The short answer to this question is "No!" The Church of Jesus Christ will not suffer the wrath of the Lamb.1 The wrath of God is the judgment poured out on those who have rejected Jesus Christ and His righteousness. Since believers are not guilty, they cannot be punished and will not suffer the wrath of God.
Is tribulation equal to wrath?
Having said that, I need to make the distinction between wrath and tribulation. The two words are also two separate words in the original Greek. Both words involve the suffering of the effected parties. However, the source of the suffering is quite different. Tribulation is the unrighteous persecution of believers by unbelievers. Wrath is the righteous punishment of God poured out on those who reject Him. The Church will not suffer the wrath of God, but will be raptured or spared in some way from His judgment.
Why would God allow the Church to suffer through the Great Tribulation?
However, I believe that God will not remove the Church from the Great Tribulation that will be exercised against her by the unrighteous. The reason that God allows tribulation against His Church is several- fold. First, tribulation produces perseverance:
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; (Romans 5:3, NSAB)
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not. (Romans 12:11-14)
In addition, tribulation requires believers to rely upon the power of the Spirit instead of their own means. The persecuted church has always been more faithful and prayerful to Christ.
Does the Bible promise that believers will escape tribulation?
No! In fact, Jesus promised that we would suffer persecution for our faith:
"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
Other passages tell of the tribulation suffered by the early Church:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (Romans 8:35)
You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, (1 Thessalonians 1:6)
'Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)
Jesus described how believers would suffer tribulation at the hands of the unrighteous;
"Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name. ...for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall." (Matthew 24:9, 21)
God's mercy in tribulation
However, God, in His sovereignty, will end the suffering of the Church, rapture believers, and pour out His wrath on the unrighteous.
"And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short. (Matthew 24:22)
"But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. "And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (Matthew 24:29-31)
In addition, the book of Revelation describes the huge number of believers who have been raptured out of the Great Tribulation:
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes... And one of the elders answered, saying to me, "These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and from where have they come?" And I said to him, "My lord, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:9-14)
Pretribulation rapture proponents claim that this uncountable number of believers are Jews who are converted between the rapture of the Church and the end of the Great Tribulation. However, the number is much too large for this to be reasonable. This same book (Revelation) describes an army consisting of 200 million men.2 Obviously, a number which is uncountable must be much large than this (probably at least 1 billion). There are not enough Jews in Israel (nor is it likely that that large a number will ever be in Israel) to account for this large a number of believers. Therefore, this number must include the Church, which comes out of the Great Tribulation.
From these studies, one can see that there is a significant difference between the wrath of God (which is judgment directed at the unrighteous) and the tribulation (which is the persecution directed at believers). Throughout the Bible, God is consistent in His treatment of humans. He allows individuals to persecute His people, and rarely interferes with that choice. At the times of the end, God will allow the unrighteous to persecute believers to an extent that "has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall," before ending their reign of terror. God then removes believers from the earth before executing judgment on the unrighteous. The Bible makes it clear that the Church will not suffer the wrath of God.1
Although I like the NIV for its readability, it suffers some problems, especially regarding this issue. The word "tribulation" is only used once (Revelation 7:14). In the other instances, it uses words such as "trouble" and "persecution", so that it is impossible to know what the original Greek is referring to. The NASB does a much better job, although even it is not perfect, since it also uses other words occasionally. If you are looking for a good (and free!) electronic Bible reference, please check e-sword.net.
- Commentary on Revelation - An excellent commentary of the entire book of Revelation, in addition to information on the rapture.
- Eschatology by Scott - A nice summary with tables of parallel passages.
- The Watchmans Post End times prophecy, second coming of Jesus, news and commentary.
Before God's Wrath by H.L. Nigro, a friend of GodAndScience.org. This new book looks at the rapture question from the scriptures (both Old and New Testament). It is very well documented and includes many figures that compare parallel passages in the scriptures. It is endorsed by Marvin Rosenthal, President of Zion's Hope. According to Mr. Rosenthal, "Each month I receive dozens of articles and manuscripts to evaluate or endorse for publication. I do not endorse what I am not genuinely enthusiastic about. I am enthusiastic about this book. Within its pages, the readers will not find speculation or sensationalism. However, they will find a powerful and convincing presentation for the chronological sequence of the Lord's second coming and its practical implication for the believer." A highly recommended book!
The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church by Marvin J. Rosenthal. This is the classic pre-wrath interpretation of the Lord's second coming by Marvin Rosenthal, President of Zion's Hope and The Holy Land Experience.
The Rapture Question Answered : Plain and Simple by Robert D. Van Kampen
Post-Tribulation and Pre-Wrath by Don Montgomery
- Much more then, having now been justified by His blood,
we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (Romans 5:9)
and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10)
For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Thessalonians 5:9)
- And the number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. (Revelation 9:16)
We are what we think.
- 11/24/2015 02:54 AM
The Benefits of Giving Thanks
Realizing our moment-by-moment dependence on God the Creator for our very existence makes it appropriate to live lives of devotion, commitment, gratitude, and loyalty toward him, and scandalous not to.1 —J. I. Packer, Christian theologian The God revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ and in sacred Scripture wants his children to be grateful. God’s incredible majesty, goodness, and love…
- 11/17/2015 05:40 PM
A Church’s Hospitality Has Power to Persuade
As my friends and family know, I’m clearly an introvert. Growing up, I struggled with shyness, and even today I’m still more at ease among books than I am among people. Upon reflection, I suspect I even battle a certain amount of social anxiety. Nevertheless, as a public speaker and teacher I’ve learned how to be at ease even when…
- 11/10/2015 02:33 AM
How Christianity Influenced the World’s Law Systems
Today I offer an article by guest author Andrew Stebbins. **** Christianity has had a profound impact on Western culture. Rule of law in particular has deeply influenced virtually everything that makes the West unique. From the early stages of Western civilization, through America’s founding fathers, and up until recently, the Christian foundations of rule of law have been acknowledged.…
- 11/03/2015 05:48 PM
The Many Faces of Courage
I have heard it said that the only thing warriors fear more than death is cowardice. I have been thinking about the meaning of courage for a long time. When I was a boy I wondered how my ordinary father was able to do extraordinary things as an American combat soldier in World War II and receive the Bronze Star…
- 10/27/2015 05:06 PM
Finding Humor and Hope in the Graveyard
This might sound morbid to some people, but I’ve always been fascinated by the subject of death. As a youth, I found funerals much more interesting than weddings. And growing up in the Roman Catholic tradition, I thought Catholic funerals were particularly remarkable ceremonies. I can still remember the unique smell of incense filling the church at the first funeral…
- 10/20/2015 04:00 PM
Memento Mori: Facing Our Mortality
As a child, the first time death hit home for me was when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. And even though more than 50 years have passed, I still distinctly remember two things about the event. First, I remember the shock and sadness expressed by my parents when they heard of the president’s death. My parents were…
- 10/13/2015 01:26 PM
New Podcast Provides Antidote for Christian “Nonthinkers”
Many of today’s critics of Christianity view believers in Christ as feelers instead of thinkers. The skeptical charge is often that the faith of most Christians is grounded more in emotional experience than rational considerations. Christians are viewed as people who follow their hearts instead of their heads. Unfortunately, too many evangelical churchgoers today lend validation to the allegation that…
- 10/06/2015 03:29 PM
Think Again: The Danger of Preferential Reasoning
There seems to be a tendency in human beings to draw the logical conclusion that each of us prefers to be true. So when it comes to evaluating arguments for reasonableness and explanatory power, preference tends to weigh heavily in our final assessment. Preference can even at times trump solid evidence that points to the truth of an alternative conclusion.…
- 09/29/2015 02:10 AM
“The Martian”: The Ultimate Rescue Mission
This Friday, the film adaptation of Andy Weir’s highly successful debut novel The Martian hits theaters. In anticipation of the film’s release, I met with editor Sandra Dimas to discuss how The Martian might help remind others of a different kind of rescue mission. Sandra: In The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is stranded on Mars by his crewmates…
- 09/22/2015 02:10 AM
Adaptation: A Story of Brilliant Design
This is an article from guest writer Dr. Anjeanette Roberts. In storytelling, every tale is told within an overarching framework. Settings, events, characters are critical in storytelling and plot development. The best writers create tension, foreshadowing, plot twists, and characterizations that not only entertain, but also make sense within the world the writer has established. It’s how it all fits…
Last Modified June 21, 2008