Revelation Postscript.
Will the Church Pass Through the Great Tribulation?
the Pretribulation, Posttribulation Question.

Key Notes: Tribulation vs. The Great Tribulation. The removal [Rapture] of believers from the earth. The worst-case scenario.

The disturbing element of Revelation, when compared to Ezekiel, its OT partner, is that its catastrophes appear largely future rather than past. We may look at the decadence of Israel and say that they deserved what they got in the years around 600BC. We cannot look at our present society with such equanimity. Part of the reason for our discomfort is that many aspects of our world are going very well. American prosperity and freedom are without parallel in history. The Church is enjoying a time of growth and spiritual optimism.

To some, like the Russian Orthodox, we are fat cats who think that the Christian life should not involve austerity, spiritual struggle and suffering. And we must admit that enjoyment and a minimum of emotional pain are high on our priorities. The prospect of tribulation is not appealing. Our situation is different from that of the early Church, which no doubt greeted Revelation with enthusiasm. To them, Revelation was doom for the Roman Empire. The question of whether the Church will go through the Tribulation is an emotional one in our day and this colors our judgment.

In Matthew 24 Jesus outlines the End Times. He is our primary source.

•"They will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for My Name's sake...." (24:9)
•"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world...and then the end will come." (24:14)
•"So when you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place...then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains...." (24:15–16)
•"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened...then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and He will send out His angels...and they will gather His elect from the four winds...." (24:29–31)

This passage teaches:
intense persecution of the saints (tribulation)
world-wide Gospel preaching
Antichrist in the temple (requiring a restored Israel and Holy Place)
disruption of the Solar System
world-wide remorse and possible conversion when Christ is first seen at His Return.

"The Tribulation of those days" may be the Great Tribulation.

Other details are outlined in I,II Thessalonians.

"Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god.... Only He who now restrains it will do so until He is out of the way. Then the Lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth...." (IIThes.2:3–8)

"...God will bring with Him (Jesus) those who have fallen asleep (the dead believers). For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command...and the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up (“raptured”) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord." (IThes.4:14–17)

This is the passage that details the “Rapture”, being caught up, taken out of the world. We understand Jesus’ words about "one is taken and one is left" to reflect the same event. (Matt.24:40–41)

These Thessalonian passages spell out some other terminal events:
a. the Hinderer (?Holy Spirit) is taken out of the way.
b. the Antichrist is revealed, deceiving the wicked.
c. Christ comes a second time to earth.
d. The righteous dead are raised.
e. The surviving believers join them, taken up out of the world by Christ (The Rapture).
f. The Antichrist is destroyed.

It appears that the Antichrist must be revealed before Christ returns and takes His Church out of the world. Thus the Church passing through at least part of the Great Tribulation seems certain. Some passages support this concept.

*"And the beast was...allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months"{3.5 years).... Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them." (Rev.13:5–7)
*"...behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues...." "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation...." (Rev.7:9,14)
*"Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God....They came to life, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. " (Rev.20:4)

Some passages argue for the removal of the Church from earth before the Great Tribulation.

*Jesus will come like a thief in the night, at an unexpected time.(Matt.24:43–44). We think a time of intense persecution would focus the Church on Christ's immanent return.
*If the Holy Spirit is the Restrainer of IIThes.2:7, how can the Church remain in the world when He has left?
*"God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." (IThes.5:9)

However, there are other texts which must also be taken into account. These passages favor protection for the Church during persecution, rather than removal from the scene.

•"Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial which is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell upon the earth." (Rev.3:10)
•"...if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah...and if he rescued righteous Lot...the Lord knows how to deliver the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment." (IIPet.2:5–9)
•"Hide yourselves for a little while until the indignation runs its course. For behold the Lord is coming forth out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity." (Isa.26:20–21)

It seems advisable to make a worst-case scenario when the evidence for a pre-tribulation vs. post-tribulation rapture (removal of the Church) is not certain. We may be protected from the Great Tribulation but not removed from the earth. If we expect to be delivered from intense persecution, and are not, we will feel that our pastors, or even God has deceived us and our faith might fail. If we expect to go through intense persecution, and we are miraculously delivered from it, we will be delighted and praise God. If we survive intense persecution, we will please God.

Let us praise God in any case. His plan will triumph.