n We've been told we'll suffer it. 1 Thess
What is it?
Daniel 12:1 Describes "a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that time."
Jesus appears to quote this passage in Matt 24:21 as a "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." The world "tribulation" is from the Greek word thlipsis, "pressure," translated as anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble.
In Rev 2:10 Jesus warns the church at Smyrna that the "devil will cast some of you into prison that you may be tested; and you will have tribulation ten days.” But if they will “be faithful unto death" they are promised a crown of life. Those that overcome are promised that they "shall not be hurt of the second death." The early Roman persecution under Diocletian from 300-310 ad. was immediately followed by a complete reversal under Constantine with Rome's support of Christianity.
But in verse 22 the church of Thyatira, after it falls away from the pure gospel once delivered to the saints, receives a worse warning. The message is directed to "that woman Jezebel" who commits adultery and seduces God's servants to commit fornication. The warning says this woman (symbol of a church) will be cast into "great tribulation" and "her children" would be “killed with death.” The old testament Jezebel symbolized the union of religion and government. Wife of Ahab the king, queen Jezebel was also high priestess of Baal and orchestrated the persecution of God’s people and apostasy of the nation.
Who Causes it?
The popular view of a monstrous beast called the Antichrist, as a diabolical man who takes control of the world in the end time is taken from Revelation chapter 13. However, the term Antichrist isn’t even in the book of Revelation.
The world Antichrist occurs only in the books of 1st and 2nd John. Furthermore, the Bible explains the beast symbol in Daniel 7:23 where it is identified as a kingdom, a nation, a political power that oppresses God’s people throughout history. In John the Revelator’s day, John identified the principle or spirit of Antichrist, and it was not a single person. “Even now there are many anti-christs; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us...them that seduce you.” 1 John 2:18, 26. Notice, this quality of anti-christ or anti-christianity was once part of the church. “They went out from us.” Paul agreed, “The mystery of iniquity does already work.” 2 Thess 2:7. Counterfit Christianity is the essence of antichrist and it began very early in the history of the Christian church with a seductive political-religous influence.
Another woman is portrayed in Rev 17. She is called "the great whore...with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication." She is shown with a name on her forehead which includes "The Mother of Harlots." She appears "drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus." Finally, the angel explains to John that this woman "is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth." Verse 18. Protestants and reformers have for hundreds of years identified this woman with the little horn power of Daniel 7, the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians 2, John’s Antichrists, the beast of Revelation 13 — all symbols of the corrupted heirarchical church that dominated the dark ages for over a thousand years through the support of state monarchies in establishing the Holy Roman Empire to eradicate opposing doctrincal positions through crusade and inquisition. “Martin Luther was the first to identify the papacy as such with the Antichrist...a view that was to become dogma for all Protestant churches.” Newsweek, Nov 1, 1999, p. 72.
Rev 12 pictures yet another woman as she gives birth to a "man child" who is "caught up to God and His throne." Then "the great dragon, that old serpent, the Devil, Satan, the accuser of our brethern" persecuted the woman. Verse 13. But God enables her to flee into the wilderness where she is "fed" (verse 6) and "nourished" (verse 14) for 1260 years ( 3 1/2 times). But the dragon continues to "make war with the remnant of her seed." This covers the long reign of the Church Universal on earth supported by the power of civil governments to erdicate heresy beginning in the early 500’s when the Imperial Roman Empire crumbled and ending in the late 1700’s when Protestant Reformation and finally the French Revolution effectively “wounded” the Papal power.
Rev 13 reviews the development of this beast that arises “from the sea” (in the highly populated center of western civilization, Rev 17...) and dominates the world for a period of 1260 years (42 months, verse 5). This beast, like the dragon in chapter 12, "makes war with the saints" (verse 7).
This little horn power comes out of Rome, the 4th kingdom Daniel 7:7,8. It speaks “great things against the Most High” and “blasphemies” by claiming the right to forgive sin (Mark 2:7) and claiming to be “the Viceregeant of God on earth.” (John 10:33) It apparently "leads into captivity" and "kills with the sword" (Rev 13:10). But after its reign from 538 to 1798 AD, it is taken into captivity (Napoleon’s general Berthier takes pope Pius VI prisoner to France) and is killed with the sword of God’s word, which is “sharper than any two edged sword.” (Ephesians 6:17). It is then strengthened and supported by a second beast or kingdom that arises from the earth (uninhabited area), imposing forced worship under threat of economic hardship (“may not buy nor sell”) and ultimately death.
Who experiences it?
Paul counseled his listeners in Asia that "we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." Acts 14:22. Jesus looked to the future and warned His disciples, "If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you." John 15:20. And "the time will come when whoever kills you will think that he is doing God's service." John 16:2. "In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." John 16:33.
Rev 7:9,14 John saw “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations” who “stood before the throne" and "came out of great tribulation". Did they escape out of it, or endure faithfully through it? These who “came out of great tribulation” are assured that “they will hunger nor thirst no more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.” Clearly, they suffered these effects of the plagues that fell during the tribulation. But they were sustained through them as promised in Psalm 91: “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flies by day; nor the pestilence that walks in darkness; nor the destruction that wasts at noonday. A thousand shall fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord your refuge, and the Most Hight your habitation; there shall no evil befall you, neither shall any plague come near your dwelling...You shall tread upon the lion and adder...and the dragon shall you trample under feet.” In verse 15 God promises the great multitude, “I will be with him in trouble.”
When the world is arrayed against God’s faithful remnant, they will say confidently, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even my enemies and my foes came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident...For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me.” Psalm 27 1-5.
Where is the Church?
During the seven last plagues, Jesus announces, “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” Rev 16:15. The next verse describes the gathering of Armageddon. Verse 16. Who is Christ addressing? His followers, the saints, His church. Revelation 13:7 tells us that the Antichrist will make “war with the saints.” In the next chapter the “saints” are identified as those who keep “the faith of Jesus.” Rev 14:12. Paul wrote to the “churches of the saints” 1 Cor 14:33. Clearly there are faithful saints, followers of Jesus Christ and members of His final remnant church who live under attack by the Antichrist power during the plagues of the great tribulation, and who await the coming of Jesus “as a thief” after the tribulation.
Paul advised his readers to “take the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand in the evil day.” Ephesians 6:13. Jesus said that “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13. That’s why He promised, “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Matt 28:20.