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"Coming Events for the Church" (posted September 1, 2008)

  Then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.
   - Matthew 24:21

  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
   - 1 Thessalonians 4:17

Will the Church pass through the great tribulation, or will it be caught up before then?

Some, in contending that the Church will go through the great tribulation, say there is no reason why the believers should be saved from the great tribulation when the early martyrs suffered so much. In answer, we would say that is not the point. The real point is that of the sovereignty of God. Has God in His sovereign purposes planned that the Church period should continue through the great tribulation?

The tribulation is called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), not that of the Church’s trouble; for it is the time of God especially dealing with Israel and with the nations in connection with Israel. (See Jeremiah 30:7-16.)

We place the "rapture" before the wrath of God falls on Israel and the nations. [Note: The Latin word for “caught up” (in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 above) is the source of our English word rapture, a term often used to refer to the coming of the Lord for Christians.] This is confirmed if we look at some of the passages that speak of this great tribulation.

At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book.  -Daniel 12:1

Michael [a leader among angels, according to Daniel 10:13 and Jude 1:9] will stand up for Daniel’s people, the Jews, during this time of tribulation and deliver those who are written in the book. The apostate Jews (“all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly,” Malachi 4:1) are destroyed by these terrible judgments.

During this time we see also in Revelation that the wrath and judgment of God falls on the nations. This whole period is characterized by the pouring out of God’s wrath on apostate Israel and apostate Christendom. [Note: The term “apostate” refers to people who have linked themselves with some entity but later begin to think and behave in ways that show they have actually turned against what that entity stands for.]

The Church has and does go through much tribulation and persecution from the hands of the world, but it is to be saved by Christ’s coming to take it to Himself from this terrible tribulation and wrath of God that is to fall on this Christ-rejecting world.

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

This attitude of waiting for the Lord to come at any time is seen in many passages.

To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation [that is, complete deliverance from this scene of sin, corruption, and death].  -Hebrews 9:28

Looking for the blessed hope.  -Titus 2:13

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.  -Philippians 3:20-21

These and other similar passages where the Lord and the apostles exhort the believers to be waiting, watching, and looking for His coming prove that the Church will not go through the tribulation and that there are no signs that must be fulfilled before the Lord comes for His own. If there were any sign that had to be fulfilled first, we could not be waiting and looking for His coming until that sign, or the tribulation, had come first.

Christ Himself becomes much more the object of our hearts as we watch thus daily for His coming. The longing for His coming at any moment to take us to be with Him and like Him in the glory also delivers us, as nothing else could, from the attachments of things down here and deepens our desire to be found constantly in the path of His will, seeking with purpose of heart only the glory of our coming Bridegroom.

E. C. Hadley

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