There are two words used in the Bible to consider. One word is “tribulation” and the other word is “wrath.” In Bible prophecy circles many Bible teachers and believers get these two words mixed up but they are not the same word used in the Greek text of the New Testament. When looking at these two words in our Bibles we need to see tribulation as distinct from wrath. The New Testament teaches that as bond slaves of the Lord Jesus we are destined for tribulation. The Greek word is-“thlipsis.” (John 16:33 KJV) (Acts 14:22 KJV) The word for “wrath” in the Greek text is “orge” (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9) and in (Revelation 16:1) the word used for “wrath” in the Greek text is “thumos.”
In the Greek text of the New Testament the word for tribulation is “thlipsis” It is used in a comprehensive way. It can mean tribulation, trouble, affliction, oppression, persecution and a sense of being pressed down or a sense of being weighed down mentally, emotionally and even physically. It needs to be seen in light of the context in which it is used in the New Testament. In the eschatological passages of Matthew Chapter 24 Luke 21 and Mark 13 and in Revelation it is used to describe the suffering and persecution and affliction of the saints and for times of stress and trouble but not for the wrath of God. The same word “tribulation” (Greek-“thlipsis”) also appears in the other epistles.
Two different words are used for “wrath.” Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians that as believers “we are not destined or appointed for wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus the Messiah…who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9) The word used in 1 Thessalonians for wrath here is the Greek word “orge” and it expresses anger but has the idea of a magistrate passing sentence on a felon or one who has broken the law. It is a righteous and just anger that is being expressed. As believers redeemed and protected by the blood of the Messiah we are not destined for this judicial judgement. Our sins were judged at the cross, and because we have accepted and acted by faith on this great Biblical truth, and having met the conditions for salvation, we will not be judged along with the rest of the unsaved world that have rejected salvation. (Ephesians 1:7) (Romans 5:9)
Having said this there is a third word used for wrath and it is in the context of the bowls of the wrath of God. (Revelation 16:1) The Greek word is “thumos” and this describes anger brought to boiling point that overflows without restraint. With this kind of anger there is no reprieve. It was this kind of anger that brought the flood upon the ancient world and the fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah. This is not tribulation but wrath. Lot was in tribulation in Sodom. (Genesis 19:9) (2 Peter 2:7-8) However when the wrath of God was poured out upon Sodom Lot was out of the city. This teaches us about what will happen at the end of this age during the time of great tribulation.
Sodom is a type of the world. Lot is a type of the believer in the world in tribulation, affliction and persecution. The angels rescue Lot as the angels will gather the elect out of this time of great tribulation. (Matthew 24:29-31) As the saints are raptured and resurrected and caught up in the air the wrath of God comes down. Many believers and prophecy Bible teachers do not distinguish between these two words when approaching Biblical prophecy.
Biblically you can only prove a three and a half year period of great tribulation being in duration 1,260 days, (Revelation 11:2) (Revelation 12:6) 42 months (Revelation 13:5) or a time, times and half a time. (Daniel 12:7) This time of three and a half years of tribulation (Greek-thlipsis) is applied to this period of time by the prophet Daniel and the Lord Jesus and the saints are still on earth during this time. (Daniel 12:1) (Matthew 24:21-22) In these verses in Matthew the word “tribulation” is the same Greek word “thlipsis.”
The Apostle John understood this when he writes; “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation (thlipsis), and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus the Messiah.” (Revelation 1:9 KJV) Multitudes of well-meaning saints and Bible prophecy teachers do not distinguish between tribulation and wrath. Believers in this world are destined for tribulation including the time of great tribulation but not destined for wrath. For the most part the Book of Revelation depicts the war between the Messiah and Satan and the war between the saints and Satan and ultimately the war between the saints and the man of sin. This warfare is depicted in the unseen spiritual realm and on earth. They are connected. Events occurring on earth that are visible are a reflection of events occurring simultaneously in the unseen spiritual realm.
Actually most of the Book of Revelation is tribulation leading up to and including the time of Great Tribulation. It is also the time of the wrath of Satan, the persecution of the saints and to a degree the judgements of God starting to fall, but these are not the time of His wrath. When the destroying angel passed through Egypt the people of God sheltering under the blood of the Lamb were spared. The wrath in a sense had started to fall upon Egypt but had its full weight released at the Red Sea when the Egyptian armies all perished.
When the plagues started to fall in Egypt the Israelites were still there but divinely protected. However, when the wrath of God was poured out on the Egyptians at the Red Sea the Israelites were out of Egypt and on their way to the Promised Land. This whole account has a prophetic application to Israel and by extension and inclusion to the faithful Body of the Messiah in the last days. In the Book of Revelation we see seven seals that are broken open by the Lord Jesus. The first six seals deal with the time period from the first century leading up to and including the final breakdown of society globally and the sign of in the heavens of the Lord Jesus Second Coming.
The seventh seal sees the actual wrath of God being poured out on the earth just as the Lord Jesus returns to earth. In between the sixth and the seventh seal we see believers “coming out of Great Tribulation (thlipsis)” (Revelation 7:14) It is interesting that we also see the 144,000 and the great multitude in heaven appear between the sixth and the seventh seal. They are connected spiritually. (Revelation 14:1) They are both Jew and Gentile linked spiritually but distinctive, yet one in the Messiah. (Ephesians 2:11-22) In Revelation 7:12 The Greek text says “These are those who are coming out of great tribulation (thlipsis)” It is rendered in the continuous present sense.
Since the first century believers in the Lord Jesus have been coming out of great tribulation either by natural death, sickness or martyrdom. The Lord has come for them. They are in the resurrection spiritually but will be resurrected physically when the rapture and the physical resurrection takes place at the Second Coming of the Messiah our Lord Jesus. The faithful Body of the Messiah goes into this time of Great Tribulation but are rescued out before the bowls of God’s wrath are poured out. Only the unsaved are destined for this wrath (orge and thumos). To come out of something means you have to be already in it to start with.
Tribulation has always been with us as the Body of the Messiah since the first century onwards up to the present day and the time of Great Tribulation is coming for His Body on a global scale and we are not going to be spared this time. However, for the sake of His elect believers God will even cut short those days. (Matthew 24:21-22) Matthew also tells us that “immediately after the tribulation of those days” the angels will rescue the faithful Body of the Messiah. They will be rescued out of this time of Great Tribulation right at the end of it and just before the wrath of God kicks in. (Matthew 24:29-31)
When God pours out the bowls of wrath (thumos) upon a Messiah hating, Messiah rejecting world, we will not be at the receiving end of this wrath. If we are born again, living by faith, seeking to obey God’s Word, walking in the Holy Spirit and redeemed and cleansed by the atoning blood of the Messiah our Lord Jesus, then His blood will protect and deliver us from God’s wrath when it comes, and it is coming!. (Romans 5:9)
As God said to the Israelites, who had the lamb’s blood spattered on the door posts of their houses when the destroying angel was about to pass through Egypt, “Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 12:13) In this life we are destined for tribulation but not for wrath!