Tribulation? (Mark 13:19-20)

Mark 13:19-20 – For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.

The coming time of tribulation, as Jesus spoke above, is a period of time that will come on the earth in which God pours out his wrath against the wickedness of humanity. It will be a dark and terrible period of time, and it will stand as a true indicator of the holiness of God and just how much God hates human sin. There are, of course, many views as to how this time period may work out, and I do not intend to try to start a discussion or debate on eschatology. Let us simply recognize that there will come a point, at the end of the age, when God will wrap up human history, reward his elect, and bring his wrath on those who reject him.

The reason that I write on the above verses is because they stir in my mind one simple thought regarding eschatology. The coming tribulation will be awful. Over the past several years, many books have been written and movies made to help people to imagine the time of the end. It has even recently been brought to the world’s attention that the “Left Behind” video game will be hitting store shelves this fall. But, with all the adventure-filled and action-packed portrayals of the period of tribulation, we are in danger of missing the force of Jesus’ words here. We are in danger of setting up the period of tribulation as an epic battle in which the forces of good take on the forces of evil—a battle which no red-blooded male wants to miss. The fictional portrayals of this period are designed to appropriately bring fear to those who are in danger of God’s wrath, but also to entertain with action, adventure, intrigue, and even romance. Thus, Christians who read the books and watch the movies may actually fantasize about becoming part of the team, hence the video game.

As I said, we are in danger of missing Jesus’ point. Jesus said, regarding the tribulation, that it will be such a time of distress as has never been on earth in the past, nor will there ever be such a time again. Think about any terrible event or period of human history to this point, and recognize that the period of tribulation will be worse. World War II, Vietnam, the Bolshevik Revolution, the fall of Rome, or even the destruction of Jerusalem will not compare to what is coming. Then, astoundingly, Jesus makes the statement that, had God not chosen to shorten the time period of tribulation, everyone, every human being, would die. We live in a world of around six billion people. If the tribulation were to come today, by its end, it would threaten the lives of all six billion people were it not for the fact that God simply chooses to shorten the time from what we could receive from him.

Why bring this up? God wants us to think with sober judgment and proper fear about the time of the end. It will be dark and tragic. Evil will be loosed on the earth. Worse for the lost, the wrath of God for the sins of unredeemed humanity will be poured out. There is nothing about this period that is supposed to be appealing to us. There should be no desire, on the part of a believer, to experience the battle, not even via virtual reality video game. The coming of this period of wrath should drive us to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with as many as we can as often as we can so that, perhaps, God will save some of them and prepare them to face eternity and to not be under his wrath.

No, I’m not writing here about any particular eschatological position other than those which hold that the tribulation is a real period that will come upon the earth. Beyond such a view, I can not define, with certainty, in what order events will take place. Nor do I believe that such an argument is necessary to understand what I have written. I know that no period has yet come to the earth that is as awful and destructive as Jesus just described. I know that God is loving and gracious, but he is also holy and just. I know that God will not pour out his wrath on his children, but that his children have often suffered at the hands of the lost. I know that God’s wrath will be poured out on those who are not his children, and that time will be dreadful. And, I know that Jesus told us about this so that we would know it all, be watchful for it all, and live obedient to the will of the Father until the end comes.

Lord, I come to you this morning, and I ask that you would help me to think with propriety and sobriety about the end times. Let me not get caught up in speculation that takes me off course. Let me not get caught up in any form of fleshly thinking regarding what is to come. I simply want to know what you want us to know concerning this event as you revealed it in your word. I pray that the truth of the danger to come for the lost will drive me with even more passion to preach the gospel to all who will listen. I pray that you will grant me the opportunity to help people to come to Jesus before such a dark period arrives. Let me live to honor you this day, and to grow your kingdom on earth. I desire to glorify you in all things, even in my thinking about these difficult topics in your word.