There is a big discussion among many Christians about the Great Tribulation of the Church in the Bible. Many are looking to know when this great tribulation happens. In doing so, many are trying to find the signs of the tribulation and to know if the Rapture of the Church is going to happen pre tribulation, mid tribulation or even post tribulation.
But if we could understand the true meaning of tribulation according to the Bible, then we wouldn't look for the time of it. That means we then wouldn't look for events. Instead our focus would change to learn how to endure and continue in the Faith in the time of Tribulation.
If you have been following our teachings through YouTube channel, Online Courses, PBB Membership, Blog posts and Podcasts, you have most definitely noticed that we insist on letting the scriptures interpret other scriptures. Even the meaning of words must be found in the context of the scriptures. This is a solid ground for interpretation. This is where we can be sure we are on the right track. If we don’t allow the scriptures define one another, then we'd fall into the trap of human assumption, literal interpretations, and out-of-context interpretation. This is an error.
Re-defining the Word “Tribulation”
To find the meaning of a word, we don’t look at the Greek/Hebrew text only, but also we search out the scriptures for to find other verses that contain that specific word. This gives us the context of a word in the Bible. Then we study all these verses/chapters to find the true meaning of the word.
Language is complex and we all know over time words could lose/change their meaning. That is why we insist on defining and even re-defining every word according to the scriptures. That’s why we found a huge need in teaching the Body of Christ to get back to the scriptures and let the Word define itself through the Spirit of Revelation. You can find out more about how we can teach you to study the Bible in depth here.
The Daily Experience of the Early Church
Before that let us understand that the Bible clearly shows that the tribulation was something the early Church experienced, almost daily. Examples are Steven, Paul, the Church of Corinth, the Church of Thessalonica, the Church of Smyrna, etc. This was believer's experience.
Tribulation was not an event that they were waiting to happen in a specific time in future. It was a daily experience. No, I am not talking about the persecution that they went through because of their faith. Even though this was part of their tribulation but it’s something that whoever believes in the Truth of Jesus Christ will experience!
Let’s take a look at some scriptures to back this up:
19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. [Act 11:19 NKJV]
The word 'persecution' in the above verse is actually the word tribulation! The early believers of Christ were scattered because there was a Great tribulation that arose over Stephen.
We also read that the apostle Paul said that in every city that he'd go, there would be tribulations, in fact Great tribulations:
23 Except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. [Act 20:23 NKJV]
That is why Paul also writes to churches of Thessalonica that we all are appointed to tribulation:
1 Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, 2 and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, 3 that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. [1Th 3:1-3 NKJV]
The word 'affliction' should have been translated as tribulation.
Therefore, Paul’s concern was not about when the Great tribulation happens, but actually about not being shaken when it happens! Because the tribulation was something that every believer of Christ was appointed to. Even Jesus promised in John 16 that we will have it:
33 "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." [John 16:33 NKJV]
Therefore, for Paul as well as the early church it was no longer the issue of “when”, but actually remaining and enduring in faith in the time of tribulation. That is why Paul later on writes to the same Church in his second letter, and thanks God for their endurance and faith in the time of tribulation:
3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, [2Th 1:3-4 NKJV]
Entering the Kingdom of God through Many Tribulation
In Acts chapter 14, Paul and others visit the believers in every city, exhorting them to continue in the Faith so that they enter the kingdom of God even through many tribulations:
21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting [them] to continue in the faith, and [saying], "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God." [Act 14:21-22 NKJV]
For the early Church, the most important thing was the Kingdom of God. They understood that they must enter the kingdom of God. It was all about that. It wasn’t about the post tribulation or pre tribulation events. That wasn’t about that for them at all! It was, instead, all about rejoicing in hope and enduring through Faith, so they could enter the kingdom of God. To receive the Glory that God had promised them:
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory, [2Co 4:17 NKJV]
They knew that tribulation was part of their daily life; They were experiencing a great tribulation the moment they started following Jesus, they became appointed to tribulation and they were indeed experiencing that daily. But they knew that God is the one who comforts them. They believed that God is the one who strengthens their soul to endure, so that they would not shake in the time of tribulation:
3 Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. [2Co 1:3-4 NKJV]
The True Meaning of Tribulation?
Now let's understand what is this great Tribulation that we all have been appointed to!
Jesus talked about it in a few places in the gospels. In Matthew 24 He mentions tribulation in the context of His coming:
9 "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. [Mat 24:9 NKJV]
Here Jesus says that they will deliver you up to tribulation. But who are 'they'?
The answer is earlier in the same chapter, where Jesus is talking about some who are going to deceive people:
5 "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. [Mat 24:5 NKJV]
The false-Christs are the 'they'. When they come in the name of Jesus but the Christ that they are revealing to people is a false-Christ!
The only way you can introduce someone or reveal something is by 'teaching'. Therefore, the way the false-Christs deceive people is through teachings. Through their teachings they reveal a false-Christ to people and cause them to go stray (like the sheeps) from following the true Christ of God.
24 "For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. [Mat 24:24 NKJV]
Therefore, when Jesus said that 'they' will deliver you to tribulation, He was talking about false teachers. They are the ones who are going to deliver people to tribulation by bringing a false doctrine about who the Christ is.
Therefore, tribulation has something to do with the word we hear.
Basically, once you hear a teaching that sounds like Christ, but it’s not, your soul enters into a tribulation!
We are going to see what does this mean in details shortly. But let’s understand first that the false teachers don’t reveal the Grace of the Cross of the Lord Jesus. They bring to you a doctrine that is not encouraging you to continue and endure in faith but a doctrine that provokes you to save yourself through the works of the law, which is human performance. While Jesus said if you try to save your soul, you’ll lose it but if you pick up your cross and follow me that’s when you will save your soul.
Great Tribulation on Every Soul of Man
8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness--indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; [Rom 2:8-9 NKJV]
The apostle Paul reveals to us that the tribulation is actually on the soul of every man and that is why we have the Salvation of Soul as revealed in 1 Peter 1:9.
Then Paul writes in Romans chapter 2 that every soul that is self-seeking and does not obey the truth falls into tribulation and anguish. But later on, in Chapter 5 of the same book he reveals to us that even though we might experience tribulation but we rejoice because it's producing perseverance and at the end the hope of Glory. Although we might experience tribulation, but because we are not self-seeking (obey the truth), the result become hope and not anguish of soul:
3 And not only [that], but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. [Rom 5:3-4 NKJV]
Therefore, even though all may experience tribulation, but the outcomes could be different. Some will stumble and fall while others produce perseverance, character and hope. That’s why the early church wasn’t concerned about the time of tribulation. They weren’t even trying to skip it. But they knew they needed to go through it, they had hope in the time of hardship.
They knew if they endure, then they will enter the Kingdom of God.
Tribulation Because of the Word of God
In the parable of the sower and the seed, Jesus talks about a group of people that they hear the word of God, but they endure for a while only. And when the tribulation comes, they fall away (what a great tribulation it is)
20 "But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 "yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. [Mat 13:20-21 NKJV]
In these verses, Jesus again reveals that the tribulation rises because of the Word. We saw in Matthew 24 that the tribulation arose because of the false teachers. Therefore, when the word of God is preached and sown in your heart, if you don’t continue in holding the word in your heart through faith, when another teaching arises to deliver you to tribulation, you will stumble! Thus, the word of God never comes to fruition in your life.
The Time of Temptation
The same parable of the sower and the seed is mentioned in the gospel of Luke. But here Jesus uses different words to give us a better understanding. This can help us to see with more details about what tribulation actually is:
13 "But the ones on the rock [are those] who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. [Luke 8:13 NKJV]
In this gospel instead of saying “endure for a while”, He says “believe for a while” and instead of “tribulation”, says “temptation”.
The time of tribulation is the time of temptation!
It’s when the word that you believed in your heart is being tested by another word!
Basically, when the word of God is preached and sown in your heart, then another word rises up that is false. And it's against the truth of the Word of God. These words rise up through the false teachers and they are the ones who deliver you to temptation. In simple language, through their teachings they cause doubt to rise in you.
These times of temptation are the time that you experience hardship because your faith is being tested! That is why, as we read, the apostle Paul keeps encouraging the soul of everyone to continue in faith in the times of tribulation. Because the time of tribulation is the time that your faith is being tested!
The Devil is About to Throw You into Prison
Even Jesus says to the church of Smyrna (Revelation chapter two) that the time of temptation is actually the time of tribulation:
9 "I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and [I know] the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but [are] a synagogue of Satan. 10 "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw [some] of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. [Rev 2:9-10 NKJV]
The word “tested” is the word “tempted”.
Jesus writes to this Church and He acknowledges the time of tribulation that they are in. Then He says that the devil is about to tempt them and they will have tribulation. This Church believed in the word of God, but they were experiencing tribulation because of the word of God. Jesus encourages them to continue and be faithful until death so that they can receive the crown of life. This is exactly James had written in his epistle, but in a clear language:
12 Blessed [is] the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. [Jas 1:12 NKJV]
Why until 'death'?
They Will Kill You in the Great Tribulation
Jesus says in Matthew 24 that the false-Christs and false-Teachers deliver you to tribulation and they will kill you! In Revelation chapter 2, Jesus says the same thing by saying: “be faithful until death”.
We talked earlier that the great tribulation is upon the soul of man and Jesus said that “do not save your soul”!
Therefore, in the time of the great tribulation, when the doubts rise up in your soul, the temptations try to cause you believe in another word instead of continuing to believe the truth.
When we believe the truth, we are actually seeking glory, honor and incorruptibility that comes to us only through the power of the Living God.
But when we don’t believe the truth, we turn to ourselves. That’s when we are self-seeking, looking to save our soul through the works of our hands.
Therefore, the only way to endure through the time of temptations and get free from Temptation is to die! A dead man can not be tempted! This is the Mystery of Cross.
That’s why in the time of tribulation we produce a character in us that is not self-seeking.
We learn to remain 'dead' to self!
Or better to say, the self dies in us when we continue to endure and believe in Him. Because we don’t believe in our-self, and thus self dies!
The self that desires to save itself will be put to death! This is what Jesus meant when he said pick-up your cross and follow Me.
So, Yes! The Tribulation of the Church is not an event in the past or in future. It is the story of the Gospel of Grace, and resistance to the Gospel of Grace. This has been the problem since the Garden of Eden. God speaks and other voices speak too. Which one would you believe? And how long will you continue to believe?
This video teaching will take you deeper into this subject to understand what does it mean to be faithful until death.