<<intense distress>>

Because of sin, trials and suffering affect every aspect of our existence, yet as Christians when we respond to adverse situations in a godly way we can rejoice that the affliction is achieving for us an eternal reward, although such hardships can be the reason some turn away from following Christ (Mt 13:21;  Jn 16:33; Act 14:22; Rom 5:1-5; 2 Cor 4:17,18; 1 Pet 1:6,7). Hardship tests our resolve, producing staying power and maturity of character, enabling us to stand alongside others and pass on the comfort we ourselves have received from God in our times of trouble (2 Cor 1:3-5). Jesus endured the cross by looking beyond the present, intense pain to the reward that would come (Heb 12:2). Currently many people throughout the world, both believers and non-believers, who live under ruthless regimes are harassed, tortured and even killed because they hold to different ideologies.

The Biblical tribulation

Although all forms of trouble and affliction can be called tribulations, there is a distinct Tribulation or period of intense suffering which will affect all humanity, as opposed to persecution that is only experienced by those against whom it is specifically directed (Mt 24:3-14; Mk 13:5-32; Lk 21:5-28). This end time event will begin with the Antichrist (an

Pray for strength to withstand evil                           wherever it emerges

evil influential person who tries to take the place of Christ) making a peace treaty or covenant with the world powers for a seven-year period. As he exercises global political and religious control so humanity will be forced to worship him or suffer economic sanctions and death (Rev 13:4,8,15-17). After only 3½ years the antichrist will break the covenant, and this latter period will be felt as the Great Tribulation because of humanity’s decadence and depravity which will intensify the judgements of God (Jer 30:7; Dan 7:25;  Mt 24:15-29; 2 Thes 2:3).

As God is meting out His just punishment on an unbelieving world, He will also be restoring Israel to faith and extending grace to all who believe, both Jew and Gentile, with a vast multitude of people from all people groups receiving salvation and remaining loyal to God through this time (Rev 7:9,14, 20:4).   Organized religion will submit to his control, with fierce hatred directed against true believers and God’s purposes (Mt 24:21; Rev 13:7). Although many will be martyred for their faith, “because they obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” there will also be numerous miracles of provision and protection of those remaining steadfast in their faith (Rev 3:10, 12:17, 15:2). God’s wrath, expressed in various harsh forms of judgment, will be poured out on the earth, aiming at the Antichrist and all who support him. The Jewish people will finally recognise and accept Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah. This will infuriate the Antichrist who will specifically target them, leading to the battle of Armageddon, where God triumphs by crushing all that is evil and opposed to Him.

Immediately after all this, Christ will return to the earth to gather the believing Jews and those who have become Christians during the tribulation, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” following the rapture – which is when those who are Christians before this event will be taken to heaven (Mt 24:30,31; Rev 7:14). These tribulation saints have turned to Christ because of the dire circumstances in the world because of the Antichrist's reign and God will reward them (Rev 7:15-17). So although it is a time of great trouble (also termed the "time of Jacob’s trouble") it will also be a time of great grace with all who call on the name of the Lord being saved (Jer 30:7,22; Joel 2:32; Zech 12:10; Rom 10:13). Even as God is meting out His just punishment on an unbelieving world, He will be restoring Israel to faith and extending grace to all who believe, both Jew and Gentile. God has always been in the business of saving people, and that salvation will still be available during the tribulation. However, don’t wait until then, receive Jesus now (Jn 1:12).

Interpreting Scripture’s teaching

Both Daniel and John had many visions and dreams, which refer to these end times events (Dan 7:25, 9:24-27, 12:10-13; Rev 6:1-19:21). Because of the nature of these, there is considerable debate among

Keep your eyes on Christ

Christians about the interpretation of various Bible verses related to the sequence of events and the timing of the rapture. There are three main opinions – a pre-tribulation rapture (occurring before the tribulation), mid-tribulation (after 3½ yrs), and post-tribulation (at the end of the tribulation) when it is referred to as the second coming (or appearing) of Christ. As it is uncertain when true believers are “caught up to be with Christ”, be prepared for the purifying persecution and even the privilege of dying for your commitment to Christ, knowing that by remaining loyal to God you will be rewarded with eternal life (1 Thes 4:17; Rev 12:11). Regardless of how the events transpire ensure you have a growing dependence on God, characterised by a listening ear and obedient heart that responds to His voice. As economic hardships and food supplies diminish this will force a greater reliance on Christ – “Look[ing] up for your redemption is drawing near” (Lk 21:28). At all times our focus should be on Christ who sides with us, rather than the physical situations that are difficult for us. “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear Him who is able to destroy both the soul and body in hell” (Mt 10:28). The bottom line is it is vital to know you are a Christian, and are living a holy life. Plan as if the rapture will not happen in your lifetime, but live as if it may in five minutes! His grace is more than sufficient for any challenge we will face. God’s wisdom and ways are beyond our comprehension but He ultimately has things under His control. Under no circumstance accept the 'mark of the beast' on your body – doing so dooms a person to a lost eternity (Rev 14:9-12).

See also: Antichrist, controversial issues, end times, mark of the beast, new world order, persecution, problems, rapture, second coming, suffering, thankfulness/thanksgiving, trials, trouble.

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