TRIBULATION

HOW GOD PRODUCES SONS

BY:  DEAN FINNESTAD

THE MEANING OF TRIBULATION

THE PURPOSE OF PRESSURE

UNDERSTANDING THE PRESSURE IN THESE LAST DAYS

THE MEANING OF TRIBULATION

Tribulation is an old King James era word, which is no longer used except within the church. The verb form of this word is interpreted to press upon, to throng, to crush, to trouble or to be troubled, to be afflicted, to be persecuted. The noun is translated tribulation, persecution, affliction, trouble, anguish and burdened. Behind all of these words lies the concept of pressure.

Have you ever gone to a sale where you were so pressed by people that you couldn’t move? Or to a sporting event where people were pushing to get in or out the gate? Or rode a subway or bus that was packed from wall to wall?

In Mark 3:9 we see Jesus in a similar situation. He is trying to minister to a crowd along the beach. The pressure of the crowd moving toward Him got so bad that His disciples worried that He was going to literally be forced into the water. The solution was to find a boat. Jesus used this boat to escape the pressure of the crowd in order to continue teaching.

Luke 8:45 describes a scene in which Jesus was again crushed by the crowd, this time in a marketplace as He was going to heal Jairus’ daughter. We can see a hand reaching out to touch Jesus. The crushing pressure of the crowd did not prevent Him from noticing the power that left His body. The woman who reached out in faith in the midst of a packed crowd of people received the healing she sought.

Childbirth is a perfect example of the meaning of this word for pressure. Childbirth is a process of pressure that pushes a baby out into the world. The pain associated with the pressure of childbirth is part of God’s judgment for Adam and Eve’s disobedience. I know women who experienced the pressure but not the pain of childbirth.

The narrow road described in Matthew 7:14 is a road that presses in on you. It is straight, as if walking between two walls. And it is narrow, a way of pressure. Pressure provides resistance in our lives. Resistance makes us struggle. Struggling makes us strong. It is the road that leads to life.

The wide road doesn’t pressure you for anything – that’s why its easy. And it does nothing to make you a stronger person – rather, it destroys you.

Acts 14:22 tells us that the only way we can enter the kingdom of God is through pressure – not just a little pressure – but lots of pressure. Without being put under pressure we cannot begin to live life as it is lived in heaven.

John 16:33 indicates that this world is a place where pressure exists, indeed, it is guaranteed. Life on earth has actually been designed by God to put men under pressure. This life of pressure has been overcome by Jesus and is overcome by those who follow in His steps.

THE PURPOSES OF PRESSURE

This sense of being crushed or pressured is the basis of tribulation. Tribulation is pressure. This pressure comes in many forms. It can be affliction, persecution, anguish, pain, trouble, suffering, and sorrow; all of which involve resistance and a struggle.

Pressure primarily comes through relationships and things involving survival, i.e. situations of life everyone has in common.

Pressure is a very apt word for believers because it is an ordained process for men who worship and follow God. Romans 12:12 tells us that it is part of God’s calling. God uses pressure to change sinners into saints. Living under pressure is the formative process that makes men like Christ – that makes sons of God.

These principles regarding pressure were part of the greater gospel message when the church was first forming. I Thessalonians shows us that suffering “tribulation” was an expectation of the early believers. The watered down gospel of today fails to speak about the pressure involved in becoming a son of God. And, in fact, here in America there is little pressure involved in being a “Christian” because there is essentially no difference in lifestyle between Christians” and unbelievers.

Pressure is not unique to true believers, all men are under pressure to one degree or another (Romans 2:9), but the reason for it and the results of it are unique for the believer. Pressure is designed to drive believers into a deeper relationship with God. Knowing WHAT the purpose of pressure IS changes the outlook of the believer who can then rejoice even as the struggle is going on.

Being put under pressure is God’s way of forcing men to make choices. Do we choose to please our heavenly Father and respond under pressure to think or say or do what He thinks and says and does? Or do we take the self-centered approach and think or say or do what we think is best? The way we respond to the choices caused by pressure determines whether we take on the character of God or not – whether we become a son or not.

The thing about pressure is that it is either a humbling experience or it brings out pride in self. If we are pressing into God and making choices that please Him because of pressure in our lives we will not be responding out of pride but  out of humility. And we will be taking on our Father’s character.

If we make selfish choices then our loving Father will put us under more pressure and repeat the situations that demand a choice. But always, He wants us to succeed; He wants us to become like Him; He wants us to make the right choices when we are under pressure.

Romans 5:3 tells us that being put under pressure is a cause of glory or greatness. Pressure makes men great. Being put under pressure teaches men patience, patience results in experience, experience results in a firm hope – that the love of God is working in us and through us.

If God goes to the trouble of putting us under pressure to produce patience, then patience must be an important commodity in the kingdom of heaven. The old saying, “Lord give me patience and give it to me now” just isn’t going to work. The passage of time, which is patience, is required for pressure to do its work.

Pressure drives some men away from God. They don’t like the pressure, they don’t like the resistance, and they don’t want to struggle. For these men pressure is pain without joy, resistance without purpose, struggle without success — and it does nothing to make them better people. Jesus teaches us in the parable about the four kinds of seed that there are those who fail to produce fruit because they can’t take the pressure (Mt 13:21, Mk 4:17).

Believing the Word of God brings pressure that eventually offends them and causes them to forsake God’s word.

God never puts His children under more pressure than they can bear. We may think there’s too much pressure in our lives, but He is in control. Our submission to Him is acknowledging the fact that He has put us under pressure; that this pressure is part of His plan for our lives; and that struggling under this pressure is going to produce positive results in our lives.

And God is always there to comfort us (II Corinthians 1:4). He doesn’t put us under pressure and then walk away. He stays right next to us – ready and waiting to put His arms around us, ready to speak words of comfort and love, ready to encourage us. Pressure can never separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:35).

As we learn to live under pressure we are strengthened to take more pressure. Thus we are able to effectively comfort those around us who are under pressure. This is the principle of the strong helping the weak. We then share the burden of each other’s sorrow, pain, suffering, and anguish. We share in the struggle to become sons of God.

Pressure may come in the form of physical or spiritual suffering. It can come from men, from Satan, from God and especially from other “Christians” (Philippians 1:16). It comes to us in a variety of ways as we live out our daily lives. What form it takes and where it comes from is not important. What is important is how we react to it. We don’t welcome it but we don’t deny it or fear it either. Rather, we face pressure with joy; knowing that joy gives us strength and enables us to overcome any form of pressure, and thus triumph in life. Pressure makes men overcomers.

Does this mean we are to rejoice FOR pain and suffering? No. Does this mean we are to rejoice THROUGH pain and suffering? YES! This is what the early believers did. They were told that pressures would come if they declared their faith in Jesus. We must never allow pain and suffering to take away the joy we have knowing that we are a child of God with all its attendant privileges and honor. We are not joyful FOR pressure; we are joyful THROUGH pressure.

We can do this because our joy is not based upon any circumstances of life or situations, which cause pain in our lives. Our joy is based upon the reasons we are following God in the first place. What are those reasons? God has chosen me to be His child. He has called me as a son; chosen me to take on His character; saved me from Satan, sin and self; filled me with His Spirit; and fellowships with me daily as I learn to think and feel and act as He does. This is what it means to be His son.

UNDERSTANDING THE PRESSURE IN THESE LAST DAYS

Pressure is also a sign – a sign of worthiness. If we are suffering because we have chosen to follow God, then we have proven ourselves worthy of His calling. We are on the road to glory (II Cor 4:17). Glory is greatness. Enduring suffering and sorrow makes men worthy of greatness, i.e. greatness in the Kingdom of God. Men will laugh at us and mock us but God is very pleased.

What about those who cause suffering? II Thessalonians 1:6 tells us that God promises to put pressure on men who put pressure on His people. God causes pain for men who reject Him and persecute His people. He gives trouble to men who trouble Him. This suffering is age-long and comfortless.

We are back to choices. Men can cause suffering or endure suffering. Men who cause suffering now will suffer themselves for a very long age. Men who follow Christ will suffer now but only for a short time compared to age-long suffering. Rest is the promise to men who suffer now (II Thess 1:7). Rest is relief from pressure.

With this background we can pursue questions about pressure during end times. Why does pressure occur? To make us like Jesus. When does it occur? Whenever e take a stand for Him. Will we as believers be required to live through it? It’s the only way to live! And finally, what is the “great tribulation”?

References to this event are described first in Matthew 24:3-31. Jesus and His disciples are walking in the Temple when the disciples offer to give Jesus a tour. Jesus’ response is, “not one stone will be left on top of another”. This great monument of Judaism was going to be destroyed! The apostles were probably shocked, but they had curiosity enough to ask when this would happen and when He (the Christ) would return at the end of the age.

Jesus explains in general what is going to happen in verses 4-14. At verse 15 He backs up and points out the specific sign to look for indicating the destruction of the temple and the scattering of the nation of Israel.

Even though He is using picturesque language Jesus is forecasting an historical event which was to happen during the lives of His disciples. Otherwise why would He warn them specifically about what to do when this event occurred? This position is supported by the apostle John in Revelation 1:9 when he identifies himself as a fellow sufferer in the “tribulation”.

In 69 AD the Temple in Jerusalem was demolished by the Roman army during the reign of the emporer  Vespasian. The placement of figureheads representing Roman gods and the sacrifices that the Romans made in the Temple during their conquest of Jerusalem were defined by the Jews as “an abomination”. These events immediately preceded the destruction of the Temple. The Jewish people who were not killed were literally packed up and shipped out to the far corners of the earth. This time of pressure, foretold by Christ, was the greatest single affliction on any one race of people throughout history.

he only references in scripture which link the words “great” and “pressure” directly are found in Matthew 24:21, which is the prophecy of Jesus discussed above; Acts 7:11 which is reference to the pressure which forced Jacob to move his family to Egypt; II Corinthians 8:2 which refers to the pressure on the Corinthian church; Revelation 2:22, which applies to the pain applied to Jezebel and her followers for sexual sin and idolatry; and Revelation 7:14, which applies to the martyrs of the “time of great pressure”.

This means that this one verse, Revelation 7:14, which is couched in hyperbole or picturesque language, and whose occurrence in history is NOT clear, is used to build an entirely FALSE doctrine. This doctrine has so many people believing just the opposite of what God is going to do. This doctrine concerning “great tribulation” and its companion doctrine about a “rapture” have created a totally apathetic “church” waiting around to be taken out of this world and away from the very thing it needs – pressure.

Not only that but these two doctrines have caused members of the “church” to sit on a judgment seat and condemn sinners. Tribulation is seen as God’s great judgment against everything that is sinful and the “church” sits gleefully on the sidelines waiting for this world’s destruction. As the “church” sits around judging the world for sin the world sees the hypocrisy of the “church” because its members are committing the same sins that sinners are.

Little does today’s “church” realize how far from God it has strayed. God is NOT in the business of destroying this world of sinners. He is not the angry judge which the “church” portrays. He is a God of LOVE and HE LOVES HIS CREATION!

God is in the business of restoration. This is why He sent Jesus – to restore and reconcile, not to condemn and destroy. Restoration and reconciliation are primary jobs of the Body of Christ on earth.

How did pressure affect the early church and the spread of the gospel of reconciliation? Pressure was the key factor in the spread of this good news. It was only because of pressure through persecution that the early believers spread from Jerusalem throughout the known world taking the good news about Jesus Christ with them (Acts 11:19).  Pressure never limits the work of God – pressure only expands the work of God.

A time of great pressure is then NECESSARY during these last days for God to bring great revival to earth. The traditional church’s teaching about a “rapture” that takes believers out of this world and away from pressure is exactly the OPPOSITE of God’s plan. God needs His people here on earth during this time of great pressure so that we can help unbelievers believe. God’s people must be here to give unbelievers HOPE IN JESUS CHRIST.

What is clear is that regardless of any “time of great pressure” we now know that we will be put under pressure as believers and that living under pressure is the only way to grow in the kingdom of God – the only way to become sons of God! Living under pressure is the method used by God to produce sons who will be all that He is and who will be used by Him to accomplish His purposes for all of mankind, yes, even for all of creation!

 

 

 

 

TRIBULATION [Dean Finnestad]          1

 

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