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FACING The Tribulation

1. This Present Distress


Almost 2000 years ago, the greatest Prophet of all time predicted this end time we live in:

...For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles... (Luke 21:23,24).

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My nameís sake (Matt 24:9).

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 [after it again] (Matt 24:21).

The people who are the subject of this trouble are not just the Jews. It is the time of Jacobís trouble (Jer 30:7). Jacobís name was changed to Israel, and his progeny have become a vast population, now occupying a number of lands besides Jewish Israel, so Israel today comprises several major nations Ė Britain, Ireland, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and some other parts of the world. While Jewry is a part of Israel Ė descended from Judah Ė it was only one of Israelís twelve tribes. The greater number of Israelites are not Jews, but are closely related to them.

So, the time depicted so graphically by Jesus is to afflict primarily the English-speaking peoples. This is the Great Tribulation, a time of unprecedented anguish and distress! It will affect the whole world, but the main targets are Israelites and Christians. Those comprise the ďyouĒ of Matthew 24:9 above. Hence the further comment that these awful days will only be ended when the time of Gentile oppression is over.

...Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:24b).

Prophecy buffs have speculated wildly about what those words mean, but they are straightforward and simple. They mean that Gentile (non-Israelite) nations will rule the world, and occupy Jerusalem, until Jesus puts an end to it at His second coming. At the moment (written mid-2007), Israelite nations (America, Britain, etc) still hold considerable power in world politics, as they have done for 200 years. But all that is shortly going to come to an abrupt end.

Gentiles are going to take over, favouring their own Gentile religion. Countries which do not allow Christians full freedom are going to call the tune, which means oppression for true believers as well as Jews and Israelites.

Exactly how this will work out, we donít know. We donít need to know specifics. What we need to know, those details have been revealed, and they are: 1) you will be hated by all nations for My nameís sake, and 2) they will try to kill you.

What you need to do now is to prepare for this time, which is inevitable and which is coming shortly. You, as a true believer in Jesus, must psychologically prepare yourself.

Psychological preparation is far more important than physical preparation.

In this series of articles I am going to take a stab at some of the things we all must consider in our bid to stay loyal to Christ in the hard times coming. Briefly, I might summarise what they are, under these headings:

  • Be prepared to die.

  • Be prepared to suffer.

  • Be prepared for hardship.

  • Be prepared to love.

  • Be prepared to hear the Spirit.


1. Be Prepared To Die

The first thing to consider is death. You are mortal, and youíre going to die anyway one day, so you might as well rightly use the time you have in life, before your time is up and you return to your Maker.

As a believer in Jesus, you are called to lay down your own life, and to take up His. Whoever tries to save his own life will not be saved, but if you lay it down to serve Jesus above all else and lose your own life, He will grant you eternal life (Luke 17:33).

So the place to begin is by mentally preparing yourself to die. Donít try and hold onto your physical life, or anything else in this physical realm. It is here for the using, now, for Godís purposes Ė so that you can build godly character, which prepares you for the next life in the spirit realm.

Be willing to die for Jesus, physically. Prepare your mind for that eventuality, because each person must face that test. Those who only want Jesus for this temporal physical life wonít make it into Godís eternal kingdom. Be willing to say ĎNoí to anyone who demands that you surrender your beliefs, or who requires that you deny Jesus in order to live. Itís just not worth it. Your physical life isnít worth two matchsticks, compared with what lies beyond death for the faithful! So, stay faithful to God.

The glorified Jesus said to His dear ones at Smyrna:

Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life (Rev 2:10).

We know from church history of the awful privations, sufferings and martyrdom of hundreds of thousands of Christians (perhaps even millions) in the first two centuries after Jesusí death. We should not assume that while such was the case for our brothers and sisters back then, it is not for us now. Jesus also spoke to Philadelphia of:

...the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth (Rev 3:10).

He also said to her:

I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown (3:11).

How can anyone steal your spiritual crown? By getting you to renounce your faith in Jesus. By forcing you under duress to deny Him.

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul [your spirit, your will, resolve, power of moral choice, life, etc]. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna, the lake of fire] (Matt 10:28).

Jesusí command is blunt:

Do not fear therefore... (Matt 10:31).

A lot of Christians do fear. They fear man. They fear the system of human authority that takes Godís place in the world. While you are commanded to submit to the system (Rom 13:1), you are not to love it or fear it. You should be wise, circumspect, and realise that your submission to men without Godís Spirit is only within the boundaries set out by Godís law. If men expect you to deny God, or Jesus, or deny obedience to His precepts, your duty is to God not to men (Acts 5:29).

So, donít fear them. They can have no power over you except as God allows them to have (Jn 19:11). If you have submitted your life fully to Jesus, and have made the mental commitment to do as you should until death, He has you in the palm of His hand:

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand (Jn 10:27,28).

The promises of Jesus are SURE! You may lose your physical life in martyrdom, because you refuse to relinquish your faith in Jesus, but you wonít lose your eternal reward, no matter what horrors you have to endure in this physical life.

Remember, Satanís avowed aim is to destroy you. And heís not so much after your body (thatís no use to him), but after your spirit, to destroy that. Thatís why he resorts to techniques and intimidation that are intended to make you fear death, or pain, or distress, or any suffering. You have to condition your mind beforehand, NOT to fear, NOT to let evil men destroy the confidence you have in Jesus.

Fear is the wedge that opens the door to Satan to come in and sift you like wheat.

Remember what happened to Peter. He feared people knowing that he was a follower of Jesus. He feared that he might be arrested, too, if he admitted it. Because he feared, he denied Jesus (Jn 18:25-27).

Donít make the same mistake. Make your decision NOW. If you donít make it now, you wonít make it when the time comes. NOW is the time to be willing to die. Mentally make that decision right now, and if you mean it, you can go on to make the other necessary preparations for what is coming.


Better Not To Marry

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he talked about ďthe present distressĒ (1 Cor 7:26). That was only about AD 56 or 57. Yet there were troubles which were so serious engulfing the Church, that he gave advice to those who were contemplating marriage to put aside such plans.

When serious persecution arises against you, that takes your life, itís better not to be married than to leave a young wife emotionally distraught by her loss. Better also not to have children, when you have to flee for your life (Matt 24:19,20).

Paul advised at that time against getting married and having children, not because he thought celibacy better (Heb 13:4), but for practical reasons.

We are now entering a time that is going to surpass ďthe present distressĒ which Paul alluded to. If anyone were to ask my advice, like some may have asked Paul back then, I would say the same things he said in 1 Corinthians 7. If you canít live without each other, then get married, but otherwise donít. And, certainly donít have children, because itís far worse torment to see your children suffer at the hands of torturers than yourself (1 Cor 7:25-30).

This time is just shortly ahead:

Ask now and see, whether a man is ever in labour with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins like a woman in labour and all faces turned pale? Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it... (Jer 30:6,7).

So get ready for it. Begin now.

To be continued in part 2
 

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