Tribulation Is A Promise From Jesus
In an age of Christendom that has been flooded with self-help, positive affirmations, word of faith, dominion theology and the like, it can be easy to forget that Jesus promised us tribulation and that this world is not your home. For all intents and purposes, many have put their energies into improving their earthly state rather than their eternal state, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Jesus made it abundantly clear that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). While no saint of God relishes tribulation or hardship, the one that does not anticipate it is sorely “mistaken not knowing the Scriptures” (Matthew 22:29). The promises of Christ are as sure as sure can be; more sure than gravity or Newton’s laws of motion. Jesus promised eternal life to all who would come to Him by faith. And Jesus also PROMISED tribulation while in this world.
Tribulation: “thlipsis” in Greek, comes from a root word that describes grapes being pressed and crushed, and can also describe the “anguish” that accompanies child birth. It is affliction and distress; burden and trouble. It is the unpleasant and painful things of life in varying forms. Do you feel as though you’re being pressed and crushed? Do not be surprised. Jesus promised this tribulation while we are in the world.
We know that God “sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45) but we sometimes forget that believers suffer tribulation, sometimes along with the world. “Coffee mug Christianity” is largely responsible for this deluded notion. This is primarily relegated to our wealthy western world, where our abundance clouds reality until we’re smacked in the face with a sobering dose of discomfort. Every out of context verse we can scavenge, we are all too happy to apply to ourselves in every scenario. But when it comes to easily discernible verses that pertain to our discomfort, yes even our anguish, we wish to turn the page and claim promises of God’s plan for our deliverance out of every hardship as if we are in a category above the apostles or prophets. God help us! Jesus stated clearly, “In the world you will have tribulation…” (John 16:33). Before we immediately seek the alleviation, we must grasp this and embrace this. You read that correctly. Embrace it.
Do you think you are more than a prophet? Yes, you! Do you think you are the greatest man or woman ever born of women? Few would dare to say that out loud and yet many betray a belief somewhere thereabout. Jesus only described one person in these terms and it was John the Baptist. This was a man filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb and tasked with paving the way for the Messiah. Jesus called Him “more than a prophet”. Let that sink in. Guess what Jesus didn’t do for John? He didn’t deliver him from suffering in prison before having his head chopped off. Jesus commissioned His apostles with the task of making disciples of all nations and indeed, they turned the world upside down. Guess what Jesus didn’t do for them? He didn’t spare them from worldly tribulation and persecution. In fact, before Paul and Barnabas were ever sent out on their missionary journeys, Jesus said this concerning Paul, “… I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:16). Jesus spoke of the death by which Peter would glorify God. He told His disciples about the extreme suffering and hardship they would endure, being persecuted from one city to the next, and guess what? History is replete with tribulation and persecution in every age. Thumb through Foxe’s Book of Martyrs when you have a moment. Whether persecution or common tribulation, God’s saints have arguably been appointed the worst of it. While there are many accounts of God’s mighty deliverance in subduing kingdoms and delivering His people from oppressors, there is another side to that coin:
others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— (Hebrews 11:35-36)
When the prospect of such things as these come, fanciful notions of a pretribulational rapture of the saints is welcomed as if those in the last days should be completely spared what every saint of every other age was not. When clear promises of tribulation and persecution are in black and white ink, from the lips of Jesus Himself, how is it that we read a means of escape into the bible that is simply nowhere to be found? While the intention of this article isn’t to cover the intricacies of the timing of the rapture, suffice it to say that if you think you’re going to be completely spared from tribulation, you make Jesus a liar. You WILL have tribulation in this world and those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Not many people would buy a coffee mug with John 16:33 on it, but it is as much a promise from Jesus as anything else.
Many well meaning professors of Christ have had their faith shipwrecked because they did not anticipate tribulation and persecution (Mark 4:17). The tribulation we are spared from is not in this world but in another. In His kingdom (which is not of this world) we will have no tribulation. We are admonished as “sojourners and pilgrims” in this world, because we need to be constantly mindful that this world is not our home (2 Peter 2:11). So, when (not if) tribulation comes to you as a believer in Jesus, regard it as confirmation of the promise of Jesus and know that it is for your good and God’s glory as He works all things together for good to those who love Him and are the called according to His purposes. Tribulation, while never pleasant, is ultimately a gift from God working something good in you that will make your shouts of praise to Him in glory all the louder. These afflictions are only momentary and compared with what awaits us in eternity, they are very light. Expect tribulation; embrace tribulation and extol the name of Jesus when tribulation comes. Therefore, “… we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5).