Answers to Reader Questions
Q: Why does the Body of Christ need to go through the Tribulation, or part of it?
A: If you haven't already, you might want to read Revelation 2 and 3, the letters to the churches. Here, you will see that Jesus addresses seven churches with praise and exhortation, as well as rebuke. Five of these churches He commands to repent of serious deviations they have made from the standards He has set. Although these letters were written to first century churches, they are part of Revelation for a reason. Revelation is an end-times book, addressing the events and character of the 70th Week, and these letters have a dual fulfillment at the end of the age.
There has been a lot of discussion about the relevance of these letters for us today. However, it must be remembered that a lot of end-times prophecy has a dual fulfillment — a contemporary fulfillment for those at the time it was written, which is often an incomplete (or partial) fulfillment — and an end-times fulfillment, in which the prophecy is fulfilled completely. This is the case here. Many of these letters to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 contain clear end-times references, such as "or else I will come quickly..." and "or else I will come upon you as a thief..." This tells us that these letters have a dual fulfillment at the end of the age.
If these letters represent the Church at the start of the 70th Week, then the Body of Christ during the End Times is made up of believers at all levels of sanctification. Some will be like the Loving Church — faithful, growing in sanctification and maturity, and never having left their first love; others will be like the Corrupt Church — saved, perhaps, but with their lives filled with hypocrisy and sin. Others will be like the Compromising Church — saved, perhaps, but they have one foot on either side of the fence, trying to serve God and the world; others will be like the Loveless Church — adhering to God's commandments, but having abandoned the heart of God, becoming judgmental, legalistic, and unloving. Or they will be like the Dead Church, the Lukewarm Church, or the Persecuted Church.
This is, in fact, exactly what we see in the Church today. Churches are filled with believers at all levels of sanctification. Some are mature, some are babes in Christ, some are mired in hypocrisy, compromise, and sin. Others are on fire for God, lukewarm, or have lost their zeal completely. Others are persecuted through no fault of their own. While this is a picture of the Church throughout all of history, in an end-times context, Ephesians 5:27 tells us that Jesus is coming back for a Church without spot or wrinkle. This is important because this spotlessness is a reference to sanctification, not our legal position in Christ. If He were to come back today, what would He find?
From one end of the scriptures to the other, the writers talk about the need for trial by fire to purify, refine, and perfect the people of God. Consider 1 Peter 5:10: "But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you..." Earlier, in chapter 3, the apostle wrote, "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you: but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is
revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:12-13). The context here is the end times, when "Christ's glory is revealed." Peter isn't talking about general trials and tribulations in life. He is talking about a specific fiery trial, the fiery trial, that will precede the return of Christ.
Why do we need such a trial? "After [we] have suffered awhile ..." we will be "perfect[ed], establish[ed], strenghten[ed], and settle[d] in Christ Jesus." We see the same thing in Daniel 11:35. Daniel writes, "And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end, because it is still for the appointed time" (v. 35). We know Daniel is talking about the end times because the latter part of Daniel 11 and all of Daniel 12 also cover the time period of the 70th Week.
God loves us. When the 70th Week starts, time will be short. He wants us to have the maximum blessings in heaven, and those blessings only come with obedience, testing, and perseverance. Through the trial and testing that will occur during the 70th Week, God, in His abundance love and mercy, will give the laggard students a chance to catch up. But more importantly, God is holy. When Jesus comes back, it is not for a corrupt, compromising, lukewarm, dead Church with a meager handful of the faithful. He is coming back for a glorious Bride, a holy Bride, a Bride without spot or wrinkle. And He is worth it — He is worthy.
Not all believers will be subjected to the same level of end-times testing. Rev. 3:10 says that the Loving Church, which has kept Jesus' commands, will be protected somehow. How, we do not know. Only God, in His sovereignty, has the answer to that.
If you still have questions, I address these issues in-depth in my book in the following chapters: "Will the Church Endure the Great Tribulation?" "God Wouldn't Do That," "Are the Letters for the Churches for Us Today?" and "What's the Rush?"