What is the Tribulation?

guantoucrossoff_2944287b15“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again (Matthew 24:15-21).

Many of you have heard of the time that is called the “great tribulation”(KJV), translated as “great distress” in the New International Version. Jesus in the passage above warned us about this time. He said that an event He called the “Abomination of Desolation” would precipitate this time of great distress in Israel, and the rest of the world too. So the first big question for us to consider is, what is meant by the term ‘great distress or great tribulation? What will happen at that time?

The Greek word that the term is translated from is Thlipsis. I have a Key Word Study Bible, which enables me to search how the Greek word was used in other passages. The word literally means, “to crush, press, compress, squeeze. Tribulation, trouble and affliction. This Greek word “conveys the picture of something being crushed, pressed or squeezed as from a great weight. It is used to denote grievous physical affliction or mental or spiritual distress.”[1]

How this word was used in context in other passages of the Bible will shed some light on what the church should expect to happen during that time. In Acts 8:1, the word thlipsis is translated as great persecution after the martyrdom of Stephen:

1And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.

In Acts 11:19, the same Greek word, thlipsis, is translated again as persecution:

 19Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews (Acts 11:19).

And lastly, Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church about the persecution they had been going through:

4Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring (2 Thessalonians 1:4).

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, what am I saying? I’m saying that we need to be focusing and preparing ourselves spiritually to live in close relationship to the Lord. The tribulation, when it comes, is a time of worldwide persecution on those that serve the God of Israel, true Christians and Jews. I believe the persecution is aimed at all those who will not take the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:16-17) or worship his image. We should not think that the Lord will rapture us out of here before the tribulation, but we should prepare to endure. The tribulation is never called the wrath of God. The wrath of God is only poured out after the church is taken at some point (no man knows the day nor the hour) during the great tribulation that breaks out after the mid-point of the seven-year period. Let’s grow in our dependence and trust in Him.

Keith Thomas

[1] New Testament Lexical Aids, Key Word Study Bible, AMG Publishers, Thlipsis, Page 163

Does the Bible teach Soul Sleep?

tumblr_static_tumblr_m1k4r1qetg1rss2pho1_500Some believe that when a Christian dies, his soul sleeps and that he is unconscious until Jesus comes for him at the end of this evil age that we are in. The Bible does have a few passages where Jesus talked about death for a Christian as “sleep.” When Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, for instance, He deliberately waited another two days before He even left for the tomb (John 11:6). Have you ever wondered why Jesus waited before starting the journey to Jerusalem to raise Lazarus? The Jews had a tradition that the soul of a person could hang around the body anything up to three days afterward. Jesus deliberately waited so that He could prove to the skeptics that He had authority over death, Lazarus was not sleeping in the tomb, he was dead. John the apostle explained this to us:

11After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” 12His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep (John 11:11-13).

Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

The Lord also talked about death as sleeping when He brought back Jairus’ daughter from the dead:

49While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher any more.” 50Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” 51When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” 53They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened (Luke 8:49-56, Emphasis mine).

The believer in Christ is never dead; he is separated from his body, a state that Jesus calls ‘sleep.’ When Jesus took the little girl’s hand and told her to get up, her spirit returned. Where had the little girl been? Her body was dead and laying on the bed, but the real person, her spirit, was with the Lord. Wouldn’t you like to have known what she experienced before Jesus called her back into the earthly home of her body? A person is only dead, according to the scriptures, when he is spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1, 5). In the Old Testament, 1 Kings 17:17, we find another story about a little boy who was also raised from the dead. He was the son of a woman who had helped the prophet Elijah. She was a widow, and this was her only son. Her son had been getting worse and worse, and finally, stopped breathing. (NIV translation). In the Hebrew, it literally says that his soul (Heb “nephesh”) had left. In verse 22 of the same passage we are told that the boy’s life returned to him after Elijah prayed for the boy. The Hebrew word used here is “nephesh,” which literally means that the boy’s soul returned!

We are told that at this moment, in heaven, are the spirits of just men made perfect (Hebrews 12:23), and in another place, that when Christ returns for His church: “God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). Their bodies were in the grave but they themselves, the unseen part of our nature, our spirit and soul, were with the Lord. They are very much alive, but in a different realm, a different life. Paul the apostle wrote: “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). He also writes to the church at Philippi about his desire to die and be with Christ:

22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body (Philippians 1:22-24).

Note that Paul is not expecting to be unconscious in sleep when he dies; he fully expects to be very much alive. He calls it better by far! The word, “depart” in verse 23 above is translated from the Greek word that was used for the loosing of an anchor. A.T. Robertson translates it, “To weigh anchor and put out to sea.” What a beautiful picture! It reminds me of the scene in the movie “Lord of The Rings,” when Bilbo Baggins departs the Grey Havens and puts out to sea to start a new adventure! It is a wonderful analogy of how what some perceive as an end, is really a new beginning. If Paul was readying himself to go to sleep for two thousand years, I don’t see how that could be called “better by far.”

No, Paul was getting ready to go to another place, a place that was “better by far!” A place where; “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him!” (1 Corinthians 2:14.)

Just imagine if a butterfly were to try to explain to a caterpillar what his new life would become! The caterpillar would have no frame of reference to comprehend what it would be like to fly, in a glorious new body, not bound to the earth. If the caterpillar were able to comprehend this, would it choose not to go into its pupa state and be transformed? During our time out of our body, we will have fellowship with the Lord in a spiritual place. The only reason that spiritual things are not as real to us now, is that we are bound to this earth, and only able to function on one level, one realm. But a day is coming when we will experience full life. Jesus calls it abundant, eternal life. Our purpose in this life, is to be prepared for this most excellent adventure into a realm which is described as: BETTER BY FAR!

Keith Thomas

What are the Signs of His Coming?

The disciples asked Jesus as to signs of His return to the earth,“when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). For the rest of that chapter, Jesus spoke about specific things that His followers would know to be signs of His soon-coming and of the end of the age. Jesus did not leave it at just those words. In the Book of Revelation He spoke of Seven Seals that, at their opening, would bring specific effects on the earth that would again be signs of His coming. In the video below I teach on how these two passages of scripture relate to one another, after all, the same Person spoke the same words. The video is long but it is well worth the viewing. If you can help me produce more teaching video’s like this, please click on the DONATE button to the right on the home page. May God richly bless you!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cH0OwdVq1w4

What is the Day of the Lord?

6Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. 7Because of this, all hands will go limp, every heart will melt with fear. 
8Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them; they will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at each other, their faces aflame. 9See, the day of the LORD is coming—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it.10The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. 
The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. 
11I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. 
I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless. 
12I will make people scarcer than pure gold, more rare than the gold of Ophir. 
13Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place 
at the wrath of the LORD Almighty, in the day of his burning anger (Isaiah 13:6-13).

After reading this description of the Day of the Lord, who can doubt that this is the wrath of God? It actually says to us that the Day of the Lord is the day of His wrath (verse 13). How then can some say that this time of God’s wrath is going to last seven years, and that the rapture is before this time of seven years? If this time that is written about above lasts for seven years, how come Antichrist will be able to exercise his authority for 42 months (Revelation 13:5) and make war on the saints? (Revelation 13:7) all at a time some believe to be when the wrath of God is going on. The Day of the Lord and the wrath of God is the same thing, the same event, and the church will be taken up, caught up, raptured before the Day of the Lord begins. It is not before the seven-year period starts—we have to prepare for and endure the tribulation first. The tribulation is not the wrath of God; it is the persecution of God’s people by the Antichrist. Continue reading