By Gary DeMar
Because American Vision is a worldview ministry, we address issues that are broader in scope than most ministries. As a result, we take issue with a number of topics that many Christians hold dear. My discussion of eschatology gets the attention of many who first land on American Vision’s site. Some of them are shocked that I hold a position on prophecy that is not in the mainstream. Of course, the mainstream today was thought to be heresy when it was first proposed in the first quarter of the 19th century. Since then, dispensational premillennialism has been questioned by historic premillennialists, amillennialists, postmillennialists, and even those within the dispensational camp, namely progressive dispensationalists and “pre-wrath rapture” advocates. While neither progressive dispensationalism nor the pre-wrath position have garnered a large following, they are indicators that dispensationalism is in trouble. Because so many people believe that dispensationalism is basically true, they believe that competing systems must stay within the general parameters of dispensationalism to be considered orthodox. The issue becomes the timing of the rapture and the role Israel plays in end-time prophecy. The pre-wrath position has become a safe prophetic landing spot for many Christians, as this email to American Vision demonstrates:
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I think very highly of the men involved with your ministry but I also think very highly of the men of God around me that teach the “Pre-Wrath” view (they used Marvin Rosenthal’s book to explain the view). I took a course in it about 7 or 8 years ago and I am currently re-reading it. I am very convinced of these truths but it always amazes me when strong Christian leaders disagree. So, I am open to looking at your view as well.
My deep concern for this topic is stemming from what I see going on in our nation and I have four children that need to be prepared for whatever is coming. I feel like, if I can get a better grasp on what’s coming, then I can better prepare them. I guess, either way, my goal is still 2 Peter 3:11–12 but any assistance you could offer would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for your ministry and please keep it going. You are blessing to our family and many other families we know. I look forward to your response.Marvin Rosenthal formally named and publicized the pre-wrath Bible prophecy position in 1990 with the publication of his book The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, published by Thomas Nelson. He was a committed dispensationalist for many years. He rejected the position when after his own personal study he could not find support for the pre-trib rapture view. Rosenthal turned to John Walvoord to find clear biblical support for the position. Walvoord’s The Rapture Question includes a list of fifty arguments in support of a pre-trib belief. Rosenthal was shocked when after reading the list that there was no biblical text that explicitly supported the doctrine. Rosenthal could come to only one conclusion:
Not once, among fifty arguments, does this godly Christian leader cite one biblical text that explicitly teaches pretribulation rapturism—not once. This was not an oversight. The reason for the omission of any pretribulation Rapture texts is clear. There are none. Walvoord’s own comment helps substantiate that fact. He wrote, “It is therefore not too much to say that the Rapture question is determined more by ecclesiology [the doctrine of the Church] than eschatology [the doctrine of the last things].” In other words, he is saying that verses which deal with the church must be used to prove an issue that relates to the prophecy. There simply is no explicit exegetical evidence for pretribulation rapturism.As Rosenthal came to find out, there is not one explicit verse to support a position that millions of Bible-believing Christians hold with unbending devotion. In fact, none of the five rapture positions has any biblical support because they fail to account for the timing of prophetic events.
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- Marvin Rosenthal, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church: A New Understanding of the Rapture, the Tribulation, and the Second Coming Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1990), 280. [↩]
- Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House,  1988), 201. [↩]
- E. W. Hengstenberg, The Christology of the Old Testament, and a Commentary on the Predictions of the Messiah by the Prophets, 4 vols. (Washington, D.C.: William M. Morrison, 1839), 3:143. [↩]