What We’re Spared
Think of the worst disasters in history. They’re nothing compared to what lies ahead—but not for the bride of Christ.
“Husband Charged With Domestic Violence.” It’s an all-too-familiar headline. Sometimes the offender is a celebrity—an actor, musician, or sports star. Sometimes it’s someone we know personally—a neighbor or even a family member.
Our hearts sink at such reports. And though both husbands and wives commit acts of domestic violence, it seems especially troubling when a husband takes out his rage on his wife, the “weaker vessel” (1 Pet. 3:7).
Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom of the church, will never abuse His bride. One of the greatest proofs of His faithfulness to her is the Rapture of the church, the future event when Jesus returns for His bride so that she can always be with Him (Jn. 14:3; 1 Th. 4:17).
In the Rapture, all believers will be “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air, not only to receive new, immortal, and resurrected bodies—but also to escape the “hour of trial” that will afflict the entire earth (1 Th. 4:17; 1 Cor. 15:50–54; Rev. 3:10).
The “hour of trial,” or Tribulation, will span seven years and be characterized by worldwide disaster, horror, doom, and God’s righteous wrath. The words wrath and indignation appear 14 times in Revelation 6—19, the chapters covering the Tribulation narrative. Eleven of those times specify the wrath comes from God; and of those 11, two come from the Lamb, Jesus Christ (6:16–17).
God will pour out His righteous anger during the Tribulation through three sets of seven judgments in the form of seals (as in a seal on a document), trumpets, and bowls.
When Jesus Christ opens the first seal, the Antichrist will emerge, conquering with power, signs, lying wonders, and deception (vv. 1–2; 2 Th. 2:9). The following seals will yield wars and rumors of wars, famine, a great earthquake, cosmic disturbances, and the death of one-fourth of Earth’s population (Rev. 6:3–17; cf. Mt. 24:6–7). Using today’s world population figure of approximately 7.5 billion people, 1.88 billion people will die in the early stages alone of the Tribulation.
The great earthquake and cosmic disturbances will cause people to recognize that God’s wrath has come upon them:
[They] hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev. 6:15–17).
After the seals, seven angels will sound seven trumpet judgments, which will affect one-third of whatever they encounter. The first four trumpets will impact one-third of the earth’s environment (8:7–12). The fifth trumpet will release demon-like locusts to sting and torment unbelievers for five months (9:1–12).
The sixth trumpet judgment will release four angels to kill a third of what’s left of the earth’s population through an army of 200 million horsemen. Fire, smoke, and burning sulfur will spew from the mouths of the troops’ horses; and the horses’ tails will be like snakes, possessing power to wound people (vv. 13–19). Using today’s population figures, the sixth trumpet judgment will kill another 1.85 billion people, bringing the Tribulation death toll to 3.7 billion—half of the entire world’s population.
The seventh trumpet will cause an earthquake and hailstorm, preparing the way for the terrible bowl judgments (11:15–19).
The seven bowl judgments will unleash loathsome sores on the Antichrist’s worshipers; turn fresh water and the sea into blood, killing all sea creatures; cause unbearable, scorching heat from the sun; cover the Antichrist’s kingdom in painful darkness; dry up the Euphrates River, allowing kings from the east to come; produce an unprecedented earthquake, causing entire cities to collapse; and cause 75-pound hailstones to fall on people (16:2–21).
Where will the bride of Christ be during all of this divine retribution? Forever safe with her Lord in heaven.
Prior to the Tribulation, an archangel will shout, announcing the coming of the Bridegroom. The church will be “caught up together” to meet Him in the air. “And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Th. 4:16–17; cf. Mt. 25:6).
Why We’re Spared
Why won’t the church be on Earth during the Tribulation? Because throughout Scripture, God reveals the principle of separating His people from impending divine judgment. Although He sometimes allows us to suffer persecution and martyrdom, such suffering comes from the hands of evil men, not from God.
Abraham’s question to the Lord before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah illustrates this principle: “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:23, 25).
God spared Lot and his family from Sodom’s obliteration (19:16). Other examples include God separating Noah and his family from the worldwide flood (7:7), Israel from the Egyptian plagues (Ex. 8:22–23; 9:4–7, 26; 10:23; 11:7); and the Israelites from Korah and the other rebels whom God was about to destroy (Num. 16:23–26). God also offered to save the Israelites in Jerusalem from the Babylonian siege (Jer. 21:8–10).
This principle is also implied in Revelation 3:10, where Jesus promised the church at Philadelphia to “keep [them] from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world.” The church is never mentioned in the Tribulation chapters of Revelation, strongly implying the church’s absence.
It is true that during the Tribulation, people will come to know the Lord, even multitudes (7:9–17). They will suffer persecution and martyrs’ deaths (Mt. 24:9; Rev. 6:11; 11:7; 20:4). These believers will become Tribulation saints—people who did not believe the gospel before the Rapture but became believers during the Tribulation.
In contrast, the church is a unique entity, a spiritual union of Jews and Gentiles who trust Christ during the present age and are baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). To the bride of Christ the Lord promises protection. She will not be the object of her Bridegroom’s wrath. “Jesus…delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Th. 1:10). “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:9).
Although Christians throughout history have always suffered tribulation and persecution, they will not suffer the Tribulation. Christ will spare His bride because “no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church” (Eph. 5:29).