Summary: A unique but Biblical/Historical description of the Great Tribulation
The Great Tribulation
While this title has been popularized during the past century and a half by the pre-tribulation rapture theory, which also tagged it with the traditional 3-1/2 year time period, the fact of the matter remains, the Bible does not explicitly indicate an exact length of time for ‘the tribulation, the great one’ as stated in the Greek text of Revelation 7:14.
This is the only place in the Scripture where the article translated ‘the’ appears before the words ‘great tribulation’. In this passage the elder uses the article because he is looking back upon the completed time period called ‘the great tribulation’.
The Lord Jesus refers to this time of great tribulation in Matthew 24:21 pointing out that it will be ‘shortened’ or literally cut off ‘for the elect’s sake’, with the elect here referring to the saints as the elect are referred to again on two other occasions in this passage (v.24, 31).
The word in the verb form translated ‘tribulation’ was used by those before the time of the Lord Jesus Christ, to mean ‘to press’ (as grapes), which was ‘allied with affliction’ [Thayer’s Lexicon]. The Lord used it in Matthew 3:9 where it is translated ‘throng’ indicating the activity of pressure from the multitude that ‘heard what great things He did, came unto Him.’ (Matthew 3:8) He also used it to indicate ‘a compressed way, i.e. narrow, straitened, contracted, Matthew 7:14 [Thayer]
The vast majority of over (50) times the verb and noun are found in the N.T., they refer to the suffering of great pressure, tribulation, affliction, torment and persecution, stemming from the religious persecutors, against the saints, the people of God with at least (40) references demonstrating that it is the lot of God’s people to ‘suffer tribulation’.
Yes, we are promised to be delivered from God’s Wrath (I Thessalonians 1:10, 5:9), the Day of the Lord, which is yet to come upon the world, but, as Foxes Book of Martyrs records, the saints of God have been persecuted and killed as a matter of course in history past which is continuing through the present day.
And, this suffering and persecution will continue throughout the age in which we live and will only increase and intensify as the end of the age draws near, finally coming to a close when the saints are miraculously rescued by the rapture when the Lord Jesus Christ comes in the clouds and takes them home to be with Him. (I Thessalonians 1:10, 4:13-18; 5:1-10)
Statistics tell us that there were more Christians killed for their faith in the Twentieth Century than in all of the nineteen previous centuries combined. Therefore, in reality, the time of affliction when ‘they shall deliver you up to be afflicted and shall kill you’ (Matthew 24:9) as described by the Lord Jesus Christ has already begun, for the start and escalation of martyrdom in the last century is proof that many Christians across the planet have already been suffering ‘great tribulation’.
The Lord also used the word chosen/elect in Matthew 20:16 and 22:14 in the familiar ‘many are called but few (are) chosen’ passage again referring to the saints. He utilized this word when referring to all those chosen of God in Luke 18:7: