In previous articles we’ve talked about What is the tribulation? and we’ve also looked at pre-trib, mid-trib and post-trib views… In this article we’ll address a common misconception that many people have regarding the tribulation. Many people mistakenly believe that the tribulation is part of God’s final wrath on the wicked. We’ll actually see that the tribulation is actually a tribulation for God’s people and NOT for the wicked. They may or may not even be aware of the treatment of God’s people at this time.
To begin, let’s examine Mark 13 which is one of the places where Jesus mentions the tribulation.
5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you.
6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.
7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.
10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.
11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.
13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
18 Pray that this will not take place in winter,
19 because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.
24 “But in those days, following that distress, “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light;
25 the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
26 “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.
27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
Now you’ll notice that for the sake of space I’ve left out a few verses. You are welcome to go read them yourself. I’m simply concentrating on the verses that directly impact the question of whether the tribulation is the pouring out of God’s wrath on the wicked or whether it is directed towards God’s people (otherwise known as the elect). This passage is Jesus’ midrash, or teaching, on Daniel 7. It is a dual prophecy with application close to Jesus’ time with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and also a prophecy concerning the end of time. Some people try to separate out verses to distinguish between these two time periods but I’m not convinced it is that black and white. Much of what Jesus said that could be applied to A.D. 70 could also be applied to the end of time.
First of all, you’ll notice that verses 5-13 all flow together. There isn’t a clear break between the verses anywhere. We can therefore safely conclude that persecution will be normal for the Christian from Jesus’ day all the way to the end of time. In fact, persecution is one of the means that God uses to get his message of good news out to the world. As the world sees that Christ’s followers have so much conviction that they are willing to be tortured, imprisoned or even die for their faith, it causes honest seekers to raise questions and come themselves to believe in Jesus Christ.
Verses 9-13 are describing a pretty tough environment for sharing the good news of salvation. Christians are being attacked, they are being put in prison, they are going on trial, children are betraying their parents and parents their children. Verse 13 concludes with Jesus saying that “everyone will hate you because of me.” Not something any of us would choose to go through if we had a choice to be sure. In fact, if you examine it with eyes wide open, it actually describes a tribulation, a great time of trouble for God’s people.
For those people who think this passage is talking about A.D. 70, look at verses 18-19. Here Jesus is saying that we need to pray that it would break out during Winter since we’d then be on the run and being on the run during Winter makes the whole ordeal that much tougher physically. Now look at verse 19, which period is Jesus talking about here? “because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.” He isn’t talking about A.D. 70. If you want to read the history of what happened in A.D. 70 I’d encourage you to read the account on Wikipedia.
No, Jesus isn’t talking about A.D. 70. He’s talking about the end of time. this is the grand climax for Satan’s efforts to stamp out true believers of God once and for all. Now AFTER this tribulation period, we find that the world starts going haywire. The plagues described in Revelation 8 and 9 and in chapter 16. Now the distress spreads to all of earth’s inhabitants. It seems like the earth itself is getting ready to vomit out its rebellious inhabitants once and for all.
Finally, we see Jesus coming back in Mark 13:26 and 27. The Son of Man comes in great power and glory and look at verse 27. He goes out and gathers his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens…
So the chronology goes something like this:
- A bunch of signs point to the approaching second coming including earthquakes, wars and famines.
- Massive, worldwide persecution breaks out against all of God’s people.
- The world starts going crazy with all manners of ‘acts of God’ which the world will attribute to natural phenomenon…
- Jesus Christ comes back and takes his people with him.
Now some people will try to tell you that the term ‘elect’ in verse 27 refers to the Jewish people and not to the Christian church. In a future series of articles I’ll be dealing with the question, who is a Jew and who are the true people of God? The answer may surprise you.
In the meantime, if you make the firm decision to place yourself on God’s side you have nothing to fear. Eternal life is assured to all who believe and do not doubt.
Feel free to comment on any of this above and I’ll do my best to answer the questions you may have…