Response to Ron Graff
Rev. Charles Cooper
those who are truly interested in the Scriptures and are willing
to search them, I offer the following response to Ron
Graff's article that appears on his website. After several individuals
approached our ministry about responding to Graff's article, I took
a closer look at his arguments only to be disappointed again. His
attempt to refute the prewrath position is nothing more than a knee-jerk
reaction so typical of pretribulationists who speak loudly, but
say very little that has explicit scriptural support.
begins his assessment of the Prewrath position by offering his view
of Problems With The Pre-Wrath View. Based on Mr. Graff's
writings in this article, I am not convinced that he read the works
of Robert Van Kampen before offering a word of advice to others.
He repeatedly misrepresents Mr. Van Kampen's position. Anyone who
reads Mr. Graff's work and does not check the original sources,
certainly would not be included in the camp of the Bereans who checked
Paul's teachings against the Scriptures.
Graff's heading: 1A - Antichrist will persecute the Church, He writes,
carefully studying both of Van Kampen's books (The Sign, and The
Rapture Question Answered), I believe that this statement of the
"core truth" of the prewrath view really does represent the key
differences between their position and the pretribulation position.
It identifies several questionable elements of their theology.
These debatable assumptions are:
1A - Antichrist
will persecute the Church.
2A - Satan's wrath ends at the Rapture and then God's wrath begins.
3A - The Rapture takes place when Christ returns in great glory.
makes a blatant error. Pretribulationists insist on describing the
Rapture and the Second Coming as two different events. "When Christ
returns in great glory" is a pretribber's way of referring to the
Lord's return at Armageddon. Van Kampen does not use such language.
Graff is combining pretrib language with Van Kampen's position and
is misrepresenting Van Kampen in the process. Pretribulationists
describe the Lord's return at Armageddon as coming in great glory
down to earth. However, Scripture does not make such an explicit
distinction. Show us the Scriptures, Mr. Graff.
3A above should say, The Rapture takes place when Christ cuts short
the persecution of Satan/Antichrist and initiates the Day-of-the-Lord's-wrath.
Van Kampen teaches at least a six-month gap between the Rapture
and Armageddon (Dan. 12:11 and Rev. 9:5). No one really knows how
much time will elapse between the Rapture and Armageddon. However,
it must be long enough to allow for the salvation of Israel at the
end of Daniel's Seventieth Week (Dan. 9:24 and Rom. 11:24-26) and
those Gentiles who enter the kingdom of God following the sheep
and goat judgment in Matthew 25:31ff.
either has not read Van Kampen's works or is purposely attempting
to distort the record for personal advantage.
position does acknowledge the separate existence of Israel and
special treatment by God during the Tribulation when she is driven
into the wilderness (Rev. 12), but it assumes that they are not
saved until the very end, when they think the 144,000 are sealed…
is blatantly false. The prewrath position teaches that the 144,
000 are sealed immediately after the Rapture, occurring just before
the breaking of the seventh seal, which must be at least 6 months
before Armageddon. Revelation 9:5 indicates that the fifth trumpet
lasts for five months and Daniel 12:11 indicates Antichrist will
suffer destruction 30 days after the Seventieth Week of Daniel ends--that's
at least six months. How much longer, we do not know. Daniel 9:24
demands that the salvation of Israel cannot occur before the end
of the Seventieth Week. The prophecy was determined to be 490 years,
not 483 or 487 and a half. The sealing of the 144, 000 occurs long
before the salvation of national Israel, which occurs at the end
of Daniel's Seventieth Week as Daniel 9:24 says. Where does Graff
get his information?
problem with prewrath theology is the assumption that the "elect"
which are also "saints" of the Tribulation period are basically
the same as the Church. There are two main difficulties with this
view. First, the Church is missing.
the church is missing (i.e. raptured), is a clear assumption on
Graff's part. Notice he offers no explicit scriptural support for
his claim. If the church is missing, then why does Revelation 14:13
pronounce, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!"
Graff, John F. Walvoord and other pretribulationists all teach that
only the church can be described as "in the Lord."
importance, this seven year Tribulation period is definitely the
last "week" of Daniel 9:27, and, as such, is a final segment of
Israel's history before the Millennial Kingdom. According to the
book of Revelation, the events of the period revolve around Israel,
The Temple, Jerusalem, the Two Witnesses, and the 144,000 from
the twelve tribes of Israel.
is so typical of pretribbers who cannot see "the forest for the
trees." This is an example of dispensationalism taken to an unnecessary
extreme. This argument is based on two false notions: (1) God cannot
deal with Israel and the church at the same time, and (2) the Old
Testament is about Israel and not the church.
destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (a direct fulfillment of Matthew
24:2), thirty years after the beginning of the church, proves God
can and does work with both Israel and the church at the same time.
The second false notion stated above is based on the following logic.
Pretribulationists insist that the church is a mystery in the Old
Testament, which means no information is given about it or its future.
Therefore, any discussion about Daniel 9 excludes the church. Pretribulationists
would further argue that the absence of the term "church" in Revelation
4-19 proves their point. This is called an argument from silence.
The absence of the "term" church does not prove the church is missing.
However, what is really missing is explicit scriptural proof.
a clear case of circular reasoning, Graff argues: the church is
a mystery in the Old Testament. Therefore, it is unseen and no information
is given concerning it. Therefore, the Old Testament is about Israel
only. Since, they argue, this is the case, then the Old Testament
cannot be used to say what will or will not happen to the church.
That's circular reasoning.
problem with this, however, is that the New Testament writers did
apply certain Old Testament Scriptures to the church. Peter used
Joel 2:28-32 to prove that the church begins at Pentecost (Acts.
2:17-21). Notice also Daniel 7:27, "Then the sovereignty, the dominion
and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will
be given to the people of the saints (holy ones) of the Highest
One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions
will serve and obey Him." This passage clearly refers to the church
since she will reign with Christ for the kingdom period.
certain Old Testament passages apply to the church cannot be determined
from the Old Testament. Only revelation from God through the Apostles
or prophets can show what passages apply to the church and what
passages do not. Many would not have applied Joel 2:28-32 to the
church, but the Apostle Peter did. Since God has not shown how
all the prophetic passages of the Old Testament apply to the church,
it is a bit premature for pretribbers to be basing their position
on scriptural silence.
his second heading: 1B - Failure to distinguish between Israel and
the Church, Graff writes,
is, when Jesus gave His explanation of future events, known as
the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24 and 25), the Church had just
been announced (Matthew 16:13-18), but it's composition and destiny,
including the Rapture, was still a mystery. This information would
later be revealed to the Apostle Paul. If Christ had discussed
the course of the Church age and the Rapture, it would have been
very confusing to the disciples at that time. The Church came
into existence on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and little by
little, the organization took shape. All of the early believers
were Jewish, and the new Church was seen as a continuation of
their Old Testament beliefs.
is too good to pass up. Notice his statement: "If Christ had discussed
the course of the Church age and the Rapture, it would have been
very confusing to the disciples at that time." One wonders how Graff
could make such a ridiculous statement! Is this how pretribulationists
argue their position - with presumption and irrational arguments?
is a classic "smoke and mirror" argument. In John 14:1-3, Jesus
promised to come again and receive the Disciples to Himself. Who
doubts that John 14:1-3 is a promise of the Rapture? Jesus gave
the Olivet Discourse two days before his death, but John 14 was
given the night before His death. A careful reading of the Gospels
demonstrates that the Disciples were confused about everything,
yet Jesus taught them. Whether the Disciples did or did not understand
was not the determiner of what Jesus taught them.
complains that when the pretribulation teachers relegate the events
of the Olivet Discourse to Israel, they fail to teach the entire
Gospel message. (Rapture, p. 103) We agree that students of the
Word should accept that all Scripture is profitable (2 Timothy
3:16), and that all of it should be taught. However, not all sections
apply to all people. Everything in the Gospels is important and
instructive to the Church, but some portions are about the history
of Israel, beyond the age of the Church. To fail to make that
distinction is to do a great disservice to the Bible student.
Matthew is the Jewish gospel, then why is the Olivet Discourse included
in Mark and Luke's gospels, which are clearly Gentile gospels. A
greater disservice to the Bible student is the pretribulationists'
foolish attempt to argue from silence (no explicit scriptural support)
while at the same time arguing as if the issues are spelled out
in black and white.
issue is not whether some of the New Testament applies to Israel
and some to the church. The issue is which portions apply to Israel
and which apply to the church, a decision which God alone determines.
Pretribulationists are of very little help on this question because
they draw too sharp a distinction between national Israel and the
church, which leads to false conclusions. One of these false conclusions
is the idea that the disciples who received the Olivet Discourse
represented Israel and not the church or that Jesus did not teach
the disciples truth about the church until after Pentecost. Matthew
16:18 and 18:15-20 should settle matter.
his third heading: 2B -Failure to distinguish between the Church
and the "saints" of the Tribulation, Graff writes,
Rapture theory equates Church with the "elect" of Matthew 24:31
who are gathered by angels when Christ returns in power and glory
(Rapture, pp. 80-81). There are serious problems with this view.
The glorious visible return of Christ as King of Kings is quite
different from the promised Rapture of the Church…
is the fundamental error of the pretrib position. The term "elect"
as used in Matthew 24:31 in context can only refer to one group—the
church. There are only two elect groups in the Bible. One is physical
election—national unsaved Israel and the other is spiritual—saved
Jews and Gentiles who compose the church. Matthew 24:24 states that
the deceptive program of Antichrist will be so good that "if possible,
even the elect" would be deceived by them. This proves that national
Israel is not the "elect" of Matthew 24:24 because the nation will
very much be deceived by Antichrist.
cannot refer to the saved remnant of Israel because Revelation 12:6
states that the woman (the remnant of Israel) will flee into the
wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there
she would be nourished for one thousand, two hundred and sixty days
(during the great tribulation). So if the remnant of Israel is in
protective custody and the majority of Israel is deceived by Antichrist,
then the "elect" of Matthew 24:22, 24, and 31 must be the church.
pretribulationists argue that the Jews and Gentiles saved after
the Rapture are not a part of the church. Yet, the apostle Paul
makes no distinction between the "elect" before the Rapture and
the "elect" after the Rapture. If Matthew 24:22, 24 and 31 refers
to any other group other than the church, it would be the only place
in the New Testament where the term "elect" is used and does not
refer to the church, Christ or angels. The burden of proof lies
with those who say the term does not apply to the church. They must
is not named once in the entire account of the Tribulation period
in the Book of Revelation Chapters 4-19. This is all the more
noticeable since the word is used repeatedly in the first three
chapters, where Christ is seen walking among the churches, and
then sending messages to seven specific churches. The best explanation
for this is that the true Church, the bride of Christ, is taken
from the earth at the Rapture. At chapter 4, the Apostle John
is told to "Come up here." For the remainder of the vision, he
is in the presence of the Lord, looking down on the dreadful events
of the Tribulation. This is symbolic of the Rapture of the Church.
fails to mention that when he makes the statement, "There are serious
problems with this view" that the "serious problems" are his opinions.
He offers not one explicit passage of Scripture to support his positions.
He uses the classic pretrib argument of silence. The term "church"
is not used in Revelation 4-19 so pretribbers conclude the church
has been raptured. John is supposedly a symbolic representation
of the Rapture of the church in Revelation 4. Such a view displays
a total disregard for a consistent method of interpretation. What
else is John symbolizing in the book? What is to stop us from using
symbolic representations in other areas of Scripture?
arguments are old and sad. Craig A Blaising, who taught at Dallas
Theological Seminary, states in the book Three Views of the Millennium
and Beyond, "Progressive dispensationalists see these "saints"
as part of the body of Christ, thus a part of the church as it is
defined in the New Testament." (page 210). Now most progressive
dispensationalists are pretribbers, but at least they recognize
that pretribbers who argue that "saints" in Revelation 6-20 are
not members of the body of Christ are fundamentally in error.
try to get extra mileage out of the fact that the term "church"
does not appear in chapters 4-19 of Revelation. At first, this argument
from silence seems to be a slam-dunk for the pretrib position. But
closer examination of the book of Revelation reveals a problem.
The term "church" does not appear again in the book of Revelation
after chapter three until the concluding note of chapter 22. It
is conspicuously absent in chapters 20 and 21. Does that mean that
the church is absent during the millennial reign of Christ (Revelation
20)? Does this mean that the church is absent during eternity (Revelation
21)? Of course, it does not!
fact that the term "church" does not appear in Revelation after
chapter 4 is a very important question. The church does not show
up on earth and neither does it show up in heaven. The fact that
it does not show up in heaven is an even greater problem for pretribbers.
According to pretribulationists, John symbolizes the church in Revelation
4. Well, if John can symbolize the church in Revelation 4, perhaps
there are other symbols of the church in chapters 6-20. Who is to
say? This is laughably sad. Is this the best pretribbers can do?
is one reason that the term "church" is not used in Revelation 4-21.
It maintains the very important point of Matthew 24:36. "But of
that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor
the Son, but the Father alone." The mystery of the timing of the
Rapture is maintained throughout the New Testament and especially
the book of Revelation. No one can explicitly discern the timing
of the Rapture in the book of Revelation. We know it comes before
the wrath of God begins in chapter eight, but there is not one explicit
direct reference to the most important event in the future of the
church. Why? It protects the anonymity of the Lord's return, as
the Tribulation, however, there are "saints." They are also called
the "elect." They are undoubtedly true believers in Jesus Christ,
because there has been "no other name under heaven given to men
by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12 (NIV) Just as it has always
been, they may be Jews or Gentiles who have decided to receive
Christ as Savior. As the story unfolds in the book of Revelation,
these believers will undergo great persecution, and many of them
will be martyred for the cause of Christ. Those who die are the
subject of the Fifth Seal (Revelation 6:9-11). Those who survive
to the end will be gathered together by angels (Matthew 24:31)
and will undoubtedly be the mortals who populate the Millennial
Kingdom (Revelation 20).
use of the words "undoubtedly" and "may be" indicate a lack of explicit
scriptural support. He can not be dogmatic because he does not have
Scripture to support his claims.
the heading: 3B - An unfair test (Rapture or Armageddon?), Graff
suggests a test he has given to prophesy classes he has taught
over the years. First read the following Biblical passage:
as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west,
so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.
29 "Immediately after the distress of those days "'the sun will
be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will
fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.'
30 "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the
sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see
the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and
31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they
will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the
heavens to the other.
32 "Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs
get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.
33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is
near, right at the door.
34 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass
away until all these things have happened.
35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass
36 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in
heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming
of the Son of Man.
38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the
39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood
came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming
of the Son of Man.
40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other
has them read verses 27, 30-31 and 37-40, then asks, "Now, decide
which event Christ had in mind when He gave this specific instruction
to His disciples. Does this passage refer to the battle of Armageddon
as recorded in Revelation 19:11-21, or does it refer to the rapture
of the saints as recorded in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17?" (Rapture,
pp. 106-107) He then states that everyone in his classes has always
thought it was about the Rapture.
has purposely skewed Van Kampen's illustration to serve his purpose.
Van Kampen asked his students to read both Matthew 24 and Revelation
I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon
it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and
wages war. And His eyes are a flame of fire, and upon His head are
many diadems; and He has a name written upon Him which no one knows
except Himself. And He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and
His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in
heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him
on white horses. And from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that
with it He may smite the nations; and He will rule them with a rod
of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God,
the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written,
"KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." And I saw an angel standing
in the sun; and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the
birds which fly in midheaven, "Come, assemble for the great supper
of God; in order that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh
of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses
and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free
men and slaves, and small and great." And I saw the beast and the
kings of the earth and their armies, assembled to make war against
Him who sat upon the horse, and against His army. And the beast
was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs
in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the
mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were
thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And
the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of
Him who sat upon the horse, and all the birds were filled with their
Kampen then asks his audience to vote on whether the two passages
are alike or unalike.
itself is flawed. There is no reference in these verses [Matt.
24:27, 20-31 and 37-40] to any battle, much less the specific
battle of Armageddon.
the point Mr. Graff! There is no battle mentioned in Matthew 24.
Matthew talks about a gathering of the "elect." Revelation talks
about a battle of destruction for the wicked. There is no gathering
of God's elect mentioned in Revelation 16-19. Matthew 24 does not
mention a battle between God and Antichrist.
question were to be worded fairly it should ask, "Does this passage
refer to the glorious return of Christ as recorded in Revelation
19:11-21, or does it refer to the rapture of the saints as recorded
in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17." In that case, knowledgeable students
would be most likely to choose the Glorious Return (Italic added).
now at issue with Mr. Graff is one's "knowledgeableness." If a person
concludes that Matthew 24:31 and Revelation 19:11 are not referring
to the same event, the person is not a "knowledgeable student."
But if one is "smart," he or she will immediately see that Matthew
24:31 and Revelation 19:11 refer to the same event. This is foolish
wouldn't word the question in this way because he evidently does
not believe that there are two separate events. In fact, he ridicules
the pretribulation view as teaching that the Church should be
looking for the second coming, but Israel should be waiting for
the third coming. (Rapture, p. 95) Of course, this is not what
is taught by pretribulation teachers. It is easily provable that
there are two distinct events coming - The Rapture and The Glorious
Return. (See "Failure to distinguish between the Rapture and The
Glorious Return of Christ" below) Pretribulation scholars refer
to both events as "The Second Coming," just as the many events
of Jesus' earthly sojourn were all part of His "First Coming."
must maintain a separate glorious return from the Rapture or else
they would have no position. The fact that they have no explicit
scriptural foundation for their view seems to escape their attention.
24:3 indicates that the Disciples asked the Lord, "what would be
the sign of Your coming?" The term "coming" is the Greek word parousia.
It is used three times in Matthew 24. Now in order to get around
the obvious meaning of this term, pretribulationists maintain that
the word refers to two comings: Christ comes for His own
(the Rapture) and Christ comes with His own (glorious return
at Armageddon). The only problem with this conclusion is its lack
of explicit scriptural support.
has two parousias. His first parousia occurred two thousand years
ago. His second parousia will occur some time in the future. It
will start with the Rapture and conclude with Armageddon. The amount
of time between the Rapture and Armageddon will be no longer than
three and a half years and no less than six months. See Revelation
9:5 and Daniel 12:11. Van Kampen clearly indicates that the Rapture
and Armageddon are not the same event. Rather, the Rapture and Armageddon
are two halves of the same event separated by an undetermined length
the heading: 2A -Satan's wrath ends at the Rapture and then God's
wrath begins. Graff writes,
Revelation 12:12, and 13:4-7, Van Kampen says that Satan's wrath
is the persecution of God's elect. (Rapture, p. 58). These verse
rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the
earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He
is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short."
the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they
also worshiped the beast and asked, "Who is like the beast? Who
can make war against him?" The beast was given a mouth to utter
proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for
forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to
slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in
heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and
to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe,
people, language and nation. Revelation 13:4-7(NIV)
studies this passage, it is clear that Satan's wrath is a reaction
to God's wrath. God punishes Satan by casting him down to earth.
This makes him angry. He is, in fact given power to persecute
believers ("the saints") during the last half of the Tribulation
(42 months). The proper way of seeing the Tribulation is that
it is the time of both God's wrath and Satan's wrath as he struggles
against the sovereignty of God. Even in this present time we can
see the same thing, to a lesser degree. Peter says that the Devil
is like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, and causing
persecution of believers. (1 Peter 5:8-9)
purposely obscures the distinctions between the Day of the Lord's
wrath and the temporal wrath of God that abides on the wicked every
single day. God's Day of the Lord wrath is unique and must be seen
in the context of the end-times. God allows Satan three and a half
years of persecution. No where, and I do mean no where, does Scripture
say that God's Day-of-the-Lord-wrath runs concurrent with Satan's
wrath. Scripture states just the opposite. Matthew 24:22 indicates
that God will cut the great persecution short. The reason God gives
for cutting the persecution short is to save the lives of the elect.
If the wrath of God has already started why would God save some
elect and not others. The fact is God cuts the persecution short—delivers
the righteous and begins the punishment of the wicked.
the fact that faithful followers of Jesus Christ will be beheaded
during the great tribulation, no sane person would credit such a
slaughter to God. Yet, this is exactly what one must do if he or
she makes the great tribulation the wrath of God.
great tribulation begins with the wrath of Satan against God's elect,
but it ends with God's wrath against Satan's Antichrist and those
who take his mark.
the heading: 1B - Artificial shift from Satan's wrath to God's wrath,
Mr. Graff writes,
the illustrations of the days of Noah and the days of Lot in Luke
17:22-30, Van Kampen concludes that the Rapture will occur on
the very day that God's wrath begins, thus ending the wrath of
Satan. (Rapture, pp. 56-59). The passage does not refer to the
Rapture, but to the Glorious Return of Christ. The worst expression
of God's wrath will be delivered at that time because the battle
of Armageddon is fought. But that is not to say that the earlier
part of the Tribulation is not also the result of God's wrath.
does not recognize that Revelation 12:12 indicates that Satan comes
down to earth with great wrath against Israel and her offspring.
The amount of time Satan is given is exactly three and a half years,
which is exactly how long the great tribulation runs and the exact
amount of time Satan empowers Antichrist to persecute the people
of God. Therefore, the period labeled "the great tribulation" must
be the wrath of Satan against God's people.
is not one passage of Scripture that indicates God's wrath is poured
out during the first three and a half years of Daniel's Seventieth
the heading: 2B - Assumption that God's wrath does not begin until
Christ returns. Graff writes,
assumption that God's wrath does not start until just before the
battle of Armageddon does not fit the facts revealed in the book
is a purposeful distortion of the prewrath position. At no point,
does the prewrath position teach that the wrath of God begins at
Armageddon. I defy Mr. Graff to show the reader in writing one statement
that supports his claim that Mr. Van Kampen ever taught such a position.
3:10 the Church at Philadelphia was given the promise that they
would be kept "from the hour of trial that is going to come upon
the whole world to test those who live on the earth." The implication
is clear that God's wrath would be poured out on the whole evil
world as He had done at the time of the flood. In Chapters 4 and
5, future events are seen as emanating from God's sovereign throne.
Jesus Christ, as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and the Lamb who
was slain, is the only one worthy to open the seals of the scroll.
Starting with chapter 6, Jesus opens the seals, one at a time,
and each time, events transpire which represent God's wrath and
judgment, usually on the whole earth.
in Revelation 5 and 6 does it say that the seals are the wrath of
God? As a matter of fact, the fifth seals martyrs' question to God
proves that seals 1-4 are not the wrath of God. They ask God, "How
long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging
our blood on those who dwell on the earth." (Rev. 6:10).
the "hour of testing" is the wrath of God, it cannot have started
yet, given the question of the martyrs. Their questions states that
God has and is refraining from judging and taking vengeance on the
wicked. Notice the Lord's answer, "…they were told that they should
rest for a little while longer, until…there fellow servants and
brethren who were to be killed…would be completed also." The wrath
of God against the wicked that are alive on the earth has not yet
stated. Plain and simple.
7 God holds back the strong angels who have power to harm the
earth until the 144,000 can be sealed.
proves that God's wrath has not started. If the wrath of God had
started, He would have sealed the 144, 000 before the seals begin.
12, as mentioned before, Satan's wrath is displayed, but it is
the result of God's wrath leveled against him.
is Graff's proof for this statement? Scripture does not indicate
that the wrath of God begins before Michael and his angels throw
Satan out of heaven. This is an assumption without biblical support.
midpoint of the Tribulation, when people must decide whether or
not to receive the "mark of the beast," it is said that God's
judgment has come. Then I saw another angel flying in midair,
and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on
the earth-- to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said
in a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour
of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the
earth, the sea and the springs of water." A second angel followed
and said, "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all
the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries." A third
angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships
the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead
or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury,
which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.
He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the
holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises
for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for who worship
the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of
his name." Revelation 14:6-11
has based the above statement on an assumption of which the reader
may not be aware. He assumes that Revelation 14 describes events
that transpire at the midpoint of the Seventieth Week of Daniel.
Revelation 14:1 places Jesus and the 144, 000 standing on Mount
Zion. Surely, this cannot be at the midpoint of Daniel's Seventieth
Week. After the Rapture, according to pretribulationalists, Jesus
does not come back to the earth until Armageddon. Proof please,
the heading: 3A -The Rapture takes place when Christ returns in
great glory, 1B - Failure to distinguish between the Rapture and
The Glorious Return of Christ, Graff writes,
passage for the prewrath view is the Olivet Discourse (Matthew
24 and 25). There is only one return of Christ in view there,
and that is at the end of the sequence of events describing the
Great Tribulation. Matthew 24:30 states that, "They will see the
Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great
glory." Van Kampen says this is the Rapture. However, there are
many differences between the Rapture and the Glorious Return of
Christ. Here are some of these differences:
comes for His own
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
returns with His own
taken to Father's House
come to Earth
only by believers
1 Corinthians 15:4
eye will see Him
Revelation 1:7; 19:11-16;
reference to Satan
1 Corinthians 15:51
in Old Testament
Zechariah 12:10; 14:4
by Ron Graff
must think that his readers are either mentally challenged or he
maybe he assumes that he determines the meaning of Scripture. Graff's
statement that Matthew 24-25 describes only one return of Christ
is purposefully misleading. Matthew 24:31 describes Christ coming
together the elect. Matthew 25:31 describes Christ coming to judge
the nations. There is nothing to stop the reader from seeing Matthew
24:31 as the beginning of the Lord's parousia and Matthew 25:31
as the end of the Lord's parousia. One describes the Rapture and
the other describes the sheep and goat judgment that immediately
first glance, the above chart appears convincing, but a closer examination
reveals error after error.
Revelation 19:14 does not say the church will return with Christ
at Armageddon. It says the Lord returns with "his armies." "His
armies" clearly applies to angels. However, whether the church is
included is debatable. The church is not mentioned directly or indirectly
in Revelation 20 and 21.
Matthew 24:30 does not in any way, shape, form, or fashion, state
that believers are returning with Christ. Just read it! "And
then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then
all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son
of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory."
1 Corinthians 15:52 does not state that believers will be the only
ones to see the Lord return at the Rapture. This assumption is stated
as fact! Where does Graff get his material?
the binding of Satan for one thousand years is only mentioned in
Scripture one time.
earlier Graff indicated that the wrath of God begins at the Rapture,
which would certainly indicate that the earth receives judgment.
Yet, his chart says, "earth not judged" at Rapture. Which is it?
That's called a contradiction. Paul states in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2
that God's wrath is connected to the Rapture. He writes, "Now we
request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ and our gathering together to Him that you not be quickly
shaken… that the day of the Lord has come." That's Rapture and wrath
sixth and final error in Mr. Graff's chart concerns the mystery
of the Rapture. According to Graff, the Rapture is a mystery, but
the glorious return of Christ is predicted in the Old Testament.
If the Rapture is a mystery in the Old Testament, then one will
not find information about it in the Old Testament. However, that
does not mean that the Rapture and the glorious return of the Lord
are not connected. That information must be obtained from the New
Testament. Graff has not shown one NT passage that supports his
conclusion. Not one!
the heading: 2B - Who is left to populate the Millennial Kingdom,
Rapture were to take place just before the battle of Armageddon,
and all the believers were taken just before the final events
of the Tribulation, what people would become believers at the
very last moments so that there would be godly people to populate
the Millennial Kingdom? Van Kampen's thought is that this is where
the 144,000 come in. (Rapture, pp. 53-54)
Graff's familiarity with Van Kampen's writings, I can only assume
that he is purposefully trying to distort Van Kampen's position
in order to win his argument. Van Kampen has never directly or indirectly
taught that the Rapture occurs "just before the final events of
the Tribulation." Van Kampen would argue based on Daniel 12:11 and
Revelation 9:5 that the Rapture must occur at least 6 months before
Armageddon. The chart in Van Kampen's book, The Sign, clearly shows
that the salvation of Israel and the sheep and goat judgment must
follow the Rapture. Where does Graff get his material?
the heading: 3B - The Judgment of the Sheep and Goats, Graff writes,
to Matthew 25:31-46, there will be a judgment of "sheep" and "goats"
based on how people treated Israel. In the pretribulation view,
surviving believers of the Tribulation period will qualify as
the "sheep." In the prewrath view, all believers would have been
taken at the Rapture and only a remnant from Israel itself would
become believers at the very end. It is difficult to imagine that
these new converts could be the "sheep" who acted kindly toward
is not Van Kampen's view. Graff confuses the prewrath position with
traditional posttribulationism. Please read the book!
offers a very unorthodox explanation of this dilemma. Since it
is obvious that these Gentile survivors have not yet accepted
Christ (or they would have gone up at the Rapture shortly before
this time), he says that they will have trusted Christ when they
saw Him face to face "when the Son of Man comes in His glory."
(Matthew 23:31) (Sign, pp. 403-405) I didn't notice any mention
of this theory in his later book, probably because of difficulties
in supporting this view.
is not Van Kampen's view! The particular pages referred to in the
above paragraph deal with the sheep and goat judgment not the Rapture
of the Saints.
the heading: 4B - The Parable of the Wheat and Tares, Graff writes,
of the Wheat and Tares also refers to the separation of believers
from non-believers at the end of this age. This parable make good
sense from a pretribulation point of view because it is similar
to the Judgment of Sheep and Goats. In both cases, there are many
believers and many non-believers. This takes place at "the end
of the age" and the agents are angels. It is difficult for the
prewrath position because that view does not allow for a large
number of believers at the end of the age.
is a misrepresentation of Van Kampen's view. Van Kampen takes the
position that the Parable of the Wheat and Tares is the Rapture.
God will separate the righteous and the wicked by removing the righteous
to heaven and punishing the wicked that remain on earth.
I did not notice the use of this parable in Van Kampen's later
book, The Rapture Question Answered, but is used repeatedly in
The Sign. This passage is listed at least 15 times in the Scripture
Index of that book. In The Sign, the author usually listed this
passage as a proof for the Rapture, saying, for instance, As we
continue, we will see that when believers are received by Christ
in the clouds at the Rapture of the church, it will be the angels
of God who "gather the wheat into My barn" (Matt. 13:30) and who
"gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky
to the other" (Matt. 24:31), and that "we who are alive and remain
shall be caught up [by God's angels] together with them in the
clouds, to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thess. 4:17) (Sign, p.
reason Van Kampen did not use this passage in The Rapture Question
Answered was due to space limitations and he did not feel the
argument was necessary to prove his case. However, he used this
passage in The Sign, which presents his position clearly.
the mixing of expressions from this parable with the classic passage
about the Rapture. This passage simply can not refer to the Rapture,
because it is stated that it takes place "at the end of the age,"
and even more importantly, the weeds, or tares, are collected
FIRST, bundled for burning (presumably at a later time - The White
Throne Judgment), and THEN the wheat is gathered into the barns.
notice Matthew 13:39 states, "and the harvest is the end of the
age." Then again, Matthew 13:40, "so just as the tares are gathered
up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age."
Jesus states that the "harvest" "is the end of the age." The harvest
is the consummation of the age. That is the time when God will separate
the righteous from the wicked. This is the point of the parable.
The separation of the righteous and the wicked will begin at the
Rapture and continue until the Sheep and Goat Judgment, which follows
"end of the age" is not a point in time, but rather covers a period
months or maybe even years. Only God knows how long He will allow
the persecution of Antichrist to run before He cuts it short with
His wrath (Matt. 24:22, 24). "The end of the age" will start with
the Rapture and continue until the Sheep and Goat Judgment, which
immediately precedes the beginning of the millennium.
what the order of that separation will be is not the primary point
of the parable. That this is the case is easily proven. The disciples
asked Jesus in Matthew 24:3, "What will be the sign of Your coming
(parousia) and of the end of the age?" This indicates that the coming
of Christ and the end of the age are tied together. Jesus answers
the question in Matthew 24:29 and 30. The sign of the Son of Man
immediately follows the sign that signals the "end of the age."
The sign that Jesus gives that indicates the "end of the age" is
the same sign repeatedly given to indicate the beginning of the
Day of the Lord. Even a limited reading of the Old Testament will
demonstrate that sign in the sun, moon, and stars signal the coming
of God's wrath.
the "end of the age" must cover a period of time because the fifth
trumpet of Revelation 9:1-11 covers a five month period. No one
doubts that the fifth trumpet is part of the wrath of God. The fact
that John indicates that the sign in the sun, moon, and stars will
occur at the sixth seal means that the wrath of God begins at the
seventh seal. Thus, the trumpets and bowls are the wrath of God.
This is Van Kampen's position which is very different from what
make a big deal of the fact that the Lord says that the wicked (tares)
will be gathered first, and then the righteous will be gathered
after them. Yet, there is not one passage in the whole of the N.T.
that teaches that the wicked will be gathered first at the Lord's
return unless Matthew 13:36-43 can be shown to do so. Matthew 24:31
which pretribulationists argue is the return of the Lord at Armageddon
does not mention a gathering of the wicked.
parable of the wheat and tares is just that—a parable. One must
be careful to not say more than the parable intended to teach. Clearly,
the Lord does not mean the reader to understand that the harvest
of the righteous and wicked at the end of the age will be just like
a wheat harvest in every sense of the word. For example, the wheat
is cut with a sharp knife. The wheat is put on a floor and beaten.
Tares are burned up completely. They no longer exist after the burning.
In the culture of that day, tares were pulled up by the root long
before the harvest. But the Lord changed the figure of speech. The
tares would remain until the harvest.
sheep and goat judgment (Matt. 25) indicates that the righteous
and wicked are gathered together and separated by the Lord, not
angels. Therefore, Matthew 13 cannot be talking about the sheep
and goat judgment. The only other possibility is the Rapture.
noticed that a surprising number of young pastors have adopted
the prewrath position. One possible reason for this is the normal
desire of each generation to "go beyond" the previous one. It
is actually a good thing for young scholars to test what they
have been taught, and especially to compare it to the Scripture.
of Graff's statement: if one takes the prewrath position he is young
and naive. They simply want to "go beyond" the previous one." Graff
assumes pretribulationism is correct and "young pastors" want to
simply "go beyond" the truth.
possible reason for the wide-spread interest in the prewrath theory
comes from the fact that most pastors are really not up to speed
in eschatology. They realize that nearly one third of the Bible
is prophecy, but they have not invested the time to know it well.
Van Kampen himself says that he spent nine thousand hours of Bible
study and research during eight years to develop his eschatology.
("Join the club, Robert! Every serious prophecy teacher has invested
many years in concentrated study). What he did though that gives
a huge boost to his teaching, is to give free copies of his large
and colorful book to pastors. Hopefully, most of them will continue
to read other works to balance their knowledge.
of Graff statement:
pastors are adopting the prewrath position because they simply do
not know eschatology.
when pastors get smarter, they will abandon the prewrath position
for the right position--pretribulationism.
a free book has made pastors take the position. The Jehovah Witnesses
ought to love that one.
does it make whether we accept the pretribulation or the prewrath
viewpoint? To Van Kampen, the stakes are great. He says, "your
view of end times may determine whether you, your children, or
your grandchildren survive the onslaught of Antichrist or die
at his hands." (Rapture, p. 131) Just like the postribulation
(sic) view, the bottom line for the prewrath folks is survival.
By contrast, the bottom line for the pretribulation view is evangelism
and holy living. But let's admit that godly prewrath believers
can be just as evangelistic as their pretribulation brothers and
sisters. And shouldn't we all be wise enough to prepare for the
future? In any case, Jesus expects us to love one another.
is an over simplification of Van Kampen's position. Survival is
not the primary objective of the prewrath position. Truth is!
Graff, like so many others, attempts to argue the faults of the
prewrath position by showing the strength of the pretribulation
position. But they consistently defeat themselves because they have
no explicit scriptural basis for their position. It would be better
to simply compare the two positions and allow each reader to make
up his or her own mind. One could conclude that the reason none
are willing to do this is fear, a fear, which certainly does not
come from God.