The Church will not have to endure the Great Tribulation. Let's look at a few things. First, let me quote 1 Thess 5:4-11 (NIV):
- 4But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. 7For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
"This day" in verse 4 is a reference to the Day of the Lord (see v. 2). What is that? It is the entire tribulational period. In other words, it is the time in which God's judgment is poured out on the world. We are told here that it will come unexpectedly, at any moment, like a "thief." Because of that, we are to always be ready, not living immoral lifestyles, but always living for Christ so that when He comes, we will not be found in sin.
We are then told in verse 9 that we, the Church, are "not appointed to wrath" but instead to "salvation." The question here is this: What is "wrath" and what is "salvation"? Wrath and salvation clearly cannot refer to Heaven and Hell, because "for" at the beginning of verse 9 is explanitory. That is, it tells us WHY we are to live rightly. If wrath is Hell, and salvation is Heaven, then vv.1-4 are effectively saying that we have to live righteous lives to go to Heaven!!!
Now, we know that salvation is not by works, lest any man should boast (Eph 2:9-10). We should instead understand "wrath" as God's judgment upon sin in this world
. This is a common usage of the word. For example, Rom 1:18 tells us that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against ALL ungodliness." Salvation, in our verse, refers to our deliverance from that wrath.
So look at what we know so far: the Church is not appointed to suffer the wrath that God pours out upon sin. In general, this means that we should not sin, because it isn't our destiny to suffer wrath. But in the context of our passages, the Day of the Lord will come "like a thief," but we are appointed to for salvation from it, not sufferage in it.
Against this, the Tribulation is clearly referred to as the time of God's Wrath on earth (see Rev 6:16; 11:18; 15:1; etc.). In fact, let's be more specific. We know the 1 Thess is referring to the Day of the Lord, but look at what God has to say about that Day:
- Near is the great day of the LORD, near and coming very quickly; listen, the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly. A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and battle cry, against the fortified cities and the high corner towers. And I will bring distress on men, so that they will walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the LORD; and their blood will be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them on the day of the LORD's wrath; And all the earth will be devoured In the fire of His jealousy, for He will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth. (Zephaniah 1:14-18)
Notice that it is a "day of wrath." If, then, we are not appointed to wrath, then it is impossible for the Church to suffer the Tribulation period. Put differently, since the Tribulation is the time of God's wrath poured out on earth, and since we are not appointed to wrath, but instead to delieverence from it, it is obvious that we cannot be here during that time.
So what is the purpose of the Tribulation and the wrath? It is directed at bringing Isreal to repentence. Jeremiah calls the Tribulation "The Time of Jacob's Trouble." Note that Jeremiah 30:6-8 says:
- 6Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? 7Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it. 8For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him. (KJV)
So, the conclusion to the matter is that the Church will not suffer through the Day of the Lord. We will be raptured before that happens.
Will we suffer persecution and the wrath of man? Of course. But the Day of the Lord--that is not something the Christian has to worry about going through.
Hope this helps.