One of the most frequently asked questions, when it comes to the Bible is what is the biblical meaning of tribulation?
Tribulation Can Have Different Meanings
The word “tribulation” comes from the Greek word thlipsis and it means affliction and/or distress. In general the word tribulation is used to describe any kind of testing, affliction, or distress which people experience throughout life. In the Bible, the term tribulation refers to a specific eschatological time of trouble, a special time of judgement from God that will impact the entire world, will be unprecedented in its affliction, and will be culminated by the return of Jesus Christ.
The word eschatology is derived from two Greek root meanings – last and study. These meanings involve the study of the “end things”. Christian eschatology looks studies and discusses matters such as death and the afterlife, heaven and hell, the second coming of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead, the rapture, the tribulation, millennialism, the end of the world, the last judgment, and the new heaven and new earth in the world to come.
The Bible anticipates the time of trouble several times; however, Matthew 24:4-21 and Revelation 6-19 are two of the most well-known mentions. Then in Matthew 24:9, Mark 13:19, 24; and Revelation 7:14 the passages discuss trouble preceding the return of the Lord. Each of the passages are dealing the time of Daniel’s seventieth week which is also referred to as the “time of Jacob’s distress”.
Even though the Bible cites many things, futurists do not all share the same views as to what will happen to Christians during the tribulation. Pre-tribulationists believe that all Christians (dead and alive) will go to heaven, right before the rapture is about to happen. This theory says that Christians will escape the trials of the tribulation.
Mid-tribulationists believe that the rapture will occur about halfway through the tribulation – which will be a seven-year period that is divided into halves (the beginning of the sorrows and the Great Tribulation).Post-tribulationists believe that Christians will not be taken into Heaven for an eternity; however, Christ will gather everyone and together they’ll descend to establish the Kingdom of God on earth once the tribulation is over.
Biblical Instances of Tribulation
The Bible teaches Christians who follow Christ and God’s Word, and who practice his commandments will face tribulation. Some of the specific examples in the Old Testament include:
- Genesis 4:4-10: Abel offering a better sacrifice than Cain
- 2 Peter 2:7: A righteous man who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men
- Genesis 19:9: Breaking pressure in Sodom
- 1 Kings 18:25-49: Elijah who spoke against the prophets of Baal
- 1 Samuel 9-27: David conducted himself in a godly manner despite the machinations and pursuit of Saul
- Jeremiah 9:11, Jeremiah 9:13-16: Jeremiah spoke God’s message of condemnation against Judah for his sins and coming judgement
Some of the examples in the New Testament include:
- Mark 6:21-29: John the Baptist spoke out against the adultery of Herod Antipas and was beheaded
- Acts 6:5; 7:1-60: Stephen, the deacon, preached the gospel before the Sanhedrin and proclaimed God’s judgment because of the sins of the people were rejected and stoned
- 2 Timothy 4:6-8: Paul was persecuted, beaten, and imprisoned as he preached from place to place, and was eventually killed in Rome.
- Matthew 4:17: Jesus himself preached God’s grace and judgment
Understanding the events of the Bible will help followers better understand the biblical meaning of tribulation. However, because there are so many different meanings and perceptions of tribulation it is also important to know the verses. Here are the bible verses specifically featuring the word tribulation:
- I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
- For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be (Matthew 24:21).
- Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth (Revelation 3:10).
- Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
- For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
The concept of tribulation means evil is stronger than ever before. When the Great Tribulation occurs, Christians will claim the Spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. Faith in Christianity will provide followers with the sense of urgency, anticipation, and evangelism.
No matter what your perception is on tribulation, it is important to understand the generalities associated with spiritual tribulation. Knowing where tribulation is specifically mentioned in the Bible and how it affected the biblical characters is imperative to understanding how the world will one day change and the fate of everyone on Earth.