MP3: The Tribulation Road Thru 2 Thessalonians 1
Hosts: Nathan Jones & Vic Batista
Welcome to The Truth Will Set You Free podcast teaching series titled “The Tribulation Road!” Nathan Jones and Vic Batista have been your guides since the very first installment, going verse by verse through the Bible’s prophetic book of 2 Thessalonians. We will now read 1:4-10 and learn about how the trials the Thessalonians were having to endure were not the Tribulation.
Tribulations Versus the Tribulation
Vic Batista: When it comes to 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10, this section can at times confuse some people by its use of the word tribulation. The Bible refers to earthly tribulations, meaning sufferings, but then there’s also an apocalyptic event called the Tribulation. People tend to unknowingly mix the two.
“…so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.”
Vic Batista: This passage mentions the word tribulation at various times. What exactly does that mean?
Nathan Jones: Let’s not forget that the little church in Thessalonica to whom the Apostle Paul was writing was enduring quite a lot of suffering. They were being persecuted for their newfound faith in Jesus Christ. Those people who had rejected the message of the Gospel while Paul was visiting ended up driving Paul and his evangelism team out of town. The new church that had been abruptly left behind Paul commended for staying on course, but as a result, they would be rejected by their fellow townsfolk and so go through many sufferings and trials at their persecutors’ hands.
Unfortunately, being persecuted is the normal condition for Christians. Jesus warned His followers that they would suffer many trials at the hands of man and their malicious master, Satan. Jesus explains this condition in John 15, and Paul will later in Philippians 1, and Peter will again in 1 Peter 4.
When it comes to persecution and trials, this is where some people get this teaching on the Tribulation confused. There are lower case tribulations, which means sufferings, and then there is uppercase Tribulation, which refers to an actual time period when the world will experience the wrath of God unleashed. We read about the Tribulation in Isaiah 24, Zephaniah 3, and 1 Thessalonians 5. This upper case Tribulation refers to Christ’s judgment upon the world for its sin. It encompasses a seven-year time period when God will pour out the 21 judgments from the book of Revelation onto an unbelieving world that has rejected Him. God amps up the suffering of His enemies in order to make these rebellious people finally have to make a choice for Jesus or not.
Yes, there are daily sufferings and lower-case tribulations which Christians must suffer under due to the persecutions of a fallen world, but Christians are promised that we are exempt from having to endure the wrath of God. There are quite a number of verses that make this promise. Paul will bring these up later in the text. Christians may suffer at the hands of Satan and mankind, but we are promised never to have to suffer under the wrath of God.Nathan Jones: #Christians may suffer at the hands of #Satan and mankind, but we are promised never to have to suffer under the wrath of #God. Click To Tweet
For example, look at 1 Thessalonians 1:10 which reveals, “And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus who rescues us from the coming wrath.” Again in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 we learn, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” These and other verses by Paul reveal to us that the Tribulation time period is not the little tribulation suffering that we experience daily. No, the Tribulation involves a particular time period and a particular outpouring of God’s wrath.
Vic Batista: Excellent! I wanted to clarify the difference between tribulation and the Tribulation because this is an area where people seem to get what Paul is teaching confused. Then there’s the Great Tribulation, the title for the second half of the seven-year Tribulation. That again is a whole different topic as it compares to what Christians today are experiencing by having to endure a lot of tribulations and sufferings at the hands of Satan and mankind. We can read about the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 who were suffering different types of attacks, tribulations, and martyrdom, but they were never fearing to have to endure the Tribulation as described in the following chapters of Revelation.
Nathan Jones: Just wait until we get into 2 Thessalonians 2, now that’s a chapter that can get really confusing for people when it comes to distinguishing between lowercase tribulations and uppercase the Tribulation. Paul really had to clarify these distinctions for the Church. Some 2,000 years later, people are still deeply confused about the subject of the Tribulation, and it can become a very divisive topic.
In 2 Thessalonians 1, Paul was very clearly referring to the sufferings Christians bear for carrying the name of Christ and will in the next chapter distinguish them from the Tribulation suffering that God will use to punish the earth for the world’s sin and rejection of Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, Paul in this 1:4-10 passage explains how God will repay the suffering of Christians in the Great Tribulation. Why then would Christians be found living during the Tribulation if that time exists to repay evil people for causing our daily tribulations? No, tribulations and the Tribulation are clearly two separate topics.
Vengeance Is Mine
Vic Batista: Notice that verse 7 says, “And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels.” Notice that what God has in store for believers in Christ is rest, not more suffering.
Nathan Jones: Exactly! Some people when they read about rest in the Bible think it’s referring to when you’re dead. They’ll say, “When you’re dead, you are finally at rest.” They’ll also confuse this return of Jesus and think Paul’s talking about the Rapture of the Church, but no, he’s talking about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. At the end of the seven-year Tribulation, that’s when Jesus will be revealed from heaven accompanied by His mighty angels. Jesus returns to this earth with those of us who had already been raptured before the Tribulation had begun. It’s not at the Rapture, but at the Second Coming, when Jesus finally defeats Satan, the Antichrist, and all of the armies of the world that have gathered against Jerusalem and the returning King.
Verse 8 explains just how Jesus will return to take His vengeance with, “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” How many times have the persecuted saints prayed for justice from God and for Him to take vengeance on those who so mercilessly persecute Christians? Remember how ISIS was murdering and raping and killing all of the Christians they’d encountered in the Middle East. We cry out, “Lord, when are you finally going to dole out justice for all these crimes against your children? When are you going to take your vengeance?” Well, we are promised by Jesus Christ that one day He will indeed return to finally defeat evil. I can’t wait for Jesus to take His day of vengeance against those persecutors of the righteous!
Vic Batista: There are so many things on this earth that are unjust. We Christians just have to trust God and pray that He will soon get going on taking care of the situation. “‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19; Heb. 10:30). Christians are not supposed to try and fill God’s avenging shoes, rather we balance that with His command to love our enemies.Vic Batista: #Christians are not supposed to try and fill God's avenging shoes, rather we balance that with His command to love our enemies. Click To Tweet
Nathan Jones: Showing Christ’s love to the lost is why we as the children of God have been put on this earth. We’re enduring the sufferings and tribulations which people inflict upon us for the name of Jesus Christ in order to show them Christ’s love and help them to accept Jesus Christ as Savior. There’s going to come a time when Jesus declares, “Time’s up! You all rejected my lifeline of salvation, and now it’s time for vengeance.”
Showing Christ’s love while inwardly desiring God’s righteous vengeance strikes at the heart of most Christians. How do we balance the two mindsets? The answer: we live to love now and let Jesus step in to take vengeance. The Church should never be the one to take the Lord’s vengeance, for it is His alone.
Vic Batista: The Bible tells us in Matthew 5 that we are actually to bless those who curse us and to pray for those who unrighteously do evil things against us, all in the hopes of winning some to Christ. We’re not going to win the lost for Christ if we are always pointing our fingers at them and declaring that they’re all going to Hell. While still true, we are instead to be declaring the truth that Jesus loves them and wants them to repent and come to Him. That’s the example our Lord has left us. If they then continue to reject Christ’s love and sacrifice, then we can be 100% sure that judgment will most certainly come, for the Lord is always just.
In the fourth part of our travels along the Tribulation Road and our verse-by-verse study of 2 Thessalonians, we will close chapter one with Paul’s call to be worthy.