Tribulation of the Church

Tornado - Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash
The book of Revelation portrays the followers of the “Lamb” exiting the “Great Tribulation,” as they persevere through it. This striking picture is central to the vision of the “innumerable multitude,” a company of men and women purchased from every nation 
 by the death of Jesus. They are seen standing triumphantly before the “Lamb” and the Throne in “New Jerusalem.” - [Tornado - Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash].

From the outset, John identified himself as a “fellow-participant” with the seven churches of Asia “in THE tribulation.” The term “tribulation” occurs five times in Revelation, and each time in relation to believersNOT to the lost. In other words, “tribulation” is what the churches endure. Invariably, in the New Testament, “tribulation” or thlipsis is applied to what disciples experience for the sake of the gospel - (Matthew 13:21, John 16:33, Revelation 1:92:9-107:14).

The summons to persevere through the “tribulation” is at the heart of Revelation. John was a “fellow-participant in the Tribulation and kingdom and endurance in Jesus.” Here, “tribulation” has the definite article or “the,” which signifies something known. In his exile on Patmos, John was participating in the same “tribulation” as the seven churches of Asia.

In the Greek sentence, the one definite article modifies all three nouns - Tribulation, Kingdom, Endurance. Each represents a different aspect of the same reality. To be “in Jesus” is to suffer for his kingdom.  John found himself exiled “because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” To suffer for the kingdom is what it means to reign with Christ. “Endurance” or hupomoné occurs six more times in the book, and always linked to believers who persevere. For example:
  • (Revelation 2:2-3) – “I know your works and your labor, and your endurance…And have borne and have endurance.”
  • (Revelation 2:19) – “I know your works, and charity, and service, and faith, and your endurance.”
  • (Revelation 3:10) – “Because thou hast kept the word of my endurance, I also will keep thee from the hour of trial.”
  • (Revelation 13:10) – “He who is for captivity into captivity goes; he to be killed with sword must with sword be killed. Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints.”
  • (Revelation 14:12-13) – “Here is the endurance of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”
Perseverance in persecution is how believers “overcome” to inherit the promises at the end of each of the seven letters to the churches. Nowhere in the book does Satan wage war against other nation-states; instead, he attacks the “seed of the woman,” overcoming “saints” who have the “testimony of Jesus” and “follow the Lamb wherever he goes” - (Revelation 2:9-10).

The “saints” are summoned “to be faithful unto death” in persecution and tribulation. They are to endure suffering faithfully, even when doing so means death. It is faithfulness in tribulation that results in their receiving the “crown of life” and the avoidance of the “second death.”

Faithful saints endure the “great tribulation,” a period during which followers of the “Lamb” are tried but also overcome the “beast” by means of their faithful “testimony.” After doing so, they find themselves “standing before the Throne and the Lamb” in the New Creation - (Revelation 7:9-17).

In contrast, while the “saints” experience “tribulation,” the unrepentant “inhabitants of the earth” undergo “wrath”; that is, the “second death,” the “lake of fire.” The book of Revelation nowhere equates “tribulation” with “wrath.” In the end, believers overcome the “Dragon by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because they love not their lives EVEN UNTO DEATH” - (Revelation 12:11).


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