The concept of tribulation is a prominent doctrine in the New Testament and in some quarters today. It practically becomes a test for one’s orthodoxy. The word for “tribulation” occurs no less than 19 times.
According to the New Testament, the Christian can hope for nothing in this world except tribulation. Indeed, the basic summons of Jesus to follow him means to take up one’s cross in discipleship. This is often interpreted as carrying burdens, but a cross is not a burden; it was an instrument of death. When a man follows Jesus, he can expect nothing but tribulation, which leads to death. When the seed of the kingdom of God is sown in the ground, tribulation may come upon hearers who have received the word only superficially. This is the message of the seeds falling among thorns. Weeds spring up and choke the word. In John Jesus said, “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”. Luke wrote Paul’s reminder that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
The New Testament teaches that at the end of the age there will occur a time of great tribulation. “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved; but or the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” In other words, the persecution which will come at the end of the age in the Great Tribulation will be qualitatively no different from what the Church has to expect from the world throughout her history. The only difference will be the intensity of the tribulation, not its method.
This is spelled out in the Revelation. The beast (Antichrist) will be “allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them.” But in a later vision, John sees a victorious Church standing before the throne of God. We are told that these are the people who had conquered the beast and it image. Here is a superficial contradiction: The beast conquers the saints, but the saints conquer the beast. The point is that the martyrdom of the saints is their victory. The beast tries to compel them to worship him. When they reuse, they are martyred. But their martyrdom is proof of their loyalty to Christ. Luke records a similar saying of Jesus: “Some of you they will put to death…But not a hair of your head will perish.”
The revelation above shows us that the time of Great Tribulation will also be a time of the outpouring of God’s wrath. But at the threshold of that time, John sees 14,000 who are sealed in their foreheads that they may not suffer the wrath of God. These afflictions are not human, but the outpouring of the wrath of God upon the beast and his worshippers. The Church will not suffer the wrath of God.
Similar to the Rapture and the Second Coming, there have been numerous movies made and books written on the subject of the Great Tribulation. By the same token, believers of today have a need and a desire to try to know ahead of time what will happen in the Great Tribulation. As with the Rapture, if the Christian is certain to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and know him as their personal savior then they will not experience the Tribulation and so it should not be an issue. However, out of fear of the unknown and the love for those who do not love the Lord and may possible live out the tribulation, the believers of today have a need to come up with a scenario of what they think will be happening. This can be a self-protection mechanism in some cases that helps the Christian sort through the fear of the unknown coupled with the desire to spend eternity with God and all of their loved ones as well.