The Church and the Tribulation :: by Don McGee

A lot of anxiety has been stirred up recently over the teaching that the Church will go through some, if not all of the time known as the Great Tribulation. Jesus referred to this special time in Matthew 24:21, and it has been the springboard for books and movies that portray some very terrifying things to come.

Some Christians, thinking that the Church will go through it, are worried and are doing their best to make plans to survive the seven years.They are stockpiling food, water, precious metals, guns and ammunition, etc., in the hope of making it alive until the time that Jesus returns for His Church.Some “scholars and experts” are going so far as to say that preachers who do not warn their churches of impending and cataclysmic events are shirking their duty as preachers.

I disagree, though not with the fact that the Great Tribulation is coming, but with the teaching that the Church will go through some or all of it.

Before getting to some facts about the Tribulation period there is something that must be understood. We are not to confuse those particularly difficult times we are seeing today with the Great Tribulation that Jesus said would come upon the whole world. It is true that presently Christians in various places in the world are being persecuted for their faith; that many are being tortured and killed for their commitment to our Lord.

I would never make light of those persecutions, but as terrible as they are they are not equal in intensity to the conditions Jesus was talking about.As you well know, the things He referred to are described to some degree the book of Revelation. There are several realities that could be pointed out about the coming time of tribulation on the earth, but the following will suffice for these pages.

First, it is going to happen.This God-hating world is lined up for a singular time of judgment that has never been seen in the history of humanity. Jesus said, “…then there will be a great tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall” (Matthew 24:21). He did not say maybe or might or perhaps, nor did He say the Tribulation can be avoided if the world became more tolerant and kind.

That this is going to happen clearly shows that the world is too far gone to salvage.The fact is, there is nothing on this planet that is worth salvaging whether it is humanly-inspired religion, political efforts, social programs or whatever. This speck of cosmic dust upon which we live is a stage-four malignant tumor whose character is one of evil, violence, corruption and death.

We might wonder, is there anything of human effort in this world that appeals to God? No. His creation, once perfect in every way, He had to curse because of sin. Like leaven that corrupts the whole lump of dough, the very first sin so spoiled God’s creation that He had to condemn it. The only thing precious enough to be salvaged is the human soul, and the Bible is the unfolding story of how God is doing it.

The second thing about the Tribulation is that it will last seven years.It is the final installment of the 490 years that God said would be designated to accomplish His plan for the Jews and their city of Jerusalem.This can be found in Daniel 9:24ff. It seems that the number seven has special meaning to God in that it relates to completeness, and this final installment of seven years does just that regarding those things He will do as recorded in Daniel 9:24.

Third is the fact that the seven years is within a time period specific for the Jews and their city of Jerusalem, see again Daniel 9:24. To say that God is no longer concerned for the Jews would require that the student disregard any number of biblical texts including Daniel 9, Romans chapters 9-11 and others.

But there is something else involved here.Though it is a time specific to the Jews, the entire world will be affected.There is something of importance that is couched in this, and that is the fact that whatever affects the Jews touches the entire world, directly or indirectly. In this case it will be directly, and it will do so to a degree never seen before.

From the time Abram was called to found the Hebrew nation Satan, through the anti-Semitic world, has been trying to destroy the Jews. He will come close during the Tribulation in that 66 percent of world Jewry will die. From the midpoint of the Tribulation until the end, Jew hatred will be turbo-charged. What Stalin, Hitler and other agents of the satanic agenda did will pale in comparison.

It will begin benignly enough for the misled Jews and their State, but at the mid-point Anti-Christ will turn against them with a hatred and a plan of extermination that has never been seen before. After the final 3½ years the slaughter will end with the Second Coming of Jesus, at which time He will destroy His and the Jew’s enemies.

Among other reasons, the Gentile world will be judged during this time because it will be controlled by the Antichrist and will be virulent in its hatred of Jews.The fact is that for centuries the world has consistently blamed the Jews for calamities (note the account of Europe’s plague) and it will be no different then.

Fourth in the facts is the Tribulation’s predominance of death.Space does not allow for the details, but one student has estimated that by the halfway point of the Great Tribulation the earth’s population will be cut in half due to war, famine, disease and wild beasts. No person, living or dead has ever seen this before.

There is simply no way to accurately describe this; no way to portray it on film or to describe it in mere words.As far back as Ezekiel 14:21, God spoke of these four means of judgment and it is repeated in Revelation 6:8. This is not to be taken with an indifferent wave of the hand; it is coming and no amount of prepping by those left behind will adequately prepare them for it.

Nuclear war is seen by some as being described in Zechariah 14:12, and it might be that God will allow nuclear war to cause the scene described in that verse. What is being described is the event associated with Jesus’ Second Coming, and the word that is used is “plague” which is applied both individually and collectively.

Further, if taken in strict chronological order verses 12-15 follow verse 3.What God will do or what He will use is unknown precisely, but the picture is one of His judgment suddenly coming upon Antichrist’s vast army. This is just a passing thought, but I think the world is so close to the occurrence of that event that we could very well know some people today who will be in that army at that time. If Jesus were to come for His Church today the world is just about 7 years out from this event.

Fifth is the fact that Satan does not want any present focus to be upon this time, if for no other reason that it signals the beginning of the end for him. This fact can be broken down into two main parts: What Satan knows and what he thinks. He knows what most Christians do not know or refuse to believe, and that is the fact that these things are coming and that they are coming in the exact way the Bible portrays them.

What he thinks is that, in his consummate pride, he can actually defeat Jesus in this forthcoming battle for the right to rule this earth, or perhaps he thinks he can fight to some kind of draw. Satan’s effort is to keep Jesus from doing what He said He will do knowing this would make Him a liar, and thus not morally fit to judge him.It will also enhance his chances to have this world as his own permanently.

Most secular television programs having to do with the Tribulation attempt to debunk the Bible’s facts. It is portrayed as a myth-with-a-moral from the Dark Ages, or as the ravings of dimwitted Christians, or as the means for unscrupulous so-called Christians to make a lot of money off fear-inspired, ignorant people who can be led as easily as sheep.

Any portrayal is okay with Satan as long as it is presented as hyper-reactionary witlessness; just don’t present it biblically.With this he has succeeded phenomenally.Unfortunately, most otherwise intelligent and Bible-savvy Christians just do not believe one word of what Scripture says about this coming time of tribulation.This pleases Satan to no end.

Number six is that the Rapture itself will not signal the beginning of the Great Tribulation.The signal is the signing of a treaty or agreement of some kind between the Antichrist’s western political consortium and Israel (Daniel 9:27). It will be broken in the middle of the seven years, and that is when he turns on the Jewish State and the Jewish people.

There are other facts that can be presented about the Tribulation, but one in particular must be presented because it is the main point of this article. Whether you understand fully the other things you must understand this: The Church will be taken out of the world prior to the beginning of the Tribulation.

Most call this the Rapture and some call it the “catching up.” Either way we are out of here before it begins.I will not address all the debates and academic papers that are part of this disagreement, but will only say that there are some who are upsetting some Christians with their teachings.

Nobody knows the details of what Paul and the church at Thessalonica talked about when he was with them face-to-face, but the internal evidence shows that the coming of Jesus for His Church was a major topic. Some of the people in Thessalonica were confused about what happens to Christians who die before His return (perhaps converts who came in after Paul left) so Paul wrote two epistles to them in order to address that and other issues.

He stated positively in 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, “For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the death, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. (emphasis mine)

An interesting comment is made in Unger’s Bible Dictionary, 1981, Moody Press, p. 1089, which says one purpose of the Second Thessalonians letter is “…to settle them in their conviction that in the Day of Christ the Lord would appear to translate the living saints and to raise the deceased ones, so that actually the apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 is arguing for a pretribulational out-taking of the Church as the Body of Christ. (emphasis mine)

Today there are those who are going to great pains to say the Church is destined by God to go through that terrible time of judgment that is coming on the earth. I do not believe that.

Part of the Tribulation’s purpose is for God to pour out His wrath on this God-hating world. His judgment is given in the breaking of 7 seals, the blowing of 7 trumpets and the pouring out of 7 bowls of wrath as seen in Revelation. As you will note from reading about them, the horrors of these judgments are beyond imagination

Equally beyond our imagination is that Jesus would refuse to rescue His bride thus forcing her to experience His judgment. That goes against everything we know to be true in the relationship between our Lord and His Bride. Any judgment we deserve has been satisfied in the death of our Lord on the cross.

I would just as soon believe in purgatory as to believe in the post-Trib, or even the mid-Trib Rapture of the Church. God forbid such a thing! To believe in purgatory or the mid/post-Trib removal of the Church is a direct slap in the face of Jesus and the making common of His blood.

To consider further, much of the Body of Christ is in heaven already.For 2000 years Christians have been going into the presence of Jesus at their deaths (Philippians 1:23). Will they not experience the Great Tribulation while we who are alive must? Would Jesus do that to His Bride, to divide her into wrath and non-wrath parts?

Or, would they be returned to the earth at the beginning of the Great Tribulation and once again be given their old bodies that have been in their graves with which they would go through the Tribulation? Both those scenarios are so nonsensical I am at a loss for words to address them any further.

When the two angels went to Sodom to rescue Lot and his family they did so before judgment arrived. In fact, one of the angels said to Lot, “Hurry, escape there, for I cannot do anything until you arrive there” (Genesis 19:22). There is a time coming, soon it appears from all the evidence, that Jesus will remove His Bride from this earth. It also appears from Scripture that He cannot pour out His wrath on earth until He does so. That should give us great comfort, to know we are not destined for wrath.

However, I see in all this a major problem for those who are lukewarm in their Christianity.It seems many will continue to think the time is not too near; that they can wallow in their God-ignoring lifestyle and wait until it gets a little worse before they make a move toward righteousness. That tells me that they are not committed to Jesus, but rather to some sort of game they are playing to see how close they can cut it. Want to know what Jesus will do with the lukewarm? Read v-e-r-y carefully Revelation 3:16; sort of reminds me of Luke 9:62 where something similar is said of those who put their hand to the plow but then look back.

The point is that we should not worry about those things some teachers are saying regarding the Church going through the Tribulation.We have other things to think about, and to wring our hands in worry is not among them.