When we speak about “tribulation,” many think immediately about end times’ scenarios. However, we also need to look at our general attitude toward adversity. 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:
- Thirty eight speak of being strengthened, helped, encouraged, rescued while going through times of adversity
- Seven do not seem to be relevant to this question
- ZERO times is there a promise that the believer won’t encounter adversity or be removed from the world for the purpose of not dealing with adversity (!)
In Hebrew tsarah is the equivalent of the Greek thlipsis. Tsarah is translated as “trouble, affliction, adversity, anguish tribulation, tightness.” It appears 73 times in the Law and Prophets. Again in a quick survey:
- Sixty nine speak of crying out to God, being protected, rescued and strengthened while going through times of trouble.
- Three do not seem to be relevant
- One instance of affliction being removed or avoided
Much of the prayer in the Psalms is crying out to God during adversity. The Hebraic concept of salvation is rescuing, repentance, purification and protection during attacks from an enemy.
One of the aspects of our faith is learning to deal 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. 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?
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.
Acts 14:22 – “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.”
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.
*Editor’s note: This subject matter is so relevant to this season that we are reposting it from the 2017 archive.