REASONS WHY THE CHURCH WILL NOT GO THROUGH THE GREAT TRIBULATION
At the outset, we should note the difference between tribulation, through which all believers pass, John 16:33; Romans 5:3; 12:12, Revelation 1:9, and “the great tribulation”, or literally, “the tribulation, the great one”, Revelation 7:14. This period is described by the Lord Jesus as a time of tribulation “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be”, Matthew 24:21. Jeremiah also spoke of it in these terms, “Alas for that day is great, so that none is like it: It is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it”, Jeremiah 30:7.
The timing of the great tribulation is during the second half of the seven-year period spoken of in the revelation given to Daniel by the angel Gabriel, Daniel 9:24-27.
1. In Ephesians 3 the apostle declares that the Church is a mystery hid in God; not even hid in God’s word. The apostle was chosen to have this mystery revealed to him. In former ages this truth was not made known to the sons of men, so when the prophets spoke of the day of the Lord and of those who would pass through it, they were not referring to the church. Nor does this present period feature in Daniel’s 70 weeks, Daniel 9, which includes the great tribulation, for that period has to do with matters relating to Daniel’s city (Jerusalem), and Daniel’s people, (Israel), as is made clear by Gabriel in verse 24, “seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city”.
2. There is a unique oneness about the church which is Christ’s body. The very idea of the church being a body forbids that part of it may go through a period of tribulation, and part not. Furthermore, as Head of the body, Christ is affected by that which affects the body, Acts 9:4, so can He experience the wrath of the great tribulation period which He Himself pours out? Also, the majority of the church is already in heaven, so how can “the church” go through the tribulation if most are not on earth, which is where the tribulation is experienced?
3. In Matthew 24, 25, the Lord Jesus gave details to Peter, James, John and Andrew of the conditions that would prevail before, during and after the great tribulation. That they are representative of others is seen by the fact that the Lord spoke to them as if they would pass through the things He was describing. For example, He said to them, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place”, 24:15 But the Lord knew full well that Peter, James and John would be dead for centuries when this would take place. He also told them to pray that their flight from Jerusalem would not be in the winter, nor on the sabbath day, 24:20. Yet the sabbath day is not applicable to Christians. We see from this that they are not therefore representative of the church in this setting, but of the nation of Israel. To flee in a tropical country in the winter would be no hardship, so the reference must be relevant to the land of Israel, as is clear from verse 16, “Let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains”. So the disciples represent the godly remnant of Israel in a day to come.
4. In Colossians 3:6 the apostle reminds us that the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience, which is a description of unbelievers, Ephesians 2:2. The climax to that visitation of wrath is the appearing of Christ. Yet when He comes, Colossians 3:4 says church believers shall come with Him. If some church believers are on earth during the wrath-period, how can they come with Him? And as for those who do come with Him, how is that they come forth out of heaven, if they have not previously been raptured to heaven?
5. Having described the coming of the Lord for His people in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the apostle draws a contrast in chapter 5 by saying that they knew perfectly about the times and seasons, whereas they were ignorant about the rapture, 4:13. He goes on to speak of the Day of the Lord which commences with the judgements of God in the last 7 years of Daniel’s prophetic period of 490 years, and continues until the Great White Throne judgement at the end of the Millennium. That day will come as a thief in the night, but he assures the believers that they are not of the night. “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by Our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake (are watchful) or sleep (are not watchful), we should live together with Him”, 1 Thessalonians 5:9,10.
6. Certain promises are made to overcomers in Revelation 2 and 3. These overcomers are “ordinary” believers, that is, they are not a spiritually elite class. This is shown by the fact that in Revelation 2:11 the promise to the overcomer is that he will not be hurt by the second death, but since this is true of all believers, all believers are overcomers. So the contrast is not between overcoming believers and non-overcoming believers, but between believers who overcome, and thereby show they are believers, and those who do not overcome and thereby show they are not believers.
A further promise to the overcomer is found in Revelation 3:10- “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth”. So since an overcomer is a true believer, then the promise to him, whenever he lives, that he will be kept from the hour of tribulation. The conversation, or citizenship of believers is in heaven, Philippians 3:20, so we are not “those that dwell on the earth”, or “earth-dwellers”.