Lesson 32: The Church and the Tribulation | Biblical Foundations for Living

Introduction to the Destiny of the Church

Why am I here? I am here to participate in the reign of Jesus Christ.

In Lessons Twenty Two through Twenty Four, we learned that the purpose of the church is to glorify God through the ministry of His Word. In Lessons Twenty Five through Thirty One, we learned that the objectives of the church are edification, evangelism, and expansion and that each of these three can be accomplished by pursuing various activities. Among these are education, worship, fellowship, personal and corporate evangelism, and physical and organizational expansion.

In this final section on Ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church), we will discuss the church’s destiny. Why am I here? I am here to participate in the reign of Jesus Christ. As a believer living in this dispensation, I know that I am on the “winning team.” I will not face God’s judgment during the Tribulation. Instead, I can eagerly look forward to being a part of Christ’s triumph over His enemies and reigning with Him through all eternity.

Lesson 32: The Church and the Tribulation

What’s going to happen in the future, and what part does the church play in it? The Bible speaks of a seven-year period involving unparalleled judgment. It will be a time when one man, empowered by Satan, will arise to control the political, religious, and military resources of the entire world. It will be a time when God unleashes His wrath upon the earth and its inhabitants. This period is called the Tribulation . In this lesson, we will learn what the Tribulation will be like and when it will take place.

I. The Nature of the Tribulation

The Tribulation period will be a time of worldwide judgment lasting seven years. It will begin with the breaking of the first of seven seals of judgment (see chart below) following the Rapture of the church and will end with the second coming of Christ, at which time He will utterly destroy His enemies at the Battle of Armageddon and establish His kingdom.

A. The Tribulation will involve the continuous unleashing of God’s wrath .

From the opening of the first seal judgment in Revelation 6 to the pouring out of the last bowl judgment in Revelation 16 (which will conclude the Tribulation), God will be pouring out His wrath. The succession of the Tribulation judgments can be visualized as follows:


Some believe that only the second half of the Tribulation will involve God’s wrath [This is the so-called mid-trib position.] . However, the first two seals, which begin the Tribulation, clearly demonstrate that the entire period is characterized by the outpouring of God’s wrath.

I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest. When the Lamb opened the second seal . . . another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other.   Revelation 6:1 4

B. The Tribulation will involve the prominence of one key satanic leader – the Antichrist.

During the Tribulation, Satan will empower the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and the apostate church. Of these three, the Antichrist will be the primary figure with the other two being under his control. The Antichrist (1 John 2:22) is also referred to as the king of Babylon (Isaiah 14:4), the wicked prince (Ezekiel 21:25), the little horn (Daniel 7:8), the man of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:3), and the beast (Revelation 11:7).

  1. The Antichrist’s abilities

The Antichrist will surpass all other human leaders and thus attract a universal following.

a. He will be a capable politician (Daniel 8:23-25).

b. He will be a military genius (Revelation 13:4).

c. He will be considered worthy of worship (Revelation 13:4, 8).

2. The Antichrist’s career

The Antichrist will initially appear as a little-known political leader, a “little horn” (Daniel 7:8). However, within a short time he will become the world’s greatest dictator . The high points of his career are as follows:

a. The Tribulation will begin when he makes a treaty with Israel, allowing her to rebuild the temple and renew sacrificial worship (Daniel 9:27).

b. At the midpoint of the Tribulation (after 3 1/2 years), he will break the treaty with Israel, demand self worship (Daniel 9:27 and 2 Thessalonians 2:4), kill the Lord’s two witnesses (Revelation 11:1 14), begin to actively persecute Israel (Revelation 12:1 6), and destroy the apostate church, which he no longer needs (Revelation 17:16).

c. At the end of the Tribulation, Christ will return, destroy His enemies, and cast the Antichrist and the False Prophet into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:11 21).

C. The Tribulation will result in the salvation of many people.

Although God will punish the earth’s inhabitants by sending devastating catastrophes and by allowing the Antichrist and his forces to do their worst, His punishment will be a means of bringing many Jews and Gentiles to Himself (Zechariah 13:1 and Revelation 7:9 17).

II. The Time of the Tribulation

A. The Tribulation will take place after the Rapture of the church.

[Many evangelicals agree with all we’ve said up to this point. The exact timing of the tribulation is a debated point. Recently the “Pre-Wrath” rapture theory has gained popularity. This theory suggests that Christians will go thru the first part of the Tribulation, before God begins pouring out his wrath (thus “Pre-wrath”). We believe such a position is in error.]

The church will experience no part of the Tribulation because it will be caught up (“raptured”) just prior to it. According to Scripture, Christ will come down from heaven and “ catch up ” both dead and living church age believers to meet Him in the clouds. He will then take them to heaven, where they will remain during the Tribulation.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.   1 Thessalonians 4:16 17

[The dead “in Christ” refer to church-age saints, not OT believers. To be “in Christ” is to be saved.

The word “rapture” is used nowhere in the Bible. It comes from the Latin translation of “to catch up.”]

A number of passages imply that the Rapture will take place before the Tribulation. The passages below clearly state that believers will not be subject to God’s wrath. Since the Tribulation involves the outpouring of God’s wrath, believers will not go through it.

And to wait for his Son from heaven whom he raised from the dead  Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.   1 Thessalonians 1:10

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.   1 Thessalonians 5:9

Note: The context of 1 Thessalonians 5:1 11 is speaking of the end times. Therefore, the wrath being referred to is not hell, but the wrath which will occur during the Tribulation.

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

Two things should be noted about this promise to the Church at Philadelphia:

1. It applies to all New Testament churches.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.   Revelation 3:13

2. It promises that all churches will avoid the Tribulation.

The Greek words translated “keep you from” in Revelation 3:10 indicate the one action of separating church-age saints from the Tribulation, not the continual protection of believers during the Tribulation.

B. The Tribulation will take place before Christ returns to earth to establish His kingdom .

The kingdom of Christ will be that time when Christ personally reigns as king and all creation submits to His rule. This will occur immediately after the Tribulation.

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.   Luke 21:10 11, 22 23, 25-26, 31

The Tribulation will culminate with the second coming of Christ to the earth with all church age saints to destroy His enemies.

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf . . . . The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.   Revelation 19:11, 14, 19-21

[Don’t confuse the rapture with the Second Coming. They are two distinct events separated by 7 years. ]

Below is a timeline (developed by Rolland McCune, ThD) indicating some of the more significant end-time events.


Recap & Review

In this lesson, we have learned:

1. The Tribulation is the future, seven-year period during which God’s wrath is unleashed, the Antichrist rises to power, and multitudes are saved.

2. The Tribulation will take place after the Rapture of the church and before the establishment of Christ’s kingdom at His second coming.

Learning to Live It

1. While in a local Christian bookstore, you notice a new book on Bible prophecy. After buying it, you take it home and begin reading it. The author states that the Rapture will take place sometime around the middle of the Tribulation because the first half of the Tribulation does not involve God’s wrath. Why is this position wrong?

All of the Tribulation involves the outpouring of God’s wrath, not just the last half. The last half will be more severe, however (sometimes called “the Great Tribulation” in Scripture). Since believers are kept from this wrath, they will go through no part of the tribulation.

2. A Christian friend of yours is worried that he will go through the Tribulation. What can you tell him to ease his anxiety?

God has promised that believers will not go through the Tribulation (1 Thess 1:10, 5:9, and Rev 3:10).


  1. I would like to correct you on your incorrect definition of the Prewrath position. In short, it affirms:

    “Prewrath states that the Great Tribulation (Antichrist’s wrath) begins at the midpoint when the abomination of desolation occurs. Then sometime during the second half of the 70th week, the Great Tribulation will be cut short with the Second Coming which begins with the rapture and then the subsequent Day of the Lord’s wrath (trumpet and bowls) is poured out upon the ungodly for the remaining part of the 70th week of Daniel.”

    For a fuller explanation see here:


    Thank you,
    Alan Kurschner

  2. Daniel 9:24 – Seventy WEEKS, as it is Written

    All end time Biblical prophetic time frames are in actual (literal) time, in other words, a day is a day, a year is a year, an hour is an hour, as it is “written”

    Daniel 9:24’s Seventy WEEKS are just that – 70 weeks x 7 days per week = 490 DAYS.

    The 490 (literal) DAYS will be fulfilled/completed at the Seventh Trumpet (1 Thess.4:16-17).

    Seventy WEEKS (Dan.9:24 below) are determined upon thy people (within thy holy city, Jerusalem – Zech.14:2 below) AND upon thy holy city (Jerusalem), to FINISH the transgression (against the saints of the most High – Matt.24:9, Dan.7:21, Dan.7:25, Dan.8:24, Re.12:17, Re.13:7, Re.13:15, Re.16:6, Re.17:6, Dan.12:6-7), and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy (Dan.8:17, Dan.8:26, Dan.10:14, Dan.11:35, Dan.12:4, Hab.2:3), and to anoint the most Holy.

    The most Holy (Dan.9:24 below) are the remnant (144,000) seen in the city at Revelation 11:13 ( below) giving glory to God just prior to the ascension.

    Dan.9:24 Seventy WEEKS are determined upon thy people AND upon thy holy city, to FINISH THE TRANSGRESSION, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and TO SEAL UP THE VISION AND PROPHECY, and to anoint the most Holy.

    Zech.14:2 For I will gather ALL NATIONS against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and HALF the city shall go forth into captivity, and THE RESIDUE OF THE PEOPLE SHALL NOT BE CUT OFF FROM THE CITY.

    Re.11:13 And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.

    Patricia © Bible Prophecy on the Web
    Author of the self-study aid, The Book of Revelation Explained © 1982

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