gran tribulacion

Will the Church Live Through the Great Tribulation?

  by Pastora Yanira Lopez

The incomparable horror of the Great Tribulation is explained in detail in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testaments. Isaiah wrote that it will be a day of “a fearful presence of the Lord,” when “the arrogance of man will be brought low and human pride humbled” (Isaiah 2:10, 17, 19). Zephaniah proclaimed that it will be a “day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish,” and “a day of trouble and ruin (Zephaniah 1:15). Men will stumble like those who are blind and “their blood shall be poured out like dust” (Zephaniah 1:17 NIV).

This scene of sadness is repeated in the New Testament. Jesus said that it will be a time of tribulation “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.” This is why we call it The Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21 NIV). In fact, Jesus said that it would be so terrible that if he was never taken at the end of seven years, it would result in the destruction of all life (Matthew 24:22). The Apostle John declares that the chaos will be so great that the leaders of the world will crawl into the caves and cry for the rocks of the mountains to fall upon them (Revelation 6:15-16 NIV).

15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide usfrom the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE?

What is all this about? Why is there going to be such terror? How could a God of grace, mercy and love allow such an outbreak of terror and bloodshed?

The first reason is to satisfy God’s righteousness. God is characterized by grace, mercy and love, but he is also a God of perfect justice, righteousness and holiness. Therefore, He must deal with sin. His justice demands it. Even His love compels him. How could a God of true love simply overlook the actions of a murderer or a pedophile (not to mention the acts of not loving your neighbor which seems so insignificant)?

The prophet Nahum understood the true nature of God. He wrote:  “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1:7). That is God’s love and mercy. But the prophet himself also wrote in (Nahum 1:2-3): The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies.The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.

Truly, the Lord is “slow to anger.” He allows the iniquities of mankind to accumulate for long periods of time because he does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). His desire, on the other hand, is for everyone to repent. But there is always a day to be held accountable, as there was in Noah’s day, and that day has been established for this age. The Apostle Paul referred to that day in his sermon in Athens, when he said;”For (God) he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice” (Acts 17:31 NIV).

A second reason for the Great Tribulation is to lead people to salvation. Surprisingly, even when God unleashes His wrath, His fundamental purpose is not to destroy, but to save. Isaiah 26:9 explains it this way: “…..When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness.”

The fact is that God often has to hit us over the head with a club to get our attention and motivate us to repent. The fact is also that most people respond to such discipline by cursing God or continuing to ignore Him (Revelation 9:20-21 NIV).

20The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. 21 Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.

We see this happening now with the pandemic, many people do not seek God, and on the contrary, they rebel against Him and walk away, but some people have still responded humbly and come to be saved. When God’s wrath is poured out during the Great Tribulation, some hearts will soften, but most will harden, illustrating once again that nothing is more “deceptive” and “perverse” than the heart of man (Jeremiah 17:9). Man is frivolous about sin. God is serious. Tribulation will be a graphic expression of how serious God is about humanity’s rebellion against Him.

But will the church go through the great tribulation?

This study should be much more extensive, but we will mention some Bible verses about where the church will be during this period of great tribulation.

The Bible consistently teaches that the church (the saints) will not suffer the wrath of God but will suffer tribulation. The Greek word (orge) used in these verses usually refers to the day of God’s wrath. Read Romans 2:5; Rev. 6:17. The day of God’s wrath will occur when Jesus comes again (see 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 5:1-11).

(1 Ts. 5:9 NIV) For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ

When Jesus comes again, we will be rescued from the wrath of God that will be poured out upon the wicked.

SOME DEFINITIONS OF TERMS USED IN THIS SMALL STUDY:

  • Tribulation – Affliction, anguish, oppression, suffering (John 16:33).
  • Week 70 – The final seven years before Christ’s return to earth. It is also called the last week of Daniel (7 years, not days, we studied this with the pastor last Wednesday)
  • The Great Tribulation – The last 3 1/2 years before Christ returns to earth. This will be the time of the greatest and most difficult affliction the world has ever known (Matthew 24:21).
  • The Day of the Lord – A time when God intervenes directly in the affairs of man, especially through his judgments, but also with blessings. It is often used in the Bible to describe the judgment and wrath of God poured out upon the world during the period of the great Tribulation.
  • Rapture—this term is derived from a Latin verb that was used to translate the Greek verb  harpaz (“snatch”) found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. This Greek term means to be suddenly abducted, being grabbed with force and taken from place to place, as when Philip was taken from another place (Acts 8:39) or when the Lord Jesus was suddenly taken to heaven at the time of His ascension (Revelation 12:5). When Christ returns through His Church, believers will be “taken away” and suddenly taken from the earth to heaven (Compare to John 14:3).

Different views about the church and the great tribulation:

  • Pre-Tribulation Rapture—The Church will be abducted before the seven years of Tribulation begin. So the Church will not go through the Tribulation. This is the correct position according to the Bible, as we will demonstrate in this writing.
  • Mid-Tribulationist Rapture—the Church will be taken away in the middle of tribulation, 3 1/2 years before the Lord returns to earth. This view teaches that the Church will go through half the tribulation.
  • Post-tribulation abduction—The Church will be abducted at the end of the tribulation period at the time the Lord returns to earth. This view teaches that the church will go through all the tribulation. (Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses)

Will there be a Tribulation?

In response to the question if the church goes through tribulation, we must answer “YES”. Answering the question on whether the church will go through the great tribulation, the answer is “NO”. (the second answer is that which we as Church of God maintain.)

The following verses show that believers living in the age of the Church must go through tribulations:

  1. (John 16:33b) In the world you will have affliction, but trust, I have overcome the world.
  2. (Acts14:22) Confirming the hearts of the disciples, urging them to remain in the faith, and telling them that it is necessary to endure many tribulations to enter the kingdom of God.
  3.  (Romans 5:3) And not only this, but we also glorify ourselves in tribulation, knowing that tribulation produces patience.
  4.  (1Thessalonians 1:6) You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

5.  (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4) so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.

6.  (2 Timothy 3:12) In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted

Believers living in this time are not exempt from times of anguish and affliction and intense oppression and persecution. However, there is a specific time of anguish from which the believers of the age of the Church are exempt: “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” (Revelation 3:10 NIV).

Believers are set to endure tribulation (1 Thessalonians 3:3), but believers are not set to endure the wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9, “wrath” refers to a specific time when God will pour out His fury upon the earth). Believers must go through times of affliction, but they will not go through the specific afflictions that are reserved for the wicked in week 70 of Daniel. 

The Church will have to face tribulation but will NOT be in the Great Tribulation.

The Astonishing Mercy and Grace of 2000 Years

God has given us the clearest and most complete prophetic chronology in the seventy-week prophecy of the book of Daniel (9:24-27). These 70 weeks comprise of 490 years of Jewish history (every “week” is equal to 7 years). The first 69 weeks (483 years) have already been fulfilled in history. The last week, known as Daniel’s 70th week, is a seven-year period that has not yet happened in history. This is also known as the seven-year period of tribulation.

The Messiah ascended in week 69 and the age of the church began 50 days after the Messiah was crucified and resurrected.

The age of the Church began on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. So the age of the Church has lasted more than 2000 years. The grace period. It is as if God’s clock for Israel has stopped, and we are waiting for it to start ticking again in the near future.

What has God been doing during this long period of time?

During these 2000 years God has been:

  1. Building His Church (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 3:6-9; 12:18; Eph. 2:21-22; 1 Pet. 2:5).
  2. Choosing from the Gentile people for His Name (Acts 15:14).
  3. Bringing in the full number of the Gentiles (Romans 11:25).
  4. Gathering believers to form one body (1 Corinthians 12:13).
  5. Preparing an anteroom that will demonstrate His eternal (Ephesians 2:7).
  6. Manifesting Himself through His body (the church) on earth (1 Timothy 3:15-16).

Just as the Church had a sudden beginning shortly after the end of week 69 (with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost), we also expect the Church to be taken in a sudden manner before the beginning of week 70. The pre-tribulation model harmonizes perfectly with Daniel’s 70-week prophecy, while taking into consideration the mysterious nature of the Church era (mysterious in the sense that it had not been revealed in the Old Testament). Daniel did not know about the church that God had planned beforehand.

 Graphic of pre- tribulation Viewpoint

A Comforting Hope

Certainly Scripture presents the rapture of the Church as a comforting and encouraging hope (John 14:1; 1 Thess. 4:18). The glorious reality that awaits those believers who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord is that “we shall not sleep” (1 Corinthians 15:51). If the Church were destined to go through the great Tribulation, these words would be of little comfort.

The Saints of the great Tribulation do not have the joyful hope of being alive until the coming of the Lord (Second Coming) and so few will be exempt from physical death. Persevering in Christ on that day can very well mean martyrdom and frequent martyrdom (Revelation 7:14; 13:15; 20:4). Imagine how it is presently easier to serve God and people still turn away from the faith and do not serve Him, how much more difficult will it be in that terrible time to serve God?  

This does not mean that the saints of the great tribulation will be without comfort. The Lord’s encouraging promise to believers of the great tribulation is this: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” (Revelation 14:13). So the Saints of the great tribulation are not hopeless, yet the comfort the Lord gives them is of a different nature than in the present. In the great tribulation God will comfort those who face imminent death. He will comfort those waiting for an imminent Savior: “We will not all sleep.” Therefore, encourage each other with these words.

The Pre-Tribulation tribulation Biblical Passage that is key to us.

The most important passage that deals with the moment of the rapture is Revelation 3:10, “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.”

The Lord’s promise is conditional: If you will keep My Word, I will keep you from the hour of trial. Who are those who keep His Word? Who are those who keep His commandments? In Revelation 12:7 and 14:12, we read that it is the saints (true believers) who embrace the Word of God (God’s commandments). The same is written in John 8:51: “Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death” The true believer, the one who has eternal life and who will never see death, is the one who here is described as the one who keeps His commandments/Word.

Believers do not always obey the word of their Master. Every believer, if he is honest, will recognize that there are areas in his or her life in which he has not been obedient to the Word of God. However, as God sees the life of the believer in its entirety, it is a life characterized by obedience. It is a life characterized by keeping His Word: “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands” (1 John 2:3 NIV). The person whose life is characterized by disobedience is the person who does not know Christ as the Savior. (read 1 John 2:4).

The Lord’s disciples were not always fully obedient to their Master. Peter, for example, denied the Lord and was later rebuked by Paul for not walking righteously according to the truth of the gospel of grace (Galatians 2:11-14 NIV).

11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. 14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

However, when the Lord Jesus saw the lives of the disciples, including Peter, He made this astonishing and beautiful statement, “they have obeyed your word” (John 17:6). Although they had their faults and were sometimes guilty of disobedience, their lives in general were characterized by obedience (i.e. they did not persevere in sin.)

So, in Revelation 3:10, those who have kept His word are those who are holy, that is, true believers (here it speaks not of perfection but of obedience). The rapture includes all believers, without exception.

Notice that the Lord promised the believers in Revelation 3:10 that they would not only be kept from the TEST, that will prove to be harsh to the inhabitants of the earth, but would be kept from the hour of proof. They will not be saved only from the test, but would be saved from the test of TIME. “I will also keep you from the hour (time) of the trial, which will come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” The only way to be saved from the test of time is to be extracted from the ground before that “hour” begins.

The expression “saved from” is particularly important. It does not mean “preservation” or “preservation during” but means to remove and place in a protected location.

Liberation of, in this context means to be released and it corresponds to the pre-tribulation view, because the Church will not be on earth during the great Tribulation so, the Church is freed from the judgments and afflictions associated with that time. The expression “saved of” best corresponds to the definition “liberation of”.

Brethren, the time to believe is now. “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2 NIV). It’s never good to postpone that decision. The time to be saved is now, before the rapture.

Isaiah warned of the responsibility mankind has at all times and in whatever era man is found in: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7 NIV).

Let us not be taken by surprise on that day, we hope at all times to be ready and prepared to be with our Savior and Lord.