This department is provided for the free and courteous discussion of biblical and spiritual problems which may be considered edifying to the people of God. Letters concerning such matters are requested.
The Church and the Tribulation
Dear Brother H.
We were forced, because of the lack of space, to discontinue in our last issue, the discussion on the Church and the Great Tribulation. This may be added to the comments with which the last issue closed in regard to the literal interpretation of the Holy Scriptures; when such a careful method is applied to the prophetic Word, it leads to but one conclusion, that which is called Premillennialism.
Before considering the other points which have been raised, this might be the proper place to make sure that we both understand the terms being used. The word “Millennium,” like the word “trinity” does not occur in the Bible, so to those who are used to thinking and speaking of the Holy Trinity, this word itself should not cause any trouble.
The word “millennium” is the Latin equivalent for “one thousand years.” A reference to the reign of Christ for one thousand years may be found in Revelation 20:4-5. A Millennialist is one who believes that this Scripture teaches a literal thousand years of righteousness and glory on this earth during a future reign of the Lord as supreme Sovereign. A Pre-millennialist is one who believes that Christ will come previous to such a thousand years of peace and equity, and that in His coming He will rapture the Church from earth. Our contention is that a literal interpretation of Scripture confirms this belief. We must now proceed with our examination.
Logical thinking: The question, “Will the Church go through the Great Tribulation?” expresses a serious misconception. Few deny the obvious, that we are approaching the end of the age. Consequently, there is but a very small fraction of the Church left on earth; the greater portion is now in glory. For the Church to go through the Great Tribulation would require a physical resurrection without a transformation in order that every member suffer equally, and the Scriptures make no reference to such a movement. It would be inconsistent with the love of the heavenly Bridegroom to leave a very small portion of His Church, His Bride, to endure great tribulation “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:21).
It has occasionally been pointed out by others that the Great Tribulation is called in Scripture: first, “The time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7); and, second, “The time of the heathen” (the Gentiles). It is never referred to as the time of the Church or of the Church’s trouble. The Great Tribulation is the time of the pouring out by God of His wrath upon a world that rejected and crucified His Son. While we know that God does chastise His beloved people (Heb. 12:6-9), it is inconceivable that as a Father, He would do this along with those who are His enemies. During that period of unparalleled suffering, God will deal with Israel for the rejection of Christ as Messiah and with the world, particularly Christendom, for the rejection of Christ as Saviour and Lord.
These, and many other reasons, convince one that the Lord will rapture home His Church previous to the period of the Great Tribulation.
Scriptural statements: That the Church will not go through The Great Tribulation is implied in the doctrine of salvation. “Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5:9). Since justification is shown to be a completed act, salvation from wrath (the word is employed in a generic sense) is seen to be an addition. That the Church will not go through the Great Tribulation is inferred in the Christian hope. The Thessalonians “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, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” This last clause reads more literally, even Jesus our Deliverer from the coming wrath (1 Thess. 1:9-10).
That the Church will not go through the Great Tribulation is also included in the word of prophecy: “God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9). In this connection we might quote, “Unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:28). Finally, that the Church will not go through the Great Tribulation may be expressed, (As many claim because of the use of the definite article in the text which makes it read, “the hour of the temptation,”) is a promise of exemption: “I will keep thee from the hour of temptation (the trial), which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev. 3:10 ) .
These Scriptures alone should lead some to reconsider their position lest, unfortunately, they be found saying, “My Lord delayeth His coming.” May our attitude ever be that of John on the Isle of Patmos, who in the spirit of gratitude and worship exclaimed, “Amen, Even so, come, Lord Jesus”.
The attitude of apostolic Christians: The rapture of the Church was a mystery (a hidden secret) made known especially to the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 15:51). As a revealed secret, a prophecy, Paul taught it at Thessalonica in such a manner that the young believers there were living in the expectancy of a literal fulfilment in their own day. They verily believed that Christ could come in person to them in their own life-time. The one man, Paul, to whom God had given the revelation of this mystery, the one man therefore who knew the subject thoroughly, wrote commending them for their attitude in thus waiting for the personal return of Christ. He did not reprove their attitude, nor did he suggest the need of correcting it. This attitude of the early Christians must be accepted as correct and proper. They were not anticipating the Great Tribulation; they were hoping for the personal imminent return of their Lord.
We hope that our very limited discussion on this matter may prove helpful. We are sorry that because of the pressure of other matters, an answer to your question was not given sooner.
May the Lord bless you in your studies. May the “Lord direct your heart into the love of God, and into the patience of the Christ” (2 Thess. 3:5, J.N.D.).
Very sincerely yours in Christ,