There seems to be a lot of confusion about this issue today that stems from the failure to check all of the doctrines that are affected if you get the Church going through all or a part of the Tribulation. The answer to the question is not simply based upon verses that deal with the “rapture.”
For instance, you can’t find one person in the Old Testament that was “born again.” Now, notice I said “born again.” I didn’t say “saved.” Certainly, people in the Old Testament were saved but they weren’t “born again.” Likewise, you don’t find anyone in the Tribulation that is “born again.”
Old Testament saints went to Abraham’s bosom after they died and waited for the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ to get taken to heaven (Lk. 16:19-31; Matt. 27:50-52; Eph. 4:8-10; etc.). The souls of some of the Tribulation saints show up under an altar in Rev. 6:9. Neither of these are places where New Testament Church age saints go after they die.
We go directly to be with the Lord after we die (2 Cor. 5:8). That’s because we are born again and have been baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ and have already been seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (1 Pet. 1:23; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 2:5-6).
Haven’t you ever noticed that Church age saints are saved by faith without any works involved in the salvation at all? (Rom. 4:5; Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5; etc.). There was a big council down in Jerusalem in Acts 15, to decide what place keeping the law had in church age salvation. The final decision was that salvation is by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on Calvary without the law (Acts 15:1-11; Gal. 2:16).
However, in the Tribulation, salvation clearly involves keeping the commandments of God (Rev. 12:17; 14:12). To deny that is to deny the clear wording of the Bible. Consequently, during the Tribulation, it is possible for a man to lose his salvation if he fails to keep the commandments or if he takes the mark and worships the beast (Rev. 14:9-11; Matt. 24:13; Heb. 6:4-6; Jas. 2:24; etc.).
So, by noticing the differences that take place in salvation between the church age and the Tribulation, it is a little easier to see that the Church can’t go through the Tribulation.
Now here are some helpful guides when you study out this doctrine.
- Never confuse scriptures that are clearly aimed at Israel with the Church. They are not the same. Some examples are: Matthew 24: 9-28; Is. 45:4; 65:22; Heb. 3:6; 3:14; Dan. 12:6-13; Dan. 11:35-40; Rom. 11:25-27; Dan. 9; Eze. 40-48; and many more.
- Recognize the differences in the three raptures:
a. Old Testament saints at Christ’s resurrection (Matt. 27:50-53; Eph. 4:8-10)
b. New Testament saints at the rapture of the Church (1 Thes. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:50-55)
c. Tribulation saints right before the 2nd Advent of Christ (Matt. 24:29-31; Rev. 7:9-17; Rev. 14:14-16).
- Recognize that the churches in Revelation 2 & 3 are not in the body of Christ because each of them has to overcome something to have eternal life, whereas church age saints have already overcome (1 Jn 4:4, 5:4).
- Study out the difference between the “trump” and the “trumpet.” When God and Jesus speak, the sound is that of a trumpet (Ex. 19:19; 20:18; Rev. 1:10, 1 Thes. 4:16; etc.). It’s what you will hear at the rapture. When the angel sounds the 7th trumpet, it will signal the end of the Tribulation and the 2nd coming of Christ (Rev. 11:15).
- Notice the difference in the Tribulation rapture and the rapture of the Church:
a. The Lord sends his angels to gather the Tribulation saints (Matt. 24:31)
b. The Lord himself descends to get the Church (1 Thes. 4:16)
There’s a lot more for you to study out but this should help.
Pastor Bevans Welder