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What is a tribulation?

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posted on Aug, 21 2020 @ 05:00 PM
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In the context of the New Testament, what is a “tribulation”?

This question relates to a similar question which was considered in a previous thread; “What is an abomination of desolation?” They are both expected features of “the end-times”. In both cases, it is important to understand the real meaning of the word, so that we can recognise when the feature has arrived (or not arrived). In fact if I had remembered at the time that this thread title was in my “future ideas” file, I might well have done them as a pair.

For the sake of accuracy, we need to focus on the Greek word THLIPSIS. The basic meaning is almost literally “being hard pressed”. In the various New Testament references, it may get translated by “tribulation” or “affliction” or similar words.

Putting these references together, we find that tribulation is normally what happens to the servants of God because they are servants of God. As when Joseph was sold into Egypt, “God was with him and rescued him out of all his afflictions” (Acts ch7 v10). The references can be grouped in three categories, viz. what the followers of Jesus were warned to expect, what the immediate followers of Jesus experienced, and “the Tribulation” as a grand climax of history.

The warnings of Jesus

For example, what happens to the seed that is sown upon rocky ground? They endure for a while, “then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away” (Mark ch4 v17).

In the temple discourse, he says to his immediate disciples “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake” (Matthew ch24 v9). So “tribulation” is understood to be the same thing as “persecution”.

He calls this “the beginning of the birth pangs”. The same image is used in John’s gospel. Jesus warns the disciples “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (ch15 v20). A little later, he explains how a woman has sorrow when she is in travail, but when the child is born she no longer remembers her anguish [THLIPSIS] The point is that the experience of persecution is the necessary and unavoidable preliminary to their experience of the new life to come. “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (ch16 v33).

The experience of the disciples

The church in Acts did experience these things. They were scattered because of the persecution [THLIPSIS] that arose over Stephen (ch11 v19). Paul was teaching his converts that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (ch14 v22), and he was convinced that imprisonment and afflictions [THLIPSIS] awaited him in Jerusalem (ch20 v23).

In his letters, too, Paul refers to the tribulations of the Christian communities; “You received the word in much affliction” (1 Thessalonians ch1 v6). “We boast of you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you are enduring” (2 Thessalonians ch1 v4). Sometimes he alludes to his own experience, as when his list of the way the servants of God commend themselves begins with “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults” (2 Corinthians ch6 vv4-5). But he adds that “this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians ch4 v17).

He also says “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and In my flesh, I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Colossians 1 v24). This loosely-worded statement could easily be misunderstood. He certainly won’t be intending to suggest that his own sufferings are part of the work of atonement. I believe the real clue to his thought lies in the question that Jesus asked him on the Damascus road; “Why are you persecuting me?” The church identifies with Christ and Christ identifies with the church, to the point that the afflictions of his followers are also the afflictions of Christ. So it may be said that the suffering of the church completes the full picture of the suffering of Christ, supplementing what he suffered in person. It is Paul’s privilege, because of his work, to be part of that overall picture of the afflictions of Christ.

And in the opening chapters of Revelation, “tribulation” means the current experience of the church of John’s time; “I share with you in Jesus the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance” (ch1 v9). He warns the church of Smyrna; “Behold the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation” (ch2 v10).

In short, “tribulation” is the experience of those who belong to Christ, in a hostile environment.

THE Tribulation

“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now; no, and never will be.
And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened” (Matthew ch24 v21).

This is the New Testament equivalent of the statement near the end of Daniel; “And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation until that time; but at that time your people shall be delivered” (Daniel ch12 v1).

Both statements refer to the time shortly before the final intervention of God (“the coming of the Son of man”). In other words, the end-times. Nobody can say that these prophecies have been fulfilled already, because history doesn’t record any tribulations which “cannot be surpassed”, an essential point in both descriptions.

Are these the troubles of the church or the troubles of the world in general? In Russian history, “time of troubles” refers to the period of civil war which preceded the establishment of the Romanov dynasty. Inspired by this usage, Arnold Toynbee borrowed the phrase for the long period of incessant war which (on his theory) follows the “breakdown” of a civilisation and precedes the forced peace of a “universal state”. When we see the portrait of the world in catastrophe provided by the later chapters of Revelation, it is very tempting to understand that catastrophe as “the Tribulation”. Especially if there is a danger that “no human being would be saved”. The literal Greek is even more menacing; “all flesh [PASA SARX] shall not be saved”.

But the message in Daniel is that the time of troubles relates to God’s people themselves; “never since there was a nation… but your people shall be delivered”. It would be better, then, to follow this clue, and accept that “tribulation” in Matthew ch24 means what it means in most of the rest of the New Testament. That is, the troubles and afflictions of God’s people, the church, imposed by the hostility of the surrounding world. Or at least we might take that as the primary meaning, and make room for that phrase “all flesh” by allowing “the ruined state of the world” as an extended, secondary sense. There is a connection, because the message of Revelation is that the final troubles of the world are a consequence of the Tribulation of the church.




posted on Aug, 21 2020 @ 05:01 PM
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Abomination and Tribulation

Understanding “tribulation” as the persecution of the church, we may see that these things run in sequence. The Abomination is a direct challenge to God, on the part of the hostile rulers of the world. It is an attempt to divert the allegiance of his people, forcing them to worship something else. The Tribulation (in the strict sense) is what happens to God’s people when they reject the Abomination. As I’ve already observed, the tribulations of the world, as described in Revelation, come as God’s response to the Tribulation proper.

Anyone who takes the final “week” of Daniel as a literal period of seven years should take note that the Abomination comes in the middle of that week. Only in the second half of the week does the ruler obstruct the worship of God. The Tribulation therefore follows, occupying the second half of the week. I don’t make end-times calculations, so the question doesn’t concern me, but anyone who does make end-times calculations should be looking for a three-and-a-half year Tribulation rather than a seven year Tribulation. This is on the basis that “tribulation” means “persecution”.



posted on Aug, 21 2020 @ 05:02 PM
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Something else we learn from Matthew is that the elect are still present in the world when the Tribulation comes to an end. That is a necessary conclusion from the statement that the period of Tribulation will be cut short for their benefit. In other words, they will not have escaped the experience of Tribulation. The New Testament never promises to allow them to escape. Far from it; persecutions are actually “promised” among the benefits of discipleship (Mark ch10 v30). “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John ch15 v20).

God’s purpose, frequently expressed, is to bring his people into a state of peace. If they meet with difficulties along the way, Biblical history suggests that God will work to bring them through these difficulties. We may compare the Tribulation with a set of rapids interrupting a journey down a river. In such a case, there are two possible ways of getting down to the peaceful waters. The rapids may be avoided by a portage across the adjacent land. Or the rapids may be traversed with careful management. For the event of Tribulation, God has never promised the first course of action, and we should be preparing ourselves for the bumpy ride. “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you”- and any other expectation is complacent self-deception.

That’s how we should understand the statement that a crowd of people in heaven “have come out of [EK] the great tribulation” (Revelation ch7 14). The angel does not mean that they bypassed the Tribulation. He means that they passed through the experience of Tribulation and came out again on the other side, unscathed in their faith. The elect, marked with the seal of the Spirit, will be kept “safe” in the sense of remaining true to their God, but their physical safety has not been guaranteed.

When all these things are over, and Christ returns to meet his people, Paul promises that “the dead in Christ” will rise, and “we who are alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord… and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians ch4 vv16-17). That is the only “rapture” that is on offer in the New Testament.



posted on Aug, 21 2020 @ 05:17 PM
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a reply to: DISRAELI
Isn't part of the tribulation the wormwood, 4 horsemen, 400 million from the east, which has nothing to do with the church it is a world wide occurrence.



posted on Aug, 21 2020 @ 05:24 PM
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a reply to: JON666
Revelation doesn't actually call them "tribulation".
Those things are all God's response to the way the world has been treating his people.
That was the argument of my final paragraph and the second post. The troubles of the world are a consequence of the Tribulation in the primary sense of "hostile treatment of the church".

It's all about getting the definition right. The word has to be defined by the way that the New Testament uses it.


edit on 21-8-2020 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 21 2020 @ 05:42 PM
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a reply to: DISRAELI

Tribulation is a facing of the truth. A test. Exposure and maybe justice, if not catharsis. If one cannot display the virtue of their deeds or explain the how and why, you put yourself to be judged. Canon law is very simple in practice. Barely applicable to modern days. Meaning, simply, you'll likely get back what you put in, minus what you've taken out.




posted on Aug, 21 2020 @ 05:47 PM
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a reply to: dfens
I was looking for the New Testament sense, in order to understand the New Testament usage.
I think you may be responding to the title, rather than to the opening post.



posted on Aug, 21 2020 @ 06:00 PM
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I fear many will lose faith over the false teachings about a pre tribulation rapture. All believers must be rooted in sound doctrine. Not false prophets and feel good preachers.

John The Revelator gave us exactly what we need to know and watch for. Pair that with the Books of Daniel and what Jesus taught in Matthew.

Interesting times unfolding! Keep an eye on Israel. And of course, the sky.







posted on Aug, 21 2020 @ 06:09 PM
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hmmm, odd

We think the same....

well put, man

a reply to: Illumimasontruth



posted on Aug, 21 2020 @ 06:10 PM
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a reply to: Illumimasontruth
I have that fear too. They would be disillusioned by the arrival of the great persecutions, while they were still around.

(I've just had a weird experience. I clicked on "reply", and my log-in cookie expired at the very same moment, so that the comment refused to post. It took a moment to work out what was going on)



posted on Aug, 21 2020 @ 06:27 PM
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a reply to: DISRAELI
The word the is not before the statement great it reads they came out of tribulation. Christ said He had known tribulation and so would we. Believers have been behead for their faith from the begging. The insertion of the was a direct result of the pretrib doctrine of Darby.



posted on Aug, 21 2020 @ 06:38 PM
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a reply to: JON666
Actually "the" is there in the Greek (I've just checked). In fact, following the rules of Greek grammar, it's there twice; EK TES THLIPSEOS TES MEGALES. Most modern translations would be more influenced by that point than by Darbyite teachings. I believe we can still refute the Darbyites simply by the proper understanding of "out of".



posted on Aug, 21 2020 @ 07:38 PM
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Iraneus....in 150 A D...had the pre trib it is written....and his buddies too ......

a reply to: JON666


edit on 21-8-2020 by GBP/JPY because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 21 2020 @ 07:42 PM
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a reply to: DISRAELI
You have said the tribulation is for the church only in Mathew Jesus speak that if the days are not shortened no flesh will survive. Is the no flesh humanity or the just the church?



posted on Aug, 21 2020 @ 08:48 PM
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the tribulation is all about Beloved Israel....God Himself wants all to know it is Him who saves Israel from a tromping....sends just one sixth of the enemies armies home.....prolly in a fast war...2 days....

a reply to: JON666


edit on 21-8-2020 by GBP/JPY because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 22 2020 @ 12:49 AM
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a reply to: JON666
I did go into the question of the wording of the Matthew verse, and thought I arrived at a balanced conclusion. Please re-read the last two paragraphs of the opening post.

I argued that the nation-centred wording of the parallel Daniel passage pointed towards the church-centred interpretation as the primary meaning of the Matthew passage.
Then I added that the troubles experienced by the world are shown by Revelation to be the consequence and sequel of the tribulation of the church, in that God sends them in order to "vindicate" his persecuted people. So Matthew appears to be extending the meaning from the original tribulation to the sequel. Do you see that sequence?







edit on 22-8-2020 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 22 2020 @ 01:22 AM
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a reply to: DISRAELI
So were on the same page the body of Christ goes through the tribulation period and those who live will be caught up upon the 2nd coming of Jesus.



posted on Aug, 22 2020 @ 01:44 AM
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a reply to: JON666
Exactly so. See my "travelling through the rapids" metaphor in the third post.



posted on Aug, 22 2020 @ 01:38 PM
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a reply to: DISRAELI

What event kicks it off? In my opinion it's wormwood which causes a global famine which causes the 400 million from the east marching.



posted on Aug, 22 2020 @ 02:07 PM
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a reply to: JON666
Your "it" is a little ambiguous, given the different ways of defining tribulation.
As a reminder, I see the basic sequence as- The Abomination, which is the human ruler's challenge to God. When God's people refuse to accept the Abomination, this is followed by the persecution. The troubles experienced by the world at large are God's response to the persecution.

In Revelation terms;
The appeal contained in the prayers of the saints (ch8 v3) is the first indication that the persecution has just begun. Until then, there was "silence in heaven" because nothing was happening on earth. It closes the peaceful interlude which followed the suspension of the "four horsemen" episode.
(Chs 12 & 13 are a "flashback" section of the book, explaining how and why the persecution began).

The first four trumpets follow immediately. They are God's response to the persecution. I see them as different angles on one major catastrophe destroying the environment of the earth, though the actual event could be anything from asteroid or nuclear war to long-term degradation resulting from pollution. In the Woes, we see the effect of this catastrophe on the people of the earth- the sense of utter despair, the social collapse.

I did a whole series of threads covering Revelation. If ATS continues to exist, it may be about time for me to start bumping them.

Revelation; Project complete
Battered planet is the one that looks at the trumpets.


edit on 22-8-2020 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



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