What is the Great Tribulation?


Many of you have heard of the Great Tribulation (NIV Distress) that Jesus warned us about referenced in Matthew 24:21, an event precipitated by what He called the “Abomination of Desolation.” What is meant by the term Great Tribulation? What will happen during that time? Here’s the text we are looking at:


15“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.21For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be (Matthew 24:15-21. ESV. Emphasis mine).


The Greek word translated as Tribulation is Thlipsis. I have a Key Word Study Bible, which enables me to search how this Greek word was used in other passages. The word means "to crush, press, compress, squeeze. Tribulation, trouble, and affliction.” This Greek word "conveys the picture of something being crushed, pressed, or squeezed as from a great weight. It is used to denote grievous physical affliction or mental or spiritual distress."[1]


How this word was used in context in other passages of the Bible will shed light on what the Church should expect to happen after the event Jesus spoke about, the Abomination of Desolation (we’ll look at that event tomorrow). In Acts 8:1, the word thlipsis is translated as “great persecution” after the martyrdom of Stephen:


And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1).


In Acts 11:19, the same Greek word, thlipsis, is translated again as persecution:


Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews (Acts 11:19).


And lastly, Paul used the same Greek word when he wrote to the Thessalonian church about the persecution they were going through:


Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring (2 Thessalonians 1:4).


We need to prepare ourselves for that time by living in a close relationship with the Lord. The Great Tribulation, when it comes, is a time of worldwide persecution against those who serve the God of Israel. I believe the persecution will be aimed at all those who will not take the Mark of the Beast (Revelation 13:16-17) or worship his image. We should not think that the Lord will rapture us out of here before the Tribulation, but we should prepare our hearts to endure. The Tribulation is never called the wrath of God. The wrath of God is only poured out after the Church is raptured/snatched up at some point during the time of great Tribulation that breaks out after the mid-point of the seven-year period (Luke 17:26-30; Matthew 24:29-31). Let’s grow in our dependence and trust in Him. If you would like to understand more on this topic, I have written 21 studies in the Book of Revelation to help you know what will happen. They are all free and mobile phone enabled.


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Taken from the series called The End Times found in the All Studies box on the Home Page. The study is titled, The Rapture and Day of the Lord. Keith Thomas

[1] New Testament Lexical Aids, Key Word Study Bible, AMG Publishers, Thlipsis, Page 1632