I have been seeing a great deal of commentary on the Internet about how people are convinced the Tribulation is not far away. There was a time that I would have agreed with them, but that time is long since past for me. I have learned too much about the Scriptures to hold to this teaching, but I am concerned for those who still do. You see, the Scriptures actually say something much different from what most of us have been taught and, if we do not know the truth, when the hour of testing comes and things do not go the way we had expected, it may cause many to fall away from their faith. So that this will not happen to you, I would like to share what I have learned about The Tribulation with you — in the hope that it will strengthen your faith and not weaken it at a time when you will need to be your most resolute.
I will just get straight to the point: the Scriptures do not teach about a seven year period immediately before the return of Messiah called ‘The Tribulation!’ Yes, you read that correctly: the Scriptures do not teach this understanding. In fact, they teach us a much different understanding of tribulation. Lest I lose you before I can prove my point, let me prove my point by asking you to read the following verse very, very carefully:
Revelation 1:9 New American Standard Bible
The Patmos Vision
I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
Do you understand what you just read? John is telling us that, as he writes around the year 90 AD, he is already in the tribulation with the rest of the brotherhood. This clearly indicates that the tribulation had already started. But, please, understand that this is not the first place in the Greek New Testament where we find the word we translate as ‘tribulation.’
The Greek word in question is, θλῖψις (thlipsis). This is the root word. There are other variations of it. For example, in Rev 1:9, John uses the word, θλίψει (thlipsei). All told, the word, thlipsis, or some form of it, is used more than 60 times in the Greek New Testament. Because it hasn’t been translated as ‘tribulation’ every time we encounter it, we don’t realize how many times it is used. However, the word always has the same meaning in the original Greek:
2347 thlípsis – properly, pressure (what constricts or rubs together), used of a narrow place that “hems someone in”; tribulation, especially internal pressure that causes someone to feel confined (restricted, “without options”).
2347 /thlípsis (“compression, tribulation”) carries the challenge of coping with the internal pressure of a tribulation, especially when feeling there is “no way of escape” (“hemmed in”).
[By contrast, 4730 (stenoxōría) focuses on the external pressure exerted by circumstances.]
[NOTE: I have posted a link and list of several of the instances where ‘thlipsis’ is used in the Greek but translated differently in English. You can find it at the end of this post.]
Here is what I would like for believers to understand: the Scriptures teach us that we are going to experience ‘thlipsis’ (tribulation) from the time Yeshua ascended until He returns. Yeshuah tried to warn us, but — as most often happens — we did not listen or, if we did, we have not properly understood:
John 16:32-33 New American Standard Bible
32 Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
While it is true, there may be a more intense period of tribulation near the Lord’s return, it is just as likely that ‘the Great Tribulation’ is the Lord’s term for what we call The Church Age. All I ask is that you keep this possibility in mind, especially since this understanding fits what is written much better than what most of us have heard taught by men.
Now, here is what I hope believers will take away from this post (which is the reason I wrote it);
1 — Understand that both Yeshua and the Apostle, John, who Yeshua loved, tell us that we are already in and will have tribulations, and we will have them until He returns.
This means that we should not expect that The Tribulation is a specific period that will come right before Yeshua returns. True, it is possible that the tribulations we experience in this world may become much more difficult to endure. This may be what Yeshua meant by a ‘great’ tribulation, like none before. But it may also be that Yeshua was referring to the period between His ascension and return. Scripture is not clear on this point, so it is dangerous to speculate — or worse — add to what is actually written.
2 — The meaning of the word, ‘thlipsis’ which we translate as ‘tribulation,’ is connected to an inner pressure or struggle. We should be aware that there is a different Greek word that could and most likely would have been used had the prophets intended us to understand ‘tribulation’ as an outward threat. That word is stenochória. This clearly suggests that ‘thlipsis’ (tribulation) is the Lord’s way of saying that we will be forced to battle between His calling and our own fleshly desires. Surely, as believers, we can see this. How often does the world call us to do something the Lord says we should not do, and how often do we find ourselves at war with our self over whether or not we will give in to the world or obey the Lord? Personally, I find myself in these struggles many times every day, and I lose as often as I win. Well, this is ‘thlipsis’ (tribulation), and we have been in it since the Lord ascended.
Finally, why is all of this important? The answer should be clear, but, at the risk of sounding as though I am lecturing the choir, I’ll explain:
If believers are taught that the tribulation is a period that will come right before the end of time, and the image they have in their minds never materializes, then those who are alive right before the Lord returns may be lead astray as a result. If we are convinced that Scripture teaches something that does not happen, or at least, it doesn’t happen the way we expect, it can be easy to lose faith. We start to doubt the Lord’s Word, and the call of the scoffers in the world starts to ring with more truth to us than the Scriptures. In fact, many have already fallen away from the faith because their understanding of Scripture has not matched what they believed it to mean. Well, I do not wish for this to happen to you, which is why I wrote this post:
So that you will be aware of the possibility that what you have been taught about the Tribulation may not be what the Scriptures actually say. As always, you have to read, study and decide for yourself. All I ask is that you be sure to pray about this one, and try hard to let the Spirit speak to you. Remember, if you think you hear an answer that disagree with Scripture, you need to keep praying because that was not the voice of the Lord 🙂
From Blue Letter Bible
A partial list of the use of Lexicon :: Strong’s G2347 – thlipsis in the Greek New Testament
Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation G2347 or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, G2347 and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.For then shall be great tribulation, G2347 such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.Immediately after the tribulation G2347 of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction G2347 or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.For in those days shall be affliction, G2347 such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.But in those days, after that tribulation, G2347 the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, G2347 for joy that a man is born into the world.These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: G2347 but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.And delivered him out of all his afflictions, G2347 and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: G2347 and our fathers found no sustenance.Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution G2347 that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation G2347 enter into the kingdom of God.Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions G2347 abide me.Tribulation G2347 and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, G2347 or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble G2347 in the flesh: but I spare you.For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble G2347 which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:For out of much affliction G2347 and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.For our light affliction, G2347 which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, G2347 in necessities, in distresses,Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation. G2347How that in a great trial of affliction G2347 the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations G2347 for you, which is your glory.The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction G2347 to my bonds:Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions G2347 of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, G2347 with joy of the Holy Ghost:That no man should be moved by these afflictions: G2347 for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction G2347 and distress by your faith:So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations G2347 that ye endure:Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation G2347 to them that trouble you;Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; G2347 and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, G2347 and to keep himself unspotted from the world.I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, G2347 and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.I know thy works, and tribulation, G2347 and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation G2347 ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, G2347 except they repent of their deeds.