Whenever I’m asked whether or not the Church will go through the coming Great Tribulation, I say, “It depends on which church you’re talking about.” There are actually four different churches mentioned in the New Testament, and knowing which one you belong to will clear up lots of confusion.
The Greek word translated “church” in the Bible is ekklesia, which means “a called-out assembly.” Interestingly, the word doesn’t always refer to a group of God’s people. In Acts 19, where it’s rendered “assembly,” ekklesia describes both a hostile mob of pagans (v.32 & 41) and a secular civic council (v.39).
Let’s look at the four churches to see which one will go through the Tribulation.
- The Wilderness Church (Acts 7:38) was the children of Israel who were called out from Egypt. They had their own trouble in the wilderness, but they certainly missed the coming Tribulation.
- The Little Flock (Luke 12:32) was our Lord’s disciples and followers, the believing remnant that was called out from unbelieving Israel. This church was founded upon the revelation that He was the Christ (Matt. 16:18). Paul called this church “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16). They would have gone through the Tribulation, but didn’t — for one profound reason. The Lord postponed the kingdom in Israel and turned to the Gentiles, pushing prophesied end-time events to an unknown point in the future.
- The Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) is the spiritual body into which the Holy Spirit baptizes Gentiles and Jews who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian today, this is your church. As this church is a mystery that was hidden in God until revealed to Paul (Eph. 3:9, Col. 1:26), it cannot be part of the Great Tribulation, which was foreseen by many Old Testament prophets. Since the Tribulation is the great day of God’s wrath and we are not appointed to wrath (1 Thess. 5:9), we will be caught up, or raptured, before it starts (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
- The Tribulation Church (Rev.Ch. 2 & 3) will be comprised of people, mostly Jewish, converted after the Rapture. This church is essentially the continuation of the Little Flock in the early chapters of Acts, waiting for Christ’s return to set up His kingdom. Members of this end-time church will have to endure to the end of the Tribulation (Matt. 24:13, Heb. 3:14) and overcome (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26, 3:5, 12, & 21).
Confusing the Tribulation church with the Body of Christ is what makes Christians today mistakenly think they will go through the Tribulation. Certainly we are relieved and comforted to know that we will be evacuated before the plagues, death, and destruction of that horrible time will begin. However, it should fill us with a burden for the lost and a new zeal to make known to all men God’s gift of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Originally published for The Carpenter’s House