Furnishing Some Arguments Against PreWrath’s “Back to Back” Teaching.
PreWrath advocates claim that “God’s Wrath” (or “the Day of the LORD”) and the Great Tribulation are two distinct periods. So distinct in fact, that they’re “back to back”. One cannot start without the other ending first. The Great Tribulation, according to PreWrath, is “Satan’s Wrath” which starts at the mid point of Daniel’s 70th Week and lasts for an unknown length of time, until at some point Jesus unexpectedly comes with all His power and glory to rapture the saints to Himself. Jesus then resurrects and raptures (yes, raptures) the Old Testament saints to heaven at the same opportunity, sometime in the middle of the second half of the 70th Week, thereby bringing the Great Tribulation to an abrupt halt. Then, and only then, can “God’s Wrath”, or “the Day of the LORD”, commence, which could potentially last a few years. This is indeed what PreWrath is teaching and you can verify this on their websites and in their books.
But Scripture does not support such a fine distinction between the Tribulation and God’s Wrath or “the Day of the LORD”. Sometimes the apparently softer word “tribulation” is used to describe the very bitter end of the 70th Week, or what PreWrathers would call “God’s Wrath”, while words like “Wrath” can be used without distinction to describe the Tribulation period in general, thereby making these terms virtually interchangeable.
In this article, the Septuagint (LXX) was used as a Hebrew-Greek bridge.
Examples of Interchangeability
1. Zephaniah 1:15 calls the Day of the LORD “Tribulation”.
When describing “the Great day of the LORD” (v. 14, which is what PreWrathers would call “God’s Wrath”), Zephaniah calls it “a day of trouble and distress”. The Hebrew word for trouble is צָרָה (Tzara). This word is translated in the LXX as thlípsis, the exact same word used for “Tribulation” in all main New Testament tribulation passages, such as Matthew 24, Mark 13 and others. This makes “Tribulation” and “Day of the LORD” interchangeable.
2. Habakkuk 3:16 calls the Day of the LORD “Tribulation”.
In a passage about the Day of the LORD, Habakkuk begs the LORD to be merciful during wrath (v. 2), talks about the light of His glory covering the skies (vs. 3-4) and His trampling the nations in anger (v. 12) as He goes forth to save His people Israel (v. 13). These are clearly talking about the last stages of Daniel’s 70th Week. Habakkuk experienced an extreme physical reaction at the thought (v. 16). He wishes then “that [he] might rest in the day of trouble,” clearly referring to that same day, making “day of trouble” a description of that terrifying Day of the LORD. Yet here too, the Hebrew uses the general word Tzara (“trouble”), or Yom Tzara (“day of trouble”). This, again, is the same LXX word for “Tribulation” in the English New Testament translations, making “the Tribulation” and “God’s Wrath” interchangeable.
3. Jeremiah 30:7, “Tribulation” lasts until the end of the 70th Week.
From this important Tribulation passage we learn a few things:
- A dreadful day is coming, causing similar physical reactions to those of Habakkuk.
- That day is called “the time of Jacob’s trouble”, again using the Hebrew word “Tzara”, translated through the LXX as “Tribulation” in all major New Testament Tribulation passages. This is Israel’s tribulation, which starts at least at the second half of the 70th Week, if not earlier.(i)
- It is described as a day so “great, so that none is like it”. This is very significant. According to PreWrath, the worst part is actually a separate day called “the Day of the LORD”, which can only start once the “Tribulation” is over. Yet, the description of the Tribulation according to Jeremiah is that a worse day than the Tribulation is nowhere to be found. This corresponds with Daniel’s description in 12:1, that “there shall be a time of trouble (Tzara), such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time;” and with the Lord’s description, that “there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matthew 24:21). You can go from bad to worse, but you can’t go from “worst ever” to “even worse.”
- Jeremiah says it is “the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it” (7), i.e. is saved out of the “Tribulation”. That means that Israel is brought through the Tribulation until its end and is then saved.(ii) The same is implied from Daniel 12:1-2, that Israel is saved out of “the Tribulation,” not out of a separate phase that comes after it, meaning the Tribulation lasts until the end of the 70th Week. If anyone would think the Day of the LORD is a phase occurring at the end of the 70th Week then they must place that day within what is called “the Tribulation”, not separately and subsequent to it.
- To further strengthen the point above, we can conclude from vv. 8-9 that Israel is freed from the yoke of her oppressors and worships God alone on “that day”, i.e. during “the time of Jacob’s trouble”. That, of course, only happens at the very end of the 70th Week, showing once again that the Tribulation continues until the end of the 70th Week.
4. Likewise, the wrath spoken of in Isaiah 26 spans the entire second half.
Isaiah 26:20-21: “Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past. For behold, the Lord comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity…”.
A few observations:
- The ending verses of Isaiah 26 speak about Israel’s place of hiding during the Tribulation. God’s protection and nourishment of Israel, His vine, during this time is expressed a few verses later: “… ‘A vineyard of red wine! I, the Lord, keep it, I water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I keep it night and day.” (27:2-3). The place of hiding is the same as where “the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God,” and “where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time” (Rev. 12:6, 14). It is where Israel flees to, when the Abomination of Desolation is set up, and is told “do not go out” (Matt. 24:26) until Messiah returns (Matthew 24:15-16, 26). Israel’s flight occurs at the Midpoint of the 70th Week.
- Israel is told to wait in hiding “until the indignation is past.”. “Indignation” in the Hebrew is זָעַם (Za’am), meaning anger, rage, fury, wrath. The LXX word is orgé, the main Greek word used for “Wrath” in Old Testament passages like Isaiah 13 and all main New Testament passages dealing with the Wrath, like 1 Thess. 5 (“not destined us for wrath”), Rev. 6 (“the wrath of the Lamb”), etc.
- The fact that the second half is entirely God’s wrath is proved by v. 21. The reason Israel is going into hiding at the midpoint of the 70th Week is that Jehovah Himself has come out of His place to visit the iniquities of the inhabitants of the earth, practically equating “The Great Tribulation” with God’s wrath.
- This natural understanding of the text is shared by the Septuagint translators who translated Za’am (v. 26) as orgí Kyríou – “the anger of the Lord” (Brenton’s Septuagint Translation).
5. Luke 21 Calls the Second Half “Vengeance” and “Wrath”.
Luke 21:21-23: “Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 22 For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.”
- The flight to the mountains, the pregnant women, etc., correspond to the Midpoint of the 70th Week as found in Matthew 24, so it’s definitely speaking of the Tribulation.
- Luke uses the word “wrath” (23), orgé, to describe the Tribulation. Luke does not mention different types of wrath like “Satan’s Wrath” and “God’s Wrath” – these would have to be read into the passage by splitting the “Wrath”, mentioned here, into two phases, or types. But the saying “wrath upon this people” would suggest it’s God’s wrath because the phrase “this people” tends to convey God’s displeasure (“this people draw near me with their lips…”, “With men of other tongues… I will speak to this people”, “the heart of this people has grown dull”, Is 29:13, 1 Cor 14:21, Acts 28:26-27)(iii)
- Likewise, the phrase “days of vengeance” to describe the wrath during the Tribulation mentioned above, would imply that it’s all coming from God, since revenge is usually ascribed to God, not to Satan. Comp. “the day of vengeance of our God”, Is 61:2, 34:8, 35:4. God’s revenge is against Israel’s rejection of the Messiah.
All of the above show clearly that the prophetic passages treat the terms Wrath (or “the Day of the LORD”) and Tribulation interchangeably, without the distinction PreWrath claims exists. This leaves no room for the PreWrath’s “Back to Back” teaching.
What, then, does it mean when it says “those days will be shortened” (Matthew 21:22)?
“Jesus said the Great Tribulation ‘will be shortened’, which leaves space for a separate phase – the Wrath of God, to come at the end”. Answer: No, those days are not literally made shorter than 3½ years. In multiple places we read that the severe persecution of the Tribulation will continue for “a time and times and half a time” (Dan. 7:25, Rev. 12:4), for “forty two months” (Rev. 11:2, 13:5) and for “one thousand two hundred and sixty days” (Rev. 12:6). This is also the implication of the whole of Daniel 12.
Therefore, the saying “unless those days were shortened” simply means those days will be put to an end and not be allowed to continue without ceasing. Their time is set and limited. Any other interpretation would render the many specific references to their exact duration meaningless. A “Back to Back” doctrine cannot, and should not, be derived from this statement.
The distinction between the Tribulation and the Wrath (or Day of the LORD) is purely artificial. It might seem plausible to the undiscerning eye at first glance, but an examination of other relevant passages shows clearly that this distinction is forced upon the text and, sadly, upon the minds of many who have fallen for PreWrath. The propagation of the “Back to Back” teaching has caused confusion to many who haven’t properly looked into the matter, leaving them with false preconceptions that will take a lot of effort, on the part of pretribbers, to undo. It’s created a mess in the world of prophecy that will take a long time to clear up. PreWrath has received more than a fair hearing since its inception, and should be rejected as inadequate.
If anyone of you has for some reason felt disillusioned with PreTrib and gone astray after PreWrath, I solemnly call you back. Pretribulation rapture is vastly more thorough and biblically consistent than the PreWrath theory ever was. The study of PreWrath served only to strengthen my pretribulational convictions.
i. The sequence of events in Revelation would indicate that the Tribulation starts before the second half of the 70th Week (more on this here), but for now it will suffice to say that Israel’s persecution in particular starts at the Midpoint.
ii. In Hebrew, “time of” and “out of IT” are both feminine, leaving no question as to what Jacob is being saved from.
iii. See also Deut 9:13, 9:27, 31:16.