Armed for Armageddon or/When Will The Lamb Come For His Own?
There are a growing number of Christian “survivalists” in our country claiming that the Church of Jesus Christ must go through the Tribulation. However, it should be noted at the outset that not all post-tribulationists, or those holding differing views of the Rapture, subscribe to the extremes of this survivalist camp. The extreme survivalist view is arrived at through “visions” or private “revelations” on the part of some or through misinterpreted Scriptures. This view can produce a whole style of life that is anything but biblical. This view also spawns commercialism and “hucksterism”. One supplier made over a million dollars in profits last year on selling food, guns and other “necessities” for survival. Romans 8:15 tells us that as believers, we “have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear . …” This teaching does not produce the fruit of the Spirit, and it does not give the comfort of God. It creates fear. Those “armed for Armageddon” are advising us to gather guns, ammunition and dried food. They are advising us to stockpile these things in secret hideouts. They are advising us to teach our nine and ten-year-old children how to shoot to kill. One Georgia company offers a small submachine gun, light enough for women to handle. Other survivalist equipment includes portable outdoor toilets for those who really want to be well equipped! Is this Christian teaching? This whole mentality produces fear, worry, paranoia, hysteria, which are all the fruits of the flesh and the devil. Scripture teaches the comfort of the any-moment return of Jesus. The fruit of this new teaching gives it away, for it is anything but comfort.
All through the New Testament the stress is on spiritual readiness. We must then, as Scripture does, place our emphasis on spiritual readiness and not preparation for our physical needs. If a Christian were living through a time of severe tribulation and famine, he would feel obligated to share any food supply with hungry neighbors. It’s illogical to think we could ever store enough to go around. If we refused to give away what we had and used force and violence, desperately starving people would probably kill us and take it anyway.
The other “rotten fruit” produced by this belief is the mania to positively identify the antichrist. And so, in recent years the survivalists told us it was Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat, and even Ronald Wilson Reagan (because each of his names has six letters). No wonder people turn off the Gospel when these predictions fail.
Let us consider what the Bible says about the nature of the Great Tribulation. First, its character is totally Jewish in orientation. The devastating judgments in the book of Revelation will serve to punish sinners but, most importantly, will restore Israel. The word “church” cannot be found after Revelation chapter 3, but in Revelation 7 we see God dealing with the “twelve tribes of Israel“. In the Old Testament the Great Tribulation is called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7). In Matthew 24 Jesus mentions the geographical focus of “Judea” in verse 16. He mentions the “sabbath” in verse 20. He mentions the “abomination of desolation” in verse 15. All of these can only apply to Israel. The Church has no part in these things. The character of the Great Tribulation is totally Jewish (don’t confuse tribulation generally, which the Church always has, with the Great Tribulation). Secondly, the nature of the Tribulation is to pour out the wrath of God. Don’t miss it — don’t forget it — the wrath of God! See for yourself.
“And said 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” (Rev. 6: 16).
“For the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand? (Rev. 6:17).
“And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come .. . ” (Rev. 11:18).
“. . . Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath …” (Rev. 12:12).
“And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God” (Rev. 14: 19).
“. . . The seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God” (Rev. 15:1).
“And one of the four living creatures gave unto the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God . . . ” (Rev. 15:7).
“And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels. Go your ways, and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God upon the earth” (Rev. 16:1).
“. . . And great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath” (Rev. 16:19).
“And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Rev. 19:15).
It could not be clearer! The nature of the Tribulation is wrath, wrath, wrath, wrath, wrath! The Greek words “orge” and “thumos” are used. Both mean vengeance or wrath with “thumos” being a more intense inner aspect and “orge” the outer aspect and effects. (See Kittel, THEOLOGICAL DICTIONARY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT,Vol. Ill and Vol. V.)
What does the Bible say about the relationship of the Church to the wrath of God? First Thessalonians 5:9 assures us, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Not appointed to wrath! That’s the answer! Clearly the Church of Jesus Christ will not go through the Great Tribulation. Someone has humorously observed that since the Church is the bride of Christ and Christ “nourishes and cherishes” His Church, He could not be a wife beater. Any teaching that promotes the view that some kind of “purgatory” or purging is needed for the Church undercuts the value and finality of Calvary. It demeans the cross work of Christ and makes the Church’s suffering somehow the means of its own salvation. The Church can never in any way be the object of divine wrath, it is not appointed to wrath! No wonder Paul could speak of the comfort of the any-moment appearing of Jesus in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
The Church has always believed in the imminent (any-moment) return of Christ. It could not occur at any moment if we had to wait seven years for the Tribulation to transpire. As early as 140 A.D., the SHEPHERD OF HERMAS records, “You have escaped the great tribulation on account of your faith.” The distinction of Christ’s coming for the saints (1 Th. 4:13-18) and Christ’s coming with the saints (Rev. 19:14) is totally missed in “survivalist” literature.
Are you looking for Christ or are you looking for tribulation? One view produces gloom, fear, hysteria. The other view produces excitement, joy, comfort and purity (1 Jn. 3:1-3).
Romans 8:1 reminds us, “There is, therefore, now no condemnation [wrath] to them who are in Christ Jesus . …” Jesus took the wrath for us! To be outside of Christ is to be under wrath. To be in Christ is to be outside of wrath. John 5:24 reminds us, “. . . He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment [wrath], but is passed from death unto life.”
Not appointed unto wrath!
Will the Church suffer the Great Tribulation? The Scripture clearly answers the question in the negative. Revelation 3:10 gives this great promise: “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from [“ek” — in Greek is literally “out from”] the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”
Let’s not be carried away by the false teachings and histrionics of radical extreme groups. Rather, let us live in the clear, balanced teaching of God’s Word.
Rev. Dick Fisher is the pastor of the Laurelton Park Baptist Church in Brick Town, New Jersey.