Jesus' disciples asked for signs of His return. He told them His return would be preceded by "great tribulation," a period of time so terrible that no one would have experienced anything like it from the beginning of time, or ever again.1
Only God knows the timing of all things, so even though we cannot know the hour of His coming, He did say there would be signs pointing to the approaching time. There has always been tribulation, as can be seen throughout the Old and New Testaments and the history of the Ekklesia of God, but the terrible time of "great tribulation" of which Jesus spoke is seen by many as a specific seven-year period which takes place just before the Second Coming of Christ. The "seven years" was derived from an erroneous assumption, when it is very clear that the “Great Tribulation” is 42 months.
While exiled on the Isle of Patmos, John saw in his visions the souls of the martyrs who were slain during this horrible time. He said that he was also the "brother and partaker" with them in the "tribulation, kingdom and patience which are in Jesus"; even at that particular time in history.2 If John recognized the signs of the times of which Jesus spoke, how much more might we today!
The word "tribulation" comes from the Greek word "thlipsis," which means "pressure (literally or figuratively)" and is translated into these English words: "afflict(-ed, -tion), anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble."3 Jesus said, "In the world ye have tribulation [pressure]: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33b). Then, in Acts 14:22b, we find that "through many tribulations [pressures] we must enter into the kingdom of God."
To use the correct meaning of "tribulation," we must emphasize that people will experience great pressure. Many will suffer physical afflictions, but more than anything the pressure will be spiritual because Satan's primary focus is on keeping man from the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The work of the antichrist spirit is so deceptive that man cannot begin to fathom its insidiousness.
Paul the Apostle spoke of the pressures and the reason for them: ". . . so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations [pressures] that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer." (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5 NKJV).
To be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God, we must endure tribulation and persecution--we cannot avoid its purifying effect. The final purification of the church will be accomplished through great tribulation. The apostate church will have a final opportunity to follow Jesus, but it will not be easy. As Jesus said to the Ekklesia at Philadelphia, it will be an hour of trial, "which is to come upon the whole world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." (Revelation 3:10b).
Following this, Jesus said that He is coming quickly, and we are to hold fast that which we have, so as not to be robbed of our crown. If we overcome, we will be made a "pillar" in God's temple, never to go out again. Then Jesus said, "I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which descends from My God out of heaven, and My own new name." (Revelation 3:12b Amplified).
All true believers will maintain a steadfast faith in Jesus, while some pseudo-believers, who are yet flesh, will turn against Him. In their fleshly minds they will believe they have been "faithful" to Him, but they will have missed the mark. Satan has deceived them, and it is too late. Oh, how easy it is for God's people to be deceived, unless we hold to a love of the truth!4 It is little wonder there will be only a remnant saved! Jesus also said, "Howbeit when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8b). During great "pressure," many will be robbed of their faith in Jesus through the deceitfulness of the antichrist spirit.
It is no secret that Paul the Apostle suffered much. After describing some of what he had endured for the sake of the Gospel, he said, "For our light affliction [pressure], which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory." (2 Corinthians 4:17). His faith never wavered, and he said that the "things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." (Verse 18).
Throughout the New Testament many references can be found regarding the last days. Peter made one such reference, as he spoke of Jesus' coming as Savior and how He was "manifest[ed] in these last times for you."5 Peter speaks of the last times being as early as the Lord's first coming, which tells us that the past two thousand years have been the "last days." Hebrews 1:2 also tells us, "[God] hath in these last [Greek: final]6 days spoken unto us by his Son." (KJV).
The bible teaches us that evil will become more prevalent in the end times. We can see just how evil, in Paul's words to Timothy: "But know this, that in the last days grievous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, railers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection [hard-hearted toward kindred]7, implacable, slanderers, without self control, fierce, no lovers of good, traitors, headstrong, puffed up, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God; holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof: from these also turn away." (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
Have we, the 'church,' reached a place where we simply overlook those things which Paul said would make for "grievous times?" Look at what he said about those mentioned above: "For of these are they that creep into houses, and take captive silly women laden with sins, led away by divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." (2 Timothy 3:6-7).
Why should we escape?
Movies have been produced and books written describing all the dreadful things that will befall those terrible sinners after the church is rescued from the terror of tribulation. Why does an apostate church believe she is so favored by God that she should not suffer, when true believers have suffered persecution since the Ekklesia of God was born?
The prophet Jeremiah spoke of this frightful time as "Jacob's trouble"8, referring to Israel; and Daniel gave a detailed description of war against, and the "wearing out," of saints.9 Daniel also speaks of the destruction of the "mighty and the holy people."10 The book of Revelation adds confirmation by warning us that the beast will wage war on the saints.11
In His mercy, God is calling His people to "come out of her [Mystery Babylon]." (Revelation 18:4). In the end, God will separate the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares, and the true from the false. A great shaking is already beginning to happen. Jesus is preparing His Bride and calling forth the Remnant who has been faithful to Him.
1. Matthew 24:21
2. Revelation 1:9
3. Greek #2347
4. 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12
5. 1 Peter 1:20b
6. Greek #2078
7. Greek #794
8. Jeremiah 30:7
9. Daniel 7:21-25
10. Daniel 8:24
11. Revelation 13:7