Disciples and Tribulation

In the Book of Revelation, saints undergo tribulation, but the unrepentant Inhabitants of the Earth receive wrath, namely, the Second Death. The New Testament exhorts followers of Jesus to expect tribulation because of their faith. While it may not be an everyday experience in the life of the Body of Christ, neither is tribulation for the sake of the Kingdom unexpected. The chief cause of trials and persecution in the life of the disciple is his or her faithful witness of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

This understanding is especially prominent in the Book of Revelation. In Chapter 7, for example, John saw countless followers of the “Lamb” from every nation exiting the “Great Tribulation” after persevering through it.

Tornado Storm - Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash
[Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash]

This striking image is central to his vision of the “
Innumerable Multitude” that is comprised of men purchased from every nation and people by the lifeblood of the “Lamb.” Since they have “overcome” in every trial and tribulation, they are found standing triumphantly before the “Lamb” and the “Throne” in the “Holy City, New Jerusalem.”

At the beginning of the Book, John identified himself as the “fellow participant” with the Seven Assemblies of Asia “in the tribulation and Kingdom and Endurance in Jesus.” In his exile on the Isle of Patmos - “for the testimony of Jesus” - he participated in the same “Tribulation” endured by the assemblies.

THE TRIBULATION


The term “tribulation” occurs five times in Revelation. Each time it is used in relation to believers. In other words, “tribulation” is what the followers of the “Lamb” experience. Elsewhere in the New Testament, the word is applied likewise to what the disciples of Jesus undergo for his sake - (Matthew 13:21, John 16:33, Revelation 1:9, 2:9-10, 7:14).

In the Greek text of John’s declaration, ONE definite article or “the” modifies all three nouns - Tribulation, Kingdom, 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 stand before the Lord.

To live faithfully “in Jesus” results in “tribulation” for his Kingdom, and to suffer for him is what it means to reign with Christ.

The Greek term rendered “endurance” in John’s statement, or hupomon√©, occurs six more times in the Book, and it is always linked to believers who persevere in persecution - (Revelation 2:2-3, 2:19, 3:10, 13:10, 14:12-13), and perseverance is how they “overcome” and inherit the promises found at the end of each of the letters to the “Seven Assemblies.”

The “Dragon” and his earthly vassals wage unrelenting warfare against the “saints,” not with nations or governments. The object of Satan’s wrath is the church, the Assembly of God composed of “those who have the Testimony of Jesus” - (Revelation 12:17, 13:7-10).

FAITHFUL UNTIL DEATH


The “Lamb” who was slain to redeem his people now summons 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 his return. They must remain steadfast in trials, even when doing so means violent death.

Overcoming saints endure the “great tribulation,” the period during which the followers of the “Lamb” are tried to the max. However, they overcome the “Beast from the Sea” and the “Dragon” by their faithful “testimony.”

After persevering through “tribulation,” the saints will find themselves “standing before the Throne and the Lamb” in the New Creation - (Revelation 7:9-17).

In contrast to persevering saints, the unrepentant “Inhabitants of the Earth” undergo God’s “Wrath” - the “Second Death” in the “Lake of Fire,” and “Wrath” refers to the judicial sentence of God on His enemies. Nowhere does the Book equate “wrath” with “tribulation.”

Thus, the “Seven Assemblies of Asia” endure “tribulation,” but they do not undergo the “wrath” of God. That is reserved for the enemies of the “Lamb” who afflict his people, and it will be meted out at the “Great White Throne of Judgment.”

Those who would follow Jesus “wherever he goes” overcome the “Dragon by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because they love not their lives even unto death.” They remain faithful in their testimony even at the cost of their own well-being, wealth, security, and even their lives - (Revelation 12:11).



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