There seems to be a prevailing idea among many believers (in particular those who either don't believe in the rapture or those who believe that we will be taken at the end of the Tribulation) that the church must endure part, if not all, of the Tribulation. Their argument goes something like this...
"Look at the state of the church in most places. Christian churches are mostly apostate, fallen away, teaching false doctrines, etc. Whenever this happened in the Bible with the Jewish people, God judged them severely. Why should the Church expect to be rescued or delivered from tribulation now? What about all the Christians throughout the centuries who were burned at the stake, tortured, crucified, imprisoned, fed to lions, etc? Why should we expect that we, in this very selfish and immoral generation, would escape such persecution? Isn't that rather unfair to those believers who have suffered and died for Jesus over the past 2000 years?"
I mean, it's a very fair observation. It makes sense. The first point I would argue is that there have been many Christians during the centuries who were living immoral lives and not close to the Lord, but they never suffered either persecution or tribulation, so the point that all apostate Christians should be punished or judged in this way falls short.
However, the major arguments I have against this belief have to do with the Tribulation itself. We need to understand what the Tribulation actually is, what will be happening during it, and what is its purpose?
The Tribulation is also called The Day of the Lord and the Time of Jacob's trouble. It is a 7 year period of time revealed to us first in Daniel 9 as the angel explains to Daniel the meaning of the 70 remaining weeks
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Daniel 9:24
I won't go into detail about this. You can find tons of articles online that explain these 70 weeks and also several books as well. What's important to notice is that the angel Gabriel is speaking to Daniel strictly about the Jewish people, not any Gentiles. The purpose of these 70 weeks is to, in summary, usher in the Messiah who will end sin, end prophecy, and bring in everlasting righteousness to the Jewish people. These are not weeks as we think of them, but 70 weeks of years, so each week = 7 years. If you have never heard that before, you may easily discover that in your own research
69 of those weeks have already been accomplished with precise accuracy, including predicting the exact day Jesus would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. Amazing! Leaving one final week, or one final period of 7 years. To do what? To bring the Jewish people to everlasting righteousness by the return of the Messiah (Jesus)
And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. V 27
The Antichrist strengthens some sort of pact, accord, or treaty with "many" that must involve Israel because halfway through the 7 year deal, he breaks it by going into the newly built Jewish temple and declaring himself God. This is further explained by Paul below
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 2 Thess 2:3-5
Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it. Jeremiah 30:7
So, we see why these 7 years are called "Jacob's Trouble". This last time period is all about the Jews.
The second thing to realize is the difference between persecution and the Tribulation. Persecution is man's (and Satan's) hatred toward true believers. The Tribulation is God's wrath being poured out on an unrepentant world. This is His final attempt to get people to repent and turn to Him and to bring Israel to the point of finally seeing that Jesus is the Messiah and to finally come back to Him. A quick read of Revelation will reveal that this time period will be the worst time ever on planet earth. Most of the people on earth will die. Many will lose their heads. This is not persecution of the righteous or God chastising His people to get them to come back to Him. This is Almighty God's wrath poured out on mankind. Yes, many saints will lose their lives, but these are the ones who did not make the rapture. More on that below.
The good news for those of us who are true believers in Jesus, who love Him and follow Him, is that HE already took on our punishment. He already endured the wrath of the Father while he hung on the cross. Yes, we get chastised sometimes when we stray or do something wrong. Yes, the world hates us and often persecutes us. Yes, many of us have been tortured and killed in the past, and many today! But that is not God punishing us.
For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Thessalonians 5:9
Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. Luke 21:36
I doubt Jesus would tell us to pray that we would escape ALL these things (He just got finished talking about all the events that will happen before His return) IF we were unable to escape.
Again Jesus, Himself, in Revelation 3 makes it plain that if we repent and follow Him and keep His Word, He will keep us from the Tribulation
Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Revelation 3:10
Another couple of smaller reasons why the church won't go through the Tribulation.
1. The Scripture says we won't know the exact day and hour. Revelation gives us the exact days of the timing of the Tribulation. I don't have space here to list all the Scriptures but suffice it to say, if we are here, we'd be able to calculate the exact day Jesus would return.
Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not. Luke 12:40
Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Matthew 24:44
2. When Jesus describes the rapture in Matthew 24, it's important to note that people seem to be going about their normal daily routine, sleeping, eating working, etc.. without great fear or trouble. But how could that be if they have endured 7 years of living hell on earth? Or even 3 1/2?
For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. Matthew 24:38-42
The Apostle Paul describes the scene at the rapture of "Peace and Safety"
For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 1 Thess 5:2-5
Hmm. Doesn't sound like the end of the Tribulation to me or even the middle, which again could be calculated.
I have one more Scriptural proof that the true believers are NOT here during the Tribulation. Notice what Jesus says here:
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18
So, neither satan, nor hell, nor any demon will prevail or overcome or defeat the Church, right? But here in Revelation, it says
And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. Revelation 13:7
Here we see that the Antichrist is given permission to overcome the saints. Hmm.
But what about these pesky apostate Christians? Do they just get a free ride out of here to escape any punishment at all? That's where it gets tricky and difficult to discuss. It is this author's opinion that VERY FEW are going to make it in the rapture. This is how I'm reading what I see in the Bible. Only those who love Jesus, have no idolatry in their lives, and have a close walk with Him in obedience to the best of their ability are actually going to be taken. This is His Bride without spot, wrinkle, or blemish, the ones who long for His return, who put Him first in their lives. Who would want any other bride? Some call this idea the Partial Rapture theory and call it heresy. But it isn't a partial rapture at all! It's a full and complete rapture of God's precious children, the ones who truly love Him. Not by works at all, but by an obedient and loving adoration of their Savior.
Therefore the remainder of Christians who are essentially lukewarm, apostate, living in immorality, have idolatry, etc. will remain here to endure the wrath of God, which in their case, will be used to bring them back to the Lord. This is why Revelation talks about thousands upon thousands of Saints appearing in heaven who had their heads chopped off during the Tribulation. There is indeed a Great Revival coming, but this author believes it will take place after the rapture.
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Revelation 3:15-16
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Matthew 7:21-23
In conclusion, we see that the Tribulation is a time in which God's primary purpose is to deal with Israel. It is also a time in which God's wrath is poured out on the unrepentant, both "believers" and non-believers, and because Jesus already took our punishment, those who are true believers cannot suffer God's wrath. We also see that because of the ability to calculate the middle or end of the Tribulation based on the numbers found in Revelation, we know the rapture must be before the Tribulation. Not only that, but when the Bible describes the rapture, it is always during a time of peace when destruction comes suddenly upon the world. By the end of the Tribulation when most of the earth has been destroyed and most of the people have been killed, I would hardly describe that as a time of peace.
I hope this has been helpful. I do not bring this up as a matter of argument, but merely as a matter of comfort for those of you who may be starting to fear that we will be here during the Tribulation.