Those who do not believe the rapture of the church occurs prior to the tribulation often speak of the tribulation being used to “purify” the church. Unfortunately, this undercuts the glorious truth that believers are already purified and justified by faith in Christ. What, then, is the purpose of the tribulation? The Bible gives several reasons for this future time of trouble.
THE TRIBULATION PREPARES ISRAEL FOR THE COMING KINGDOM
“In the whole land, declares the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” (Zechariah 13:8-9)
There are many more passages indicating that the kingdom will be preceded by a national period of purifying judgment (Jeremiah 30:1- 10; Daniel 12:1; Joel 2). The church isn’t being purified; Israel is.
Imagine the horrors of the tribulation—war, famine, hail, fire, polluted oceans, falling stars, darkness, scorching heat, and more. Even still, humanity will curse God and millions will persist in their worship of the Antichrist.
The tribulation will reveal the depravity of humanity and the justness of God’s wrath on the sinful human race.
THE TRIBULATION REVEALS GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY OVER HIS CREATION
When the Pharaoh of Egypt mocked God and refused to submit to Him, God unleashed the plagues upon his land. In a similar display of arrogance, the Antichrist will set himself against the God of heaven. And God will again pour out His plagues to reveal His sovereignty and show that He alone is God.
Mankind, however, will respond with amazing unbelief. They will follow any god but the one true and living God.
THE TRIBULATION REVEALS THE CHARACTER AND CORRUPTION OF SATAN
For generations, through the false teachers he has promoted, Satan has masqueraded as one whose desire is to improve mankind and provide prosperity and comfort. The tribulation will unmask Satan and reveal that he cares nothing about the human race.
Satan’s masquerade will be thrown aside, and he will become the dragon attempting to destroy the purposes of God. He will spare no one in his quest. His utter hatred for God is seen in that he knows his doom is sure yet he plunges ahead.
“Woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
THE TRIBULATION REDEEMS A HOST OF BELIEVERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Millions will be redeemed by the grace of God during the tribulation, and many, many of those will be martyred for their faith. John tells us in Revelation 7:9-14 that there will be martyrs from every nation, tribe, people, and language. They will come to faith in Christ through the gospel message and then be killed by the Antichrist for their defection from him as they turn their allegiance to Christ. They will emerge from the horrors of the tribulation prepared to serve Christ in the coming kingdom and enjoy heaven forever.
THE TRIBULATION REVIVES ISRAEL FOR HER MESSIAH
This is the fulfillment of Romans 11:26-27, where Paul declares with great confidence the faithful completion of God’s election of Israel. Ethnic Israel will be revived, reconstituted, and redeemed as their Messiah returns to earth at the end of the tribulation.