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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Tribulation

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‘Tribulation’ is used to translate θλῖψις, but not quite so frequently as ‘affliction,’ in both Authorized Version and Revised Version . We have ‘tribulation’ in Acts 11:19 and 1 Corinthians 7:28 (Revised Version ; Authorized Version ‘persecution,’ ‘trouble’). In 2 Corinthians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 7:4, where Authorized Version has ‘tribulation’ Revised Version has ‘affliction.’ In 2 Corinthians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 1:8, where Authorized Version has ‘trouble’ Revised Version has ‘affliction.’ θλίβω is translation ‘afflict’ in Revised Version in every passage in which it occurs except 2 Corinthians 4:8 (‘press’) and 1 Thessalonians 3:4 (pass. ‘suffer affliction’). The latter passage in Authorized Version is translation ‘suffer tribulation.’ In half of the passages, however, this Gr. verb is rendered ‘trouble’ in Authorized Version . The Vulg. [Note: Vulgate.] has tribulatio for θλῖψις very frequently. In 4 Ezr. ‘tribulation’ is the rendering of tribulatio in 15:19, 16:19 (Authorized Version and Revised Version ) and in 16:67, 74 (Revised Version ; Authorized Version ‘trouble’), and of pressura in 2:27 (Revised Version ). In Ass. Mos. iii. 7 we find the transliteration thlibsis (cod. clibsis).

Tribulation may affect either body or mind or both. Those who marry heedless of ‘the present distress’ ‘shall have tribulation in the flesh’ (1 Corinthians 7:28 Revised Version ). St. Paul writes to the Corinthians ‘out of much tribulation and anguish of heart’ (2 Corinthians 2:4). Part of his tribulation in Macedonia consists of fears within, while his flesh had no relief (2 Corinthians 7:4 f.). To him anxiety about the faithfulness of his converts and the progress of the gospel is a source of tribulation (1 Thessalonians 3:7, Philippians 1:17).

Tribulation may be produced by various causes. The famine caused the inhabitants of Egypt and Canaan great tribulation (Acts 7:11). The captured Joseph suffered tribulation in Egypt (Acts 7:10). Part at least of the tribulation of the Corinthians was poverty (2 Corinthians 8:13). By ministering to St. Paul’s need the Philippians had fellowship with his tribulation (Philippians 4:14). The lot of the fatherless and widows is tribulation (James 1:27). Such tribulation may be relieved (1 Timothy 5:10). Sometimes tribulation is the punishment of sin. To those who trouble the Thessalonian Christians God will recompense tribulation (2 Thessalonians 1:6). There shall be ‘tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil’ (Romans 2:9). God will cast the woman Jezebel out of the Church of Thyatira and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation (Revelation 2:22). But it is the Christians who are specially subject to tribulation, and their tribulation consists largely of persecution and of the opposition which their religion meets in an unfriendly world. ‘The tribulation which arose about Stephen’ (Acts 11:19 Revised Version ) was of course ‘persecution’ (Authorized Version ). St. Paul speaks of all the ‘persecutions and tribulations’ which the Thessalonians endure (2 Thessalonians 1:4). He says they received the word ‘with much tribulation,’ and entreats them not to ‘be moved by these tribulations’ (1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 3:3). In 2 Corinthians 8:2 we are told that the churches of Macedonia experienced much tribulation. St. Paul exhorts other converts to be ‘patient in tribulation,’ and to bless them that persecute them (Romans 12:12; Romans 12:14). In his work of evangelization the Apostle met with much tribulation. He told the elders of Ephesus that ‘bonds and tribulations’ awaited him (Acts 20:23). He gloried in tribulations (Romans 5:3), feeling that neither tribulation nor anguish nor persecution could separate him from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35). There is little doubt that he is referring to the difficulties and the dangers which he met with in his proclamation of the gospel. Tribulations are mentioned in the list he gives of his trials in 2 Corinthians 6:4 f. Bad news about certain Corinthians gives him tribulation (2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 4:8). Tribulation, then, to the early Christians meant not so much ill-health, or poverty, or loss of friends, as the sacrifices they had to make and the perils they had to meet on account of their proclamation or profession of Christianity. In Hebrews the writer says that after his readers were converted, they ‘endured a great conflict of sufferings; partly, being made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, becoming partakers with them that were so used’ (Hebrews 10:33; cf. Hebrews 11:37). Tribulation is the appointed destiny of Christians. St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians that both he and they were appointed unto tribulations, and that he had told them before that they were to suffer tribulation (1 Thessalonians 3:3 f.). John is partaker ‘in the tribulation and kingdom and patience which are in Jesus’ (Revelation 1:9); and he tells the church of Smyrna that they shall suffer tribulation ten days (Revelation 2:10). ‘Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14:22).

Tribulation thus leading to the Kingdom, joy in tribulation is a phenomenon that can be understood. In much proof of affliction the churches of Macedonia had abundance of joy (2 Corinthians 8:2). The Thessalonians received the word with much tribulation, with joy of the Holy Ghost (1 Thessalonians 1:6). In the case of the Christian, tribulation results in increased energy and blessedness of the spiritual life. ‘Our light tribulation, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory’ (2 Corinthians 4:17). ‘Tribulation worketh patience’ (Romans 5:3; cf. Revelation 1:9). God comforts the faithful in tribulation (2 Corinthians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 7:6), and the comfort thus given enables them to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:4). His judgment will put an end to their tribulation, and they will be rewarded with rest (2 Thessalonians 1:5 ff.; cf. Revelation 2:10).

It was a common eschatological idea that before the Judgment could come evils of all kinds would greatly increase. This idea is found, e.g., in the Apocalyptic Discourse, and the coming of great tribulation is predicted (Mark 13:19; cf. Zephaniah 1:15, Daniel 12:1). ‘The inhabitants of the earth … shall fall into many tribulations.… And it will come to pass when they will say in their thoughts by reason of their much tribulation: “The Mighty One doth no longer remember the earth”-yea, it will come to pass when they abandon hope, that the time will then awake’ (Apoc. Bar. xxv. 3, 4). The faithful martyrs who have come out of the great tribulation will receive the highest place of honour in heaven (Revelation 7:14). To the wicked the Judgment is ‘the day of tribulation’ (4 Ezra 2:27 Revised Version ; cf. 1 En. i. 1, xcvi. 2), when they shall be recompensed for the tribulation which they have inflicted on the righteous (2 Thessalonians 1:6 f.).

Literature.-J. Weiss, Die Schriften des NT, Göttingen, 1907, s.v. ‘Trübsal’ in Index; P. Volz, Jüdische Eschatologie, Tübingen, 1903, § 31; Dict. of Christ and the Gospels , s.v.; John Foster, Lectures, London, 1853, lect. xli.

William Watson.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Tribulation'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/t/tribulation.html. 1906-1918.

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