One of the key distinctions in understanding end times chronology is identifying the difference between tribulation, great tribulation, and wrath. While the title “Tribulation” is generally used as a broad term to describe end time events, it’s a very misleading name. It leads to the major sticking point between the views of “pre-tribulation” and “pre-wrath” rapture views. So let’s examine what each means:
Tribulation – A Cause of Great Trouble or Suffering
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5 ESV
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 ESV
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 ESV
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. 2 Corinthians 4:17 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too… For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:1-3, 8-9 ESV
The body of Christ, commonly called “the Church”, is not promised to be spared from tribulation. The opposite is true – we are assured to have trials and sufferings in this life. God doesn’t spare us from these, He helps us through. Tribulation, including martyrdom, exists throughout the Church Age. Tribulation comes through fallen humans and from satan and his fallen angel horde.
I just want to point out here that although an upcoming time of trouble upon the earth is generally referred to as “The Tribulation”, the Bible does not call The Time of Jacob’s Trouble, the Day of the Lord, or the 70th Week of Daniel a “7 Year Tribulation”. This is what we have to study by putting all the pieces together.
Great Tribulation – Like Tribulation, but Much, Much Worse
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. Matthew 24:21 ESV
And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. Daniel 12:1 ESV
And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear: If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints. (Revelation 13:5-10 ESV)
He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.” (Daniel 7:24-25 ESV)
The body of Christ, commonly called “the Church”, is not specifically promised to be spared from great tribulation. Believing Israelites (and anyone who wishes to join them) ARE offered a chance of escape from the Great Tribulation, if they identify its start point and flee immediately. The Greatest Tribulation, that would kill everyone alive if unchecked, is defined by Jesus as beginning at the “abomination of desolation”, and ending with the coming of the Son of Man (Himself). The Greatest Tribulation will come from satan and his fallen angel horde, through the “antichrist” as well as from humans cooperating with satan’s agenda. The wilderness area near Israel (likely Petra, in present-day Jordan) will be protected from the antichrist.
Wrath – Extreme Anger
Believers are not promised to be spared from Satan’s wrath. Satan has wrath:
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 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!” And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea. (Revelation 12:9-17 ESV)
Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea. (Revelation 12:17 ESV)
We see satan and his fallen angels thrown down from heaven at the same time as salvation (“you will be saved”) comes to those who have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb (“and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead”) and by the word of their testimony (“if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord”), having not loved their lives even unto death (“For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” – Hebrews 3:14 ESV). Note how Romans 10:9 fits in (pieced in the parentheses above).
The heavens rejoice, but the earth will suffer because satan comes down in wrath. He first pursues the woman who birthed the child (believing remnant of Israel), but she ends up fleeing (at the halfway point) and is protected in the wilderness. He then pursues any remaining believers in Christ (Gentile, maybe Jew too).
Note that in Revelation 12 we see some believers spared completely, Israel being pursued and then fleeing to a protected place, and some believers end up on the receiving end of satan’s wrath.
Note here, that satan will be used as an agent of God to execute His final vengeance upon the earth. God will hand satan authority, it is true, but he can do nothing that God does not allow. You see, God has holy wrath.
The body of Christ is promised to be spared from God’s wrath. God has wrath, which will be poured on the earth in the future in the Day of the Lord:
But on that day, the day that Gog shall come against the land of Israel, declares the Lord God, my wrath will be roused in my anger. For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I declare, On that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. (Ezekiel 38:18 ESV)
For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 ESV
But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from wrath through Him! Romans 5:8-9
For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you 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, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 ESV)
The current body of Christ is promised to be spared from God’s wrath when He rouses in His anger. At this point we will be given salvation.
Who is Spared From What?
Ok, so we have defined tribulation, great tribulation, and wrath. In the wrath category, both God and satan have wrath.
In the believers category, we have church-age believers, the believing remnant of Israel, and post-rapture believers (aka Tribulation Saints).
Church age believers are only specifically promised to be spared from God’s wrath.
The Woman, the believing remnant of Israel – is promised to be spared from great tribulation (satan’s wrath) IF they obediently flee when it begins. Presumably, they will also be sheltered from God’s wrath there as they will be “cared for in the wilderness”.
Post-rapture believers – are not promised to be spared from tribulation, great tribulation, or wrath of any kind. It’s the opposite, they are actually told they will greatly suffer, be handed into the antichrist’s hand, and many will be martyred.
When Does God’s Wrath Begin?
The question I am hoping you are asking at this point, is “When Does God’s Wrath Begin?” If you are a current believer, this is when you can expect to be “rescued” or “delivered” or “saved”. Our rescue as living believers comes in the form of the “rapture” – the snatching away, violently, with great force, away from a time of great anguish coming upon the earth. For that, you will have to read Part 2 🙂
Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape? If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.
The Bible is infallible. I am not. I am merely challenging traditional models and testing them against Scripture. I believe that traditional pretribulation teachings provide a solid backbone upon which to lay the musculature of details. I encourage you to consider my thoughts as you also examine the scriptures to see if these things are so!