Q. My friend just sent me the following. “In Matthew 24:29-31 Jesus says He will not send His angels to collect the elect (us) until after the tribulation. The word there for elect is used thirteen times in the New testament and always refers to the church. Pre trib was a hoax. I am more and more convinced of it every day I read my Bible. Thessalonians clearly states, “The dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive will be caught up with them in the air…” And the dead in Christ rise in Revelation 20:4, after the tribulation. As it turns out, we are no more deserving of escaping hard times than the first century church was when the Romans started persecuting them and throwing them to the lions.” What would I say to my friend? I am not secure enough in scripture to handle it.
A. First of all the word elect simply means chosen, and God’s first elect were the Jews. It’s not appropriate to assume the word always refers to the Church, even in the New Testament. For example in 1 Tim. 5:21 it refers to angels. And in Matt. 24:29-31 look where the Lord is sending His angels to gather the elect, “From one end of heaven to the other.” To be fair the equivalent passage in Mark 13:27 says, “from the ends of the Earth to the ends of the heavens”. But even that doesn’t tell us anything. It simply means there will be believers on Earth and believers in Heaven at the time of the 2nd Coming. It doesn’t identify any of them as the church.
But Rev. 17:14 says when the Lord comes back His called, chosen, and faithful followers will be with Him. This certainly describes the Church. When He comes back He won’t be coming for us because we’ll be with Him.
In Romans 5:9, 1 Thes 1:10, and 1 Thes. 5:9 Paul says the Church will be rescued from (out of the place and time of) the end times judgments because we weren’t appointed to suffer God’s Wrath but to receive salvation, and in Rev. 3:10 Jesus said the same thing. Rev. 20:4 is about the tribulation martyrs who will have been beheaded for their faith during the Great Tribulation.
Certainly the first Century Church suffered persecution, just as the Church suffers persecution today. According to Christianity Today Magazine about 171,000 Christians are martyred for their faith each year, many more than the total who died at the hands of the Romans. But no generation of Church Age believers has ever suffered through the Great Tribulation, a unique period of judgment unequaled from the beginning of the world until now and never to be equaled again (Matt. 24:21). This is the judgment the Bible clearly says the Church will be rescued from before it begins.