"THE GOSPEL OF MARK" The Temptation Of Jesus (1:12-13) by Mark Copeland



The Temptation Of Jesus (1:12-13)
1. A blessing of Jesus as Savior is His ability to comfort and aid those who are tempted...
a. This is because He too was tempted - He 2:18
b. He is sympathetic, and can provide mercy and grace to help in time of need - He 4:14-16
2. One of His greatest periods of temptation was at the beginning of His public ministry...
a. Immediately following His baptism by John - Mk 1:9-11
b. Just prior to beginning His preaching ministry - Mk 1:14-15
3. Studying "The Temptation Of Jesus" can be fruitful for several reasons...
a. It reminds us that Jesus can understand our own temptations
b. It reveals how we can be more successful in overcoming temptation
[With that in mind and using Mk 1:12-13 as our basic text, let's begin with...]
1. The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness - Mk 1:12
a. It appears this challenge was initiated by the Spirit
b. The same Spirit who descended upon Him in bodily form as dove - Mk 1:10; Lk 3:22
c. It was likely the wilderness of Judea, a very desolate place
2. Where he was for forty days - Mk 1:13
a. During which he fasted, like Moses and Elijah - cf. Mt 4:2; Exo 34:28; 1Ki 19:18
b. During which he was tempted - cf. Lk 4:2
3. Tempted by Satan - Mk 1:13
a. Mark uses the term "Satan" (lit., adversary)
b. Matthew and Luke use the term "devil" (lit., accuser,slanderer)
4. Mark alone mentions the presence of "wild beasts" - Mk 1:13
a. Animals known to inhabit the area include hyenas, jackals,panthers, and lions
b. Not known is whether they were a source of comfort or trial
for Jesus (I suspect the latter)
-- For forty days, Jesus experienced desolation, deprivation, and temptation
1. Mark does not record the climax of Satan's temptations at the end of forty days
a. Satan's appeal to the lust of the flesh - Mt 4:3-4
2. Both Matthew and Luke do, which we briefly summarize:
b. Satan's appeal to the pride of life - Mt 4:5-7
c. Satan's appeal to lust of the eyes - Mt 4:8-10
3. With each temptation, Jesus responds "It is written..." - Mt 4: 4,7,10
-- With the aid of Scripture, Jesus was victorious over Satan!
1. Angels ministered to Jesus - Mk 1:13
a. Exactly what they did is not mentioned
b. Perhaps they provided bodily nourishment (Hendriksen)
2. This would not be the last time
a. That Satan would tempt Jesus - cf. Lk 4:13; Mt 16:21-23
b. That angels would minister to Jesus - cf. Lk 22:43
-- After tribulation came consolation!
[With forty days of overcoming temptation behind Him, Jesus was now
prepared to begin His public ministry. What application might we draw
regarding "The Temptation Of Jesus"...?]
1. Jesus was tempted by the devil, and so are we - 1Pe 5:8-9
2. The devil now directs his attention towards the disciples of
Christ - cf. Re 12:17
-- We should not treat him lightly, for the conflict is real! - Ep 6:12
1. The lust of the flesh - e.g., immorality, especially when young
2. The lust of the eyes - e.g., materialism, especially when
3. The pride of life - e.g., pride and arrogance, especially when
middle-age elderly
-- These we must overcome, if we wish to have the love of the
Father - 1Jn 2:15-16
1. Jesus appealed to the Word of God, and so can we - cf. Ep 6:17
2. Jesus had faith in the plan of God (victory through suffering),
we need a similar shield of faith - Ep 6:16; cf. He 10:35-39
3. Jesus undoubtedly prayed, He taught the use of prayer to overcome temptation - Mt 26:41
-- The Word of God, faith, and prayer...against these the devil has no chance!
1. Jesus was administered to by angels, angels will carry us home cf. Lk 16:22
2. Jesus received wonderful blessings when He ultimately overcame
and ascended to heaven; He has promised similar blessings for
us - cf. Re 2:10,26-27; 3:21
-- Angels will minister to us, as heirs of salvation! - He 1:14
1. Material food alone cannot satisfy, we need spiritual food from God's Word
tempt Him
2. While we are to trust in the Lord, we should not foolishly
3. Scripture can easily be abused, as well as used - cf. 2Pe 3:16
4. The way to glory is not quick and easy, but long and hard - cf.Ac 14:22; Ro 2:7
-- The Temptation of Jesus teaches much about serving God!
1. Perhaps the greatest lesson from "The Temptation Of Jesus" is that we
have a Savior who in all things was made like us...
a. That He might be our merciful and faithful High Priest - He 2:17
b. That having suffered, being tempted, He can aid us who are tempted - He 2:18
c. That He might be sympathetic, providing mercy and grace to help in
time of need - He 4:15-16
2. Are you burdened with temptations...?
a. Look to Jesus as your example in learning how to overcome
temptation in your life!
b. Look to Jesus as your High Priest when you need to approach God in
prayer and receive mercy and grace for those times when you succumbed to temptation!
"Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who
As in all things, look to Jesus, as the writer to Hebrews exhorts us...
for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising
the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
"For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls."

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

What was the Sin at Babel? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.



What was the Sin at Babel?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

The biblical narrative often gives little commentary on major events it records. For instance, the death of James the apostle is mentioned in a single verse in Acts 12:2. Due to this abbreviated style in certain instances, one must take a rather in-depth look into the text for answers to questions that naturally arise from a straightforward reading. One such instance involves the details surrounding the tower of Babel in Genesis.

In an amazing act of divine intervention, God confused the language of all the inhabitants. Yet, this monumental event is recorded in a mere nine verses. Such brevity quite possibly leaves the reader wondering what sin those at Babel had committed to elicit such an unprecedented and active response from the Almighty. The text of Genesis 11:1-9 that describes the event does not forthrightly declare specific sins of which the denizens of Babel were guilty. But a close look at the passage and context reveals at least two areas in which those building the tower erred.

First, after Noah and his family exited the ark, God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). After the Flood, God desired that humans spread throughout the world and “fill” it. Yet, those at the tower of Babel appear to have been in overt rebellion against this command of God. The rebels at Babel said: “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4, emp. added). These people obviously understood that they would (or should) be scattered over the face of the Earth, but they were attempting to fight against this directive. When God confused their languages, the text states that He also “scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth” (Genesis 11:8).

Second, the rebellious tower builders mentioned that they were building the tower to “make a name” for themselves. At the heart of the confusion at Babel was the sin of pride. The New Testament writer John mentioned that the sinful world consists of three primary areas of temptation: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). Pride had so infested those at Babel that they were no longer seeking to glorify and honor their Creator Who was responsible for endowing them with the ingenuity to survive, build, and thrive. Instead, they sinfully heaped up recognition for themselves in an attempt to gain undue notoriety. As Burton Coffman stated: “The children of men who wrought this wickedness in God’s sight were clearly infected with the us virus, the pride, arrogance, and conceit of the people standing starkly obvious in this cryptic account of it” (1985, p. 159, italics in orig.).

Furthermore, it has been suggested that the tower of Babel was one of the first organized efforts to propagate pagan worship and idolatry (Coffman, p. 158). While such could be the case, it is not necessary to establish in order to document sins of such a grievous nature that would deserve God’s condemnation. Those at the tower of Babel were rebellious, arrogant sinners who attempted to thwart God’s design to have the Earth inhabited by men. Not only were they unsuccessful, they were also punished. Their story stands as a reminder to all who read: God demands obedience, and His ultimate will always prevail.


Coffman, Burton (1985), Commentary on Genesis (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).

What Should We Call the Church? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.



What Should We Call the Church?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

A visitor to this Web site recently wrote our offices inquiring about the name that the universal Church should wear. In a day when millions of church-goers are naming themselves after everything from angels to men to religious offices and activities (with many churches apparently feeling like the more bizarre they are, the better), this gentleman’s e-mail was refreshing to read. It was evident that he and those of the church where he worshipped had a desire to be called, not the latest trendy name or whatever denominational name their great-great-great...grandparents wore, but whatever God wants them to be called. What does God want the Church to be known as? If a congregation of the Church is going to put a sign outside of their meeting place, or put their contact information in phone books and on the Internet, or have an official name on the books at the court house, what name should the Church wear?

There is only one place to turn to find out what followers of Jesus Christ should be called: God’s Word (see Butt, 2007). God created man, saved man, and has every right to tell man what to do and how to do it. The teachings of Jesus Christ and His apostles and prophets in God’s revealed Word is man’s ultimate authority and the book by which the world will be judged (Matthew 28:18; John 12:48; Colossians 3:17). If the saved want to please God in every area of their lives, including the religious name they wear, God’s Word must be consulted.

It is helpful, first of all, to understand something about the word “church.” The Greek word ekklesia, translated “church” in most English Bibles, was generally understood in the first-century Roman-ruled world simply to mean “assembly”—a gathering of people, whether for a secular or a religious purpose (Danker, et al., 2000, pp. 303-304; Thayer, 1962, pp. 195-196). Three times in Acts 19, Luke used the term ekklesia to describe a disorderly, secular assembly at Ephesus (vss. 32,39,41). The Septuagint translators used the term ekklesia more than 200 years before Christ in their Greek translation of the Old Testament to describe a group of 400,000 Israelite soldiers (Judges 20:2). In short, the word ekklesia was used before and after the time of Christ in reference to any kind of assembly. In the New Testament, however, it most often refers to obedient followers of Jesus Christ—those who have been called “out (Greek ek) of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9, emp. added).

Several times in the New Testament, the term “church” is linked together with the Greek term theos (God), and thus one easily can ascertain the fact that the Church to which obedient believers belong is the Church begun and owned by God. Paul wrote “to the church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1, emp. added), and later commanded the Corinthians to “[g]ive no offense...to the church of God” (1 Corinthians 10:32-33, emp. added). He confessed to the churches of Galatia that he had “persecuted the church of God” before becoming a Christian (Galatians 1:13, emp. added). Paul also wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica, reminding them how they “became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea” (1 Thessalonians 2:14, emp. added), and even boasted of them “among the churches of God” for their endurance through persecution (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4, emp. added). One must not miss the point that the Church of the New Testament is God’s Church. It is of divine origin and established according to Deity’s “eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:11). Certainly then, the name “church of God” is a biblical name to wear. “Children of God” (John 1:12; Romans 8:16; 1 John 3:1-2) are members of the “church of God.”

The Bible writers also referred to the “church of God” as the body or Church of Christ. Why would God’s Church be called Christ’s Church? Consider the following:

  • Jesus is Deity (John 1:1,3,23; 10:30,33; 20:28; cf. Isaiah 9:6).
  • Jesus said the Church was “His” (Matthew 16:18).
  • Jesus paid for the Church with His own blood (Acts 20:28).
  • Jesus saved the Church from eternal destruction (John 3:16; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 5:23)
  • Jesus is “the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18,24; Ephesians 5:22-23).
  • Jesus is the bridegroom and the Church is His bride (Ephesians 5:22-32; Revelation 21:9; cf. Matthew 25:1-13).
  • Jesus is returning to take His faithful Church to a new home (John 14:1-3; Matthew 25:1-13; 1 Corinthians 15:24; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Sincere, open-minded, obedient followers of Jesus Christ (i.e., Christians—Acts 11:26) who read the New Testament wondering what they should call the Church of which they are members, will come to the following conclusion: Though God did not assign one particular title for the Church, there are biblical designations that Christians can wear “by faith” (Romans 10:17), namely “Church of God” and “Church of Christ.” [NOTE: This is not to say that everyone who wears one of these names is a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. Sadly, many who wear both of these names dishonor God with unscriptural acts of worship, a variety of false teachings, lukewarm lives, etc.) A faithful follower of Jesus Christ must be committed to assembling with Christians who not only wear a scriptural, non-divisive name, but also who practice authorized, unadulterated, New Testament Christianity (see Miller, 2007).]

Nowhere in the New Testament was the Church called Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Catholic, Guardian Angels’, etc. In fact, the Christians in Corinth were specifically warned about wearing divisive names that bring honor to men and imply that the Church is divided (1 Corinthians 1:10-17; cf. John 17:20-21). Sadly, millions of “Christians” around the world continue to call themselves by names other than those God has authorized in Scripture.

In addition to Scripture’s numerous examples of the Church being called God’s or Christ’s, common sense demands such biblical designations. Consider two examples.

  • If Christ owns the Church, should the Church not wear His name? If a man (we’ll call him Ricky) worked 20 years, saved his money, and bought a house, whose house is it? It is Ricky’s house. If anyone ever put a sign in front of Ricky’s house that said the house was any person’s other than Ricky’s, he would be doing that which is unauthorized and displeasing to Ricky. Only he who owns the house has the right to name it. The Church is “the house of God” (1 Timothy 3:15, emp. added), no one else’s. Christians should call His “house” by no other name.
  • If my wife informed me today that she wanted to wear another man’s name, I would be terribly hurt and “jealous with godly jealousy” (2 Corinthians 11:2-4). Perhaps it wasn’t another man’s name, but simply a name that correlates with something she likes. Say, for example, instead of Jana Lyons, she wanted to be called Jana Homeschooler. Would that bother me? It most certainly would. I love homeschooling, but I am seriously opposed to my wife calling herself by any other name than Lyons. Similarly, if the Church is the bride of Christ, why would any church claiming to be in love with Jesus and married to Him spiritually ever call themselves by another name? God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5) and nothing in Scripture authorizes His Church to call herself anything other than after Him.

When the Jewish Sanhedrin brought Peter and John before them not many days after the Church had been established (Acts 4) and inquired “by what name” they had been teaching, Peter exclaimed:

[B]y the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:8,10-12, emp. added).

The Bible may not give one official title for the Church, but both reason and revelation demand that Christians put off party names and simply call themselves after the One Who saved them. When Jesus comes back to receive His bride and take her home, she better be wearing His name and no one else’s.


Butt, Kyle (2007), Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Danker, Frederick William, William Arndt, and F.W. Gingrich, (2000), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).

Miller, Dave (2007), What the Bible Says About the Church of Christhttp://apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/wtbsatcoc.pdf.

Thayer, J.H. (1962), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

What Must I Know to Be Saved? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


What Must I Know to Be Saved?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

The question frequently is asked by those who are contemplating becoming a child of God, “How much do I have to know in order to become a Christian?” Some feel like they have to know virtually every detail in the Bible before submitting to the Savior to get rid of sin in their lives. Others believe they need every question under the Sun answered before becoming a Christian. Some want to know about the origin of the races. Others want to know whether or not there is life on other planets. The Bible, however, never indicates that for one to become a Christian, he has to know every detail about every book in the Bible, or that a person has to be able to answer every question that arises. But what, if anything, is necessary for a person to know before becoming a disciple of Christ?

First, an individual contemplating his spiritual life must understand that the reason there is even something for him to do is because he has sinned. Everyone who has reached the level of mental maturity (sometimes referred to as “the age of accountability”) so that he or she understands what sin is (cf. 1 John 3:4; 5:17), has sinned (Romans 3:10,23; 1 John 1:8). [The one exception, of course, was Jesus—1 Peter 2:22.] Sin is that which separates man from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). For a person to be saved, he first must have knowledge that he is a sinner, and as such stands in a lost condition. One of the reasons Jesus condemned certain Jewish priests, elders, and sects was because they did not admit their sinfulness after hearing the preaching of John the baptizer (Matthew 21:31-32)—though the tax collectors and harlots (i.e., sinners) did acknowledge their sin, and believed.

Second, the one who aspires to become a Christian must know something about Jesus—the One Who came to save us from our sins (Luke 19:10; John 3:16; Romans 5:6-8). A person does not have to know every one of Jesus’ parables, or be able to quote the Sermon on the Mount, but he must know that Jesus is the Son of God Who died and was raised so that all men might have their sins forgiven and live eternally with Him in heaven (Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 2:9). In other words, before becoming a Christian, a person must have heard the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Finally, the individual who aspires to become a child of God must realize there is something for him to do (cf. Acts 2:38; 16:30; 8:36). If one understands that the Bible says he must believe that Jesus is the Son of God (John 8:24), repent of his sins (Luke 13:3,5), confess that Jesus is God’s Son (Romans 10:10), and be baptized for the remission of his sins (Acts 2:38), he or she then possesses enough knowledge to put on Christ in baptism (Galatians 3:27) and become a Christian, being added by God to the church that Christ established (Acts 2:47; Matthew 16:18; Romans 16:16).

Contrary to the belief of some, a person who desires to become a Christian does not have to know the whole Bible thoroughly before he takes action. Nor is there a need to have every question imaginable answered. The Ethiopian eunuch heard one Christ-centered lesson from Philip before asking, “What hinders me from being baptized” (Acts 8:35-36)? The three thousand on Pentecost heard only one Gospel sermon before accepting the grace of God and obeying the plan of salvation (Acts 2:41). They did not wait around for years, thinking they were not knowledgeable enough to be followers of Christ. Rather, they were convinced of their sins (Acts 2:37), heard the Gospel, believed it, and obeyed it. It is after one becomes a Christian that God commands us a person to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18), and to continue to study the Word in order to teach others (Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 3:15).

9 Things I Know From Noah by Ken Weliever, The Preacherman


9 Things I Know From Noah


The much-anticipated movie “Noah” debuted this past week-end. The film was a #1 box-office hit, raking in $44 million. Director Darren Aronofsky, an avowed atheist, created controversy by saying his film was   “the least biblical, biblical movie ever made.”

Reaction has been mixed, both among critics and Christians. 

“This is a Noah for the 21st century, one of the most dazzling and unforgettable biblical epics ever put on film, wrote, Richard Roeper, for The Chicago Sun-Times.

“If you are looking for a biblical movie, this is definitely not it,” said Glenn Beck.

Movie goers also had varied reactions.

“I expected a Sci-Fi movie, and that’s what I got,” said one man.

One lady complained that “Noah” was “like a slap in the face to religious people.”

“It was Sci-Fi, but it also had a grain of truth to it” comment another lady.

I’ve haven’t seen the movie. But I did reread Genesis 6-9. Here are 9 things I know from the narrative that adds up to more than “just a grain of truth.”

(1) Sin Messes up Mankind.

The Bible says that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen 6:5)

The problem was not pollution, or environmental. The problem was sin. Sin afflicts the heart. Pollutes the mind. Affects society. Sin ruins lives.

(2) God is Grieved by Sin.

When God looked upon the wickedness of the world, he felt sorrow. God is not pleased with sin. Nor does he overlook, or rationalize it.

Yes, God is love. But He hates sin. If I’m to be more like God, I need to love righteousness and hate wickedness.

(3) Noah Believed God.

He was a man of faith. Faith in God. Faith in His Word. And faith in His promises (Heb 11:7).

God’s Word produces faith (Rom. 10:17). “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (Heb 11:1). Through faith Noah received God’s approval. And so do we!

(4) Noah Obeyed God. 

Faith alone is not enough.God told Noah to build an ark out of gopher wood. He gave the exact specifications. And Noah obeyed. He built it exactly as God said. Without addition. Or subtraction.

This life lesson is simple. Faith works. Acts. Obeys. Faith does precisely what God says. Period.

(5) Noah was a Person and Preacher of Righteousness.

Darren Aronofsky portrayed Noah as a man subject to weakness. Of course, we know that. All people sin. None of the heroes of faith were without fault. Yet Noah was a righteous man. Upright. And just.

And he preached righteousness (2 Pet 2:5). Noah was not a violent, vindictive, or vicious man. Not according to the Bible. Noah is an example of godliness to us.

(6) God’s Patience is Limited.

God is longsuffering. For 120 years people were given the opportunity to repent. But finally God’s forbearance ended. The door of the ark was shut.

Today, God patently waits for us to come to Him. But time will end. The Lord will return. And the “door will be shut.”

(7) God Punishes the Disobedient.

Other people could have boarded the ark. But they chose to ignore Noah’s preaching. So, what happened to those outside the ark? They were lost!

How could a loving God allow people to be lost? Only when they refuse to believe and obey Him!

(8) God Blesses the Righteous Person.

Noah found favor with God. He “walked with God.” He influenced his family to be godly. And they were rewarded for their righteousness.

Today, God calls us to get in “the ark of safety.” To be a part of his “chosen people.” To trust him. Obey him. Serve Him.

(9) Good and Evil Continue to Co-exist

Today the world is filled with wickedness. Vice. And perversion. However, “in times like these, it pays to recall, there have always been times like these.”

Jesus said the people then were like those in Noah’s day. Eating. Drinking. Marrying. Going about their lives with little regard for God. And so it is today.

The narrative of Noah teaches me some simple, but valuable lessons. Let’s not get sidetracked by the fallacies in the film. God lives. Loves. And cares! But also punishes. He wants us to turn from sin and receive His saving grace.

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman

WHICH TRIBULATION? by David Vaughn Elliott



by David Vaughn Elliott

    Will Christians live through the Tribulation? Will the Tribulation begin less than ten years from now? Such popular questions pose a problem. The problem is not simply that someone may receive wrong answers. The problem is that the questions themselves are wrong! "The Tribulation"? Which tribulation? 


    Today's popular belief is that "the Tribulation" is a period of seven years just around the corner. It is foreseen as the worst period of suffering the world has ever known. It is widely thought that the church will not suffer through the tribulation because the "rapture" will occur first. 

    The common claim is that large portions of Bible prophecy will be fulfilled in the supposed coming tribulation. "They" equate this period with the final week of Daniel's 70-weeks prophecy. It is further claimed that Matthew 24, Mark 13 and 2 Thessalonians 2 will all be fulfilled in that coming brief period. "They" further claim that all the events in the book of Revelation from chapters 6 to 18 will be fulfilled in this tiny seven-year period. 

    The question which few people ever ask is "which tribulation?" Careful Bible study reveals that there is no such thing as one solitary tribulation. 


    Paul and Barnabas made it plain to the new Christians in what is called Turkey today. "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). "Must." "Many." Do not be mislead into thinking that tribulation cannot touch Christians. The Gospel message is not one of a bed of ease. Tribulation is not one set period of time in the future. Tribulation is a repeated reality for followers of Christ.  

    "Tribulation" in the singular is found 21 times in the New Testament. The plural is found seven additional times. In 2 Thessalonians 1:4 Paul speaks of "all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure." "All your... tribulations." 

    Thus it is obvious that the Bible teaches more than one tribulation. The present day practice of speaking as if there were just one tribulation, grossly twists and perverts the true Bible doctrine of tribulation. It closes peoples' minds to the Bible truth about tribulation. 

    "Yes," someone says, "but when we speak of 'the tribulation' we have in mind 'the great tribulation.' " Actually, "great tribulation" is a topic in and of itself, deserving lengthy treatment. (In a future "Insight..." I plan to discuss just that.) But ahead of time, here is a key point: the New Testament speaks of three "great tribulations." 


    Premillennialists are divided into three camps regarding the timing of the "rapture." There are pre-tribulationists, mid-tribulationists, and post-tribulationists. The pre-tribulationists are by far the largest and most popular group. They are pre-millennial because they believe Jesus comes before a literal millennium. They are pre-tribulationist because they believe the "rapture" will occur before "the tribulation." Since this is the most popular view, it is the view being discussed here. 

    Notice what Hal Lindsey says: "Dr. Gundry [a post-tribulationist] repeatedly says that pre-Tribulationism is based largely on arguments from inference and silence. This is in some measure true. But here is the big point: All of the views have to be developed to some degree on arguments from inference and silence. The truth of the matter is that neither a post-, mid-, or pre-Tribulationist can point to any single verse that clearly says the Rapture will occur before, in the middle of, or after the Tribulation" ("The Rapture," pages 36,37). 


    On what "inferences" do "they" arrive at the conclusion that "the rapture" will take place before "the tribulation"? One common "inference" mentioned by various teachers goes something like this: " 'The tribulation' is a time of 'wrath.' God promised to deliver Christians from 'wrath.' Therefore, Christians will be taken out of the world before 'the tribulation.' " Two of the main texts used as "proof " are 1 Thessalonians: 1:10 and 5:9. "To wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, [even] Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come... For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ."  

    The unproved assumption in this popular argument is that when these texts speak of "wrath" they refer to a future seven-year tribulation. The argument assumes what is to be proved. Wrath is mentioned in many different contexts throughout the Bible. It is impossible to assume that any particular mention of wrath refers to a supposed future seven-year-tribulation period.  

    What wrath are saints protected from? Certainly not all wrath. Moses experienced the wrath of Pharaoh (Hebrews 11:27). Jesus experienced the wrath of the Nazarenes (Luke 4:28,29). Early Christians experienced the wrath of the Ephesian pagans. (Acts 19:28). The book of Revelation speaks of true believers suffering the wrath of Satan (12:12; 14:8; and 18:3). Clearly the followers of God are not protected from all wrath. 

    On the other hand, the majority of the 47 times "wrath" is mentioned in the New Testament, it does have reference to the wrath of God. 

    The question remains: When Scripture speaks of Christians being protected from future wrath, what wrath is it talking about? Rather than a mere seven years of wrath, could it not be protection from eternal wrath? Several texts clearly point out God's eternal wrath upon the lost--in contrast to eternal life for the redeemed.  

    Look at John 3:36: "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." Did you notice? The wrath of God is placed in contrast to eternal life. This is therefore a clear parallel to such texts as Matthew 25:46: "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." 

    In like manner Romans 2:1-11 makes a contrast between those who will receive "indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish," and those who will receive "eternal life." Two groups: one lost, one saved; one to perish, one to live; one to suffer eternally the wrath of God and the other to enjoy eternal life. 

    Considering such verses, we can never assume that a verse about "wrath" is talking about a supposed future-seven-year period. It is much more likely that such passages are talking about eternal wrath, also called "the second death," "the lake of fire," and just plain "hell." This is the wrath from which Jesus saves us by His death on the cross. 


    There is another frequently mentioned "inference" by which the pre-tribulationists arrive at the conclusion that "the rapture" will take place before "the tribulation." "They" assume that Revelation chapters 6 through 18 is talking about a future-seven-year tribulation. Then they argue that the church is not present in all these chapters. 

    As an example, notice what John Walvoord says "The word 'church,' prominent in chapters 2-3, does not reoccur until 22:16 though the bride mentioned in 19:7, no doubt, is a reference to the church. The total absence of any reference to the church or any synonym of the church in chapters 4-18 is highly significant" ("Every Prophecy of the Bible," page 544). Significant of what? 

    Please notice two things. "Absence" is "absence" only when it fits their theory. "Church" is also "absent" from chapter 19, but Mr. Walvoord believes that "the bride" "no doubt" is the church. In 19:7 suddenly he accepts a synonym for "church." So, by his own argument, silence in regard to a particular term has no significance. 

    On the other hand, if "bride" is an acceptable synonym for "church" (and it is), even more so is "saints" an acceptable synonym. The New Testament barely mentions the idea of the church being the bride of Christ. However, in Acts and the epistles, the members of the church are called "saints" about 45 times! In Revelation, the "saints" are found 10 times in chapters 6 to 18. Surely, with these 10 references, "the church" is indeed found in Revelation 6 to 18.  


    Revelation 7:9-14 says that great multitudes will be saved during great tribulation. Of that, there is no question. The question is if this particular tribulation is yet in our future after a "rapture." It must also be kept in mind that no interpretation of prophecy is acceptable that contradicts the clear doctrine of the New Testament. 

    According to the pre-tribulationist interpretation of the book of Revelation, there are two classes of saints: "church saints" and "tribulation saints." "Church saints" are saved from "wrath"; "tribulation saints" are not, nor are they part of the Lord's church. "Tribulation saints" thus become a new body of believers whereas Scripture proclaims "one body" (Ephesians 4:4).  

    Besides that, the truth is that "church saints" do suffer tribulation. The truth is that "tribulation saints" do not suffer Gods' eternal wrath. Biblically speaking, "church saints" are "tribulation saints." 


    Pre-tribulationists fail to distinguish between the words "wrath" and "tribulation." As we have seen, the word "wrath" in the New Testament most often refers to the wrath of God. In contrast, "tribulation" in the New Testament most often refers to what Christians suffer. Specifically, twenty out of twenty-seven times "tribulation" refers to persecution, afflictions and suffering experienced by the church of our Lord. It is a great mistake, therefore, to treat "wrath" as an equivalent of "tribulation." Whatever the Scripture may teach about Christians being protected from the "wrath to come," it has nothing whatsoever to do with Christians being protected from "tribulation." 

    Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 1:4: "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." Revelation 2:9 tells of the tribulation of the church in Smyrna: "I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich)." 

    Far from teaching that God will not allow Christians to pass through tribulation, the Word teaches that tribulation can even be beneficial spiritually. "And not only [that], but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope" (Romans 5:3,4). Tribulation develops Christian character if we are willing for it to have that result. Romans 12:12 commands us to be "patient in tribulation." Tribulation helps us to grow in Christ. 


    Jesus not only walked in the path of suffering, He promised the same to us. "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). "In the world you will have tribulation." Jesus said it and that settles it. 

    Jesus' parable of the sower can be considered a prophecy of what will happen as the Gospel is preached. Consider the seed sown in the stony ground. "Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word's sake, immediately they stumble" (Mark 4:17). Thus, Christians should not be surprised when fellow Christians fall away due to tribulation. At the same time we ourselves are warned, so that we do not fall away in like manner. Superficial Christians look for a bed of ease. They expect the Christian life to be a continual emotional "high." When hard times come because of serving God, they quit. Mature Christians, however, learn to handle tribulation with the help of the Savior who led the way in all his sufferings. 


    The apostle John, as he wrote the book of Revelation some 25 years after the destruction of Jerusalem, was sent into exile by Emperor Domitian. How did he view his situation? "I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ" (1:9). Notice! John said he was "in the tribulation" and also in the "kingdom." As far as the apostle John was concerned, neither the tribulation nor the kingdom was 2000 years off into the future. He was already in the kingdom. He was already in the tribulation. Those introductory remarks of John certainly have a great bearing on the proper interpretation of the entire book of Revelation. 


    Time fails to discuss all the texts of the New Testament that speak of tribulation, much less to discuss all the texts that use synonyms of tribulation. The dictionary defines tribulation as "distress or suffering resulting from oppression or persecution." And to these four words (distress, suffering, oppression and persecution) can be added four more: trial, affliction, trouble, and bearing the cross. These eight terms are all closely related to each other and to tribulation. All of them must be taken into account to gain an adequate understanding of the Bible teaching on tribulation. Notice how Paul groups many kindred terms together in 2 Corinthians 6:4,5: "But in all [things] we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults." 

    Paul in 2 Timothy 3:12 wrote: "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." That tells us that if a person does not know through personal experience what it means to "suffer persecution," then that person must not know what it means to "live godly in Christ Jesus." Strong words? But they are words of the Holy Spirit. All this talk of escaping tribulation is totally contrary to both the letter and the spirit of Scripture. 

    Then there are the powerfully beautiful words in Roman 8: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [Shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: 'For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.' Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." (Romans 8:35-37). "More than conquerors" in tribulation. We today, the church, are the tribulation saints. We do not promise people that they can accept Jesus and be raptured out of tribulation. Rather, we promise people that they can be more than conquerors in the very midst of tribulation. 

    In Insight #55 there is an in-depth study of the three "great tribulations" mentioned in the New Testament (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 2:22; 7:14). Even those three are not the only periods of great tribulation. It is perhaps because we have it so soft in the United States today that believers can easily swallow the idea that Christians will not suffer tribulation. Such an attitude can be maintained only by glossing over the horrendous tribulations that Christians have endured in the past twenty centuries. For the moment, passing over the three that are specifically called "great" in the N. T., take a quick glimpse at other great tribulations.  


    When the church of Rome held absolute power in Europe during the Dark Ages, the infamous Inquisition held sway. All "heretics" were at risk, a "heretic" being anyone who disagreed with Rome. As one tiny example, Foxe's "Book of Martyrs" (in chapter 5) offers the following gruesome picture in Madrid in 1682.  

    "At the first time of torturing, six executioners entered, stripped him naked to his drawers, and laid him upon his back on a kind of stand, elevated a few feet from the floor. The operation commenced by putting an iron collar round his neck, and a ring to each foot, which fastened him to the stand. His limbs being thus stretched out, they wound two ropes round each thigh; which ropes being passed under the scaffold, through holes made for that purpose, were all drawn tight at the same instant of time, by four of the men, on a given signal.  

    "It is easy to conceive that the pains which immediately succeeded were intolerable; the ropes, which were of a small size, cut through the prisoner's flesh to the bone, making the blood to gush out at eight different places thus bound at a time. As the prisoner persisted in not making any confession of what the inquisitors required, the ropes were drawn in this manner four times successively.  

    "The manner of inflicting the second torture was as follows: they forced his arms backwards so that the palms of his hands were turned outward behind him; when, by means of a rope that fastened them together at the wrist's, and which was turned by an engine, they drew them by degrees nearer each other, in such a manner that the back of each hand touched, and stood exactly parallel to each other. In consequence of this violent contortion, both his shoulders became dislocated, and a considerable quantity of blood issued from his mouth." Read enough? No tribulation for the church?  

    The Inquisition was especially awful in Spain. In the "Summary" of Chapter 5, Foxe says: "Yet, even in Spain, thus gleaned of all heresy, the Inquisition could still swell its lists of murders to thirty-two thousand! The numbers burned in effigy, or condemned to penance, punishments generally equivalent to exile, confiscation and taint of blood, to all ruin but the mere loss of worthless life, amounted to three hundred and nine thousand. But the crowds who perished in dungeons of torture, of confinement and of broken hearts, the millions of dependent lives made utterly helpless, or hurried to the grave by the death of the victims, are beyond all register." Tribulation for the church in this world. 


    But all such persecution is past history, right? Wrong. As recent as August 1997, "The Reader's Digest" carried a lead article entitled "The Global War on Christians." The author begins with three specific examples: in China a woman murdered; in Pakistan a man shot, and in Bangladesh a man beaten till his leg was broken. "Their crime? They are Christians. Never before have so many Christians been persecuted for their beliefs." Mention is made of "torture, enslavement, rape, imprisonment, forcible separation of children from parents." The two main enemies of believers today are Muslim militants and communist oppressors. But communism collapsed when the Berlin Wall fell, no? Try posing that question to believers in China today.  

    Tribulation varies with time and place. There are believers in Christ who are suffering great tribulation today, even unto death. Even in "free" United States, incidents appear to be on the increase where individuals get into trouble with the authorities for speaking out in the name of Christ. Also, do not forget that Christian tribulation may be as "simple" as being laughed at. Or, one may lose a job for refusing to lie. Whatever form it takes, God has warned us that persecution and tribulation are part of the Christian walk. 

    According to the Word of God, tribulation cannot be limited to a seven-year period. According to the Word of God, the church cannot escape tribulation. To teach that tribulation is something in the future after the "rapture," does not help Christians to understand the true nature of life in Christ. Not till the end of the world and the arrival of the New Jerusalem will saints be free from trials, anguish, tribulation and wrath. "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (Jesus). 

(Clarification: Word counts in this article are based on the New King James Version. Other versions may vary.)

(Scripture in the preceding article is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)