What is “The Wrath To Come”?
|By: Dr. Renald Showers; ©2004|
|Dr. Showers explains this phrase from 1 Thessalonians 1:10, and examines what Christians need to know about it.|
What is “The Wrath to Come”?
In 1 Thessalonians 1:10 we read, “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” What does the phrase “the wrath to come” mean?
I wish I could show you what the Greek language says here. Let me give you a very literal translation: “the wrath, the coming.” Notice that Paul uses the definite article “the” twice in there. And many Greek scholars pointed out the reason he does that is because he’s referring to a very specific, unique period of intense wrath, that is so unique—because of the intensity of God’s wrath being poured out—that it’s in a class all of its own, totally distinct from any past outpourings of God’s wrath in previous history. It’s going to be—and again, scholars recognize this—an incredibly unparalleled intensity of God’s wrath being poured out upon the earth for a particular period of time.
And most scholars that I’ve researched are of the conviction that he’s referring to that beginning seven-year phase of the future Day of the Lord that will be the unparalleled time of an outpouring of God’s wrath through seal judgments, trumpet judgments, and bowl judgments. Paul is saying here that Jesus, through a mighty act of power (I take it, through the Rapture), will carry out the deliverance that He’s already granted to us and provided for us as Christians from that future Day of the Lord wrath here on planet Earth.
The implication is that the way He will deliver us from that is by removing us from the earth by Rapture before that seven-year phase of God’s wrath of the future Day of the Lord will begin. To me that implies a pre-tribulation Rapture: that the Church will be removed before this period of time of unparalleled wrath of God is poured out upon the face of the earth.
Now, another significant passage which bears on this (that is, the relationship of Church saints to this future time of wrath), is in this same letter: 1 Thessalonians 5:9.
Now, if you were to look at the opening verses in this chapter, you would find that Paul is talking about the future Day of the Lord. Let me just read some of those verses. 1 Thessalonians 5, beginning with verse 1: “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you, for yourselves know perfectly [The Greek says really “accurately”] that The Day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they [Paul is putting “they” in a different category from himself and the believers. He’s referring here to unbelievers.] shall say, Peace and safety [When the unsaved people of the world think they have finally established peace and safety in the world] then sudden destruction comes upon them [In other words, they’re going to get the opposite of what they believe they have], as travail [literally, as the birth pang] upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”
Now, notice the contrast: verse 4, “But you, brethren,…” Notice, he’s been talking about “they,” the unbelievers, sudden destruction is going to come upon them—the Day of the Lord. But by contrast, “you, brethren, are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief.”
In other words, you’re not going to be overtaken by the “thief in the night” phase of the Day of the Lord, which is characterized by darkness. “You’re not going to be caught in that,” he’s saying to the Christians, to church saints. Why won’t they be caught in it? He tells us why in verse 9: “For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Now, what wrath of God? Well, since in this passage, in the context, he’s talking about the future Day of the Lord that’s going to bring sudden destruction upon the unbelievers upon the face of the earth, it seems very obvious by context he’s talking about the future Day of the Lord wrath. And therefore, he’s saying to Church saints, those people who have trusted Christ as Savior since the Church began on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 right up to the present day, he’s saying to Church saints, “God hasn’t appointed you to that Day of the Lord wrath, instead, He’s appointed you to obtain salvation.” And in this context the salvation is deliverance from future Day of the Lord’s wrath.
And then he says that salvation comes to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. He’s provided it for us. How? Verse 10, “who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.” What he’s saying is what’s going to be involved in our salvation: it doesn’t matter whether you’ve already died as a believer or whether you’re going to be alive as a believer in the future, we all—the dead believers and the living believers—are going to live together with Christ.
And then he says, in verse 11, “wherefore, comfort yourselves together and edify one another, even as also you do.” He’s saying, comfort and build each other up with this truth, that you’ve not been appointed to the Day of the Lord wrath; instead, God has appointed you to be saved from that future Day of the Lord wrath and He’s able to do that because of what Christ did for us when He died on the cross. And instead of our destiny being that Day of the Lord wrath, our destiny as Christians is to live together with the Lord Jesus. And Paul says that should be a comforting truth that will edify or build us up.
Note something intriguing about this: the wording that Paul uses here at the end of verse 10 and verse 11 of 1 Thessalonians 5—“we should live together with Him, wherefore comfort yourselves, edify one another”—are almost parallel to what Paul says at the end of 1 Thessalonians 4, which is the most extensive passage in all the Bible on the Rapture of the Church.
At the end of verse 17 of Chapter 4, after talking about how the dead Christians will be resurrected and then they and the living Christians together will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, he says, “so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:10, our destiny is to live together with the Lord.
Coming back to 4:18, after talking about our being caught up in the Rapture to meet the Lord, so we’ll ever be with Him, he says, “Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.” By parallel, in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, after saying we’re not appointed to the Day of the Lord wrath, instead we’re appointed to be saved from that through Christ so that we can live together with Him he says, “Wherefore, comfort yourselves together.”
Very parallel. And many scholars that I researched on this said this language is parallel to 1 Thessalonians 4, which is dealing with the Rapture of the Church.
So the whole implication seems to be that the way in which we will be saved or delivered from the future Day of the Lord wrath is by the Lord Jesus coming out of Heaven before this seven-year period of God’s wrath or the future Day of the Lord will begin. The Lord will come from Heaven. He will, by Rapture, remove the Church saints from the face of the earth for the purpose that we can be together with Him, which, by the way, is parallel with John 14 where Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself,” and here’s the purpose of this coming to receive us, “so that where I am there you may be also.” Again, the idea is, “so you can live together with Me.”
All these passages seem to be referring to the same thing: the Rapture of the Church. And so in light of that, I’m convinced Paul is teaching here in 1 Thessalonians 5 that Church saints will not even enter into that future period of the Day of the Lord wrath which will last for seven years here on planet Earth. And the way in which we will not enter into it is by being raptured out of the world by the Lord Jesus before the seven-year Tribulation period begins.