“God would not allow his bride to go through the Great Tribulation!”
I couldn’t tell you how many times I have been told the above, or asked it (rhetorically). Most of the time it comes from a staunch pretribber who is not really wanting to find a solution to the dilemma he thinks this question portrays. He is assuming a pretrib rapture is needed for the sake of the “dainty” Bride of Christ.
The question itself comes from a common misunderstanding of what the Great Tribulation is and what it is not. There is another misunderstanding on what we as believers should expect in our life of service to God. Let us address both of these misunderstandings to answer the question at hand properly and in concordance with the Bible.
“Not Appointed to Wrath?” The Great Tribulation is not God’s Wrath
The above question is typically backed up with the verse that “we’re not appointed to wrath” as proof that the bride will not go through the Great Tribulation.
1 Thessalonians 5:9 (HCSB) — ” For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ
What those who quote this verse assume is that the Great Tribulation is God’s wrath. It is not. It is Satan’s wrath. The Bible tells us that Satan’s wrath begins when he is finally barred from entry to heaven.
Revelation 12:12 (ESV) — ” Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!
Today, as in the days of Job, Satan can still go and accuse the brethren. When he is barred from entering, it will be his signal to begin his short time (3½ years) of wrath. This lasts from the 5th trumpet until the 7th trumpet. (For brevity’s sake I will not expound that out here. But my book proves that the 6th seal through 4th trumpet are all a series of related events caused by doomsday star Wormwood, and that the 5th trumpet is the start of the Great Tribulation).
Thus, Satan’s reign, and his wrath with it, end with the 7th trumpet. Then God’s wrath picks up where Satan’s wrath left off:
Revelation 11:15, 18 (NIV) — ” 15 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet…18 The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great– and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”
God’s wrath comes exclusively through the seven bowls. It begins after the 7th trumpet and is “filled up” or “made complete” by the 7th bowl:
Revelation 15:1,7 (NIV) — ” 1 I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues–last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. 7 Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever.
Thus, if we are not appointed to the wrath of God, then that only means we must be out of here by the 7th trumpet before that starts. And that is exactly when the rapture comes, at the “last trump” (KJV):
1 Corinthians 15:52 (HCSB) — “in a moment, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.
“Appointed To Afflictions or Tribulation”
While we are not appointed to wrath and will be rewarded with being born again (John 3:3-8) into a glorified spirit body by then, we do have “endure until the end” (Mt 24:13) through much trouble.
As a lifelong reader and student of the Bible, it really is odd for me to hear Christians claim that “God would never put his precious bride through the terrible tribulation.” Whenever I hear this, I wonder if they are not among the 95% of Christians who have not read their Bible. Because when I read the stories of the saints throughout the OT and NT, I consistently see lives full of trouble, affliction and persecution. Even the ultra-righteous Job has his share.
Or when I look out at the world today I see many lands where there is not freedom of religion. In them, Christians today are living in great tribulation. There is a common saying based on this that only rich Western Christians could possibly imagine a pretrib rapture saving us from the Great Tribulation. God has not saved any of those being murdered today for the truth and the pretrib rapture theory to them clashes with reality. They are dying already for their faith in the present tribulations.
If you look around at conditions on the ground now and previously in Bible times you see God does not seem to be a doting father who “shelters” his children. He lets us face troubles head on and does not save us typically until the last moment after we have cried out passionately for help (much like the Red Sea crossing).
A few verses will suffice in demonstrating this truth plainly:
Acts 14:22 (KJV) — ” Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
1 Thessalonians 3:3-4 (KJV) 3 That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. 4 For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.
Why Must We Suffer, Anyway?
Now you may wonder why does God work this way with us? This is actually the same as the classic question of “why does God allow suffering?” For the Great Tribulation is just a global and more intense class of suffering at the hands of a Satanic government than we already have had throughout history unto this day.
Most Western Christians do not read their Bible (less than 5% according to Back to the Bible). Their expectations for what their life with God will be like are thus based mainly on their experience of playing church in a rich society with freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The concept of real suffering for your faith (which is not simply being put down or having your beliefs ridiculed now and then by skeptics and atheists) is unknown to them in general. Because of this paradigm, when they finally read the Bible, they have a hard time understanding or accepting what they read about suffering experienced by saints or the promises of the same for us, too.
God has a good reason. The Bible is not silent on the reason. This prophetic verse is one that covers it:
Daniel 11:33,35 (HCSB) — ” 33 Those who are wise among the people will give understanding to many, yet they will die by sword and flame, and be captured and plundered for a time. 35 Some of the wise will fall so that they may be refined, purified, and cleansed until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.
This “fall” spoken of clearly refers to suffering persecution and martyrdom. It is to refine us and make us better. This is how God builds his character, makes his Bride ready (Rev 19:7). It even was necessary for Jesus, the firstborn Son of God:
Hebrews 5:8 (HCSB) — Though He was God’s Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered.
If you are rich, distracted and therefore spiritually poor and blind, trials are the specific prescription that Jesus gives for us as well.
Revelation 3:17-18 (HCSB) — ” 17 Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see.
It’s no mystery what “going through the fire” refers to. It means suffering. The Book of James is well known as a source of meaning and comfort on this topic:
James 1:2-4, 12 (HCSB) — ” 2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. 12 A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.
God’s Terrestrial Escape Plan For the Great Tribulation
The “Bride of Christ” can bring to mind an image of a dainty maiden, one who cannot withstand hardship. However, that is not the point of the metaphor. The point is that we must be “virginally pure” (Rev 14:4) or ready (Rev 19:7). Being pure of what makes us ready? We’re pure or righteous in God’s sight as long as we trust in his word intending to follow it (Lk 8:21; Gen 15:6). Our own ideas, man’s religion, man’s ideas, our own thoughts that conflict with or distract us from serving God are the problem. Only those who have shown a steadfastness in following God throughout all kinds of tests and temptations are suitable for the Kingdom of God. Thus, ironically, the method by which we become the Bride every day is exactly what pretrib rapture proponents believe God must not put us through (globally) if we are the bride!
The Bible says and demonstrates repeatedly that we must go through much trouble to make us ready. This builds our character, purges our sin nature and increase our faith and wisdom (James 1:1-12). This is the same process that Christ himself went through. The Great Tribulation is just more of the same, except on a global and intensified scale. Therefore it is improper to deny we will go through the Great Tribulation because God would not subject his bride to such a terrible time. He does every day!
Besides all that, the End Time escape plan of God revealed in the Bible is to protect his bride on the earth through the Great Tribulation in the same way that God protected the Israelites where they were on the earth while the Ten Plagues of his wrath rained down around them. He will guide us to a protected place that Satan cannot reach and feed us during the three and a half year Great Tribulation:
Revelation 12:14 (HCSB) — ” The woman was given two wings of a great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent’s presence to her place in the wilderness, where she was fed for a time, times, and half a time.
It will be a time of great wonders and community that has not been seen since the First Century, as described in Acts 2. For this reason, I am looking forward to the Great Tribulation without any fear at all. And so should you once you know the truth from the Bible on the matter.
So, “comfort each other with these words” just as Paul said to the Thessalonians (1Th 4:18). By the way, those are the same Thessalonians who Paul instructed on our rapture after the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation appear (2The 2:1-4).
Pretrib Christians who say God won’t let us go through the Great Tribulation are not completely wrong. They believe God must protect us from the Great Tribulation which I completely agree with. The mistake is in thinking that a pretrib rapture to heaven is the only way this protection can or will happen. God must protect us, but there are other ways he can do it
So in the end it’s not wrong that God won’t make his righteous saints go through the Tribulation. I don’t count being taken to a special area where you are protected and fed by God for 3½ years as going through tribulation (Rev 12:14). If we are protected in heaven or protected on earth, how is either situation able to be called “going through the Tribulation”? =)