From Jehovah's Witness to Prewrath Christian
It is so encouraging to see the pre-wrath teaching growing. For years, I struggled with the pre-trib position. My struggle was due to being forced into a minority view among pre-tribbers, then being forced to admit that even my minority view was based on a false idea.
You see, I once was a Jehovah's Witness and believed I had “the truth.” One day, I was sitting in the living room of another Jehovah's Witness and he said, “Of course, the Bible isn't really for us, you know. It's really for the remnant.” He meant the remainder of the 144,000 “anointed” class of Jehovah's Witnesses who alone have the heavenly hope-the Bible isn't really for us, “the great crowd.
I hadn't thought of that up until that time, but it really disturbed me. He even repeated the same statement a few weeks later, so there was no misunderstanding! Although I didn't know it at the time, this taught me a lesson I have never forgotten.
Satan will try any method to take the scriptures from us. I became a Christian in 1985, resigning from the Watchtower Society, and became very prophecy minded. Soon, I got steeped in, yes-you guessed it-the pre-trib rapture teaching. Wow! This is great! I thought. The scriptures all come together (or so I thought). I committed the Sermon on the Mount to memory and seized on the verses in Matthew 24 and 25 (i.e., 24:36,40,42 and 25:13) and I assumed these taught imminence.
But because the contexts speak of signs plus the 1260 days from Revelation, I knew the day of Christ's return would be known, so I took the “double application” line. Sadly, this placed me in a minority position among pre-tribbers, but what really troubled me was the fact that nearly everyone I spoke to on this, as well as the books I read by leading authors like Walvoord, LaHaye, Pentecost, and so on, all explained away my “imminence” passages! If any verses teach imminence, these passages do, but the strongest verses were explained away by pre-tribbers themselves!. Also, being told that Matthew 24-25 is “not for us” was just like being back in the Watchtower Society! It's the same demon wearing a different suit!
Once I grasped the truth that my 'imminence' passages perfectly fit the pre-wrath position-i.e., we don't know the day or hour, but the signs give us the time frame-all my problems vanished because those passages also rule out the mid- and post-trib positions.
When Jesus was asked the signs of His coming, he said this very first thing. He said, “Take heed that no man deceive you . . . “ (verse 4). Now if anyone comes along and says, “This isn't for us,” if language has any meaning, it must be blatantly obvious that this teacher is a deceiver-maybe unintentionally, but nevertheless a deceiver!
If a man said he was a Buddhist but the teachings of Buddha didn't apply to him, I'd think, How can he call himself a Buddhist then? Yet people call themselves Christians but don't believe the teachings of Christ apply to them!
Witnessing to Jehovah's Witnesses: Giving Insight Into Matthew 24
My husband and I have both been blessed with the opportunity to develop friendships with Jehovah's Witnesses, so the letter from the former Jehovah's Witness reader was particularly timely. As we have dug into the scriptures (and the Watchtower Society's "translation, in particular, I had an opportunity to gain some unexpected insight into Matthew 24.
One of the foundational scriptures for the prewrath view is Matthew 24:30-31, in which Jesus says, "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other" (NIV).
Prewrathers tend to focus on the events described in this verse, especially as they relate to Revelation 6:12-13, the sixth seal. However, after dialoging in depth with my Jehovah's Witness friend, what jumped out at me was not the events described here, but the larger claim.
Throughout scripture, there is a special relationship between God and the clouds, especially as it pertains to His coming in judgment (for a terrific analysis of this subject, see Charles Cooper's God's Elect and the Great Tribulation.) There are a number of descriptions of God's coming in judgment upon the ancient nations, as classically seen in Isaiah 19:1 and Daniel 7:13:
- An oracle concerning Egypt:
- See, the LORD rides on a swift cloud
- and is coming to Egypt.
- The idols of Egypt tremble before him,
- and the hearts of the Egyptians melt within them
- In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.
Likewise, in Matthew 24:30-31, Jesus associates Himself as the one who comes on the clouds of heaven-establishing His divinity. Critically for Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus associates himself, not just with the divine Messiah of Daniel 7, but also with with One God - the one the Witnesses call "Jehovah" - in Isaiah 19:1 and similar passages.
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