What does it mean to say that we are not appointed unto wrath? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
One of the most common verses I saw pre-tribbers use in my quest was 1 Thess. 5:9. We are not appointed unto wrath.
“For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Well, that seems to settle it. After all, the letter has just talked about the rapture and what is the rapture doing? It’s delivering us from Earth before the Great Tribulation. We are obviously not meant to go through the Great Tribulation, which is the wrath of God, and therefore we will be raptured.
It does indeed fit, but it makes so many assumptions. For instance, why should I automatically equate wrath with the Great Tribulation? Tribulation is a general word that refers to suffering. It assumes that what is described in the Olivet Discourse must be a distant future event and then that that equates with the Great Tribulation In Revelation 7 and then Paul is referring to this as if everyone would know this.
However, God’s wrath is also spoken of as a present reality. In Romans 1:18, Paul speaks of wrath coming on the enemies of God. That wrath has now been revealed he argues. This isn’t the only place he treats it as a present reality. There’s also another letter he does this.
1 Thessalonians itself.
Let’s look at chapter 2.
14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews 15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone 16 in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.
Here we have something that fits in very well with judgment on the Jews specifically of the time which would have a culminating effect in the War of the Jews and the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. That doesn’t rule out a future event, but it does fit in well still with the traditional Preterist interpretation.
What does this mean then for 5:9? The contrast is made with that and salvation. This leads me to conclude that ultimately, it really means we don’t have to go through judgment. I can’t say Paul is arguing against a pre-trib interpretation here since I hold that it didn’t exist.
If a pre-tribber wants to treat this as a veres that seals the deal they need to establish all the links in the chain that has been set up. That will prove to be very difficult to do. With that not having happened, then there is no sure way to conclude that Paul has an interpretation in mind that fits in with the pre-trib position and as I go through this series, I hope to show more problems with that and why a Preterist interpretation of the New Testament is more likely.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)