(Matthew 24:21-22) “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”
A time is coming when the only hope for the world will be the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus to earth. It will be after a time of tribulation that has never been experienced in the past and never to be experienced again. The prophet Daniel also wrote about this time of tribulation that would occur at the end of this present Age. “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who stands for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1). God is going to cut these days short. It will be a swift, sudden and precise cut; or action made as if cutting of a dog’s tail with the swipe of a blade. It will happen without warning. At this time the elect saints in Israel and by extension and inclusion the faithful Church will be saved out of this time of Great Tribulation but not from it (Jeremiah 30:1-10) (Revelation 7:14) (Matthew 24:29-31).
Destined for tribulation but not for wrath.
Judgement is sent by God to bring about repentance and correction and spiritual restoration, however, when the wrath of God is poured out there is no reprieve. In the New Testament and especially in the Book of Revelation the word used for “tribulation” is the Greek word “thlipsis.” It does not refer to God’s wrath. Another word is used for His wrath and that is the Greek word “thumos.” Believers in the Lord Jesus are not destined for God’s wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9). However, all believers are destined for tribulation (thlipsis) (Acts 14:22). Faithful believers are not going to be raptured and resurrected before the time of Great Tribulation (thlipsis) comes upon the world for the last three and a half years of this present age (Daniel 7:23; 12:7) (Revelation 11:2-3; 12:6; 13:5-7). The elect saints are rescued right at the end of this time of Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:29-31). as it states “immediately after the tribulation (thlipsis) of those days” the elect saints are gathered to meet the Lord Jesus in the air at His Second Coming (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
The word “tribulation” in the New Testament
The word “tribulation” is used throughout the New Testament and in the Book of Revelation. The word Tribulation or “thlipsis” means “a pressing down or pressing together or pressure.” Metaphorically it means; “tribulation, affliction, trouble anguish, persecution, to be burdened and afflicted.” It is also used to define the persecution of believers. The apostle Paul writes; “through much tribulation (thlipsis) we must enter the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). The faithful Church has always been in tribulation (thlipsis) and it continues into the Book of Revelation. Tribulation has been happening since the time of the first century and down through history but at the end of this age for three and a half years it intensifies in a way never before experienced by the saints (Daniel 7:21, 25; 12:7) (Revelation 13:5-7). The “saints” is the standard word used to describe all true believers in both the Old and the New Testaments.
The difference between the judgement and the wrath of God
For the most part of the Book of Revelation it is not the wrath of God but includes the wrath of Satan, the persecution of the saints and most certainly the judgements of God that are being unleashed upon the world in an ever increasing measure. These judgements are designed to bring about repentance because God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance towards God and to faith in the Lord Jesus to save them from the coming wrath (2 Peter 3:9) (Acts 20:21). In the Book of Revelation a different word is used to describe God’s wrath. The Greek word used is “thumos.” (Revelation 16:1) and it means; “an expression of passion, anger, heat and anger boiling over and then subsiding again.” It can be liked to one inflamed by wine to the point where they are filled with anger that is poured forth without restraint.” Of course God is never out of control as one who is enflamed with wine, but it does express the passionate righteous anger against all sin and wickedness and is the driving force that unleashes the wrath that has been stored up (Romans 2:5).
In the case of Noah and his family, a faithful believing remnant, as they were building the ark of salvation would have been afflicted and persecuted by the unsaved people and especially aimed at Noah being a preacher of righteousness. He and his family experienced “thlipsis.” During the 120 years it took Noah to build the Ark the door of salvation was open for any who would repent and turn back to God in faith. They could be saved if they wanted to be saved. However, once the ark was completed God shut Noah and his family in and closed the door and then the unsaved world experienced “thumos” where there was no reprieve. It was after the tribulation “thlipsis” of those days that Noah was rescued from the wrath. “thumos”.
Likewise, Lot and his immediate family were still in Sodom and were experiencing pressure and persecution and enduring a time of tribulation “thlipsis.” However, the very day Lot left the city the wrath “thumos” fell upon Sodom and Gomorrah and there was no reprieve.
Both of these events teach us about the time of the end. The Lord Jesus specifically tells us that “immediately after the tribulation (thlipsis) of those days the elect are gathered to meet Him in the air (Matthew 24:29-31). After that it becomes the wrath (thumos) of God. If you are a born again Bible believing Christian and have made the Lord Jesus your personal saviour and Lord and are trusting in his blood and righteousness to save you then you will never experience the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9).
Yes, as a believer you will have much tribulation (thlipsis) in this present life and through these trials and tests and afflictions and persecutions you will be prepared for the life to come when there will no longer be pain, sorrow, tears or mourning or death because these former things will have passed away and everything will have been made new (Revelation 21:1-5).
Concerning the Israelites
Consider the Children of Israel in Egypt. They were experiencing tribulation “thlipsis” at the hand of Pharaoh and the judgements of God had started to fall upon the unsaved Egyptians as God was trying to make Pharaoh listen to God’s Word coming out of Moses and Aaron’s mouth. However, during this time the Israelites were divinely kept through this time of tribulation. However when the wrath “thumos” of God fell upon the Egyptians at the Red Sea the Israelites were out of Egypt and on their way to the Promised land. As for Pharaoh and his armies they experienced the wrath of God and for him and his chariots there was no reprieve. This momentous event also teaches us about the end-times when Israel and by extension and inclusion the faithful Body of the Messiah (the faithful assembly of believers in the Messiah) will be taken out before the wrath of God falls upon the Antichrist and his armies who have been afflicting God’s people. So you see there is a difference between tribulation (thlipsis) and wrath (thumos).
The Book of Revelation applies to three time frames.
Firstly it applies to John’s time and the faithful believers were experiencing tribulation (thlipsis) (Revelation 1:9). but they were also being assured of being rescued from the wrath (thumos) of God. Secondly it applies to Church history where down through the ages faithful believers have been experiencing tribulation (thlipsis) but looking forward to being rescued out of it and escaping the wrath (thumos) of God. Thirdly it also applies to us as believers in this present time as we see the faithful saints being persecuted and afflicted and in great Tribulation (thlipsis) that has never been as intense as it is today.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved!”
Now the wrath (thumos) of God is coming but if you by faith and obedience are trusting in and sheltering under the Blood of the Messiah for cleansing and forgiveness of all of your sins and offences against God and his law, then you may be experiencing severe tribulation (thlipsis) but be assured you will never experience the wrath (thumos) of God! (Romans 5:9) If you are reading this and are still in the grip of sin and unbelief in the Lord Jesus but want to be saved from your sins, from its power and grip in your life and from the wrath to come and from eternity in the lake of fire, then be willing to turn from all sin, renounce all that you know to be evil in your life, calling upon the name of Jesus to save you and He will save you because He is mighty to save! As it is written; “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!” (Romans 10:13). As the author of the Book of Hebrews writes; “But because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely (to the uttermost) those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:24-25).
Beleaguered but blessed!
Faithful believers will go into the time of Great Tribulation and now is the time to prepare for it. In our concluding study we will look at how to prepare ourselves to endure this Time of Great Tribulation (thlipsis) lasting for three and a half years at the end of this present age. It will be a time of deep darkness for the world but a time of great light and spiritual power for the beleaguered saints of God. As Isaiah prophecies; “Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isaiah 60:1-3).
The ‘night’ is coming
When ‘the night’ of the time of Great Tribulation descends upon the earth those who have the oil of the Spirit in the lamp of their spirit will shine like stars in the universe as they hold out the word of life to a dark and lost world that is getting darker by the hour. It will be a time when preaching the gospel of the kingdom will be extremely difficult and multitudes of saints will be laying down their lives because they love the Lord Jesus and obey His commandments (Revelation 12:17). As the Lord Jesus Himself said; “We must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). It is hard work to witness even now but during the time of Great Tribulation it will be harder to witness than at any other time in history, however, there will be witnesses who will overcome Satan.
As John writes; “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Revelation 12:11). These will come out of this time of Great Tribulation. As the beloved apostle John also writes; “These are the ones who have come out (or are seen coming out) of great tribulation (thlipsis); they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14). If you are a blood bought, blood redeemed, blood washed, Spirit filled saint of God you will experience great tribulation (thlipsis) in this world but you will never experience the wrath (thumos) of God. As it is written; “For God has not appointed us for wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus the Messiah…who rescues us from the coming wrath!”