Tribulation of the Church

In Revelation, faithful saints experience “tribulation,” whereas, the unrepentant undergo “wrath.” 

Tornado Alley - Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash
In 
Revelation, the followers of the “Lamb” are seen exiting the “Great Tribulation,” having persevered through it. This striking picture is central to the vision of the “innumerable multitude,” a company of men and women purchased from every nation by the death of Jesus. Having “overcome,” they are portrayed standing triumphantly before the “Lamb” and the “throne” in “New Jerusalem.” - [Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash].

From the outset of the book, John identified himself as the “fellow-participant” with the churches of Asia “in THE tribulation and the kingdom and the endurance.” In his exile on Patmos, John was participating in the same “tribulation” as the “seven churches of Asia.”

The term “tribulation” occurs five times in the book, each time in relation to believers. In other words, “tribulation” is what the churches endure. Elsewhere in the New Testament, “tribulation” is applied to what disciples of Jesus experience for his sake - (e.g., Matthew 13:21, John 16:33, Revelation 1:92:9-107:14).

In the Greek sentence, the one definite article modifies all three nouns - Tribulation, Kingdom, Endurance. Each represents a different aspect of the same reality. To be “in Jesus” is to suffer for his kingdom.

John found himself exiled “because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” To suffer for the kingdom is what it means to reign with Christ. “Endurance” or hupomoné occurs six more times in the book, and is always linked to believers who persevere - (Revelation 2:2-3, 2:19, 3:10, 13:10, 14:12-13).

Perseverance is how believers “overcome” to inherit the promises at the end of each of the letters to the “seven churches.” And in Revelation, Satan and his vassals wage war against the “saints,” not with nations or governments - (Revelation 13:7-10).

Jesus summons his “saints…to be faithful unto death” in persecution and tribulation. They are to remain steadfast in trials, even when doing so may mean death. It is faithfulness in tribulation that results in their receiving the “crown of life.”

And faithful saints endure the “great tribulation,” the period during which followers of the “Lamb” are tried but also overcome the “beast” by means of their “testimony.” After doing so, they find themselves “standing before the Throne and the Lamb” in the New Creation - (Revelation 7:9-17).

In contrast, the unrepentant “inhabitants of the earth” undergo “wrath” - the “second death” in the “lake of fire.” Nowhere does Revelation equate “tribulation” with “wrath.” While the “churches” may experience “tribulation,” they do not endure God’s “wrath,” which is reserved for His enemies.

Finally, and ultimately, believers overcome the “Dragon by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because they love not their lives EVEN UNTO DEATH” - (Revelation 12:11).

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