The Pre-Wrath Rapture View, An Examination and Critique by Renald E. Showers

In the 1980s the late Robert Van Kampen, well-known investor and founder of the Van Kampen family of mutual funds, developed a new eschatological view he called “Pre-Wrath Rapture.”  He was able to persuade Marvin Rosenthal, then director of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, to adopt and popularize this view.  Since that time, to my knowledge no denomination, seminary, Bible college, mission organization or theological scholar of note has accepted the Pre-Wrath view.  However, a small pocket of believers is enthusiastic about the system.  It is for this set of believers that Showers has written The Pre-Wrath Rapture View.

Showers, who has for many years served on the staff of The Friends of Israel as well as on the faculties of several Bible colleges, has spent much of his life studying end-times issues.  As a result he is uniquely qualified to critique the Pre-Wrath Rapture view and his critique is extremely thorough.  It is so thorough that the book ends up being a virtual reference manual not only for Pre-Wrath issues but for prophetic matters in general.  Unfortunately, the book lacks both scriptural and topical indexes and, if ever there was a book that needs these types of indexes it is this one.  Lacking these, the reader would be wise to carefully mark this book to make full use of its valuable insights. 

The format is to describe and explain from original sources (Rosenthal’s Pre-Wrath Rapture and Van Kampen’s The Sign) the eschatology of those who hold to Pre-Wrath.  The uniqueness of this theological position lies in its belief that the Church will be on earth throughout the entire Tribulation, but not throughout the entire 70th week of 7 years.  The Church will be raptured from the world between the 6th and 7th seals perhaps 5 to 5 ½ years into the 7 year 70th week.  The 6th seal will be a forewarning that the Day of the Lord and the Lord’s wrath is about to begin. Thus there will be no wrath of God throughout the Tribulation since the Tribulation will involve only the wrath of man and Satan.  The Church will be raptured from the world before the Day of the Lord begins with the breaking of the 7th seal.  It is then that God’s wrath will begin to be poured out on the earth. 

Thus the church is not raptured before the Tribulation begins at the breaking of the first seal, but five years are more after the Tribulation begins following the breaking of the sixth seal.  Therefore the catastrophic events of the Tribulation up through the breaking of the sixth seal are not the judgment (wrath) of God because the wrath of God does not begin until after the Tribulation, according to Pre-Wrath adherents.  The church will be raptured prior to Christ’s wrath therefore most of judgments found in the book of Revelation are not descriptions of Christ’s wrath but man’s.  On a practical level the Pre-Wrath view rejects the imminence of Christ’s return, requiring the believer to not look for the any-moment return of Christ but to prepare for the disastrous events of the Tribulation.

Showers carefully analyzes each feature of the Pre-Wrath position in the light of Scripture.  In the conclusion he sums up his findings by identifying twelve teachings of Pre-Wrath that are biblically sound and 44 that are problematic, at best, or in error.  A more detailed critique would be hard to envision.  Showers’ final chapter is an excellent biblical defense of the imminent return of Christ complete with quotes from numerous church leaders throughout the ages, many of whom would not be defined as holding to a Pre-Tribulation Rapture position. 

For those seeking to understand the Pre-Wrath rapture theory, I could not think of a better source.  For those wanting a handy study of imminence, chapter ten is worth purchasing the book, although the reader may want to pick up Showers’ fuller treatment of end times events, Marantha.

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