The third installment of this series is on the subject of wrath—that God will not allow the church to go through His wrath.
4. God has not destined the church for wrath but for obtaining salvation through Christ (1 Thess. 5:9-10).
Some would say that the wrath in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 refers to eternal wrath. But it seems clear to me that the context of this passage is speaking of “the day of the Lord,” which “will come just like a thief in the night” (v. 2). This clearly speaks of the wrath of the Tribulation. And we must make no mistake that there will be wrath during all of the 7-years of Tribulation. The following references indicate this: Zephaniah 1:15, 18; Revelation 6:16-17; 11:18; 14:19; 15:1, 7; 16:1.
Edmond Hiebert, a respected Bible Scholar and author, comments well on 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10:
Negatively, God’s intended goal for us believers is “not unto wrath.” The not is emphatic by position. As in 1:10 wrath here is used in its eschatological sense, the wrath of God upon the sinner in the coming day of judgment. God wills not our destruction but our salvation. He has no intention that we should become the subjects of His wrath, fall under its punitive action, when the day of “sudden destruction” (5:3) falls upon the unsaved. He cherishes no angry purposes toward His redeemed children; the divine wrath against sin was diverted from us when by faith we were united with “the Son of his love” (Col.1:13). Wrath is the destiny of Christ-rejecting souls.[i]
In light of this teaching, we have to conclude that since God has not destined the church for wrath, all members of the church will be raptured before the day of wrath (the Tribulation) comes upon the earth.
5. God will keep the church from the hour of testing (Rev. 3:10).
The word “from” in Revelation 3:10 is literally “out of,” and so, it can be translated “out of the hour of testing.” A similar phrase in 1 Thessalonians 1:10, says, “…Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.” In this verse “wrath” is used instead of testing, but it is speaking of the same thing. In fact, the one passage describes what the other is: the wrath to come is an hour of testing; likewise, the hour of testing is a time of wrath.
But the point we are making here is that God will keep us (the church) out of the hour of testing and wrath. And since the Tribulation is called a “day of wrath,” we can believe that God will rapture us to safety before it begins.
6. The hour of testing does not fit the church (Rev. 3:10).
Here the promise for the church is that God will keep her from the hour of testing, to test those who dwell on the earth. This word “test” (peirasai) is in view here. Dwight Pentecost comments:
Thayer defines this word [peirasai], when God is its subject, “to inflict evils upon one in order to prove his character and the steadfastness of his faith.” Since the Father never sees the church except in Christ, perfected in Him, this period can have no reference to the church, for the true church does not need to be tested to see if her faith is genuine.[ii]
Yes, the church does not need to be tested in this way any more than Christ needs to be tested; for if we are in Christ, we are made perfect in Him.
Conversely, the testing described here is to prove that those unbelievers who dwell on the earth during the Tribulation are in fact unbelievers and without a true faith in God and Christ.
Therefore, since this testing is not a valid test for believers, we must regard that the church will not go through the Tribulation.
[i] D. Edmond Hiebert, The Thessalonian Epistles: A Call to Readiness (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1971) p. 223.
[ii] J. Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come, p. 197.