Something much discussed and a source of many differences between Christians, as well as something of great concern to God’s people, is the matter of end-times tribulation. Is the great tribulation mentioned in Matt. 24:21 still to come or is it past? Will there be tribulation when the end comes? If so, will the church be subjected to this tribulation or will they be gone from the world before the last tribulation comes?
Such questions as these are of great importance, for they affect our view of the future and of our own calling and the church’s with respect to the future. They weigh especially heavily as the end approaches and we ourselves and our children must face the possibility of persecution, if such is indeed coming.
We believe that persecution has been and will continue to be the lot of God’s people to the end of time. This is the testimony of such passages as Romans 8:17 and II Tim. 3:12. We do not believe, therefore, that the lot of God’s people will improve as the end times come or that there will be a long period of peace and spiritual prosperity for them in which persecutions for Christ’s sake cease. Nor do we believe the church will be raptured and gone when the last great tribulation comes.
We believe, too, that the great tribulation mentioned in Matthew 24:21 is still to come -- that times will not become better, but worse, for God’s people. To consign the whole first part of Matt. 24, including verse 21, to the past, as some do, is to consign it to the dustbin. Also, the notion that God’s people will be away, or that persecution will cease before the end does not harmonize with the passages which follow.
Persecution is not something that we must simply endure. It is an integral and important part of our salvation. Matt. 5:10-12 already indicates this when it speaks of the blessedness and happiness of those who are persecuted for Christ’s sake (cf. Acts 5:41). Phil. 1:29 tells us that suffering for Christ is a gift of God through Christ – one of the gifts He earned for us by His death on the cross! Col. 1:24 says that these sufferings are part of Christ’s own sufferings (cf. I Pet. 4:13), that are left behind for us, for the church’s sake.
We know, too, that suffering, though never easy or pleasant, is for our good. It is not prosperity and peace which bring us closer to God and purify us, but rather the fiery trials of our faith. This is the clear testimony of Psalm 11:5; 119:67,71 (note that the context of both these Psalms is persecution as also the following passages), Romans 8:28, I Peter 1:7 and innumerable other passages.
The old saying that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church recognizes this also. There is nothing in all the life of the church that gives such testimony to the power and wonder of God’s grace as the willingness of God’s people to suffer all things for the sake of the gospel and of Christ. We must not only expect such suffering, therefore, but we must be willing and even happy to suffer such things for our own salvation, for the church and for Christ who suffered all things for our sakes.
- Volume: 8
- Issue: 14
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
Address13823 Clear Lake Rd.
State or ProvinceWA