There are two over-all views of the end-times prophecies in the Bible: That they are literal and that they are symbolic. The literal view states that the rapture of the church, the seven-year tribulation, and the return and battle of Christ are all real events in our future. Although churches and scholars may agree on these points, there is still considerable debate about timing; specifically the timing of the rapture.
What is the pre-wrath view of the rapture? Is the pre-wrath view of the rapture biblically supported?
Pretribulationalists believe that the church will be taken away before the tribulation begins. Midtribulationalists believe the rapture will occur at the mid-point of the tribulation. And posttribulationalists say Jesus will come for His church before the final battle. A "pre-wrath" view of the rapture tries to reconcile the three beliefs.
The one belief all views have in common is that the church will not suffer the "wrath of God," which is the period of time when God sends judgment to the world (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9). What is less clear is what exactly constitutes the "wrath of God" in the context of the tribulation—does it include all seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments or just some?
Pretribulationalists believe the wrath of God includes all judgments and, therefore, includes the entire tribulation. They allow that people will come to Christ and suffer through the tribulation (including the period designated as God's wrath), but it is the church that is to be spared; "tribulation saints" are part of a separate dispensation from the church proper.
Midtribulationalists teach that the tribulation is divided into two eras of wrath. The first three-and-a-half years are the "wrath of man;" specifically, the wrath of the Antichrist as he grows in power and persecutes the church. It is the second half, also called the "great tribulation," that is specifically the wrath of God in the form of just the bowl judgments. The problem with this view is that Daniel 9:27 states during the first half of the tribulation, Israel and the Antichrist will be at peace, and it is during the second half that the Antichrist's regime turns to extreme persecution.
Posttribulationalists redefine the "great tribulation" as the wrath of the Antichrist on believers during most of the second half of the tribulation. The "wrath of God," then, is the same as the day of the Lord and consists of a very short time during the end of the tribulation. The main problems with posttribulationism are that they redefine the "rapture" to mean God's supernatural protection of His saints, not their removal from the earth, and that there isn't sufficient time for the trumpet and bowl judgments.
The pre-wrath view of the rapture attempts to reconcile the truths and difficulties of the other three beliefs. It is similar to midtribulationism in that there is a distinction between the wrath of the Antichrist, which believers will live through, and the wrath of God, which they won't. The main difference is that the pre-wrath view does not identify the shifting of wrath from the Antichrist to God with the exact mid-point of the tribulation—instead, it's sometime after. The Antichrist's persecution of the church will be "cut short" (Matthew 24:22), meaning it will suddenly end before all believers are killed. It is the rapture of the saints that cuts it short, and the wrath of God immediately follows, wherein the Antichrist loses power so quickly that only God is glorified (Isaiah 2:12–22). This will happen sometime during the last half of the tribulation, but unlike postribulationalism, the timing leaves enough room for God's trumpet and bowl judgments.
There are three major problems with the pre-wrath teaching of the rapture. First, it denies that the first six seal judgments, which are ordained by God, are part of His wrath (Revelation 5—6). Second, it denies the dispensational difference between believers of the church age and those of the ages of Israel; the tribulation is the final of Daniel's "weeks" concerning Israel, and tribulation saints will be a part of Israel's age, not the church's. Finally, it denies the imminence of the rapture. There is nothing that must happen, including the Antichrist's persecution against believers, before Jesus takes His church (Titus 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; 1 Corinthians 15:50–54).
The timing of the rapture is not a salvation issue. Many good Christians believe in the pre-wrath view of the tribulation. The Bible doesn't explicitly say when the rapture will occur. As interesting as the debate may be, Jesus' commission to us is clear: preach the Word over all the world.
What is the rapture and when will it occur?
Is pretribulationism right? Will the church be raptured before the tribulation?
Is midtribulationism right? Will the church be raptured at the mid-point of the tribulation?
What is posttribulationism? Will the church be raptured after the tribulation?
What is the end times tribulation?
Truth about the End Times