul uses explicit temporal language by chronologically tying together deliverance and judgment: “when,” “on that day.” In fact, the “hope” that Paul is seeking to foster for the trepidatious Thessalonians is grounded in the promise of God that he will begin to judge their persecutors on the same day as the deliverance of the godly! Paul could not describe it more plain than he does: When Jesus is revealed from heaven to “to give rest” to his afflicted people, he will be accompanied “with his mighty angels” and with “flaming fire to mete out punishment” upon the wicked. Mayhue’s interpretation of Paul is flawed and ignores this key element in Paul’s instruction. Paul’s portrayal is consistent with Jesus’ teaching that eschatological deliverance and judgment will occur back-to-back, beginning on the same day.
In conclusion, I have argued in this chapter that the biblical evidence supports the back-to-back nature between the rapture and the beginning of the day of the Lord’s wrath, militating against the notion of a gap of days, weeks, or months. The day Christ returns arriving on the clouds to resurrect and rapture his people will be the very same day that his eschatological judgments begin to unfold upon the world. I also responded to a key pretribulational argument for the gap interpretation that skews the interpretation of Paul’s teaching. This “same day” principle is problematic for the pretribulational notion that Jesus can return at “any moment.” Since Scripture teaches there will be prophesied events occurring before the day of the Lord—the celestial disturbance (Joel 2:30–31), Elijah’s coming (Mal 4:5), the apostasy and revelation of the Antichrist (2 Thess 2:1–4)—then by necessity they will take place before the rapture. Consequently, the pretribulational teaching of imminence cannot be exegetically maintained.
*1*Richard Mayhue, “Why A Pretribulation Rapture?,” Christ’s Prophetic Plans: A Futuristic Premillennial Primer, eds. John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012) 101.
Ryan Habbena will be joining us at the Bible prophecy seminar on Saturday in Minnesota. He is author of The Parable of the Fig Tree: Discerning the Signs that Herald Christ’s Return. He is also pastor of Conquering King Fellowship in Eagan, MN and directs Signet Ring Ministries. Ryan will talk for a few minutes about some prophecy issues on his heart.
This Sunday in Eagan MN at Chili’s (3625 Pilot Knob Rd) from 12:00–2:00 there will be a Bible prophecy roundtable discussion between myself and Ryan Habbena, pastor of Conquering King Fellowship in Eagan MN and author of The Parable of the Fig Tree: Discerning the Signs that Herald Christ’s Return. There will also be Q&A time for attendees. If you plan on attending, please email Eschatos Ministries and let us know how many are attending.
Ryan Habbena is also inviting anyone in the Twin Cities region to attend his morning church service at 10:00 a.m. as he is beginning a sermon series on Matthew’s Olivet Discourse entitled “The Birthpangs Begin.” If you are not able to attend the sermon, you are still welcome to the roundtable discussion. Directions to the church can be found here.
See you there!
Eschatology matters, folks, as the following prerib rant demonstrates from a Wesley Norris who essentially calls Jesus and Paul’s warnings to the church blasphemous. If you can’t argue against it biblically, try calling it blasphemous! (I don’t mean to minimize Wesley’s slanderous accusation against God’s Word). See also Ryan Habbena’s response in the link (source here).
Wesley Norris: [I]f I may be frank here, I find it sickening how the pre-wrath crowd waits with bated breath for Antichrist to instigate a supposed “enormous persecution” of the Church before the Rapture takes place.
Not only is it blasphemous to put the revealing of Antichrist before Jesus and the Church, and not only is this teaching heretical, but those of you who put this unbiblical burden upon the Church do so by breaking several commands of scripture.
Your teachings of the Rapture are REMOVING comfort, encouragement and peace from the Church. You are doing the exact opposite of what you are commanded to do!
– You are commanded to comfort the Church with rescue from the Tribulation (Rom 5:9; 1 Thess 1:10; 1 Thess 5:9; Rev 3:10).
– You are commanded to encourage the Church about end times (1 Thess 4:18; 1 Thess 5:11; Heb 10:25).
– You are commanded to be at peace and give peace to God’s children about being rescued from the horrors of the end times (2 Pet 3:12, 14; 1 John 3:3).
By telling Christians that they are going to go through the Tribulation not only decimates their Blessed Hope, but it also breaks the commands of comforting, encouraging, and being in peace with the Church about being saved from the Tribulation. You pre-wrath people give none of this to the Church.
Wesley Norris, as do many ignorant pretribulationists, fail to recognize the clear biblical distinction between the Antichrist’s great tribulation against believers and the day of the Lord’s wrath against the ungodly. Why is he so agitated on the claim that the Bible teaches believers will be persecuted before Christ returns? It is pure emotionalism. Wesley’s tradition blinds him from thinking clearly and responding biblically. If you deny imminence, pretribs frequently go into these frenzied incoherent rants—it’s a site to behold, sadly.
Reading his rant, I get the impression that his faith is in a theological rapture system that was developed in the early 1800’s in Britain. Listen closely reader: the blessed hope is not escaping persecution by means of an any moment rapture; the blessed hope is simply the future reality of meeting and fellowshiping with Christ in our glorified bodies. I am afraid that Wesley has the kind of faith that would be shaken if he found himself within the Antichrist’s great tribulation, realizing that pretribulationism was a phantom not a foundation. But he represents so many Christians who have been deceived by the pretribulational Trojan horse.
I am going to also respond to Wesley Norris’ escapist theology with a few people that have more authority to say on this matter than I do:
So when you see the abomination of desolation [Antichrist] — spoken about by Daniel the prophet — standing in the holy place …For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be…Remember, I have told you ahead of time.” (Matt 24:15, 21, 25)
And Paul’s warning:
Now regarding the arrival of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to be with him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to be easily shaken from your composure or disturbed by any kind of spirit or message or letter allegedly from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not arrive until the rebellion comes and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, and as a result he takes his seat in God’s temple, displaying himself as God. (2 Thess 2:1–4)
And Jesus’ revelation to John:
One of the beast’s heads appeared to have been killed, but the lethal wound had been healed. And the whole world followed the beast in amazement; they worshiped the dragon because he had given ruling authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast too, saying: “Who is like the beast?” and “Who is able to make war against him?” The beast was given a mouth speaking proud words and blasphemies, and he was permitted to exercise ruling authority for forty-two months. So the beast opened his mouth to blaspheme against God—to blaspheme both his name and his dwelling place, that is, those who dwell in heaven. The beast was permitted to go to war against the saints and conquer them. He was given ruling authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation, (8) and all those who live on the earth will worship the beast, everyone whose name has not been written since the foundation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb who was killed. If anyone has an ear, he had better listen! If anyone is meant for captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed by the sword, then by the sword he must be killed. This requires steadfast endurance and faith from the saints.” (Rev 13:3–10)
I also want to note something else Wesley Norris wrote:
I’d like to ask you, [Ryan], does Tom’s opening post [about Christian persecution just before Christ returns] provide any comfort, any encouragement, or any hope to the Church? Read it again. Digest it. Contemplate its structure, intent, and meaning, because Tom’s post above encapsulates the very heart and modus operandi of the pre-wrath movement.
The apostle Paul would be glad to answer that:
“(35) Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (36) As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (37) No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! (38) For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, (39) nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:35–39).
Wesley, if you cannot find your “comfort and encouragement” in Paul’s words here, then you will never find real comfort elsewhere, including the pretribulational system.
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