Present Tribulation


Future Tribulation



John Hoole – May 27, 2012




Someone has said that there are 30,000 promises in the Bible.  Having never counted them, I cannot vouch for the truth of such a statement, but I do know that there are enough for all the many needs of all of us.


Have you ever picked a promise out of God’s Word, and claimed its statement as God’s promise for you that day?  I think most of us have done that.  Have you ever gone through a difficulty and you go to God as your only help, and in looking into His Word, a promise verily leaps off the pages?  It is exactly what you needed and you hang onto it as if your life depended upon it.  And maybe it actually did.


Generally speaking, we are rather particular as to which promises we claim.  We pick them out to suit ourselves, and finding one that specifically pleases us, we hold God to the very letter of it.  In prayer, we often remind our heavenly Father of what He has said in His Word, and tell Him ”Lord, I claim your promises!”  And rightly so, for His Word is the basis of all our expectations.


But there is one promise that Jesus gave, that I dare say none of you has ever claimed.  It is not particularly to our liking.  It does not appeal to our natural person.  There is absolutely nothing attractive about it.


         HERE IT IS!        “In the world you will have tribulation.”  (John 16:33)


I would guess none of you have ever claimed that verse as your “promise of the day.”  It is one of my least favorite promises.  But it is a promise of God none-the-less.


Over the years I have noticed an argument against pre-tribulationism which goes something like the following: “The New Testament teaches that we will suffer persecution and tribulation as followers of Christ, therefore, I believe the Church will go through the tribulation.”


The Greek words translated “tribulation” are thlibo (verb) and thlipsis (noun).  This set of Greek words occur fifty five times in the New Testament.  The Thayer Greek Lexicon translates the verb “to press” (as grapes).  From it comes the thought of oppression, distress, affliction and tribulation.  Of the 55 times the word is used, 22 times it is translated “Tribulation.”  Let’s look at two of them.


Matthew 13:21 NKJV


21     Yet hath he not root in himself, but endures for a while: for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.


This Passage comes from the parable of the “Four Soils.”  It speaks of the trouble and tribulation that comes to one who receives God’s Word.  The affliction has its source in the enemies of God and of His Word.  These are persecutions that all believers confront as part of life today.


Matthew 24:21 NKJV


21     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.


Clearly, this speaks of the Great Tribulation – a period of unprecedented suffering in the future.  If you were to read the immediate context of this verse, you would find a reference to the prophesies of Daniel, when he spoke of an abominable act occurring in the Temple in Jerusalem.  Those living in Israel at that time, are instructed to flee into the mountains before this fury is let loose.


I have chosen these two verses to begin our study because one makes reference to current tribulation, while the latter speaks of a future tribulation.  But both verses use the same Greek word.  So how does one distinguish when this word is used for present tribulation and future tribulation?  Let’s examine this question further.


Matthew 5:11-12 NKJV


11     "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

12     Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


                   When was the last time you leaped for joy while you were being persecuted?


In this verse, Jesus said, in effect, that becoming a believer does not mean your troubles are over.  Troubles are characteristic of this world and as long as you are in it you will have them.  But, He has overcome the world and through faith in Him you will overcome them also.


In John 16:33, Jesus says that because of our faith, we can have peace even in times of trouble.  We can have this peace because:


•  we know He is working everything in our lives for our Good (Romans 8:28).


•  it allows us to focus on that world not this one (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).


We all go through very difficult times now and then.


         1 Peter 4:12 tells us:


         Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trials which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.


         2 Timothy 3:12 adds:


         Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.


And yet, a day is coming on this earth when the worst traumas of history will be eclipsed by a period of time that will be far more terrifying and horrific than anything man can imagine.




                   1.      Its intensity level.


                   2.      The future Tribulation will be world-wide.


1.  Intensity of the Tribulation holocaust


Don’t confuse the coming Tribulation with the many kinds of hardships suffered by people in their day-to-day lives.  We all have those times that really try our Christianity.  This coming Tribulation is something altogether different.


Near the beginning of the lesson today, I quoted a promise given by Jesus.  I said that it probably would not be your promise of the day.  Let me mention it again.


When Christ was speaking to the disciples in the upper room, He said, “In the world you will have tribulation:  but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Christ was using the word “tribulation” in the sense of persecution and trials that come to every Christian because they belong to Christ.


The Scriptures plainly teach, however, that in sharp contrast to the general tribulation, which all believers may expect, there is still a specific time yet to come of unprecedented tribulation.


Mark 13:19 NKJV


19     For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be.


He is speaking of a specific time of testing.  And He warns us that this coming tribulation is far worse than any before or after it.  Its intensity and severity is unmatched and unparalleled in all of human history.  It will overshadow and be distinct from all previous times of trouble.  So the first difference between present and future tribulation is the intensity.


2.  The future Tribulation will be world-wide.


Revelation 3:10 NKJV


10     Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test all those who dwell on the earth.


In prior lessons, we have discussed the subject of the Rapture, that amazing event when Christians are going to be lifted off the earth to join Jesus in the sky.  But end-times events described in the Bible are not restricted to people who believe and follow Jesus.  According to the verse we just read, everyone everywhere on earth will be a participant in events of great trial, whether they want to or not.


None of our tribulations and trials today affect the entire world.  This prophesied time of future testing, called the Tribulation, is no isolated skirmish between feuding tribes or countries.  Its description in the Book of Revelation insists it be accepted as world-wide in scope.


We also read of Daniel’s description of the kingdom of the Antichrist.  In Daniel 7:23, we read of the kingdom of the Antichrist:  “It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it.”  The kingdom of the Antichrist will not be just a few isolated countries, not affecting the rest of the world.  The kingdom of the Antichrist will be the whole world.


Of the many dozens of events of the Tribulation, that are detailed throughout the Bible, two of them will result in the death of one-half of the worlds population.  Today there are 6.8 Billion people living on planet earth.  Let’s assume 800 million of those living will rise to meet Christ in the air.  It may be more than that, but that makes our calculating these two events quick and easy.  That leaves 6.0 Billion non-Christians on earth.


In our recent lessons on the Overview of Revelation – Parts 1 & 2, I mentioned two major events in Part 1 where large numbers of people will be killed.  During the judgment of the 4th Seal, mentioned in Revelation 6:7-8, we are told one fourth of the worlds population will be destroyed.  During the 6th Trumpet judgment, in Revelation 9:14-18, one third of those still alive are killed.  This is a worldwide judgment – which implies a worldwide Antichrist kingdom.




The Bible distinguishes between trials and tribulation that are destined to occur to believers during the Church Age from the wrath of God, which will be poured out during the future Tribulation.  To say that the Church will go through the tribulation because the Bible predicts that believers will experience tribulation, is an erroneous statement in light of the Bible’s distinction between present and future tribulation.


I have read Dr. Ed Hindson’s excellent statement concerning this issue.  He says that having the Church, which is pictured in the New Testament as the Bride of Christ, go through the future Tribulation, is like a man taking a girl to whom he is engaged and beating her to the point of near death, and then saying, “Hey babe, let’s get married.”


Such behavior would be considered crazy.  The Church, the Bride of Christ, is taken to Heaven before the wrath of God is poured out.  The New Testament states clearly that Christ marries the Bride in heaven (Rev. 19:7) before she accompanies Him to earth.  For the Bride of Christ, only a pre-tribulation Rapture makes sense.