|Vol. 14 No. 5 May 2012||
Donald R. Fox
I guess it is the times we live in. We Americans are not patient people. We want instant solutions to very complex problems.
We all need to cultivate patience, longsuffering and steadfastness in our character makeup. Patience is part of the Christian graces to be developed as outlined in 2 Peter 1:6. James 1:3 reads, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” Longsuffering is that quality of restraining oneself when trials come our way. We must never surrender or succumb under the pressures of this life. Christians are admonished not to “fall from your own steadfastness” (2 Peter 3:17).
As individuals, we have very little control over many matters. We can control ourselves, however! The quest for patience starts with me. I am responsible to God Almighty, to do his will, to be patient, to be steadfast because, “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4).
D. Gene West
Today, we hear a great deal of hair-raising talk about a coming great tribulation in which the world, but not the raptured church, is going to suffer unimaginable and excruciating misery and pain before they finally convert to Christ to enjoy a literal thousand year reign of peace on this earth. We are quite puzzled as to why anyone would take an interest in a religious doctrine that predicts this kind of terrible suffering at the hands of enemies before they are finally relieved by Christ. To say the Bible knows nothing of such a teaching as this is probably a great understatement, but the fact of the matter is, it does not! When we make statements like this, someone will almost immediately object by saying, “Oh, yes, this great tribulation is going to come to pass because Jesus talked about it. While it is true that Jesus spoke of “great tribulation,” it is not true that He spoke of such in the context in which it is being spoken of today.
It is true that Jesus spoke of “great tribulation” when in Matthew 24:21 he said, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21 NKJV). However, this tribulation is not something that is future to us. It has been asserted that because Jesus used the future tense when he said, “there will be great tribulation.” Certainly, that of which Jesus spoke was future to Him at the time He was speaking, but the language does not demand that it must be future to us. He spoke of His own death in the future tense as well, but that is not something that is future to us! The events that Jesus spoke of as “great tribulation” cannot be future to us, for after He had spoken of this matter he said, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place”(Matthew 24:34). Consequently, all those events that Jesus spoke of as “great tribulation” came to pass before the generation to whom He spoke passed from this earth. Therefore, whatever those events were, they are not future to us.
At the risk of being accused of being a “nitpicker,” we wish to point out that Jesus never spoke of “the” or even “a” great tribulation. He merely said, “For then there will be great tribulation…”Notice Jesus used the adverb of time, “then.” “For then there will be great tribulation.” Of what time does the Lord speak when He used the word “then?” If we go back to the beginning of the paragraph, we will find He was speaking of an event that would take place when the disciples of Christ saw “the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place.” This “abomination of desolation” of which Jesus spoke was armies surrounding Jerusalem (21:20-22). So, when the people of Jerusalem saw the city surrounded by armies, then there would be great tribulation (suffering, pain, agony, stress) of such nature that Jesus described as “such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.” Incidentally, Jesus also dated this “great tribulation” when he said, “such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time!” What is the time to which he had reference? The time that would come before that generation passed away.
Hence, we must point out, most emphatically, that the New Testament nowhere speaks of a time in our future that can be described as “great tribulation.” That tribulation of which the Lord spoke in the Olivet discourse would take place when they saw “the abomination of desolation,” heathen armies “standing in the holy place.” Or, as Luke pointedly put the matter, when they saw “Jerusalem surrounded by armies.” Why was “great tribulation” coming on the ancient Jews? Luke answered that question as well when he quoted Jesus as saying, “For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled” (Luke 21:22). God had long since written in the prophecies of the Old Testament what the Jews would do to his Son, of which Isaiah 53 is but one example. He had also warned that when they had completed their wicked work of crucifying the Christ, there would follow “days of vengeance.” During those days, there was “great tribulation.”