Expect Tribulation

Disciples of Jesus should expect suffering on account of their faithful testimony. While it may not occur daily or in every believer’s life, persecution is not, or should not be, something unexpected or shocking to the Church. The primary cause is the faithful proclamation of the Gospel; however, when believers fail to preach the Good News to a hostile world, their sufferings for the sake of Jesus diminish, and persecution becomes a distant memory.

Christians should not be surprised or overwhelmed by the “fiery trial that comes upon them to prove them as though a strange thing was happening,” and this perspective is prominent in the Book of Revelation – (1 Peter 4:12).

Lighthouse Storm - Photo by Thomas Grams on Unsplash
[Photo by Thomas Grams on Unsplash]

In Chapter 7, for example, John saw countless followers of the “
Lamb” exiting the “Great Tribulation” to stand before the “Lamb” and the “Throne” after persevering in it. This striking image is central to his vision of the “Innumerable Multitude” comprised of men purchased from every nation by the lifeblood of Jesus. Having “overcome” every trial, they stand triumphantly before the “Lamb” in the holy city of “New Jerusalem.”

At the beginning of the Book, John identified himself as a “fellow participant” with the assemblies of Asia in “THE tribulation and kingdom and endurance.” In his exile on Patmos “for the testimony of Jesus,” he participated in the same “tribulation” endured by the “Seven Assemblies of Asia” – (Revelation 1:9).

The term “tribulation” occurs five times in Revelation and it is applied each time to the saints. “Tribulation” is what the followers of Jesus experience as opposed to the “wrath” inflicted on the wicked. Elsewhere, the word is applied to what disciples undergo for the sake of the Gospel - (e.g., Matthew 13:21, John 16:33, Revelation 1:9, 2:9-10, 7:14).

In the Greek text of Revelation 1:9, one definite article or “the” modifies all three nouns, Tribulation, Kingdom, and Endurance. Each term represents an aspect of the same reality. It is THE tribulation; namely, the same one out of which John saw the “Innumerable Multitude” exiting. To live faithfully “in Jesus” results in “tribulation” for his sake. To “endure” tribulation and persecution for his “kingdom” is how the believer overcomes and reigns with him – (Revelation 3:21).

The Greek term translated as “endurance” or hupomoné occurs six more times in the Book, and it is always applied to believers who persevere in persecution - (Revelation 2:2-3, 2:19, 3:10, 13:10, 14:12-13). Perseverance is how the saints “overcome” and thereby inherit the promises at the end of the letters to the “Seven Assemblies.”

The congregation in Smyrna is the most faithful of the Seven Assemblies, having endured false accusations and poverty. Yet remarkably, rather than escape from further suffering, Jesus promised them more:

  • Fear not the things which you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried; and you will TRIBULATION ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” – (Revelation 2:10-11).

Faithfulness in witnessing before a hostile society may entitle the disciple to endure even more for the sake of the Kingdom, as counterintuitive as that sounds. Perhaps this understanding reflects the exhortation of Jesus to rejoice whenever we are accounted worthy to suffer for him, “for great is your reward.”

The “Dragon” and his earthly vassals wage unrelenting war against the “saints,” not nations and governments. The target of his wrath is the Assembly, “those who have the Testimony of Jesus,” and his goal is to destroy it - (Revelation 12:17, 13:7-10).

FAITHFUL UNTIL DEATH


The slain “Lamb” summoned his “saints…to be faithful even unto death,” not only in the city of Smyrna but all believers throughout the period between his death and return. Every disciple is called to persevere. They must remain steadfast, even if doing so means martyrdom. It is faithfulness in tribulation and persecution that produces the “crown of life.”

The saints endure the “Great Tribulation,” the period during which the followers of the “Lamb” are tried to the maximum. They overcome the “Beast from the Sea” and the “Dragon” through their faithful “Testimony” and their willingness to become martyrs:

  • They overcame the Dragon by the blood of the Lamb, by the Word of their Testimony, and because they loved not their lives unto death” - (Revelation 12:11).

Death is not the end of the story for those who “follow the Lamb wherever he leads.” After persevering through the “Great Tribulation,” they will find themselves “standing before the Throne and the Lamb” in “New Jerusalem” - (Revelation 7:9-17).

New Day - Photo by Federico Respini on Unsplash
[Photo by Federico Respini on Unsplash]

In contrast, the unrepentant “
Inhabitants of the Earth” who enjoy peace and prosperity in this life will undergo “wrath,” namely, the “Second Death” in the “Lake of Fire.”

In the Book, “wrath” refers to the punitive sentence of God on His enemies, and nowhere is it equated with “tribulation.” Saints may suffer tribulation and persecution for a time, but the enemies of the “Lamb” that persecute his Church will pay an everlasting price.

As for the saints, “they will hunger no more, neither thirst, for the Lamb that is on the Throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to fountains of living waters, and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.”



RELATED POSTS:
  • Appointed for Tribulation - (The disciple who faithfully bears witness to the Gospel and Jesus will endure tribulation and persecution for his sake)
  • The Dragon's War - (In Revelation, Satan attacks the Lamb by persecuting his followers, the saints who have the Testimony of Jesus)
  • "Rejoice and Exult!" - (When disciples are persecuted for their faith, they should rejoice for being accounted worthy to suffer for Jesus and his Kingdom)

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