"And the LORD your God will inflict all these curses on
your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. And
you shall again obey the Lord, and observe all His commandments
which I command you today."
God's purpose for the tribulation (i.e., the seven-year, 70th
week of Daniel) revolves around His plan for Israel and does not
include a earthly presence for the church. Why? Because God's
plan for Israel is unfinished at this point in history. When the
role of the church is completed she will be taken as a completed
body to heaven in an instant-at the rapture. This will clear the
way for a restoration and resumption of progress toward the completion
of our Sovereign Lord's plans for His elect nation-Israel.
The Tribulation Focuses on Israel
The Bible teaches that the tribulation is a time of preparation
for Israel's restoration and conversion (Deut. 4:29-30; Jer. 30:3-11;
Zech. 12:10).1 While the church will experience tribulation in
general during this present age (John 15:18-25; 16:33; 2 Tim.
3:10-13), she is never mentioned as participating in Israel's
time of trouble, which includes the Great Tribulation, the Day
of the Lord, and the Wrath of God. Gerald Stanton explains:
The Tribulation does not deal with the Church at all, but with
the purification of Israel. It is not the "time of the Church's
trouble," but the "time of Jacob's trouble." The
emphasis of the Tribulation is primarily Jewish. This fact is
borne out by Old Testament Scriptures (Deut. 4: 30; Jer. 30: 7;
Ezek. 20: 37; Dan. 12:1; Zech. 13:8-9), by the Olivet Discourse
of Christ (Matt. 24:9-26), and by the book of Revelation itself
(Rev. 7:4-8; 12:1-2; 17, etc.). It concerns "Daniel's people,"
the coming of "false Messiah," the preaching of the
"gospel of the kingdom," flight on the "sabbath,"
the temple and the "holy place," the land of Judea,
the city of Jerusalem, the twelve "tribes of the children
of Israel," the "son of Moses," "signs"
in the heavens, the "covenant" with the Beast, the "sanctuary,"
the "sacrifice and
the oblation" of the temple ritual. These all speak of Israel
and clearly demonstrate that the Tribulation is largely a time
when God deals with His ancient people prior to their entrance
into the promised kingdom. The many Old Testament prophecies yet
to be fulfilled for Israel further indicate a future time when
God will deal with this nation (Deut. 30:1-6; Jer. 30:8-10, etc.).2
The Church is Absent from the Tribulation
Not one Old Testament passage on the tribulation refers to the
church (Deut. 4:29-30; Jer. 30:4-11; Dan. 8:24-27; 12:1-2), nor
does the New Testament ever speak of the church in relation to
the tribulation (Matt. 13:30, 39-42, 48-50; 24:15-31; 1 Thess.
1:9-10, 5:4-9; 2 Thess. 2:1-11; Rev. 4-18), except as present
in heaven. Such silence speaks loudly and supports the pre-trib
position, especially when combined with clear, explicit statements
that promise her exemption from that time (Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess.
1:10; 5:9; Rev. 3:10). Note the clear promise to the church of
Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will
keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to
come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth.
If pretribulationism is indeed the teaching of Scripture, then
we would expect that passages dealing with the tribulation would
consistently make no mention of the church. This
is exactly what we find. However, Israel is mentioned often throughout
these texts. Dr. Robert Gromacki has studied the New Testament
book of Revelation, chapters 4-19, which gives the most detailed
overview of the seven-year tribulation in all the Bible. He has
shown the following:
However, there is a strange silence of the term in chapters 4-19.
That fact is especially noteworthy when you contrast that absence
with its frequent presence in the first three chapters. One good
reason for this phenomenon is the absence of the true church and
true evangelical churches in the seven years preceding the Second
Coming. The true believers of the church have gone into the presence
of Christ in heaven before the onset of the events of the se
ven year period. The church is not mentioned during the seal,
trumpet, and bowl judgments because the church is not here during
the outpouring of these judgments.3
Tribulation on a Christ-Rejecting World
Another purpose for the tribulation is that it is a time of God's
wrath upon a Christ-rejecting world and a time of revenge for
Gentile treatment of Israel.
Moreover, it is evident that the Tribulation also concerns God's
judgment upon Christ-rejecting Gentile nations. Babylon, which
"made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication"
(Rev. 14:8), shall herself "be utterly burned with fire:
for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her" (Rev. 18:8).
The "cities of the nations" shall fall, after which
Satan shall be bound "that he should deceive the nations
no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled" (Rev.
20:3). God's judgment falls likewise upon the individual wicked,
the kings of the earth, the great, the rich, and the mighty, every
bond man and every free man (Rev. 6:15-17). It falls upon all
who blaspheme the name of God and repent not to give Him glory
(Rev. 16:9). Wicked men, godless nations, suffering Israel--these
may all be found in Revelation 6-18; but one looks in vain for
the Church of Christ, which is His body, until he reaches the
nineteenth chapter. There she is seen as the heavenly bride of
Christ, and when He returns to earth to make His enemies His footstool,
she is seen returning with Him (I Thess. 3: 13).4
Such a time of judgment does not require the church, who has not
rejected Christ, to be present. With the church in heaven during
the tribulation, it enables God's focus to be on Israel as His
Divine instrument through which He acts. This program was predicted
by the Lord before Joshua and Israel ever entered the Promised
Land. Notice the predicted pattern:
1) then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and
have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the
peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. (Deut. 30:3)
2) And the LORD your God will bring you into the land which your
fathers possessed, and you shall posses
s it . . . (Deut. 30:5a)
3) And the LORD your God will inflict all these curses on your
enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. And you
shall again obey the LORD, and observe all His commandments which
I command you today. (Deut. 30:7-8)
Zechariah speaks of the Lord's retribution upon the nations as
a time when "the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem
. . . in that day that I will set about to destroy all the nations
that come against Jerusalem." (Zech. 12:8-9) Once again the
focus is upon Israel, in this case Jerusalem, not the church.
The book of Revelation provides a graphic depiction of God's judgment
upon an unbelieving world, often called "earth dwellers."
As God prosecutes His judgment upon the "earth dwellers,"
John records periodic pauses by our Lord as He evaluates the response
of mankind to His judgment before going onto the next phase. It
is as if the Lord inflicts a series of judgments and then surveys
the landscape to see if, like Ninevah in the days of Jonah, there
is repentance so that He can suspend prosecution of the war. Un
like Ninevah in the days of Jonah, the "earth dwellers"
do not relent in the wake of "the wrath of the Lamb"
(Rev. 6:16), so our Lord proceeds to the next phase of His battle.
Every step of the way, the "earth dwellers" would "not
repent of the works of their hands" (Rev. 9:20) Instead of
worshipping Christ, "the earth and those who dwell in it
. . . worship the first beast" (Rev. 13:12). Instead of repentance
they "blasphemed God" (Rev. 16:21). Finally, "all
the nations were deceived" (Rev. 18:23) resulting in the
satanic notion that the armies of the world must march against
Jerusalem-God's city-and Israel-His people. This results in the
basis for the second coming of Christ, which is to resue Israel
from the world's armies who are striking out at God by invading
His people. Such a scenario does not demand or require the church
and so she will not be there. We can see that the purpose of the
tribulation revovles around God's plan for Israel, not the church.
Only pretribulationism is able to give full import to tribulation
terms like "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30:7),
as a passage specifically stating that the tribulation is for
Jacob (i.e., Israel). John Walvoord concludes,
Never are tribulation saints given the special and perculiar promises
given to the church in the present age. The nature of the church
in contrast to Israel therefore becomes an argument supporting
the pretribulation viewpoint.5
Since God's purpose for the tribulation is to restore Israel (Jer.
30:3, 10) and judge the Gentiles (Jer. 30:11), it is clear that
this purpose does not include the church. This is one of the reasons
why she will be taken to heaven before this time. The church's
hope is a heavenly one, not participation in the culmination and
restoration of God's plan for His earthly people-Israel. Maranatha!
1 These arguments are adopted from John F. Walvoord, The Rapture
Question, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), pp. 270-71.
2 Gerald B. Stanton, Kept From The Hour: Biblical Evidence
for the Pretribulational Return of Christ, 4th edition
(Miami Springs, FL: Schoettle Publishing Company, 1991), pp.
3 Robert Gromacki, "Where is 'The Church' in Revelation 4-19?"
in Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy, editors When The Trumpet Sounds
(Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1995), p. 355.
4 Stanton, Ibid., p. 36.
5 Walvoord, Ibid., p. 65.