Phoenix Bird


Where Will God's People Be During Biblical Tribulations?

by James Duffee

The doctrine of the rapture of Christians has become increasingly popular as more and more people begin to predict the "end of the world". The Y2K bug [has] sparked an enormous interest in survivalism among some, while others take it as an indication that they will soon be raptured to be with the Lord.

But is this rapture a Biblical teaching, or is it yet another fable that was added and taught by those who prefer their own way of thinking over God's? The only way to answer this question beyond a doubt is by turning to Scripture. The foundation of the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is found in the Gospels, where Christ is teaching His disciples:

The basic teaching is that these verses indicate the Lord will take His people and the others will be left behind, which obviously is true. The rapture doctrine asserts that this means those left behind will be those that endure tribulation, though Scripture does not say this. Due to a misinterpretation of Revelation prophecy, this doctrine teaches that those left behind will suffer three and a half years of tribulation (the final plagues) before Christ returns a third time to destroy the wicked.

Unfortunately, there is no mention of a third coming of Christ in Scripture. While the above passage in Matthew can be used to create a "secret rapture" doctrine, Luke teaches something altogether different:

In the above passage, Christ compares the day of His coming with the day Lot was led out of Sodom and Gomhorra. He says in the same day that Lot was led out the cities were destroyed. Then He states that it will be "even thus", or in the same manner, when He returns. In other words, His people will be brought out, and in the same day the cities of the world will be destroyed. This in itself disputes the idea that those left will suffer tribulation; there simply won't be time.

Understanding the tribulation period requires a complete study of "End Times" prophecy - an endeavor that few are willing to pursue. Understanding when Christ will return in relation to the tribulations, though, requires only a brief study of New Testament prophecies.

The passage in 1 Corinthians teaches that the time of the "rapture" will be "at the last trump". Revelation prophecy speaks of seven angels sounding seven trumpets. Obviously, the last trump would be the seventh. The passage in 1 Thessalonians confirms that Christ's return will be heralded by the sounding of the trump. Keeping this in mind, let's see what Revelation says about the tribulation period and the coming of our Lord. First we'll take a look at the plagues of Revelation - the final tribulations.

Here we see that the seven last plagues are poured out by seven angels, and they are "the wrath of God".

The first plague is a "noisome and grievous sore" - like boils. Notice this plague only falls on those who have accepted the "mark of the beast" and those who worshipped the image of the beast.

The second plague will affect the waters of the sea, which would include oceans, gulfs, large inland seas (like the great lakes), etc. All of this water will become like the blood of a dead man. In other words, it will be so contaminated that all of the fish and other sea creatures will die, and it certainly could not be used for drinking water.

The third plague turns the rivers and springs (fountains of waters) into blood, just like the oceans. There will not be a single pure water source available to those who have accepted the mark of the beast. In verse 6 we see why God has given people blood to drink; they have shed the blood of the saints and prophets. These people certainly had no part in shedding blood during Biblical times, so this reveals that Christians will be persecuted and killed by the ungodly at the time of the last plagues.

The fourth plague strikes the sun, causing it to scorch men with great heat. This could indicate a complete elimination of the ozone layer, allowing the full power of the sun to reach the earth. Ungodly people will not see this as a sign from God and will not recognize it as a plague. They will simply curse God for allowing it to happen.

After suffering through intense heat, the fifth plague now plunges the world into darkness, like a full solar eclipse. The sun suddenly gives no warmth at all. Going from unbearable heat to extreme cold will cause such pain that people will blaspheme God and gnaw their tongues. Notice that verse 11 indicates the sores of the first plague are still affecting people.

The sixth plague involves the battle of Armageddon. The three unclean spirits will persuade the leaders of the earth to wage war against God's people. "Armageddon" is a transliteration of a Hebrew word (Har-Meggido) which means "the mountain of Meggido". The battle of Meggido (Joshua chapter 12) symbolized complete destruction, so this is not telling of a specific place, but the time of complete destruction.

When the seventh angel pours out his vial, a voice proclaims "it is done". This final plague of God's wrath includes an earthquake greater in magnitude than any that has ever occurred, as well as enormous hailstones (a talent is equivalent to approximately seventy pounds). Now let's take a look at that seventh trumpet.

Revelation 10:7) But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.

At the sounding of this final trumpet, the "mystery of God" is finished. Or, as the voice from heaven proclaimed at the time of the seventh plague, "it is done". The kingdom of Christ begins (verse 15 above) and the plagues - the wrath of God - have come (verse 18). The dead are judged and the living in Christ receive their reward. This coincides precisely with Paul's descriptions in 1 Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians. Verse 19 reveals that when this seventh trumpet sounds, there will be lightning, voices, thunder, an earthquake and great hail - exactly the same events that occur under the seventh plague.

So we see that Christians will, indeed, be present during the tribulation period. The plagues will strike, the wicked will unite to wage war against God's people, then Christ will return in great glory to destroy the wicked and gather His people from every corner of the earth. Christians need not fear these final plagues, though. Just as God protected the Israelites during the plagues of Egypt, so He will protect His people during the final plagues. God went to great lengths to assure us that His arm would protect us at this time.

In this one passage, God has promised to protect us from the grievous and noisome sores (vs. 3), the terror of the darkness (vs. 5), the scorching sun (vs. 6), and from Christ's destruction of the wicked (vs. 7-8).

Here we are shown that the righteous people (those who follow God) will live in the rocks (mountains), and we are promised that we will have food and pure waters. Who are these promises made to? Verse 17 indicates that it is those who will see the King in His beauty - those who see Christ come in all His glory - and who will see the land that is far off (New Jerusalem).

God has promised to protect His people from all of the final plagues, as well as provide them with food, shelter and pure water. How will this promise be fulfilled?

Christians should be waiting to hear that voice in their own lives - the voice calling them to come out of Babylon, which symbolizes the "normal" world that we live in. When that voice is heard, it is time to leave - time to find the "munitions of the rocks" for our defense, and rely on God to provide for our needs. This is the very essence of survivalism. Going into the wilderness and living off of the land is precisely what God has intended for His people in the "end times".

Here we should take a lesson from David. When he went to face Goliath, David had great faith that God would win the battle for him. But David did not rely only on God - that would have been testing God. Instead, David prepared himself for a fight by gathering up five good stones to use in his sling (1 Samuel 17:40). He knew God wouldn't need five tries to get it right, but David made sure he did his part before counting on God to do His. In the same manner, Christians must prepare for what lies ahead, and rely on God to do what they can't.

Next in this series: "Should Christians Fight Back?"