People disagree on just about everything that is written in the Bible, and usually there are good arguments on both sides. The most heated argument amongst Christians with regard to Bible prophecy is over whether or not Christians will be forced to go through the Great Tribulation.

Some of the things described as happening during the Tribulation (marked by seven trumpets) are similar to things that happen during the Wrath (marked by seven vials or bowls). Elsewhere in the Bible there are references to God's people "escaping" or being "spared" from his wrath. (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9) These references are used to suggest that we might also be spared from the time of great trouble.

Those who teach that we do not go through the Tribulation believe that Christ could come and take us at any time. This teaching is helpful in that it should make people more serious about being ready to meet God at any time. However, there are strong indications that the teaching has arisen more from wishful thinking (and psychological denial) than from an interest in preparedness.

As we said earlier in this book, The Revelation starts out sounding "sweet" but it turns bitter when you get up close to it. Things like persecution and martyrdom are never popular, and this is more true today than ever. In a world (and a church) which has rejected the discipline of God, tribulation of any sort will be avoided by all means possible.

St. Paul promised the early Christians that "all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." (II Timothy 3:12) That is one promise that most people would rather not know about!

The Bible says (in Hebrews 12:6-11) "Whoever the Lord loves he chastens, and he scourges every son whom he receives. If you endure chastening, then God is dealing with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father does not chasten? But if you are without chastisement, of which all [children] are partakers, then you are bastards and not sons… Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but [rather] grievous. Nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who are exercised by it."

If you study the word "tribulation" wherever it appears in the Bible, it becomes clear that all of God's people go through such times. Paul said, "We glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation teaches patience." (Romans 5:3)

There is an important difference between "troubles" (which God allows us all to experience) and the "wrath" of God, which is specifically directed at his enemies. (Colossians 3:6; Romans 2:5) Obviously we do not want to be the objects of his wrath; and we would hope that, as his children, this would never happen, for it would most certainly destroy us. But to escape his wrath, we must be willing to endure his discipline. Wrath vs Tribulation is like Destruction vs Discipline.

The favourite proof text for the theory that says Christians will not have to stick around and face the Great Tribulation is in Luke 17:34-36: "There shall be two people in one bed. One shall be taken and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together. One will be taken and the other left. Two men shall be in the field. One will be taken and the other left." From this has grown the teaching (which is extremely popular, of course!) that all the good guys will just float up to heaven in their sleep one night, and the rest of the world will wake up to find us all gone.

But the text has been taken out of context. The verses just before this passage say, "In that day, he which is on the housetop and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away. He that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot's wife." (Luke 17:31-32) Lot made a conscious choice to leave Sodom. He was not sucked up in a cosmic vacuum cleaner. His decision cost him everything he had worked for for years, and when his wife turned back, she was destroyed. One was taken, and the other left.

The disciples to whom Jesus was speaking at the time understood that these people Jesus was talking about were being led to some kind of a hideout, and not just being "raptured" into the air. When told that some would be taken, they asked, "Where, Lord?" And he said to them, somewhat cryptically, "Wherever the food is, there will the birds be gathered together." (Luke 17:37)

The other proof texts for the "secret rapture" teaching, as it is called, come from 1 Corinthians 15, and 1 Thessalonians 4. Remember, however, that the argument is not over whether Christians actually ascend into the sky to meet Christ (called the "rapture") when he comes (for both sides agree on this), but rather it is over whether this happens before the Great Tribulation or after it.

The Tribulation is represented in The Revelation by seven trumpets. Now look at the proof texts that are used to argue that Christians will be caught up to meet Christ in the air (i.e. "raptured") before any of these trumpets sound: "We shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump. For the [last?] trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised." (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

"The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God. The dead in Christ will rise first. Then we which are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air." (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

Put that together with what Christ himself said: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days … they will see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet and they will gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matthew 24:29-31)

All of these passages refer to trumpets, and in particular, to the last trumpet, "after the tribulation".

It would be nice to think that all of the unpleasant parts of The Revelation are for someone else, and that we can float to heaven on flowery beds of ease; but if we are only interested in making the book say what we want it to say, we will never learn anything from it, and we may as well not study it at all.

The picture that Jesus gives of the period just before his return (and after the start of the Tribulation) is one of great confusion, with many of his followers expressing dismay that he has not arrived. This is consistent with a situation where people have been conned into believing that he should have come before the troubles started.

Jesus describes the start of the tribulation (Matthew 24:16-22) and then says that false prophets will be making false promises about him arriving secretly: "Then if anyone shall say to you, 'Lo, here is Christ,' or 'There!' do not believe it. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they would deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. So if they shall say to you, 'Behold, he is in the desert,' go not forth. Or 'Behold, he is in the secret chambers,' believe it not. For as the lightning comes out of the east and shines even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." (Matthew 24:23-27)

So much for secret raptures!

In conclusion, there are two prophetic periods of time which have often been confused. The first is the Great Tribulation, which lasts for three and a half years. The second is The Wrath, which lasts for only a short period of time, and concludes with the Battle of Armageddon. The Tribulation is marked by a series of seven trumpets, while the Wrath is marked by seven containers being poured out on the earth.

In the next chapter we will study the events associated with the Great Tribulation.

*For more information related to this chapter, please check out the following video: Survivors Ch #1 - Left Behind

Appendix, Chapter 14

Romans 5:9. "Being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him."

1 Thessalonians 1:10.  "Wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come."

1 Thessalonians 5:9. "For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ."

Colossians 3:6. "Because of these things, the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience."

Romans 2:5. "Because of your hardness and impenitent heart, you treasure up for yourself wrath, against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God."