Tribulation on a Christ-Rejecting World
Another purpose for the tribulation is that it is a time of God's wrath upon a Christ-rejecting world and a time of revenge for Gentile treatment of Israel.
Moreover, it is evident that the Tribulation also concerns God's judgment upon Christ-rejecting Gentile nations. Babylon, which "made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication" (Rev. 14:8), shall herself "be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her" (Rev. 18:8). The "cities of the nations" shall fall, after which Satan shall be bound "that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled" (Rev. 20:3). God's judgment falls likewise upon the individual wicked, the kings of the earth, the great, the rich, and the mighty, every bond man and every free man (Rev. 6:15-17). It falls upon all who blaspheme the name of God and repent not to give Him glory (Rev. 16:9). Wicked men, godless nations, suffering Israel--these may all be found in Revelation 6-18; but one looks in vain for the Church of Christ, which is His body, until he reaches the nineteenth chapter. There she is seen as the heavenly bride of Christ, and when He returns to earth to make His enemies His footstool, she is seen returning with Him (I Thess. 3: 13).4
Such a time of judgment does not require the church, who has not rejected Christ, to be present. With the church in heaven during the tribulation, it enables God's focus to be on Israel as His Divine instrument through which He acts. This program was predicted by the Lord before Joshua and Israel ever entered the Promised Land. Notice the predicted pattern:
1) then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. (Deut. 30:3)
2) And the LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it... (Deut. 30:5a)
3) And the LORD your God will inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. And you shall again obey the LORD, and observe all His commandments which I command you today. (Deut. 30:7-8)
Zechariah speaks of the Lord's retribution upon the nations as a time when "the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem . . . in that day that I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem." (Zech. 12:8-9). Once again the focus is upon Israel, in this case Jerusalem, not the church.
The book of Revelation provides a graphic depiction of God's judgment upon an unbelieving world, often called "earth dwellers." As God prosecutes His judgment upon the "earth dwellers," John records periodic pauses by our Lord as He evaluates the response of mankind to His judgment before going onto the next phase. It is as if the Lord inflicts a series of judgments and then surveys the landscape to see if, like Ninevah in the days of Jonah, there is repentance so that He can suspend prosecution of the war. Un like Ninevah in the days of Jonah, the "earth dwellers" do not relent in the wake of "the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev. 6:16), so our Lord proceeds to the next phase of His battle. Every step of the way, the "earth dwellers" would "not repent of the works of their hands" (Rev. 9:20) Instead of worshipping Christ, "the earth and those who dwell in it . . worship the first beast" (Rev. 13:12). Instead of repentance they "blasphemed God" (Rev. 16:21). Finally, "all the nations were deceived" (Rev. 18:23) resulting in the satanic notion that the armies of the world must march against Jerusalem-God's city-and Israel-His people. This results in the basis for the second coming of Christ, which is to resue Israel from the world's armies who are striking out at God by invading His people. Such a scenario does not demand or require the church and so she will not be there. We can see that the purpose of the tribulation revovles around God's plan for Israel, not the church.
Only pretribulationism is able to give full import to tribulation terms like "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30:7), as a passage specifically stating that the tribulation is for Jacob (i.e., Israel). John Walvoord concludes,
Never are tribulation saints given the special and perculiar promises given to the church in the present age. The nature of the church in contrast to Israel therefore becomes an argument supporting the pretribulation viewpoint.
Since God's purpose for the tribulation is to restore Israel (Jer. 30:3, 10) and judge the Gentiles (Jer. 30:11), it is clear that this purpose does not include the church. This is one of the reasons why she will be taken to heaven before this time. The church's hope is a heavenly one, not participation in the culmination and restoration of God's plan for His earthly people-Israel. Maranatha