This study is an attempt to convey the nature of the Great Tribulation, place it in its prophetic setting and present an outline of its key events; but even more so to explain the why of it. Why will the Lord bring such a terrible judgment? What purposes will He accomplish by means of it? May the reader be built up in his or her understanding and appreciation of this aspect of it especially.
It is impossible in this brief study to prove the context of every passage presented or to connect all the dots in regard to the sequence of events. It is suggested that the reader remember these limitations when formulating his or her own doctrine - not rejecting what is presented, but holding it in abeyance until he or she gathers more information. For this purpose, I cannot recommend better sources than The Seventy Weeks of Daniel by Dr. David Cooper and The Footsteps of the Messiah by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, both of which are noted in the Recommended Reading section at the end of the study.
Immediately preceding this study in our series on future things is a study entitled, The Rapture. It is suggested that it be studied or reviewed before proceeding further as much foundational material for this study will be found there.
We’ll begin with our entire AMC Statement on Last Things. Some details were covered in The Rapture, some will be covered in this present study, and the rest will be covered in subsequent studies on future things.
Tribulation simply means "pressure (literally or figuratively): - afflicted, (-tion), anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble" (Strong), and can refer to anything from the daily trials of life to very severe trials including persecutions for the faith (1 Thessalonians 1:6; Revelation 1:9; 2:9-10); but what we refer to as the Great Tribulation is derived from:
Revelation 7:14: And he said to me, These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Note the definite article the - the great tribulation - obviously referring to a period of tribulation exceeding all others.
Jesus said as much in Matthew 24:21: For then
there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.
Revelation 2:22: Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. Those unsaved members of the false, idolatrous church represented by Jezebel in verse 20, who are alive at the time of the Rapture, will surely miss the Rapture and remain on earth for the Great Tribulation.
To put a more specific focus on it, each of the seven local churches to whom letters were written in Revelation 1-3 was representative, in sequence, by virtue of certain of its characteristics, of an era within the Church Age. The local church of Thyatira, to whom Revelation 2:22 was written, bore idolatrous and heretical characteristics of the Catholic Church of the Dark Ages. What the passage is saying in the prophetic context is that virtually all members of the Catholic Church, and perhaps members of all churches akin to it in idolatry and heresy, who are alive when the Great Tribulation begins, will be thrown into it, excepting, of course, any in it who may hold to the true Gospel.
A review of other designations for the Great Tribulation should impress upon us its essential character:
In the Old Testament, the most common name for the Great Tribulation is the Day of Jehovah [Yahveh]
or the Day of the Lord. . . . It is also found in various passages of the New Testament. . . . But there are a number of other names or designations for this time period found in
the Old Testament. Following the translation found in the American Standard Version of the 1901 edition, these names include:2
The Time of Jacob's Trouble - Jeremiah 30:7
The Seventieth Week (a seven) of Daniel - Daniel 9:27
Jehovah's Strange Work - Isaiah 28:21
Jehovah's Strange Act - Isaiah 28:21
The Day of Israel's Calamity - Deuteronomy 32:35; Obadiah 12-14
The Tribulation - Deuteronomy 4:30
The Indignation - Isaiah 26:20; Daniel 11:36
The Overflowing Scourge - Isaiah 28:15, 18
The Day of Vengeance - Isaiah 34:8; 35:4; 61:2
The Year of Recompense - Isaiah 34:8
The Time of Trouble - Daniel 12:1; Zephaniah 1:15
The Day of Wrath - Zephaniah 1:15
The Day of Distress - Zephaniah 1:15
The Day of Wasteness - Zephaniah 1:15
The Day of Desolation - Zephaniah 1:15
The Day of Darkness - Zephaniah 1:15; Amos 5:18, 20; Joel 2:2
The Day of Gloominess - Zephaniah 1:15; Joel 2:2
The Day of Clouds - Zephaniah 1:15; Joel 2:2
The Day of Thick Darkness - Zephaniah 1:15; Joel 2:2
The Day of the Trumpet - Zephaniah 1:16
The Day of Alarm - Zephaniah 1:16
The New Testament names and designations include:
The Day of the Lord - I Thessalonians 5:2
The Wrath of God - Revelation 15:1, 7; 14:10, 19; 16:1
The Hour of Trial - Revelation 3:10
The Great Day of the Wrath of the Lamb of God - Revelation 6:16-17
The Wrath to Come - I Thessalonians 1:10
The Wrath - I Thessalonians 5:9; Revelation 11:18
The Great Tribulation - Matthew 24:21; Revelation 2:22; 7:14
The Tribulation - Matthew 24:29
The Hour of Judgment - Revelation 14:7
The nature of the Great Tribulation is summed up in the following passages:
Daniel 12:1: At that time . . . there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time.
Matthew 24:21: For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.
How much of the world will the Great Tribulation encompass?
Enclosing Matthew 24:21, quoted above, are these verses: 14. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come, and 30. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn. Each of the verses places the Great Tribulation in a worldwide context.
Isaiah 24 does the same: 19. The earth is broken asunder, The earth is split through, The earth is shaken violently. 20. The earth reels to and fro like a drunkard and it totters like a shack.
The Great Tribulation will be an event which will encompass the whole world.
24. Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. 25. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. 26. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. 27. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.
continued, “From all the data, we see that the terminal date of the 483-year period is the time of
Messiah's being cut off or executed for the sins of His people. From this conclusion there cannot possibly be any
Connected with the end of the sixty-ninth week when Messiah will be cut off is the following event: The people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.
Who is this prince? He could not be Messiah as it was not Messiah's people who destroyed the city and the sanctuary . . . with a flood (a symbol of a military invasion [cf. Isaiah 8:5-8 and Nahum 1:8]). It was the Romans who destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. The Prince is the one we've come to know as the Antichrist, and he will be a Roman, for the people of the prince are Romans.
Now, even to the end of the period between the destruction of Jerusalem and the beginning of the seventieth week, there will be war in the Promised Land. True to the prophecy, since 70 A.D. numerous wars have been fought over the trans-Israeli trade routes that join the nations north and east of Israel with Egypt and the rest of Africa, and over possession of the entire Land; and because of the wars, desolations are determined. The Promised Land has been made desolate and will remain so until the end of the seventieth week. Despite the agricultural and industrial wonders that have taken place in modern Israel, one is still struck by the desolation of vast areas of it.
To sum up, within the seventy weeks of Daniel, the Tribulation will begin at some point after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. during which the land of Israel will be decimated by warfare.
2b. the day of the Lord . . . will not come unless . . . the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4. who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.
But how will he be revealed?
And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.
The verse reveals four things:
1. He will make a covenant with Israel.
2. It's duration is to be a full week, or seven years. (This will be expanded upon shortly.)
3. The content of the covenant is revealed by the but: but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering. The content of the covenant is this: Antichrist will guarantee Israel's security for seven years so that they may carry out the Temple sacrifices and offerings unhindered during those seven years.
4. After three and a half years, he will put a stop to that which he guaranteed.
It is by virtue of this unique seven year covenant that Antichrist will be revealed and the Tribulation will begin.
3. Who Are the Many?
Antichrist will make a firm covenant with the many. Who are the many?
The entire passage has to do with Daniel's people, the Jews, and focuses primarily on events in Jerusalem. Therefore, the treaty must be with the nation of Israel; but is the nation of Israel the many? Compared with the rest of the world, they are the few. There are two other views that I am aware of.
One is that the many are the Israeli leadership. At least today, any treaty that Israel enters into must be made with the support of its Knesset (Parliament) - but how can such a tiny percentage of Israel's population be considered the many?
The other view is that which is held by Dr. Cooper: the many are those Israelis who agree with the treaty.7 Keil and Delitzsch agree with this. They comment, "the many, i.e., the great mass of the people in contrast with the few, who remain faithful to God; cf. Mat_24:12." (Matthew 24:12-13 reads, Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.)
Dr. Cooper writes, "Should one speak of this section of the Jewish race in terms of present-day phraseology, he would say that those making the covenant are the modernistic crowd, which has given up largely the national hope and has abandoned faith in the inspiration of the Scriptures and the plan of God. One also comes to the conclusion that the faithful, orthodox Jews who believe in the Scriptures as the Word of God are the ones who hold aloof from such an alliance."
To my mind, the best solution seems to be a combination of the latter two views; the many will include those members of the knesset who carry the vote and those Israelis who agree with them. Both of these groups will favor the treaty after having rejecting or being ignorant of the insight that Daniel 9:27 offers, or any other insight that the Lord may offer.
What will be the fate of the many during the Tribulation? It is likely that some of them will be saved during the preaching of the first half of the Tribulation. The rest will subsequently take the number of the Beast along with those of other nations who have resisted the preaching, and will be the rebels whom God will purge out of Israel by means of death (Ezekiel 20:36-38).
What of the few who disagree with the treaty? No doubt the Lord will draw the 144,000 from among them. Others may be saved from among the few during the first half, as well; and the saved from among the few who disagree with the treaty and survive until the middle of the Tribulation will be among those in the world who refuse the number of the Beast. More on these details below.
1. Placement in the Prophetic Feasts of Israel
As was demonstrated in The Rapture, the seven annual feasts of Israel are prophetic of seven sequential landmark events in the Lord's timetable from the crucifixion to the Kingdom. Four have been fulfilled, in sequence, by the crucifixion, the sinlessness of the slain Lamb of God, His resurrection and the Day of Pentecost. The next two feasts to be fulfilled are Yom T'ruah or the Feast of Trumpets, which will be fulfilled by the Rapture of the church, and then Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement, which will be fulfilled by the Great Tribulation. The Great Tribulation will occur after the Rapture.
2. How Soon After the Rapture?
Scripture does not say. Having said that, Luke 17:26-30 calls for examination.
26. And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27. they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; 29. but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.
At first glance the passage seems to indicate that the Tribulation will begin right after the Rapture on the same day. The reasoning is thus: On the day that Noah entered the ark . . . the flood came and destroyed them all. . . . on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Therefore, the Tribulation will begin right after the Rapture on the same day.
But there is a problem here: It is true that on the same literal day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven (Genesis 19:12-25. The day was reckoned from sundown to sundown); but it is not true that on the same literal day that Noah entered the ark . . . the flood came. Genesis 7:7-10 states that it was seven days after Noah entered the ark that the rain began. According to Strong, the Greek for day can refer either to a literal twenty-four hour period or "figuratively a period (always defined more or less clearly by the context)." As Genesis reveals, the Luke passage contains an example of each. The passage cannot therefore be used to prove that the Great Tribulation will begin on the same literal day as the Rapture, nor can any other passage. There may be a significant gap of time between the two events.
In light of certain events prophesied to take place relevant to the Tribulation, at least these three things need to be in
1. Israel needs to be in the Land of Israel, and they are. After being countryless for nineteen hundred years, God brought them back to their own Land en masse beginning in the latter decades of the nineteenth century, and on May 14, 1948, Israel declared its independence as a sovereign nation.
2. Israel needs to be in possession of the "old" city of Jerusalem, that part of modern Jerusalem which contains the Temple Mount, and they are. In 1967, in the defensive Six Day War that contained much evidence of divine intervention, Israel took possession of the old city.
3. The nations of the world need to be able to act quickly and as a unit; and indeed, with modern modes of communication and transportation, they can.
It is easy to see how the Lord is setting the stage for the Great Tribulation.
Two other signs are these:
1. The great bulk of the nations of the world are turning against Israel, which is in keeping with the great worldwide persecution of the Jews that Antichrist will lead (Revelation 12, esp. vv.1-2, 5-6, 13-17); and
2. The great apostasy of our contemporary visible church. The Lord commanded John to write letters to seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, each of which represents an era in church history. Our contemporary visible church was prophetically pictured in John's seventh letter, to the Church of Laodicea.
The first six periods have come and gone, as follows:
1. Revelation 2:1-7. The Church of Ephesus (meaning: “desired”).
Fulfillment in Church history: Apostolic Church (circa AD 30-100).
2. Revelation 2:8-11. The Church of Smyrna (meaning: “myrrh,” associated with death and embalming).
Fulfillment in Church history: The Church of the Roman Persecution (circa AD 100-313).
3. Revelation 2:12-17. The
Church of Pergamos (meaning: “thoroughly
Fulfillment in Church history: Age of Constantine (AD 313-600). Church married to the state.
4. Revelation 2:18-29. The Church of Thyatira (meaning: “continual sacrifice”).
Fulfillment in Church history: The Dark Ages (AD 590 -1517).
5. Revelation 3:1-6. The
Church of Sardis (meaning: "those
Fulfillment in Church history: The Church of the Protestant Reformation (AD 1517-1648)
6. Revelation 3:7-13. The
Church of Philadelphia (meaning:
Fulfillment in Church history: The Church of the Great Missionary Movement (1648-1900)
The above six church eras have been fulfilled. The era of seventh Church has already begun, but has not yet come to
7. Revelation 3:14-22. The
Church of Laodicea (meaning:
Fulfillment in Church history: The Church of the Apostasy (circa AD 1900 - End of the Church Age at the Rapture)
The seventh and last era, The Church of the Apostasy, is being fulfilled today.
Apostasy is a departure from the truth that one professed to have. Think of how so many of today's mainline denominations began with great revivals of biblical truth, and of how many of today's great universities began as institutions for the training of ministers, and today are bastions of atheism and theological liberalism. Though beliefs vary on different issues within the apostate church, it has generally departed from belief in the Bible as the Word of God, the virgin birth, Jesus' divinity, the atonement aspect of His death, and His bodily resurrection. The apostate church does not believe or preach the Gospel.
Some other relevant passages:
2 Thessalonians 2:3: Let no one in any way deceive you, for [the day of the Lord] will not come unless the apostasy comes first.
1 Timothy 4:1: But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.
2 Timothy 3:1-5: But realize this, that in the last days . . . men will be . . . holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.
In view of the increasingly apostate state of the church, the turning against Israel by the nations, modern means of instant communications and rapid travel, and such other signs as are noted in Matthew 24:3-14, the Rapture may occur at any time and the Great Tribulation will probably follow on its heels immediately or after a brief gap of time.
There are those who believe that the Great Tribulation encompasses only the last three and a half years of Daniel's week because it is during that period that Antichrist attempts to annihilate all Jews as well as all those alive who have come to believe the Gospel (Daniel 2:25, Revelation 12), but consider these key facts:
As was shown above, from the year of the decree of Cyrus the Persian to permit the Jews who were captive in Babylon to return to Judea to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, until they completed the rebuilding, was 49 years (seven weeks); and that 434 years later (62 weeks after the first 49 weeks), Messiah was cut off. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off. In other words, the first sixty-nine weeks of Daniel ended with the crucifixion of Jesus, leaving one more week of Daniel's seventy weeks to be fulfilled.
Seventy weeks were enjoined on your people, Daniel's people, the Jews. The first week began with Cyrus' decree to rebuild the temple, and the sixty-ninth week ended with the crucifixion of Messiah. The entire sixty-nine week period was bookended by events of great significance to Israel. It follows that the seventieth weeks will also begin and end with events of great significance to Israel.
Now, to tie the Great Tribulation in with the seventieth week of Daniel.
To review, 2 Thessalonians 2 declares that the Tribulation will not begin until Antichrist is revealed:
2b. the day of the Lord . . . will not come unless . . . the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4. who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.
How will he be revealed?
And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; (Daniel 9:27)
Antichrist will be revealed or identified when he signs a covenant of protection with Israel for one full week. This official act on the part of the Israeli government will be of great significance to Israel on two counts:
The seventieth week of Daniel will be a period of great significance to Israel, and the Great Tribulation will likewise be a period of significance to Israel - a period of ultimate significance. Surely, the Great Tribulation, itself bookended by the significant events of Antichrist's treat with them and the beginning, and their national salvation at the end, will last the full seven years - not the second half of the seven years, as held by some.
Here is further evidence:
1. Tremendous judgments of God are exercised on all of mankind for the full seven years. An examination of the judgments of both halves of the week should at least be considered in the running as that which the Lord characterized in Matthew 24:21 as a period of great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be, and which is called the great tribulation in Revelation 7:14.
2. Revelation 7:14 reveals that a great multitude of martyred saints will come out of the great tribulation, and they will come out of it during the first half of the seven years. Now consider that the Bowl judgments of the second half (Revelation 16) will be more severe than the Seal and Trumpet judgments of the first half (Seal: Revelation 6:1-17; 8:1. Trumpet: Revelation 8:1 - 9:21; 10:6-7; 11:15). How can what the Lord designated the great tribulation, characterizing it as such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be, not include the second half if the second half will be more severe than the first? Thus, a full seven years.
The Rapture made it abundantly clear that no church saint will miss the Rapture and endure the Great Tribulation; but whom does Scripture say the Great Tribulation is for?
3. While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon
them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5. for
you are all sons of light and sons of day.
The Great Tribulation is not for church saints, who are all sons of light and sons of day, but is for those who are in darkness, a reference to those who have not received the Lord as Savior.
8. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the
breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9. that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and
false wonders, 10. and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11. For this reason God
will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false,12. in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in
wickedness. 13. But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification
by the Spirit and faith in the truth.
~ 2 Thessalonians 2:8-13 ~
The Tribulation is not for those who have been chosen . . . for salvation, but is for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For what reason is the Tribulation for them? That they all may be judged who did not believe the truth.
Both passages clearly distinguish between believers, who will not experience the Tribulation, and unbelievers at the time of the Rapture who will be left on Earth to be judged during the Tribulation because they chose darkness and wickedness over light and salvation.
Though multitudes will be saved during the Tribulation, all on Earth when the Tribulation begins will be unbelievers.
This question will be addressed in two stages. The first will be an overview of the key areas of rebellion prior to the Great Tribulation, and the second will be with a view toward the goals of the Great Tribulation.
When one considers the epochal, dispensational (age-related) dealings of God with mankind, he finds that they progress in a logical manner.
God began by giving our first parents every possible advantage to make the right choice. He created Adam and Eve without a sin nature and placed them in an Eden. Everything they needed for sustenance and enjoyment was at their fingertips and they had an untainted and glorious relationship with one another and with God. Nevertheless, they broke the one "thou shalt not" that He had given them to demonstrate their recognition of their dependence upon Him for all good things. God necessarily applied judgment and set in motion the process by which He would send His Son to die for the sins of the world; and consistent with their choice to lean on their own understanding, withdrew the sweetness of His fellowship and close guidance from them and left them and their descendants in a state in which they would be tested to see if they would obey Him on the basis of the dictates of their own consciences.
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
The Tower of Babel, then, was the institutional fountainhead of all the false and demonic religions and philosophies in the world. (The woman of Revelation 17:3 is called BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. Babylon and Babel are translated from the same Hebrew word, bavel, which means confusion; abominations is a common term for idols; and harlotry is a common term for idolatry.) God therefore confused their languages to scatter them for the purpose of restraining their collusion in evil and that the earth might be filled and subdued. This scattering also divided mankind into the first nations, which served another purpose.
26. and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all
the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27. that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and
find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.
~ Acts 17:26-27 ~
For thus says the LORD of hosts, "After glory He has sent me against the
nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple [pupil] of His eye.
I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land.
Note the last phrase in light of today's political efforts to further divide the Land of Israel.
As a whole, man has rejected every opportunity that God has given him to demonstrate his trust in Him through obedience.
A former forest ranger wrote me the following in February of 1999:
All the population of the world could be placed on a chair with plenty of elbow room within the city limits
of Jacksonville, Florida. The Mesopotamian Plain, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, if irrigated (as it was in Nebuchadnezzar's day) could raise enough food to feed
the population of the world. The arable land in the rest of the world is more than adequate to feed the whole population of the world.
If man had allowed God to take the lead he could easily have fulfilled the dominion mandate by now without
ravaging and poisoning much of the earth as he has.
1. But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2. For men
will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3. unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without
self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4. treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5. holding to a form of godliness, although they have
denied its power.
So what will be the next logical step? God delayed Israel's exodus from Egypt, return to Canaan and conquest of its inhabitants because the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete (Genesis 15:16). The day will come when the iniquity of our present world will be complete and man will have demonstrated that he is hopelessly wicked and incapable of establishing anything approaching an edenic earth without God - yet, he will not repent. Then will come the Great Tribulation, For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). It will be a judgment so severe as to destroy every ungodly man-made institution and humble mankind to the point where multitudes will to turn to God, including every Jew alive at the end of it.
Therein lies the why of the Great Tribulation.
Before we review God's goals for the Great Tribulation, we'll shift our focus now to Psalm 2, which declares, concisely and poetically, the why of the tribulation, the judgment of the wicked by the Lord at the end of it, and the seating of the Lord on His throne to rule during the Messianic Age, or Millennium to follow.
1. Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? 2. The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, . "Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us." 4. He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The LORD shall hold them in derision. 5. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure: 6. "Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion." 7. "I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. 8. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. 9. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel.' " 10. Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. 11. Serve the LORD with fear, And rejoice with trembling. 12. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
~ Psalm 2:1-12 ~
26. "YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN." 27. This expression, "Yet once more," denotes the removing of those things
which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
~ Hebrews 12:26-27 ~
9. I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count
from every nation and tribe and people and language standing before the throne and before the Lamb . . . 14. “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and
they have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.
1) The third mentioned purpose, which laid the foundation for all the rest, has already been accomplished:
to make atonement for iniquity. Iniquity refers to the sin
nature. In the context of your people, the phrase refers to the atonement made for the sin nature of Israelites after the sixty-two weeks following the first seven weeks when the Messiah [was]
cut off. The other five will be completed either during, or as a result of, the events of Daniel's seventieth week. They are:
2) to finish the transgression. Transgression is the committing of known sin. The phrase addresses the transgression, the one transgression that towers above the rest: Israel's rejection of Messiah. With all the first-coming prophesies and pharisaic benchmarks for recognizing Him,11 there was no excuse for Israel's rejection of Him. This ongoing transgression will be finished by Israel's reception of Him at the end of the seventieth week.
3) to make an end of sin. Does this simply mean that Israel will be made a holy, godly people? Ezekiel 27:23 clarifies the matter. The NASB translation is representative of many: They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. The phrase, to make an end of sin, is to be taken literally: Israel will be made permanently and absolutely sinless.
4) to bring in everlasting righteousness. The bringing in of everlasting righteousness will commence with the Lord's establishment of His Messianic or Millennial Kingdom.
5) to seal up vision and prophecy. Old Testament prophets did not see beyond the Messianic Kingdom. The eternal ages beyond the Kingdom is a New Testament revelation. Therefore, from Daniel's perspective, what the phrase means is that by the end of the Kingdom Age, which the Great Tribulation will prepare the way for, all Old Testament prophecy will be fulfilled.
6) to anoint the most holy place. There will be a new Temple in the Millennium (Ezekiel 40:5-43:27), and its anointing will also be brought about on the foundation of the events of the seventieth week.
I am no expert on Tribulation prophesies. Therefore, with bibles, commentaries and the very scholarly studies of Drs. Cooper and Fruchtenbaum in front of me, I have compiled the following sequence of Tribulation highlights with as much critical judgment as I could muster. Both men point out that chapters six through nineteen of the Book of Revelation describe those Tribulation events that Revelation deals with.
In addition, Dr. Fruchtenbaum writes,
"The value of the Book of Revelation is not that it provides a lot of new information, but rather that it takes the scattered Old Testament prophecies and puts them in chronological order so that the sequence of events may be determined."12
and Dr. Cooper:
"Those chapters which give the chronological order of events are: 6, 8, 9, and 16. The other chapters give details concerning the conditions which will then obtain upon the earth."13
The following sequence is not to be taken as "gospel," but as a best effort.
The Tribulation begins when Antichrist enters into a seven-year treaty with Israel guaranteeing her his protection. (Daniel 9:27)
Great and devastating world wars and judgments abound throughout the Tribulation and destroy great portions of the earth, the seas and humanity, even affecting the heavens. (Jeremiah 24:23-26)
Two witnesses begin a three and a half year prophetic ministry supported by signs and wonders that will center in the Temple and include messages of judgment and repentance, particularly to Israel. (Revelation 11:3-6)
144,000 Israelites will be saved; many, perhaps, as a result of the preaching of the two witnesses, and are sealed by the Lord for protection. (Revelation 7:1-17)
The 144,000 will preach the Gospel throughout the world and lead great multitudes to salvation. (Isaiah 24:1-23; Jeremiah 4:23-26; Revelation 7:1-17)
The world-wide apostate church . . .
reigns over the kings of the earth . . . and on her forehead a
name was written, a mystery, "BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH." And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and
with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.
This false church will slaughter multitudes of those who were saved during the first half of the Tribulation.
Before the end the first three and a half years, Antichrist destroys ecclesiastical Babylon, freeing himself to exercise absolute political and religious control over the nations of the earth. (Revelation 17:17)
As the first three and a half years draw to a close, Satan and his demons are cast out of heaven to Earth and thoroughly fill Antichrist. (Revelation 12:7-13)
In the middle of the Tribulation, Antichrist breaks his treaty with Israel, puts a stop to the Temple sacrifices, sits in the Temple of God as a king, and proclaims himself to be God. (Daniel 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 11:1-3; Revelation 13:11-15)
An angel preaches the Gospel to every nation, tribe, language, and people, offering a final call to receive the Lord. (Revelation 14:6-7)
The False Prophet prohibits buying and selling by anyone who refuses to ally himself with Antichrist by taking the number of the beast (Antichrist), 666. He creates and gives life to a statue of the Beast so that it will kill anyone who refuses to
worship the Beast and his statue (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12; Revelation 13:11-18).
Jesus had warned the Jews,
15. Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION
which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16. then those who are in Judea must flee to the
Those who take the mark and worship the Beast and his statue will be those who rejected the preaching of the two witnesses, the 144,000 and the angel.
Antichrist launches a furious campaign to annihilate all left alive of those who received the Lord, and all Jews, and eventually, the Lord Himself. His persecution of the Jews continues almost until the end of the seven years by which time he succeeds in killing two-thirds of them, the rebels, those among the many who agreed with the treaty and resisted the preaching of the first half of the Tribulation. (Psalm 2:2; Jeremiah 31:33-34; Ezekiel 20:36-38, 36:22-27; Zechariah 13:8; Matthew 24:15-28; Acts 4:26; Romans 11:26-27; Revelation 12:1-17, 17:14)
Near the end of the seven years, the surviving third of the Israelites, the non-rebels, recognize Jesus as their Messiah and call upon Him to return; and thus all Israel will be saved (Isaiah 53; Hosea 5:15; Zechariah 12:10, 13:8-9; Matthew 23:37-39, 24:13; Romans 11:26-27) - not just most of them, as many commentators claim, but "'They will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,' declares the LORD, 'for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more'" (Jeremiah 31:34).
Jesus responds to the Jews' appeal and returns to Earth with the raptured church saints. (Matthew 23:37-39; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; Revelation 16:12-21; Jude 1:14)
The Lord ascends the Mount of Olives as the seventh Bowl Judgment is poured out. Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, It is done, announcing the conclusion of God's Day of Wrath (Revelation 16:17). The great cataclysms of this judgment destroy Antichrist's world capitol city of Babylon and the armies that he gathered at Armageddon to destroy the Lord. The Lord Himself will slay Antichrist. Daniel 9:27b: a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate. 2 Thessalonians 2:8: Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming. (Psalm 2:2-3; Joel 3:2; Habakkuk 13:3b; Zechariah 14:3-4; Matthew 24:22; Revelation 16:12-21, 17:14)
There will be a brief transitional period between the Tribulation and the establishment of the Kingdom. During this period,
1. Antichrist is resurrected and he and the False Prophet are cast alive into the Lake of Fire. (Revelation 19:20)
2. Satan is cast into the abyss and is imprisoned there for a thousand years, until the end of the Kingdom Age. (Revelation 20:2-3)
3. Those Gentiles still alive face the Lord's Judgment of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46). (The word ethnos in the passage, often translated nations, also has the meaning of Gentiles. That's how it should be taken here as eternal salvation or condemnation is based on the decisions of individuals, not of nations.) The sheep will be those who provide aid to the persecuted Jews of the Tribulation - these brothers of mine Jesus called them - and will be welcomed into the Kingdom. The goats will be those who refuse to aid the Jews, and will be killed and cast into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels. The respective salvation and condemnation of the sheep and the goats will not be on the basis of their works, but their works in regard to the persecuted Jews will evidence the state of their hearts. Cf. James 2:17-18.
Notice how events involving Israel provide the framework of the Great Tribulation and its aftermath. Antichrist's treaty with them; the two witnesses in Jerusalem; the salvation and ministry of the 144,000; Antichrist's proclamation of his divinity in the Jewish Temple; his attempt to annihilate the Jews; the salvation of Israel, which triggers the Lord's return; the Lord's ascent up the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem; His destruction of Antichrist, the arch enemy of Israel; the Judgment of the Sheep and Goat Gentiles on the basis of whether they did or did not aid the persecuted Jews. Among the earth's nations, Israel is still the apple [pupil] of God's eye (Deuteronomy 32:10).
My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by him;
for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.
~ Hebrews 12:5-6 ~
The passage originally appeared in Proverbs 3:11-12, where it is addressed to the sons of human fathers, and was quoted in Hebrews
for the benefit of the sons of God by the new birth. However, it has an application for all who will endure the Great Tribulation, for all people are sons of God by virtue of the fact that He
created our first parents. It was to an audience of non-believers that Paul made this statement on Mars Hill:
29. Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine
Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. 30. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all
people everywhere should repent.
~ Acts 17:29-30 ~
Whom does the Lord scourge? He scourges every son whom He receives. Whom does the Lord discipline? Whom the Lord loves He disciplines. Whom does the Lord love? For God so loved the world (John 3:16).
Though God will severely chastise all on Earth during the Great Tribulation, He will chastise them because He loves
them and might thereby turn them to the Truth. He will appeal to them thrice by preaching of such quality and power as perhaps only the Lord Jesus Himself displayed: by the two witnesses, the
144,000, and the angel from Heaven. This principle of the chastisement of an entire people for the purpose of turning them to righteousness is seen in Hosea 5:15, which refers to God's
chastisement of Israel for the purpose of turning them to Himself: I will go away and return to My place
until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me. In the
passage, the Lord prophesied that He would leave Earth because of Israel's rejection of Him, and will return when Israel seeks Him because of their affliction; and indeed that is what will happen
at the end of the Great Tribulation. Cf. Matthew 23:37-39.
Many will harden their hearts even more and confirm their rebellion against God, but an innumerable company will receive salvation: the 144,000 themselves, those who received their evangelistic appeal, namely, the great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues (Revelation 7:9), and a full third of the nation of Israel. Based on today's figures, that's almost four and a half million Jews. Perhaps this great harvest is the most significant of God's goals for the Great Tribulation. After all, we love, because He first loved us, and God is love (1 John 4:8,16,19).
There are those who believe that the Tribulation is to be taken as an allegory of the continued persecution of believers since the crucifixion. Yet, just as the decree of Cyrus, the subsequent return of the Jews to the Land, the forty-nine year rebuilding of Jerusalem, Jesus' crucifixion and the continued warfare and desolation of the Land all took place literally, it is perfectly consistent to believe that the prophesies of the Great Tribulation and all of its details will likewise take place literally. If the first sixty-nine weeks and the subsequent period of desolations have been fulfilled literally, it defies logic to believe otherwise concerning the seventieth week.
There are three reasons that I am aware of that many believe that the Tribulation prophecies should be taken allegorically: being taught that they should; refusing to accept the fact that Israel is still God's chosen people according to natural generation; and because the Tribulation accounts, especially in the Book of Revelation, seem so inscrutable, containing such a multitude of symbols. Yet, the only cure is to realize and accept that each symbol is explained somewhere in Scripture and is representative of a literal thing or event.
According to Dr. Fruchtenbaum, "The Book of Revelation has no direct quotations from the Old Testament, but it has about 550 references back to the Old Testament. The majority of the things found in the first twenty chapters of the Book of Revelation are found elsewhere in the Old Testament. Only the last two chapters deal with things totally new."14
God wrote the Bible to be studied and understood. It therefore behooves the student of prophesy to search out the literal meanings of the Bible's symbols wherever in Scripture they may appear and wherever their meanings may be found. For example, Revelation 12:1 introduces a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. The passage may seem to be open to a variety of interpretations until it is realized that Genesis 37:9-10 makes it clear that the woman represents the nation of Israel.
It is important to know the prophetic placement of the Tribulation as there are those who hold impossible views. For example, some believe that the Tribulation was fulfilled with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. Yet it is impossible for the Tribulation to have already taken place because many of the events unique to it have never taken place. No world leader has ever signed a seven-year peace treaty with Israel, no group of 144,000 Jews has ever preached to the world, no group of Jewish evangelists has ever had the success that the 144,000 will have - nor has the Lord returned yet! It is also important to get a grip on the sequence of Tribulation events as such lessons can be learned from it as the extent to which the Lord will go to destroy the evil in the world, keep His promises with Israel and vindicate all who are His.
1. The entire We Believe statement of the Association of Messianic Congregations may be found at http://www.messianicassociation.org/believe.htm.
2. Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps of the Messiah, pdf, pp. 173-174.
3. That "weeks" is to be understood here as seven year periods is based on the prophecy’s context and on other biblical usages of weeks as seven year periods. For example, in Genesis 29:20-28, it says in one place that Jacob served Laban for Leah seven years, and in another place, for a week. It also says the same for the time that Jacob served for Rachel. See Dr. David Cooper, “The Seventy Weeks of Daniel.” http://ariel.org/dlc/dlc-bk-swd02.htm, chapter 2, section II.
4. Dr. Cooper determined that the years were “regular solar years” based on the books that Daniel studied. Cooper. Chapter 2, section I, subdivision 2. B., paragraphs 1-3.
5. Cooper. Chapter 2, section IV, last paragraph.
6. Cooper. Chapter 2, section V, last paragraph.
7. Cooper. Chapter 5, section I, paragraph 6. http://ariel.org/dlc/dlc-bk-swd05.htm
8. Lior, Ilan. "As France becomes 14th country to approve same-sex marriage, Israel still lags behind." Haaretz May 15, 2013. http://www.haaretz.com/news/world/as-france-becomes-14th-country-to-approve-same-sex-marriage-israel-still-lags-behind.premium-1.517358.
9. Geller, Pamela. "UN Adopts 22 Resolutions against Israel and 4 for the Rest of the Entire World." Atlas Shrugged. December 20, 2012. http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2012/12/un-adopts-22-resolutions-against-israel-and-4-for-the-rest-of-the-entire-world.html.
10. Robinson, B.A. " The Death Penalty." Religious Tolerance. August 14, 2012. http://www.religioustolerance.org/executh.htm.
11. The healing of a Jewish leper, the healing of a man born blind, and the casting out of a demon causing muteness.
12. Fruchtenbaum, 10-11.
13. Cooper. Chapter 5, section II, paragraph 2. http://ariel.org/dlc/dlc-bk-swd05.htm.
14. Fruchtenbaum, 10.
Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum. The Footsteps of the Messiah: A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events. Available at Ariel Ministries in various formats.
Dr. David Cooper. “The Seventy Weeks of Daniel.” http://ariel.org/dlc/dlc-bk-swd01.htm, esp. chaps. 4 and 5.
Dr. Henry M. Morris. God and the Nations. (Green Forest: Master Books, 2002).