“For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened” (Mt. 24:21-22)
Both Christians and non-Christians are interested in the future. Everybody has questions. Some of us are motivated by curiosity, others by fear and anxiety. For the most part, our questions will remain a mystery, but certain future events have been revealed in the Bible.
I would add a word of caution to anyone who attempts to study this topic. We cannot know everything about the future, but we can know certain things. In our attempts to discern what the Bible says about the future, we must be careful our conclusions come only from the truth of Scripture and not our own interpretations. Only God and His Word are infallible, not you or I.
To answer our questions about the Tribulation, it is important to look at God’s purpose for this world during that period of time: to pour out judgment on unbelieving peoples and nations (Isa. 26:21; 2 Thess. 2:12; Rev. 14:7; 15:4; 16). The Tribulation will be characterized by false christs; wars in which nations will rise up against each other on a global scale; unusual disturbances in nature including famines and earthquakes. The world will see terrible times of societal degeneration. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, and having a form of godliness but denying its power. Wickedness will increase, causing the love of most people to grow cold. The very nature of the Tribulation is that of wrath. It will be a time of “great distress” (Jer. 30:7). Things will get bad and then they will get worse. The suffering will be greater than anything the world has ever seen before. This is why Jesus points out how difficult the time will be for pregnant women and nursing mothers (Mt. 24:19).
When I think about the suffering in the world today, it is easy to understand why so many people think we are in the midst of the Tribulation now. While we can conclude a number of things about the Tribulation, it is important to realize our conclusions are tempered by where we stand – with Christ or without Him. If we are among those who have confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior the Bible affirms we will be raptured before the Tribulation and will not be present during that time. If we are believers, God will provide for us today and tomorrow. It is clear Jesus does not appoint the church to wrath, but to salvation. With that in mind, those who know Christ have nothing to fear. Whatever the future holds, God is in control.
However, the application of this Bible truth is far different for the unbeliever. A choice must be made by each of us in this life and this choice will determine our eternal destination (and if we will enter the Tribulation if it occurs while we are still living on earth). Those who have been made righteous by faith in Christ will have eternal life in heaven, but those who reject Christ will be sent to eternal punishment in hell (Mt. 25:46). God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but desires all men to turn from their ways so that they can live eternally with Him (Ezek. 33:11).
How can we avoid eternal wrath in Hell and receive eternal life in heaven? There is only one way—through faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible is clear on what determines our eternal destination—whether we have faith in Christ and trust Him to save us from our sins. Christ’s simple way is the only way and it alone leads to eternal life. Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).