Tribulation means “The Day of the Lord” which will come about in the “last days.” It also means “sufferings” as the Greek word “thlipsis” means “sufferings” and the Hebrew for “sufferings” means a “time of distress”. This term has been wrought with controversy in the last 100 years. I, for time’s sake, will not explore all the theories in depth (because most of them are just like the nuts left over from a squirrel convention and miss the point); however, we will look further as we progress in the book of Revelation.
Tribulations also refer to the hardships we face. The same word in the Greek is found at: (Matt. 13:21; 24:9; 24:21; 24:29; Rom. 2:9; 5:3; 8:35; 12:12; Col. 1:24; Heb. 10:33; Rev. 1:9; 2:10; 2:22, to name a few), meaning afflictions, anguish, distress, persecution, trouble, and of course as tribulation as singular and plural. In Daniel, it is the period of suffering instigated from God because of the world’s wickedness and denial of Him. God does not always cause those hardships to go away; rather, He carries us through and uses them to bring about our maturity and character. Trials build faith and character, allowing us to be better used to glorify Him. Trials are not a personal attack against us; rather, they allow God to work more deeply in us to make us of better use to Him, and for the sake of others.
The Great Tribulation is the time Jesus warned of (Matt. 24) as the ending of the age (Rev. 6-19), and the week is a day of the Lord found in Daniel (Dan. 12:1; Thess. 5:2). These accounts are described in various ways in Scripture; “the day of the Lord,” “tribulation(s)” and “Jacob‘s trouble” are found throughout Scripture. Besides the examples already referenced above, we also see it in Isa. 2:11, 17, 20; 6:5; Jer. 30:7; Amos 5:18; 8:9; Joel 1:15; 2:2-11; Zeph. 1:14; Dan. 9:27, 12:1; Matt. 24:21; and Rev. 7:14; 16:17-21.
Many believe this has already taken place, as in the “Preterist” view. Josephus, an early Jewish historian who was there during the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, describes the devastation similarly to how Jesus foretold it. Others (Futurists) believe this only applies to a future period of great distress at the end of the age before Christ’s Second Coming. Still others, such as the Historicists, see it as cycles that keep repeating. A more balanced biblical view would include both; sufferings will keep coming and they will culminate in a final fruition of great turmoil before His return.
The point of tribulation is not the specifics or when or how; rather, it is our God, who wants us focused upon Him as Lord. What we learn in our preparations is far more valuable than what will come about in our theories. Its principle purpose is to reveal Christ as Lord and the end of the age. It also gives us firm instructions on how to live our lives by being faithful to Christ and receiving His promises as well as His warnings in our life now (Jer. 22.10: 30:7; Amos 5:16-17; Matt. 24:21; Rom. 5:1-11; Rev. 2: 1-7).
However, neither The Great Tribulation, or tribulations in general are to be feared, as the righteous will receive the comfort of Christ in tribulation, for He is still loving and shepherding us through (Isa 25:8; 66:13-14; Matt. 5:4; John 14:16-18; Rev 21:4). Remember, this is not just about what will or may happen, but how we are through it (Isa. 35:10; 51:11). No matter what is facing us and no matter what we have experienced, what we go through in life is meant to form our character and maturity. What we learn is what we carry into eternity. When we fail and do not overcome, it is disappointing in our Lord’s sight. Being faithful is the key that opens to us the door to living in the New Jerusalem (John 13:34; 16:33; Phil. 1; 1 John 4:20; 5:4-5; Rev. 2:11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:1-22:5).
Here are some more popular terms on this:
- Preterism means “fulfilled eschatology,” or that the date, 70 A.D. that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24 was all fulfilled. The Tribulation teaching is in reference to the rapture and resurrection of the saints that has already occurred; we are now living in the millennial age.
- Partial Preterism means some things have been fulfilled, but Christ has not yet come back.
- Pre-tribulation. This view teaches that the Church will not go through the tribulation but will be “raptured” away to heaven. The Tribulation is specifically to break the will of Israel and save them as a nation, as well as to have the world repent because of the judgments found in the book of Revelation.
- Mid-tribulation refers to a mid seventieth-week rapture. The church will be taken out before the Great Tribulation which occurs when the Antichrist goes into the Temple and declares himself God approximately 1,260 days before Christ comes back.
- Post-tribulation believes that Christ will come back at the end of the Tribulation and those who remain alive through it are raptured. There are four views within this position as well: Classic, semi-classic, futurist, and dispensational.
- Partial-rapture subscribes that only those who are watching, waiting, and are making themselves prepared will go.
- Pre-rapture-wrath is a three-fourths view that believes the church will go through much of the tribulation to purify and perfect the bride.