Over the years I
have done dozens of radio and television interview shows which include a time
where listeners are permitted to call in with their questions about Bible
prophecy. Since I am director of
an organization that researches, teaches, and defends the pretribulational
rapture teaching, I get many questions and comments relating to that
subject. It is not hard to detect
questions and comments that flow from an individual who is biblically informed
verses those who speak from a position of mere human whim or opinion. The same is true of written
correspondence. I have found that
when it comes to the issue of the tribulation so many have not taken the time
to let the Bible define the meaning and purpose for that future period of time.
statement made by some is as follows:
" I believe that the church will go through the tribulation because the
Bible says that we will suffer for our faith." The problem with such a statement is that while it may
appear to have the veneer of biblical correctness, at core it betrays a lack of
understanding of God' s purpose for the tribulation. Certainly the Bible teaches that all through out the church
age Believers will suffer persecution.
This is taught by such passages as John 16:33b, " In the world you have
tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." And in 2 Timothy 3:12 " Indeed, all who
desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." The question is will the church
experience the trials of the tribulation?
I have found that when a person is knowledgeable of what the Bible says
is God' s purpose for the tribulation, or any issue for that matter, then a very
high percentage of those people will come to believe that the church will be taken
in the rapture before the tribulation.
What is God' s purpose for the tribulation?
Start Of The
First, we need to
know that the tribulation in Bible prophecy is the period of time that begins
with the signing of a covenant between Israel and the antichrist and ends seven
years later at the second coming of Jesus Christ. The most extensive biblical comments on the tribulation are
found in the writings of John, specifically in Revelation 6- 19. In these chapters, John provides a
detailed exposition of the tribulation days. Daniel' s "70 weeks," prophesied in Daniel 9:24-27
are the framework within which the tribulation or the 70th week occurs. The seven-year period of Daniel's 70th
week provides the time span with which a whole host of descriptives are
associated. Some of those
descriptive terms include:
tribulation, great tribulation, day of the Lord, day of wrath, day of
distress, day of trouble, time of Jacob's trouble, day of darkness and gloom,
and wrath of the Lamb.
Judgment Nature Of The
basic purpose for the tribulation is that it be a time of judgment, while at
the same time, He will hold forth the gospel of grace. This will precede Christ's glorious
1,000 year reign from David's throne in Jerusalem. Judgment, or God' s wrath, is needed to put down the
rebellion of mankind in preparation for Christ' s reign of peace upon earth
during the millennium.
The Goals Of The
Third, while a
number of goals for the tribulation could be given, there are a least three
specific major purposes. Dr.
Arnold Fruchtenbaum lists them as follows:
Before the Lord
can personally rule on earth in the Person of Jesus Christ He must first judge
the world in order to prepare it for His righteous rule. Dr. Fruchtenbaum says that the first
purpose for the tribulation is,
• To make an end of wickedness and wicked ones (Isaiah 13:9; 24:19-20)- The first purpose for
the tribulation is seen to be a punishment in history upon the whole world for
its sins against God, in a way similar to that of the global flood in Noah's
days (Matthew 24:37-39).
30:7 tells us that God will " inflict all these curses on your enemies and on
those who hate you, who persecuted you."
This will take place during the tribulation and will be retribution to
the nations for how they have treated the Jews during the last 2,000
years. This purpose does not
encompass the church.
tribulation will be a time of phenomenal evangelistic outreach. It will be a time unlike any previous
period of history. Dr.
• To bring about a world-wide revival- This purpose is given and fulfilled in
Revelation 7:1-17. During the
first half of the tribulation, God will evangelize the world by the means of
the 144,000 Jews and thus fulfill the prophecy found in Matthew 24:14.
addition to the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, there will be normal evangelism
taking place like we see today.
Further, the Two Witnesses will provide an evangelistic witness to
Israel. Finally, at the mid-point
of the tribulation Revelation 14 tells us that God Himself will use angels to
preach the gospel and warn " earth dwellers" not to take the mark of the
The three angelic
announcements are as follows: First, an angel will preach " an eternal gospel . . . to those
who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people"
(Revelation 14:6). Second, the
next angel will make the following pronouncement: " Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all
the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality" (Revelation
14:8). Finally, the last angelic
proclamation will specifically warn every person on earth not to take the mark
of the beast, since doing so will result in their eternal punishment in the
Lake of Fire. " If anyone worships
the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand .
. . he will be tormented with fire and brimstone . . . forever and ever"
(Revelation 14:9- 11). This tribulation
purpose also does not include the church.
One of the most
glorious and important purposes of the tribulation will be the conversion of
Israel. Dr. Fruchtenbaum tell us,
• To break the power of the holy people- Israel- Finally, the tribulation will be a time in which God, through evil
agencies, prepares Israel for her conversion and acknowledgment that Jesus is
their Messiah, resulting in the second coming of Christ.
The Bible teaches
us that God will use the tribulation to bring His elect people to faith in
Jesus as their Messiah. When we
put together the biblical information it appears that God will accomplish this
goal in the following way: First,
the Lord will return Israel to the land before the tribulation, the time of God' s wrath. " I shall bring you out from the peoples
and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and
with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out (Ezekiel 20:34). The regathering before the tribulation
is what our Lord has been doing since 1948 with the modern state of Israel.
tribulation begins He " shall make you pass under the rod, and I shall bring you
into the bond of the covenant; and
I shall purge from you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I shall
bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they will not enter the land
of Israel. Thus you will know that
I am the Lord" (Ezekiel
20:37- 38). This tells us that the
unbelieving Jews (" the rebels" ) will be removed during the tribulation.
In an interesting
passage that speaks of " My Associate," which is an obvious prophetic reference
to Jesus The Messiah (Zechariah 13:7- 9), Zechariah gives us a numeric ratio
that will be purged. " And it will
come about in all the land," Declares the Lord,
" That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in
it. And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is
refined, And test them as gold is tested.
They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ' They are
My people,' And they will say,
' The Lord is my God.' "
(Zechariah 13:8- 9) Therefore, we
learn that two-thirds of Israel will be purged through the fire of the
tribulation, leaving the one-third elect who will be converted to Jesus as their
Messiah. Thus, " all Israel will be
saved; just as it is written, ' The
Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them, When
I take away their sins' " (Romans 11:26- 27). What a glorious day that will be! Israel will be converted to Jesus as their Messiah resulting
in the second coming, which will in turn give rise the millennial reign of
Christ. The church is no where to
be found in these tribulational activities.
While many people
think the tribulation will involve the church, the Bible does not provide
support for such a notion.
Instead, Scripture informs us of at least a three-fold purpose for the
coming tribulation, none of which involves the church. The New Testament teaches that the
church will be taken at the rapture to be with the Lord before the tribulation
begins, because God has not destined His bride for His wrath (Romans 5:9; 1
Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9; Revelation 3:10). Other groups of redeemed individuals will go through the
tribulation, but not Christ' s bride, the church. Maranatha!