I find it indefensible, the claim that the Church, and Christians of course, will enter the Tribulation. Why do I find it indefensible? If you think Christians must enter into the Tribulation, even half of it, please read this.
To start with, this position is not held by those who hold to Preterism, which is the belief that there is no separate Rapture or a Tribulation or a Millennial reign. They see Revelation as fantasy or history in allegory. These people are very greatly misled, and I am not being arrogant in this, for it is not just Revelation they discard but much of the Old Testament prophecy, including huge sections of the Major Prophets. They do this mistakenly through the belief of Replacement Theology or supersessionism – a complete denial of Israel’s future.
Preterism is a belief of the Roman Catholic church that pays scant regard to the scriptures in any case. The Roman Catholic position was continued by the Reformers, who held onto a number of Catholic practices and did not examine them properly in the light of the Bible. Just a few of the deviations from scripture the Reformers adhered to were the wearing of vestments and infant “baptism” instead of Christian baptism by immersion practiced by the early church.
Let us pass on from Preterism to look at those who do believe the Old Testament prophets are relevant and hold to Revelation as literal (in the varying degrees of literalism some adopt). Most of those holding that position believe in a separate Rapture and Tribulation. Eschatology is not a strong point in many churches these days, and even the great stalwarts of the past, such as the Southern Baptists, are giving ground, moving away from the traditional belief in prophecy.
It is not my purpose to give a full explanation of Pre-Millennialism, Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation, or Post-Tribulation Rapture. The purpose of this article is to prove from scripture that there is only one position that is credible and sustainable. That position is that the Church CANNOT and DOES NOT enter the Tribulation on earth.
Just before I leave that last paragraph, there is a ridiculous position held by some who try to compromise a Rapture into their Preterism. Preterism has everything ending at the Second Coming. Period! Full stop! They say at the Second Coming, the Lord “raptures” His Church, drawing it up to Himself as He is descending to earth, and the Church descends with Him. What is the purpose of that? It is utterly meaningless, but such are the lengths of those who dismiss a separate Rapture into heaven.
Just before I attempt to give the proof for a pre-Tribulation Rapture, I need to give an explanation. I am finding more and more, in churches I know of and people tell me, that the belief and teaching that the Church will be in the Tribulation is quite common in the Pentecostal movement. As the Charismatic/Pentecostal churches are growing more in numbers, so is the misunderstanding of the Rapture and Tribulation. In my city, some of these from Pentecostal churches are entering more traditional churches and bringing this confusion with them. It is a problem.
That is what sparked my interest in writing this article so I can have at my fingertips the evidence I need to refute this error. Confusion is the way I would describe the belief system of Pentecostal eschatology. HOWEVER, let us be very clear here. It is not at all confined to the charismatic churches and is widespread in churches that used to be sound. Let us see if we can make sense of this.
LISTING THE BIBLICAL EVIDENCE FOR THE CHURCH NOT BEING IN THE TRIBULATION
. PENALTY ALL PASSED, OR PENALTY REMAINING?
I want to place a scene before you. A woman is in court having misappropriated 50,000 dollars. She was found guilty, for the evidence was as clear as day, and the judge ordered her to repay the money within one week, or she would face a jail sentence. That was the irrefutable verdict.
Just before the judge dismissed the case, a man stepped to the front of the court and addressed the judge. In his address, he mentioned he had the ability and the motivation to pay this woman’s fine to release her from the penalty. He himself would meet the penalty to free the woman from the judgment against her.
The judge agreed and then said, “The outstanding money will be paid by this man who stands before me to clear the debt owing, but I also determine the woman needs to pay 50,000 dollars herself because she did the crime, and crime must have a penalty.”
Well, you can imagine what a scene that made in court. There were cries of “Unfair” and “Unjust,” among others. People could not understand why this woman would have to be penalized when the man who stepped in paid her penalty in full.
What this illustration does is highlight three people – the woman, the benefactor, and the judge. Let us look at them now in the spiritual sense.
The woman represents the sinner, that is, all of us who are guilty and have a penalty against us. The penalty is death, for the soul that sins must surely die. That penalty is so huge that we can not even begin to unravel it. We are, therefore, condemned without any hope. “Guilty, vile and helpless we.”
The benefactor represents Christ, who took our debt and paid it Himself. The Bible says a lot about substitution when Christ took all our sins and made them His own and met the penalty in full. He who knew no sin. When we had no one to help us in our condemnation, Christ died for the ungodly. He paid the whole debt.
How much of the penalty for sin still belongs to us if Christ paid it on the cross? How much? Not one bit, for on the cross, Jesus went through the wrath of God against our sin and paid the penalty so that not one inkling of it exists for us. Do you understand that? Are you fully redeemed or partially redeemed? You either are or you are not.
For those who have received Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour, you are clean every bit, and there is no wrath or penalty hanging over your head. Do you understand that? In the illustration we had in the court, the judge accepted the payment of the penalty but then turned around to make the woman pay the penalty that had already been satisfied. What justice is that?
What we just had is the strongest case for a Christian not going through the Tribulation. The time of God’s wrath against sin in the Tribulation is wrath against a sinful, unrepentant world. God is judging the world for sin, sin it has stored up for millennia.
What does the cross mean? Surely, it is God’s wrath against sin, but it fell on Jesus Christ instead of falling on you. He took your place. He paid the penalty fully. He endured the wrath for you that you might never undergo the wrath of God.
If you had a den of iniquity in your city where the grossest things were committed along with murders, and God judged that place and wiped it away, you would say that was fair. But if God said, I am going to judge that place of iniquity and sin, but everyone in the city will be judged as well,” then you would protest unfairness.
Those who say the Church has to enter the tribulation are saying that the Christian has to endure the wrath of God, when Christ already did that for us so that we might never fall under the wrath of God. It is unacceptable to say Christians have to be in the Tribulation BECAUSE it lessens and dishonors the work of Christ on the cross. He delivered us from wrath, from the coming wrath, so why do you who believe the error say we have to go through God’s wrath?
Some of that great error that says that Christians will endure the wrath of God, even though they are saved, goes back to the Roman church again, with its teaching on purgatory that says we have to suffer for our sins to become acceptable to God. It is a curse on the suffering of Christ on the cross for us. Disgraceful! THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION FOR THOSE IN Christ Jesus. There is no more wrath. Christ endured the very last drop of wrath for the converted man and woman. Why do those with false teaching want to put believers into condemnation again when we have been delivered from that?
. REMOVED FROM JUDGMENT AND KEPT SECURE
Noah is the prime example here (Lot being a lesser one). Judgment was to fall on the pre-diluvium world, but before it came, God removed His righteousness ones from the earth. The wrath of God came on a sinful, satanic world that had rejected God and resorted to the worst possible sexuality and violence. Judgment was inevitable. The situation in Noah’s time is not unlike the way our world is going.
God commanded Noah to build an ark, and that was to become his refuge. Christ is our Ark (Hebrews and the Tabernacle teaching), and He is our Refuge. Noah was lifted up from the earth on the waters while the wrath of God raged underneath in the flood. Christians will be lifted up with Christ to heaven while the wrath of the Tribulation rages underneath. The Church will be sheltered in the “Ark” in heaven as the Bride of the Bridegroom. Jesus Christ is our Ark.
After the flood, Noah returned to the earth to a new age. After the Tribulation, the Church returns to earth with the Lord to a new age, that of the Millennium. Noah was removed out of judgment, and the Church will be removed out of judgment also. The angels delivered Lot and his family out of Sodom before the judgment of God came. That judgment was to be on the unrighteous, so God removed His own before His wrath destroyed the cities of the plain.
It is clear that God in wrath will never put His children, or His own, through that wrath. They are taken out of the way first. God will not put His Church through the Tribulation.
Just a note to those who say the Church goes through the first half of the Tribulation. The supposition here is that the first half is mild before the real terror stuff comes in the second half. That is extremely false reasoning. The Tribulation begins with the four riders on the horses where more than a third of the population will perish. There will be wars and famine and diseases and all sorts of pestilences, including the animals of the earth turning against mankind. The four horsemen are the first 4 seals of the seal judgments.
This is the sixth seal – Revelation 6:12-14 “I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.”
This is the result of what happens after that, and note, the Tribulation is in the early stages – Revelation 6:15-17 “The kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, AND FROM THE WRATH OF THE LAMB; for THE GREAT DAY OF THEIR WRATH HAS COME, and who is able to stand?”
There is nothing mild or easy about the first half of the Tribulation. The mid-Tribulation view is just as false as the Church passing through the whole of the Tribulation. God will not allow it.
. THE FIRST SCRIPTURAL REFERENCE – CHRIST THE DELIVERER FROM WRATH
(a). We will consider some New Testament references proving the Church does not pass through the Tribulation. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 “They themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is, JESUS WHO DELIVERS US FROM THE WRATH TO COME.”
The context makes it clear that what Paul is talking about is the Tribulation. The two books of Thessalonians have this prophetic theme. The wrath that is coming is the wrath of God that arrives with Revelation 6:17. It can have no other application. The Greek is clear. It is THE wrath that is to come. Paul is teaching that Christians will have no part in the wrath of God that is coming on the earth. Why is that? It is because there is no wrath against Christians, for Jesus Christ took all the wrath for us. Go back to the illustration earlier of the court scene.
(b). Consider this verse also – 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 “GOD HAS NOT DESTINED US FOR WRATH, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.”
What could be clearer here? WE ARE NOT DESTINED TO WRATH; not appointed to wrath; not delivered to wrath. We will NOT be delivered to the Tribulation, for that is the wrath of God and of the Lamb.
We are not designated to wrath BUT to obtain salvation. Our salvation is complete when we are translated into the presence of our Saviour. The Church obtains the ending of its salvation when taken from the world, while the remaining population is destined to wrath, the wrath of the Tribulation. It is dishonoring to say that God has destined His Church to pass into the wrath of God. How can you have that belief, you who say the Church goes into the Tribulation? Consider the evidence against that position fairly.
. THE SECOND SCRIPTURAL REFERENCE – THE PLIGHT OF THE DYING BELIEVERS
Let us be very clear about this next one. In the three weeks Paul spent among the converted pagans at Thessalonica, he taught them all about the prophetic events that were coming. That would have included the unfulfilled prophecies of the Old Testament. It is actually an amazing thing, for prophetic events were not neglected when teaching the Thessalonian Christians all about the Christian life. We are going to take that up in part 3. Some churches today tell their people nothing about the prophetic scriptures. They ought to be ashamed. Some say the scriptures are not relevant. They ought to be ashamed. Some say the New Testament is relevant now and not the Old Testament. They ought to be ashamed.
Anyway, it was obvious from the following scripture that Paul taught them about the Rapture, that it was going to happen (at first they thought in their lifetimes), but alas, some of the Thessalonian Christians were dying. The consternation the living believers had was that those who had died had missed out on the Rapture. Read what Paul says:
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 “We do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, ABOUT THOSE WHO ARE ASLEEP, THAT YOU MAY NOT GRIEVE, as do the rest who have no hope. If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, EVEN SO GOD WILL BRING WITH HIM THOSE WHO HAVE FALLEN ASLEEP IN JESUS.”
Yes, they thought those who had died (fallen asleep is the term) had missed out on the Rapture, and their hope had gone. Relatives were grieving. Paul assured them that when the Lord returns, He will bring the dead believers with Him. That would have been a great comfort to them.
When a Christian dies, his body goes into the ground, but the living person/spirit goes immediately to be with the Lord. Hence, in the Rapture, the Lord brings those people back with Him, and in an instant, their bodies are raised, and the living are caught up from the earth, and all are together.
It is at this point that Paul sets out the most glorious Rapture passage in the New Testament that starts this way – 1Thessalonians 4:15-16 “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep, for the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. . . . etc”
Clearly, the believers at Thessalonica were looking forward to the Rapture, NOT the Tribulation, because they knew the Church has no part in the Tribulation whatsoever. They just thought their loved ones had missed out because they died. The Thessalonians correctly were looking forward to the Rapture, NOT the Tribulation, because Christians have no part in the Tribulation.
There are three parts to this, and they will follow.
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