How Would You Like Your Tribulation?
We cannot escape
tribulation; the only
question is, how
and when will we
“We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
— Acts 14:22
Here the apostle tells the believers that the only way for us to enter into the kingdom of God is “through many tribulations.”
So many believers today would feel the Apostle Paul was wrong to say this; they would say that to enter into the kingdom of God we only need to be born anew. Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
— John 3:3
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
— John 3:5
Actually, when we put these verses together we see that the new birth is the prerequisite for us to see and enter into the kingdom. Moreover, it does save us from God’s judgment, and it gives us the assurance that we eventually will be in the kingdom of God in eternity. Nonetheless, it is not on its own sufficient to actually bring us into the kingdom of God. For that we do indeed need “many tribulations,” as the apostle tell us.
This word “tribulation,” thlipsis in Greek, is actually quite common in the New Testament, being used 45 times. The Lord warned that many believers would fall away when tribulation comes (Matt. 13:21), and that we will be delivered up to tribulation (Matt. 24:9); the believers were scattered in connection to the tribulation that occurred on account of Stephen (Acts 11:19); yet Paul also tells us that we should rejoice in our tribulations (Rom. 5:3).
Why do we need such tribulations? Because it is only through them that we can be conformed to the image of God’s Son, which is actually what qualifies us and enables us to be in His presence in glory (Rom. 8:29-30).
In a wonderful passage in 2 Corinthians, Paul tells us:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction [Greek, “tribulation”], which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
— 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Paul himself is the New Testament pattern for this; in fact, just before he said we must pass through such tribulations, he had himself been stoned and left for dead for his testimony to Christ (Acts 14:19; cf. Acts 9:16, 2 Cor. 11:23-29).
But what, then, will become of those believers who somehow manage to avoid the tribulations involved in following Christ in this age? There are, no doubt, a great many of these, especially in this country today. What will happen to them?
Even these must eventually experience tribulation. However, instead of passing through “many tribulations” today, they will be left to pass through a single “great tribulation” at the end of this age, under the persecution of the Antichrist. This will be after the faithful believers have been taken from the earth in the rapture, prior to that terrible time.
According to G.H. Pember, the rise of the Antichrist will be,
…Specially allowed by God as a means of forcing half-hearted believers to self-denial and decision, and of hardening the godless to their doom.
— Great Prophecies, Volume 2, page 418
And as he states elsewhere, the Antichrist is,
…The last great purifying agent, the King, who, at the end of days, shall command the furnace of affliction to be heated seven times more than its wont.
— Great Prophecies, Volume 2, page 456
The last statement is, of course, an allusion to Daniel 2:19 and Nebuchadnezzar’s persecution of Daniel’s three friends.
So, it is up to us. We can take the glorious way of following Christ and passing through many tribulations today so that we are prepared to meet Him when He comes. Or, we can wait—until the time of ultimate persecution comes during the one Great Tribulation. The choice is ours.
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— 2 February 2023 —