For those of us that are secure in our hope of the promised redemption of our bodies at the Rapture of the Church (Romans 8:23), we still grieve daily for our friends and loved ones that have not received this promise that comes with being born again in Christ Jesus. We may get weary in repeating this hope and gospel message to them; but we must never get discouraged, knowing that our labor in the Lord is never in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
While we know that the judgment of the Lord is soon coming upon this wicked Godless world, we also know that the Lord is not willing that any should perish and that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). And even though the Lord is long-suffering in His grace, when that long-suffering runs out, He will continue to strive to bring sinners to repentance.
That is the underlying purpose of the Tribulation period. It will be a time of Abba Father’s tough love towards His children who would not come to Him through the atonement provided by His Son during the Age of Grace.
There will be many in the left-behind world that will immediately turn to God when the Rapture occurs. We all know people who say that they won’t believe something unless they see it first, and we’ve heard many people say that about the Rapture.
I believe the martyrs in Revelation 6:9-11 are those people who witnessed the Rapture and immediately remembered the words of their loved ones who tried to warn them that this would happen if they did not receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. They are given white robes and told that they must wait a little while longer until the rest of their brethren, who would be killed as they were, are completed.
I believe the apostle John sees the rest of the Tribulation saints in Revelation 7:9-17, which is a parenthetical chapter.
I also believe that these Tribulation saints are the virgins (or bridesmaids) that join the Groom and Bride (Church) at the wedding supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9). In the ancient Jewish wedding tradition, the bride and groom spend seven days alone to consummate the marriage, and then they have the wedding banquet afterwards.
This is the reverse order of how most weddings are arranged today where the wedding banquet comes before the consummated honeymoon. The bridesmaids are not going to join the Groom and Bride until “after” the seven-year consummation period is completed in heaven, which coincides with the seven-year Tribulation that will be occurring on earth. That is one of the reasons why the marriage supper of the Lamb occurs on earth. That is where the bridesmaids are!
It is interesting to note that there are no groomsmen mentioned for the Groom, but the Bride has “bridesmaids.” This is because it is the Bride (the Church) who planted the seeds of the gospel that will carry into the Tribulation period to help set the course for the bridesmaids. The gospel message is centered on the Groom—the Lord Jesus Christ and Him alone.
I’ve heard some theologians say that no one will be saved during the first half of the Tribulation. But the cry of the martyrs in Revelation 6:10 is asking for vengeance upon “those who dwell on the earth,” signifying that it was within the time frame of the early part of the Tribulation (which begins in Revelation 6:1) that their martyrdom occurred.
Once again, I believe these martyrs are those that were left behind because they were lukewarm in their acceptance of Christ as their Lord and Savior, as warned about in Revelation 3:16. I call these people “fence sitters,” as they want to just sit on the fence and not choose a side, whether it be for Christ or against Christ. But Jesus said,
“Those who are not with Me are against Me” (Matthew 12:30).
Since they could not choose a side, the Rapture will have chosen it for them!
Many who come to saving faith in the early part of the Tribulation will likely come to faith out of remembrance of what their Christian loved ones preached to them prior to the Rapture. This could be the reason that we see the martyrs mentioned in Revelation 6 before the 144,000 witnesses from the twelve tribes of Israel are mentioned in Revelation 7.
The 144,000 will be supernaturally protected while evangelizing in a world of strong demonic forces (Revelation 9:4), and yet the seal judgments that occur before the mention of the martyrs in Revelation 6 are all the result of catastrophic occurrences brought about my mankind, clearly demarcating the two groups.
Sadly, among these martyrs will also be those that relied on their own religious works as their security for their salvation. They will quickly realize that all of that was in vain and that it is only through faith in Christ and His finished work on the cross that is acceptable to the Lord for salvation. This is evident in the fact that they are killed for their “testimony.”
“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held” (Revelation 6:9).
These early Tribulation martyrs will have an immediate testimony because we, the Church, ministered to them before the Rapture.
Many “religious” people will not listen to the message of being saved by grace or that the Rapture of the Church is at hand. Their self-righteous rituals are their stumbling blocks to hearing the truth, and those stumbling blocks will cause them to stumble themselves right into the worst seven years in human history. It may be hard to get through to them now, but we are planting seeds regardless of their current response.
However, the Tribulation saints are going to have it much harder than just being saved by faith. They are going to have to keep their faith and their works for salvation!
“Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).
The Lord always honors our choices; and since many people have chosen to be justified by their own merits, the Lord will allow these Tribulation saints to practice what caused them to be here in the first place. They will have to keep both the Law and faith in the finished work of Christ. But I want to point out that no one will be justified before God in just keeping the Law in any dispensation (Romans 3:20). In fact, if you try to just keep the Law in this current dispensation, it will only bring God’s wrath upon you (see Romans 4:15)!
Currently we are saved by grace through faith no matter how well we keep the Law or not, (Ephesians 2:8). That is the absolute beauty and mercy of God that He has chosen us to be born in this dispensation of grace, where we have the opportunity to be sealed with the Holy Spirit when we receive Christ.
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
After the Rapture there will be many that will be wallowing in regret at the missed opportunity that they had let slip by their whole lives. They will quickly remember every single time the gospel was preached to them. Some will still reject it but many will quickly repent and call out to their Savior.
This may result in the biggest revival there ever was; however, it won’t last long as the Antichrist will prevail over them (Daniel 7:21 & Revelation 13:7). This is what differentiates the identity of the saints of the Church Age from the saints of the Tribulation period. Jesus said of the Church that the gates of hell shall not prevail over it (Matthew 16:18); and when Satan is cast out of heaven to run rampant on the earth, the Holy Spirit empowered Church will have been caught up to heaven prior to that.
Knowing what lies ahead for the Tribulation saints, we the Church can prepare them in several ways. The first and most important thing is to never pass up every opportunity we get to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them in love and grace. We don’t want to brow-beat them with doom and gloom, but we do want to inform them of what it is they are being saved from when they receive the Savior.
“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” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).
Even if we don’t win souls for Christ in the here and now, we can have peace of mind knowing that we did our part in the Great Commission and leave the rest to the Lord in prayer.
The chaotic left-behind world is going to be searching for answers as to what is going on; and there is a good chance that the internet will be down for an extended period of time and then likely controlled by the Antichrist system when it comes back up. So it would be helpful for us to leave physical Bibles around in our homes, cars, sheds, etc., anywhere that a left-behind person may happen upon it. The Bible is going to be their life source!
If the decor in your house consists of Bible verses and Scripture references, then you are already one step ahead of the game. A person may enter your house after the Rapture, see those references on your wall, and then be inspired to look them up in the Bible that you left on your coffee table. In my house there isn’t a single room that doesn’t have at least one Bible verse openly displayed.
We can also leave gospel tracts in various places. Perhaps keep the pockets of all of your coats in your closet loaded with gospel tracts so that they will be found and read when someone uses your coat for warmth. You can also keep them in various places in your car such as the sun-visor, glove box, center console, etc. Gospel tracts are at a size that allows you to be creative in their placement.
Another thing we can do to prepare the left-behind is to leave some survival kits of different sorts in our homes, knowing that we won’t need them. It is always good to have a good stock of bottled water and large water containers at hand as well as dried food and first-aid kits. The supply house that we leave behind for the apocalyptic world after the Rapture may be limited, but it will provide a good start as they seek salvation; and it will also display the hearts that we had for them when they come across these thoughtful food staples and provisions.
There are some Christians that feel we are so close to the Rapture that they have notes prepared describing what happened and what to do, which they leave on their kitchen tables every day. There is certainly nothing wrong with doing that and it could even be a way of opening up a discussion about the Rapture for anyone that sees it now! The Rapture is often laughed at by the unbelieving world; but if they see just how serious we Christians are about it, then perhaps it would trigger them into looking into it more seriously themselves.
The New Testament gives no instructions to the Church as to what to do or how to survive the Tribulation period; instead the Lord told us to store up our treasures in heaven, and we do that with charity both now and in what we provide for the left-behind.
Basically the best way we can currently prepare the Tribulation saints is to let our light shine and display our faith and trust in our Savior openly. Many Christian homes are already set up in the way that I’ve just described, and our lives are to glorify the love and saving grace of Jesus Christ both now and in the ages to come!
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).