The Tribulation – Will Christians Have to Go Through It?

Question from a Site Viewer

Will Christians be in the tribulation?

I’m a little confused. In Matthew 24:3, when Jesus is talking to His disciples, it sounds to me that we the saved are going to go through the tribulation. Jesus states that had the time not been cut short none of the elect would survive. I surely don’t want to experience the tribulation. Can you point me in the right direction?

Tim’s Answer

Thank you for your question. You ask whether we are going to go through the Tribulation. As you most likely know, theologians take different views of this question. I will give you my view. Certainly, in Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 24, the saints are in view and the saints will be on earth during the time of the great tribulation. We know this because Jesus says that the times are shortened for the elect’s sake (Matthew 24:22) and Jesus repeatedly refers to the elect as “you” (Matthew 24:15, 20, 23, 25, 26). He is speaking to His disciples, although His disciples did not live on this earth long enough to see these events. Thus, we must understand that there will be righteous ones on the earth during the tribulation. In fact, in Revelation 7:9-14, we find a great multitude of all nations who are said to have “come out of the great tribulation.” And, at the end of the tribulation, in Matthew 24:31, Jesus sends His angels to gather His elect. Thus, we are assured that there will be righteous ones during the tribulation.

But Jesus also tells us that we should watch and pray so that we may escape all of these things (Luke 21:36). He tells the church at Philadelphia that He will “keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world” (Revelation 3:10). Paul tells the Thessalonians that they have been saved from the wrath to come, which seems in that book to be a reference to the tribulation (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:1-9). We have written about our views on the tribulation and rapture in a variety of articles on this website. Use the search function and try a search for the word “tribulation.”

So we must seek to reconcile these passages. I believe that during the tribulation there will be many people who come to Christ. I believe these represent the great multitude of Revelation 7 and the elect Jesus speaks about in Matthew 24:15-31. These elect will be gathered together to Christ after the end of the tribulation (Matthew 24:29). This coming of Christ is a visible, known, well-choreographed coming of Christ. We know that there will be wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famine, and many similar disasters. We know that the abomination of desolation spoken by Daniel the prophet will take place, and we know from Daniel that this occurs in the midst of a week of some extent (most likely a week of years given the time period between the going forth of the command to build Jerusalem and the Messiah being cut off). We know at the end of that week that the one who causes desolation will be consumed (Daniel 9:27). We know also after the end that signs will appear in the heavens. And we know after this Jesus will come. It seems to defy logic that the saints would not know that Jesus is returning given the multiplicity of these signs, their order, and the fact that Jesus said that His appearance will be when the sun turns dark, the moon does not give its light, and the stars fall from heaven.

But there is a coming that is not at all like this. It will be a coming when no one expects it, not even the saints (Matthew 24:44). There will be no signs announcing it. This is the “thief” coming (Matthew 24:43; 1 Thessalonians 4:13 — 5:1). This is a different coming than the one which the signs announce.

The reconciliation of these two comings for me is found in Isaiah 26:20-21. There we have an invitation issued by God to His people to enter into their chambers until the day of wrath is past. This is the first coming, that which I see found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, where the Lord does not come to this earth, but He comes and invites us to come up with Him, to meet Him in the air. This is the coming spoken of in John 14:1-3 where Jesus goes to prepare a place for us and then comes to take us to be with Him there. This is the coming of Matthew 25:1-13 where we go out to meet our Lord and enter into His chambers and He shuts the door.

Then, after that coming, the LORD comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity (Isaiah 26:21). This is when He punishes Satan (Isaiah 27:1). This is when He sets up peace on this earth (Isaiah 27:2-6). At this coming He comes to this earth (Zechariah 14) and sets up His kingdom here. In this coming, He comes to dwell with His saints, rather than His saints going to dwell with Him.

So, the only question remains as to who gets to be part of the first of these two comings. Paul writes to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and states that they will get to be a part of the coming where we go to be with Him. Jesus told His disciples in John 14:1-3 that He will return and receive us to Himself, indicating to me that those who believe in Jesus will also go to be with Him. He promises the church at Philadelphia that because they have kept His command to persevere, He will keep them from the hour of trial. I see that those who believe in Christ when he comes unexpectedly are those who will be invited to His chambers. I note that in Matthew 25:1-13, it is those who have oil in their lamps, which I see as a type of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Those will go to be with Him in safety while He pours out His wrath on this world.

But there will be those who were not ready when He comes as a thief, but who turn to Christ afterwards. These will be severely persecuted and many killed during the tribulation period (Revelation 13:7). This is the great multitude of Revelation 7. These are the saints who are told to flee when they see the abomination of desolation. They would be completely wiped out, if God did not shorten those days (Matthew 24:22). And these are the ones who are gathered together at the end of the tribulation (Matthew 24:31).

I hope this helps.

a pilgrim,

the tribulation