Overcoming Current Tribulations
On the occasion of the
Events of the Saints Church in Alexandria and other events
Fr. Abraam D. Sleman
Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Mark
Jersey City – New Jersey – United States of America
While we live these days in shock amid waves of anger and resentment from the wicked attack that happened to the congregation of the Church in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve 2011, and other attacks such as al-Kosheh and Nagaa Hammadi, and what happened to Christians in many countries of the world such as Iraq and Nigeria, and away from the noise of the media and the press, we wonder: What is the message of God to us in everything that is happening? What is the meaning of the bitter events we are facing? And how to do face such tribulations? What is our way out of it victorious?
If the people of the world say: “All roads lead to Rome”, but the Bible teaches us that not all roads lead to the kingdom of God. The Lord God says: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12, Proverbs 16:25).
The Bible teaches us that there are two types of speech: either the human wisdom from below, which is from humans on the Earth, or the higher wisdom which is from God in heaven. St. Paul the Apostle says to the Corinthians: “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing” (1 Corinthians 2:4-6).
This heavenly wisdom is our way of life which is filled with good fruit that satisfies the Lord. St. James the Apostle exhorts us in his letter: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:13-17).
Therefore, we will look at such bitter events and associated tribulations in an objective manner from the perspective of the Holy Bible. What we are saying will be according to the words of God, so that God may be glorified in everything through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 4:11), and so “that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).
Before attempting to answer the numerous questions in this regard, I would like to thank God for the wisdom given to our father His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, who illuminates the eyes of our hearts and our minds to be inspired through his teachings how to handle things according to the will of God, as mentioned in the Bible . Also I offer condolences to all the families of martyrs and to the Church in the person of His Holiness, asking for healing from the Lord for all the injured.
1. The inevitability of tribulations in the World
Tribulations that we face are because we are at war that is invisible; a war that is not against humans but against the spiritual kingdom of wickedness. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:12-13).
What is happening these days is one form of the bitter ongoing conflict between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Evil. This conflict began with the hostility between the Kingdom of God and the devil since the fall of man. God said to the serpent, which represent the devil: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15).
Satan was behind the attempt to murder of Jesus Christ at His birth. “Now when they [the Wise Men] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him’” (Matthew 2:13).
Satan led the kingdom of evil to kill the children of Bethlehem. “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: ‘ A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more’” (Matthew 2:16-18).
The Book of Revelation offers a symbolic image that can be interpreted as an expression of Satan’s “ambush” of the Virgin St. Mary to kill her Child at the time of His birth. The Book of Revelation says: “Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman [St. Mary] clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child [the Child Jesus], she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon [Satan] having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth [the devils that were angels and fell]. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child [the Lord Jesus] who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne [by His Ascension to the Heaven through the clouds]. Then the woman fled into the wilderness [Egypt at the time of Herod], where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days [three and a half years, the time she spent in Egypt]” (Revelation 12:1-6). “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17).
The devil knows well that the birth of the Lord Jesus and His coming in the flesh into the World is the beginning of the collapse of the kingdom of evil. “He who sins [does evil] is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil [destroy the kingdom of evil]” (1 John 3:8). How many times the devil shouted: “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:24, Luke 4:34).
Satan continues to attack the Church constantly. It is no coincidence that Satan launched his attack on the church more than once in the season of the Nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ. The events of al-Kosheh, Nagaa Hammadi, and Alexandria were all in this season. Satan seems to be irritated whenever he remembers the Birth of Jesus Christ, and finds the impression of the Child in the lives of Christians.
Satan hates God’s children as he hated Christ, and planted this hatred in some children of the World. The Lord Jesus said: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me” (John 15:18-21).
Satan misleads the wicked people to the extent that murderers think they are offering a service to God by killing innocent people: “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you” (John 16:1-4).
Increasingly, people are straying in evil, and this leads to the persecution of all those who are in Christ Jesus. “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them” (2 Timothy 3:12-14).
These sufferings are not just inflicted on our own in Egypt, but also on our brothers in the World because of the activity of Satan and his kingdom against the kingdom of God. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).
The shock that we feel during times of disasters and difficult afflictions is due to our surprise and lack of expectation, when we think that it is possible to live without tribulations in this world while the Bible teaches us that “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you“ (1 Peter 4:12).
St. Paul the Apostle encourages the Thessalonians to expect afflictions in the world as our portion that is laid before us: “no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know” (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4).
We do not live in a perfect world, but in a world full of groans and throes until the new world is born. “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (Romans 8:22).
2. Tribulations are a fellowship in Christ’s sufferings and glory
We should know that the hardships and suffering in the world are two types; there is pain and tribulation that occur to one because of their evil, and the other because they belong to Christ Jesus. The first type needs repentance for the salvation from eternal damnation, while the second needs – with ongoing repentance – joy and hope in the eternal glory. On these two types St. Peter the Apostle writes: “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian [because he is a Christian], let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.” (1 Peter 4:15-16).
Suffering for the sake of Christ is gift and a blessing that accompanies believing in Him. St. Paul the Apostle says: “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29).
It is also a blessing to a person’s life to gain beatification from the Lord. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12), “Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake” (Luke 6:22).
It is also a blessing to a person’s life to gain strength of the descent of the Spirit of God in glory. “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14).
It is also a blessing to a person’s life to gain character and hope by the outpouring of God’s love in the heart. “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
These sufferings are a fellowship in the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ and in His glory also at the same time. “But rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:13).
Those who suffer and die with Christ will live and reign with Him. “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him.” (2 Timothy 2:11-12). “And if children, then heirs–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:17).
3. God is the Savior from the tribulations
There are many calls in many ways to try to find a way out of the current crisis of tribulations, but we should be aware of and believe that God alone is the Savior, and there is no use of doing anything without His personal intervention. The Lord says in the Book of Isaiah: “I, even I, am the Lord, And besides Me there is no savior.” (Isaiah 43:11). “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ‘For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.’ Therefore with joy you will draw water From the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2-3).
Our faith in God, in His salvation, in His promises, and in His commandments is the way to prevail over this world. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith” (1 John 5:4).
It is God who fought for His people in the story of the Exodus of God’s people out of the land of slavery. Moses said to the people: “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today … The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:13-14). Moses said in his blessing before his death: “The eternal God is your refuge [for His people], And underneath are the everlasting arms [carrying His people]; He will thrust out the enemy from before you … Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, The shield of your help And the sword of your majesty! Your enemies shall submit to you, And you shall tread down their high places” (Deuteronomy 33:27-29).
In our troubles, we cry out with the Prophet Isaiah: “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord! Awake as in the ancient days, In the generations of old … Are You not the One who dried up the sea, The waters of the great deep; That made the depths of the sea a road For the redeemed to cross over?” (Isaiah 51:9-10).
In the Book of Judges, the Lord sent a savior to His people whenever they cried out to Him. More than once it is written: “When the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the children of Israel, who delivered them” (Judges 3:9, 15). In the Book of Psalms, David the Prophet says: “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
God warned His people in the Old Testament of the dependency on other nations, or on their power to save without depending on Him. The Lord says through Isaiah the Prophet: “Woe to those who go down to Egypt [people other than the people of God at that time] for help, And rely on horses, Who trust in chariots because they are many, And in horsemen because they are very strong, But who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, Nor seek the Lord!” (Isaiah 31:1).
In the New Testament, God established His Son as a Savior of His people. The angel said to Joseph: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).
The Apostles witnessed to this. St. John says: “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). The Apostle Peter testified: “Nor is there salvation in any other [other than Jesus Christ of Nazareth], for there is no other name [other than the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth] under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
If we believe that the Lord Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior who will save His people from their sins, we should also believe that He is standing in front of the Heavenly Father to intercede for us, till we are saved from our sins and from the sins and evils of others. “But He [Jesus Christ], because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost [to save from evil and from the works of the wicked] those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:24-25). “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens [who is], Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession [by having confidence]. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:14 -15).
Thus, “let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace [before the Heavenly Father], that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). “Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer” (Romans 12:12). “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).
4. Tribulations are a message for repentance
The current tribulations are renewable call to hear the voice of the Lord Jesus: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2).
The message of tribulations and disasters that we go through is a message of repentance in the first degree. The Lord God says to His people Israel in the Old Testament: “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!”(Ezekiel 18:30-32).
The Lord Jesus taught that repentance is the first message for us when we hear news of disasters or tribulations. It happened that some people come and told the Lord Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-5).
St. Peter the Apostle calls everyone to repent, until the times of restoration come from the Lord, and the Lord Jesus comes again from heaven to take us with Him in a world of peace and joy. “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:19-21).
Repentance opens the gates of heaven, and heals the land from disaster. The Lord promised Solomon: “When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7: 13-14). If we truly want to heal our country from the blows of evil and the wicked one, everyone needs to turn away from their wickedness, and to not “give place to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:27).
If the repentance is a call to return to God with all the heart, it is also a washing by the grace in the blood of Christ. One of the priests [elders] told St. John in the Book of Revelation about those who are “arrayed in white robes”, and “these are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.” (Revelation 7:13-15).
5. Tribulations are a call to live according the Gospel
In facing current tribulations, the Lord asks us to be steadfast in the faith and in the implementation of the commandments to death. He says to the angel of the church of Smyrna: “These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life [the Lord Christ]: I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not [who claim to belong to God], but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil [who is behind the events] is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2: 8-10).
The weapon with which we face afflictions is the word of God. While Satan is waging war against the people of God, the children of God arm themselves with His word. St. Paul the Apostle says to the Ephesians: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth [truth is God’s commandments], having put on the breastplate of righteousness [fulfilling God’s commandments], and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace [God’s word]; above all, taking the shield of faith [believing in the veracity of God’s promises and commandments] with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation [salvation according to God’s promises], and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6: 10-17).
St. Paul the Apostle wrote to his disciple Timothy: “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them” (2 Timothy 3:12-14). He also wrote to the Philippians: “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ … and not in any way terrified by your adversaries … For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:27-30).
The children of God trust in the promises of God, so that the hardships do not become for them a cause of fear and panic. The Lord Jesus teaches us: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:28-31).
In tribulations, the children of God manifest themselves as true servants by their patience, their hope and by their living according to the Gospel. “But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:4-10).
Tribulations are an opportunity to exercise Christian love towards our brothers who are suffering. St. Paul the Apostle say: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another” (Romans 12:15-16), “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them–those who are mistreated–since you yourselves are in the body also” (Hebrews 13:3).
And the greatest of challenges facing those who are afflicted, which reveals them as real children of God, is the love and forgiveness of their enemies. They have learned from the Lord Jesus: “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
After the Lord Jesus offered the teaching of love and forgiveness, He offered Himself on the cross, and asked forgiveness for His crucifiers. On the cross Jesus cried out, saying: “”Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
6. Tribulations will conclude with the end of Satan and evil
In the world, the righteous get mixed with the wicked, but for a little while. In this regard, the Lord Jesus said the parable of the wheat and the tares, as He said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” (Matthew 13:24-30).
The time of harvest is the end of this age in which all evildoers will perish. The Lord Jesus interpreted this parable, by saying: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man [the Lord Jesus]. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 13:37-43).
The Lord Jesus presented the parable of the gathering dragnet, as He said: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:47-50).
If we are now facing disasters and afflictions because of evil and wicked ones, all this will come to an end in a conclusive way at the time of the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8).
In the face of hardships, let us have hope that one day will come in which Satan, evil [i.e. sin] and the evil nature [sinful nature] will all end. That is the good news that the Book of Revelation brings to us: “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast [evil] and the false prophet [sinful nature] are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).
7. The reward for the victorious
In tribulations, we need to fix our eyes on the Person of the Lord Jesus, and by seeing Him we are called to have persistence, endurance, patience, and even joy in tribulations. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:2-3).
After reaching His glory, the Lord Jesus sent the Book of Revelation to the suffering Church in the first century A.D., and also through the ages, to tell them about their fellowship with Him in glory. The Book of Revelation includes several visions, including the one described in the seventh chapter, which is the vision of “the ones who come out of the great tribulation”. St. John says about them: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10).
St. John says about their glory: “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:15-17).
This Book also includes numerous promises to those going through the valley of tears while victorious, such as:
• “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7).
• “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (Revelation 2:11).
• “To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it” (Revelation 2:17).
• “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations” (Revelation 2:26).
• “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Revelation 3: 5).
• “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name” (Revelation 3:12).
• “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:21).
• “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son” (Revelation 21:7).
Finally, we say with St. Paul the Apostle: “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 Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who 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 created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8: 35-39). “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:8 -11).