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Four Reasons the Church Won’t Go Through the Tribulation

Four Reasons the Church Won’t Go Through the Tribulation

by Ernest Lockngenu

– The Tribulation refers to the future seven – year period which the Apostle John describes in the book of Revelation 6-9. It is a period during which God will judge both the unbelieving world and His disobedient people, Israel. It will be a time of such trouble that the world has never experienced. Of this time and its trouble the Lord says that such “has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor will ever shall” (Matt. 24.21). In relation to the Church of Christ, there is a question that has been at the center of many debates: Will the Church go through Tribulation? For centuries now, the Church has been looking forward, watching and waiting for this blessed moment referred to as the “rapture”. At that moment, when the “dead in Christ” will rise at the sound of the trumpet and instantly receive glorified bodies while, the believers who are still alive will receive the same type of body and they will all be “caught up together” in the clouds to meet with the Lord in the air and be with Him forever (1 Thessalonians 4.13-17). The Apostles and the Church Fathers have always viewed this event as imminent – that is, they believed it could happen at any moment. And, believers have always been exhorted to constantly wait for this blessed moment. When will this event take place? Is it before, in the middle or after the Tribulation period? Examined from a Biblical viewpoint, it is certain that the pretribulational view concerning the rapture is the strongest for it is the most nonconflicting view in relation to the literal hermeneutic. Four major reasons will here be discussed in support of this position.

  1. The nature and purpose of the Church

Simply defined, the Church is the body of Christ (Eph.4.12). This is the spiritual body made up of all those who have been redeemed by the Lord’s blood, baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit and set apart “to the praise of His glory” (Eph.2.12). In order to further grasp the nature the Church, it is capital to set a clear distinction between the Church and Israel. The clearer the distinction between the Church and Israel, the clearer the distinction in God’s program regarding the two groups.

4The Church came into existence on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and it did not replace Israel nor erase God’s plans or program regarding this nation. God has made precious promises to the Church. But also, He has established with Israel specific eternal and unconditional covenants in the Old Testament that must come to an accomplishment and God has set a specific time during which these promises made to Israel will be fulfilled. According to Scripture, the final fulfillment of these promises will take place during the millennial kingdom during which the Messiah will reign over His people, Israel. The Tribulation period is a determining phase in the preparation for the accomplishment of this promise. It thus makes sense that God will first bring His program with the Church to completion –that is the removal of the Church at rapture- before resuming His program with the nation of Israel. In Romans 11.25-27, Apostle Paul speaks of the spiritual renewal of Israel and the end of her spiritual blindness that will happen when the “fullness of the Gentiles has come in”. These are two distinct programs, with two distinct groups happening at two distinct times.

  1. The Church: not concerned with the wrath of God

The Apostle Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 5.9, reveals that “God has not destined us for wrath”. The “wrath” of God should her be understood as the terrible anguish and tribulation that will befall humanity in a unique way marking the beginning of the Day of the Lord (Matt. 24.21; Jer. 30.7; Dan. 12.1 and Joel 2.2). The book of Revelation chapter 4-5 talks about a scroll sealed with seven seals which only the Lord Jesus Christ has the authority to open. The opening of the scroll marks the beginning of God’s judgment or God’s wrath and of this unique and unprecedented time of wrath, the Bible says the Church will be exempted. 1 Thessalonians 1.9-10 the Apostle Paul urges the believers to wait for the risen Christ who “delivers us from the wrath to come”. Also, in 1 Thessalonians 5.9-10 already mentioned above, Paul emphatically makes it clear that the Church will not experience God’s wrath for we are not destined for it. Believers are not called upon to wait for the wrath of God that will fall upon a Christ rejecting world but, they are called to pray and look forward for the coming of the Lord Himself who will deliver them from the very presence of sin (see Rom. 5.9-10; 1 Thess. 4.16-17; Col.1.13). Another important passage is Revelation 3.10 where the Lord promises to keep believers from the hour of testing that will come upon the whole world. Note that this verse does not only say that believers will be kept from the trials of the tribulation period but also they will be kept from the period of tribulation. The Lord promises to them from “the hour of trial”. The only way to escape from the pains that the whole world will experience is not to be on earth when it happens.

  1. The imminent coming of Christ

The coming of Christ to take His Church with Him is viewed as an event that will take place at any-moment. As compared to the second coming of Christ that will be preceded by a series of complex events or signs such as the appearance of the Antichrist and putting in place of the abomination of desolation (2 Thess. 2. 3-4; Matt. 24.15), the rapture is not preceded of any sign of any kind. Christ will come at any-time or any-moment in the present church age to take His Church with Him. Believers are exhorted “to wait” for the Lord, looking forward for His appearance and not for a series of events or signs. This justifies the apostles’ exhortation to godly living (James 5.7-9; 1 Thess.1.10; Phil.3.20-21; 1 Thess. 4.15-17).

  1. Israel and the purposes of the Tribulation

A literal study of the 70 weeks of Daniel (Dan.9.24-27) teaches without any doubt that the Church age fills the void between the completion of the 69th week and the beginning of the 70th week. This may be viewed as a clear explanation of the reason why the Church is mentioned in Revelation 2-3 but completely absent in chapters 4-18. These chapters (4-18) describe a period that specifically concerns God’s dealing with the people of Israel. God told Daniel that “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression…to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place” (Dan. 9.24). Thus, it is clear that the first purpose of tribulation is to prepare Israel for the reception of her Messiah and His kingdom. Mainly described in the Bible as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” in Jeremiah 30.7, this entire period is distinctly Jewish. Even though the whole world will be concerned by this period, Israel is the main focus of God (Deut.4.30; Dan.12.1; Ezek.20.37; Matt.24.15-20). Besides being a time of judgment and restoration for Israel, the tribulation period will also be a time during which the Lord will bring judgment on evil people and nations for their unbelief and sin. The Church will be spared from this judgment because the Lord Jesus has taken our judgment upon Him (John 5.24). The Church has already been purified through the accomplished work of Christ on the cross. There is no need for the Church to be present at a time when God’s main focus is Israel and a Christ rejecting world.

To conclude, it is important to note that believing in rapture of the Church before the tribulation period is vital for the building of believers morally, psychologically and spiritually in a dying sinful world like ours. The imminent coming of Christ for His Church is a great source of encouragement for the believer in his walk and faithful service in the body.

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