The Bible is clear, Christians will endure great tribulation in the “last days” and our Middle Eastern Christian brothers and sisters are already experiencing it.
The following extract from an article by P. E. Harris, pastor at Seely Community Church, is a heart-felt rendition of the dangers of believing the notion that the Great Tribulation will be God’s Wrath. The entire article is worth reading (click on READ MORE HERE at the end):
“A few days ago on a Sunday, a demoniacally deranged man shot up a Christian church in Sutherland Springs Texas. The shooter was a radical atheist who wanted to kill everyone in that church. The list of the dead range from an 18-month-old baby to a 77-year-old grandmother. Unfortunately, this kind of violence against churches has become the new norm in the United States, and Christians are genuinely perplexed how something like this could happen here. But this phenomenon is nothing new to the Church of Jesus Christ. Both our Lord and the Apostles warned us in Scripture that times of persecution would come upon the people of God. They warned us that tribulation would follow genuine devotion to Christ.
We orthodox evangelicals pride ourselves in our ability to rightly divide the Word of God. We preach and teach the Historical / Grammatical method of interpretation, and rightly so. To us, the idea of reading allegories or other foreign ideas into the text is reprehensible. We also tend to pride ourselves on our ability to weed out theological positions that are purely based on false traditions and cultic mysticism, rather than solid scriptural evidence. This is because we rightly believe the Word of God is the inerrant final authority on all matters of faith and practice. For the most part, orthodox evangelicals contend for these hermeneutical principles in every area of theology, with one exception, eschatology. When it comes to the end times, preachers use all kinds of poetic license to develop their pet theories. No longer do they adhere to the notion that the Bible interprets the Bible; and that context determines the exact meaning of words. With eschatology, they tend to speculate when the Bible is silent, and they diminish the clear meaning of God’s Word when it does not fit their narrative. With eschatology, all the rules are thrown out so they can change the meaning of words (just like cult leaders do) to support their aberrant end-time doctrines.
There is a massive multi-million dollar industry dedicated to the assumption that the great tribulation is equal to the wrath of God. These proponents of the pre-tribulation rapture make millions of dollars writing books and making movies assuring Christian they do not have to suffer persecution or tribulation for their faith prior to the rapture. But these massive, complicated and bulky theories are held up by the flimsiest of Scriptural speculation and wordplay. It is like trying to lift the weight of an elephant off the ground using a kite string. No matter how hard you try the weight will break that string. Defining the great tribulation as the wrath of God is the kite string that can’t support the theory. It is the lynchpin that connects the whole thing. Without it, the entire theory falls apart. The Left Behind doctrines are nothing more than giant sand castles, giving people the false hope of evacuation just prior to a tsunami of end-time persecution. So instead of soberly preparing people to face the tribulation to come, the American evangelical church is throwing parties in their fortresses made of sand. Instead of putting on the whole armour of God, the church is putting on its party hat. Instead of making solid disciples, the church is making spiritual revellers, drunk on the wine of end-time myths and fables. Once these notions are dispelled, the entire theory is washed away by the reality of Christ’s sobering predictions.
In Arndt and Gingrich’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, tribulation is defined by the Greek words thlibo and thipsis to primarily mean the distress of Christians as they are persecuted, afflicted and troubled by outward forces and circumstances. This definition is clearly taught by our Lord as He spoke to his disciples (the church) about the end-times,
“Therefore when you (the church) see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the house-top not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect sake those days shall be shortened.” (Matthew 24:15-22)
It is therefore evident by the context of Jesus Christ’s words that the great tribulation is defined as a time of horrible persecution of God’s elect, the church, who must flee from the wrath of Satan that comes by way of the Antichrist. The prophet Daniel said this period of time would last 3 ½ years and that “the power of the holy people (saints/elect) [would be] completely shattered.” (Daniel 12:7) Therefore the elect must endure through the great tribulation. This is the plain and correct meaning of both texts. And as the Lord tells us in the Book of Revelation,
“Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘Who are these arrayed in white robes, where did they come from?’ And I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ So he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’” (Revelation 7:13,14)
To come out of something means you first have to be in something. These are Christians who were martyred in the great tribulation. Thus, the great tribulation is not God’s wrath on unbelievers, but Satan’s antichristian wrath upon authentic blood bought believers in Christ. The term “elect” means anyone who is in Christ at the time.
Apostle Paul tells us Christians are not “appointed to wrath” (1 Thessalonians. 5:9) and Revelation reveals God’s wrath is not poured out on this earth until the trumpet and bowl judgements in the last year of the 70th week of Daniel.