“Ye shall have Tribulation.” These ominous words of caution can often cause a lot of mental trepidation, and yet they came from the very lips of Jesus Christ himself. The very same voice that said, “come unto me and I will give you rest” verbalized these words that sear the very heart, and can even torture the mind. In Jesus narrative about the impending events surrounding his crucifixion, he began his discourse in John 14 with the assuring words, “let not your heart be troubled”, yet near the end of his discourse he conveys to his disciples that gut-wrenching remark about suffering tribulation. To whom exactly was Jesus talking and what did he mean by such austere words, “ye shall have tribulation”? Were those words intended solely for the disciples? Do they have significance for every Christian? These words tend to send chills down ones spine. No one wants to hear that they might have to endure hardship. But tribulation….the mere mention of this word conjures up images of unspeakable horror. Why did our Lord Jesus use such strongly worded language? “Ye shall have Tribulation, but”
Historically, there has been a great deal of confusion about the word “Tribulation”.
Many theologians and writers have manipulated this particular word usage to teach that the church would endure the Great Tribulation era. While it might seem unfortunate that Jesus used the “t-word” in this setting, if we simply dig into the study of the trials and tribulations of Christian life, and contrast them to the terrible “time of trouble” that Israel will experience, it should clear away any confusion. The English word “tribulation” is the Greek word “thlipsis” and means to endure pressure, affliction, anguish, persecution, trouble and heavy burdens. This tribulation experience can be rendered to be literal or figurative according to the specific contextual definition. The passage of scripture where Jesus used that terrible word is found in John 16:33 and reads thusly:
John 16:32-33 Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
It is obvious very quickly when reading the opening line in this verse that a new age is about ready to dawn. Jesus makes it a point to emphasize that the hour, “his hour” had finally come. Early in his ministry, Jesus had alluded to the time of his hour. To his mother in John 2:4; Mine hour has not yet come. In John 4:21-25 Jesus informs the woman at the well that the hour is coming when mankind will worship God in spirit and in truth. (an allusion to the Church) In John 13:1 Jesus is contemplating his hour of departure from the world. (“Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.) Finally while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus concludes the following: (John 17:1 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.)
In verse 32 Jesus is clearly alluding to the events of his apprehension, isolation and crucifixion. Then it seems that he peers off past his resurrection to the era of Israel's dispersion, and the ensuing Church Age. Undoubtedly Jesus could contemplate the prophecy of Daniel 9:26 that foretold that Israel's Messiah would be cut-off, or as Revelation 12:5 depicts, being caught up into Heaven. Or perhaps he could reflect upon Zechariah 13:7 and realized that the smiting of the Shepherd would result in the scattering of the sheep. Ye shall be scattered. Israel was scattered around the world, but the church has been sent out to the uttermost parts of the world to preach the Gospel, and bring home all lost sheep. Israel rejected its shepherd, but the Disciples/Church accepted the Shepherd.
So with these few words, Jesus conveys two messages. One is to Israel, and the second is to that new entity that Jesus established through his death, burial, resurrection and ascension into Heaven. The Disciples were members of the house of Israel, but were also the foundational-rocks (Peter) upon which Jesus built the church. Thus they were recipients of both messages. Both institutions were called of God to separate themselves from the world, and to make themselves a peculiar people unto the Lord. (Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 14:2,II Corinthians 6:17, I Peter 2:9, Titus 2:14) Both institutions were chosen of God for a Divine mission. Israel delivered the Shepherd, then they smote the Shepherd, and thus became a nation scattered like sheep. In turn, Jesus became the sacrificial Lamb of God and arose from the dead as the Good Shepherd charging the Disciples to feed his sheep. (John 21:15-17) Thus the Church was born.
Jesus knew that just as the world had hated Israel, it would hold animosity towards the church. For it is a matter of Biblical fact that there is a natural enmity between Satan and Israel and between Satan and the Church. To be chosen of God is to become a target of Satan's devious schemes. Israel has always endured “tribulation in the world” because she was a nation separated unto God. But her epic time of “Great Trouble” would soon be prophetically parodied in the events surrounding the desolation of her Temple and the city of Jerusalem, the “Great Tribulation” or “Time of Jacob's Trouble” still lay out in the future when Jesus would return unto her. Clearly, Jesus is turning his attention away from Israel and to the Disciples themselves and the institution of the Church that they would be instrumental in shepherding. He lovingly informed them that they, like Israel, and like “He” himself would suffer tribulation because of that natural enmity between the world and God.
John 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
Jesus came into the world to call out a people for his name (Acts 15:14), and the world hated Jesus and put him to death. Jesus said that the servant is not greater than the master, and therefore if the master should suffer persecution, all his servants can expect to endure persecution also. These tribulations come upon the sheep because the world knows not the Lord that sent the Shepherd.
The hour of Jesus departure had come. He informs the Disciples that he must go away, but that he will send the “comforter” unto them and he will guide them unto all truth and sustain them in their afflictions, persecutions, anguish, burdens and tribulations. Jesus came into the world and the world knew him not and received him not, but it was his mission to send his sheep into the world. He had earlier instructed them to go like “lambs among wolves” out into this wicked world. Christians can expect to be emulators of Christ on his way to the cross while in this world. Jesus said; you must take up the cross and follow him. But in conveying the reality that Christians shall suffer tribulation in the world, Jesus did not leave his followers without hope. Irregardless of the trials or persecutions a Christian may endure, no power of the world can decimate the reality of salvation and the assurance of being with Christ.
Romans 8:35-36 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
For the Christian, he is in essence a virtual spiritual alien in a sinful world, a world that would prefer that he would simply go away. The world is made uneasy by the mere presence of Christians. Indeed a Christian is an Ambassador in a foreign land, and because he cannot be assimilated into the common culture of the land of his visitation, he is viewed as abnormal and an annoying impediment to the course of the natural man. Israel has experienced this same type of “peculiarity persona complex” in the world. Therefore a Christian will suffer anguish, distress, persecution and tribulation while in that foreign land. But every Christian has the assurance that his Lord will be with him through all these afflictions as discovered later by the Disciples and conveyed by them to all generations of Christians that have followed.
1 Thessalonians 3:3-4 That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.
2 Timothy 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
Hebrews 11:25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
The aforementioned pleasures of this natural world do not appeal to the separated brethren of Christ. The joy of an abundant life living in the richness of a righteous relationship with Christ is the commodity that makes the soul of a Christian exult with himself over the fulfillment of his heart desire for love. The master of evil and hate, Satan, is repulsed and threatened by personal emissaries of God's love in his worldly domain.
1 Peter 5:8-10 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.
But while the Christian is a temporary Ambassador in the world, he need not fear tribulation while in the world. Jesus has imparted the Holy Spirit (Comforter) to sustain us and enable us to overcome the adversary. It was expedient for us that as Christ departed he sent the comforter (John 16:7) so that Christians all around the world could overcome all tribulation.
I John 4:4 Ye are of God, little children (Christians), and have overcome them: (the world) because greater is he that is in you, than he (adversary) that is in the world.
But there is a vast difference between the “tribulation” experienced by the Saints and the “Great Tribulation” that shall come upon the world in the aftermath of the glorious trumpet sound for the recalling of God's Ambassadors to this world. Jesus alluded to a much different era of tribulation that shall befall the nation of Israel. Jesus utilized the Olivet Discourse to convey to the nation of Israel signs of his imminent return to Israel. These ominous signs were compared to the birth pangs of a woman ready to be delivered in childbirth. (Revelation 12:4-5) Jesus used the terminology, “Great Tribulation” to describe the epic world events that would ensue between him and the triad of leaders under the authority of the Great Red Dragon in the day that the Lord returns to do battle in Jerusalem. The term of Great Tribulation is comparable to Jeremiah's usage of the phrase, ”Jacobs Trouble” in the Old Testament. These verses give us a glimpse into the specific difference between the times of tribulation that a Christian Ambassador of Christ experiences while serving the Lord in this world, and the Great Tribulation that the nation of Israel is prophesied to endure prior to the return of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 24:21 For then shall be “great tribulation”, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
Jeremiah 30:7 Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.
So then, what is meant by Jesus usage of the phrase “Great Tribulation”? The Great Tribulation is to be distinguished from the general tribulation a believer faces in the world. It is also to be distinguished from God's specific wrath upon the unbelieving world at the end of the age. The “Great Tribulation” is a short (3.5 years) span of time in which the judgment of God will poured out upon the nations in the midst of Satan' all out war upon the nation of Israel. The entire seven-year long span of Israel's False Covenant with a False Christ is commonly called the Tribulation. It was the woman (Israel) that gave birth to the Messiah/Christ. The Church did not give birth to Christ, but rather Jesus founded the church and purchased her as his Bride and will therefore keep his Bride from the great hour his battle with the Antichrist.
As the Disciples came to Jesus on the Mount of Olives, they came inquiring about three things. (Matthew 24:3 And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?) The three inquiries were, (1) When shall the Temple and Jerusalem be destroyed, (2) What are the signs of his imminent return to the world, and (3) When shall the world come to an end? Undoubtedly the Disciples thought that all three of these things would happen together, but their questions involve three different eras of time. Thus Jesus expounded in detail about all three eras, and gave signs for all three episodes, some of which serve as prophetic paradigms. But in verse 21 of Matthew 24 Jesus conveys that Israel will endure a time of Great Tribulation after the event known as the “Abomination of Desolation” transpires. Old Testament prophet Daniel had alluded to this event 600 years earlier.
Daniel 9:27 And he (Antichrist) shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
This particular act of “abomination” is recalled by the Apostle Paul in his writing to the church at Thessalonica.
II Thessalonians 2:3-4 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day (the Lords Day) shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
So then the act of the “Abomination of Desolation” is a sign unto Israel that the recent “peace with security” covenant that she has entered into ( 3.5 years earlier) with the Coming Prince of this world is about to wreak terrible havoc upon her. Revelation 12:13 explains the intent of Satan and his False Christ.
Revelation 12:12-13 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
Yes the Devil is coming down to the earth having great wrath, and intent on finally exterminating the nation of Israel. But the Lamb of God is also coming to the earth possessed with wrath. (Revelation 6:17 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?) The book of The Revelation from chapter 4 through chapter 20 is explicit in the detail of terrible days of the Great Tribulation! The seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven vials are all prophetically emblematic of the wrath of God and portray the conflagration that will surround the battle for Jerusalem. But to all those who repent and reject the authority of the Antichrist during the Great Tribulation there is hope.
Revelation 7:14 These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Earlier I made reference to the reality that we as Christians and members of the faithful bride of Christ serve the Lord as Ambassadors in this world. As we have witnessed, we are not welcome in this world because we seek to shepherd people that are in the world away from the reign of Satan and into the fold of the Lamb. Someday the King of Kings shall return to this world, and we are charged to issue that call to all man-kind. The Antichrist/Satan being the enemy of Jesus Christ however wants to include as many people as possible as warriors in his Supernatural coup-de-tat. In Luke chapter 14:31-33 Jesus told a parable of a king that sent his ambassadors unto a foreign enemy country to consult with that people for the possibilities of peace. Let there be no misunderstanding; Jesus is coming back to this world to wage war against Satan and all who follow him.
But before the great General and King Jesus gathers together his army and embarks upon
his providentially designed mission to conquer his enemies stronghold, he will issue a recall of his Ambassadors in this world. Typically, when the leader of a nation can see no other recourse with another nation but to gather his army and engage in warfare, he will issue a diplomatic recall of all of his foreign ambassadors to that particular country. Soon that ambassadorial recall will come forth in the form of a blast on a trumpet! Our tribulations here in this battleground will be over, and we shall all go to join the great throng that is gathering for the Lord's army!
That glorious thought beckons me to return my concluding thoughts back to our initial scriptural setting.
John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Ahh! Jesus ended his remarks concerning all of our tribulations in this world with the victorious statement; “I have overcome the World”! This proclamation became valid with Jesus fulfilled mission upon the cross at Calvary, and his subsequent resurrection. Victory
in Jesus is more than just a song. We need ever troubled in our heart because Jesus is triumphant and is coming back for us, just as he stated in the opening of his discourse to the Disciples. (John 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled) But beyond the fact that Jesus has overcome the world is the fact that Christians have also overcome the world because of the Christ's victory over the world. Furthermore, as a Christian enduring tribulation while in this world, we can be cheerful in our heart because of the blissful hope that we have in him. That Blessed Hope is expressed as the certainty that all our tribulations shall melt into joy at the appearing of Jesus.
Titus 2:11-13 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ!
1 Peter 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
As an ambassador for Jesus Christ in this alien world, I can count it as a badge of honor when tribulation comes upon me. For I am not of this world, just as my Savior was not of this world and therefore am certain to become a vehicle that will be visited by tribulation.
But through the manifold trials and fiery persecutions, all we as Christians can take solace in the promise of the Lord that it will bring praise, honor and glory to Jesus Christ. All our tribulations will only serve to multiply the extreme joy of reigning with him when he appears to.
2 Timothy 2:10-12 Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him:
Therefore we shall see the glory which God the father has given unto Jesus Christ, for he has loved us from before the foundation of the world. We may weep and lament in this present world, but He shall turn our sorrows and tribulations into exceeding joy.
BE OF GOOD CHEER
Let not Your Heart be Troubled
“JESUS HAS OVERCOME THE WORLD”
Author: Darrell G. Young