2 Peter 2:9
The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:
(This may be a bit long for a single post, so I will start here with some principles on how I will proceed on this thought, and then write a sequel post with greater specifics.)
How can Christians prepare for the tribulation? Gospel. The life of Jesus Christ is our example for living in all things, and in all times. As I mentioned in my previous post: the Gospel does not change in the tribulation.
(Preliminaries discussing the Rapture (read these first to fuller understand what follows: WHEN Comes the Return of Christ, and The Rapture?; How shall Christ Return? – if you believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, or are undecided, please read this first: The Rapture Challenge: (to at least get my perspective before proceeding))
‘The Year of the Lord’s Favor’ Or: ‘The Messianic Age,’ Or ‘The Age of Grace’
This is one of the most important reasons I had to address the question of the resurrection of the dead, and the rapture before moving to this point – believe it or not, the bible defines Christ’s return as the end of an age for the church. Scripturally, the age we live in is called the ‘year of the Lord’s favor,’ or ‘the acceptable year of the Lord.’ (Luke 4:19) I have also defined it as the ‘Messianic age’ in previous posts (which terminology is, perhaps, more tangible); the age began at Christ’s first coming into the earth (or, perhaps more precisely, at the offset of John the Baptist’s ministry), and it ends when Christ returns. When Christ returns, the dispensation of the Holy Spirit as we have received it from the day of Pentecost is altered.
I know – that is quite a statement I just made, so let me substantiate it with scripture (I will do so mildly at the moment, but you can read my full post on the age we live in here: The Year of the Lord’s Favor (or ‘The Most Basic Appologesis for Pentecostalism You’ve Never Read’)). Quoting the prophet Joel, the Apostle Peter declared on the day of Pentecost that ‘…in the LAST DAYS’ God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh (Acts 2:17). He declared that this period was to continue until ‘the great and notable day of the Lord come’ (Acts 2:20), and that the sign of this age (between Pentecost, and the ‘day of the Lord’) is that ‘all those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ (Acts 2:21)
The ‘day of the Lord’ is the Old Testament term for the return (or SECOND coming) of Christ, and the judgment of the antichrist (Is. 13:6 & 9; 34:8; Jer. 46:10; Zeph. 1:18; Mal 4:5, etc., etc.) (Lest there be confusion, New testament writers continued to use the term ‘day of the Lord’ to refer to the second coming, and the resurrection (Ex: 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10, etc.)). Paul also confirms that the return of Christ is the fulfillment of this age and the dispensation of the Holy Spirit in 1 Cor. 13:10-13, declaring that after the resurrection, there will be no need for the gifts of the Spirit, because we will see Christ ‘face to face.’ (I know, you were taught this passage means something else entirely, please read the post mentioned ‘here‘ above.)
The return of Christ – or the ‘day of the Lord’ marks the beginning of the millennial reign. Most pre-tribulation rapture advocates have no idea what ramifications their theology holds. If Christ returns before the tribulation, then the Holy Spirit is removed from the earth (some have actually come to that conclusion, and teach that the church is taken BECAUSE the Holy Spirit leaves the earth before the tribulation. I guess they think that the Holy Ghost is as afraid of the tribulation as they are? – No, please don’t blaspheme the Holy Ghost, but do you see how absurd the thought is?).
If the Holy Spirit is no longer poured out upon all flesh, then the year of the Lord’s favor – signified by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the sign that all those who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved – has ended. If the year of the Lord’s favor has ended, then it cannot be counted upon that all those who call on his name will be saved – even if salvation were possible without the aid of the Holy Spirit. Do you see that if Christ returns BEFORE the tribulation, then the application of the Gospel during the tribulation has changed? (Most proponents of heresies have no idea the further-reaching theological ramifications of their unbiblical doctrines. This is by no means the only resulting erroneous system which develops from a pre-trib rapture doctrine, but it may well be the most devastating.)
No, heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s Word will not pass away TILL ALL BE FULFILLED (Matt 5:18). The Gospel (and its application) remains the same until Jesus returns. When He returns, the year of the Lord’s favor ends, and the millennial reign begins – favor and the age of grace is ‘cut short’ in fact for the sake of the elect (Matt 24:22; Mark 13:20; Rom 9:28)! When Christ returns it will be too late for His enemies to repent, they called not on the Lord in the day when He could be found (Is. 55:6 & 7). When Christ returns, He returns as a man of war, and destroys all opponents. Sound a little different than the age of grace? It is. The millennial reign will be a whole new age, wherein the wicked are destroyed, and the righteous reign with Christ, and see Him ‘face to face.’ (1 Cor. 13:12)
What is the Tribulation?
The tribulation is a trial period in which the body of Christ remains as a witness to the lost, who can still attain salvation; the wrath and testing of God upon sinners in the earth is for the purpose of continuing their opportunity to receive Christ. (Or else why leave them in the earth? Why not return, and judge them immediately?)
Gospel! ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.’ ‘Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?’
Christians are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to this broken, dying world. Pre-tribbers ask me, how could God ask Christians to endure the tribulation. I ask them, how could He deliver up His own son to die on a cross, and suffer the second death? Revelation 14:4 declares of the 144,000, that they are those who ‘follows the lamb whithersoever He goeth.’ Ever wonder what that meant? Where DID the lamb go? To the cross… AND THEN ON TO PARADISE!
Now, I don’t mean to strip hope from the believer. There IS hope in the tribulation. Not only the hope of Christ’s return, but also Gospel: God will never leave you nor forsake you – the Gospel DOES NOT CHANGE in the tribulation, hallelujah! Remember Daniel in the Lion’s den? Remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace? Great deliverances will be wrought in behalf of the Sons of God in the day of adversity, I guarantee it! There is a preparation way for all those who will go into the days ahead (the church). There are also promises for the few of escape from the tribulation.
Remember the land of Goshen in Egypt, spared from the plagues? God knows how to preserve His own. The Christian will NOT endure the wrath of God in those days; he will experience persecution – that is guaranteed for ALL believers who have ever lived (2 Tim 3:12); he will also experience some of the most amazing grace, and blessings from the hand of God which have ever been seen in order to cope with persecution. The Gospel will not have changed, and God remembers the lowly – he who is of a broken and contrite heart, He will not despise! He will be with you when you walk through the fire, and not let the floods to overflow your soul. Do not be afraid, for the Lord your God shall be with you whithersoever thou goest! Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever!
The Gospel message DOES NOT CHANGE in the tribulation. WOW! That is amazing, and excellent news for us! Regardless of the trial, God will not forsake His own – that glorious Truth can give us boldness in the day of wrath (1 John 4:17)! So how can we prepare for the tribulation? Gospel! As it is written:
The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: (2 Peter 2:9)
Link to part 2: How to Prepare for the Tribulation, pt. 2