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The Book of Revelation part 5 – The Great Tribulation
Some thoughts about the Great Tribulation
“Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these
arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I
said to him, “Sir, you know.” These are the ones who come out
of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made
them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
These saints, who emerge out of the great tribulation, are not in any way pictured as those who didn’t make the cut at a secret rapture a few years before because the were lukewarm and backsliden, as some would have us believe. No, by contrast they are celebrated and honored because they have overcome and have triumphed gloriously in Christ. They even enjoy a special place in heaven! (Revelation 7:15).
As far as scripture is concerned, believers in Jesus have always been in tribulation. It is just part of our walk in Christ because our values are in conflict with the world, the Devil and even ourselves. Jesus warned that we would be hated by all men because we have attached our lives to His:
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In
the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have over-
come the world.”
John also saw himself ensnared in tribulation and even said so:
“I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom
and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for
the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
And, of course, Paul warned the believers, in all the churches under his care, that:
“….we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
Through the centuries, and at all times, Christians have been subjected to tribulation and great suffering. Just two decades ago two million South Sudanese Christians were brutally murdered by the Muslims of North Sudan. Many of these Christians were subjected to terrifying horrors in that their limbs were cut off and then their bodies were impaled on trees! And then there are the Christians of Iraq and Syria who in just the last few years were savagely murdered by ISIS. There cannot be any greater tribulation than this, but they all stood firm and gave up their lives for Christ. They have come out of the Great Tribulation and one day soon, by virtue of Christ’s second coming, they will stand in victory at the very throne of God.
The Great Tribulation, referenced in scripture, means in the first place, “The Great Pressing Down”, and secondly, is thus the climax of the tribulation that Christians have been subjected to throughout history. This is precisely why the picture of the Church, painted for us in Revelation chapter seven, is in fact a picture of the triumphant Church through the ages right up until the end of the age. This is a great multitude that no one can count. It is an all inclusive picture of the Body of Christ, just like the one that Paul painted in Ephesians five where he writes, that when Jesus comes again He will present to Himself the Church, “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:27). This is not the Church exclusively restricted to a period of time, like the end-time Church, but the Church of all of history! She will stand all glorious before Him in absolute righteousness.
It must be said again that the Great Tribulation is just the climax of a reality that has been part of the Church’s experience for centuries. It is not the Day of God’s wrath for this is the Great Day of the Lord that befalls the world after the luminaries change (Revelation 6:13-17). It is on this Great Day of the Lord that the Church is snatched away to meet Jesus as He comes in great glory to judge the world. This is exactly what Paul writes to the believers in Thessaloniki in his second chapter of his second epistle to them (2 Thessalonians 2:1-8). They were being destabilized by some who were asserting that the Second Coming of Christ had already transpired. He assures them that is not true because two things must happen before the Day of the Lord (Jesus second coming) arrives:
1. A great falling away……and;
2. The arrival of the Antichrist or Son of Perdition, who will commit the Abomination of Desolation again by standing in the Temple and declaring himself to be god.
These are the two last great signs that the Church is exhorted to look for in expectation of the second coming of Christ. Paul even doubles down on this warning because he says that when he was previously with them he had told them this. In other words he is saying, ” Why are you troubled and destabilized thinking that you may have missed out on the coming of Christ. Remember, that when I was with you last time, I told you that He will not come until many fall away and the Antichrist is here on earth displaying himself as god.”
The only thing that is preventing his appearance is a “restraining entity” that God will take away thus allowing the Antichrist to come forward onto the stage of history. This restraining influence can definitely, in context, not be the Church because Paul has already stated that the Church will be on the earth when the Antichrist rises and reigns! No, the only restraining influence in the Bible is an angelic one ( Revelation 9:13-15). The “spirit of Antichrist” is definitely in the world and growing but the actual rise of the Beast, and all that is evil, is being restrained. This will shortly change and the signs all around us warn of it. The Church of the living God is about to be thrown into Great Tribulation, many are not prepared and will fall away because of it. Antichrist will arise with his reign of terror, deception and evil, inspired by Satan himself, but the Day of the Lord will break in upon the earth snatching the Church away and bringing destruction upon him and a God hating world (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
This all harmonizes with Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, because he told the Church that when they see the Abomination of Desolation standing in the Temple they must recognize that His coming is upon them:
“For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and
wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you
beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not
go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ Do not believe it. For as the
lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the
coming of the Son of Man be,”
His second coming for His Church will be all glorious with flashing light and power attended by the Angels of God in their thousands, like vast clouds. He will then gather His Church from the four corners of the world and they will, being a great multitude that no man can count, sing the song of the redeemed before the throne of God! Amen and amen! Even so Lord Jesus come.