Notice the title of this article did not include the words: “Great Tribulation”.
Nowhere in scripture can it be found stated that there is a singular event known as the “Great Tribulation” … as in a capitol “G” and a capital “T”!
“The Great Tribulation” is a man-made term that has been bandied about in Christian circles for over a hundred years and carries with it connotations and nuances that have caused extreme debates within every church wall. In fact, it has literally created “church walls” within the Body of Christ.
For this reason, and for the purpose of this article, discussion about “Pre-Trib”, “Mid-Trib” and “Post-Trib will be conspicuously absent.
However, when Paul and Barnabas went to Derbe and …
“… had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra…” (Acts 14:21)
“… and exhort(ed) them to continue in the faith, and that (they) must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22)
Even Jesus Christ himself declared that:
“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
This has been a pattern since Old Testament times when God continuously dealt with his “church in the wilderness” … and it continues to this day.
There have been many examples of saints suffering tribulation at the hand of their enemies. Just a quick perusal of Hebrews 13:37-39 will provide an insight to this phenomenon:
“They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented (of whom the world was not worthy)…”
“… they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”
“And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:”
It’s interesting to note that most of Hebrews 13 is devoted to illustrating how the tribulations that the Old Testament saints endured were directly connected to their “faith”. In fact, among students of the Word, this particular chapter is commonly referred to as “Faith’s Hall of Fame”.
Why the connection between “tribulation” and “faith”? The answer may surprise you! It has to do with the PROMISES of God.
As a young man, Joseph received a coat of many colors from his father, Jacob. This caused hatred to rise up in the hearts of his other brethren.
“And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.” (Genesis 37:4)
But this wasn’t what turned their hearts against Joseph enough to murder him. What really turned their hearts and stirred up true hatred among them was when he received a PROMISE from God:
“And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.” (Genesis 37:5)
Basically, his dream foretold of the time that his eleven brothers and his own mother and father would “bow down to him”. This was more than just a dream. This was God’s very word to Joseph. It was a word of promise that declared that he would, at some point in his life, be exalted above his entire family.
Of course, we know from our study of Genesis, that the word that God gave Joseph came to pass when he became exalted under Pharaoh in Egypt. His brethren and father did indeed “bow down” to his authority.
But this did not happen overnight. His brethren were going to have a part to play in all of this:
“And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.” (Genesis 37:8)
And his father also was displeased, so he rebuked him saying,
“What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?” (Genesis 37:10)
“And his brethren envied him…” (Genesis 37:11)
Reactions such as these are not new. The world will also envy and hate us for the promises that God has made to his saints. What greater promise could we have than that of “eternal life”? Jesus was the embodiment of “eternal life” and paid the ultimate price for it:
“But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” (Mark 15:9)
“For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for ENVY.” (Mark 15:10)
No wonder Jesus warned us that:
“If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” (John 15:19)
In other words, whether they realize it or not, the world envies us because we have been chosen of God to be His sons and daughters.
Talk about a “word” full of “promise”!
The problem is, this word causes a lot of conflict in our lives.
“If the world hates you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)
“The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you;” (John 15:20)
“But this cometh to pass, that the WORD might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.” (John 15:25)
Now, with this understanding, let us continue our study of Joseph.
Before this “word of promise” (i.e. his dream) was to be fulfilled, Joseph was going to experience temptation, affliction, persecution and tribulation that he was yet blissfully unaware of.
Without going into detail, over the next 15 years or so, Joseph would experience …
… being thrown into a well by his brethren intent upon murdering him.
… being sold to merchantmen travelling to Egypt.
… being sold as a slave to an Egyptian officer.
… being tempted to commit fornication on a daily basis over an extended period of time.
… being falsely accused!
… being imprisoned in a dungeon for a crime he didn’t commit.
… being totally forgotten by a man whom he had helped and that could have been instrumental in his release from prison.
Plus, we have no way of knowing to what degree of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual torment Joseph was forced to endure while all of these things were happening to him. The Word of God is silent on the issue.
However, what we DO know is, that all of these trials and tribulations that Joseph experienced, tried his “faith” in that “word of promise” that God initially gave him in the dream so many years previously.
Ponder the following scriptures, as they may just apply to us today:
“He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron:” (Psalms 105:17-18)
“Until the time that his word came…” (i.e. until Joseph’s dream was fulfilled)
“… the WORD of the Lord TRIED him.” (Psalms 105:19)
This is a truth that many Christians are blissfully unaware of.
When a Christian receives a word/promise/revelation into their heart from the Word of God, that very “word” will, at some point, be “tried”!
For example, if a Christian gladly receives the “word” exhorting them to…
“Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
… then you can be sure that he is going to have ample opportunity to have that “word” tested or tried by circumstances that come against him through unloving or hateful people.
It’s at that POINT in his walk with the Lord which will determine whether he will endure and obey the word he received with gladness, or whether he will fall away from that word and respond in anger, resentment and bitterness.
You see, that’s all tribulation is. It’s the trying of a Christian’s FAITH in the Word of God which he has received!
It’s the whole concept that Christ explained to his disciples:
“Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.” (Matthew 13:18)
“And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? …how then will ye know all parables?” (Mark 4:13)
Jesus was explicitly telling the disciples that understanding this parable was bedrock to understanding all of the parables … because it deals with the Word of God being sown into a person’s heart!
“The sower soweth the WORD.” (Mark 4:14)
“And these are they … which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;” (Mark 4:16)
“And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth FOR THE WORD’S SAKE, immediately they are offended.” (Mark 4:17)
Matthew uses a different word for “affliction”:
“Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth BECAUSE OF THE WORD, by and by he is offended.” (Matthew 13:21)
Also Luke writes it a little differently, not only introducing another word, but using a very sobering term:
“They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation FALL AWAY.” (Luke 8:13)
So, taken together, tribulation is simply a time of temptation, persecution and affliction that arises to “try” the Word of God that has been sown in a Christian’s heart. It’s not an EVENT … it’s a PROCESS for the glory of God within the life of a believer!
In the end time, there will be those who have been exercised by this process and had a work completed in them which will be apparent to all.
“But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:23)
And not to belabor the concept, but maybe to provide those of you who desire to search out some deeper insight, consider the following scriptures:
“Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.” (James 5:7)
“But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29)
As these days close out, keep in mind these words of wisdom:
“The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” (Psalms 12:6)
“Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.” (Daniel 12:10)
“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:” (1 Peter 1:22)
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Peter 1:23)
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