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Tribulation and the Great Tribulation

Throughout the history of Christianity, believers have faced various trials and tribulations as part of their spiritual journey. However, the concept of tribulation and the Great Tribulation can be difficult to understand and are entangled. Let us explore the differences between tribulation and the Great Tribulation, and shed light on their nature, purpose, and significance.


The word 'tribulation' comes from the Latin 'tribulum', which was a threshing instrument used to separate the wheat from the chaff. In a metaphorical sense, tribulation refers to a time of great suffering and adversity, during which the faithful face testing and refinement. The concept of tribulation is based in the biblical narrative, with many passages referring to times of distress and hardship. For example, in the Old Testament, the Israelites experienced tribulation during their enslavement in Egypt (Exodus 1-14) and during their exile in Babylon (Jeremiah 25:11). In the New Testament, Jesus himself speaks of tribulation, warning his followers that they will face persecution and suffering because of their faith (John 16:33).

The Great Tribulation

The great tribulation refers to a specific period of intense suffering and trial that is prophesied to occur in the end times, immediately preceding the second coming of Christ. Believers primarily derived this concept from two key biblical passages: the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) and the book of Revelation. In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus describes a time of unparalleled tribulation, stating that "for then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be" (Matthew 24:21). In the book of Revelation, the great tribulation is associated with a series of cataclysmic events, including natural disasters, wars, and the rise of the Antichrist, culminating in the ultimate battle between good and evil at Armageddon (Revelation 16).

Differing Perspectives on Tribulation and the Great Tribulation

The Christian faith has seen various interpretations of the tribulation and the great tribulation emerge throughout its history. We can broadly group these perspectives into three categories: pre-tribulationism, mid-tribulationism, and post-tribulationism. They can be summarised as follows:

1. Pre-tribulationism: This view holds that the church will be ‘raptured’, or taken up to heaven, before the onset of the great tribulation. According to this perspective, the tribulation is a period of divine judgement upon the unbelieving world, and the faithful will be spared from the suffering that will ensue. This view is based on passages such as 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, which describe the rapture of the church, and Revelation 3:10, which promise to keep the faithful "from the hour of trial that is coming on the entire world." Supporters of this view argue that the concept of divine providence causes the protection of the church from the great tribulation, as God would not subject his chosen people to such intense suffering.

2. Mid-tribulationism: This perspective posits that the church will experience the first half of the tribulation but will be raptured before the onset of the great tribulation. This view is based on passages such as Revelation 11, which describes the two witnesses who prophesy for 1,260 days (3.5 years) before being killed and then resurrected, and Daniel 9:27, which speaks of a seven-year period of tribulation, with the great tribulation occurring in the second half. Proponents of this view argue that the church will experience some tribulation as part of the refining process, but divine providence will ultimately rescue the faithful from the most intense period of suffering.

3. Post-tribulationism: This view holds that the church will experience the full duration of the tribulation and the great tribulation, with the rapture occurring immediately prior to the second coming of Christ. According to this perspective, the tribulation and the great tribulation are part of the divine plan for the church, purifying and strengthening the faithful to prepare for the return of Christ. This view is supported by passages such as Matthew 24:29-31, which describes the gathering of the elect "immediately after the tribulation of those days," and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, which speaks of the "man of lawlessness" being revealed before the day of the Lord. Advocates of this view argue that the concept of divine providence does not prevent the church from experiencing suffering, as the faithful have always faced tribulation as part of their spiritual journey.


It is crucial for Christians to recognise the differences between these two concepts and to be prepared for both the ongoing challenges of living a faithful life in a fallen world and the future fulfilment of God's redemptive plan through the events of the Great Tribulation. By understanding and embracing these truths, believers can find hope, strength, and encouragement to persevere in their faith, even amidst the most trying of circumstances.

While there are differing views on the extent to which the church will experience these periods of suffering and trial, all perspectives acknowledge the guiding hand of God in the unfolding of human history. As Christians continue to grapple with the complexities of biblical prophecy, the concept of divine providence serves as a reminder of the ultimate sovereignty of God and the assurance of his presence and protection throughout everything we may face.


Heavenly Father, we come before You today with heavy hearts, seeking Your divine intervention and guidance for those who are suffering tribulation in their lives. We know that Your love and mercy are unending, and we trust in Your promises to never leave or forsake us, even in the darkest hours. As we face the great tribulation to come, we ask that You strengthen our faith, help us persevere, and grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change.

Lord, we pray for those who are currently experiencing pain, loss, and heartache. We ask that You comfort them in their time of need and provide them with the hope and assurance that brighter days are ahead. May they feel Your presence and know that they are not alone in their struggles. We ask that You guide your children on the path of righteousness, so they may find solace in Your word and wisdom in Your teachings.

As we expect the great tribulation, we ask for Your wisdom, discernment, and protection. Help us remain steadfast in our faith, even when faced with challenges and persecution. Give us the courage to stand firm in our convictions and to be a beacon of light in a world that is increasingly dark and uncertain. May we never lose sight of the eternal hope and salvation that we have through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

We also pray for the leaders of our church, that You may grant them wisdom and discernment in guiding the flock through these turbulent times. May they be filled with Your Holy Spirit, and may their words and actions reflect Your love, grace, and compassion. Help them lead by example, showing kindness and empathy to all those who are suffering and in need of spiritual guidance.

Lord, we know that You are a just and loving God, and we trust in Your divine plan for our lives. As we navigate the trials and tribulations that lie ahead, help us keep our eyes fixed on You, knowing that You are the author and finisher of our faith. May we be ever mindful of Your presence in our lives, and may our faith in You grow stronger each day.

In closing, we ask that You continue to bless our church, our families, and our community. May we be instruments of Your peace and love, bringing hope and comfort to those in need. And as we face the great tribulation to come, may we always remember that Your love endures forever, and nothing can separate us from Your love. In Jesus' name. Amen.