In Part 1 of this study, we saw that there is a unique seven-year period on God’s calendar called “the Tribulation,” and it has specific purposes. Everything God does has a purpose. Nothing is haphazard. We saw in Scripture that the Tribulation will be a time of God’s dealing with His people, Israel, and preparing them for the return of their Messiah and King. It will also be a day of punishment for those in all nations who have rejected His pardon for sin and offer of salvation.
But what about the Church—the Body of Christ—during this period? What will happen with Christians? There is great speculation today about that. I believe the Lord has specifically promised in His Word to keep the Church from the Tribulation.
When we see what it will be like, we understand why. Revelation chapters 6-19 describes it. In chapter 6, as the seals of judgment are opened, we read:
…the kings of the earth and the great men and the rich men of the chief captains and the mighty men and every bond man and every free man hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains and said to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?” Revelation 6:15-17
Notice “the great day of His wrath.” Paul’s first letter to the believers in Thessalonica also refers to it:
…you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
The “great day of His wrath” (the Tribulation) is coming, and what are the saints doing? Waiting for His Son. That’s what we’re to be doing right now, today—waiting for Jesus, “who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
Later in this letter, Paul elaborates:
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. (5:1-4)
The Lord is saying that the day of wrath pertains to the unsaved but not to those who are saved. He continues,
For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. (5:9-11)
God has not appointed us to wrath
Wrath is not what God has in mind for His church. Do you think the Lord wants to pour His vials of wrath out upon His bride, the Church? Oh, indeed it is true that our Lord allows us to go through tribulation. “In this world ye shall have tribulation.” It is true that the Lord allows the devil to torment us and the wicked to persecute us. Because we have our human frames, we suffer sickness and woe. But it is not true that almighty God would pour out His wrath upon His beloved. “God did not appoint us to wrath….therefore comfort each other.” The thought of our Lord rescuing us is a comforting, edifying thought.
A Direct Word to a Church
Remember in Part 1 of this study we looked at the second division of Revelation—the Church Age—in chapters 2 and 3. In Revelation 3:10, God speaks to the New Testament church in Philadelphia:
Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
He says, “You kept My word, and now I'm keeping you from this hour of temptation that's coming on all the earth.”
Some object, “That was written specifically to Philadelphia, and we can’t take that for ourselves…. Can we?”
Yes. Verse 13 answers, “He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” Not simply “what the Spirit says to the church at Philadelphia,” but what the Spirit says to the churches, plural. These messages were to individual churches, but also toall churches throughout the Church Age. The One who has said, “He who has an ear, let Him hear what the Spirit says to the churches,” has also said, “I will keep you from that hour that shall come.”
You will find as you study the Bible that before God brings judgment, He takes His people out. God took Lot out of Sodom before He incinerated that wicked place. God put Noah in the ark before He sent the flood. God took Rahab out of Jericho before that city was destroyed. There is a principle that God takes His own out before He pours out His wrath and judgment because He has not appointed us to wrath. I believe the Lord is going to take His people out.
Moreover, beginning in Revelation chapter 4, the Church—the Body of Christ on earth—is not mentioned! In Revelation 2-3, it’s been “church-this” and “church-that.” When trouble begins, there is no further reference to the Church.
If it is true that the Church goes through the Tribulation, then we would be able to put Jesus’ Second Coming on a calendar. All we we’d have to do is wait until the middle of the Great Tribulation when antichrist appears in the temple claiming to be God, and count down 3½ years—exactly 1,260 days—and Jesus would return.
If I believe Christians are going through the Tribulation, then I cannot be expecting Jesus Christ to come at any moment. This contradicts Jesus’ clear statement recorded by Matthew and Mark:
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only…. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming…. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Matthew 24:36, 42, 44
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is…. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” Mark 13:32-33, 37
Jesus may come at any moment; but those who believe that the Church is going through the Tribulation tell us that the coming of our Lord is not imminent and we are not to be looking for our Lord.
If I'm not looking for my Lord, if I'm not waiting for the Son from heaven, if I'm not looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ, then right now it ceases to be a blessed hope to me. Knowing I’m going through the Tribulation, I would say “the ones who die are the fortunate ones.” I would say, “even so, come coffin.” I would stop looking up. I would start looking around,
A Purifying Hope
But there is a purifying hope when we know that Jesus may come at any moment.
“And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:3
I must live today as though I would give an account to my dear Lord tonight. I’m going to meet Jesus. I may meet him tonight.
And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. 1 John 2:28
Whether we go before the tribulation or through the tribulation we’re going with
Jesus. These are times to be living in the urgency and the emergency of the days. Our Lord said, “Watch, for you know not what hour….”
There are several other complex Scriptures which Dr. Rogers dealt with in this message, but which space prevents us from discussing, especially verses in First Thessalonians that many have questions about. For the entire message, in which Dr. Rogers deals with these issues, please call 1-800-274-5683 and request RA-0486, “Will the Church Go Through the Tribulation?”
What are your thoughts on new age thinking? Is there a choice in pro-choice? Is evolution fact or fiction? Does character matter to you? How has tolerance been affected by society? Pastor Adrian Rogers deals with difficult questions head on in this collection on current issues.