There are many born-again Christians that have narrowed the concept of “being saved” as solely meaning that they are only saved from the fires of hell through their faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement for their sins.
While this is indeed true and of the first and utmost importance of coming to Christ, there is more that we have been saved from when we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
After we have received Christ into our hearts there should be a change from within and our old way of thinking should be conformed to the truth found in God’s Word (Romans 12:2). We should find ourselves then living our lives as our Heavenly Father intended us to live and serving His good purposes instead of our own (2 Corinthians 5:17).
For many of us, our old purposes in life were leading us on a path of self-destruction. So in essence, many of us are saved from ourselves in this life now, let alone the life that is to come.
As this current Age of Grace draws nearer to its conclusion and the period of God’s judgment known as the seven-year Tribulation begins to loom over the horizon, many Bible believing Christians have mixed notions about what this means for those that are saved.
Before delving any further into this issue, let us remember that we are saved by grace through faith and not by any works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Grace is a gift given to the Church by the Lord Jesus Christ and is what distinguishes it from the rest of the people on earth.
This could by why we don’t see the word “grace” or “church” in chapters 6 through 19 in the book of Revelation which details the time of God’s judgments upon the whole earth.
The subject among Christians of the timing of the Rapture continues to be an ongoing debate. Those that dismiss the Pre-Tribulation position often tend to overlook the very nature of our Heavenly Father and focus more on the technical aspects of the wording of the Scriptures with a legalistic mindset.
Don’t get me wrong, the wording of the Scriptures are very important and should be closely studied in context and content, however, for the born-again Christian, this must be done with the guidance and discernment of the Holy Spirit.
When studying the Scriptures we must remember that the Lord reveals Himself and His ways to us in both His words and actions. There are many circumstances throughout the Bible that reveal the Lord’s intentions, plans, and ways in which He deals with both His obedient children and rebellious children.
While observing God’s correcting Hand throughout the Scriptures, one can quickly acknowledge that the Lord does not judge the righteous with the wicked. They are always judged separately.
God’s judgments and/or wrath often gets confused with human persecution or Satan’s attacks and for many this is the main reason for their misunderstanding when thinking that the Church is going to have to go through the judgmental period of the seven-year Tribulation.
Many are already very familiar with the parallel of the story of Lot having to be removed from Sodom before the Lord could destroy the city and how it is a picture of how the Church will have to be removed before the Lord will execute His judgment upon the earth (see Genesis 19:1-29).
In the previous chapter the Lord even confirmed to Abraham that He would not destroy the righteous with the wicked when Abraham asked the question.
“And Abraham came near and said, ‘Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?
Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’” (Genesis 18:23-25).
Notice that Abraham appealed to God’s character when he acknowledged Him as a Righteous Judge! The Lord’s response to this was that he would not even destroy the city for the sake of ten and we would later find out that Lot was the only righteous man in that city (2 Peter 2:7).
The Lord was gracious enough to spare him and his family, however, we should take note that when Lot went to gather his two sons-in-laws, they would not leave due to their unbelief (Genesis 19:14). The text says that they perceived that Lot was joking. How many people today view the concept of the Rapture as a joke, or mock the Pre-Tribulation view as an escapist fantasy?
Later on in the Bible when ancient Israel turned their backs on the Lord and worshipped the gods of the heathen nations around them, the Lord’s patience and anger eventually ran out and it came time that the nation of Israel could no longer represent the Lord so he turned them over to their enemies to be destroyed.
But before the judgment came, the Lord made sure that there were no righteous men in the path of His wrath, honoring His confirmation that he made to Abraham that He does not judge the righteous with the wicked. This wonderful character of our Lord is recorded by several of the prophets who were prophesying during that time.
“Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem; See now and know; and seek in her open places If you can find a man, if there is anyone who executes judgment, Who seeks truth, and I will pardon her” (Jeremiah 5:1-2)
Jeremiah had scoured the city of Jerusalem looking for an honest godly man so that the Lord would pardon the city from His judgment but he could not find one! The prophet Isaiah conducted a similar search with the same disappointing results (Isaiah 51:18; 59:16).
The Lord then spoke through the prophet Ezekiel declaring that He could not find a righteous intercessor to stand and represent the moral law of God and not a single one could be found!
“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads, says the Lord God” (Ezekiel 22:30-31).
The Lord promised to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if He found ten righteous men in the city, and He would have spared Jerusalem for one righteous man. It is important for us to note that the quality of that righteous man that the Lord was looking for was one of an intercessor. A prime example of intercessory prayer restraining God’s wrath can be found in the person of Moses recorded in Psalm 106:23.
“Therefore He said that He would destroy them, had not Moses His chosen one stood before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath, lest He destroy them” (Psalm 106:23).
The above passage from Psalm 106 is referencing the time when the children of Israel made for themselves a golden calf and worshiped it as their god, igniting the anger of the Lord and causing Him to bring His wrath upon them. But Moses pleaded with the Lord on their behalf with intercessory prayer (Exodus 32:11-14).
The Lord relented from His wrath toward them, all because of one righteous man’s plead. This demonstrates the importance of the church’s role today to be praying and interceding for the lost world around us. It also demonstrates the fact that as long as there are righteous people on the earth, the Lord will hold back His wrath.
At this point we should probably clarify what it biblically means to be righteous.
Contrary to the secular definition of righteousness which defines it simply as “the quality of being morally right or justifiable;” biblical righteousness reveals the “source” of that morality. That source is God’s own perfection that is reflected in His character and passed down to us through His laws.
Since none of us can measure up to the perfection of God because of our sin, then how can anyone be righteous? The answer is provided in 2 Corinthians 5:21.:
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
The only way that any of us can be seen as righteous in God’s eyes is by viewing us through the lens of Jesus Christ’s covering over us because of what He accomplished on the cross at Calvary. We can only obtain that covering through faith in Jesus Christ by asking Him into our repentant hearts.
Since the source of true righteousness is God, then it is God that has provided the means that we can obtain His righteousness through His covenants. Righteousness through the New Covenant is available by faith because of the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ.
Righteousness in the Old Testament times before the cross, was available also by faith but demonstrated through the Old Covenant of animal sacrifices. However, in both covenants a repentant heart toward God is first required.
“For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; you do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, these, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).
One could not just simply sacrifice an animal at the Temple and be considered righteous. The road to obtaining the righteousness of God always begins with a repentant heart. The Old Testament saints obtained righteousness and salvation by looking forward to the promised Messiah with faith and obedience to God’s Word.
Animal sacrifices were meant to be an outward expression of one’s true inner repentance and faith in God just as baptism is meant to be an outward expression of one’s true inner acceptance of Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
This does not mean that there were other paths to salvation before the cross. The path to salvation is, was and always will be through Jesus Christ’s sacrificial atonement alone. The means to that path is, was and always will be through faith.
“For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Roman 4:3).
In the above verse, Paul shows us that Abraham obtained righteousness through his faith and trust in God. I would recommend reading the rest of Romans 4 to further clarify that salvation has always been by God’s grace and received through faith alone. Hebrews 11 is another good chapter in regards to this as well.
Since we have now established that the biblical definition of righteousness is God’s perfection which is displayed in His laws, and that we can only be declared righteous through faith in Jesus Christ, we can affirm that in this current Age of Grace, that the Holy Spirit filled Church, is seen by God as righteous.
“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-5).
We have reviewed a few biblical examples from the past showing that the Lord does not judge the righteous with the wicked, so knowing God’s character on this issue, let’s now look forward into the future at the coming judgmental period of the seven-year Tribulation, remembering also, that God does not change (Malachi 3:6)
It should first be understood that the entire seven-year Tribulation is the wrath of God but broken down into three sets of plagues, (the Seven Seal plagues, the Seven Trumpet plagues and the Seven Bowl plagues).
Many who have dismissed the Pre-Tribulation Rapture attempt to support their case by stating that only the last set of plagues are the wrath of God but that is easily refuted when we acknowledge that it is the Lamb (The Lord Jesus Christ) who opens the very first seal (Revelation 6:1), which begins the Tribulation period. Even the people that are on earth at the beginning of the Tribulation acknowledge that it is the wrath of God that has begun.
“And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Revelation 6:15-17)
While referencing this verse it should also be noted that it is the “wrath of the Lamb” being specifically mentioned here. Jesus Christ would not be pouring out His wrath on His Bride (the Church).
In fact, Ephesians 5:22-33 illustrates the marriage of Christ and the Church describing how Christ and the Church are one Body with Christ as the Head of that Body. Why would Christ include the Church in His wrath who He has allowed to be united with Himself as one?
Ephesians 5:23 says that Christ is the Savior of the Church. This can’t simply be talking about salvation because in order for anyone to be part of the church, one had to have already received Christ as their Lord and Savior on an individual basis. So for Christ to be Savior of the Church implies that the Church as a unit is being saved from something that threatens the life of the church as a whole, and that would be the Tribulation period.
Further evidence that the entire seven-year Tribulation period is the wrath of God is provided in Revelation 15:1 where it says:
“Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete” (Revelation 15:1)
Note that it is before the last set of plagues have even begun that John tells us that the wrath of God will be complete after they are administered. That means that the wrath of God has already been in progress.
So understanding that the entire seven-year Tribulation period is the wrath of God, that the Lord does not judge the righteous with the wicked (as displayed from His own past examples given to us in the Scriptures), and that Christians are declared as righteous in God’s sight because of their faith in the finished work of His Son Jesus Christ; then why do so many Christians still think that we are appointed to have to go through any the period of His time of wrath at the time when He judges the world?
In fact, the Holy Spirit even instructed Paul to write that Truth out directly in plain words:
“For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
That verse should be an open and shut case in regard to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture view. But it isn’t. Many will argue that verse isn’t speaking of the Tribulation but in the context of that chapter it most certainly is speaking about the Day of the Lord, when He comes to judge the earth. In fact, just a few pages earlier in the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians it is clarified even further:
“For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how 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).
Notice that Paul says we are to wait for His Son who will deliver us from the wrath to come! That means since we are waiting, it hasn’t happened yet, and it is the Son who will deliver us “from” (not through), the wrath that is yet to come!
That verse is practically screaming Pre-Tribulation Rapture, yet there are many Christians that don’t see it or believe it. The folks of the mid and post Tribulation view apply these verses to mean that the Church will be “protected” through the time of God’s wrath.
The Greek word for “from” being used in that verse is “apo” ( Strong’s Concordance #G575), and the literal meaning is “a local separation” and/or “a separation of a part from the whole.”
There is no way that verse can mean that the Lord will preserve the Church through the time of God’s wrath. Not only is that out of context with the literal meaning of the Scripture, but it is also not of the Lord’s character to subject the righteous to His wrath.
Ezekiel 18:23 and 33:11 both tell us that the Lord takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. If the Lord is that displeased and heartbroken over those that have rejected Him and who will die in their sins, then how much more out of character would it be for the Lord to include the Church in His end-time judgments to whom He bled and died for, so that they could be saved from their sins?
It just wouldn’t make any sense, or be of God’s loving character to bestow righteousness onto us through the suffering of His Son Jesus Christ, so that He could then later pour out His wrath upon on us. The Lord Jesus Christ bore the wrath of God on the cross. That is the same wrath that will be coming down upon earth during the Tribulation period.
We are all so very familiar with the physical suffering that Christ endured during His crucifixion but it is interesting to note that when Jesus Christ bore all our sins on the cross there was a spiritual suffering that He endured that no human being will ever be able to understand or fathom.
From noon until the ninth hour (3 p.m.) the sun went dark while Jesus Christ absorbed all of the Father’s wrath for all the sins of the world! This was not a solar eclipse, for the darkness during the totality of a solar eclipse does not last three hours. Jesus Christ is the Light of the world (John 8:12), and that Light went out for the three hours that He became sin for us so that we could be reconciled with God.
The wrath of God was poured upon His Son, for our sake. The wrath of God will again be poured out upon those that have rejected His Son, and the sun will again go dark when God’s wrath is poured out once more.
“I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood” (Revelation 6:12). (See also Joel 2:31; Matthew 24:29.)
Because Jesus Christ has absorbed the wrath of God for all the sins of the world, He therefore is the only one found worthy to open the scroll that unleashes the wrath of God upon an unrepentant world (Revelation 5:4-5; 9).
Since the Lord provided examples in the past of how He removed the righteous out of the way of His wrath before it occurred, we should expect the same when His wrath is administered again, only this time it will be a worldwide event as opposed to just isolated cities, like Sodom and Gomorrah and Jerusalem.
In fact, Jesus may very well have given us a geographical preview of how His grace is separated from His judgment of unbelievers. That example is found in Mark 8:22-26.
In the Mark 8:22-26 passage a blind man was brought to Jesus to be healed and Jesus took the man outside the city and healed him there. Why not heal the man right there? Because that city was Bethsaida and was one of the three cities that Jesus had cursed because of their unbelief.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.
And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you” (Matthew 11:21-24)
Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were cities that Jesus cursed because they rejected Him and would not repent. Even after all of the many works and miracles that He performed there.
Once these cities were considered as already judged by our Lord, He then separated His grace from them. This seems to be a picture of when the Age of Grace ends and the entire world will be under the same divine judgmental curse as those three cities were.
The Church today works as the mouth, hands and feet of our Lord on earth and when judgment time comes, He will remove His workers from the earth. Since it will be a worldwide judgment, it will be a worldwide removal.
The Lord won’t move us to a city of refuge like he did with Lot (Genesis 19:22), nor will He simply tell us to not go back into that town like He did the healed blind man outside of Bethsaida (Mark 8:26).
No, the Lord is going to take us home to His house that He has prepared for us (John 14:2-3), for our work here on earth will be done and the Lord Himself will deal with those who refused the gift of His pardon that He bled and died for.
There are no instructions specifically given to the Church for the Tribulation period. The Church’s role has always been to be a witness for the gospel of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. During the Tribulation the two witnesses of Revelation 11 will be appointed with that ministry in the Church’s absence, along with the 144,000 Messianic Jews, followed by an angel that will preach the gospel after the two witnesses are killed and the 144,000 are redeemed (raptured) from the earth, (Revelation 14:3-6).
Many will come to Christ after the Rapture, but it won’t be nearly as pleasant of an experience as it is now while His grace still abounds. If you are reading this now and you do not know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, simply ask Him to forgive you for your sins and to come into your heart and give you His peace and Spirit and you will be covered in His righteousness and guaranteed to be saved from the wrath that is to come.