Necessity as the mother of invention has produced unprecedented technological wonders through the ages, especially in the 19th, 20th, & 21st centuries.
The list is long.
We all have our favorites—unrivaled innovations most of which are followed by immense improvements; not just in the side-benefits thereof, but of advances in the invention itself.
What would be the favorite on your list: electricity, radio, the automobile, the airplane, television, the computer, or the smart phone (sure choice of Millennials!)? I’m sure one invention is on everyone’s list—the Microwave!
My choice is mega-ton ships. Oh, I know and at least partially understand Archimedes principal of water displacement, etc. But come on… huge aircraft carriers or titanic cruise ships (lower case “t” so as not to bring up bad memories of that capital “T” ship) are simply stunning. And submarines … above and below the water!
However, when thinking of things that can change not just the external world, but the significantly more valuable internal dimension of our life’s experiences, let’s briefly consider the most remarkable and unparalleled event of all time.
Prefaced by first remembering King Solomon’s astute observation that: there’s nothing new under the sun. He was referring to the basic stuff of life as he penned in the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, including true wisdom and its divine source. Then the pleasures and problems encountered in work, recreation, creativity, wealth or lack thereof, human intimacy, and a host of other pursuits.
“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2).
The essence of which has little or nothing to do with technological achievements and the like. The core of which is meaningless unless we consider Solomon’s final conclusion: “Fear (respect, hold in awe) God and obey his commands (the last and most important of which is expressed through God’s New Covenant with mankind), for this is everyone’s duty” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, parenthesis mine).
Some 300 years later, God announced this New Covenant through Jeremiah, one that was without precedent for Israel.
This astonishing New Covenant would be accomplished by and through Israel’s prophesied Messiah, born of a Virgin (Isaiah 7:14), God’s very Son (Psalm 110). He would die for the sins of the world (Isaiah 53 + a plethora of New Testament passages). In unprecedented fashion (resurrection from the dead), Messiah Jesus would bring about a once and for all right-standing with God that would guarantee resurrection and eternity in heaven for those who believed in Him (Psalm 16, Luke 24, John 11:25-26). Moreover, he would be the only Way to God (John 14:6). When his mission on earth was complete, he would ascend back to heaven (Daniel 7:13-14 & Acts 1).
Finally, Jesus as King of all kings will one day rule the nations in the Kingdom of God on earth upon his return to establish that Kingdom (several passages).
Do you believe that? Then say, “Yes,” to Messiah Jesus. If you do:
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ…” (II Corinthians 5:17-18a).
The soon-to-come end-times events that comprise the Day of Lord begin with another first-time occurrence in its scope and nature; but not one without a prototype or pattern. Which is referred to as the Rapture of all those who have believed and received Messiah Jesus as their personal Savior.
Although many believers firmly believe that the Rapture will precede the Great Tribulation, there are more than just a few who maintain there’s no such thing as the Rapture; or it won’t take place until the end of the Great Tribulation. Which implies that the Rapture and the physical return of Messiah Jesus to earth are virtually simultaneous.
Please refer to Eye of Prophecy article, Messiah’s Return & The Rapture (Same Or Separate Events?) Posted 12-3-16.
What is of more concern is their contention that believers must go through the Tribulation.
Consequently, we’re going to examine:
Biblical Evidence to Confirm That Believers Will Not Experience the Great Tribulation
There are two template-like sources in Scripture to demonstrate decisively that the Rapture will occur and when. Not “when” in terms of the time/date (setting). As you may know, Jesus himself said three times that no one knows the day or hour of his return. He was explicitly referring to the Rapture phase of His Second Coming. Thus, we’ll examine when the Rapture will take place in juxtaposition to the Great Tribulation.
Those two sources are:
(1) Actual Biblical Passages: Discussed in this week’s Part I post. They will be separated into two main components:
(A) Passages cited by those who place the Rapture half-way through or at the end of the Great Tribulation; thereby, concluding that believers will experience the Tribulation either partially or in its entirety. Yet, this deduction is derived from a misunderstanding or misapplication of tribulation in the lower-case (general) meaning of the word contrasted to the upper-case Tribulation, which is the one-time series of events taking place in a designated period.
(B) Companion passages stating succinctly that believers will be spared from the Great Tribulation. That God’s wrath during this 7-year calamity will be directed only to unbelievers.
To that end, we’ll focus on not only the text, but the context of these passages; which is critical to understanding the on-going tribulation, trials, and testing of believers. Contrasted to the specified apocalyptic episodes completely unparalleled in human history, in terms of scope and severity—the Great Tribulation.
Then in next week’s Part II article, we’ll scrutinize another significant paradigm of Scripture. Which will present more convincing evidence that the spectacular experience of the Rapture will precede the Tribulation.
With just a brief overview in this week’s article, I’m referring to:
(2) Biblical Precedents, Parallels, Prototypes, & Patterns
Virtually everything that happened during early New Testament times and those that will take place in the end-times of the last days (in which we are living), has an Old Testament forerunner—in terms of both correlation and contrast.
In the Old Testament we read: “Indeed, the Sovereign Lord never does anything until he reveals his plans to his servants his prophets” (Amos 3:7).
Those plans include specific people, places, and events obviously relevant to Old Testament times. But also:
This is God’s way of preparing New Covenant believers, Jew and Gentile alike, to fully grasp the promises that are part and parcel of the New Covenant of Grace. Not the least of which is the Rapture and its two-fold purpose: (A) Resurrection of dead believers followed by their transformation (along with living believers) to our imperishable spiritual bodies equipped to live in heaven forever. (B) Sparing living believers from the Great Tribulation by removing us from the earth.
Biblical Text and Context
The Bible is replete with universal truth of and from God concerning the epic matters of creation, sin and its penalty, salvation only through God’s Son, eternal destiny (heaven or hell) and more. There are several stand-alone precepts in which the context is important and interesting, but not necessarily crucial to the truth announced. Such as the most well-known and oft-quoted verse in the Bible:
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
This powerful life-changing promise could be placed in the framework of virtually any passage of the Bible. That verse and many others like it can be and are reasonably cited independently of the setting or situation, without affecting the essential meaning of the statement whatsoever.
However, of interest and even intrigue about the scene in John Chapter 3, is the fact that a Jewish religious leader, Nicodemus—a member of the elite Jewish Sanhedrin of the 1st century—came to Jesus to find out for himself who Jesus was/is … especially in light of the miracles Jesus had already performed. As well as the way in which Jesus taught, i.e. with power and authority. Quite unlike any of the religious leaders, including Nicodemus himself.
Jesus knew why Nicodemus was there and that even (especially) a Jewish religious leader needed to realize what and who it was that could permanently reconcile him to God, the result of which would be everlasting life. Thus, the first words out of Jesus’s mouth were: “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
On the other hand, background is of paramount importance for many Biblical truths.
To the extent that if the verse or verses are “taken out of context,” or if the context is simply discarded or misunderstood, it could and sometimes will distort the intended purpose and meaning of the message. Also contributing to this error is failure to correlate any given passage with others on the same subject in order to gain a proper perspective on the matter at hand, i.e. the whole counsel of God. Another error is that of skimming over key modifiers, e.g. adjectives, adverbs, definite vs indefinite articles. In short, simply not scrutinizing the text/context with any degree of diligence.
Thus, let’s look at the text/context regarding Points A & B, listed earlier.
(A) Passages Cited to Infer a Post-Tribulation Rapture vs Pre-Tribulation
There are a couple of prominent passages cited by those who contend that born-again believers will go through the Great Tribulation. We’ll examine them in and with their contextual meaning; followed by other passages (also in context) which irrefutably confirm that believers will not be subject to or physically present when God’s Wrath is poured out on a wicked world during the Great Tribulation.
First Passage: You may want to read the entire 16th Chapter of John, the setting of which is just a few hours before Jesus’s arrest, trial, and crucifixion. The final three verses are:
“Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe? Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world’” (John 16:31-33, NASB, emphasis added).
The Greek word translated “tribulation” in this passage is: Thlipsis.
Synonyms for tribulation: affliction, distress, trouble, persecution, and anguish. Also, trials and sorrows which are the words used in the New Living Translation of this passage.
Note that Jesus told his disciples, “in the world you have tribulation.” He’s clearly speaking in general terms regarding the troubles that believers in Jesus would experience. This is evident by the present tense dynamics of his words … you have tribulation. Meaning now and continuing throughout their/our life as we follow and serve the Lord. The NLT reads, “you will have tribulation.” Which is saying the same thing, i.e. now and throughout our lives. However, note that there is no definite or even indefinite article or modifying terms. Which, conversely, are attached to and expressly define the Great Tribulation—as we will soon see.
In the immediate context, the tribulation described by the Lord is plainly generic.
This foregone conclusion of generalized tribulation for born-again believers (including suffering and persecution) is prevalent in Paul and Peter’s epistles, and to a lesser extent in the book of James. As Christ suffered, so will his born-again followers. To some degree or another, at one time or another—individually or collectively as the body of Christ—anyone who speaks out or lives for the Lord (even sporadically) will experience some measure of rejection, derision, ostracism, or even hostility.
However, thlipsis also entails all of life’s negative experiences, e.g. distress, trial, sorrow, and just plain ole trouble.
In this passage, Messiah Jesus is NOT referring to the Great Tribulation, which is part of the Day of the Lord and will take place between the Rapture and His Millennial Reign. In fact, Jesus had already told his disciples about that coming great time of anguish and did so in dramatic detail, to include the (Pre-Tribulation) Rapture and his (Post-Tribulation) Second Coming … Matthew Chapters 24-25. We’ll get to that in a moment.
So, too, do several Old Testament prophets warn of that great and glorious (for believers) but terrible Day of the Lord (for unbelievers), particularly those who have and will continue to persecute God’s chosen people, the Jews, during the Great Tribulation.
Such as: “At the time of those events, says the Lord, when I restore the prosperity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather the armies of the world into the valley of Jehoshaphat (which means valley of decision). There I will judge them for harming my people, my special possession (Israel), for scattering my people among the nations, and for dividing up my land” (Joel 3:1-2, parenthesis mine).
The time of those events leads us to the 2nd passage sometimes referred to by those who claim that believers must go through the Great Tribulation. Which is found in the 24th & 25th chapters of Matthew, just referenced.
Second Passage (A combination of two passages): In addition to misidentifying the generalized tribulation/trouble that believers face during our time on this earth with the Great Tribulation, another error made by the Mid or Post-Tribulation viewpoint is mistaken identity of the elect.
Said Jesus: “For then there will be a great tribulation (as opposed to general tribulation), such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matthew 24:21-22, NASB, emphasis added, parenthesis mine).
If the elect are all believers who enter and experience the Great Tribulation, as proposed by the Post-Tribulation Rapture hypothesis, why would this great time of anguish be cut short just for them? I pose this question in the light of: (1) most of the Tribulation saints (believers in Christ AFTER the Rapture) already have been killed by the Antichrist by the end of the Tribulation … Revelation 7 & 20. (2) For reason #1, if so many of them had already died, the idea of for the sake of the elect is anticlimactic. By and large, it would be too late (for them) when Jesus returns. The massive damage (death) had already been done.
Although I’ve written about this in a few prior articles, time/space in this article doesn’t permit extensive discussion (passages and commentary, much of it from the Old Testament) to demonstrate that “the elect” are God’s chosen people, the Jews. Except to say that when Jesus physically returns to earth, his primary purpose is to rescue Israel and the Jews from annihilation at the hands of Antichrist’s confederation (Daniel 11, Zechariah 12 & 14, and other passages).
After seeing a great crowd of (post-Rapture) Tribulation saints, John was asked, “…Who are these who are clothed in white? Where did they come from?” Because John didn’t know for sure, he replies, “Sir, you are the one who knows” (Revelation 7:13-14).
If these believers had entered the tribulation (without there being a Rapture yet), he certainly would have known from where they came and why they were there. They would have been born-again believers still in the Church age (body of Christ) alive when the Tribulation began. But John didn’t know, because these saints had been redeemed after the original set of believers in the (our current) Church age were no longer on the earth. It’s a foregone conclusion that John already knew about the Rapture, as it was disclosed not only by Jesus, but by Paul many years earlier. It’s just that neither John nor other believers yet knew—until the book of Revelation was written—that there would be those (post-Rapture) born-again after the Day of the Lord began.
The following is another reason why the Rapture will most assuredly precede the Great Tribulation.
After describing those (birth-pain) Pre-Tribulation events and then the Tribulation itself (explained in much more detail in the final Revelation of Jesus Christ as recorded by John of Revelation), Jesus returns to a description of the days leading to God’s first global judgment of the earth—Noah’s flood. Then he makes a compelling comparison to the unsaved world’s ignorance of and willful oblivion to the 2nd and final of God’s wrath poured out on the earth.
“In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes” (Matthew 24:38-39).
Then, immediately after conveying the apathetic condition of humanity just before the Day of the Lord begins, Jesus reveals something utterly remarkable:
“Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left” (Verses 40-41).
In Luke’s Gospel, we read of a third example Jesus presented: “That night two people will be asleep in one bed; one will be taken, the other left” (Luke 17:34).
Then, of course, the Apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 4 describes the entire sequence of the Rapture.
This sudden and unexpected taking or catching up (Greek term harpazo in I Thessalonians 4) of some on the earth (believers) right in front of unbelievers is in stark contrast to Messiah’s physical return to the earth, preceded in time and space by signs and wonders during the Tribulation. Not the least of which was: “the sign that the Son of Man is coming…” (Matthew 24:30). Unbelievers, as well as surviving Tribulation believers saved after the Rapture, will have plenty of time and indicators—not the least of which is the linear sequence of the seven seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments—prior to the physical return of Christ to earth. With Jesus first stepping foot on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4).
Although the physical return of Messiah Jesus to earth will be an awesome event and will stun many, especially the unsaved, it won’t be sudden in the sense of being totally unexpected.
Not so, the Rapture. It will dramatically catch everyone off guard (believers included, but in a good and joyful way).
*Note: When Jesus spoke of his “return”, he was referring to the composite scope and entire length of the Day of the Lord, that begins with one person taken, the other left … the Rapture. Then the agonizing time of anguish (tribulation) to follow. Mercifully ending with his glorious physical return to establish the incomparable Kingdom of God on earth. However, Jesus mixed these stages of his return together, as his greater emphasis was “get ready.”
These three phases are then expounded sequentially by the Apostle Paul and by John of Revelation. Thus, Jesus’s sweeping disclosure of these stunning events is better understood in the context of Paul’s and John’s exposition (I & II Thessalonians and Revelation, respectively). Which, in turn, helps to identify which of the three phases Jesus is describing in the Olivet Discourse.
(B) Direct Text/Context Confirmation of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture
The Apostle Paul’s first letter (epistle) to believers is found in the book Galatians. Shortly thereafter (A.D. 51-52), he wrote I & II Thessalonians; both books speak of the suffering and persecution that believers in Christ were already undergoing throughout the Roman Empire.
At that time, the persecutors were almost exclusively the religious Jews. In fact, Paul himself had been a devout Pharisee who tormented Christians, imprisoning many and even participated in killing them. That is, until he had a life-changing, destiny-altering encounter with the risen Jesus (Acts 9). Gentile persecution began several years later with the brutal murder of thousands of Christians at the hand of Nero Caesar.
James was the first to remind his brothers and sisters in Christ that they would undergo testing, trials, and suffering. In effect, James was echoing Jesus’s words that we looked at earlier … in the world you have tribulation.
Wrote James: “Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return… You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near…. For examples of patience in suffering … look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” (James 5:7-8 & 10).
Next, Paul, then Peter wrote extensively about persecution that they and other believers were experiencing and would continue to endure. All three men addressed this fact in the context of their eager expectation that Jesus would return very soon—in their lifetime.
However, the Apostles Paul and Peter made it crystal clear that believers alive just before God’s final wrath was poured out on the world would not have to go through that terrible time of terror. This in keeping with Jesus’s startling revelation to his disciples (Peter was obviously present during that discourse), that believers would be taken out of harm’s way.
For it was this great time of anguish that Jesus was warning about, as well as the world’s indifference when it struck. In other words: if believers were meant to go through the Tribulation, then there would be no reason for them to be abruptly removed from the earth, let alone for Jesus to reveal that fantastic fact.
Signed, Sealed, and Delivered!
The Apostle Paul writes:
What a magnificent promise! One made in the past tense with a future tense application, which indisputably demonstrates that believers had already (the moment they were born again) been spared from the coming judgment before it even occurred. It was a done deal! Believers had not only been saved from the penalty of their sins (eternal separation from God) in advance. So, too, had they been delivered in advance from the coming Great Tribulation.
Furthermore, this “coming judgment” is clearly referring to and in the immediate context of the seven-year Great Tribulation followed by the Millennial Reign of Messiah Jesus.
It is NOT referring to the Great White Throne Judgment which takes place soon after the Millennium. For one thing, that applies only to the raised-from-the-dead unbelievers and their final sentence (doom) to the Lake of Fire because they refused to believe and receive God’s Son as the only source of their salvation. (Revelation 20:11-15).
After Paul discloses the sequential details of the Rapture itself in I Thessalonians 4, which is an elaboration on what Jesus had already revealed, he expounds even more on the return of Messiah Jesus in Chapter 5. It’s vitally important to grasp that he’s still talking about the Day of the Lord, having already announced the resurrection of dead believers, transfiguration of both dead and living believers into our eternal indestructible bodies, and being caught up to heaven.
Then Paul writes: “For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectantly, like a thief in the night (referring pointblank to the Rapture that he had just revealed). When people are saying, ‘Everything is peaceful and secure,’ then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape” (I Thessalonians 5:2-3, parenthesis mine).
The people referred to by Paul are obviously unbelievers who will be totally unprepared, both physically and spiritually for the Rapture. Then Paul puts the contextual finishing touches on the entire sequence of events by making this astounding statement of security for believers in Christ:
“For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever” (Verses 9-10, emphasis added).
God’s anger referenced by Paul unmistakably pertains to God’s final wrath poured out on the world as also prophesied by several Old Testament prophets.
Then again in II Thessalonians, Paul decisively declares by default deduction that God’s (Tribulation-time) judgment applies only to unbelievers. Why? Because Jesus takes believers home to heaven.
“And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven…” (II Thessalonians 1:7a). This “rest” is in the immediate context of the Day of the Lord theme that dominates the last two chapters of I Thessalonians and the first two chapters of II Thessalonians.
It would be the Rapture that would provide rest for them (generation of believers alive) when God’s 2nd and final global judgment of the earth commenced. The word rest also includes the idea of rescue, security, and safety.
Of course, they didn’t know for sure, but Paul and believers in the 1st century eagerly expected that Jesus would return in their time. This rest would be from their present-day sufferings for Christ plus out-of-harm’s-way rescue from the Great Tribulation. A seven-year period (Daniel 9) that would begin when the Antichrist beast (man of lawlessness) would return from the Abyss (Revelation 17:7-8). Which believers weren’t aware of until later, when John saw incredibly detailed visions of the Day of the Lord.
Continuing in the passage: “…He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power” (II Thessalonians 1:7b-9).
The “flaming fire … judgment” is a direct allusion to the Tribulation judgments of God, which are graphically depicted in Revelation. The eternal destruction is a reference to the final fate of unbelievers in the Lake of Fire.
Of paramount importance: God’s anger that will be unleashed on a corrupt and violent world is a specific time-dedicated series of events relayed as a prophesy. As opposed to generic tribulation (troubles) that believers were already experiencing. AND, as Paul explicitly specifies: this final judgment would be only on the unsaved … not believers. God’s way of totally protecting believers from his global wrath is to remove us from the earth. And while he’s at it, the dead in Christ are resurrected and both dead and living believers are transfigured into our spiritual bodies!
As is said: It doesn’t get any better than that!
Will there be believers during the Tribulation? Of course. However, that fact was not revealed until John wrote the book of Revelation. Neither Paul nor any of the Christians (including John the author of Revelation, until the angel told him) knew that would be the case. Which also confirms that the Rapture would take place before the Tribulation began.
One more passage to cement the unmistakable Biblical evidence that pre-Tribulation believers will be taken out of harm’s way, as God’s judgments are directed only at unbelievers.
This time from the Apostle Peter: “And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire (instead of a flood as with God’s first global punishment). They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed” (II Peter 3:7, parenthesis mine; italics to emphasize that the day of God’s final wrath is only for/against the unsaved).
Think about it once more: It would make no sense for the Rapture to be one and the same as Messiah’s physical return to the earth as some speculate. What purpose would it serve for the Lord to abruptly take believers home to heaven after they had gone through (the survivors) the horrific Tribulation? The entire reason for Jesus and Paul to remind believers (encourage them because they would be taken out of harm’s way) and warn unbelievers (to take heed and accept Jesus as their personal Savior) is to prepare for the coming judgment.
Summarized in the words of the song, “People get ready, Jesus is coming, to take from the earth his own.”
Here is an excerpt from the Eye of Prophecy article, Messiah’s Return & The Rapture … Same or Separate Events? (in italics):
Although the Biblical evidence is conclusive, we can also rely on the common sense of it all. Or in reverse, the nonsensical notion of being caught up to meet the Lord in the clouds/air, only to immediately go back down to the earth with the Lord to dispense the final wrath of the Lamb at the final battle of Armageddon.
All phases of the Second Coming of Christ will take place in real time and space (place), not virtual time or reality. Among other things, how is it possible for the wedding feast with our Savior to take place before we return with Christ at the final battle of Armageddon, if we’re caught up to heaven at the same time Christ is coming down to the earth? Revelation is crystal clear that believers will celebrate the wedding feast with Messiah BEFORE Jesus returns to do battle at Armageddon.
Believers will not meet Christ going (up) and coming (down) all at once. That makes no sense at all. That would be like an elevator full of employees going up to meet their boss with the unmistakable understanding that he is waiting for them in the Penthouse Suite having prepared a great Christmas party for them. Only for the boss to change his mind after they arrive, and then take the elevator back down with all the guests, to first “take care of business” below.
Praise and thanks to God … born again believers will sit out the tribulation! There will be seven years between our elevator rides!
Things to Ponder
In addition to misapplying Biblical passages that describe the general suffering and/or persecution of believers during their life on earth to the Great Tribulation, I’ve also heard and read such things as:
“Why shouldn’t Christians go through the Tribulation? We’re not better than non-believers, just different.”
I totally agree with the second part of that statement. Believers are not innately or intrinsically better than unbelievers, for God loves everyone the same.
But we are (far) better off, by virtue of our irrevocable adoption as God’s children with an unprecedented inheritance that Christ will share with all believers. With spectacular promises such as eternal life, resurrection of the dead in Christ, along with living believers at the Rapture to be transformed into eternal spiritual bodies. And that most assuredly includes being spared from God’s 2nd and final global judgment.
“And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation” (Romans 5:9).
From the whole counsel of Scripture, we know that God’s condemnation entails two distinct events and times: (1) Wrath of God during the Tribulation; (2) Sentencing of unbelievers to the Lake of Fire at the beginning of Eternity.
“We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:15-18).
There would be no encouragement whatsoever if believers in what we call the Church Age of Grace were required to go through the Tribulation. Instead, the comfort comes from knowing that we will be sovereignly spared from the greatest time of calamity ever experienced by humanity.
Great is our God and His Messiah, and greatly to be praised!