Personalities in the Tribulation: The Church

I think it is always a good idea, in studying a subject like the Tribulation, to first pick apart and dissect important terms, and in this case, personalities. It will help us in our understanding of it all. We will start with the church. Yes, we who are believers in this age have a role to play in the tribulation.

The Church

The church will not go through the Tribulation on earth. We will be raptured before it begins. Yet we will have a role to play in the Tribulation. The two vital questions that need to be answered is where is the church during the Tribulation? And, what is their ministry during the Tribulation?

Where is the church during the Tribulation? There is no mention of the church anywhere after the third chapter of Revelation. However, bible scholars believe that the twenty-four elders who are sitting on thrones circling God on His throne (recorded in Revelation 4) represent the glorified church in heaven. Here are four indications suggested by the following terms, that these twenty-four elders do in fact represent the church.

Twenty-four elders sitting on thrones. The term elder is a church term in the New Testament. The elder rules on behalf of God over the people (Acts 15:2, 6). Also, the number twenty-four is significant to the priesthood, as David divided the priesthood into twenty-four orders (1Chron. 24:4); and the church is the only body that has been qualified for the priesthood. Dr. Dwight Pentecost writes,

While Israel was called to a priestly function (Ex. 19:6), that nation never entered into this chief function because of their sin…The church is the only body definitely constituted a priesthood that could fulfill the function of priests ministering under the High Priest (1Pet. 2:5, 9)[1]

As to the elders sitting on thrones, this position suggests that they represent the church, since we read in Revelation 3:2 and in Matthew 19:28 that the church has been promised this position.

The elders clothed in white garments. The color white is a symbol of purity, which would fit the glorified church, having “no spot or wrinkle,” and being “holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:27). And it was also promised to the church in Sadis (Rev. 3:4-5) that they will walk with Him in white, and that they will be “clothed in white garments.”

The golden crowns. Each of the elders were wearing a victor’s crown. This suggests that they are the church, for the crowns were recently received as rewards in the bema judgment—a judgment for the church.

Their worship. The elders worshipped God because of His acts of creation (Rev. 4:11, redemption (Rev. 5:9), judgment (Rev. 19:2), and reigning (Rev. 11:17). Worship has always been an activity of the church; thus, we may regard this as proof that the elders represent the church.

What is the ministry of the church during the Tribulation? The ministry of the church in heaven is at least four-fold.

1. The fact that we see the elders enthroned before God, suggests that they represent the church as rulers or judges on behalf of God. This means that we will have a part in bringing judgment on the earth in the Tribulation. It also means that during the millennial reign of Christ we will rule with Christ and will be kept busy with this aspect of ministry.

2. The church in heaven has a priestly ministry. In Revelation 5:8 they are seen bringing the prayers of the saints on earth to God.

3. The church in heaven is constantly worshipping God. This will be our blessed ministry during the Tribulation and always.

4. Because of the church’s knowledge of the program of God, they will have a ministry of teaching and revealing truth during the Tribulation (Rev. 5:5; 7:13-14).


[1] J. Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, Dunham Publishing Company, 1958),pp. 255-256.

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