Addressing Criticisms: Great Tribulation vs God’s Wrath

The next series of posts will be breakdowns of a few of my end times journals. In these breakdowns I will be addressing various criticisms I have heard about specific points I have raised. I have no reason to shy away from tough questions because I desire only the truth of God’s word, which I believe to be completely inerrant. I believe that it is through reasoning with one another and digging deeper into God’s Word for clarity that we will have a much firmer understanding of it.

The question for this breakdown comes from Matthew 24:21, which says,

“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”

The question that is posed after reading this is:

“You say that the wrath of God and the Great Tribulation/Persecution are two distinct events. We then see here from this passage that nothing will ever be as severe as the Great Tribulation. That implies that the wrath of God will be less severe than the Great Tribulation/Persecution. How can that be?”

This question was posed by George W. Zeller, who has served on staff at The Middletown Bible church, in Connecticut. His question was presented in an article he wrote in response to Marvin Rosenthal’s book, “The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church”. There is a lot of overlap between Rosenthal’s eschatology and the eschatology I have presented here. Some of that overlap includes the matter Zeller presents here. It is a good question that is entirely fair to bring up. And I intend to answer it very plainly.

How can the Wrath of God be less severe than the Great Tribulation? It’s not as piercing a question as one may think. It’s because God doesn’t do anything without intention. If his intention was to completely wipe out everyone, then he would. But all the wicked will not be wiped out during the wrath of God. God’s intention isn’t to be utterly and completely brutal. His intention is wrath, but even in his wrath, mercy is shown. On the contrary, what is the antichrist’s intention? What has Satan’s intention throughout the Bible always been? To completely and utterly wipe out God’s people. His intention and God’s intention are not the same. The antichrist’s intention is to “make war with the saints”.

Here is the difference between my view and Rosenthal’s view. I believe that in Daniel, the Bible lays out 75 days in which the great tribulation will endure. (See my post, “Daniel’s 70th Week”) In 75 days, the antichrist will rampantly kill as many believers in Christ as possible, having full dominion over the world powers. One Fourth of the population will be wiped out in 75 days. (Revelation 6:8) THAT is an extremely intense and severe period of persecution. In that short a time frame, it will be the most brutal time this world has ever seen, nor will it ever see again. George Zeller’s critique of this point turns Satan’s wrath and God’s wrath into a competition of power. Therefore, with the pre-wrath position affirming that the Great tribulation is Satan’s wrath, he concludes that it paints God as less powerful or capable of enacting his wrath. This criticism misses the mark. This is not a competition of competence or ability to perform violent acts against man. It’s a simple matter of intention. If God’s intention was to slaughter all, he would. It would be instantaneous extinction. It would be no competition. I doubt God’s pride is hurt because Satan killed more during his wrath than God. Doesn’t that sound silly to even say? God doesn’t joyously unleashes his wrath and think, “I gotta make sure I kill more than Satan did to one-up him”. God’s wrath is a sorrowful necessity. All God would need to do is speak a single word and all creation would be utterly destroyed if he really wanted to. His wrath is not the climactic demonstration of his ultimate power. That is reserved for the final judgement, where he demonstrates his absolute authority over life and death finally. God has a plan and a purpose for unleashing His wrath upon the earth. He has intention.

God’s intention for the pouring out of His wrath is not just punishment of the wicked. It is also to draw out the final remnant unto himself. As we discussed in my last post, “Will all Israel be Saved?”, we addressed this topic. There are 144,000 Jews sealed in God’s foreknowledge of their belief in him. The nation of Israel has rejected Christ as the Messiah and are still waiting for the coming of their militaristic messiah. Many will fall under the deception of the antichrist and accept him as the messiah they always wanted because he “fits the bill”. But when Christ appears in the sky, bold and bright, the stars fall from heaven, a mighty earthquake shakes the earth, and the moon turns blood red, and millions of Christians are caught up to be with him, there is rightfully going to be questions within Jewish circles. “Were we wrong? Are we missing something?” Prophecy is unfolding before their eyes. In half an hour of this significant event, hail and fire will fall from heaven and the wrath of God will commence. This is the beginning of the Jewish awakening. 144,000 Jews during this time will give their life to the Lord. They will recognize the work of God and acknowledge Christ as Lord and savior. God will demonstrate an enormous amount of self-control even in his righteous anger. God will be intentional not to harm the 144,000 Jews proclaiming His name during the pouring out of His wrath.

Not much else is really needing to be said. Zeller’s challenge confuses God’s intentions for his wrath. The Great Tribulation is Satan’s wrath against the faithful, where his intention is complete annihilation. God’s intention for His wrath against the wicked world is controlled discipline so that not only will the wicked be punished, but His remaining elect will come to know Jesus as Lord. If you really want to see a competition of God’s power vs Satan’s power, then look to the Great White Throne Judgement. Satan is powerlessly thrown into the lake of fire for all eternity by an unshakable God who has power over all life and death itself. Some people try so hard to prove something wrong that they miss the obvious truth and fail to use simple reasoning. This is not confusing. This is order, intention, and controlled power.

I pray that if you too had this question, that you found this post to be encouraging, insightful and challenging. God bless.

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