The Christian and the Tribulation

by Leland M. Haines

The Christian and the Tribulation
Daniel Tells of the Tribulation Period

The Christian and the Tribulation

This period of sorrows and suffering on earth is called tribulation. Since the Book of Revelation and the Book of Daniel contain major prophecies about the Tribulation, it will be discussed in great detail. But before doing this, let us consider the questions; Will Christians go through the Tribulation? Will Jesus Christ come and remove them before it begins? The answer to these questions is important since it will affect our understanding of several prophecies.

Before we can answer this issue, we must consider when the Rapture occurs. The term rapture is not found in the Bible but is a Latin word meaning "to be caught up." The rapture idea is biblical. In I Thessalonians, Paul wrote concerning those Christians who had died:

    that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. I Thessalonians 4:14-17

This act of being caught up at Jesus' coming is what the word rapture refers to. The words caught up are used only in this passage, but this does not mean this event has not received emphasis elsewhere. Jesus promised, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself" (John 14:3; cf. vv. 23, 27, 28; I Thessalonians 4:14-17; et al.).

Christians are divided as to when the Rapture will occur. There are two major views concerning the timing of the Rapture of the saints. The identification of the saints John wrote about in Revelation depends on which view one holds. The two views are a pretribulation and a posttribulation Rapture. The pretribulation view holds that the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation John wrote about in Revelation. The posttribulation view holds that it will occur after it. The author will give the stronger arguments for both positions. Those holding to the pretribulation view of the Rapture believe the following points support their view:

1. The term church or churches is not found in Revelation from chapters 4 through 21, a sharp contrast to its being found 18 times in the first three chapters. Something must have happened between chapters 3 and 4 to account for this difference. This change plus the fact that the vision of heaven found in chapters 4 and 5 tells of elders being present in heaven means that the Rapture of the church must have occurred between chapters 3 and 4, and thus before the tribulation period.

2. God promised the Philadelphia church that He would "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). This suggests the church is raptured before the tribulation begins.

3. Daniel's seventieth week, the seven-year tribulation period, follows the church age, which occurs between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week. This is the time of "Jacob's trouble" and not the church's troubles.

4. The Jews are seen as doing evangelization work in the tribulation period (Revelation 7:1-4). Evangelism was the responsibility given to the church in the Great Commission; thus a change must have occurred.

5. First Thessalonians 4:13-18 and Revelation 19:11-21 stand in sharp contrast to each other. Their wording and overall messages are different, and therefore must describe different events.

6. Jesus said, "Pray . . . that ye may . . . escape all these things" (Luke 21:36). Paul later adds concerning the time when "sudden destruction cometh" that Christians have "for an helmet, the hope of salvation [future]" because "God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thessalonians 5:3, 9). These promises mean the Christian will be raptured before the Tribulation.

Those holding to the posttribulation view of the Rapture find support for their view in the following points:

1. Followers of Jesus Christ are found throughout the tribulation period (Revelation 6:9-11; 7:9, 14; 9:4; 12:17; 13:7; 14:9, 12; 17:6; 18:4), and there is no direct teaching in Revelation that a rapture occurred before the marriage of the Lamb described in Revelation 19.

2. In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus told His followers, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days . . . shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:29-31; cf. Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-28). There are no Scriptures that explicitly place the Rapture before the Tribulation. There is much similarity between the event Jesus described here and the one Paul described to the Thessalonians. This gathering together of the elect is the gathering together of the church since the term elect is used to describe the church (Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12; II Timothy 2:10; Titus 1:1). The Matthew 24 passage, which gives a "time" relation between the Rapture and Tribulation, places the Rapture after the Tribulation.

3. "But as the days of Noe [Noah] were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 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" (Matthew 24:37-39; cf. Luke 17:26-30). Noah was not saved until the day God's wrath went forth (Genesis 6:5-8; 7:6-23). In the last day the righteous in Christ will not be saved until God's judgment comes on the wicked.

4. In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the separation of the "children of the kingdom" and "the children of the wicked one" did not occur until "the end of this world" (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43).

5. The resurrection of the saints is "at the last day" (John 6:37-44).

6. Three times John places the "first resurrection" after the Tribulation in Revelation (20:4-6). There can be but one "first"; thus no resurrection or rapture can occur before this time.

7. The marriage of the Lamb occurs after the Tribulation. The words "the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready" (Revelation 19:7) occur at the end of the tribulation period when at His second coming Christ defeats the wicked and establishes His kingdom.

8. Jesus will "bring with him" those who died, to meet those living as they are "caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (I Thessalonians 4:17). As in the parable of the ten virgins, the time came when "the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him" (Matthew 25:6), so the five saved virgins went out to meet him and "went in with him to the marriage" (v. 10). Similarly, as the brethren heard of Paul's coming, they "came to meet" him and returned with him (Acts 28:15). So too those living in the last day will "meet the Lord in the air" and return with Him.

The preceding points represent the major and stronger arguments for these two views of the time of the Rapture. When one attempts to answer the question of the "when," one should avoid coming to a hard and inflexible position. It would be sad if one missed the benefit these prophecies can have for those living in the last days. Those holding to a pretribulation view should be especially careful. If the Rapture is posttribulational, they may face additional hardships during the Tribulation if they fail to realize what lies ahead. These hardships are not the result of God's wrath but of Satan's turning against Christians. God would never turn His wrath against His children.

Whichever view one holds, one must be careful that it is based solely on Scripture and not the result of superimposing a view on the Scriptures. Too many fall into this danger, especially when it comes to prophecy. It may sometimes be difficult to be objective, but it must be our goal. As mentioned at the beginning of this section, the question of when the Rapture will occur will affect our understanding of several prophecies. These areas will be pointed out in the following discussion of the tribulation period.

Daniel Tells of the Tribulation Period

After Jesus spoke of coming wars, He said, "The end is not yet. . . . All these are the beginnings of sorrows" (Matthew 24:6, 8). Daniel, an Old Testament prophet, wrote much about this period of sorrows or tribulation. He foretold of latter-day events through visions and interpretations he had of them. In Daniel 7 he told of his dream and vision of "four great beasts"-a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a fourth beast different from the first three. The latter was "dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly." It broke in pieces. "It had ten horns." From among these came a little horn, "before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up." This horn had "a mouth speaking great things" (vv. 1-8).

Daniel was not left to wonder about the meaning of this vision but was given an interpretation of it. "These great beasts, which are four, are four kings" (Daniel 7:17). The fourth one, the only one not identified, "shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces" (v. 23). From this one kingdom came l

    ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. vv. 24, 25

This king will not keep his kingdom. (Earlier, Daniel wrote that "the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever," v. 18). Daniel then told how this was to occur:

    The judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. vv. 26, 27

In chapter 8 Daniel told of another vision he received two years later. In this one he learned more about the king that spoke "great words against the most High" and who wore "out the saints of the most High" (Daniel 7:25).

    In the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand. 8:23-25

This event is described in more detail later. Daniel spoke of "seventy weeks" of years, divided into periods of 7 weeks, 62 weeks, and 1 week (Daniel 9:24-27). The first two time periods have occurred. The 7 weeks concerned the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the return from the Babylonian captivity. The 62 weeks of years is the time from then to the time when the Messiah was cut off (crucified). The last week of years does not occur immediately following the first sixty-nine weeks, but it is interrupted by the church age, which forms a parenthesis between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks.

The seventieth week is very important, for it gives the time frame of some latter-day events. Daniel writes that while he was praying and confessing the people's sins, he had a vision of Gabriel who informed him that a leader will make a

    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. Daniel 9:27

This coming king, who came from the people who earlier destroyed the city (Jerusalem), will make a covenant with the remaining Jewish people.1 Apparently, the covenant is a treaty that will guarantee Israel's existence and protection from foreign interference. This covenant will allow the sacrifices and offerings of the Law of Moses to be reinstated. When this covenant is signed, a week of years, or a seven-year period of time, will begin. In the middle of the week the king will break the covenant, causing abominations and desolation to occur (Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:21; Mark 13:19). This time period is also found in the Book of Revelation (11:2, 3; 12:6; 13:5). It is the time of tribulation.*

[*Note: Daniel 9:26 describes a prince that "shall destroy the city and the sanctuary." This refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. The next verse begins, "And he shall confirm the covenant." Apparently there is a time interval between these two verses, although the wording does not make it evident. Many prophecies of earlier and later events appear next to one another, without an obvious separation. The prince of verse 26 is not the same person who makes the covenant in verse 27. 2 In the Old Testament, Daniel spoke of "a time of troubles, such as never was since there was a nation even to that time" (Daniel 12:1 ASV), and Jeremiah spoke of "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7). Both of these state that God's people will not go through this. "At that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book" (Daniel 12:1), "but he shall be saved out of it" (Jeremiah 30:7). This "time of trouble" may be the tribulation period or come at the end of the tribulation period and be the events related to Revelation 19.]

This is from Chapter 7 of the book, Redemption Realized Through Christ, © copyright 1997 by Leland M. Haines, Northville, MI.

We highly recommend you read this book. It may be ordered from Biblical Viewpoints publication (see below) or visit Books.


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January 29, 2001