Church in Tribulation

In Revelation, the saints experience “tribulation,” but the unrepentant “inhabitants of the earth” undergo “wrath.” 

Tornado - Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash
John saw the followers of the “Lamb” coming out of the “great tribulation,” having persevered through it. This image is central to the vision of the “innumerable multitude,” a company of men purchased from every nation by the death of Jesus. Having “overcome,” they stand before the “Lamb” and the “throne” in “New Jerusalem.” - [Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash].

At the beginning of the book, John identified himself as the “fellow participant” with the churches of Asia “in the tribulation and the kingdom and the endurance.” In his exile on Patmos - “for the testimony of Jesus” - he become a participant in the same “tribulation” that the “seven churches” were enduring in the Roman province of Asia.

TRIBULATION

The term “tribulation” occurs five times in Revelation. Each time it is used in relation to believers. In other words, “tribulation” is what Christians endure. Elsewhere in the New Testament, the term is applied to what disciples of Jesus experience for his sake. Moreover, being “accounted worthy” to suffer for him is a matter of great honor and privilege - (Matthew 13:21, John 16:33, Revelation 1:9, 2:9-10, 7:14).

In the Greek text, John used ONE definite article or “the” to modify all three nouns – THE Tribulation, Kingdom, Endurance. Each term represents an aspect of the same reality. To be “in Jesus” is to endure and suffer “tribulation” for his kingdom. And to suffer for the kingdom is what it means to reign with Christ.

The Greek term rendered “endurance” or hupomoné occurs six more times in the book, and always it is linked to believers who persevere - (Revelation 2:2-3, 2:19, 3:10, 13:10, 14:12-13).

Perseverance is how the church “overcomes” and inherits the promises found at the end of each of the letters to the “seven churches.”

Moreover, in Revelation, the “Dragon” and his vassals wage war against the “saints,” not against nation-states or governments - (“and the Dragon made war with those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus” - Revelation 12:17, 13:7-10).

Jesus summons his “saints…to be faithful even unto death” in persecution. They are to remain steadfast in trials, even when doing means death. It is faithfulness in tribulation that results in the receipt of the “crown of life.”

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

WRATH

In contrast to persevering saints, the unrepentant “inhabitants of the earth” undergo “wrath,” which is the “second death” in the “lake of fire.”

Wrath” refers to the judicial sentence of God against his enemies, and nowhere in the book is it equated with “tribulation.” The “churches” endure “tribulation,” but they do not undergo “wrath.” That is reserved for His enemies and those who afflict His people.

Finally, 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.” For the followers of the “Lamb,” martyrdom does not mean defeat, but instead, victory - (Revelation 12:11).



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