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  • Pastor Steve Conley

Appointed to Suffering and Affliction

Joh 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

In this world, we will have tribulation. What is this "tribulation" that Jesus promised we will have?

The English word "tribulation" is derived from the Latin word tribulum which meant a thing with teeth that tears. A tribulum was heavy pieces of timber joined together to form a sort of sled. Into the bottom surface of the sled, small jagged pieces of stone or other materials were set. It would be dragged back and forth, round and round, overtop the grain in the stalks on the hard threshing floor until almost all the grain was broken loose from the chaff. After that, on a day with a breeze, the crushed grain and chaff would be tossed into the air (winnowed) so that the lighter chaff would be carried away by the wind. This would leave the grain on the hard floor separated from the chaff. The grain would be collected and stored for use as food, but the chaff would be taken and burned. For millennia, tribulum have been used to separate the wheat from the chaff through crushing and tearing.

The books of the NT were given to us in the Greek language. Thlipsis is a Greek word that is here translated tribulation. It is used 45 times throughout the NT. It means pressure in either a literal or figurative sense.

Is the word tribulation a good translation of the Greek word thlipsis? It is, providing that you understand what "tribulation" means. If your understanding of "tribulation" involves the idea of the "tribulum," being crushed and torn, then it is an excellent translation. But if in your thinking it involves the trivial nuisances that we all deal with, then you may be missing the point.

It is helpful to see the other ways in which "thlipsis" is translated. Depending on the Bible version you are using, there are a variety of words used in translation to convey the meaning of thlipsis. For instance, in the King James Version, in the 45 times thlipsis appears it is translated: afflicted, affliction, anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, and trouble. Each of these is more or less descriptive of the type of pressure being communicated by the author's use of the word thlipsis. It is important to remember that thlipsis always carries the idea of pressure, with the type of pressure being determined by the context. The most important thing in understanding the meaning of any word is its context. CONTEXT IS KING. When considering context, it is important to recognize that Christ's statement recorded in John 16:33 is said in the context of the soon betrayal of Christ at which time all the disciples will flee, forsaking Christ.

Joh 16:32  Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. 

Joh 16:33  These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. 

Mar 14:50  And they all forsook him, and fled.  The thlipsis (tribulation) that Jesus was referring to was, without doubt, persecution. Persecution is the constant companion of the faithful follower of Christ.

The apostle Paul makes it clear that the Godly will suffer persecution.

2Ti 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

He says that we are appointed unto thlipsis.

1Th 3:3 That no man should be moved by these afflictions [thlipsis]: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.

Paul teaches that the church will face tribulation before entering into the culmination of the Kingdom of God.

Act 14:22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue [persevere] in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.

Another important fact about persecution is that it separates the pretender from the real, the feigned from the true.

Mat 13:3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

Mat 13:4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:

Mat 13:5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

Mat 13:6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

Mat 13:7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:

Mat 13:8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

Mat 13:9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Mat 13:18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.

Mat 13:19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.

Mat 13:20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;

Mat 13:21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

Mat 13:22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

Mat 13:23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Being offended in the context of the above text is rejecting Christ; it is to fall away. The word offended is translated from the Greek word "skandalizo" which includes the idea of apostasy, a departure from the faith.

Jesus said that many who identify with Him will be offended due to violent persecution. Mat 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted [thlipsis], and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.

Mat 24:10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.

Paul said the same as Jesus, that before Christ comes there will be an "apostasia", a falling away. 2Th 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

There is a cost to follow Christ, and many will forsake before paying that price.

Mat 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Mat 16:25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

Mat 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Mat 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

Mat 10:32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.

Mat 10:33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Persecution is a given for the believer. The question is will you continue in faith toward Christ when it may cost you all, even your life.

When we read of Paul's life and ministry we see persecution from his conversion to his martyrdom. Paul speaks much about persecution. He encourages the persecuted Thessalonians that persecution demonstrates one’s worthiness of the Kingdom of God.

2Th 1:3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;

2Th 1:4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:

2Th 1:5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:

2Th 1:6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;

2Th 1:7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

2Th 1:8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

2Th 1:9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

2Th 1:10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

The Scriptures make clear that suffering persecution for Christ's sake and the Gospel's is a privilege for the worthy.

Act 5:41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.

Paul says that it is a favor from God to identify with Jesus in His sufferings, to suffer for His sake

Php 1:29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;

“Given” is translated from "charizomai" which conveys the meaning "to grant as a favor."

While it is certain that the church will suffer persecution, even the persecution brought upon Christ's saints by the future Beast, nevertheless, Jesus will be with us through all the persecution that we experience. His love for us is certain.

Rom 8:31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

Rom 8:32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

Rom 8:33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.

Rom 8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

Rom 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation (thlipsis), or distress, or persecution (diogmos, from dioko), or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Rom 8:36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

Rom 8:37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

Rom 8:38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

Rom 8:39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Faithfulness through persecution demonstrates that we are Conquerors.

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