Prophecy – Part 86 – The Two Views of The Tribulation Age

THE QUESTION:

 “How do Pre-millennialist scholars generally describe the actual Tribulation Period?”

Recently in our study of the Book of Revelation I have been answering very specific questions received about Revelation. Why?  Because I feel that the more you understand the book the more you will gain from your study of Revelation.  Our last study dealt with the imminent return of Christ – I Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Today is another question about the pre-millennialist view.  If you have a question please feel free to forward it to OBM (Open Bible Ministries) and I will answer the question.

Pre-millennialist scholars generally agree that the actual Tribulation Age is described in Revelation 6-18.  There are two main positions when studying the order of the series of seals, trumpets, and bowls: the simultaneous view and the sequential view.

Because we are following the Pre-millennial view, I will answer with the Sequential view: this view holds that the series of seals, trumpets, and bowls occur in order, one after the other.  Dr. Norman Geisler in his “Systematic Theology” lists arguments in favor of the sequential view and includes the following:

First, a plain reading of the text supports a sequential view; one numbered series after another would normally be understood as sequential.

Second, phrases like “I saw” and “I looked/heard” and especially “after these things” support sequential events.  Even in the parenthetical passages, similar phrases indicate a sequence of events.

Third, the bowls indicate sequence because they are called “the last” of God’s wrath (Revelation 15:1 NASB) in contrast to the earlier seals and trumpets.

Fourth, the trumpets and bowls cannot be at the same time since the judgment is more extensive in the bowls, indicating that they are later.  For example, the second trumpet will kill only a third of the sea creatures (Revelation 8:9), whereas the second bowl will kill every living sea creature (Revelation 16:3).

Fifth, the fifth trumpet comes after the sixth seal.  Why?  For the 144,000 are sealed in the sixth seal (Revelation 7:1-8), and the judgments of the fifth trumpet come only on those who have not been sealed (Revelation 9:4).

Sixth, the ordinal numbers indicate sequence within each succession.

The next series does not begin with the next number, because it is a new series of events.

Seventh, God will miraculously intervene, save Israel from utter destruction (Zechariah 12:4-8), and restore: “THE HOUSE OF DAVID “V. 8); Christ will return to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4) and deliver His people.

 Eighth, and finally, national Israel will recognize Christ as their Messiah when they look on Him whom they have pierced (Revelation 1:7; Matthew 24:30).

  • Israel will be re-ingrafted into the redemptive line, the “times of the Gentiles” having been completed (Luke 21:24).
  • The New Covenant with Israel will be fulfilled (Jeremiah 31:31), as will be the Abrahamic covenant, which guaranteed their land forever (Genesis 12:1-3) and the Davidic covenant, which gave assurance that they eternally would have a king on David’s throne.

This summary of the Tribulation can be found in Dr. Norman Geisler’s Systematic Theology, volume four, pages 610-611.

THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE RAPTURE TO THE TRIBULATION AGE. [adapted from various documents]

The Tribulation Age is an unprecedented time of judgment and wrath.  So, it is a normal question, “Where does the rapture of the church fit into the events of the Tribulation Age?”  Is it before, during, or after the Tribulation Age?  All good questions.

FACT:  The reasons which will be pointed out reveal the fact that the church is in heaven during the Tribulation Age.  The area that we will be examining is called “Pre-Tribulationism” and holds that the Rapture of the church occurs BEFORE the Tribulation, during which the church, Christ’s bride, will be in heaven standing before His judgment seat (2 Corinthians 5:10) AND preparing for His return to earth.

Pre-Tribulationism holds that Christ’s coming FOR HIS SAINTS will be IN THE AIR and BEFORE the Tribulation; after the Tribulation Age, Christ will come WITH His Saints TO EARTH.  Why?  To reign for a thousand years.  (Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord (1910-2002) and Dwight Pentecost).  

POINT:  The Church Is Never Mentioned as being on EARTH During the Tribulation Age.

John addresses Revelation to the “Seven churches which are in Asia” (Revelation l:4 NKJV).  The word CHURCHES is used nineteen times in the first three chapters and then not once during the entire Tribulation (Revelation 6-18).  Then it reoccurs after the Second Coming (Revelation 19) and during the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 22:16).  It is interesting that similar exhortations earlier that had the phrase “unto the churches” (Revelation 2:7, 11, KJV) do not have them during the Tribulation, when, instead, John warns, “If anyone has an ear, let him hear: (Revelation 13:9).

In fact, after the description of the seven churches (Revelation chapters 2-3) in chapters 4-5, this scene shifts to heaven where John is beckoned with a trumpet-like voice, “…Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place AFTER THIS” (Revelation 4:1 NKJV).

Some see these words as reminiscent of Paul’s statement that the Rapture will take place “…with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God” (I Thessalonians 4:16); others disagree.  In any event, the church, from that point on John views the Tribulation from heaven.  After a brief picture of the redeemed around God’s throne (Revelation chapters 4-5), from chapters 6-18, the TRIBULATION AGE UNFOLDS. 

  • In Chapter 19 Christ returns to earth and then He reigns for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-7), which is followed by the new heaven and new earth (chapters 21-22).
  • Now during the entire Tribulation period is THERE IS NOT A WORD ABOUT THE CHURCH BEING ON EARTH.

Now let’s turn to a different subject.  The Church (Bride) is Mentioned in Heaven During the Tribulation.

There is a reference to the church during the Tribulation Period, however, it is in heaven.  Near the end of the Tribulation Age the fall of “Babylon the Great” is announced, this is the great APOSTATE CHURCH on earth (18:2).

NOTE:  The church, the bride of Christ, is not mentioned until AFTER the Tribulation Age, when she is positioned as “COMING DOWN OUT OF HEAVEN” (Revelation 3:12) where she has been preparing for the wedding.

This fits with a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, where during the Tribulation the believers appear before the heavenly judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10) to have their works purified by fire (I Corinthians 3:11-15) and to prepare them as a chaste virgin (2 Corinthians 11:2) to meet the Bridegroom (Jesus Christ) in the “marriage of the Lamb” (Revelation19:7, NKJV).

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the last seven plagues came and spoke with me (John), saying  ‘Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb’ ” (Revelation 21:9 NASB).

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him, for the wedding of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7 NASB). 

“Then I, John, saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2; 22:17 NKJV).  Having considered the study thus far you might agree that All of this IMPLIES that she [the church] was in heaven, raptured before the Tribulation, and being prepared to return to earth with her Husband at the end of the Tribulation Period.   Next, let’s consider a question, “What about the Heaven Dwellers?

HEAVEN DWELLERS:

The other reference to the church during the Tribulation Age is found in 13:6 where John speaks of “those who dwell in heaven” (NKJV) in contrast to human, unsaved earth-dwellers (12:12; 13:8, 14); those raptured are human and saved.  Further, they appear to have bodies, for the verb DWELL is from the same word used for Christ’s incarnation in human flesh (John 14) and for the believer’s body (2 Corinthians 5:1, 4).  It is never used of pure spirits (e.g. angels).  This supports Pre-Tribulationism – that the saved are raptured before the Tribulation and given resurrection bodies in heaven. 

Another question that often comes is concerning the 24 Elders.

THE 24 ELDERS

Some have taken the twenty-four elders of Revelation 4:4 to be angelic beings, these interpreters refer to King David’s order of twenty-four priests in the earthly temple (I Chronicles 24).

However, Gromacki maintains strongly that they cannot be angels:

(1) they’re sitting on thrones, which is what Jesus promised to believers (Revelation 3:21),

(2) they have white robes, the same as believers (3:5, 18), and

(3) they were given crowns, as believers are promised (2:10; 3:11).

This simple identity delineates redeemed people, notably believers in the church age; they have been raptured before the Tribulation to have this status in heaven.

NOTE: tribulation references to earthly believers are not about the church.

Post-Tribulationists take several Tribulation statements about “saints” and other believers on earth as references to the church.  This is a case of mistaken identity.  

Another group that often is misused are the l44,000, so let’s briefly consider them:  

144,000:  The believers mentioned twice during the Tribulation are Jewish converts from the twelve tribes of Israel.  The “great multitude” of others are those won to Christ by the l44,000 converted Jews (7:4-9; 14:3).  Now let’s consider the tribulation saints:

THE TRIBULATION SAINTS

The word “saints,” used several times during the Tribulation need not mean “those who were believers in Christ before the Tribulation began.”

  • There were saints (godly ones) in the Old Testament (Psalm 85:8).
  • There are saints today (I Corinthians 1:2).
  • There will be saints during the Tribulation (Revelation 13:7).
  • This is a common word for believers of all ages.
  • The identification of saints during the Tribulation is with either the 144,000 saved Jews or the myriad others converted though their works.  Now let’s move to the question pertaining to the church and its deliverance from the Hour of Testing.

The Church is delivered from the Hour of Testing, the Tribulation Age.  This important information should help anyone who is struggling with certain areas of the Tribulation Age.

God promised to keep the church from the “hour of trial” (The Tribulation).  John wrote to the faithful church at Philadelphia.

“Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you FROM the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth” (Revelation 3:10).

God did not say He would keep the church THROUGH the Tribulation as Post-Tribulationists argue (see Ladd, BH, 85-86), but FROM it.  Also, notice the word KEEP – one can hardly be kept from something he is enduring.  This is likewise supported by the use of EK in verses unrelated to the Tribulation.

When New Testament believers are asked to keep themselves “from” offensive practices (Acts 15:29), they clearly are not to participate at all (James 5:20).  

Even a favorite Post-Tribulational text – (John 17:15), in which Jesus says, “My prayer is not that you [the Father] take them [believers] out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” – supports a Pre-Tribulational Rapture, involving removal from the world system, as believers are transferred from Satan’s domain to Christ kingdom (Colossians 1:13; I John 5:18).

In addition, the word HOUR supports Pre-Tribulationism, since the only way to be kept from a section of time, such as an HOUR is not to go through any of it.  The promise is not merely to keep them from TRIALS but also from the TIME in which the trial occurs.

Believers cannot be kept from part of the hour, as with Mid-Tribulationism or the pre-wrath view, the only way to be kept from an hour is not to be in any part of the hour.

NEXT, let’s review some further questions submitted by those studying God’s Word but needing clarification. 

(1)  The fact the Church is Saved from God’s Wrath 

(2)  Understanding the Church’s Rapture and the Sudden Apostasy 

(3)  Understanding the concept of Imminence which implies a Pre-tribulation Rapture 

(4)  Understanding the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble 

(5)  The Belief in the Rapture and its Purifying Hope 

Other questions will be answered as time and space permits.  

APPLICATION:  

Please review this study and find at least one idea that has helped you.  Also, if you have never accepted Christ as your personal Savior please read John 3:16, allowing the Holy Spirit to challenge you.  Also, having considered John 3:16, read and apply Romans 10:9-13.  

Finally, if you have further questions, please feel free to forward them to us and we will answer with the Bible.  Thanks for joining us today in our study.   We find that many of the thousands who study with us have interesting and challenging questions and want help.  We are here to provide that help.