The Pre-Wrath Rapture View: An Examination and Critique

By Renald E. Showers
Grand Rapids : Kregel (2001). 253 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
15.1 (Spring 2004) : 128-130

The author appraises a view held chiefly by such writers as Marvin Rosenthal and Robert van Kampen from the early 1990s forward. Rosenthal wrote The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990). One can see also van Kampen’s The Sign, 2d or Expanded Ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway 1992). Van Kampen and Roger Best did The Sign, a Personal Study Guide (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1994, and in the mid-1990s van Kampen added the 93- page The Prewrath Rapture Position Explained Plain & Simple (Grand Haven, Mich: Sola Scriptura, n.d.). Showers is lucid and specific on what he sees as flaws in a pre-wrath view that Christ will rapture His church about three-fourths of the way through the future seven-year tribulation period, shortly before Christ’s Second Advent. The view Showers rejects sees the early years of that seven-year period as not being part of the “day of the Lord” and not yet part of God’s work in wrath. That view posits that Christ will take out His church just before the final part of the seven years, then God will bring wrath on earth, as if no divine wrath was exercised in the period before that. Showers himself is pretribulational.

The author received a Th.M. at Dallas Theological Seminary and a Th.D. at Grace Theological Seminary. He has been a long-time staff member of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. He also has taught at Moody Bible Institute, Lancaster School of the Bible, and Philadelphia College of the Bible. Other published works by Showers are Liberty and Love in Life with Christ, What on Earth is God Doing?, The New Nature, There Really is a Difference (this compares covenant theology with dispensational belief), and Maranatha, Our Lord, Come, a definitive effort on a pretribulational rapture.

The present ten chapters deal with pre-wrath logic on the word “tribulation,” also “the Great Tribulation,” and how seal judgments (Revelation 6–8) fit in. Further, Showers probes how the seals relate to the Second Advent, how Matthew 24 fits in, and the great multitude (R ev 7:9ff.). In addition, he examines in detail how to place the day of the Lord into the future picture, and how 2 Thessalonians 2 correlates. Then he argues the imminent coming of Christ.

Showers is well-organized, giving pre-wrath ideas first in each chapter, then his critique. Reasons he pits against a pre-wrath scheme are numbered and argued in detail. The book adduces evidence that “tribulation” occurs not only in the second half of the seven years but in the first half, all of the seven years forming a unit of “the seventieth seven [of years]” in Dan 9:27. As Showers does this in his Chapter 1, he cites rabbinic statements (14) and Christ’s teaching linking, as Showers reasons, Israel’s birth pangs of difficulty with tribulation in Matt 24:4-8 (15-17). Showers argues that the “beginning” of birth pangs in the first half of the seven years suggests further birth pangs to make up the rest of the tribulation, the latter in the second part of the seven years. Showers rejects the pre-wrath view idea that the Great Tribulation (seen as the second half of the seven years) will be “cut short” by reduction in length (cf. Matt 24:22; Mark 13:20) (20-31). One of his explanations is that Jesus in Mark 13:20 means that God in His eternal plan will cut the second half short in the sense of terminating it after God has fulfilled H is predicted length for it, not shortening the length from what was predicted.

Showers argues against the pre-wrath view that the great multitude is the church, raptured to heaven between the sixth and seventh seals at a pre-wrath time (cf. 140). Pre-wrath reasoning is that being in white robes, standing before God’s throne, and wielding palm branches shows that these people are in resurrection bodies. Showers counters that even the saints under the altar (Rev 6:9-11) are in white raiment, and these have not yet been resurrected. He also reasons against the multitude being the church and OT saints because John, a member of the church, did not recognize who the multitude was and had to ask (150). In his view the multitude are, rather, saints during the Great Tribulation (151).

Whether a pre-wrath reader agrees or disagrees with Showers he will need to grapple with the reasonings. Showers’ argument is rather full, clear, and aware of factors needing attention. It also is often thought-provoking. Paul Karleen also wrote a critique of the pre-wrath view, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church— Is It Biblical? A summary appears in his article, “Evaluating the Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church,” in Voice, Independent Church Journal (IFCA) 70/1 (Jan.-Feb., 1991):9-13, reprinted in Voice 79/4 (July-August 2000):9-12. One also can see John McLean’s “Another Look at Rosenthal’s ‘Pre-Wrath Rapture,’” Bibliotheca Sacra 148/592 (October-December 1991):387-98, and Gerald B. Stanton’s “A Review of the Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church,” Bibliotheca Sacra 148/589 (January-March 1991):90-111.

Study of this reviewer leads toward favoring a pretribulational orientation, as does Showers. A pre-wrath stance, although held by earnest men thinking that they have proper insight, does not explain details as consistently and persuasively in correlating a total view. Showers’ effort is one of the better pretribulational appraisals of the pre-wrath view. It may benefit some who have not been sure or who have felt the pre-wrath logic is better, and will help tho se already committed to a pretribulational view It will also help those of other positions to see problems in a pre-wrath correlation, and to see ways to defend a pretribulational view.