This article will deal with one of the most common questions that is discussed in regard to Biblical Prophecy. Will the church go through the Tribulation? I want to answer that question by looking at numerous scriptures and I believe we can answer that question without a doubt.
In order to answer the question, “Will the church go through the Tribulation?” we must understand the biblical concept of Rapture.
According to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 there is coming a moment when millions of Christians are going to be “raptured” or “caught up” to be with Christ in the air. Determining when this event happens according to biblical prophecy will assist us in our search for Biblical truth.
There are Four Views of the Rapture
The Pre-Tribulation view draws many scriptural concepts together to show that the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation. Perhaps the most pertinent scripture (we will discuss many others in this article) is found in Revelation 3:10 “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.”
This view is not held by very many but I want to mention it here. It states that Christ will only rapture those who “look for him.” This view is based solely on Hebrews 9:28 “so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” This causes some of the Christians to go through at least part of the Tribulation period. This view has very little biblical support.
This view states that Christ raptures his church in the middle of the Tribulation along with the rapture of the two witnesses. Revelation 11:12 “Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.” The problem with this view is that the two witnesses are Jews and not members of the church. It also allows Christians to receive at least partially the wrath of God. And those with this view skip over the fact that John (a member of the church) is seen in Revelation 4:1-2 as being caught up to heaven as a “type” of rapture.
- The Post-Tribulation View
This view states that Christ will come at the end of the Tribulation, just before the Second Coming of Christ to the earth. There are many problems with this view. The biggest problem being that it denies Revelation 3:10 and thus Christ would not fulfill his promise. It allows Christians to suffer God’s wrath denying 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10.
Now that we have explained the four views of the Rapture, I want to answer the question, “Will the church go through the Tribulation?” I want to prove to you that the correct view is that the rapture will take place before the Tribulation.
There are several Biblical Reasons:
- BECAUSE REVELATION 4:1-2 DESCRIBE JOHN AS A “TYPE” OF THE CHURCH BEING RAPTURED.
Everything in the book of Revelation is significant. As you study the book of Revelation, and we see the book of Revelation as predictive of the future, then this event in Revelation 4:1-2 is significant because it describes an event that has a remarkable similitude to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.
Revelation 4:1-3 “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this. At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.”
John is on earth, and he hears a voice like a trumpet saying, “Come up here” and immediately he is in heaven. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4 that at the Rapture the Lord will descend from heaven with a shout, and the trumpet call of God, and immediately Christians around the world will be caught up to be with the Lord forever. The resemblance is remarkable.
Consider these other three facts that are brought out by Tim LaHaye in his book Revelation Unveiled.
- The location of this event is right for the rapture.
Revelation chapters 1-3 have described the seven church ages. Revelation 4-5 give us a description of what is happening in heaven and Revelation chapter 6 introduces the Tribulation period. This interpretation completely fulfills Revelation 3:10 an Jesus promise that says “I will also keep you from the hour of trial…” It is completely logical and Biblical to see John as a “member of the church” being used to symbolically show the removal of the church at this point.
- The absence of any mention of the church in the rest of Revelation.
There are 16 references to the church in Revelation 1-3. And amazingly there are zero references to the church in Revelation 6-18 that describe the Tribulation. So where is the church? The church is caught up with Christ.
- The extensive use of Old Testament language and symbols in Revelation 4-18 is indicative of Israel not the church.
The church age is known as the “times of the gentiles.” The church age has largely been about the conversion of the gentiles. Luke 21:24 “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
Whereas the Tribulation is known as “the time of Jacobs Trouble” and “Daniels 70th week” as seen in Jeremiah 30:7 and Daniel 9 respectively. Some of these Old Testament symbols are: the tabernacle, ark of the covenant, the altar, elders, censers, cherubim, seals, trumpets and plagues.
Most prophecy scholars are reluctant to say that Revelation 4:1-2 alone teaches a Pre-Tribulation rapture. But it is as you consider all of these thoughts together that this inference can be made.
Will the church go through the Tribulation? I believe scripture teaches we will not.
- THE LORD HIMSELF PROMISED TO DELIVER US.
Revelation 3:10 “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.”
There has never been as of yet “an hour of trial” that comes upon the whole world. It is an obvious reference to the Tribulation Period. This verse is strong evidence that the letters to the seven churches are not only letters to real churches at that time, and to types of such churches throughout the ages, but that it also can be viewed as seven church ages. It is during the Tribulation period that those who live on the earth will be tested. That test is whether they will believe in Christ or take the mark of the beast.
- ONLY THE PRE-TRIBULATION VIEW PRESERVES THE DOCTRINE THAT HIS COMING IS IMMINENT
Imminent is the word that describes that Christ could come at any minute. That is why scripture has so many admonitions to watch, be ready, and look for Him to come at any moment. Consider for example Luke 12:40 “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” By the way, there are many such scriptures that speak to the fact that His coming is imminent.
How could His coming be imminent if it is mid-tribulation or post-tribulation? This is the teaching that Christ wanted for his church because it keeps the church on fire and serving Him. A correct view of Biblical prophecy is that there are many signs that point to the nearness of the Tribulation. However, Christ could return in the Rapture at any moment.
- THE CHURCH IS TO BE DELIVERED FROM THE WRATH TO COME
1 Thessalonians 1:10 “and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead —Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” The book of Revelation clearly portrays the Tribulation as the wrath of God being poured out upon the earth. Why would God pour his wrath out upon the church when he clearly states that he will rescue us form the coming wrath. Revelation 6:17 “For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” Those who have been truly born again will not have to face the wrath of God.
At this point we must also make a distinction between the church, those who come to Christ before the Rapture and are caught away to be with the Lord, and those who will accept Christ after the Rapture during the Tribulation.
The good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ satisfied the wrath of God when he took our punishment on the cross. To teach that the church will have to suffer God’s wrath by going through the Tribulation denies this fundamental aspect of God’s love and a basic premise of salvation.
1 Thessalonians 5:9 “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This passage has even a stronger message when you consider that it follows the strong rapture passage in the previous chapter. So you can see that context confirms this meaning.
5. HOW ELSE WOULD THE RAPTURE BE A COMFORT TO THE CHURCH?
When Paul tells us that the church will be caught away, he ends that explanatory passage with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:18 “Therefore encourage each other with these words.” It is not very encouraging to think that believers will have to go through incredible times of suffering, the worst seven years ever to come upon the face of the earth and finally if you make it through all of that, you will be raptured. No! Those who are truly saved will go in the Rapture. When we look at it through that lens we are truly comforted.
- GOD’S WAY HAS BEEN TO RESCUE THE RIGHTEOUS
It is interesting that the Jesus uses Noah and Lot in referring to His Return. God’s way has always been to rescue the righteous. This is not to say that Christians will not suffer the ravages of war, persecution, imprisonment and perhaps even attempted genocide. I am in no way saying that the righteous never suffer.
I am saying that when Jesus referred to the coming of the Son of Man, he used biblical situations where the righteous were delivered supernaturally.
Matthew 24:37-39 “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”
The point is that God supernaturally spoke to Noah, had him prepare the ark and Noah and his family were spared. The ark speaks of safety and salvation. At the coming of the Son of Man those who have entered the “ark” by accepting Christ will be rescued as was Noah.
The same can be said for Lot in Luke 17:28 “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29 But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.”
It destroyed all but those who believed the report of the angels and fled the city. Lot believed what the angels said and obeyed. As we believe and obey the gospel, we too will be supernaturally delivered from the wrath of God in the Tribulation.
Will the church go through the Tribulation? I think I have shown that they will not but will instead be raptured. However, the question we have looked at today is not the most important question. The most important question is whether you have been born again, by believing in Jesus Christ work on the cross, trusting Him to save you and forgive you of your sins. This happens when we ask Christ into our life, making Him our Director and Savior and we turn from our sinful ways in repentance.
The question is not, “Will the church go through the Tribulation?” but “Are you ready for the Rapture?”