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What will we be doing during the Great Tribulation?

“Anyone who is destined for prison will be taken to prison. Anyone destined to die by the sword will die by the sword. This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently and remain faithful.” Revelation 13:10



The expression “Great Tribulation” was first used by Jesus Christ when he was answering his disciple’s question of “when will the end come and what will it be the signs of your return?” .In Matthew 24:21,22 Jesus said: “For then shall be great tribulation(=θληψις|), such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (KJB)In the First Century Greek ΚΟΙΝΗ there are 2 words that describe tribulation, the one is “στεναχωρια” which describes external pressure and the other is “θληψις”, as the one used in Matthew 24, that describes internal pressure. Human beings are resourceful and resilient and can always find a way out of a stressful situation but this will be a time that it will seem there is no way out.

Many people will accuse God of being a bloodthirsty God that wants to destroy life and they will use specific verses in the Bible to prove that but ignore others. If you are an honest Bible Student you can’t do that. All verses need to be taken into consideration. God time and again has told us that he loves mankind and wants no one to die. The verse we just read in Matthew 24:21,22 clearly shows that God is not coming back to destroy people he comes back to intervene in human history at a time that everything will seem to be lost, unless God intervened “no flesh would be saved”. The apostle Peter in 2 Peter 3:9 reveals that God wants everyone to be saved, we read there: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

There hasn’t been another time in human history that man has the ability to destroy human life entirely off the surface of the earth many times over. Starting over 70 years ago with the invention of the atomic bomb and later on with the invention of more powerful weapons of mass destruction at the after the Second World War but also more recently with other nefarious inventions such as Artificial Intelligence, weather manipulation,5G Technology, and the list goes on. God didn’t create these destructive technologies, we did. That is why God will have to intervene to save the planet he created and, in the process, save the human race that will be in the brink of mass extinction at that time. John was inspired by the holy spirit to see our times and in the book of Revelation he described out times as the only time in human history that we will have the ability to destroy our planet. We read in Rev. 11:18: “The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small– and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

THE TRAP

Jesus described the last days like a trap. We read in Luke 21:34: “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap (1).” (ESV)

The word Jesus used here for the trap is the word “παγις” which is a net that is held on its four corners by four strings and can be quickly pulled like a noose from the person that sets the trap. Once the animal found itself in the centre of this net then the noose will be pulled suddenly and the animal would be fast trapped in that net. In actual fact in modern Greek this word “παγις” is used for ice “παγος” and is because the water suddenly moves from a liquid state to a solid state below a certain temperature trapping everything inside it. This is the kind of trap, you will find yourself trapped unexpectedly with no way out. Jesus explained why that would be the case. We as Christians have a choice to live a life as a watchman, always in anticipation of the day of the Lord, or give in to living our life to the full ignoring the signs and intoxicating ourselves with the pursuits of this system of things. The good news is that not all will find themselves entrapped during those days. Jesus explained that escape will be possible but that will be based on conditions. Luke recorded Jesus words in Luke 21:36 where He said: “Watch out, therefore, and pray always (1) that you may be counted worthy (2) to escape all these things (3) that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” As we saw earlier Jesus warned that most flesh or human life will perish during the Great Tribulation but look what this verse says, there is a promise here given , some will escape. Not only that but they will escape ALL things that will come upon the inhabited earth! There is a condition attached to it though, you need first to be found worthy. Of course, one of the main ways to remain alert is to pray always and in the same spirit the apostle Peter, later on, added: “Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, consider what sort of people you ought to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion” (2 Peter 3:11) So prayers need to be accompanied by holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion.

The book of Revelation clearly shows that won’t be the fate of all Christians living at that time. What more it describes three destinies of Christians living at the time of the End. This is the main verse for consideration today, Revelation 13:10: ““Anyone who is destined for prison will be taken to prison. Anyone destined to die by the sword will die by the sword. This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently and remain faithful.”

Most Bible scholars dealing with this verse, are calling these 3 outcomes the 3 destinies of the persecuted Church. Although the original text is not using the word (=moira) which is the word for destiny nevertheless the way the verse in structured implies it. A freer translation of this verse would be: “If anyone is meant to go to prison will be taken to prison. Anyone who is meant to die by the sword will die by the sword…” We know from other parts of the Bible that God has granted us free will, our actions determine our outcome therefore God has not predetermined in advance who actually is going to go to prison or who is going to die by the sword during those days. That would have been a violation of his laws Therefore these 3 destinies are nothing more than 3 different generic and not individually-specific outcomes of believers living during the Great Tribulation. What is certain is the nature of persecution but what is not predetermined is what type of persecution each individual Christian will ultimately experience. Depending on where we are or what we do during the time of the End we may have to face any of these three options and in many cases, it will be out of our control to escape them.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote: “I returned to see under the sun that the swift does not have the race, nor the mighty ones the battle, nor do the wise also have the food, nor do the understanding ones also have the riches, nor do even those having knowledge have the favour.” Why? He explained: “Because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all.” ​(Ecclesiastes 9:11).Rather than suggesting that everything in life is determined by fate the Bible is pointing out that humans cannot accurately predict the outcome of any endeavour “because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all.” Often, something happens to a person simply because he is in the right place at the right time, or we might say, in the wrong place at the wrong time. So, it will be during the days of the “trap”, during the Great Tribulation. Many of us will find ourselves trapped in places or situations we can not control. Prison and sword will be the inevitable outcome.

In Jesus days, there was a similar situation where 18 people died due to the collapsing tower of Siloam and the Pharisees used that incident as way to trap Jesus into an argument whether the death of these people was due to their sins or due to Roman oppression? We read in Luke 13:1-5: “At that time some who were present reported to him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. In reply he said to them: “Do you think that those Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans because they have suffered these things? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise be destroyed. Or those 18 on whom the tower in Siloam fell, killing them—do you think that they had greater guilt than all other men who live in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all be destroyed, as they were.” These two events, the massacre on the temple mount and the collapse of the tower of Siloam were fresh in Jewish memory. Jesus warned His audience not to assume that the victims of those tragedies had been judged for their great evil. It’s always a temptation to assign sudden, unexplainable deaths to the judgment of God in response to secret (or open) sin. Jesus says not so fast; it is a mistake to automatically attribute such tragedies to the vengeance of God. Whether it is a man-made tragedy (Pilate’s slaughter of the Galileans) or a naturally caused tragedy (the fall of the tower of Siloam), it is wrong to assume that the victims are somehow worse sinners than everyone else and thus deserved to die. This is in total harmony with the verses in Ecclesiastes we read earlier and in the same manner your destiny during the last days if the calamity of the sword or imprisonment befalls you doesn’t mean that you are in any way a worse sinner from the rest BUT on the other hand your lack of preparation to remain “awake” or to follow the Lord’s commands during the End may contribute towards these outcomes.

“Anyone who is destined for prison will be taken to prison”

The first destiny is imprisonment: “Anyone who is destined for prison will be taken to prison” (Rev. 13:10a) The final persecution of the Church will find many unprepared or in places that any escape will not be possible. Jesus sounded a similar warning when talking to his disciples about the Signs of the Times, we read in Luke 21:12:” But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.” This came true during the first century AD after the death of our Lord Jesus Christ when sudden persecution broke out in Judea and the surrounding cities immediately after the formation of the Christian Church at Pentecost 33 AD. The same destinies await many also in the future. Pointing towards a future fulfilment Jesus warned the congregation of Smyrna: “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” (Rev. 2:10) Notice how Satan himself is behind this final persecution leading many Christians to be captured and imprisoned. Jesus warned that his followers will have to endure a complete number of days in prison “10 days” and not expect an early release. In fact, their imprisonment could ultimately lead to the point of death. Christians need to remain vigilant with a view of receiving their victor’s crown by surrendering their lives even to the point of death.

“Anyone destined to die by the sword will die by the sword.”

On the night of Jesus’ arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, unbeknown to the wary and sleepy disciples Judas the Iscariot led a band of soldiers in the dark in order to capture Jesus Christ. Seeing that their master was about to be captured Peter draw a sword in order to defend Jesus. We read in the gospel of John:” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)” (John 18:10)“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”(Matt. 26:52)Jesus was stating here a universal spiritual law. Nothing holy can come out of violence. True followers of Christ are not meant to use violence to avoid persecution. This incident in the garden of Gethsemane points to a greater fulfilment when many faithful will be caught unaware, as Peter was, on the eve of the greatest persecution to hit the Church since its establishment. Many Christians, especially in countries were carrying a weapon is permitted in the eyes of the Law (like the United States) will find themselves with no option but to use arms to defend themselves. Jesus didn’t warn the Christians against using arms but ultimately anyone doing so will taste death.

“This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently”

Much has to do with the way we act and prepare ourselves now! So, 3 destinies described here, PRISON, DEATH BY SWORD and ESCAPE. How though can enduring persecution patiently mean escape? If this third outcome is not clear enough just by considering this verse then further clarification is needed. In the 3rd chapter of the book of Revelation Jesus elaborates in more accurate detail this third destiny. We Revelation 3:10 His words are as relevant to us today as they were for the congregation of Philadelphia, there we read: “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently (=again the same words here that we saw earlier in Revelation 13:10, but what does enduring patiently mean? Jesus explains), I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth (=this is the promise Jesus will keep from the hour of testing only those who keep his commandments).” This “hour of testing that will come upon all the inhabited earth” is another expression for the Great Tribulation and if we are not careful as a Christians that trap will encompass us too. The only ones that will escape will be the ones keeping Jesus commands.

In order to understand how these three destines work “prison, sword & escape” we need to go back to the first century AD at the time of the end of the Jewish system of things that is because the coming Great Tribulation will be in many respects like the end of the first-century AD Jewish system of things that it too went through its last days and its concluding great tribulation. Those days began with the coming of Christ as the foretold Messiah. Jesu’s ministry and the events that led to his arrest and crucifixion divided the Jewish nation. On one side the majority rejected him and put him to death while a small minority embraced him and ultimately formed the first Christian Church. Both groups on the surface looked similar to an extent, they were both of Jews decent, especially the ones living in Jerusalem, worshiped in the Temple and offered sacrifices but there was a significant difference. The newly formed congregation of Jerusalem had received specific instructions for escape from their leader, Jesus Christ. Unlike the majority of Jews living in that city, they didn’t ignore the signs of the End and lived in anticipation of the time when the Jewish system would face its last days. As Jesus foretold that did happen in 66 A.D. when after months of unrest in Jerusalem and the province of Judea, Cestius Gallus, the Roman general reached Jerusalem with the twelfth legion of the Roman army wanting to put an end to the rebellion. Arriving before the walls of Jerusalem during the festival of booths, Roman forces soon penetrated even to the heavily fortified temple walls. That was what Jesus had specifically warned his disciples to expect. We read in Matthew 24:15,16: “Therefore, when you catch sight of the disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken about by Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place (let the reader use discernment), then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains” The Roman armies and their pagan emblems was “the disgusting thing” foretold standing in “holy place”, the Jewish Temple. The Christians had to leave the city immediately but how could that be possible? The city was surrounded, escape was seemingly impossible. With apparent victory close at hand, Gallus suddenly and seemingly without valid reason ordered a retreat. Jewish forces went in pursuit. Their attacks forced the retreating Romans to abandon the bulk of their baggage and their heavy siege equipment. Convinced that God had delivered them, rejoicing Jews struck coins bearing inscriptions such as “Jerusalem the Holy.” This short-lived euphoria in the city gave the small group of Christians the needed time and opportunity to escape to the mountains. The city gates remained opened for a small amount of time, hours, days weeks, we just don’t know. What we do know is that the revolting parties in the city soon put checks in place on those gates and refused exit to anyone wanting to leave the city in fear of people defecting to the Romans. You had to be a Christian, you had to be paying attention to prophesy, in order to escape in such a small window of time. Everybody else was trapped behind inside the city!

The euphoria was short lived. The Romans returned in 70AD and completely destroyed the Temple and the city. According to Josephus a first century historian and an eye-witness over a million Jews were put to the sword and 97,000 were sent to captivity were they either died in the arenas or sold as slaves in the Roman marketplaces. This the same pattern of events as the ones found in the book of Revelation, sword, captivity, and escape. All three destinies found fulfilment in the first century, most fell by the sword or went to captivity, prison but only few escaped and safeguarded their life. In the future the true Church, Christians from many different denominations faithful to Christ, will have to escape too. We don’t know exactly when and where or how this escape will take place but Jesus will provide specific instructions nearer at the time. What we know is that there will be a mass escape of faithful Christians during the time of the end. We read in Revelation 12:6: “The woman (=that means the Church) fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days”. What’s interesting here is that 1260 days is 3 1/2 years that is the same amount of time that the first century Church of Jerusalem had to escape for. From 66 A.D. to 70 A.D. when the Romans returned to destroy Jerusalem.

Remember that the first Christians had to pay attention to Jesus commands to escape to Pella at the right time. In a similar way, during the time of the end Jesus will communicate similar escape plans to his “chosen ones”. We read in Amos 3:7: “Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” God never let his people in the dark, especially when the greatest persecution of all times is at hand. That might seem straightforward but it is anything but…

You see the Bible explains two things about the time of the end : 1) Many false prophets will arise 2) Many will fail to recognise who the true “elect are” .Preparing ourselves now is then paramount in order to be ready for the coming perilous times.

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