Bible Answer

Does the Rapture occur “pre-wrath?”

I have been taught that the Rapture of the Church occurs in the middle of Tribulation before the wrath of God is poured out in the Bowl Judgments. Isn't Paul talking about these judgments when he teaches in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 that the believer is not appointed to "wrath”?

The timing of the rapture (or resurrection) of the church is a hotly debated question, yet one that can be easily resolved from scripture. The source of our confusion is taking verses and words of the Bible out of context while ignoring the whole counsel of scripture.

To ensure you have the proper context of scripture on the question of the rapture, we highly recommend you read our articles: Explaining the Rapture, Which Trumpet Announces the Rapture, and Will the Rapture Occur on Rosh Hashanah. We also recommend you listen to our entire Revelation course, which will provide the complete context and explanation for this question and many more issues associated with end times events.

Meanwhile, the wrath Paul is talking about in 1Thessalonians is not a specific reference to the Bowl Judgments. Rather, Paul is talking about the wrath of all Tribulation. In 1Thess 5 Paul is comforting the church that they did not miss the resurrection, as some false teachers had been claiming. Though the church was suffering great persecution at the hands of the Jews and Romans, nevertheless their experience was not the Tribulation as some feared.

1Thess. 5:9  For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 
1Thess. 5:10  who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. 
1Thess. 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. 

Paul says that the Church is not appointed to experience God's wrath. He meant that the Church need not fear they had missed the resurrection and were, therefore, experiencing the Tribulation. Paul had taught the Church earlier that the Rapture must precede the Tribulation, yet other false teachers had convinced them that they were presently enduring the Tribulation. Therefore, the church was concerned that the arrival of Tribulation meant they had missed the resurrection.

Paul responds by reassuring the Church that they are not appointed or destined to wrath, meaning the wrath of Tribulation. Therefore, they could be comforted knowing that their resurrection was still to happen. 

The key to interpreting this passage properly is in understanding that the entire seven years of Tribulation is considered the "wrath of God." The Bowl Judgments are just the final and greatest outpouring of wrath during those seven years, but the wrath of God is evident in all the judgments of Tribulation, as Revelation teaches us:

Rev. 15:1  Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last because in them the wrath of God is finished. 

Notice, the Bowl Judgments are called "the last" because they "finish" the wrath of God in Tribulation. They are not the entirety of God's wrath. They are the finishing of God's wrath. Similarly, we find even the first judgments of Tribulation, the Seal Judgments, called judgments of wrath in Revelation:

Rev. 6:17  for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” 

After the sixth Seal Judgment, the people of earth declare that the great day of "wrath" has come upon them. Clearly, God's wrath comes to earth long before the Bowl Judgments appear. The Bowl Judgments are just the final outpouring of His wrath. 

So, if Paul says the Church is not destined (or appointed) to experience wrath at all, then this means we cannot experience any of the judgments of Tribulation. That's why Paul teaches that the coming of the Lord for the Church (i.e., the Rapture) rescues us from this coming wrath:

1Th. 1:10  and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. 

This Is one of many places we find the scriptures teaching that the Church has nothing to fear regarding the Tribulation. It is not appointed for the Church, since it is appointed for entirely different reasons. If you wish to know why Tribulation comes upon the earth (and who it is intended for), please read our article Why Tribulation?