Appointed to Tribulation,
Not to Wrath
Will the Church suffer the wrath of God?
Most definitely not! The wrath of God is for the “children of disobedience,” not for the children of God (Eph. 5:6; Rom. 1:17,18; 2:5–8). The Church will face the Great Tribulation, but not the great day of God’s wrath. God gives many promises that His people will be saved from His wrath:
“Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Rom. 5:9).
“And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10).
“For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9).
In the context of the preceding verse, the apostle Paul shows that the Church will be “caught up” on the day of the Lord’s wrath before “sudden destruction cometh” on the ungodly (1 Thess. 4:16–18; 5:2–9). See also 2 Thess. 1:7–10.
As Noah was saved from the flood and Lot from fire, so the Church will be saved from the wrath of God (Luke 17:26–30; 2 Pet. 3:5–7,13). See Chapter Four.
What is the difference between the Great Tribulation and the Great Day of God’s Wrath?
A vast difference separates these two events. We must not confuse the two. The Great Tribulation is that period before the Second Coming (Matt. 24:21–24); the Great Day of God’s Wrath is the time or day of the Second Coming (Matt. 24:29–31; Rev. 6:12–17). Let’s contrast these distinct events.
During the Great Tribulation, the man of sin will reign (2 Thess. 2:3,4); on the Great Day of God’s Wrath, he will be destroyed (2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 19:15–20).
During the Great Tribulation, the Church will be present (Matt. 24:21–24); on the Great Day of God’s Wrath, she will be “caught up . . . to meet the Lord in the air” before the final judgment (1 Thess. 4:16–18; 5:1–3).
During the Great Tribulation, the false prophet will make “fire come down from heaven” to deceive (Rev. 13:13,14); on the Great Day of God’s Wrath, Jesus will come “in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel” (2 Thess. 1:8).
During the Great Tribulation, the ungodly will rejoice over the suffering of the saints (Rev. 11:9,10); on the Great Day of God’s Wrath, they will cry to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Rev. 6:16,17).
If the Church is on earth during the Great Tribulation, how will she escape the seven vials of the wrath of God (Revelation 16)?
The Church will face hatred and persecution, but not the wrath of God. Scripture expressly states that these vials of God’s wrath will be poured on:
1. “men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image”
2. “the sea” (Rev. 16:3)
3. those who “have shed the blood of saints and prophets” (Rev. 16:6)
4. those who in rebellion blaspheme “the name of God” (Rev. 16:8,9)
5. “the seat of the beast” (Rev. 16:10)
6. “the great river Euphrates,” which prepares the way for the final conflict (Rev. 16:12–14)
7. all the ungodly
The seventh vial will be poured out on the Great Day of God’s Wrath when Jesus gathers His Church before destroying all men—even “the remnant” at Armageddon. (Compare Rev. 16:14,16 with 19:7–9,18–21.)
Notice our Lord’s exhortation to the Church just before His coming (between the sixth and seventh vial): “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame” (Rev. 16:15). This encouragement would be unnecessary if the Church had already been gathered before the Great Tribulation.
Moreover, the Church is sealed by the blood of the Lord Jesus (Ex. 12:13; Heb. 11:27,28), by faith (Rom. 4:11), and by the Spirit of God (Eph. 1:13). See also 2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 4:30; 2 Tim. 2:19; Rev. 3:12; 9:4; 14:1; 22:4.
Nothing can hurt the saints unless God allows it. “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads” (Rev. 7:3); “If any man will hurt them [the two witnesses], fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed” (Rev. 11:5).
God will shelter His people from His wrath just as He sheltered the Israelites living in Egypt from the ten plagues (Ex. 12:13), and as He protected them who had the burden of the Lord when judgment came to the house of Israel and Judah (Ezek. 9:4).
Why would God allow the Church to be present during the tribulation of the last days?
Although not appointed to wrath, the Church is appointed to tribulation. Consider the words of the apostle Paul: “No man should be moved by these afflictions [tribulations]: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation” (1 Thess. 3:3,4). “Afflictions” and “tribulation” are used interchangeably, which is further seen by comparing Mark 13:19 with Matthew 24:21: “For in those days shall be affliction” and “for then shall be great tribulation.”
The Greek word for tribulation is thlipsis. The King James Version of the Bible also translates this as “affliction,” “persecution,” “anguish,” “burden,” or “trouble.” Of the fifty–five times in the New Testament that thlipsis occurs, it is used forty–seven times with reference to the saints’ enduring tribulation. Truly, tribulation belongs to the Church.
Other scriptures also make it clear that the Church is appointed to tribulation:
“In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33).
“We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Phil. 1:29).
“The servant is not greater than his lord” (John 15:20), Jesus said, and He suffered great persecution.
“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matt. 24:13).
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35–39).
There are many blessings of tribulation and persecution, such as having fellowship with Christ in His sufferings (Phil. 3:10; 1 Pet. 4:13) and someday reigning with Him (2 Tim. 2:12). Also, “tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:3–5).
When writing to persecuted saints at Thessalonica, the apostle Paul mentioned added blessings: “That ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer,” and “It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you” (2 Thess. 1:5,6).
Peter mentioned yet another blessing: “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:7).
Are there other blessings of enduring persecution for Christ’s sake?
Yes, the Bible describes other blessings:
• Persecution makes a distinction between true and false Christians (2 Tim. 1:15–18; John 6:66–69).
• Persecution unites saints (Acts 4:23; 14:19,20).
• Persecution brings happiness because the glorious Spirit of God rests on you (1 Pet. 4:14; Acts 6:15; 7:55,56; 16:23–25).
• Persecution advances the gospel (Acts 8:1–4; 14:5–7).
• Persecution draws us closer to God in prayer (Acts 4:24–31; 12:5,12).
• Persecution gives us boldness in the Holy Spirit (Matt. 10:16–20; Acts 4:6–13,29; 5:28,29; 7:51; Eph. 6:20; Phil. 1:14).
• Persecution gives a greater longing for our Lord’s return (Rev. 6:9–11).
• Persecution causes faith, love, and patience to grow exceedingly (2 Thess. 1:3,4).
• Persecution strengthens the saints to comfort others (2 Cor. 1:4,5).
• Persecution causes either the conversion or the damnation of our persecutors (Acts 8:1 with 9:1–6; 13:45,46; 1 Thess. 2:15,16).
• Persecution makes the Word of God come alive (Acts 4:25,26).
• Persecution demands perseverance, which produces godly character (Matt. 24:13; Acts 13:43; 14:22; 20:23,24; 1 Cor. 15:57,58; 16:13; Eph. 6:18–20; Phil. 1:28–30; Heb. 10:32–39; 1 Pet. 3:14; Rev. 2:10,25).
• Persecution works together with all things for our good and through Christ makes us more than conquerors (Rom. 8:28–39).
• Persecution brings great reward in heaven (Matt. 5:10–12).
Will it be fair to those who will be persecuted during the Great Tribulation that believers who lived previously did not have to suffer such persecution?
The Bible illustrates that believers backslide as much as, if not more, in times of peace and prosperity as in persecution and hardship. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10). Affluence often leads to forgetting the Lord (Deut. 8:13,14), to pride (Ezek. 28:5), to denying God (Pro. 30:8,9), to rebelling against Him (Neh. 9:25,26), to falling into temptation and a snare (1 Tim. 6:9,10), and to erring from the faith (1 Tim. 6:10).
On the other hand, suffering for Christ usually leads to rejoicing (Acts 5:40,41), to glorifying God (1 Pet. 4:16), to praying and singing (Acts 16:25), to preaching with boldness (Acts 5:17–20), to furthering the gospel (Phil. 1:12–14), and to conforming to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28,29).
Scripture promises, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). In Bible times and throughout Church history, many Christians have suffered untold tribulation (Heb. 11:33–38). Remember that “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13). See also Rev. 2:10.
The Church is appointed to tribulation. Peace and worldly prosperity are more dangerous to her than times of bloody persecution and affliction.
Are there other reassuring scriptures for believers in tribulation?
Several of the following passages are found in the context of the end–time and the Second Coming. That the Word of God abounds with these comforting scriptures confirms once again that His people are appointed to tribulation, but not to the wrath of God.
• Let not your heart be troubled (John 14:1–3).
• Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).
• The Lord is a refuge from the storm (Isa. 25:4).
• The Lord is our confidence (Pro. 3:21–26).
• God’s grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 9:8; 12:9,10).
• The Lord is with us until the end of the world (Matt. 28:20; Phil. 1:6).
• The Lord gives power over all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19).
• We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13).
• The sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory (Rom. 8:17,18; 2 Cor. 4:17; Heb. 11:25–27).
• God gives assurance that He has everything under control (Psa. 37:18,23–25; Matt. 16:18; Rev. 6:9–11; 10:7; 17:17).
• God promises a glorious deliverance on the Day of the Lord (Psa. 66:9–12; Mal. 3:15–18 with 4:1–3; Matt. 24:29–31).
• We look for heaven (2 Pet. 3:12,13).