Does Prewrath Eschatology Start with any Assumptions?
Updated: Aug 27, 2021
Is the prewrath eschatological model dependent upon the assumption that Matt 24:29 and Joel 2:31 speak of the same cosmic disturbance?
It is well known that similarity does not of itself make two events the same. For this reason the prewrath eschatological model does not start with the assumption Matt 24:29 and Joel 2:31 are speaking of the same event. However, just because we chose not to start with an assumption, does not mean that such an assumption is not correct. It means that more evidence is required before we can understand that these two descriptions are indeed describing the same event. It is not necessary to show or "assume" that the cosmic disturbance in Matt 24:29 is the same as that in Rev 6:12 or Joel 2:31 so that it may be used as a foundational support for the prewrath model. However, it can be safely said that the cosmic sign of Joel 2:31 and Acts 2:20 is the same as that which John sees at the opening of the sixth seal, and that is a foundational truth within prewrath eschatology. The language between the two passages is virtually identical.
There are many scripture avenues, all of which require no assumptions, that lead to the prewrath timing of the rapture of the church. We can take "same day" avenue, "apokalupsis" boulevard, "parousia" freeway, or one of many other highways to a prewrath rapture model.
Why don't we start by taking "same day" avenue? Jesus and Paul both make an explicit "same day" connection between the rescue (rapture) of the righteous and the beginning of the eschatological wrath of God.
Jesus communicates three great truths in the following 9 verses.
Luk 17:26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.
Luk 17:27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.
Luk 17:28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;
Luk 17:29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
Luk 17:30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
Mat 24:36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
Mat 24:37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
Mat 24:38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
Mat 24:39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
First, we see that the lost world, going about their business as usual, will be caught by surprise by the wrath of God at Christ's revelation. Just as the flood came unexpectedly upon the unbelieving in Noah's day, so shall the wrath of God in the day of the Lord be unexpected by the unbelieving. Just as many in Lot's extended family in Sodom did not believe the warning and were caught unawares, along with all the wicked, by the divine destruction of those evil cities, so shall it be at Christ's coming. (Please note that Christ has His revelation (Lk 17:30) taking place at His parousia (Matt 24:37, 39). His apokalupsis [revelation] is the opening act of His parousia [coming].)
So, the first point that Christ makes is that God's wrath comes unexpectedly upon the apathetic, unbelieving world. To this, Paul agrees (1Thes 5:2-3) saying, "then sudden [aiphnidios = unexpected] destruction" comes upon the unbelieving earth-dwellers with the thief-like arrival of the day of the Lord.
The point that Christ makes next is that before God's eschatological wrath falls, the righteous are rescued. Noah and his family are shut up in the ark safe from the flood and Lot and his two daughters are removed from the area of divine wrath before it begins. So shall the righteous be, at the revelation of Christ. We shall be resurrected, changed, and raptured to Him in the clouds before the first stroke of His eschatological wrath falls.
The second point is that we (those who are Christ's) will be rescued before He pours out His wrath. Paul speaks much of this rescue (rapture/gathering) that takes place at Christ's next (therefore second) coming [pariousa]. Notice that Paul uses the noun parousia when speaking of our resurrection (1Cor 15:23) and our gathering unto Christ at the catching up (1Thes 4:15).
The final point that Christ brings home is that the very day of our rescue will be the day that His wrath begins to fall. Notice that He said that the unbelieving continued business as usual "until the day" that Noah went into the ark. Again, He said, "the same day" that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone. Jesus placed emphasis upon this "same day" truth saying, "Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed." This is a clear indication that His wrath is connected with our rescue. The very day of our rapture will be the day His wrath begins to fall upon the unbelievers. This beginning of the pouring out of His wrath takes place on the day of Christ's revelation following the catching up of the saints, all on the very same day.
We see the third point that Christ makes is that the day of our rescue is the day when His wrath begins. Paul affirms this truth to the Thessalonians saying that they (the church) shall rest from persecution WHEN Christ is revealed [apokalupsis] (2Thes 1:6-10). The day Christ's revelation takes place is the beginning day of the eschatological period of time known as "the day of the Lord." The apokalupsis (revelation) is the beginning event of His parousia (coming).
The REVELATION of Christ in the clouds with the mighty angels is the first act of Christ in the day of the Lord (2Thes 1:6-10; Matt 24:30; Luke 21:27; 1Cor 1:7; Rev 1:7; 1Peter 1:7; 13). Upon that day, unexpectedly to the world, Christ is revealed, we are rescued from persecution, and God begins to persecute (tribulate) those who persecuted us (2Thes 1:6-10).
So, let's put this all together in conclusion.
In Rev 6:12-17 we have an admission of the arrival of the DAY of the Lord's wrath. We see the great earthquake and the hiding of the earth-dwellers fulfilling Isa 2:19. "And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth." Jesus, in Luke 17:26-30 and Matt 24:36-39, connects His eschatological wrath with His revelation and coming just as Paul does in 2Thes 1:7; 2:1, 8. Christ's revelation is clearly described in Matt 24:30 and Luke 21:27 just as spoken of in Rev 1:7.
The cosmic events that precede the revelation of Christ (the opening event of His parousia) are those cosmic events that precede the wrath of God in the day of the Lord. It is because of this clear positioning, in relation to Christ's revelation, of the cosmic disturbance that Jesus mentions, that we must harmonize His and many other of the various descriptions of the cosmic disturbance instead of distinguishing them.
The fact that Paul teaches the very same truths concerning Christ's parousia and revelation that the Lord Himself did, and that those truths involve the church's resurrection and rapture provide a very clear connection between the cosmic disturbance that Christ mentions and that witnessed by John as recorded in Rev 6:12-14. The rapture takes place at some unknown point in the second half of the week after the unprecedented persecution of the saints (great tribulation), but before God's wrath in the day of the Lord falls upon the unbelieving, beast worshiping, earth-dwellers.
Glory be unto the Lord, Christ Jesus.