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Will Christians Go Through the Tribulation?

Some teachers say that Jesus could come at any moment, but is that correct? Is the so-called Doctrine of Immanence biblical? Our spiritual leaders press upon unbelievers to be ready for the return of Christ, and that is right, but in my opinion, it is not biblical to tell people that Jesus Christ could come today. The Lord Himself said that He would send forth His angels and snatch away His Church, the people of God, only after the Abomination of Desolation takes place and during a time of great tribulation or persecution by the Antichrist (Matthew 24:15-31). The desecration or abomination of the temple will cause a time of great distress (Tribulation KJV). Note the underlined references to the timing of the events, "Immediately after," and "then," in the relevant passage:

29“Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ 30“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 31And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other (Matthew 24:29-31 NIV. Emphasis mine).

The Greek word translated as distress in the NIV translation above is thlipsis. This Greek word refers to heavy pressure, distress, or affliction. This same Greek word is translated as Tribulation in the King James Version of the Bible, and contrary to what some teach, it is not the wrath of God. Twice in the chapter on the second coming of Christ, Matthew 24, Jesus Himself tells us that His people will endure persecution (thlipsis):

Then you will be handed over to be persecuted (thlipsis) and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me (Matthew 24:9).

I leave it to each of you reading these words to think through what will cause believers to be hated and persecuted, but we see the seeds of this hatred in events going on today.

For then there will be great tribulation (thlipsis), unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again (Matthew 24:21).

Paul the apostle wrote, “Tribulation [thlipsis] works patience” (Romans 5:3 KJV). The same verse in the NIV translates thlipsis as suffering and that it produces perseverance. Paul uses the word thlipsis also in another place: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering [thlipsis] produces perseverance” (Romans 5:3 NIV). Brothers and sisters, I know I am treading on some toes here, but it is only here in America that we are so naive to think that we of all the Church won’t have to go through persecution or tribulation. Instead, it is God's will that we become changed through our proper responses in the middle of character-transforming difficulties. The Lord said that His people should anticipate times of distress or tribulation. For instance, in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:21), those who had no root, when tribulation [thlipsis] or persecution came, many fall away, but true believers develop deeper roots in Christ.

Jesus said that we would not know the day or the hour of His coming (Matthew 24:36), but those born-again and spiritually renewed or regenerated by the Spirit of God will know the season of time as it approaches—and it is approaching!

The Lord shared a lesson from the fig tree that when its leaves come out and its twigs get tender, you'll know that summer (the return of Christ) is near. He explained that there would be specific signs indicating the season, “When you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door” (Matthew 24:33). The question could be asked, "What signs are we to look for?" The signs are those Jesus mentioned earlier in Matthew 24—the rise of the Antichrist, the Abomination of Desolation (Matthew 24:15), and the persecution of the saints (vs. 9, 21). As we said in yesterday’s meditation, Paul the Apostle wrote about three things that will happen before the catching up of the saints by the Lord, 1) A great falling away by many church attendees not walking with Christ, 2) the rise of the Antichrist. 3) The seating of the Antichrist in the yet-to-be-built temple (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).

We will know the season because of the signs, but we will not know which day it will happen or what hour. The time we are in is a time for the Church to prepare for the difficult time ahead spiritually. It is time to get close to the Lord, learn to hear His voice, and if you are not yet right with God, it's time to cry out to Him for His gift of salvation to come to you. Keith Thomas

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Taken from the series The End Times. Click on the study, The Rapture and Day of the Lord. There are also 23 studies in the Book of Revelation.


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