Special Q&A for October 5, 2023 – with David Guzik

Special Q&A for October 5, 2023 – with David Guzik

What is spiritual formation? Is it good?

Someone recently told me they were focusing on spiritual formation. This term was new to me. As I researched it, I found people referring to it as a movement and even as a method of transformation to be more like Jesus. It almost sounded like it is a works-based way of growing spiritually. I get that we need to do more study, understand the Word, who God is and how we move closer to Him. But it sounds a little bit like if you do things and practices, you can become more like Jesus. I’m curious if you’re familiar with the term spiritual formation, and if I am correct, to show how biblically it may not be what people think it is.

Thanks for your question. I’ve done a bit of research on the idea of spiritual formation in the past. There is definitely some weird and unbiblical stuff that goes on in the name of spiritual formation, I don’t doubt that at all. Those things should definitely be rejected. If you find that it includes things like rituals, customs, religious bondage, manipulation, pressure, or things that conform to the spirit of the age, those are things to be on guard against and to be rejected.

However, we need to be very careful about rejecting things just because of a name. There may be a spiritual formation movement out there that is associated with some weird stuff. But if someone uses the phrase “spiritual formation” with you, don’t assume the weird stuff is what they mean by it. For some people, the idea of spiritual formation is just another way to describe discipleship and becoming more like Jesus. We know from Romans 8 that God’s will for us is to be conformed into the image of His Son. Day by day, on this side of eternity, we should be becoming more and more like Jesus. That process will be ultimately consummated in the Resurrection, when we will know Him as we are known, and our salvation will be perfected and completed in Jesus Christ. Right here and right now, sanctification is an aspect of spiritual formation. You could also say that discipleship is an aspect of spiritual formation.

So, yes, people do and promote and practice some weird things under the name of spiritual formation today. But please, let’s be careful about either condemning or accepting something simply because of the name by which it is called.

If you’re having a conversation with someone about spirit formation, it’s very helpful for you to ask, “What do you mean by spiritual formation?” It’s possible that they mean something as wholesome and as good as simple discipleship. Keep that in mind.

How should we deal with Jehovah’s Witnesses?

How is it best to deal with Jehovah’s Witnesses calling at my door? Do I engage them or not? Do I discuss with them, etc?

It’s interesting that you bring this up. When I was a very young believer, I got excited about researching what Jehovah’s Witnesses believed, comparing that to what the Bible actually says, and learning how to speak to Jehovah’s Witnesses about it. Somewhere, I’ve got a tape recording from more than 40 years ago of me having a discussion with some Jehovah’s Witnesses who were leaders in our particular area. They wanted to speak with me, and I had a long debate with them. It was interesting to me, and I tape-recorded it.

For some people, it’s a challenge to learn how to answer a Jehovah’s Witness. That challenge can really spur people on to learn more about the Bible. If that’s the case with you, that’s a very good thing. However, I don’t think you should feel responsible to do that. I think it’s entirely allowed for an individual Christian to say, “You know what, that’s really not my area of interest or calling. I know that they’re not biblical.” When a Jehovah’s Witness comes to your door, you can plainly say, “I want you to know that I’m a Christian who believes the Bible. Because I believe the Bible, I believe that Jesus Christ is God. Therefore, I don’t have any interest in what you’d have to tell me. Good day.” You can keep it that simple.

There’s one thing you should know again about Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Mormons, who knock at your door. Many people are overly impressed by their sincerity and the energy with which they evangelize. They think, “Well, nobody’s ever knocked at my door wanting to make the case for evangelical, Biblical Christianity. At least these people are out here doing something.” That is something positive to be said for them; they really are out there. But one thing you need to understand about the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons is that these are fundamentally works-based religions and faiths. They’re at your door because they have to earn their salvation. So, it’s true, if we put that pressure on Bible-believing Christians today, maybe they would get more done, but it wouldn’t be biblical Christianity.

How can I learn to explain my faith?

How can I learn to explain my faith? To my shame, I can only explain the basics of salvation. I’m a believer, have been saved, read the Bible, pray, have learned far more, and I listen to your videos endlessly. But I’m very hard pressed to explain clearly, succinctly, and with Bible references learned by heart, about my belief.

I’m so glad that you’re learning and growing. I think the only way to better explain your faith is simply to do it, to work at it, and to practice it. You’re a believer, you’ve been saved, you read the Bible, you pray, and you’re learning and listening a lot. Praise the Lord for those things. If you want to learn how to share your faith better, that’s going to come through practice and repetition.

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I very rarely do something well the first time I try it. If there are things that I can do well, or at least moderately well, it’s because I’ve done them repeatedly. That’s how it is with sharing our faith too.

In order to learn how to explain your faith better, you just need to learn how to do it again and again. You can learn how to give a two-minute explanation as to why you’re a Christian. You can learn how to deliver that by speaking to yourself in the mirror, or in an empty room, again and again. You’ll get better at presenting it. Don’t feel bad that it’s difficult for you to do. Don’t feel bad that this is something that you have to learn and grow in. There’s nothing to feel bad about that at all.

In Zechariah 14, did other nations besides Rome attack Jerusalem?

Your commentary on Zechariah 14 states that Rome attacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D. with a multi-national army. Do you have any information about the other nations that were with Rome?

I’m happy to clarify. The Roman army attacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D. However, the Roman army was multinational. It does not mean that other individual nations besides Rome were attacking Jerusalem. Rather, it means that the Roman Empire extended over many nations and incorporated many nations. They would draw soldiers from those nations to come and fight in either the Roman legions or, more commonly, as auxiliaries to the Roman legions, fighting alongside the Roman armies.

Here’s a quote that I want to highlight for you here, based on Matthew 27:27 – Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him.

In his commentary on the book of Matthew, commentator R.T. France says, “The soldiers of the governor were auxiliaries, not Roman legionnaires, and would be recruited from non-Jewish inhabitants of the surrounding areas: Phoenicians, Syrians, perhaps Samaritans.”

So, there weren’t only ethnically Romans in the Roman army that attacked Jerusalem in A.D. 70. No, it was a multinational army in the sense that the Romans incorporated Phoenicians, Syrians, Samaritans, and other nations into their army during that extended period. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to clarify that.

At what age should a child be baptized?

I’m writing to you regarding baptism. At what age approximately should a child get baptized? My son is 10 and has asked us a few times to get baptized. We go to a nondenominational church regularly, and they have baptized children as young as eight. Our pastor believes a child can be baptized when he reaches a level of maturity and knows the difference between right and wrong. My husband is of a more conservative opinion, and feels that a person should wait longer until at least a teenager or young adult. While the Bible doesn’t say an age, we know that Jesus got baptized as an adult. I appreciate your answer.

Thank you very much for the question. The most basic answer is that a person should not be baptized apart from meaningful faith and repentance. That’s simply it. If a person, a child, a young man or young woman, is old enough to express a meaningful repentance and faith, then I believe they can and should be baptized, putting their trust in Jesus Christ. I would base this on a couple of passages:

Acts 2:38 – Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, these were Peter’s famous words on Pentecost in Acts 2. Notice that Peter said, “Repent.” By the way, this crowd had already declared their desire to believe on Jesus. They were asking him, “What must we do to be saved? What should we do, Peter?” Faith and repentance were already implied there. On that basis, Peter said, “If you repent, if you believe, then you may be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”

To clarify, I don’t believe that faith and repentance are two different things. I think they are different aspects of the same thing. There are different aspects of what it means to turn to the Lord. If I turn to the Lord, I’m going to turn toward Him in faith, and I’m going to turn away from sin and self. That’s repentance. The act of turning towards the Lord is going to mean that I turn my back on some things, and I turn toward the Lord in other things. I’ll mention another passage that speaks about this:

Acts 8:36-37 – Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” In this story, we see that the eunuch believed, made this profession of faith, and then he was baptized.

You mentioned that your husband felt it was appropriate to wait a while before the baptism of your children. I would completely trust your husband’s judgment on this. Oftentimes, almost always, it is the parents who have the perception to know how far along the child is in their faith. If your husband looks at your children and says, “No, I don’t think they’re quite ready,” then you should wait. I leave that judgment up to the parents most of the time. The reason why I say most of the time, is that there have been times when parents have brought a child to me for baptism, and I clearly felt or could perceive that the child was not ready. Then I would say, “Let’s wait a little bit, Mom and Dad.” Sometimes people get baptized just because it seems exciting or seems like something good to do. Sometimes kids want to get baptized because they see other people doing it, and they just want to do it.

Now, it is not wrong to want to get baptized. That’s a good thing, actually. But please remember that it comes down to this. Baptism should be practiced on the basis of a credible expression of faith and repentance and can be valid at wide variety of ages.

Does Acts 8:37 belong in the Bible?

I was having a discussion on baptism with a friend of mine, and I referenced Acts 8:36-37. To our surprise, verse 37 was not included in her version (the ESV). I did some research, but I’m curious about your thoughts on this. Some manuscripts include here, “Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ The eunuch answered, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’”

Great question. Let’s compare Acts 8:36-37 in two different Bible translations.

Acts 8:36-37 (NKJV) – (36) Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” (37) Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

Allow me to point something out. If you go to your New King James Version Bible, and you look at that verse, there will be a note. If you’re viewing the electronic version, it’s something you can click to see more. If you’re viewing it in print, there will be a note at the bottom of the page.

Here’s what the note says in the New King James Version: “NU-Text and M-Text omit this verse. It is found in Western texts, including the Latin tradition.”

This note is telling you that there are some notable, highly respected, ancient manuscripts (the NU-Text and M-Text) which do not include verse 37. However, it is in many of the Western texts, including the Latin tradition. Next, let’s take a look at the English Standard Version.

Acts 8:36-38 (ESV) – (36) And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”
(37) See Footnotes (38) And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
We also find a note about this verse in the ESV: “Some manuscripts add all or most of verse 37: And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he replied, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’”
We’re left with a conundrum, aren’t we? Some manuscripts include verse 37, and some don’t. How do we know which is more reliable? The Expositor’s Bible Commentary gives some helpful insight on verse 37. Basically, it says that this verse is not found in many older manuscripts; some of the oldest manuscripts we have do not include it. However, it is included in the writings of many of the Church Fathers: Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrosiaster, Ambrose, and Augustine.
This gives credence to the idea that, first of all, this verse was accepted by the early Christians, and it may be referring to something that existed before the earliest manuscripts we have. For some of the biblical books, the time span can be more than 100 years between when they were written and the date of the earliest manuscripts we still have. Maybe that verse existed in some of the copies which have been lost to history. I’m not saying that with certainty; these things have to be considered on a case-by-case basis. I’m just trying to illustrate that this is a somewhat complicated issue.
I wouldn’t build a doctrine of baptism based on Acts 8:37, but neither would I casually throw it out and say that it doesn’t belong. It is teaching a biblical truth, that there’s a link between a credible expression of faith and baptism. We know that to be true biblically. Because this verse teaches a biblical truth, it may very well have existed in early manuscripts that are lost to history.
One final thing to notice is just how rare such situations are. Friends, it is such a blessing that we have a Bible text which has so few instances of questions like this, although we are reading it now 2000 years after it was written. It’s a testimony to how reliable our biblical text is.

Should Christians celebrate holidays such as Christmas and Easter?

Our Christian religions have intermingled pagan culture and traditions with the celebrations of Easter and Christmas. I am aware of the history behind this and Constantine’s effort to take a pagan holiday and have it recognized for Christ but is still a commingling. Our Father calls us to be a set apart people, and we have joined in with these pagan cultures and traditions of other gods. The Bible tells us what happened to people of old when they did that. You are a Bible scholar. I hope you can shed some light on this and help me to be more comfortable with these changes, if they are in the right. But if they are not in the right, then how can we bring about change? Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with us all.

I’ll answer this directly. I think it’s fine if modern Christians want to celebrate Christmas or Easter, and if they do it simply in a biblical and God-glorifying way. You’re asking me the question, so I’ll give you my take on it. It matters very little what Christmas meant 1500 years ago. What matters to me today is what it means today, and how I celebrate it today. I think that the so-called pagan origins of Christmas and Easter are sometimes exaggerated. But even if they aren’t exaggerated, it doesn’t bother me that much. The thing that matters is what it speaks of today. I would say that there’s a right way and a wrong way somebody can recognize Christmas today. There’s a right way and a wrong way that somebody can recognize Easter.

Here’s the issue for me. Because the Bible does not specifically command one way or another, then we have freedom in Jesus Christ. I think this freedom goes two ways. We have the freedom to observe a holiday such as Christmas, but we also have the freedom to not observe it, if our conscience tells us that we shouldn’t. If your conscience tells you, “I’m not going to celebrate Christmas,” then don’t do it. Whether you choose to celebrate it or not celebrate it, do that as unto the Lord. Whatever we do, we can do it on the basis of freedom in Christ and according to our conscience. We need not be concerned with what other people think. On such issues, we do have genuine freedom in Christ. Consider this verse:

Colossians 2:16-17 – So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

Notice those words, “Let no one judge you.” I mean this, let no one judge you if you keep it, and no one judge you if you don’t keep it. Just do what God has persuaded your heart to do. There have been notable Christians and Christian groups throughout the ages that have refused to celebrate Christmas. The pilgrims who settled New England in the colonial days of the United States didn’t celebrate Christmas. They thought it was unbiblical, so they didn’t celebrate it. Well, God bless them for that. They can do it or not do it and let no one judge it.

Let no one judge you if you do it, as long as you do it as unto the Lord. Let no one judge you if you don’t do it, as long as you don’t do it as unto the Lord. This is an area where people can respond to God’s work and God’s guidance according to their conscience.

What were Jesus’ last words?

What were Jesus’ last words – Luke 23:46 or John 19:30? I am very confused. Thank you in advance.

I hope I can shed a little light on this. You’re talking about the order of the seven sayings of Jesus from the cross. I’ll give you what I believe is the accurate and traditional ordering of the seven sayings of Jesus from the cross.

  1. Luke 23:34 – Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.
  2. Luke 23:43 – Assuredly I say to you, today, you will be with Me in Paradise. Of course, that’s what Jesus said to the thief on the cross who believed.
  3. John 19:26-27 – Woman, behold your son, followed by, Behold your mother.

I would have to dig a little bit to see the reasons for putting that as the third saying. I think there is some case to be made, that might have actually been the second saying on the cross. To me, it seems that Jesus entrusted His mother unto the care and custodianship of John somewhat early on in His time on the cross, and His interaction with the thief on the cross took place after He had been on the cross for some time. It is arguable that #2 and #3 could be reversed.

  1. Matthew 27:46 / Mark 15:34Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? which is translated, My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?
  2. John 19:28 – I thirst.
  3. John 19:30 – It is finished.
  4. Luke 23:46 – Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.

It’s possible that #6 and #7 could be reversed, but I think it likely that the very last thing Jesus said was, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Other people may have different approaches to it, but I think that’s a good ordering of the seven sayings on the cross.

To receive the Holy Spirit, is the laying on of hands necessary?

How can someone receive the Holy Spirit without the laying on of hands?

Thank you for your question. I’m glad you asked this. First of all, there are a few occasions in the book of Acts and in Paul’s letters where people receive the Holy Spirit or a gift from the Holy Spirit, as hands are laid upon them. The idea behind the laying on of hands is praying a sympathetic prayer with somebody. It’s a prayer of coming alongside someone and joining with them by praying for them. That’s the symbolic meaning of the laying on of hands. That’s why that phrase is used sometimes in the Scripture.

So, how can someone receive Holy Spirit without the laying on of hands? Well, just because there are a few occasions in the New Testament where people received the Holy Spirit as hands were laid upon them, it doesn’t mean that it’s a necessary requirement. It’s completely fine to do. If I were to pray for someone to receive the Holy Spirit, I would probably be praying with them with the laying on of hands. But it’s not like it’s a magical or ceremonial thing. The Holy Spirit was poured out upon 120 disciples in the upper room in Acts 2, but there is no record that they were laying hands on one another when that happened. So, it’s not a necessity, but it certainly is a practice that’s shown for us in the Scriptures.

Is speaking in tongues the best evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit?

How can someone know they are endowed or filled with the Holy Spirit without speaking in tongues?

For a few reasons, I don’t believe that speaking in tongues is the best evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit. First, it is possible for people to imitate or counterfeit the true gift of tongues just by making babbling sounds. But even the true gift of tongues is not the best evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, because the true gift of tongues is not necessarily manifested in every person who is filled with the Holy Spirit.

Paul made this very clear in 1 Corinthians 12:30 by saying, “Do all speak in tongues?” The way he wrote this question, the expected answer was, “No, not all believers spoke in tongues.” Here’s what we know. A much better measurement for someone being filled with the Holy Spirit is if the fruit of the Spirit is evident in their life. Galatians 5:22-23a – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The fruit of the Spirit is the real evidence of the work of the Spirit. It is not primarily supernatural gifts. Listen, I’m all for supernatural gifts, and I love to see God at work in supernatural ways. But the real fruit of the Holy Spirit is seen in love, joy, peace, long-suffering, and so on. If you have a group of people who claim to have all sorts of spectacular miracles and signs and wonders, yet amongst themselves there is not the love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, which are truly the fruit of the Spirit, then you just should ask yourself, “Where is the Holy Spirit at work among them?”

The measuring line for the work of the Holy Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit. It is not supernatural works of the Holy Spirit, whether supposed or even legitimate. The best measurement to know whether you’re filled with the Spirit is that you’re walking in the Spirit, and the work of the Holy Spirit is active in your life. Ask yourself the question, and ask other people the question, “Do you see the fruit of the Spirit in my life?” That’s a great way to see how Spirit-filled a person is and how spiritually surrendered they are.

Does God allow women to teach a congregation if men are unavailable?

Where in the Bible does it say that if a man doesn’t step up to teach a congregation, God will allow for a woman to fulfill that role?

There is not a chapter and verse in the Bible specifically concerning a situation of there being no men to lead God’s people, and allowing women to take more leadership than the biblical order would normally allow. I don’t have a Bible verse for that. But I’ll say this. If you think that there are never, under any circumstances, exceptions from normal order, then we’re just going to have to disagree.

I believe that there are times and situations where God would allow things to happen out of normal order. There is a normal order for the church, and sometimes there are extraordinary circumstances.

Let’s just say, as a hypothetical example, that you’re in a nation where there is heavy persecution of Christians. Let’s say you’re in North Korea, and all the men in the congregation who have any kind of spiritual knowledge and maturity are put in prison. Well, then who should lead the group of Christians? Who should lead the house church? If you would say, “Never under any circumstances whatsoever could a woman lead a congregation and God allow it,” then I would disagree. Again, I’m not trying to say that’s the normal order for a church. I would say that it will only be under the most exceptional circumstances. But there have been times when the church has been under exceptional circumstances.

Let me use an imperfect analogy. In an emergency, with no one else available, if a 12-year-old could drive someone to the hospital, that would be allowed. But it does not argue that we should allow every 12-year-old to drive. That’s not the issue at all.

Now, in the world today, when we see a woman pastor, does it fit into that situation? I would say very rarely. Of all the women pastors serving in churches on that level and leading congregations, I would think that 95-99% of the time, they shouldn’t be in that position at all. But can I conceive of, and have there been in church history, certain circumstances that would be an exception to that? Yes.

Now, sometimes people want to take those exceedingly rare exceptions, and use them to erase what is the normative practice for the church. And that should not be allowed. That should not be accepted for one bit. There is a normal practice for the church, and sometimes there are extraordinary circumstances where the church has to do the best they can.

I would say that there are extraordinary circumstances where a woman leader of the congregation might be the best alternative available. These circumstances would be very rare, and almost unknown in the Western world especially. But I would see it being a thing under persecution, or under missionary circumstances perhaps, but very rarely. That’s how I would express it.

I have a couple of videos that might be helpful:
“Men and Women in the Church – 1 Timothy 2:8-15”

“A Word to Women Pastors”

Is the Great Tribulation 7 years or just the final 3 ½ years? Are the Tribulation and the Great Tribulation the same thing?

In the book of Revelation, the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls, describing events of the entire seven-year tribulation are only the last three and a half years of the tribulation, the Great Tribulation. How does a pre-tribulation rapture fit into this? Some of your commentaries look like you’re using the words tribulation and Great Tribulation synonymously.

Sometimes it is difficult, and I confess that at times I may be speaking very generally and use the terms imprecisely. The seven-year period we’re discussing is also known as the 70th week of Daniel. Keep in mind that whenever we’re talking about the End Times and eschatology, there are significant disagreements among Christians. People disagree about the nature of the kingdom and the arrival of the kingdom. People who have agreements on those things sometimes disagree amongst themselves as to the nature, timing, and circumstances around the return of Jesus Christ. I just want to say that I understand where brothers and sisters who disagree with my perspective are coming from. I love them. I respect them. But I don’t necessarily agree with them. I think they’re wrong, and I’m right. I hope that’s not weird to say. Of course, I think I’m right. Why would I knowingly hold to something that I think is wrong? If I hold to a certain perspective, I do so because I think it’s right. And if I think I’m right, it means that those who disagree are wrong. However, I don’t think they’re evil. I don’t think they’re stupid. I just disagree with how they’re approaching the Scriptures on some of these issues.

Here is how I understand it. The entire seven-year period preceding the glorious return of Jesus Christ can be called the Tribulation. If you want to get specific, you could call the final three and a half years of that time the Great Tribulation.

This is based on something Jesus said in Matthew 24:21. Again, there is some disagreement on this within the Christian world, but I believe Jesus was speaking of this period of time, when He said the following:

Matthew 24:21 – For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

I believe Jesus was referring to a time which is still in the future. Plenty of believers who read their Bible would say that was fulfilled, back when the Romans conquered Jerusalem in 70 A.D. But I don’t believe so. I believe that there have been more horrific times for humanity since then, which would make what Jesus said not true. Whatever Jesus is describing, it will be the worst time of suffering and calamity on the earth ever, throughout all of history. And I don’t think that that was 70 A.D. It was terrible. But it wasn’t the worst suffering or calamity in all of human history.

Jesus used the word tribulation and the phrase Great Tribulation. I believe that during the first three and a half years of that seven-year period, the Antichrist will bring tribulation to believers, much of it surrounding the mark of the beast. That will be tribulation. In the second three and a half years, there are going to be two aspects of tribulation. First, the Antichrist will begin to persecute the Jewish people in earnest. That’s one aspect. Believers will be persecuted throughout the whole period, but in the final three and a half years, the Antichrist will begin to persecute the Jewish people. Secondly, and more pointedly, God will pour out His wrath upon a Christ-rejecting world. That will be what makes that tribulation truly great. It will be the outpouring of God’s wrath.

So, yes, it’s true. Bible teachers are sometimes guilty of using these terms without a lot of precision. But in general, I could refer to the entire period as tribulation, because it will be tribulation for believers. Now, I am one of those who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture. I believe that the church, the body of believers existing on earth at that time, will be received by Jesus in the air, in the clouds, and they will escape that tribulation. But I also believe that there will be many who will come to faith during this period of tribulation, and they will be persecuted.

There is the persecution of believers during the entire period, but there will be a definite increase in the tribulation, leading to that period which Jesus spoke about being unmatched in all of human history, which will be more pronounced in the second three and a half years. You can see why there could be some overlap between these two terms. That’s why it’s easy to be imprecise in referring to this period.