Five Straw Men
In the January/February 1991 issue of Voice magazine, the featured article was entitled Evaluating the Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church. It is a condensation of some of the material from that authors book on the same theme. The article is a critical review of my book, The Prewrath Rapture of the Church. Early in his comments, the reviewer says, In this article I will analyze a few of the key issues (Voice, p. 10).
In the concluding chapter of The Prewrath Rapture of the Church I wrote, Men will scrutinize this book. They will search its pages, probing for weakness and vulnerability. That is appropriate, for all commentary must be measured by the Word of God. No inspiration is claimed by the author...some arguments may appear stronger than others, some flaws detected, and some important areas left untouched. That will be left for other Bible teachers to correct. But I am convinced that the basic tenets found within these pages will not be successfully assaulted. Its gates will not be breached. The prewrath Rapture is not built upon sand. It has the Word of God to sustain it (Prewrath, p. 292 f.).
Have the gates of prewrath rapturism been breached and its walls successfully assaulted by this critical review? The issue is exceedingly important for every believer. If the Church is to be raptured before the seventieth week of Daniel (commonly, but without Bible justification, called the Tribulation period) commences, thats one thing. If the Church will be here to see the emergence of the Antichrist and the difficulties associated with his appearance, thats another matter altogether.
The reviewer introduced his evaluation of prewrath rapturism with these words:
WHAT? Another view of the rapture? How many more can there be? With pre-trib, post-trib, mid-trib, partial-trib, and now the newest contender pre-wrath it seems that there are almost as many positions as there are recipes for meatloaf. Which one is correct? At least theres one good thing we know about this situation: they cant all be right! (Voice, p. 9).
It is unfortunate that the reviewer chose to begin his critique with sarcasm, and in the doing set the tone for his article. Heirs of glory, saved through faith in Christ, who are earnestly seeking to understand Gods prophetic Word and live in the light of its truth are not contenders in some kind of theological contest. And to suggest that with the presentation of the prewrath Rapture position, there are now almost as many views as there are meatloaf recipes is levity which goes beyond either hyperbole or propriety.
Is the concept of a prewrath Rapture new and, therefore, an unnecessary contender in an already overcrowded Rapture debate as the reviewer suggests?
Webster defines straw man as a weak or imaginary opposition set up only to be easily confuted. Below are five straw man arguments used by the reviewer in an attempt to discredit prewrath rapturism.
Straw Man Number 1: The Its New, So It
Cant Be Right Argument
Justin Martyr wrote, The man of apostasy [Antichrist]...shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us the Christians... (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, 110).
Irenaeus wrote, But he [John] indicates the number of the name [Antichrist, 666] now, that when this man comes we may avoid him, being aware who he is (Against Heresies V 30, 4). And in other places Irenaeus clearly indicates that the resurrection and Rapture of the Church occur in connection with the rule of the Antichrist (Against Heresies V 34, 3; V 35, 1).
Tertullian, speaking in the context of 1 Thessalonians 4 and the Rapture of the Church, wrote, Now the privilege of this favor [the Rapture] awaits those who shall at the coming of the Lord be found in the flesh [those who are still alive], and who shall, owing to the oppressions of the time of Antichrist, deserve by an instantaneous death [Tertullians way of describing Rapture] which is accomplished by a sudden change, to become qualified to join the rising saints [those who had already died in Christ]; as he writes to the Thessalonians (On the Resurrection of the Flesh, xli).
As a general rule, the closer one lived to the time of Christ and the writing of the New Testament, the more significant the testimony. The view of the Church fathers is consistent with the prewrath Rapture, but in direct fundamental conflict with pretribulational rapturism which believes the Rapture will precede the emergence of the Antichrist.
Second, it is a significant fact that on one hand the early Church fathers taught that the Church would encounter the Antichrist before resurrection and Rapture. On the other hand, none of the great confessions of church history even mention a pretribulational Rapture, let alone endorse it; not The Apostles Creed, The Nicene Creed, The Athanasian Creed, The Westminster Confession of Faith, The Baptist Confession of 1689, or The Philadelphia Confession of Faith.
Third, there is strong historical evidence to demonstrate that pretribulational rapturism did not even appear on the scene before the year 1830 A.D. William R. Kimball in his book, The Rapture, A Question of Timing, has written: In reviewing the issue of historic authenticity, we have seen that the pretribulational rapture theory is a comparatively recent innovation in prophetic interpretation. History conclusively demonstrates that it was not an eschatological position embraced by the Church at any point prior to the 1830s. Pretribulationism, with its emphasis on two second comings, originated in England with a fifteen-year-old girl (purported to have had a vision), named Margaret MacDonald. It was systemized and propagated by Edward Irving, called the father of the Pentecostal movement, and John Darby, a leader in the Plymouth Brethren movement.
Fourth, the pretribulational Rapture theory did not reach the shores of America until the 1880s, more than fifty years after its origin. And with its arrival came considerable friction and division. Conferences, churches, and friendships were divided over the issue. A. W. Tozer wrote, Here is a doctrine that was not known or taught until the beginning of this century, and it is already causing splits in churches.
It was not until the year 1917, when the Scofield Bible (in its second edition) made pretribulationism one of its pillars, that the view began to rapidly spread. In large measure, that rapidity can be traced to the fact that in those days many viewed the notes of the Scofield Bible almost as authoritative as the Bible itself.
Fifth, the pretribulational Rapture, which views the Church as taken away before the emergence of the Antichrist and the seventieth week of Daniel, is not only out of step with 1800 years of Church teaching, it is also largely an American phenomenon. The overwhelming majority of believers today in China, Russia, Africa, Europe, and South America are not pretribulational and do not believe the Church is exempt from encountering the Antichrist and the coming days of difficulty.
The clear historical evidence indicates that it is pretribulational rapturism which has moved from the basic moorings of the early Church and the belief that she will encounter the Antichrist, to a nineteenth and twentieth century Well be out of here before things get tough theology.
In The Prewrath Rapture of the Church I wrote,
The central thesis of this book, then, is neither new nor novel. It is consistent with early church writings and held by many contemporary believers. The author has simply given a name to this view the prewrath rapture and integrated many isolated facts into a comprehensive theological system. In other words, this positions core is old; only its systemization is new (Prewrath, p. 266).
That is in marked contrast to pretribulational rapturism which began only last century.
The reviewers attempt, therefore, to discredit the prewrath Rapture by inferring that it is new in origin and entering an already too-crowded field is both inaccurate and inappropriate. The basic concept of prewrath rapturism was the position of the early Church (i.e., that the Church would encounter Antichrist before rapture) and predated pretribulational rapturism by eighteen hundred years.
Straw Man Number 2: Problems With the Facts
According to the pre-wrath view, Gods wrath on the earth doesnt start until the Day of the Lord, after the six seals of Revelation 6, and after cosmic disturbances. The Church is raptured just before the beginning of wrath; since, according to 1 Thessalonians 1:10, believers of this age are not appointed to wrath (Voice, p. 10).
The reviewer then seeks, in his summary, to discredit the prewrath Rapture position. His analysis can be succinctly stated this way.
(1) According to prewrath rapturism the Church will be raptured following the opening of the sixth seal, immediately prior to the start of the Day of the Lord.
(2) Prewrath rapturism doesnt believe there is any wrath prior to the Day of the Lord.
(3) Luke 21:23 and Matthew 24:19-22 clearly indicate that there is wrath in the middle of the seventieth week, before the starting point for the Day of the Lord.
(4) The prewrath facts are wrong. Therefore, the prewrath Rapture is in error.
To reach his conclusion, note again what the reviewer wrote.
According to the pre-wrath view, Gods wrath on the earth doesnt start until the Day of the Lord, (Voice, p. 10).
That is a correct statement. Prewrath rapturism does say that Gods wrath doesnt start until the Day of the Lord commences.
The reviewer continued:
In addition, pre-wrath rapturism teaches that the Great Tribulation is only the first part of the second half of the seventieth week (Voice, p. 10).
The reviewer is correct again. Prewrath rapturism does teach that the Great Tribulation is cut short, or amputated, and confined to only a part of the last three and one-half years of the seventieth week (Mt. 24:22).
But then the reviewer takes it upon himself to attribute words to prewrath Rapturism which it does not hold. He volunteered that I wrote that the Great Tribulation contains no wrath (Voice, p. 10).
Here he is in blatant error. Nowhere does the prewrath Rapture position teach that the Great Tribulation contains no wrath. Precisely the opposite is the truth. In this regard I wrote,
In each instance where the Great Tribulation is used in a prophetic setting, it always refers to the persecution of Gods elect by wicked men, never to the wrath of God being directed toward mankind. Prophetically, therefore, the Great Tribulation speaks of mans wrath1 against man, not Gods wrath against man (Prewrath, p. 105).
Both Matthew 24:19-21 and Luke 21:23 to which the reviewer refers are describing wrath instituted by the Antichrist (not God), and directed against believers who will not submit to his mark during the Great Tribulation or time of Jacobs trouble (Jer. 30:7). In the middle of the seventieth week, Satan is cast out of Heaven to the earth. Of that event, it is recorded: Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time (Rev. 12:12). And it is specifically said that Satan gave power unto the Antichrist (Rev. 13:4).
Prewrath rapturism clearly teaches that there is wrath in the middle of the seventieth week. However, it is the wrath of the Antichrist empowered by Satan which will fall upon those who will not submit to his authority. Gods wrath will not commence until after the opening of the sixth seal, precisely as the Word of God proclaims (Rev. 6:12-17).
The reviewer continues,
Rosenthal pointedly says: Wrath is restricted to the latter part of the seventieth week, specifically the Day of the Lord period  (Voice, p. 10).
He then cites my book for substantiation. He quotes me as saying, Wrath is restricted.
What I in fact wrote is, divine wrath is restricted (Prewrath, p. 172). A distinction is maintained throughout the book between Gods wrath, which will commence following the opening of the sixth seal, and the wrath of the Antichrist, which begins in the middle of the seventieth week of Daniel (the Great Tribulation, Mt. 24:15-20). A total of eleven times on page 172 I refer to terms like divine wrath, the wrath of the Lamb, and the wrath of God to distinguish it from the wrath of the Antichrist. And yet, astoundingly, without the slightest justification and in contradiction of the facts, the reviewer proclaimed, Rosenthal pointedly says: Wrath is restricted to the latter part of the seventieth week, specifically the Day of the Lord period.
The reviewer continues to add to his misrepresentation. He wrote,
Rosenthal says that the Day of the Lord, in his view the only time of wrath, will be a period for chastening and purifying for Israel (Voice, p. 10),
and then he cites page 175 as proof of his statement.
I do say on page 175 that the Day of the Lord is a time for chastening and purifying Israel. I clearly do not say, as the reviewer asserts, that it is the only time of wrath. The reviewer, breaking all rules of writing propriety, inserts his own words into a statement from my book and then seeks to discredit a position I never championed.
He concludes this section of his evaluation by stating:
The timing of wrath is the cornerstone of the pre-wrath position. In fact, Rosenthal tells us his most important purpose for writing: The objective of this volume is to demonstrate that the Day of the Lord is the time of divine wrath (35). Lukes Olivet account [which speaks of wrath during the Great Tribulation] thus undermines the crucial element in Rosenthals argument. He cannot restrict wrath to the Day of the Lord and be true to the Bible (Voice, p. 11).
In response, let it be said loud, clear, and without fear of contradiction, Lukes Olivet account does not undermine the crucial element in the prewrath argument as the reviewer proclaims. What it does undermine, however, is the straw man which the reviewer himself concocted through factual distortion and blatant misquoting.
The evidence is clear and unmistakable, and men of integrity on all sides of the Rapture issue will disavow such tactics. Nowhere in The Prewrath Rapture of the Church is wrath restricted to the period of time known as the Day of the Lord. Throughout, a clear distinction is made between Gods wrath which occurs during the Day of the Lord, and the wrath that originates with the Antichrist during the Great Tribulation and to which Luke 21:23 and Matthew 24:19-22 refer.
Straw Man Number 3: Problems With Facts and Contexts
In Revelation 5 the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ in metaphor, seizes the scroll from the One who sits on the throne [God the Father] and in Revelation 6 begins to open the seals contained in the scroll. The face-value interpretation of the seals is that they contain or are events that transpire on earth, or events in the spiritual realm that touch on events on the earth.
However, not only does Rosenthal insist that the seals are not under Christs control, since that would make Him responsible for events associated with the Antichrist, he also believes that the seals are not events and do not contain events. Instead, he says, the seals represent Gods protective security over believers during this time: God is protecting them until the rapture (Voice, p. 12).
Here the reviewer touches on a number of points.
He wrote, ...not only does Rosenthal insist that the seals are not under Christs control, since that would make Him responsible for events associated with the Antichrist...
The reviewers statement at this point is truly baffling in light of the conspicuous evidence to the contrary. I wrote,
How comforting for believers is the realization that when going through the period of mans greatest inhumanity to man, when the Antichrist is demanding that men bow to him or perish the Son, who is opening the seals, is in complete, sovereign control; nothing can happen to the child of God, even during the Great Tribulation, except that which his sovereign Lord permits (Prewrath, p. 143 f.).
And again I wrote, He [Jesus] is sovereign, a fact elegantly attested by the truth that He opens the seals, trumpets, and bowls (Prewrath, p. 145).
And finally in this regard, I wrote,
That the Lord is in sovereign control during the opening of the seals is underscored in the strongest possible way. The impact of the first four seals is restricted by Him to one-fourth of the earth (Rev. 6:8) (Prewrath, p. 145).
It is hard to know where the reviewer got his information that I insist that the seals are not under Christs control, but clearly not from what was written in the book, The Prewrath Rapture of the Church.
He continued, Rosenthal...believes that the seals are not events and do not contain events (Voice, p. 12).
This is an equally astounding statement since on six charts throughout the book (pages 149, 161, 177, 186, 194, and 211) the prewrath view specifically identifies the seven seals as referring to (1) Antichrist, (2) war, (3) famine, (4) pestilence, (5) martyrdom, (6) cosmic disturbances, and (7) trumpet judgments all monumental events. On page 167 I wrote,
Revelation 6 gives a clear, progressive, chronological sequence of events. The first seal is opened, and certain events are said to unfold (vv. 1-2). The second seal is opened, and more events unfold (vv. 3-4). The same thing is true for the third (vv. 5-6), fourth (vv. 7-8), and fifth (vv. 9-11) seals. Then it is recorded that the sixth seal is opened (vv. 12-17), and more events occur. Among them. John Informs his readers that the great day of his wrath is come (v. 17).
And again, I wrote,
A normative reading of Revelation 6 simply indicates a logical progression of events. Seals are opened and events occur. And once again one is perplexed as to where the reviewer got his information. Clearly, not from The Prewrath Rapture of the Church. Jesus opens the seals, and they represent specific events.
The reviewer turns his attention to what he views as yet another fallacy. He wrote,
Throughout the book, Rosenthal appeals for the use of contextual, grammatical, historical, and literal interpretation. Here is the clearest example of his violating his avowed standards. It is exegetically indefensible to automatically transfer the meaning of a word in one text to a usage in another text without examining the context. His interpretation runs totally counter to the text of Revelation 5 and 6. The seal of Ephesians 1:13 is the Holy Spirit Himself and is explicitly described as a provision for keeping the believer secure in Christ. In Revelation 6, the seals are multiple, vary in their content, and are never associated with the work of the Holy Spirit. Most importantly, the seals themselves are opened. As each seal is opened, something happens. Thus the seals contain, or are events. Jesus opens them, thus demonstrating His control of the events (Voice, p. 12).
Here the reviewer accuses me of violating grammar and context. He takes exception with my comment, The significance of the Lord Jesus Christ opening the seals is, among other things, the assurance of eternal security for those believers who may be martyred for Christs sake. The Antichrist, under the permissive hand of the sovereign Lord, can touch their bodies but not their eternal souls (Prewrath, pp. 144-145).
The reviewer condemns the suggestion that the seals speak among other things of security for the believer. He argues that the fact that seal in Ephesians 1:13 meaning security, gives no licensing for making the seals in Revelation 6 mean security. Such a position is, according to the reviewer, exegetically indefensible.
A number of observations must be made.
First and fundamentally, his accusation misses the point entirely. I do not base my view that the opening of the seals of Revelation 6 speaks of security for the believer on the fact that the seal in Ephesians 1:13 implies security as has been attributed to me. I simply reference Ephesians 1:13 as an example of sealing, and the fact that security is associated with the concept of sealing.
Second, there is historical evidence that in the Roman world wills, records of slave ownership, and messages from the Caesar and other high-ranking officials were often sealed with a wax seal. The purpose of sealing was for security; it was to keep the document private. It was a capital offense to open a sealed document if one did not have the authority, power, or right to do so.
Third, concerned that some of the disciples would steal the body of Jesus and claim resurrection, some of the priests and Pharisees came to Pilate and said,
Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, ...Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch (Mt. 27:63-66).
The stone was secured and a seal (probably melted wax with an official insignia stamped into it, as was the custom of the day) was affixed in such a way that if the stone were moved, the seal would be broken. (It could not be resealed without detection because of the insignia.) The purpose of the seal was to secure the contents of the tomb in this case the body of the Lord Jesus.
Fourth, in the immediate context of the opening of the seals (Rev. 6), 144,000 servants of God are said to be sealed (Rev. 7:1-4). Four angels who were about to commence divine judgment on the earth are commanded by a fifth angel to desist, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads (Rev. 7:3). The sealing was for protection. It was to secure or protect them from the judgment which was about to fall on the earth.
Fifth, in Revelation 5, God the Father is seen seated in Heaven with a scroll in His right hand. The scroll contains the seals, trumpets, and bowls of the Book of Revelation. The seals must be opened, the trumpets blown, and the bowls poured out if Gods program for history is to be successfully consummated. The seals, trumpets, and bowls contain the events of the last days.
Concerning that scroll, the apostle John said, And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? (Rev. 5:2). A universal search was made (in Heaven, in earth, under the earth Rev. 5:3) for a man who could open the scroll and loose the seals. John testified of himself, And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon (Rev. 5:4). And in the midst of his weeping John was commanded, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof (Rev. 5:5). In obedience, John beheld and he saw a Lamb with seven horns (perfect strength) and seven eyes which are the seven spirits of God (perfect wisdom), And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne (Rev. 5:7). Here then was the One the only One who was worthy (had the right, power, and authority) to open the scroll and loose its seals.
In practical terms that means that He alone is in sovereign control of the events which will unfold in the end of days. And nothing, but nothing, can happen to the child of God except His sovereign Lord, for His purposes, permits it. Were Jesus unable to loosen the seals, the triumphant consummation of history would be in jeopardy. The fact that He is able to open the seals provides security for the believer. In no sense, then, was grammar or context violated in suggesting that there is security for the believer in the fact that Christ alone has the power and right to open the scroll and loose its seals.
Straw Man Number 4: More Problems With the Facts
A compendium from the prophets description of
the Day of the Lord reveals the following. The Day of the Lord will be:
The chart that follows, taken from page 141 of The Prewrath Rapture of the Church, illustrates that point.
In light of the above facts, the reviewer is eager to disprove my contention that the Rapture must immediately precede the Day of the Lord. Under the heading, More Problems With the Facts, the reviewer wrote,
Rosenthal maintains that the rapture, the start of the wrath of God and the beginning of Day of the Lord all come at the same time after the middle of the seventieth week of Daniel and after the tribulation period. One of the supports he [Rosenthal] uses for this is Jesus mentioning of Noah in Matthew 24:37-39 (Voice, p. 12).
Having noted my contention that the Rapture must immediately precede the Day of the Lord, sometime within the second half of the seventieth week, the reviewer moves to discredit the position. He wrote,
Rosenthal states, The Lord teaches that on the very day that Noah entered the ark, Gods judgment fell. Please look at the text of Genesis 7:1-10 and notice when Noah entered the ark and when the floods came. The two events were seven days apart. Rosenthal claims they occur on the same day! Look carefully also at Matthew 24:38-39: Jesus says that people kept on eating and drinking until the day Noah entered the ark. It does not say that the flood came the day Noah entered (Voice, p. 12).
Permit three observations concerning the reviewers comments.
First, the reviewer again subtly perverts the facts as they really are. I do not refer to Matthew 24:37-39 to defend Rapture immediately prior to judgment as the reviewer twice asserts. The text I do refer to, in fact, is Luke 17:26-36. I wrote,
And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all (Luke 17:26-27) (Prewrath, p. 140). And again I wrote, not only does the Rapture occur in connection with the Day of the Lord but the Rapture occurs on the very day the Day of the Lord begins (Luke 17:22-36) (Prewrath, p. 117).
And again, in this regard I wrote,
As the flood began on the same day as Noah entered the ark, so the Lord taught that the Rapture would occur on the same day as the Day of the Lord begins (Luke 17:26-27, 30) (Prewrath, pp. 219-220).
The reviewer said I used Matthew 24:37-39 as a proof text to demonstrate Rapture immediately prior to judgment (a totally erroneous statement). He did so because he knew the Matthew text does not address the point under consideration as the Luke text I actually used, in fact, does. The reviewer cited a bona fide argument of the author, and then dismantled a verse of his own choosing in an attempt to discredit the argument; namely, that the Rapture immediately precedes the Day of the Lord.
Second, the reviewer appeals to Genesis 7:1-10 to prove Gods deliverance did not immediately precede His judgment, that seven days intervened between the two events (Voice, p. 12). Verses 1-4 follow:
And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female; and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female...to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.
According to the reviewer, Moses taught that Noah went into the ark seven days before the flood (judgment), not immediately before the flood. If his observation is correct, there is a clear conflict between Moses and the Lord. The Lord taught, And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all (Luke 17:26-27). Either the Bible contradicts itself, or there is a very simple response to the reviewers criticism. The conspicuous solution is this: Noah entered the ark seven days before the flood came to begin the process of loading the animals. This task would be undertaken only at the last possible moment. He went in and out of the ark (as a careful reading of Genesis 7:1-4 clearly demands), and then on the seventh day he entered the ark for the final time. The Lord shut the door, and the same day the floods commenced for forty days.
The flood began In the six hundredth year of Noahs life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month (Gen. 7:11) and lasted forty days and forty nights (Gen. 7:12). In the selfsame day entered Noah...into the ark (Gen. 7:13). Noah entered the ark and the flood (judgment) commenced the very same day. The reviewer in his attempted refutation ignored the fact that Noah had to go in and out of the ark during the last seven days to load the animals (Gen. 7:1-4). And then he stopped his argument at Genesis 7:10 because the following verses (vv. 11-13) clearly state that the flood came the very same day that Noah entered the ark.
That this conspicuous interpretation is correct is further substantiated (although, once again, the reviewer conveniently chose to omit the evidence). Immediately after using the analogy of Noah the Lord said, Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all (Luke 17:28-29). The deliverance of Lot and the destruction of Sodom were so closely associated that Lots wife, in disobedience, looked back and didnt make it she was turned to a pillar of salt. The day Noah entered the ark (the very day) Gods judgment fell; the day Lot fled Sodom (the very day) Gods judgment fell. And then the Lord Himself made this application: Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed (Luke 17:30).
Deliverance of the righteous and then immediate judgment of the wicked is the divine sequence. The righteous will be raptured, and then Gods wrath will be immediately poured out on the wicked during the Day of the Lord. The Church is not appointed unto Gods wrath (1 Th. 1:10). It cannot be demonstrated that a gap of one day let alone of more than three and one-half years can intervene between the Rapture and start of the Day of the Lord.2 Such vain attempts sometimes arise from those who admit that the Day of the Lord commences at the midpoint of the seventieth week or later, but want nonetheless to somehow (apart from biblical justification) hold on to pretribulational rapturism.
Straw Man Number 5: Problems With Language
In 2 Thessalonians 2 Paul indicates that the Day of the Lord cannot begin until a restrainer is first removed. This is a crucial point for Rosenthal, since under his system he must account for the removal of the restrainer, but, wanting to keep the Church present throughout the period, must also have the Holy Spirit present (Voice, p. 12).
The fact is, the identification of the restrainer is not crucial for prewrath rapturism as the reviewer suggests. The major historic position of the Church that human government is the restraining force of 2 Thessalonians 2 would fit perfectly into the prewrath position. Nonetheless, that is not the position espoused by prewrath rapturism.
The apostle Paul wrote to the church of Thessalonica, For the mystery of iniquity doth already work [that is, the spirit of antichrist was manifest in the apostles own day]; only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way (2 Th. 2:7). The expression in old English, only he who now letteth will let, has been appropriately translated only he who now hindereth will continue to hinder. That which is presently being hindered is the mystery of iniquity [the spirit of antichrist, 1 Jn. 4:3]. If it were not so, things would be far worse in the world. When the Antichrist sets up an image of himself at the Temple on Mount Moriah at the mid-point of the seventieth week and demands that the world give him allegiance (Rev. 13), that which is presently hindering will be taken out of the way. The hinderer will cease or desist from hindering, and the Antichrist will arise unopposed during the Great Tribulation.
The identification of that which is doing the hindering has been a subject of considerable debate. The historical position of the Church has been that divinely sanctioned human government or law is that which has been doing the hindering. With the emergence of the Antichrist, human government and law break down and, consequently, cease to hinder. As a result, the Antichrist is then unhindered in his advance toward world dominion.
Pretribulational rapturists often identify the restrainer as the Holy Spirit. A number of significant problems, however, exist for that position.
First, the restrainer (hinderer) is not identified as the Holy Spirit nor does the Holy Spirit have a direct, restraining-of-sin ministry, either in the Thessalonian context or anywhere in the Bible. The Holy Spirit indwells believers whose presence has a restraining influence in the world. That, however, is an indirect influence and its effectiveness is dependent upon the spirituality of the Church. However, the language of 2 Thessalonians gives no hint whatever of restraint through indirect agency, such as identifying the Holy Spirit as the restrainer requires.
Second, the expression until he be taken out of the way (2 Th. 2:7) can literally be translated become out of the midst. Midst more literally means middle. The restrainer stands between or in the middle. However, the restrainer will, at the appointed time, in the words of the great scholar, Lenski, get out of the way. In no sense does 2 Thessalonians 2:7 say that He leaves the environment of earth and goes to Heaven as normally taught by those who identify the Holy Spirit as the restrainer. He simply ceases in his restraining work.
Third, the usual pretribulational view is that when the Church is raptured, the Holy Spirit is also taken since the Holy Spirit is indwelling the Church. However, as has already been noted, the text does not say the restrainer goes to Heaven. It simply states that he will get out of the way. The idea is that he will cease or desist from restraining. The contention that the restrainer hitchhikes on the removal of the Church that when the Church is raptured, the restrainer is removed is superimposed on the text. It places the restrainers withdrawal into the category of being a by-product of the Churchs removal.
Fourth, if the Holy Spirit is the restrainer and He is removed pretribulationally from the earths scene to Heaven, how does one account for His active and dynamic ministry during the seventieth week of Daniel? We are told that the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world (Mt. 24:14). The Church hasnt been able to accomplish that feat in two thousand years. Is a remnant of newly saved believers (as required if the Church has been raptured pretribulationally) going to be able to do in seven years what the Church could not achieve in two thousand years and do it while the Antichrist is physically present and without the Holy Spirits fullness of ministry?
Further, the Lord, speaking within the context of the seventieth week, said, But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost (Mk. 13:11). And again, within a seventieth week context, the Lord taught But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you (Mt. 10:19-20). This conspicuous ministry of the Holy Spirit cannot be diminished to the limitations of His work in the Old Testament as is sometimes claimed. There is not a verse of Scripture anywhere that so much as hints of a diminishing of the Spirits ministry during the seventieth week. Such arguments are made from silence. Gundry has well said,
According to Acts 2:32-33, the present fullness of the Spirits ministry rests on the resurrection, ascension, and exaltation of Christ. Being historical facts not subject to negation, they assure eternal abundance of the gift of the Spirit. His partial withdrawal in a retrogression to the beggarly elements and immature status of the old covenant would amount to an annulment of Christs exaltation.
In The Prewrath Rapture of the Church I wrote,
The restrainer is neither the Holy Spirit nor human government. Evidence is strained to support either of those contentions. There is, however, substantial evidence to identify the restrainer. He who restrains until he be taken out of the way is the archangel Michael. The following evidence will substantiate that fact.
1. The archangel Michael has long been recognized by both Jewish and Christian scholars as having a special guardian relationship to Israel (Dan. 10:12-13). In relation to Israel, he is called Michael your prince (Dan. 10:21) [of whom it is said, he holdeth (Heb. Chazaq), which according to Strongs Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible can mean to bind or restrain].
2. Revelation 12 describes a war that occurs in heaven. The time for that conflict can be pinpointed at precisely the middle of the seventieth week of Daniel (Rev. 12:6, 13-14). It is described this way:
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And [the dragon] prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child (Rev. 12:7-8, 13).
The woman represents Israel, who gave Christ (the male child) to the world (Rev. 12:5) and who will be severely persecuted during the Great Tribulation (Rev. 12:13-17).
3. Speaking of this one who will hinder the Antichrist, Paul said, only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way (2 Thes. 2:7). The word letteth (or hindereth) means to hold down, and the phrase taken out of the way means to step aside [get out of the way]. Therefore, the one who has the job of hindering the Antichrist will step aside; that is, he will no longer be a restraint between the Antichrist and those the Antichrist is persecuting.
4. The Bible is explicit that the archangel Michael is the personage who will step aside. Daniel records that event this way: And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people, and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time (Dan. 12:1).
It is important to note when this event occurs. The preceding verse says, And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain (Dan. 11:45). This can only refer to the Antichrist, who will establish his headquarters between the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean Sea on the glorious mountain Jerusalem. This occurs in the middle of the seventieth week in connection with his desecration of the temple and erection of a statue [image] of himself.
Further, Daniel has already said that Michael will stand up during a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time. The unprecedented time of trouble can only refer to the Great Tribulation. Since Daniel is told that this great trouble relates to his people and his people are the Jews this can only be the time of Jacobs trouble (Jer. 30:7), which is a synonym for the Great Tribulation. It is at that time that the archangel Michael will stand up (Prewrath, p. 256 ff).
But what does the expression, And at that time shall Michael stand up, mean? Rashi, one of Israels greatest teachers, whose Hebrew scholarship is unexcelled, and one who had no concern regarding the issue of the timing of the Rapture understood stand up (Hebrew, amad) to literally mean stand still in Daniel 12:1. Michael, the guardian of Israel, had earlier fought for her (Dan. 10:13, 21), but now he would stand still or stand aside. He would not help; he would not restrain; he would not hold down.
The reviewer takes issue with my position that amad in Daniel 12:1 means stand still or stand aside. He wrote,
Rosenthal asserts that the Hebrew verb amad can mean stand still (258). In some of its occurrences in the Old Testament it does (Voice, p. 13).
The reviewer then appears to criticize his own statement. Having acknowledged that amad does mean stand still in some Old Testament verses, he continues,
Rosenthal cites one Hebrew scholar who gives the meaning of amad as stand still. Citing one commentator for the meaning of a word is hardly convincing. What do the others say? What are the possible meanings for the word? (Voice, p. 13).
Had the reviewer taken time to note standard works, he would not have made such an observation. Youngs Analytical Concordance to the Bible, says that amad means To stand, stand still or fast. And Strongs concordance cites one of the root meanings of amad as cease and one of its definitions as stand still.
If a man is reclining or seated and is said to amad, he will stand up. If a man is standing and active and said to amad, he will stand still. The archangel Michael, in context, was already said to be actively defending Israel. To amad meant he would stand still, desist, or cease his defense on their behalf.
Some clear biblical instances of amad meaning to be still or desist are: they...stood still [desisted], and answered no more (Job 32:16); and again, And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people [for he was above all the people]; and when he opened it, all the people stood up (Neh. 8:5). Commenting on this verse, Rashi indicates that the people kept quiet (stood still) while Ezra read the Torah.
In addition to questioning the legitimacy of amad meaning to stand still, the reviewer adds, But the author goes further and says that stand still means stand aside, i.e., act passively and allow something to happen. The reviewer continued, Furthermore, the author changes the commentators conclusion from stand still to stand aside or be inactive (258).
Do I, in fact, change the Hebrew scholar Rashis meaning as charged? He wrote, concerning Daniel 12:1, The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Michael, You are silent? You do not defend my children (Prewrath, p. 258). If that doesnt mean to be inactive, then language has no meaning. I used the words stand still, stand aside, desist, and cease as synonymous terms. The archangel Michael, who had specifically been involved with standing for Israel, will, in the middle of the seventieth week, stand still, desist, stand aside, and cease to stand for her.
In addition to criticizing the identification of Michael as the restrainer who would cease his restraining ministry during the Great Tribulation, the reviewer added, no reason is given in Scripture for such an act (i.e., why would protection stop)... (Voice, p. 13).
Notwithstanding the reviewers criticism, the Word of God gives specific reason for the cessation of the restrainers work at precisely that point in time. In this regard I wrote,
The explanation for Michaels inactivity on behalf of Israel his desisting, his stepping aside is then explained. Since Israel rejected her true Christ and refused Gods truth. God will send on them strong delusion so that they will believe the lie (that man is God humanism) and accept the false Christ. Paul put it this way:
...they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie [that the Antichrist is the Messiah]: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thes. 2:10-12).
The strong delusion comes from God. It is His purifying judgment on Israel. That is why Michael will no longer hinder or hold down the wicked one (Prewrath, p. 260).
Leon Wood, in his A Commentary on Daniel, commenting on the expression to scatter the power of the holy people (Dan. 12:7) wrote,
The angel thus revealed the reason for Gods permitting the Antichrist to bring his persecution, namely, to break the power of the Jews. As parallel passages indicate, this power and resulting self-sufficiency [of the Jews] will need to be broken so that the Jews will be willing to accept Christ as their own rightful king.
This observation provides perfect logic for the view that on this occasion and for this purpose, Michael will stand still he will abstain, he will not fight for Israel (Prewrath, p. 271). When Michael ceases to defend Israel, the time of Jacobs troubles will commence.
The parallel between the scriptural texts, And at that time shall Michael stand up [stand still or desist from helping Israel], the great prince which standeth [whose normal ministry had been to continually help Israel] (Dan. 12:1); and he who now letteth [restrains] will let [restrain], until he be taken out of the way [ceases his normal ministry of restraining] (2 Th. 2:7), is striking. The apostle Paul, doubtless, had Daniel 12:1 in mind when he wrote 2 Thessalonians 2:7 and, therefore, had no need to specifically name the restrainer. The clear and compelling allusion to Daniel 12 would indicate that the restrainer is the archangel Michael.
Some Concluding Comments
The reviewer said that prewrath rapturism teaches that the seals are not specific events. That observation is contrary to the facts.
The reviewer said that prewrath rapturism violates context and grammar in teaching that Christs opening of the seals provides security for the believer. That observation is contrary to the facts.
The reviewer said that prewrath rapturism uses Matthew 24:36-39 as a proof text to demonstrate that the Rapture must immediately precede the Day of the Lord. That observation is contrary to the facts.
The reviewer said that prewrath rapturism incorrectly interprets the Hebrew word amad to mean to stand still or to be inactive. That observation is contrary to the facts.
The reviewer said that there is no Scripture to explain why Michael would cease to fight on Israels behalf. That observation is contrary to the facts.
The reviewer said that these were some of the key problems with prewrath rapturism. These problems have been shown to be without biblical substance straw men.
At the outset of this article, I raised this question concerning prewrath rapturism: Have its gates been breached have its walls been successfully assaulted by this critical review? The answer can now be given. Truth is never embarrassed by investigation.
Not only have the walls and gates of prewrath rapturism not been impaired its drawbridge hasnt even been crossed. The review drowned in the moat of its own deficiencies, distortions, and perversions, the result of an ill-conceived and desperate attempt to refute prewrath rapturism.
The issue involved is not one of personalities. Nor is it an ivory tower debate by Bible teachers with little practical significance. I have little taste for debate, for debates sake, and even less interest in vindication. My burning concern is for the Church for whom the Savior willingly shed His blood. The issue is crucial: Will the Church be raptured before the seventieth week of Daniel begins and the Antichrist emerges to seek world conquest, or will the Church enter the seventieth week of Daniel to confront the Antichrist and the difficulties associated with that period of time, only then to experience Rapture immediately before the Day of the Lord commences?
There are two problems which make the Rapture issue extremely emotional and for some divisive. First, there is an obvious and strong inclination to want to believe that the Church will be gone before the Antichrist arises; that Church believers wont be among the ones commanded to receive Antichrists mark or face potential martyrdom.
And second, it is excruciatingly difficult for Bible teachers who have authoritatively espoused pretribulational rapturism for many years to now acknowledge that a part of their teaching ministry, however sincerely championed, was in error.
It is easy to say, The Bible is the final authority; more difficult to experientially make it so. Doctrines long held are not easily relinquished, even when Gods Word clearly reveals they were built on flawed premises.
I have read every review of which I am aware which has attempted to refute prewrath rapturism. I have listened to cassettes of messages geared to the same end. They have not succeeded in their task. I have been the target of ridicule, anger, derision, and unofficial blackballing in some circles. The basic reason is because prewrath rapturism has, with biblical justification, made many proponents of pretribulational rapturism uncomfortable and defensive. I hold no animosity, and I feel not an ounce of self-pity. If such is the price to help alert Gods people to prepare for the coming storm, it is a price far too little to pay.
On the other side of the ledger, I have received thousands of letters and calls during the last thirteen months from believers of all stations of life. The overwhelming majority of those who have written or called have embraced or are moving toward a settled conviction in the prewrath Rapture of the Church.
Momentum has begun to shift, and if God is pleased to give enough time, the generation of believers who enter the seventieth week of Daniel will not be blindsided by the placebo effect of a pretribulational Rapture expectation. Such men and women will be prepared to do battle with the Antichrist, refuse his mark, worship Christ alone, and, if need be, suffer martyrdom always, however, with confidence in the blessed hope that at Christs return, whether through resurrection or rapture, we shall meet Him in the clouds, be glorified, and enjoy intimate fellowship with our sovereign Lord throughout the endless ages.
Prewrath rapturism can be the catalyst perhaps the only catalyst to call a weak, worldly, and divided Church back to holiness and commitment at this unparalleled and momentous moment of history.
2It is beyond the scope of this article to amass the considerable additional evidence that deliverance of the righteous immediately precedes the outpouring of Gods wrath on the wicked.
3Robert H. Gundry, The Church and the Tribulation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), p. 126.
Five Straw Men