If so, who will and who will not be at that place; where is it; and how can one get there?
We have written much about the place of safety. In this new series, we will present information which we already provided in the past, while adding additional thoughts and explanations in an attempt to answer follow-up questions.
Protection During the Day of the Lord
In our two previous Q&As, we addressed 144,000 Israelites and a great multitude of Gentile nations, as mentioned in Revelation 7, and explained that following the beginning of the Great Tribulation, which is Satan’s wrath, God will pour out the plagues of His wrath during a time referred to as the Day of the Lord. We showed that God will protect at that time many of those who will have experienced and survived the trials of the Great Tribulation, including the 144,000 and the great multitude. However, there is no indication that God will bring those survivors to a special place of safety; rather, He will protect them wherever they will be at that time.
Persecution BEFORE the Great Tribulation
On the other hand, we will explain that the Bible clearly shows that there WILL BE a special place of safety, here on earth, which God will provide for some members of His Church throughout the time of the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord. But before we address this important issue, we must clarify that even those who WILL BE protected DURING the Great Tribulation may have to suffer persecution BEFORE the Great Tribulation begins. The Great Tribulation is described as the fifth seal in the book of Revelation. The first four seals describe the four horsemen of the Apocalypse which will have already begun to ride PRIOR to the Great Tribulation, and the combination of religious deception and “holy” wars will cause much suffering.
Many passages tell us about future persecution, apart from the general declaration that everyone who wants to live godly will encounter and suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus said in John 15:20: “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” Matthew 10:16-26 tells us about future persecution, and Luke 11:47-52 speaks about past and future persecution of God’s prophets and saints in very vivid terms.
We should always remember that no trial will come upon us that will be too difficult for us to bear, and that God will show us the way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). We have to be willing to accept God’s Will for us, whatever that Will might be.
Protection During the Great Tribulation at the Place of Safety
Jesus Christ warned His end-time disciples of the Great Tribulation, which will be so terrible that nothing like it ever happened before and will ever happen again (Matthew 24:21; Daniel 12:1). At the same time, Christ challenged us to watch and pray always to be counted worthy to escape or be protected from the Great Tribulation. We read in Luke 21:34–36: “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Christ tells us in Revelation 3:10: “Because you have kept My command to persevere (to have patience), I also will keep you from the hour of trial [tribulation] which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” The Moffat translation renders this passage as follows: “I will keep you safe through the hour of trial.” The Living Bible interprets: “I will protect you from the time of Great Tribulation and temptation.”
The book of Zephaniah also reveals God’s special protection for some of His people during the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord. The name “Zephaniah” means, “Whom the LORD has hidden.” Zephaniah 2:3 says: “Seek the LORD, all you meek [humble] of the earth, Who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden In the day of the LORD’S anger.” God challenges all of us to become worthy so that we may belong to those who will be hidden or protected at a special secret place on the Day of the Lord.
King David was inspired to write in Psalm 31:20: “You shall hide them in the secret place of your presence From the plots of man; You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion From the strife of tongues.”
Joel 3:14–16 reads: “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will grow dark, And the stars will diminish their brightness. The LORD also will roar from Zion, And utter his voice from Jerusalem; The heavens and earth will shake; But the LORD will be a shelter for His people, And the strength of the children of Israel.’”
This hidden and secret place of refuge, shelter and protection is more clearly described in the book of Revelation, promising the end-time Church of God her place in the wilderness—on this earth—prepared by God, a place where she will be nourished for 3 ½ years and protected from Satan the devil. Compare this with Isaiah 33:16, describing the righteous person (verse 15) as dwelling “on high; His place of defense [or refuge, shelter or protection] will be the fortress of rocks; Bread will be given him, His water will be sure.”
Revelation 12:13-17 reads:
“Now when the dragon (Satan the devil, Revelation 12:9) saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child (Jesus Christ). But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness TO HER PLACE [New International Version: “to the place prepared for her in the desert”], where she is nourished [Living Bible: “cared for and protected”; Amplified Bible: “where she is to be kept safe and fed”] FOR A TIME AND TIMES AND HALF A TIME [Living Bible: “for three and a half years”], from the presence of the serpent. So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon spewed out of his mouth. And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
We understand that the woman is, first of all, symbolic for Eve (Genesis 3:15); then for the Old Testament Church which would evolve from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Jacob’s TWELVE sons, and which would become known as the Church of Israel in the wilderness; then for Mary, the mother of Christ; and—subsequent to Christ’s ascension—for the New Testament Church of God (compare Matthew 25:1; Ephesians 5:22–32; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Galatians 4: 26).
While the woman is on her way to the place of safety, Satan will try to persecute her by spewing water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman. This might perhaps allude to an army or to a military force (compare Daniel 9:26; Jeremiah 47:2–3). It might also allude to false brethren whom Satan may bring into God’s Church to deceive and confuse God’s true people (2 Peter 2:1; Jude 4-5, 11; 2 Samuel 22:5). Many times, “waters” just refer to many people (Revelation 17:1, 15). The earth will open its mouth to help the woman, as God opened up the earth to swallow up Korah and his rebellious friends and supporters (compare Numbers 16:31–32). All of this will happen on earth. Satan will proceed to persecute others within the Church who will not be at the place of safety here on earth.
No Protection in Heaven
Some Bible commentaries conclude from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and especially from the words “shall be caught up… in the clouds,” that those in Christ will be secretly transported to heaven, to be protected there during the time of the Great Tribulation, and then later return visibly–together with Christ–to rule the world. The assumption is that Jesus will first come secretly for His disciples or saints by “rapturing” them to heaven where they will be protected during the time of the Great Tribulation which will ravage the earth.
However, the idea of a secret rapture of the saints was entirely unknown to Christians before the sixteenth century when it was first mentioned as a very vague concept. In 1830, men claimed divine inspiration, stating that the Holy Spirit had revealed to them that the last days had come; that Christ was about to return; that He would first “rapture” the believers who were ready, at a secret coming; and that He would come again in manifest power after the Great Tribulation.
The Bible does not teach a secret rapture. Rather, God’s Word reveals that Christ will return ONCE, NOT TWICE (Hebrews 9:28). He will come openly, not in secret (Matthew 24:21-31; Revelation 1:7; Acts 1:10-11), and He will END the Great Tribulation at the time of His Coming by establishing the Kingdom of God here on earth (Revelation 11:15-18). Mark 13:24-27 specifically states: “But in those days, AFTER that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. THEN they will SEE the Son of Man COMING in the clouds with great power and glory. And THEN [not before then] He will send His angels, and GATHER TOGETHER HIS ELECT…”
Christ will come at the time of the LAST TRUMPET when His elect will be resurrected from the dead or changed to immortality (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 1 Corinthians 15:50-52). There can only be ONE last trumpet, which means, there can only be ONE return of Christ. The Bible speaks about the last trumpet as the SEVENTH trumpet. In the book of Revelation, we read that seven angels will blow seven trumpets, but that at the time of the seventh trumpet—logically the last one—“the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). The seven angels blow the seven last trumpets AFTER the Great Tribulation has begun—in fact, when the seventh angel blows the seventh or last trumpet, the Great Tribulation will have ENDED. Christ returns to shorten the time of the Great Tribulation, lest all human beings on the earth would die (compare Matthew 24:21-22).
The idea of a rapture to heaven—secret or otherwise—is nowhere taught in Scripture. But God does offer us His protection at a place of safety HERE ON EARTH, if we prove ourselves worthy to receive it. The FACT that Christ’s Church will be protected here on EARTH proves that His Church will not be at that time in heaven—nor, that it was transferred to heaven before the Great Tribulation by means of a “secret rapture.”
(To Be Continued)
Lead Writer: Norbert Link