We're told in Revelation 1:19 that the book is divided into 3 sections. ‘‘Write the things which thou has seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter''. In chapter one, John was told to, ''write the things which thou has seen'', and he wrote about the vision he saw of Christ walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, holding the seven stars in his right hand. He wrote about the glorious description of Jesus in his glorified state. In chapters two and three, he writes about the ''things that are''. This refers to messages of Jesus to the seven actual churches of Asia. I believe that these were seven actual churches of that day, but I also believe that they refer to seven periods of church history. I also believe they are representative of churches that you can find today. So I believe that you have a three-fold application for the messages to the seven churches. In chpt 4:1 when he's finished with the messages to the churches, He introduces a new section with the Greek word, 'meta tauta' (after these things), that he also used in 1:19. We need to ask, ''After what things?'' After the things of chpt 2 & 3. The things of chpt 2 & 3 are the things of the church, so after the things that pertain to the church we read, ''After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in Heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me: which said, come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.”
I could go on all day, but my point is when the Great Tribulation occurs on earth, I expect to be in heaven standing before the son of Man and singing of the worthiness of the lamb. As you look carefully at the lyrics, we realize that only the church can sing them. If we follow the timing, we see the church singing the song of redemption occurs in chpt 5, before the opening of the scroll in chpt 6, and that preceded the Great Tribulation on the earth. We see the church standing before the son of man and Jesus, talking about the great Tribulation, saying, ''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.''(Luke 21:36). Believe me, I want to be in that company up there!
Romans5:9 Paul tells us that, ''Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. He repeats this in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, ''for God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our lord Jesus Christ We the church are not ''appointed unto wrath.'' In Romans 1, Paul writes for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness:'' (Romans 1:18). It simply isn’t consistent with the nature of God to judge the righteous with the wicked.
To finish it is true that in the world we Christians will have Tribulation. The world hates us, so we shouldn't be surprised at persecution, (john 15:18) but what is the source of the tribulation against the church? It’s not GOD! SATAN IS THE SOURCE OF THE TRIBULATION. God has already judged our sins on the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus bore the judgment of god for all of our guilt. I also do not believe that the Antichrist can take over the rule and authority of the earth while the church is still here (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8).
First off, let me say that there are some things in what you wrote with which I agree. I will accept that Revelation 1:19 refers to a division of the book into three periods, and probably even accept your division of when those periods are. I also agree that the seven churches were actual churches of that time, but that the letters to their messengers (angels) have application to us today. (I would have to see more details about your reference to “seven periods of church history” before I could accept that.) I further agree that tribulation against the church is not from God. (Never is there any indication in scripture that it is, or ever will be.) There are some things, however, with which I take issue.
Since your last statement is the one that is most obviously against scripture, I will start with it. You say, “I also do not believe that the Antichrist can take over the rule and authority of the earth while the church is still here (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8).” Assuming that the person mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2 is antichrist (a term that only appears in the writings of John and not in this passage), then it is impossible to determine exactly when that person did/will reveal himself. Since there is never any biblical reference to “the Antichrist” (John says there are many antichrists in 1 John 2:18), and since John says that there were antichrists even in his day (1 John 4:3), this individual could have already come up to 1900 years ago. There is nothing in the passage that says that the end will come immediately after this person is revealed. There are many who believe that he is talking about the popes of the Roman Catholic church, but I believe he may be talking about anyone in any age who sets himself up to be superior to God. In any case, John clearly stated that antichrists were present in his time, in the church. Because John talks about them in a spiritual context, it is unlikely that an antichrist is ever supposed to “take over rule and authority of the earth.” Even in the passage in 2 Thessalonians 2 he is pictured as taking power over some in the church, not the earth. Nowhere in scripture is it ever predicted that an antichrist will have any secular power.
As I said, I have no real problem with the division of Revelation into past, present, and future. The point of difference that we have continues to be whether that which was future to John is also still future to us. In the introductory section to the whole book, in the very first verse of the book, John is told that the things he will see are things that will soon come to pass. So even if the bulk of the book was future to John, it may be past to us. Since the beast is clearly identified as the Roman Empire, I continue to believe that most, if not all, of the book is in our past. Also, since it deals with symbols of spiritual events, it would be doing the book an injustice to try to fit it to world events. Even what it says about Rome relates to the spiritual, not the secular. People have been trying to wrestle the book into their own time for many years. Every time someone puts a secular meaning to the symbols they have to change their theories with the changing times.
You do use another term that I don’t find in the scriptures. Just as there is no reference to “the” antichrist, I find no reference to “the Great Tribulation” (either with the definite article or justifying using capital letters). There is reference to great tribulation that the church was undergoing and which was likely to continue for a while. There are frequent mentions that the church will undergo tribulation, and, as you point out, that tribulation originates with Satan and not with God. Matthew 24, and its companion passage in Mark 13, mention “great tribulation” in association with the destruction of the Jerusalem by Rome, but even then it is not called “The” great tribulation. In the book of the Revelation tribulation is mentioned in the section you have designated as “things which are.” In the section you have called “hereafter” the only mention of tribulation looks back: “they which came out of great tribulation.” This is in a passage about the 144,000. Every indication is that those of that number are Jewish members of the church who underwent persecution at the time John was writing. So all references to tribulation in the church appear to be either past, to us, or of the sort normally undergone by the church throughout history. There is mention of God’s wrath and tribulation against unbelievers. That is the only tribulation initiated by God.
You quote several passages about God saving his people from wrath. Since God says that his wrath and tribulation are upon unbelievers (Romans 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:6), then those passages are simply saying that when we are saved, when we are in the church, then we are exempt from God’s wrath in whatever time we live. Your mention of Luke 21 just confirms this truth, because Jesus is answering a question about the destruction of the Temple and warns Christians to pray that they may be counted worthy to escape that destruction.
Finally, I will agree with most of what you said in the last half of your e-mail. I want to be among those before the throne of God. God has saved his church out of his wrath. On the cross Jesus bore our sins and our judgement. Because of that I come before the throne of God and sing with the saints before God’s throne. I can do that now, while I live on this earth. I don’t need to wait for some “rapture” or “day of the Lord” (which, in the Bible, does not necessarily mean the final judgement). “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) I am now among the crowd before God’s throne in the Revelation. And that is the point of the book of the Revelation, that we can overcome spiritually here on earth because God is on his throne in heaven.