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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Tribulation

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. – Matthew 24:21

A seven year period of time is coming in the future during which God will seek to shake up a Christ rejecting world to repentance, wake up the nation of Israel to her renewed purpose, and make up this world in preparation for Christ’s thousand year reign on earth. This seven year period is called, amongst other things, The Tribulation.  

The Tribulation is important and in many ways central to understanding God’s prophetic calendar of the Last Days. The Tribulation (Revelation 6-18) is preceded by The Rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 4:1) and culminates in The Second Coming of Christ (Revelation 19).

Jesus said that while we live in this world we can expect tribulation:

·       John 16:33 - 33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

The word “tribulation” (θλίψις thlipsis, thlip´-sis) literally means, “pressure; affliction; anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble.” [1] The Bible says that those who seek to live godly lives in this world can expect persecution and hardship (2 Timothy 3:12).God is able to take trials and use even this for good in that trials mature our faith (Romans 8:28; James 1:2-5; 1 Peter 1:6-9). Trials can serve God’s purposes (Job 1-2; 1 Peter 4:12-19). But while God is sovereign and permits trials and tribulations to occur, we need to remember that Satan and world implement these present trials (1 Peter 5:8-11).


The trials and tribulation experienced by saints are generated primarily by Satan (e.g. Job). But seven year period referred to as The Tribulation is distinctive from the trials and tribulations experienced by people now. The Tribulation is a Day of Gods wrath (Revelation 6:17; 11:18; 16:1), a day of great tribulation (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 7:14). This is important to understand because the Bible states that God distinguishes the righteous from the wicked and would not pour out His wrath on the righteous (Genesis 18:23-33). We are saved from God’s wrath through Jesus (Romans 5:9). Jesus delivers us from God’s wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10). God did not appoint Christians for wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9). This is one of main reasons why it is believed that God will remove His saints from the world by The Rapture before He begins to pour out His righteous wrath on a sinful world.


With this in mind let’s consider this pivotal future period of time in history and what the

Bible says about it.


The Tribulation


 The Tribulation is referred to in the Bible as The Day of the Lord (Acts 2:20; 2 Peter 3:10), a period of God’s indignation (Isaiah 26:20; 34:2), a day of God’s wrath (Revelation 6:17), a day of Gods’ vengeance (Isaiah 34:8; 63:1-6), a time of God’s judgment (Revelation 14:7). It is a day of trouble worse than the world has ever known (Daniel 12:1). 



What Will The Tribulation Be Like?


The Tribulation is not a time in history you want to experience if you can help it. It will be a time worse in every way than any other time in history. Below is a list of the things that will take place during this seven year period of Tribulation and they should move us to accept Jesus so that we can in Him, be counted worthy to escape (Luke 21:36).


  1. Terrible bloody wars - Matt. 24:6–7; Rev. 6:2–4; 14:20
  2. Scavenger birds will feed on the rotting flesh of the slain from the battles – Matthew 24:28; Revelation 19:17-19
  3. Drunkenness - Matt. 24:38; Luke 17:27
  4. Worldwide drug abuse – Revelation 9:21
  5. Illicit sex - Matt. 24:38; Luke 17:27; Rev. 9:21
  6. Gross materialism - Luke 17:28; Rev. 18:12–14
  7. False messiahs and false prophets – Matthew 24:5, 11-24
  8. Horrible persecution of believers – Matthew 24:10; Revelation 16:6; 17:6
  9. Terror and fear – Isaiah 2:19-21; Revelation 6:15-17
  10. Terrible worldwide famines – Revelation 5-6, 8
  11. Predatory wild beast – Revelation 6:8
  12.  Disastrous earthquakes – Revelation 6:12; 11:13; 16:18
  13. Tsunamis and sea disasters – Luke 21:25; Revelation 8:8-11; 11:6; 16:3-4
  14. Planetary cosmic disturbances – Isaiah 13:10, 13; 24:1, 19-20; 34:4; Joel 2:10, 30-31; 3:15; Luke 21:25; Revelation 6:12-14; 8:12; 16:8-9
  15. Massive hailstone storms – Revelation 8:7; 16:21
  16. Meteorite storms – Revelation 8:8-11
  17. Rise of Antichrist and his tyrannical oppression – Revelation 13
  18. World darkness and depression – Joel 2:2; Revelation 16:10
  19. Worldwide plagues – Zechariah 14;12; Revelation 16:2
  20. Destruction of all religious, political and economic systems – Revelation 17-18
  21. Worse than any other time in history – Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:21-22
  22. A time of no escape from God’s judgment – Amos 9:2-3
  23. Survivors will  be more rare than gold – Isaiah 13:12
  24. Universal idolatry and devil worship – Revelation 9:20; 13:11-17
  25. Demonic invasions – Revelation 9:3-20  [2]


But what is the purpose of this period in history? Why does God allow all of this tribulation to occur? During this time in history God will accomplish three major purposes.


The Tribulation – A Time to Shake Up a Christ Rejecting World to Repentance


Even though the Tribulation is a time of God’s outpoured wrath, it is also a time where He still extends His gracious hand of salvation. Some will accept God’s offer of salvation, but some will persist in their sin (Revelation 16:8-11).


There will be people who accept Jesus as Savior and Lord and are saved from their sin during the Tribulation. But they will more likely than not suffer martyrdom (Revelation 7:9-14). Some people say they will wait and see if such a Tribulation comes and if it does they will accept Jesus as Savior then. But if a person cannot live for Jesus now, there is little to know reason to believe they will be able to die for Him in the Tribulation! 



The Tribulation – A Time to Wake up the Nation of Israel


The seven year Tribulation is also referred to as The Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7) because it is a period of time in history when God will particularly once again work in and through the nation of Israel. This period is the seventieth week of Daniel’s prophecy concerning Israel (Daniel 9:24-27).


In Revelation 7 we see God at work with Israel as He seals 144,000 from the tribes of Israel. In the first century, a merchant would put his seal on materials he chose to be shipped to another destination by using a signet ring. Upon arrival the materials or merchandise would be identified as belonging to the merchant because of his sea he had placed on it. Perhaps the “seal of the living God” will be a distinguishing mark given to the 144,000 that will identify them as the particular property of God and fully devoted to Him.  They are distinguished because God has an awesome task for them during this time, to spread the gospel in the upheaval of the Great Tribulation.  


This seal is a seal of salvation (Ephesians 1:11-14). It is also a seal of protection. The 144,000 mentioned in this chapter are a select group who will be protected from the events which take place during the Great Tribulation. Biblical precedents for such protection are seen in such cases as that of Noah (Genesis 6-9), and Rahab (Joshua 2; 6:25).  The children of Israel during the plagues leading up to the exodus show that God does make a distinction on behalf of His people at times (Exodus 8:22-24; 9:4,6, 26; 10:23; 12:13).  Some scriptural references to support this are:


That the 144,000 make it through the Great Tribulation is demonstrated in Revelation 14 when they are seen with Christ at His second coming:

·       Revelation 14:1 - “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” 

It is possible that more than 144,000 Jews will be saved during the Tribulation. Those beyond the sealed 144,000 will likely perish from persecution or the other effects upon the earth during this time.

It should be noted that the seal mentioned in this chapter regarding the 144,000 is not the only “mark” mentioned in the book of Revelation. Apparently Antichrist will imitate God’s seal placed on the 144,000 and mockingly use the marking of people as a means of singling out believers during the tribulation in order to execute them (Revelation 13:16-17; 14:9-10).


Numerous groups claim to be the 144,000. Jehovah’s Witnesses, 7th Day Adventists, Mormons, the Children of God, the original World Wide Church of God of Garner Ted Armstrong, and many others have wrongly claimed to be the 144,000 of Revelation 7.

Some sections of the church view the 144,000 as representing the church rather than Israel. This is the product of what is called  Replacement Theology,  Dominion Theology, Reconstructionism, or Kingdom Now Theology. The gist of such theology is that Israel rejected Jesus as Messiah and as a result they no longer play a role in the plans of God, the church now supplants Israel in God’s plans. All of the promises of the Old Testament made by God to the Jews are forfeited and given to the church. The church replaces Israel and will usher in the Kingdom. Those with this theology view Revelation as allegorical and not literal in any sense. The allegorization of apocalyptic parts of scripture began when historically; Christianity became accepted by the state. This happened when Constantine, as new emperor of Rome, became sympathetic to Christianity, (there is a question as to whether he did this by true conversion or political expediency) and instituted  the Edict of Toleration  to reward Christians who assisted him in turning the balance of power to his advantage in a fight for rule of Rome (312-313 A.D.) At this point persecution of the church stopped and Christianity shortly became the state religion of Rome. With Constantine in power, and favorable toward Christians, the church was in a position of power politically. This led to the church looking to achieve its goals via politics rather than by the Spirit. This may have happened gradually, but it happened nonetheless. The church found itself in a comfortable position relatively overnight and the need to hope for a coming Deliverer was no longer a priority. Those passages which spoke of the failures and persecution by the state created a politically incorrect environment for the church. The result was that Origen and later Augustine, as well as Martin Luther perpetuated a new and different way of interpreting the scriptures via allegorization. This resulted in seeing the church as supplanting Israel and all the Biblical promises attributed to Israel were then interpreted as applying to the church. Such a view of scripture became known as AMILLENIALISM. Such a view twists Scripture and undermines its intent. Such a view spawns anti-Semitism. This is ultimately a satanic strategy to destroy the Jews in the world. By destroying the Jews, Satan would prevent the fulfillment of God’s prophetic promise to revive Israel and use them in His plans. Destroying Israel would show God to be impotent and unfaithful to His covenant claims. The kingdom of God could not come because the prophetic plan could not be fulfilled.

If God is not true to His covenant with Israel, we cannot be sure of His promises to us. That is what Satan is trying to undermine, our confidence in God. That these covenants are unconditional demonstrates they are based on God’s grace not human works. Human works fail. God’s grace never fails! (See Romans 1-11). That the 144,000 are representative of Israel and not another group is indicated by the following:

1.) This group is specifically referred to as “the tribes of the children of Israel.”

2.) The term “Israel” is used to refer to the descendants of Jacob, not the church.

3.) To refer this to the church or other group would require that we divide them into the 12 tribes mentioned here


Therefore, the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation 7 is most likely indicative of a revival that will take place among the Jews. The Old Testament prophet Hosea spoke of a future revival amongst the Jews. What we see in Revelation 7 may be the fulfillment of that prophecy (Hosea 5:15-6:3).

Jesus too referred to a day when Israel would call Him blessed:

·       Matthew 23:37-39 -  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!38 “See! Your house is left to you desolate;39 “for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’  

In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans he clearly teaches that Israel will be grafted back into the vine in the future and take an important part in God’s plans once again (Romans 11:1-12, 23-27).

Some might say, “So what! I’m not Jewish. What does that have to do with me?!” It has a lot to do with everyone. What we see in the case of the revival amongst the Jews is the faithfulness of God to His word and promise. The apostle Paul exults in God because of what God planned for the Jews saying:

  • Romans 11:29, 33-36 - “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?”35 “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?”36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”


Now if God is faithful to Israel, He will also be faithful to all who call on the name of the Lord to be saved (Romans 10:8-13).   


The Tribulation – a Time to Make up the World for the Millennial Reign of Christ


Just as a room needs to be made up after it has been used, so too this world will need to be made up and fumigated from it’s sinfulness to ready it for the thousand year reign of Jesus that will follow (Revelation 20).


Are There Signs that the Tribulation is At Hand?


We can look in the world around us and see that many pieces of the Tribulation puzzle are falling into place. While Christians will not go through the Tribulation, signs of pieces being brought together leading up to this time should cause us to get ready for our departure. Here are a few things we see in the world today that lead us to believe that the Tribulation is close at hand.


  1. The Tribulation will be a time of apostasy in the church and we see this on the rise in our day (1 timothy 4:1-3; 2 timothy 3:1-5; Revelation 17).
  2. The Tribulation will usher in the rise of Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2; Revelation 13). While we do not know who the Antichrist is, we see “the spirit of antichrist” in the world today (1 John 4:1-3).
  3. The Tribulation will see the rise of a one world government in the form of the revival of the Roman Empire and we see this in the world today (Daniel 2:41; 7:7; Revelation 13:1; 17:12).
  4. The Tribulation is a time where God will again deal with Israel and in line with prophecy we see a mass return of Jews to Israel (Isaiah. 43:5–6; Ezek. 34:11–13; 36:24; 37:1–14).


This is not a time in history you want to experience and there are many signs that this seven year period of Tribulation is not far off. There is only one way out and that is through repentance from your sin and receiving Jesus as your Savior and Lord.  To receive that gift of life is as easy as ABC, all you have to do is:

  • Admit you are a sinner (like all humans are) – Romans 3:23. Understand that sin left unattended to will lead first to physical death and then eternal death (eternal separation from God) – Romans 6:23a; Ezekiel 18:4. Turn from your sinful life to Jesus and God will give you a fresh start (Acts 2:38) and new life (Romans 6:4).
  • Believe and receive Jesus as your Savior (Romans 6:23b; Romans 8:9-10). Don’t depend on your works; they can’t deal with your sin. Depend on Jesus. Jesus completed work on the cross is what deals with sin (Ephesians 2:8-19; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Titus 3:5).
  • Commit your life wholeheartedly to Him; live for Him (Acts 2:42; 8:37; Galatians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6). You life will be characterized by abundance if you do (John 10:10).

My prayer is that you are counted worthy to escape this terrible future time of Tribulation. 

[1]Strong, J. (1997, c1996). The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) (G2347). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
[2]Willmington, H. L. (1987). Willmington's book of Bible lists. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House.

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