Pre Wrath Blues

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Having just finished a month-long email debate with two men from an online Prewrath ministry, I have come to the realization that you just can’t argue with stupid. I realize that sounds harsh and perhaps even unchristian ….but it is the truth. For the record, I am not calling them stupid, just their reasoning’s for supporting a Prewrath (PW) view.

Any eschatological view that either puts the church into the 70th Week, or denies bible prophecy outright or in part, is heretical in nature. Now, I use that term heretical cautiously, because it is a serious charge to lay against anyone. Heresy is not just those things the orthodox authorities or majority deem heretical, but also those things, which go against the very text of the Bible itself.

Although this isn’t the first time I have had a theological engagement like this, it is just the latest in a long line of end-runs the enemy has made into making divisions and schisms in an already dwindling population (i.e., the watchmen who care about Bible prophecy). It also makes me sad, not just for these two gentlemen, but for all who have bought into false teachings regarding the time surrounding the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. First for those biblically illiterate who are swept up by false teachings and had their lives ruined. Even worse, for those whose faith was crushed by a deception and quit believing altogether. Hermeneutics actually matters.

Therefore, after a month being berated, belittled, and generally not having my questions answered in any kind of coherent or logical manner, I pulled a Pilate on these two and washed my hands of the whole affair. I don’t mind a good debate now and again, especially if we conduct it in such a way that is honoring to God (iron sharpening iron), but these two “ministers” were quick to go ad hominem on me the moment they felt like they were losing the argument.

One troubling aspect to this whole affair was the reality that they were not interested in the truth of what Scripture actually says, but only in their interpretation of what they want it to say. Furthermore, they put more emphasis on personal prophetic hearings, visions, and a ‘word of knowledge,’ then on how those compare with what Scripture actually teaches. Even more troubling, was what they were accusing me of applying a literal/grammatical/historical hermeneutic of Scripture;

That is the point Pete, you say you believe you are correct.  When it comes to God’s Word that is really not good enough.  In the old testament God frowned upon those who prophesied by their own spirit.  Again, several times in the 2nd and 3rd chapter of Revelation the Spirit of Christ said “He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit says unto the Churches” Few end time teachers endeavor to hear what the Spirit is saying.  Men are prophesying by their own spirit by approaching scripture from a hermeneutical intellectual perspective.  There are many men who are actually hearing from the Lord by dreams and visions, some of them are receiving prophetic warnings and others a word of knowledge about things to come which can and have come to pass.  I find almost none of them espousing a pre-trib RaptureWhile hermeneutics can be a useful tool when attempting to interpret scripture, it does not work when interpreting prophecy.  The proof of this is clearly visible in the fact that just about every Western prophecy teacher uses hermeneutics, but are teaching dozens of different end time’s doctrines.  Jesus says “He that has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says unto the Churches”.

While I am not going to repost the entire conversation, I have two witnesses (Terry and Randy) who can attest to the entirety of the conversation to ensure I am not misrepresenting anyone here. They actually accused me of holding to a literal, grammatical, and historical interpretation of Scripture (taking the text for what it says), and then equating that (in a pejorative manner) as “my own interpretation.” They then argue that many men they know who have had private and / or personal visions, dreams, and that almost NONE of them are Pre-Trib in nature, as proof that I am wrong?

Wait, what??

In their estimation, there was more weight (more credibility) given to those who have dreams and visions, than to what the written Word actually says. In 2 Timothy 2:15, the Apostle Paul charges us to study to show thyself approved…The Apostle Peter warns us in 2 Peter 1:20 that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation. What these both tell me, is that following dreams, visions, or a “word of knowledge,” which an individual receives privately, does NOT trump what God’s word says publicly. So at the very least I am comforted in the fact that our enemy is consistent and these men are not receiving dreams and visions of a Pre-Trib nature. For the record, I’m not saying people can’t have dreams and visions, but if these do not conform to what God’s word has already said, then they are not of God. Let us consider three points-

a) God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33)

b) God is not going to contradict His own word (Num. 23:19)

c) God is not the only supernatural being out there (Ephesians 6:12, 2 Cor. 11:14-15)

However, let me just set the record straight once and for all, up front, and in bold font,

The Bible teaches only ONE eschatological view on prophecy

Just like the Bible teaches only ONE soteriological view on salvation.

Just like the Bible teaches only ONE ecclesiological view on the church.

The Bible is NOT a choose-your-own-adventure book.

Those who abandon the normal, literal, grammatical, and historical interpretation of Holy Scripture are the very reason WHY we have so many different viewpoints on every major doctrinal position. It is because they follow their dreams, visions, or a “word of knowledge,” and that causes them to depart from what the Word actually says. I believe this is how most (if not all) cults begin. When one chooses not to accept the Bible for what it says (in context to the surrounding passage) then what you are in effect doing, is creating a choose your own adventure book.

Alternatively, neither am I promoting “wooden-literalism,” as Hank Hanegraaf (the Bible Answer Man) used to accuse us dispensationalists with, but rather, with a common-sense literalism. [For the record, Mr. Hanegraaf has since eloped from Protestantism into the Eastern Orthodox realm seeking more visual enlightenment as it were]. So what is common sense interpretation?

“When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.” –Dr. David L. Cooper (1886-1965), founder of The Biblical Research Society

Therefore, what this means is that…

1. The sum and substance of this most important rule is that one should take every statement of the Scriptures at its face value, if possible.
2. The following is an analysis of the adjectives “primary,” “ordinary,” and “usual.”
3. “Primary” emphasizes the original, inherent idea in the term.
4. “Ordinary” and “usual” are practically synonyms, especially in this definition, “usual” being employed for the sake of emphasis.
5. “Literal” is used to emphasize the thought that every word must first be taken literally as expressing the exact thought of the author at the time when it was used; and one is not to go beyond the literal meaning of the Scriptures unless the facts of the context indicate a deeper, hidden or symbolic meaning. (Link)

As to departing from the literal, grammatical, historical hermeneutic, this is not new. People have been twisting, perverting, reinventing, and wordsmithing the Bible for the last two-thousand years without fail because everyone if gifted with the curse of opinions. From the first century Gnostics, to the poor misguided youngsters in the Emergent Church movement. From Origen to Rachel Held Evans, everyone wants to put their own spin on the Bible to force Scriptures to contort to the norms of their day. People might accuse me of being overly harsh regarding people who pervert the Bible to their own gain, but how one interprets, the Bible is significantly important. Here are just a few examples of how things turn out badly for those who abuse Scripture.

  • The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) used their eschatological hermeneutics (which they adopted from Augustine) to justify that there was no literal Kingdom Come. They believed they (the RCC) were the Kingdom and used this divine mandate to institute the power of the papacy, the Crusades, Indulgences, and the numerous Inquisitions, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands
  • Jim Jones infused social justice and communism into his gospel, and then persuaded 900+ people to kill themselves by drinking purple Kool-Aid
  • Heaven’s Gate founder Marshall Applewhite convinced his 38 followers that suiciding themselves was the only way to be delivered onto the passing Hale-Bopp Comet. [Applewhite was a former Presbyterian seminary student]
  • David Koresh founded the Branch Davidians (a breakaway sect of Seventh Day Adventists) and ended up getting himself and 79 of his members killed because they believed he was some type of messiah figure
  • Even more doomsday cults that pervert Scripture

So yeah, hermeneutics do actually matter.

Trust me when I say that there is a lot of bad hermeneutics going around out there around the internet. This equates to there being many pseudo-Christian groups, posing as legitimate Christian ministries, who are nothing more than theological wolves in sheep’s clothing preying on the biblically illiterate. However, not to fear dear reader, none of this was a surprise to God. Scripture warns us that in the last days, this would be the norm…

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Matthew 7:15-16

For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. Acts 20:29-31

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 2 Tim. 3:1-7

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. 2 Peter 2:1-3

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Jude 1:3-4

Assessment

Back to my Pre-Wrath venting. While I will not be so foolish as to put PW adherents and devotees into the classification of cult, or pseudo-Christian, I would absolutely liken them to theologically misguided (heretically speaking) and who have major doctrinal issues apart from eschatology, which consequently, impacts and leads them to their flawed eschatological points of view.

There is something about the PW view, which irritates me to my core. I mean irritate in the most unpleasant of terms. Like being out and you have a piece of steak or corn wedged in your teeth and you do not have any floss or a toothpick on hand. You spend the next (however long it takes) to get something sharp and pointy to wedge in your teeth to dig it out. Irritating in that sense. Here are my issues with PW:

  1. They presume themselves to be the historic view.
    1. I guess if you count the 1970s as historic, then sure.
    2. They accuse Pre-Tribulation as being “man-made” while all but ignoring Robert Van Kampen-the man who invented the Pre-Wrath view in the 1970s.
  2. Their name is deceptive. They are no more Pre-Wrath, than Mormon’s are Latter Day Saints.
    1. They can only call themselves as such, by redefining what tribulation (Greek-thlipsis) and wrath (Gr-orge) are, and when they begin
    2. They redefine and reduce Daniel’s 70th Week from being seven-years (Dan. 9:27) down to three and a half years.  
    3. They downplay the severity of the Seal Judgments. I mean, only around 1,750,000,000 people die during the Seal Judgments, what is so bad about that?  
  3. In order for the PW view to work, it must distort three other theological Christian doctrines;
    1. Soteriology- PW denies the eternal security of the believer
    2. Ecclesiology- PW confuses the identity and purpose of the Church (ekklesia) with Israel
    3. IsraelologyPW supports replacement theology (or supercessionism)

Here are several questions I have used to debate the two Prewrath devotees, and found them either quite unwilling or unable to answer coherently. Keep in mind; this is using the PW view of how things play out as the backdrop.

  1. If the Seals 1-5 are not the wrath of God, but rather, are the wrath of man/Satan/ Antichrist….HOW do they (man/Satan/Antichrist) initiate said seals.
    1. If the Church is not raptured, and we are still on the earth, then how then do we when these have begun (if Man or Satan initiates these)? IOW, how do we know specifically when the first Seal has been opened?
    2. How is the “wrath of man” or “wrath of Satan” any different from what has already occurred in history? In the 20th Century alone, we have documented hundreds of millions killed due to crime, war, persecution, starvation, genocide, pestilence, murder, abortion, holocaust, etc.…and yet, we could not point to a single moment when the rider on the white horse could have arrived. More Christians have died in the 20th-21st century then the previous 20 centuries combined.
  2. If the first Seal is marked by the arrival of THE Antichrist (rider on the white horse), how will one know who it is? Paul states in 2 Thess. 2:7-8 that the man of lawlessness (The Antichrist) cannot be revealed UNTIL the one who restrains, is taken out of the way.
    1. Who/what is “the one who restrains?” Here are your options-
      1. Michael the Archangel (not omnipresent)
      2. Human Government (not capable or willing)
      3. The Holy Spirit
      4. The Holy Spirit filled/sealed Church
      5. Satan (seems to not be in his own interest to do so)
    2. What physically happens on the earth when “the one who restrains” is removed? How will we (those of us on earth) know exactly when this “restraint removal” happens?
  3. In Revelation 3:10, Jesus tells the Church at Philadelphia (and those who have an ear to hear) that I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. If this is not a picture of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church, then what is it? 
    1. If it has already happened, when and where did it happen?
    2. Why does Jesus make a distinction between “those who dwell on the earth” and presumably, those who do not? 
    3. Since when do those who do not dwell on the earth (presumably heaven or hell), have to worry about any issues on the earth anyway? 
    4. Why would Jesus make this distinction in light of this seeming redundancy?

Conclusion

Having already departed from the literal/grammatical/historical interpretation of the Word, there are presumably many variations of the PW view floating around out in the internet these days. I imagine there will be complaints about this article as misrepresenting their view.

Perhaps.

However, so as not to be accused by the PW pit bulls on misleading people about their beliefs, I will use their own words to describe what they say they believe.

Many of us were told that the church will be “raptured out of here before the Antichrist’s arrival.” The Bible, however, teaches the church will first experience the Antichrist’s great tribulation. Then, at some unknown day and hour, Antichrist’s persecution will be cut short by the return of Christ to resurrect and rapture believers before the day of the Lord’s wrath—hence, Prewrath. (Courtesy of Alan Kurschner)

Interestingly, the PW view is the exact same eschatological view as a fairly well known cult known as the Worldwide Church of God (Herbert W. Armstrong). So either it is the chicken or the egg we do not know for certain, but either Marvin Rosenthal adopted some of Armstrong’s views on eschatology, or Armstrong adopted Kampen’s view on eschatology. Either way as the old sayings goes- birds of a feather…

I came across an article published by the Worldwide Church of God, the cult founded by H. Armstrong. I was amazed to find that these people hold to the identical view of Rosenthal when it comes to the Great Tribulation as being totally distinct from the Day of the Lord. Here is how they explain it: “Is the ‘Great Tribulation’ the same event as the ‘Day of the Lord’? No. They are totally different….The Great Tribulation is not the time of God’s wrath, but rather the time of the wrath of Satan the devil….The Day of the Lord is clearly shown here [in Matt. 24] to come after the heavenly signs [of Matt. 24:29]. The time order is: first, the Tribulation—Satan’s wrath; second, the heavenly signs; third, the Day of the Lord—God’s intervention. The same time sequence is revealed in Revelation 6, speaking of the seven seals. The fifth seal represents the Great Tribulation, followed by the heavenly signs, then the Day of the Lord or God’s wrath (verses 9-17)” —The Good News of the World Tomorrow, March 1986, p. 13. Hence, some of Rosenthal’s ideas are not new. The Worldwide Church of God cult has been teaching these things since 1986 and probably long before that. (Link)

In closing, the entirety of the PW’s center of gravity seems hyper-focused on adding confusion to what the word of God says. Wrath is not wrath. Tribulation is not tribulation. The Day of the Lord is not the Day of the Lord. The Church is not the Church. Israel is not Israel. Seven years is not seven years. They seem bent on wanting to overly complicate the simple, and completely dismiss the obvious. There are three simple truths we must always keep in mind when regarding our Christian faith.

  1. Christianity by its very nature is apocalyptic. Not only does our bible contain the history of creation, our heritage, and our faith, but also its conclusion.
  2. Jesus warns repeatedly, that a) He is coming back, and b) it will surprise the world when He does.
  3. Lastly, ANY view that puts the Rapture of the Church anywhere other than at the beginning, is DEPENDENT upon something else preceding it.

As I stated at the beginning, the Bible only teaches ONE eschatological view, and that view is the TRUE pre wrath position, which is the Pre-Tribulation (or Pre-70th Week) Rapture of the Church.

Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore, if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. Revelation 3:3