I do not believe that Christians have to accept uncritically the viewpoint that it is the only healthy, sane, and rational choice to want to be spared the tribulation. We are not obligated, as an article of faith, to accept this teaching. An early exit is not the only and obvious choice here. Being spared trials, struggles, and tribulation is not the normal biblical pattern. So what if Christians live under the threat of death during the tribulation for spreading the gospel message of good news? The apostles lived daily through the persecution and tribulation of the first century, and experienced martyr’s deaths. The New Testament scriptures and the New Testament church were born out of persecution and tribulation (Acts 14:22).
Why would we think it would be any different for the end-times church, successfully engaged in Joel 2:28-29 evangelism, for at least some portion of the tribulation? Luke 21:36, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, and 1 Thessalonians 5:9 can just as accurately apply to some point in time part-way through the seven-year tribulation, as they might apply at the beginning of this tribulation period. The same positive attitude we have in hindsight for the evangelical spirit of the first-century Christians is equally commendable on a going-forward-basis for the end-times Christian church as well.
A curious thing about the Left Behind books and movies is that they tell us that the tribulation period can be a difficult but positive experience for Christians. Instead of making an air-tight case for a pretribulation rapture, they unintentionally (from a pretribulation advocacy perspective) shed light on the possibility for genuine spiritual growth through shared adversity in confrontation against the Antichrist. The main characters in these books and movies actually become mature Christian warriors through the experiences of the tribulation, in harmony with the pattern of God beneficially capitalizing on spiritual opposition, revealed in the Bible and as discussed in this book. This is a common theme we find in every positive character in the Bible. God-directed and God-managed adversity separates and delivers us from self-sovereignty.
This same proven methodology could conceivably benefit the larger sized main Christian church on a macro-scale just as easily as it could a smaller sized contingent of “tribulation saints”, simply by shifting the rapture forward a few years into the tribulation period. This would not change the concept of the imminence of the timing of the rapture, or alter the need for watchfulness on the part of Christians. This would not in any way affect the differentiation between the rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-53) and the Second Coming of Christ (Matthew 24:27). It simply means that the time gap between these two distinctive events would be shorter than seven years.
Most of the eternal truths we learn in our Christian lives come about through some form of tribulation. Christians, like everyone else, learn the hard-way through first-hand experience. If this is true, then the pretribulation rapture teaching may in fact not be biblically sound. We can’t have it both ways. The spiritual lessons that can be learned through the trying experiences of the tribulation will benefit someone. Will it be the main body of the Christian church, as yet un-raptured off the earth at the beginning of the tribulation, or will it be a post-rapture smaller sized group of “tribulation saints?”