TRIBULATIONS OF THE CHURCH:MATTHEW 24
It is of common Biblical and church knowledge that one day the church will be raptured (as in being taken from Earth to Heaven).It is also of popular knowledge within the church that there will be a time of global tribulation against the Church as never seen before. Recent discussions have centered around whether the rapture will occur before the great tribulation or after the tribulation has started?
I am going to respond to that question.
When faced with such question, the normal reflex would be to scroll the Bible straight to the book of Revelations. Though the book of Revelations contains many responses to questions we have, it also contains deep secrets and strongly codified revelations. By ‘codified’, I make a reference to the described characters, the ancient and current animals representing nations, the 7 churches, the four horsemen, Babylon the great, the woman clothed in the sun…And yes of course, the book of Revelations has some pretty straight forward and easy to understand passages but It is still filled with a string of codified passages. And if we don’t get a true revelation of the meanings behind the codified passages, it may become easy to make false or confusing predictions. As a good example, you can still find old books that predicted the end of the world in 1980,2000, 2010…
To get a straight and clear response to the question we are asking in this post, I still recommend the study of the book of Revelations, but in this post I will direct you to the book of Matthew 24 for the following reasons:
1. The predictions of Jesus in that chapter are clear and easy to understand.
2. Because of the different levels of understanding among us, it will be advantageous for all to start with Matthew 24 before going into the book of Revelations.
I will explain Matthew 24: 1-14 in two different stages.
In Matthew 24:1-8, Jesus foretells to His disciples the destruction of the Temple which in fact does not exist anymore.
And the he warns us not to be ‘deceived’ because deception is the first step before being convinced and duped. The serpent used deception to convince Eve in eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:2-5).
The term deception is widely defined as the action of deliberately causing (someone) to believe something that is not true, especially for personal gain. Alternatively, the term also stands for the action of giving a mistaken impression like the serpent did to Eve and Adam.
Very skillful people will rise and manage to dupe and fool a good number of people by presenting themselves as Christ. And the only way to succeed in such scheme lies in the grave circumstances that we are facing: ‘wars, rumors of wars, pestilences (note that the King James Version mentions pestilence at verse 7).
For stage 1 to reach full completion, we have to see the rise of ‘ false christs’ facilitated through the desperation of people.
The stage 1 is only the beginning of birth pains and Jesus even tells us not to be alarmed (reference Matthew 24:6) because if you are alarmed at stage 1, you will panic and you will make the wrong decisions…
We are still at stage 1.
In stage 1, the Church has not gone anywhere and is still here on Earth.
From Matthew 24:9-14, Jesus speaks about the second stage of His prophecy.
At stage 2, things take a dramatic turn of events where Christians are being persecuted (ref. Matthew 24:9) and the same passage proves that the Church is on Earth during tribulation. At this point, one might be wondering about what led Christians to be persecuted to death all of sudden. One way to best respond to that mystery is to look at the historical patterns of Christian persecutions. And after looking at the past persecutions of God’s people, I have retrieved one common denominator:
‘ God’s people were persecuted for their refusal to conform to laws that were contravening the Scriptures.’
Under the Roman empire, Christians were persecuted for refusing to worship the Roman emperor and the gods. The prophet Daniel and his friends were persecuted for not bowing down (worshiping) to a statue (reference Daniel 3).
The best assumption which could explain the sudden tribulation in verse 9 is the following:
‘ During stage 1, there will be a good number of Christians who will refuse to follow false christs and they will be very vocal and critical against those false christs. And then after the beginning of birth pains (wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes…), all nations will gather to adopt a rule (or a set of rules) which will contravene the Scriptures. And many Christians will be vocal against it and will refuse to comply.
This explanation is clearly linked with Revelations 13 where a terrifying chapter of the Bible describes the arrival of an ‘entity’ that is worshiped by all the nations and tribes of the Earth. And then, the Apostle John writes in verse 10 of Revelations 13:
‘ If anyone is to go into captivity,
into captivity they will go.
If anyone is to be killed with the sword,
with the sword they will be killed.”
This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.
The verse 10 depicts the persecution that follows right after the world decides to worship the beast.
Now, I want to explain why ALL the nations of the Earth will hate Christians and why they will feel justified to do so.
You see from Matthew 24:3-8, Jesus foretells wars, pestilence, famines and earthquakes and false christs. One of those false christs will be so powerful that he will have the ability to perform miracles that will come across as the solutions to the problems (pestilence, earthquakes, wars, crisis, famines…) that the world faces. That false christ will promise happiness, security, peace, health, prosperity, money and so forth…and therefore he will come across as a savior who is providing something that ALL nations will see as legitimate and rights.
The Christian population is a large population in the globe and many of them will refuse that false christ. And as a result, those who have accepted and worshiped the false christ, will see the opposition of Christians as an infringement to their rights of happiness-prosperity and health. And they will fight Christians to death with the intent of wiping them from the Earth if they refuse to worship the false christ. This is a very possible scenario.
The persecutions will result in four things:
1. Many will fall away by losing faith and worshiping the false christ. (verse 10)
2. Betrayal will occur between people (including Chrisitans). During that time, betrayal will become a currency for survival just like it happened during the second world war in Nazi occupied territories. (verse 10)
3. Lawlessness will be a result of the chaos caused by civil wars between Christians and non-Christians and by false prophets. There will be a total disregard for order.(verse 12)
4. The persecution on Christians will gain global attention to the point where everybody on the planet will know what is a Chistian, how to become a Christian, and the Gospel of Salvation. As a result of the chaos, the whole world will hear about the Gospel whether voluntarily, involuntarily or by pure curiosity. (verse 14)
More could be said about the other stages of the tribulation but we can be sure that the rapture will occur after the tribulations of the Church.