More often these days, the question of whether we will go through all or a portion of the tribulation comes up in conversation. It's truly a fascinating question but one with no earthly answer. To be sure, we are to know the times and the seasons, but why would God not tell us when Jesus is coming back for His church? Let's examine that for a moment.
Human nature, being what it is, likes to know what's going on and is frustrated when the answers do not come. This is especially true of those living in the United States because we have been told all our lives that we are free and capable of doing anything we want. In this wonderful world of technology and ever increasing knowledge, things come so fast to us now that it is no longer 'normal' to wait for much of anything.
God knows this and is very big on patience. Oh that nasty word! I have heard people say, 'for heaven's sake don't pray for patience because you will end up in some sort of trial for it!' So, you aren't going to pray for it because you think God will expect you to USE yours? Doesn't that seem a bit silly? Bear in mind that God does not give us trials.
James 1:13, "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:"
However, He does require us to have patience. Why do we need this where the tribulation is concerned? With things as hot as they are in the middle east right now, with the terrorist problems all over the world, with the economy being what it is, it's very important that we get our priorities right, including patience. It is, after all, a virtue.
Matthew 24:42, "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come."
Now this verse can be annoying at first glance. Jesus says that we must watch because we do not know when He is coming back. Have you ever waited for something really terrific to ocurr and it seemed like eons before it actually happened? We have all been there. When I was a kid, waiting for Christmas, for the presents, was torture. Earlier in the year, I had really promised to be a good kid so that I would be ready for that day to come. But as the days went by and it seemed to be such a long time away, I fell into old habits and sometimes wasn't such a virtuous child anymore. Too impatient to wait, I then lost interest when it didn't happen as soon as I would have liked. Much like I was then, most folks now really do not want to spend their time waiting and watching as we have been told to do. The verse seems to be annoying but is really a warning that Jesus wants us to heed. THIS is what we are to be doing until He comes. In the next two verses, He explains why we must do this.
Matthew 24:43-44, "But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh."
This verse is interesting because it tells us that if we, the goodman, had known in what watch the thief would come (much like the military has a guard watching while others sleep), we would not then suffer damage and destruction. We are then told to be ready. It is obvious that the Lord has no intention of telling us an exact date for when Jesus is coming back but we are to patiently wait on Him and BE READY.
'My impatience is getting the best of me', you say. 'What does all this have to do with the tribulation and whether we are going through it?' For one thing, if I really had the answer of an exact date, I would likely be on somebody's talk show circuit or some such nonsense. The title asks 'To trib or not to trib? that is the question.' The answer is that we do not know. Shouldn't be a surprise. Jesus didn't know either. Only the Father knows the answer to that. So, what's the big deal?
It's all about patience. Suppose for a moment that your faith, besides being in the Lord, centers on a specific time that you have decided is when Jesus will return for His church. The time is ripe, the season is upon us. The signs of it are all around us. Surely now the Lord will come and get us. But what if it does not happen as you thought? Suppose you know that when they build the temple in Israel or when they sign the peace treaty that these are the signals of the tribulation to start. According to many 'pre-trib' people, that would be when Jesus comes to catch away the church. What if they are wrong? What happens to your faith? Can you imagine how devastated someone might feel if they see things that were prophecied but that they thought would happen AFTER the rapture? What would go through their minds? I can actually hear it in mine, 'If Jesus didn't come when I KNOW He was supposed to, then how many other lies have I been hearing and believing?' Now what happens to that person? Is this what is called the great 'falling away'? Do they now lose faith in the Lord because He did not show up when THEY wanted Him to come? Oh how the devil will sow his seeds of doubt then. It will be his own harvest.
On the other hand, suppose someone believes that he will go through some portion of the tribulation but will be raptured at some point in the middle. Because he knows that there is time yet, he may not be doing what he is called to do. After all, he has time, right? Will HE be ready should the Lord come while you are reading this article? How would you feel if you were to go totally through the whole thing and Jesus only comes back at the end? Now where is your faith? Do you see the problems here? In fact, many bible scholars have debated over these very questions and no one has the answers.
What is the real peril in believing one thing over another about this? The very real danger is that you will not be ready as you were told to be. Your faith will be tried, make no mistake. Jesus said that He would come back for a church without spot or wrinkle. Do you see any wrinkles in this church today? Spots? Do we need to be in the washing machine a while before He takes us home? Possibly. Jesus wanted His people to be walking in unity, in love, with patience. Ouch! There's 'that word' again.
Why not just KNOW that Jesus is coming back. That promise is all over the scriptures. Why must we concern ourselves with the time? We should be going about our Father's business. If the church is doing that, they would have no time to be concerned about the when, only that He does come as He has promised. Why worry yourself about whether we are 'pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, pre-wrath, post-wrath, pre-milleniual, or whatever else'? Will we go through God's wrath? No, He has told us that He will spare us from that. But wait a minute. Jesus said:
Matthew 24:37, "But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."
As in the days of Noe (Noah).....didn't the ark have those that God saved, including Noah's family? See what I mean? Are you now questioning whether we are going to be around for God's wrath? Why? If we are going about God's business, don't you think that He will watch over what we are doing? And there is one more very important question that some time in the near future you may be expected to answer. Jesus died for you. Will you be willing to die for Him?
The first time Jesus came to earth, the Bible scholars thought they had it all figured out. They knew how, when and where. They missed it. Only two people were ready and waiting, Simeon and Anna. Many were expecting, few were ready. Today is the same way. Three different theories, each believing they are right and the others are wrong. History seems to be repeating itself. Only those who are ready and waiting will be "taken." Are we truly ready? This was a great article, thanks for writing it.