When we speak about “tribulation”, many think immediately about end times scenarios. However, we also need to look at our general attitude toward adversity. Let’s ask the question, “How is the normal believer to react to times of trouble?”
The New Covenant Greek word thlipsis is translated as “tribulation, affliction, trouble, anguish, persecution, burden and pressure.” It appears 45 times in the text. From a simple survey of the references:
7 do not seem to be relevant to this question;
38 speak of being strengthened, helped, encouraged and rescued in times of adversity;
0 times is there a promise that a believer will not encounter adversity, or that he will be removed from the world for the purpose of not dealing with adversity.
The Hebraic equivalent is צרה tsarah and is translated similarly as “trouble, affliction, adversity, anguish, tribulation, tightness.” It appears 73 times in the Law and Prophets. From a simple survey:
3 do not seem to be relevant to our question;
1 indicates being removed or avoiding;
69 times crying out to God, being protected, rescued, and strengthened in times of trouble.
Much of the prayer in Psalms is crying out to God during adversity. The Hebraic concept of salvation is a rescuing and protection during attacks from an enemy.
One of the aspects of our faith is dealing with times of trouble. God is particularly present in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1, 91:15). Since the prevailing world culture is immoral, the normative experience for people wanting to walk in righteousness is to have to face difficulty.
One of my concerns about the “pre-tribulation rapture” teaching is not only its incorrect eschatology, but the general attitude about dealing with adversity. This attitude seems to ignore the following: Faith helps us in the midst of difficulties. God rescues during trials and tribulations. Character is developed by dealing with difficult situations in faithfulness and patience. Revivals are often accompanied by persecution.
What Seed Are You?
Some form of adversity will inevitably come to us all. A person who does not know how to respond to adversity will be like the “second” seed of Yeshua’s parable in Matthew 13:21, “When tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, he immediately falls because he has no root; but only endures for a while.“
Both “pre-tribulation rapture” and “comfort only” – type messages are creating believers without root or character, who will not be able to endure during the difficult days ahead of us. Many will fall away quickly, as in Yeshua’s parable. Responding to adversity by faith and knowing God’s power for day-to-day deliverance are critically important for our generation.
“… confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
The message of the whole Bible gives us tremendous strength for times of adversity. We have victory in the midst of difficulty; not avoidance of adversity altogether.