KEY TEXT: Revelation 7:13-17 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?" I said to him, "Sir, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
KEY THOT: Chapter 7 describes what John saw in heaven after the opening of the sixth seal when nature was in convulsion at the coming of the Lamb, just before the outpouring of His wrath upon the inhabitants on earth. This final description of the heavenly scene tells us that the redeemed in heaven have come out of the great tribulation: "These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (v.14). This further confirms that the Church has to go through the great tribulation. And since this scene came before the seventh seal which releases the seven trumpets of the wrath of the Lamb, we can conclude that the Church was caught up to meet the Lord in the air as He descends. The outpouring of the wrath of God in the seventh seal would follow after the elect of God (Israel and the church) has been removed from the earth.
The believers (both the dead in Christ and also those still alive at His coming) will be "raptured" only at Christ's return. After that, they remain before the throne of God while God's wrath is poured out upon the earth: "they serve him day and night in his temple." They would not experience the terrible ordeals of the Lamb of those were still on earth: "they shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat" (v.16). They will not have to experience God's wrath as it is poured out upon the earth. But they would have to go through the great tribulation before the Lord returns to execute His judgment on earth.
The Great Tribulation is for the Church, not the world. And the Great Wrath of Lamb is for the world, not the Church. But as believers, we will not come under the Great Wrath of the Lamb but we will have to go through the Great Tribulation of the devil. Many believers would have to suffer martyrdom for their testimony: "When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been" (Revelation 6:9-11). As it is today, many believers around the world have already given their lives for the sake of their testimony. For them, the Great Tribulation has already begun. It's no longer a matter for theological or doctrinal debate: it is a fact of life.
Let's not deceive ourselves as believers. Jesus describes the Devil as the thief that "comes only to steal and kill and destroy" (John 10:10). And his minions are already setting up the stage for this global persecution of the Church through various anti-Christ social/political and religious movements around the world to undermine God's social, religious and political institutions on earth. Basically, these demon-inspired movements seek to eradicate all remnants and reminders of Jehovah-God on earth. And that must necessarily include the eradication of Jews and Christians.
Abba-Father, we live in troubled times. But even as the tribulation grows in intensity and scope, we thank You that Your wrath against demon-inspired conspiracies against Christ and His people will soon be manifested. Vengeance belongs to the Lord and He will repay. Amen.