In Search Of The Origins Of The PreWrath Doctrine
Part 1: Lovett, Armstrong: Early Similarities To PreWrath?
By Ed Tarkowski

As you can see by my web site, I am not unfamiliar with the "new revelations" hitting the Church in our day. It is my "habit" to look for the origins of the "new" things that are occurring in the Church today. This "habit" has been instilled me because of the word of God where it says,

1 Th 5:20 Despise not prophesyings.
1 Th 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
1 Th 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
1 Th 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You can also see by my site that I "despise not prophesyings," but that I try to "prove all things, holding fast to that which is good" that I and the body of Christ might "abstain from all appearance of evil." I do not do that perfectly, but I attempt to do that in light of God's word when I believe His Spirit is teaching or leading me. The purpose of this "habit" is that we, as the body of Christ, may be wholly sanctified and "preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

The Present Confusion Over The Second Coming

One area of increased interest in the body of Christ are the prophesies concerning the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though we are commanded by God's word to be approved in this area of study as well as any other, it is becoming more difficult, it seems, to know the truth concerning the intricacies of that return. One afternoon of scouring the Internet and reading about that return will prove to us that we now have so many views on so many aspects concerning it that I wonder, at times, how it is even possible to come to an agreeable scenario for Christ's return.

I used to be a Pretribulationist, but after being checked by the Holy Spirit, I studied the word for 2 years and soon came to believe in the Posttribulational coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Being one to always check out what I believe, I, like many others, heard about and investigated the PreWrath doctrine that surfaced in the early 1990s through Marvin Rosenthal and Robert Van Kampen. I wanted to check out my own beliefs and began looking into this doctrine, even joining and supporting a PreWrath Forum.

As I stated earlier, I have a "habit" of looking into the origins of things because of the many "new revelations" that are hitting the Church today and leading it off into apostasy. After all, Jesus did say,

"22 For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. 23 But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things (Mark 13).

After finding it hard to reconcile my beliefs with the PreWrath doctrine, I decided to look at the origins of it, and I am not well-satisfied with the outcome of that search. I want to share with you what I have found regarding this doctrine's origins, showing there is little mention of it anywhere, and that I have temporarily classified this doctrine in my own research as a "new revelation" and suspect because of the lack of any past history - except for a couple of sources in the past three decades. That does not mean I am totally closed to considering what has been presented regarding it.

The earliest mention of SOME aspects of the current PreWrath doctrine were found in the writings of Herbert W. Armstrong and C. S. Lovett. But, I want to make a disclaimer here that I DO NOT associate any of these men with each other. They have each individually came to their own views, though Rosenthal and Van Kampen worked together on putting into order the current PreWrath doctrine as we know it.

FRANCISCO RIBERA (1537-1591), FUTURISM
JESUIT Priest and Doctor of Theology

The Spanish Ribera was a Jesuit, a doctor of theology, who started writing (1585) a 500 page commentary on the book of Revelation six years before his death (1591). The commentary was written from an Historic viewpoint because of the belief that Catholicism and its pope were the Antichrist system and the Antichrist himself. It was that the heat would be taken off of the Catholic Church as a candidate for the Antichrist and his rule. It placed these events into a future period of three-and-a-half years just prior to the return of Christ (this agreed with the teachings of the early Church fathers). The conclusion that was to be drawn from Ribera's commentary, it was hoped, was that the Catholic Church of his time could not, therefore, be the Antichrist system headed by the Pope of Rome. Ribera's commentary would have some influence on those who would eventually put the Pretribulation doctrine together.

In his commentary, Ribera believed that the rapture would occur at least 45 days before the end of the 3-1/2 year tribulation period. This has shades of the newly-formed Pre-Wrath doctrine in that this was the first time the second coming was split into two separate comings, one for the Church near the end of Daniel's 70th week and then one at the end of the age with the raptured Church returning with Christ in wrath. The Pre-Wrath doctrine believes the ra[pture will occur anywhere from six months to a year and a half before the end of Daniel's week.

One Of My Main Concerns In PreWrath

One of my main concerns in the PreWrath doctrine was the shortening of the Great Tribulation a period of anywhere from 5 months to 1-1/2 years. In his book, "The Sign," Robert Van Kampen stated,

". . . The only specified time span of the six previous trumpets, which therefore must be between the Rapture and the end of the seventieth week, is that of the fifth trumpet, which will last five months (Rev. 9:5). The maximum length of the great tribulation by Antichrist therefore cannot exceed thirty-seven months (forty-two months less five months)" (p. 494).

In other words, the longest the Great Tribulation can last is no more than three years and one month because of Revelation 9:5:

Rev 9:5 And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.

Van Kampen then goes on to say,

"In addition, if the sixth trumpet judgment is thirteen months long (Rev. 9:15) - which seems possible, but not probable - then the great tribulation will be shortened by that amount. How much shorter will be determined by the length of the first four and the sixth trumpet judgments" (Ibid).

Revelation 9:15 is this:

Rev 9:15 And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.

I don't believe it is feasible to figure this in the time frame the PreWrath uses, but if it were to be used, then the great tribulation would be shortened by 18 months or 1-1/2 years, making it only 2 years long. Personally, I don't believe this whole scenario that it's shortened but lasts 3-1/2 years as has always been taught.

Herbert W. Armstrong: 1967

The first mention of the rapture taking place 6 months or more before the end of Daniel's 70th week was in an article concerning the beliefs of Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God. Armstrong was a believer in British-Israeliism, a belief that the United States and Britain were the lost tribes of Israel, the United States being Manasseh and Britain being Ephraim. This revelation, he said, was in itself "the vital key that unlocks prophecy to our understanding [that] had been lost." As is so common today, we have here again the idea of a "new revelation" given to us.

In his book, "The United States and Britain in Prophecy" (1967), Armstrong stated, without much detail, that the tribulation period would last in the area of about 2-1/2 years and the Day of the Lord the remaining year of the 3-1/2 years. After that, he said, the dead would be raised at the second coming.

I also found one reference that commented on the idea of the Tribulation period being split into two periods of 2-1/2 years and 1 year by Armstrong, he believed the first through the sixth seal were in chronological order. The 2-1/2 and the 1 year split of the tribulation was also mentioned ("Unlocking End-Time Prophecy: PART ONE Understanding the Book of Revelation by Michael Burman").

It would be good to read this entire article to see the similarities with the newly revealed PreWrath doctrine. It should be noted that there are differences between Armstrong's doctrine and the current PreWrath doctrine and they are not identical. Furthermore, the author of this page has a note on their page that they do not want anyone upset with what they've written, and I can say the same. I don't want to upset people, but I think it is a legitimate request to ask the origin of doctrines in our day because of all the new revelations that have surfaced among us. It should also be noted that the authors of this page WERE NOT refuting what is known as the PreWrath doctrine, but the teachings of Armstrong. The arguments against some of what Armstrong taught, however, are meaningful as well if one would want to refute the Prewrath doctrine.

Armstrong's View On The Seven Trumpets

In another book by Armstrong, "The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last!," we find that he believed the seven trumpets made up the content of the seventh seal. These seven trumpets making the seventh seal were to follow the sixth seal.( See The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last! by Herbert W. Armstrong, 1959, 1972;)

In other words, Armstrong's view again is similar to Prewrath in that the seals, trumpets and bowls are consecutive. A major difference between PreWrath and Armstrong is that in PreWrath, Christ comes to rapture the Church at the sixth seal, where in Armstrong's scenario, Christ comes at the seventh trumpet.

Going back to the original purpose for the comparison, I found that so far, Armstrong was the first to mention the wrath of Satan being 2-1/2 years and the remaining year being the Day of the Lord, making a total of 3-1/2 years.

An Email I Considered

C. S. Lovett: 1980

I and another brother did some searching on the Internet regarding the PreWrath origins, and this reply from Tim Warner to our inquiries pretty much sums up all we found apart from Van Kampen and Rosenthal:

"To the best of my knowledge the pre-wrath rapture view was first introduced by C.S. Lovett in 1980 in a book called 'Latest Word on the Last Days.' C.S.Lovett was a pre-tribber, and editor of the popular Christian magazine, 'Christianity Today.' After seriously studying the rapture issue, felt that the pre-trib position could not be sustained from Scripture. In his book he tells the story of his development of the 'pre-wrath' position."

Lovett himself says he is a Pre-wrath believer, and in his book, "Latest Word on the Last Days," what he describes is his version of what he called PreWrath. He believes the Church will go through seven years of tribulation, and at the end of those seven years, i.e., the end of Daniel's 70th week, it will be raptured and then the wrath of God is poured out, i.e., the seven bowls of wrath. After 45 days, the Church will then return with Christ. Though he says he is a "Prewrather," his doctrine reads as sort of a combination of PreWrath/Posttrib. But, he has termed his beliefs as PreWrath as shown in the following quotes from his book. Lovett commented on the post-trib view, saying why he could not agree with it. Here is a paragraph from p. 189:

"There was always one feature of the post-trib view I couldn't stomach - the idea of God's people experiencing the wrath of God. To my mind, the whole thing collapsed right there.

"But where else was I to turn?

"If I could no longer teach that Christians were going to be raptured before the great tribulation, all that was left was the post-trib position. Perhaps my understanding of it was faulty.

"So, I took another look at the post-trib position, coming to it with two conclusions:

  1. "There has to be a rapture in order for those saints who are still alive to join Jesus and descend with Him (1 Thess. 3:13).

  2. "Yet those saints must not experience the wrath of God. Somehow they must be kept from the hour of trial, which shall come upon all the world (Rev. 3:10).

"Would the post-trib view accommodate these two elements? I wasn't sure that it would. Then it dawned on me! The rapture must occur JUST BEFORE God pours out His wrath on earth! To push it back 3 1/2 or 7 years is unnecessary."

Lovett then goes on to talk about Noah's escape from wrath. On page 191 he wrote the following;

"A PRE-WRATH BELIEVER

"Near the end of the great tribulation, God will pour out those seven bowls of His wrath (Rev. 16:1). But you and I WON'T be here. We'll be raptured just before that happens. Very clearly the world will experience the wrath of God AFTER God's people are raptured. This position solves the problem of trying to avoid tribulation, which is necessary for God's people, yet affirms that God will keep His children 'from the hour of trial' (Rev. 3:10)."

Marvin Rosenthal: 1990
Robert Van Kampen: 1992

To continue one email response,

"Ten years later, Marvin Rosenthal, founder of 'Friends of Israel,' went through a similar experience, and came to basically the same conclusions as Lovett. His book, written in 1990, was called 'The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church.' Also, about the same time, Robert Van Kampen, an acquaintance of Rosenthal, wrote a book called 'The Sign,' which was also pre-wrath.

"The pre-wrath view is a slight modification of the post-trib view, and is nearly indistinguishable from post-trib except in the chronology of Revelation. Pre-wrath authors sometimes point to the early Church Fathers to support their position. But, this support is only found where pre-wrath is indistinguishable from post-trib, because the early Church Fathers were not 'pre-wrath,' but 'post-trib.' That is, they [the early Church Fathers] envisioned only one future coming of Christ, both to rescue the Church, and destroy the Antichrist. Hope this helps."

The major difference between Posttrib and PreWrath is the timing of the Sixth Seal. In Posttrib, the Church goes through the entire Great Tribulation period - 3-1/2 years - at which time it is raptured. In PreWrath, the seals, trumpets and bowls are sequential and the Sixth Seal is opened anywhere from 6 months to a year and a half before the end of the last 3-1/2 years known as the last half of Daniel's 70th week. As a result the Day of the Lord does not begin at the end of Daniel's 70th week, but immediately after the Sixth Seal 6 months to a year and a half before the end of that week. This, of course, moves the rapture of the Church six months or more before the end of the week and brings about the end of the age at that time:

"Christ's gathering together, deliverance of, or rescue of the living church (by His angelic 'reapers') to Himself in the clouds at His second coming (parousia), an event that occurs on the last day, when the Day of the Lord commences, between the Sixth Seal (the sign of the end of the age) and the seventh seal (the day of the Lord)" (Van Kampen, "The Sign," p. 434).

Van Kampen originally brought up the idea of the Pre-Wrath doctrine to Rosenthal, as Rosenthal describes in his book, "The PreWrath Rapture of the Church":

"Then one day my persistent friend called and spoke with more exuberance than usual. The only word that comes to mind to describe that conversation is eureka - I found it! (He had been searching for 15 years.) 'Try this on,' he suggested. 'The Rapture of the church will occur immediately prior to the Day of the Lord, and the Day of the Lord begins with the opening of the seventh seal' (Rev. 8:1). He went on to share some of the logic behind his conclusion. He was sure he had 'found it' - the timing of the Rapture. . . ." (p. 18).

The Rapture in Rosenthal's and Van Kampen's PreWrath doctrine is to heaven with the Church returning then with Christ from there. In this scenario, the PreWrath doctrine, to me, is similar to the Pretribulation doctrine except the saints are taken to heaven at the mid-end of the Great Tribulation period, 6 months to a year and a half before the end of Daniel's 70th week. This results in the Prewrath doctrine having - by some interpreters - three comings of Christ as the Pretribbers have.

Conclusion thus far:

There is no compatibility between these three scenarios concerning the second coming of Christ. To date, there was not really any concrete evidence of this doctrine prior to the publishing of it in these men's books.