It is important to make sure that we understand where the tribulation saints come from. In order to understand the sequence of events that take place with the rapture of the church and the murderous persecution of saints during the great tribulation we must look at the book of Revelation to know who these saints persecuted are during the great tribulation. Are they the elect from the church or are they the elect who are saved during the great tribulation? God through His apostle John, the one who wrote the book of Revelation as moved by the Holy Spirit, makes clear where these saints come from.
We can start with the sixth chapter from the book of Revelation to better understand who these persecuted saints are. In this chapter we have the prophetic record of Jesus Christ, the worthy One, opening the seven seals of the title deed to the earth. As Jesus Christ opens the seals He reveals the conditions of the world leading up to and during the end times. The fifth seal reveals martyrdom for His elect.
9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed. Revelation 6:9-11
These martyred saints are eager for God to bring vengeance upon those who murdered them for their faith. How lovely that the our gracious Lord gives each one a white robe, acknowledging their love for Him and faithfulness to death, holding fast the Word of God and their faith in Jesus Christ. The great tribulation saints will experience the same martyrdom as they hold fast to the truth and to Jesus Christ. These great tribulation saints are the fruit of the ministry of the 144,000 Jewish believers who are appointed by Jesus Christ to be evangelists for the gospel’s sake. They do not come out of the church.
3 …saying, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” 4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed: 5 of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed; 6 of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed; 7 of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed; 8 of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed. 9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying; “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” 13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did the come from?” 14 And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. 16 They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:3-17
This is the battle between Satan and the Lord God Almighty carried out during the great tribulation. The devil, called the dragon in Revelation, persecutes both Israel and Christians during his great rage expressed against God when he is cast out of heaven (Revelation 12). In chapter twelve of the book of Revelation, the last verse leads into disclosing the Antichrist, the beast at the beginning of chapter thirteen, chapter twelve ends with the dragon persecuting the saints.
17 And the dragon was enraged with the woman (Israel), and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Revelation 12:17
This war against the saints is prosecuted through the attack of the beast upon the saints. The saints refuse to take the mark of the beast, the number of his name, and refuse to worship him. They love the Lord Jesus Christ more than they love their lives.
6 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. 7 It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. 9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear. 10 He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. Revelation 13:6-10
The beast has been given authority, by the dragon, through the eternal plan of God, to rule all of mankind and makes it impossible for any individual to perform any transaction without having the mark of the name of the beast. As stated in the portion of Scripture above, only those, whose names have been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, will not take the mark nor worship the beast. This leads to an untenable situation for the great tribulation saints, and they forfeit their lives rather than forfeit their faith. We witness the gathering in of these saints, along with the 144,000 Jewish evangelical witnesses redeemed by Christ in chapter fourteen of Revelation.
1 Then I looked, and behold a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. 3 They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. 4 These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. 5 And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God. 6 Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—7 saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” Revelation 14:1-7
In the midst of the reign of the Antichrist, these evangelists specially chosen and redeemed from among the tribes of Israel by the Lamb of God are given great power and authority in sharing the gospel so that they reap a great harvest among all of the world’s peoples for the kingdom of God and of His Christ, according to the great mercy and grace of our God. The Antichrist rules with bitter violence and destroys any who dare defy his ordinances. God warns the inhabitants the eternal consequences of taking the mark of the beast and worshiping him. There is no recourse for those who defy God and follow the Antichrist. The rest of the chapter gives the contrast between Christ reaping His beloved great tribulation saints who have responded to the call of the gospel given to them through the 144,000 evangelists and are martyred for their faith in Him, and then the reaping of those who have taken the mark of the beast and worshiped him for the purpose of God’s wrath .
9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the present of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name. 12 Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. 13 Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors and their works follow them.” 14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped. 17 Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel come out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.” 19 So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. Revelation 14:9-19
The saints murdered for their faith in Jesus, being victorious over the mark of the beast worship God in heaven and sing their victory/praise song before the throne of God. Death brought them straight into the presence of God Almighty.
2 And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God. 3 They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! 4 Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.” Revelation 15:2-4
John lets us know that these saints, faithful unto death, are beheaded for their testimony of faith and refusal to join in the end time economic system and worship of the beast. They are granted to reign with Christ during His millennial reign.
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness of Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. Revelation 20:4-6
In my previous post about the rapture, the raptured saints were compared with the great tribulation saints, mostly through their contribution to Christ’s return to this earth. We saw that the raptured saints accompany Christ as He comes to judge the beast, the false prophet and the wicked of the earth. The tribulation saints will be given a glorious work through believing in the gospel preached to them by the 144,000 evangelists redeemed from the twelve tribes of Israel, being victorious over the mark of the beast and the number of his name, not loving their lives to the death, but valiantly giving witness to the truth of God’s Word and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Praise God for His mercy to all of His elect throughout all time. Even so come Lord Jesus! God bless us.
3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” 5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” Revelation 21:3-5