Updated: Dec 19, 2020
To understand the tribulation, let’s analyze Matthew 24, where Jesus himself was asked by His disciples whether there’d be a sign for his coming and that for the end of the world (Mt. 24:3). Jesus answers them by describing earthquakes, false Messiah’s, and just terrible evils that will occur on the earth - leading up to his glorious coming on the clouds. There will be a tribulation, then He comes at the end of the world. This tribulation period is typically what people think the book of Revelation or Apocalypse is talking about, where there’s going to be an antichrist or hideous beast, a false prophet, a whore of Babylon, wars, evil nations named gog and magog attacking God’s people, blood everywhere, etc. Now, we as Catholics believe this tribulation is going to occur, and that Christ will come again afterward. The difference between Catholics and rapture enthusiasts is that the latter say that Christians will be spared the tribulation! Christ will quietly come and take the Christians out of the world to protect them. This is popularly spoken about in modern books such as Late Great Planet Earth or the Left Behind series, which have sold millions and millions of copies. Problem is, this understanding of a “pre-tribulational” rapture theory is totally foreign to Matthew 24 which we just analyzed. Jesus never said in the passage that He was going to take the disciples out of the world before the tribulation, but rather assumed they could experience it. He says that many will be false messiah’s trying to lead them astray, there will be wars and earthquakes and people will “deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death” (Mt. 24:9). They are not spared this, but rather it will be “he who endures to the end” that “will be saved” (Mt. 24:13). Then, “immediately after the tribulation…then will appear the sign…they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of Heaven” (Mt. 24:29-30). Nevertheless, Christ urges them “you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Mt. 24:44). Christ does not act as if they will be spared, but says matter-a-factly that a tribulation will occur and He will come afterward. Only those who endure to the end will be saved.