GOD’S WRATH AND JUDGEMENT – THE TRIBULATION PERIOD
WHY GOD DID NOT APPOINT US TO SUFFER WRATH
From last week’s posting we have found that Christ can come for His Church at any moment, and the most important thing, after a person is saved, is to look forward to Christ coming for us. Hebrews 9: 28 says, “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.”
Now let’s see what will happen after the Church is “caught away” to be with Christ. If the church were to be raptured today, the Tribulation would begin immediately. We read in Revelation 6:16-17 that they (unbelieving inhabitants of earth) preferred to be crushed by crumbling mountains and rocks than to endure the judgement of God and the wrath of the Lamb. In Revelation 16:17 it says, “For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” That’s another name for the Tribulation. It’s called “the day of God’s wrath.” If Jesus Christ were to come today, every believer would be raptured or “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air; but every unsaved person would be left behind to face the wrath of God.
At times the question comes up – “Will the Church go through the Tribulation period?” I certainly don’t believe this because I believe Scripture backs up the pre-tribulation rapture but there are others mainly post-tribulation believers who would disagree. So, what does Scripture have to say? What did Christ say? In Luke 21:36 we hear Jesus say, “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass and to stand before the Son of Man.” Christ said that true believers will escape all the things that shall come to pass when God’s wrath and judgement is turned loose on all the unbelieving inhabitants of earth during Daniel’s 70th week – the Tribulation period.
The Rapture has two aspects, salvation and wrath. For the believer it means the consummation of his salvation in heaven. For the unbeliever, it means the ushering in of a time of wrath on earth. Here, let me give you another Scripture. In 1 Thessalonians 5:9 we read: “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here the Apostle Paul is saying that we are not appointed to suffer wrath. Here he is speaking about the wrath of the Tribulation period. He is speaking about the same period that’s described in Revelation 6 where it says that “the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” The context deals with the “Day of the Lord” – the greatest period of wrath in the history of man on earth (Matt. 24:21). We read: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, nor, nor ever shall be (v.21).” The Tribulation is also described in Scripture as “Jacob’s distress (Jer. 30:7),” “the time of wrath” and “a time of distress (Dan. 11:36) 12:1).” “The apostasy (2 Thess. 2:3),” and “the hour of testing (Rev. 3:10).” Post-tribulation believers need to understand that we do not have an appointment with the executioner but with the Savior.
Let me ask post-tribulation believers this: How can the Church go through the wrath of God when Jesus Christ has already taken our wrath at Calvary’s cross? Do you think the Lord would be so unjust as to the subject His Church, His body, to the wrath of God the second time when Jesus Christ has already borne the wrath of God for us at Calvary’s cross? That kind of thinking makes no sense at all and is not what Scripture teaches us as we have just read. Look, God’s Word makes it plain that every believer will be raptured out of this world before the wrath and judgements of the Tribulation ever begin. God has always delivered His own people from the floodwaters of divine judgement. It didn’t rain one drop of floodwater until Noah and his family were inside the ark and the ark was sealed. It didn’t rain one drop of fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah until Lot was outside the city and safe on the hillside. Likewise, God will not permit the Tribulation period to begin until the Church is safe in the sky with the Lord Jesus Christ.
DANIELS 70th WEEK IS THE SEVEN-YEAR TRIBULATION PERIOD
THE TRIBULATION IS GOD’S WRATH AND JUDGEMENTS WE READ IN REVELATION
In the book of Revelation beginning with the sixth chapter and continuing all the way to chapter nineteen, the Apostle John is permitted to view the Tribulation period. Within these important chapters are a series of three judgements – the seals, trumpets, and the bowls of wrath. You’ll recall from reading Revelation chapter four and five that the seals are placed on the title deed to the universe which only the worthy Redeemer, Jesus Christ, is legally able to open. This is a transaction between Father and Son; the Father is the property owner and the Son it’s Redeemer. Jesus Christ paid the redemption price with His own life’s blood and now He is fully qualified to open the seals and enter into the possession of His property. With the opening of these seals is ushered in the Tribulation, the 70th week of Daniel (9: 24-27).
(To explain all the seal, trumpets, and bowl judgements will not be possible in this posting as I don’t have the space to do it here, so I’ll focus mainly on the seven bowls (or vials) of God’s wrath described in chapters 15 and 16).
THE SEVEN BOWLS (OR VIALS) OF GOD’S WRATH
As you read chapters 15 and 16 of Revelation you get the definite impression that the climax is coming. Each of the judgements through the seven seals and seven trumpets are increasingly more severe. But now God’s judgement upon this wicked earth is rising to a crescendo. John is permitted yet another vision, this one great and marvelous, and sees seven angels bearing the seven last plagues – seven vials of wrath. Judgement is about to be poured out as history has never seen it before.
God’s agents of judgement are seven angels, clothed in pure and white linen with golden belts. They originate in the heavenly temple and as they leave to bring judgement on the unbelieving inhabitants of earth each one receives a golden vial or bowl filled to the brim with the wrath of God. With the beginning of chapter 16 we notice an important feature of these chapters. This is God’s wrath. John hears the voice of God say to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth (v.1).” Apparently these seven judgements occur in rapid succession. They are:
- 1. The first bowl causes “foul and painful sores to break out upon those who had the mark of the beast, and upon those who worshipped his image.” This judgement is an evil or malignant sore, rotten and incurable, similar to the boils inflicted on the Egyptians in Exodus 9:9-11.
- 2. “Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man: and every living creature in the sea died.” A third of sea life has already been killed by the second trumpet so this second bowl kills the remaining life in the sea. The analogy here is to the first of the 10 plagues of Egypt (Ex. 7:20-25) in which the Nile turned to blood, killing all the fish, and making the water unfit to drink.
- 3. “Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.”Rivers of blood pour from the ground adding to the problem of obtaining fresh drinking water. Here the angel adds a brief footnote indicating God is righteous in causing the water and sources of water to become blood. Throughout the Tribulation period the forces of Satan have been spilling the blood of the Tribulation saints as if it were water. Now, because the evil people of the earth have shed the blood of believers; they will now drink that blood (v.5-6). We have to bear in mind that during the Tribulation period that God is not dealing in grace but in judgement. Those bloodthirsty inhabitants of the earth who follow the Antichrist are getting just what they deserve, for they have consistently spilled the blood of the Tribulation saints. As the Tribulation draws to a close you will see that God deals in harsh justice.
- 4. “Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat…. (vv.8-9).”Today we have what they call heat domes, and we experienced one in Vancouver this past August. In fact, August was the hottest month ever recorded going back to when records were first recorded some 130 years ago. It was a real scorcher, but this is nothing of the scorching heat that will one day torture the ungodly inhabitants of this earth. With shortages of energy today and the prospect of rationing in the future there will probably be little air conditioning or any other forms of relief from the scorching heat of the sun which we see being intensified by this fourth bowl of God’s scorching wrath on earths’ ungodly inhabitants. We presently have heat domes of 100 and °- 120° but just imagine in the Tribulation when God intensifies the scorching heat and how unbearable it’s going to be with temperatures possibly reaching 130° or more for extended periods of time.
- 5. The fifth plague of judgement attacks the very throne of the beast and covers the Antichrist’s kingdom in darkness. As in the fifth trumpet judgement and in the ninth plague of Egypt (Ex. 10:21-23) there is darkness over the earth. It will be pitch black. So dark you can feel it. But this is only part of this bowls judgement. The sores inflicted upon the worshipers of the beast are still very painful and the beast will not be able to work his magic in curing them. Terrible pain results in this intense darkness. So unbearable is the pain that men will gnaw their tongues in severe agony. Apparently, the darkness aggravates the pain, and the results of judgement are compounded.
- 6. “Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared(v.12).”The Great Tribulation is fast coming to climatic end. With the emptying of the sixth bowl the great river Euphrates is dried up. Flowing some 1800 miles from the mountains to the Persian Gulf, it was too deep to ford and too long to go around. Thus, with the sixth bowl of God’s wrath emptied, the Euphrates ceases to be a barrier and opens the way for the kings of the east to march into the battle of Armageddon. Many students of Bible prophecy consider Revelation 16:12-16 to possibly refer to China in the end times. It’s not hard to imagine that the “kings from the east” who will one day march into Israel will include China. The association hinges on the mention of an army of 200 million (v.9:16) and occasional reports of China’s capability of equipping such a vast army. Verses 13-16 give us additional information about this great battle. The war will consist of several battles, beginning with Antichrist’s campaign into Egypt (Dan. 11:40-45) and including a siege of Jerusalem (Zech. 14:2) as well as the final battle of Armageddon (v.16). That’s how closely tied the sixth and seventh bowls of wrath are to the triumph of God’s judgement at Armageddon.
- 7. With the emptying of the seventh bowl comes the cry from the heavenly throne, “It is done(v.17).”This bowl has interesting parallels to the moment of Jesus’s death on the cross when He took His final breath and said, “It is finished” and the earth shakes and the veil in the temple was torn in two. The seventh bowl announces that the wrath of God is finished as far as the Tribulation period is concerned. With this cry (“it is done”) are the accompanying signs of voices, thunders, lightnings, a great earthquake (the likes of which man has never seen before). Jerusalem is upended and divided into three parts, the cities of the nations fell (collapsed), Babylon is destroyed, islands of the sea disappear, mountains vanish and hail weighing 125 pounds falling out of heaven on to people and buildings. This describes a tremendous cataclysmic upheaval upon the earth – a possible polar-axis shift.
Today we would fear for our life with hailstones coming down on us being the size of a golf ball and only weighing a few ounces. Just imagine a hailstorm with gargantuan hailstones somewhere in the region of 24 to 30 inches in diameter and weighing 125 pounds falling from the sky and devastating everything in its path. Safety would not be easily found and certainly not in your home as these giant-sized hailstones would just crumble houses. Unfortunately, everything crumbles on earth except the rebellious heart of man.
Unbelievable as it may sound the people of this world after having gone through God’s wrath and all the horrific judgements that they endured for seven years of the Tribulation remained intransigent and refused to repent. Much like in the plagues of Egypt, unbelievers of the Tribulation remained unmoved by God. You would think that after all they suffered, they would get down on their knees and repent for worshiping the beast. No, not at all. In the final illustration of the hardness of man’s heart, no one repents or gives glory to God. Instead, they “blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores and did not repent of their deeds (v.11).” Then in verse 21 we read that, “Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.” Even in judgement, when the righteousness of God is fully revealed through His wrath on sin these people continue to harden their hearts, blaspheme His holy name, and choose to worship sin and the beast.
Some people claim that if a person could only see evidence of God they would believe. Clearly, that’s not the case because why would people still not repent even in the face of such signs and judgement. Clearly, they knew God exists and dwells in heaven because they’ve experienced first-hand His wrath and judgement, yet they grew angrier against God and cursed Him. The fact that they cursed God shows how hard and wicked their hearts are. Instead of turning to God and repenting of their evil ways, they turn against Him defiantly and refuse to repent. They are forever set in their opposition to God, and they will suffer eternally in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). Jesus predicted this condemnation by telling His audience, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:3).”
The understanding and lesson that we can take from this is that it is not judgement that will change people’s minds. It is by grace that changes the heart. Judgement removes and ends evil, but it does not change people’s minds. No, for that you have to look to the grace of God, the mercy of God and the blessings of God. The greatest calamities that can befall men will not bring them to repentance without the grace of God working in them.
WHY THE CHURCH WILL NOT ENDURE GOD’S WRATH – THE 7-YEAR TRIBULATION PERIOD
While it’s true that the Church will always experience tribulation upon earth and that the Church will endure the wrath of men but clearly it will not suffer the wrath of God. “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (Jn. 16:33).” Pre-tribulation rapture believers identify Daniel’s 70th week or the 7-year Tribulation period with the wrath of God. We believe that the Church will be taken out of the world before the Tribulation, for there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. This was written to the Church in Philadelphia: “Because you have kept the word of my patience, I will keep you from the hour of testing which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those (unbelievers) who dwell on the earth (Rev. 3:10).” Philadelphia represents the true Church at the end of the age and our Lord has promised deliverance from the “hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world.” The Church will not pass through the Tribulation because the Church is not appointed to wrath. Why? Because “God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:9).” This verse promises us that true believers are “not appointed to wrath (day of the Lord),” but instead will receive “salvation” from the Lord. Praise the Lord for His wonderful promises.
In Revelation 3:10 the Lord says specifically “they will be kept from the hour” that shall try the whole world. This promises the Church will be removed from the event of the Tribulation period that shall come upon the whole earth. It is one thing to go through the trial, violence, and suffering of war and it is another thing to be kept out of the time of war itself. This is what the Lord Jesus Christ is telling His Church “I will keep you from the time of the Tribulation period.”
Ephesians chapter 5 tells us, “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish (vv. 25-27).” The purification of the bride of Christ will be done by the Lord in this age before the rapture of the church. When the Rapture takes place, the church will be sanctified, purified, and made glorious by the ministry of Christ alone. The Tribulation will not be needed for this work; the purification will already be complete.
Look, think for a moment, will the Lord have His bride endure famine, poisoned drinking water, stings from locusts the size of horses, persecution, beatings, imprisonment, torture, world-wide war and bloodshed, earthquakes and 125-pound hailstones hurled at her and then usher her to heaven for the marriage supper of the Lamb, in a bruised, broken, and soiled condition – her veil torn, and wedding garment soiled. Never. The bride of Christ will already be in the spotless and blameless condition, ready for her Savior at His coming in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and taken to heaven and thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:17). The Church is seen in Revelation chapter 4 as being in heaven, represented by the 24 elders.
The Bible sets forth the 7-year Tribulation period (Daniel’s 70th week) as a time of divine judgement upon Israel (not the Church), Gentiles, and Christendom (Christians who profess Christ but have not been converted). Yet, the Church will be delivered from this time of judgement because she is the redeemed, sanctified, and purified bride of Christ. During the interim, the Church awaits the shout of the Savior, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God. “Behold, I come quickly (Rev. 3:11).” Perhaps today!
In closing: I sometimes wonder if those individuals who believe that the Church must be refined and go through God’s wrath have an element of works involved in their thinking. For example: “Christ died on the cross for me so therefore I must do something for Christ in order to show my love for Him. Even if I get martyred, I’m going to endure the Tribulation to prove myself to Christ.” Coming from a works-oriented mindset they just can’t accept salvation as a free gift and that God has done it all for us but that they somehow need to earn it by proving themselves worthy by enduring the Tribulation for Christ. Yet Scripture clearly teaches, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Eph.2:8-9).” One reason that works are positively excluded is to prevent human boasting. Here is an example of possible boasting: “Look what I did for Christ by enduring and persevering through all His trials in the Great Tribulation.” Nowhere in Scripture will you find that we have to prove ourselves to Christ by enduring the 7-year Tribulation or that there are any rewards in heaven for doing so. None. We are not to be looking for the Tribulation to prove ourselves for Christ.
F/B – Signs Of Our Times
Understanding The Signs Of Our Times .com
The writers of the New Testament stress the “any-moment” coming of the Lord Jesus. Theologians call that doctrine “Imminency.” The apostle Paul writes, “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).” James also said: “Be patient, strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand (James 5:8).” The implication is that the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ would be soon and that this coming would deliver suffering believers from their oppressors. This coming of the Lord would also deliver believers from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 5:9) – the Tribulation period. The Lord Jesus says in Luke 21:36, “…. that you may escape all these things and stand before the Son of Man.” Once again, the word “imminent” means any moment. It implies a state of expectancy. We are not to be looking for the world to get better. We are not to be looking for the Tribulation to prove ourselves for Christ. We are to be looking and waiting patiently for our Lord. If the Church must go through the Tribulation, what hope is there for the imminent return of our Lord?
The post-tribulation view robs the believer of the imminency of our Lord’s coming. The Bible does not teach that we are to look for the Tribulation, or for Antichrist, or for persecution and martyrdom, or for death, but for the imminent return of our Lord.