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ENCOURAGEMENT AND WARNING IN TRIBULATION –
NOW AND IN THE FUTURE

A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
with material by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan
preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, May 19, 2019

“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” (John 16:33).


Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” The word translated “tribulation” is thlipsis. It could be translated “pressure.” We all have pressure in our lives. But the worst time of pressure is yet to come. The Tribulation is the seven-year period just before Christ descends to the Mount of Olives to rule the world in righteousness. The worst part of that tribulation is the last three and a half years. In the seven years just before Christ returns to the earth, the Antichrist will rule the world. The Bible indicates that everyone who becomes a Christian during these seven years will be martyred.

The Apostle John saw a vision of the souls of these Tribulation Christians in Heaven. He said,

“I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held” (Revelation 6:9).

Then he wrote,

“These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).

These seven years will be worse for Christians than any other period in history. Jesus said,

“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21).

Yes, there will be a rapture. The Bible says,

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Yet we must not think that this promise will relieve us from having trials today, even before the Great Tribulation. In our text, Jesus said that Christians would have tribulation throughout this age.

“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” (John 16:33).

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Let us consider what Jesus said here very carefully. I will comment on the second part of the verse, then the first part, and then the last part.

I. First, “in the world ye shall have tribulation.”

Jesus said this to the Disciples, and it applies to all Christians in this age. Christians will have physical troubles. The Apostle Paul wrote,

“Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh…” (II Corinthians 12:7).

This seems to indicate the problem Paul had with his eyesight. It is an indication that Christians will go through the tribulation of physical illness, pain, and physical death. We do not escape physical disease and pain when we become Christians.

Christians will also go through other trials and tribulations in our fallen, sinful world. The Apostle Paul spoke of Christians experiencing

“…tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Romans 8:35-36).

But he indicated that none of these tribulations could “separate us from the love of Christ” (Romans 8:35a).

“In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33).

All of the Apostles were killed for their faith in Christ – except for John – who was dipped in boiling oil, and scarred for the rest of his life. Christians throughout the ages have suffered for their faith. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is a classical book that documents the suffering of Christian martyrs throughout history. Dr. Paul Marshall said,

In Central American jungles…Chinese labor camps, Pakistani jails, Indian riots, and Sudanese villages countless believers have already paid the ultimate price for their faith (ibid., page 160).

In Sudan Christians are enslaved. In Iran they are assassinated. In Cuba they are imprisoned. In China they are beaten to death. In more than 60 countries worldwide Christians are harassed, abused, tortured or executed because of their faith. 200,000,000 Christians throughout the world live in daily fear of secret police, vigilantes, or state repression and discrimination… Hundreds of millions of Christians are suffering simply because of what they believe (Paul Marshall, Ph.D., Their Blood Cries Out, Word, 1997, back jacket).

Even here in the West, true Christians are often singled out and belittled or harassed, by an increasingly secular society. Christianity and the Bible are mocked in college classrooms. Many Christians are passed by for advancement, and others are terminated from their jobs because of their desire to worship God in their churches on the Lord’s Day. Even non-Christian family members and weak, soft new-evangelicals cast scorn upon dedicated Christians. As Jesus said,

“In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33).

II. Second, “these things I have spoken unto you,
that in me ye might have peace.”

This is a promise to those who are “in Christ.” “In me.” He is the source of inner peace. Jesus said,

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you…” (John 14:27).

When a person knows Christ, there is a settled, inner peace that others in the world do not have.

The person who is “in” Christ, and who commits his problems to God in prayer, has a peculiar peace, which the Bible calls “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). The world simply cannot understand why Christians would go through being arrested, tortured, imprisoned, and executed – as they are in many countries around the world tonight.

This peace does not mean that the Christian has no inner conflicts, emotional problems, or physical ailments. Many evangelicals in America are obsessed with success, prosperity, tranquility, happiness, and self improvement. These subjects would seem ridiculous, to a Chinese Christian being hanged upside down for his faith, or a Cuban Christian who has spent five years in solitary confinement, or a Christian in Iran facing death for believing in Jesus.

These persecuted Christians in Third World countries come far closer to understanding what Jesus meant when He said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace” (John 16:33). I think they would understand that this peace refers to an inner calm, resulting from a knowledge that their sins have been forgiven, and that God cares about them.

I’m going to read II Corinthians 11:24-28. Listen as I tell you what happened to the Apostle Paul. He said,

“Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (II Corinthians 11:24-28).

How could Paul speak of having peace in such circumstances? Yet he did. Paul gave the answer in Philippians 4:6, 7.

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Paul went through much tribulation and suffering, yet he spoke here of “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.”

III. Third, “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

You may wonder whether or not you can make it through the trials and tribulations of life. Young people in secular college must sit through class after class, where the Bible and Christianity are scathingly attacked, belittled, and ridiculed. “Can I make it, and be a Christian?”, the college student thinks. “Can I go through this present trial? Can I make it when people turn against me? Can I hold out when I am afraid – and I don’t have much faith?”

Today serious Christians are mocked as fanatics. People will say you are doing too much for Jesus. They call you to an easy religion of one hour on Sunday morning, or no church at all. They say you’ll be happy if only you’ll stop following Christ. “There’s no need to bear the cross. There’s no need for suffering or pain,” they say. “Forget it all. Just let it go and be the way we are.” They put pressure on you. As Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation.”

But Christ says, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Listen as I read Romans 8:35-39.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:35-39).

When you come to Christ, He takes over. He holds on to you and will not let you go. When you have come to Christ, you don’t have to hold on to Him. He holds on to you! From the moment of your conversion, you are eternally secure in Christ. The very fact that there are 200 million people in the Third World willing to suffer for their Christian faith proves that Christ holds on to His followers, and will not let them perish without the hope of Heaven. Come to Christ, and He does all the saving, and all the keeping! As Mr. Ngann sang before the sermon,

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
   I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
   I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
(“How Firm a Foundation,” ‘K’ in Rippon’s ‘Selection of Hymns,’ 1787).

The title of this sermon is “Encouragement and Warning in Tribulation – Now and in the Future.” I have given you encouragement tonight. But I must also give you a word of warning. Whatever trouble we go through now is very small compared to what people are suffering in other places. In the Third World Christians are beaten, put in jail, tortured and killed for believing in Jesus. Our life here in America is a vacation compared to what it is like there. In future years it may get far harder to be a Christian here. The pressure will be worse. You may lose your job, your house, and your money for being a serious Christian. It happens in other countries right now. Your friends and relatives may turn against you. Speaking of the Tribulation, Jesus said, “The brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake” (Mark 13:12, 13). It happens in other countries right now. Don’t be surprised if people reject you even before those seven years.

The prophet Jeremiah said, “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5). Yes, you are going through some tribulation now. But if you can’t cope with the small pressures of today, what will you do when it gets worse? If you can’t live the Christian life in the vacation time of today, what will you do when the storms come? I urge you to be a strong Christian now. If you do that now you will be a strong Christian later. I thought of that as a new Christian when I read Pastor Richard Wurmbrand’s book, Tortured for Christ. It wasn’t just a book to read. It changed my life. Being a Christian isn’t always a vacation. It can be hard. It is hard. Yes, “be of good cheer” (John 16:33). But also count the cost (see Luke 14:28). It will be worth it all, for you will live with Christ forever.

And now I must speak to the lost who are here tonight. Jesus loves you. He died on the Cross to pay for your sin. He shed His Blood to wash your sin away. He rose from the grave to give you life. If you trust Him, you will be saved forever. But trusting Jesus is not just a few words. Trusting Jesus means trusting Jesus. Yes, there will be hard times. Yes, you may suffer. But it will be worth it all. You will know Jesus. You will live with Christ forever if you trust Him. If you would like to speak with me about trusting Jesus, please come and sit in the first two rows. Amen.


THE OUTLINE OF

ENCOURAGEMENT AND WARNING IN TRIBULATION –
NOW AND IN THE FUTURE

A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
with material by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan

“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” (John 16:33).

(Revelation 6:9; 7:14; Matthew 24:21; I Thessalonians 4:16-17)

I.    First, “in the world ye shall have tribulation,” II Corinthians 12:7;
Romans 8:35-36.

II.   Second, “these things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might
have peace,” John 14:27; II Corinthians 11:24-28;
Philippians 4:6-7.

III.  Third, “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,”
Romans 8:35-39; Mark 13:12, 13; Jeremiah 12:5; Luke 14:28.