This is the second criticism I will be addressing in regard to the pre-wrath eschatology I have presented throughout this end times series. Again, I do not fully align with Marvin Rosenthal’s pre-wrath eschatology, but there is a bit of overlap. So, once again, this challenged is posed by George W Zeller to Rosenthal’s pre-wrath view. The same challenge could be said of my position here.
“The rapture is supposed to be comforting news for the believer because they won’t have to go through severely hard times. That’s why 1 Thessalonians says in regard to the rapture to ‘comfort one another with these words.”
I can’t be very nice about this criticism. This is complete manipulation of the scriptures to say something it very clearly does not. Zeller is lying here. 1 Thessalonians does not say to “comfort one another with these words” that we will not go through severely hard times. If you actually look at the context of 1 Thessalonians, there will be no doubt what the comfort is that Paul is referring to.
Thessalonians 4:13-14 begins this segment. It says,
“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.”
Very clearly, Paul is addressing those who are mourning loved ones that have died. In other words, Paul is saying, “I know you are hurting, and you feel hopeless about your loved ones who have died. But there is hope, unlike those who don’t know Christ!” What is this hope Paul speaks of? That “God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” Paul then goes on to describe the rapture in more detail. There is hope for those who worry about their lost loved ones because Christ will one day return and gather together all those who believe in him; both the dead in Christ and those who are alive and remain. The dead in Christ will be raised to life and we will all be together with Christ. “Comfort each other with these words”.
Does this passage even mention suffering? Does it say “comfort each other because you will avoid tribulation? Is it even about suffering at all? NO! It’s about people who miss their loved ones who have died. Paul is comforting them with the news that they will one day see them again.
Where is the comfort in this passage about avoiding tribulation? Nowhere! I give no respect to Zeller on this point because he is not an honest critic here. Like I said last posts, some people try so hard to prove something wrong that they miss the obvious truth right in front of them. Instead, because they are so prideful, they twist this plain and clear passage and foolishly deceive others and themselves to feel good about themselves as they stand on their shaky pre-trib narrative.
The pre wrath position I have outlined in this series is full of comfort. No amount of tribulation can diminish the hope we have in Christ by his return. Acts 14:22 says,
“We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
By Zeller’s same logic he used to attack pre-wrath eschatology, to remain consistent, this passage would be considered mistaken. What comfort is there in knowing that we must endure many tribulations to enter the kingdom of God?! Romans 5: 3-5 says,
“And not only that, but we rejoice in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Again, according to Zeller’s logic, this passage is absolutely erroneous! Paul must have made a mistake here, right? How could anyone possibly rejoice in tribulation? It’s not comfortable at all! We are not supposed to go through that! Right? What a non-comforting message this is!
Or, here’s a better idea more rooted in scripture: maybe the apostles knew that NOTHING could overshadow the beauty and comfort of Christ’s return for his children. Not even death itself. There is so much comfort in knowing that even death falls short in disconnecting us from Christ. It will not have the last laugh. For those who believe in Christ, death is not final. Romans 8:38-39 says,
“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We will see our loved ones in Christ again. And we will see our savior face to face one day. Nothing can separate us. He will save us from this world that he himself has experienced enough to know that it is hard. But he will come and save us. He will make us new. Because of this fact, I will rejoice in any and all tribulation I may endure on this earth. The antichrist himself could put a knife to my throat and tell me to renounce Jesus Christ and I will only give praise to Christ even more. He could offer to make me his #2 guy in his new world and give me all the desires of my heart if only I worship him. But I will proclaim that Christ is Lord.
We cannot put comfort on a pedestal. This is the same kind of lie prosperity gospel teachers deceive their listeners to, that ultimately leads to people walking away from the faith. When people are told that God offers them health and wealth as long as they love Him, and then they begin to struggle financially or their health severely declines, they will begin to question their faith and question God. “God is a liar! He promised all this, but I haven’t received anything! I’m still struggling with my finances! I’m still struggling with my health”. That same let down will take place when we idolize comfort. “God promises comfort to believers. He promises that you won’t go through a lot of tribulation. Tribulation is bad.” When the really hard things come, those who have no roots will reject Christ. “God promised me comfort. God promised that things wouldn’t get too hard. God is a liar!” That is the end result of this false gospel message. Let me be clear on this. There is NOTHING in the world that can separate us from Christ. There is NOTHING in this world that Christ hasn’t overcome. There is NOTHING in this world that believers in Christ should fear. NOTHING overshadows the glorious hope of Christ’s return!
“Comfort each other with these words”