It occurred to me that I didn’t actually state much about the Pre-Wrath position in my Book Review post. This was partly because I didn’t want to plagiarize from the book and partly because I had other things I wished to discuss in that post. When I wrote my rapture series for AATW, I didn’t know much about the Pre-Wrath position, except the basic sequence of events as shown on the diagram displayed in the Book Review post. After reading Kurschner’s book and articles on his website, I now feel much more comfortable with this teaching. Although I haven’t committed myself to it, I do find it quite compelling.
Kurschner has put together a useful 3-page summary, which can be found here: http://www.alankurschner.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Prewrath.pdf. Charles Cooper, a friend of Kurschner’s, who has been writing and speaking on this topic for years, has recently uploaded some short videos to his YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/PrewrathRapture.
As Cooper has said himself, the Pre-Wrath teaching is basically a synthesis of the other major positions.
A) It shares with Pre-Tribulationists the premise that Christians will not experience the Wrath of God: “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9, NIV).
B) It shares with Post-Tribulationists the belief that Christians will experience the Great Tribulation (persecution) carried out by the Antichrist’s regime:
“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress [“great tribulation”, KJV], unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.” (Matthew 24:15-21, NIV)
“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him…Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1, 3-4, NIV)
Believing both A and B at the same time necessitates the belief that the Great Tribulation and the events leading up to it are not the Wrath of God. This has profound implications for our understanding of Revelation and other eschatological texts. Pre-Tribulationists will usually say that the Wrath of God begins with the opening of the 1st Seal (Revelation 6:1-2), which they locate at the beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week. Pre-Wrath people say that God’s Wrath begins with the 7th Seal (Revelation 8:1ff). The 6th Seal functions as the harbinger, or herald, of God’s Wrath (Revelation 6:12-17). The ‘celestial disturbance event’, as Kurschner and others put it, at Revelation 6:12-14 is held to be the same as the signs in the sun, moon and stars mentioned in the following Scriptures: Isaiah 13:9-13, 34:1-4; Joel 2:30-31; Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24-25; Luke 21:25; Acts 2:19-20; 2 Peter 3:10. Thus for the Pre-Wrath position, Seals 1-6 go from the beginning of the 70th Week right into the second half, until Christ rescues His Saints and the Wrath of God is poured out.
At this point you might be asking, how is this different from the Post-Tribulation position? This is where Matthew 24:22 comes in (NIV): “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” This verse in context (see Matthew 24:15-21) is referring to the Great Tribulation or ‘Great Distress’, the period when Antichrist persecutes the Saints – aka 42 months, 3.5 years, 1260 days (Daniel 7:25; Revelation 13:5). The argument here is that the Antichrist’s authority runs for the full 42 months, but that his power to persecute the Saints will be cut short by Christ’s Coming (Parousia).
Under this scheme the Parousia is understood to be, as Kurschner puts it, a ‘complex event’. In other words, rather than the version where Christ appears at the Battle of Armageddon and destroys his foes and moves into the Sheep and Goats Judgement, this version has Christ appearing and rescuing the Saints and then the Day of the Lord occurs, which includes all the Seven Trumpets and the Seven Bowls (Vials). Note that the Day of the Lord is not a 24-hour period in this context: the Locust Judgement (Revelation 9:10) alone lasts 5 months. During this time the Saints are protected in Heaven following their Resurrection, according to Isaiah 26:19-21 (NIV):
But your dead will live, Lord;
their bodies will rise—
let those who dwell in the dust
wake up and shout for joy—
your dew is like the dew of the morning;
the earth will give birth to her dead.
Go, my people, enter your rooms
and shut the doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
until his wrath has passed by.
See, the Lord is coming out of his dwelling
to punish the people of the earth for their sins.
The earth will disclose the blood shed on it;
the earth will conceal its slain no longer.
Lastly, one should note that Pre-Wrath teaches ‘expectancy not imminency’, as Kurschner puts it, regarding Christ’s Coming. In other words, the Saints know that they will not be rescued until after Antichrist has been revealed, the Great Apostasy has occurred, and the ‘celestial disturbance’ has happened, as 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, Matthew 24:29-31, and Luke 21:27-28 make clear. Nevertheless, this does not violate ‘no one knows the day or the hour’ (Matthew 24:36). Our Lord did not say what day He would come to cut short the persecution of Antichrist; His Coming will be like a thief in the night, when the nations are surprised by the Wrath of God.