The Bible and the Future- Part 2- The Great Tribulation
The Great Tribulation: Prophecy Resumes
In the first installment of the Bible and the Future, we talked about the end of the present age in which we now live called the Dispensation of Grace. It is sometimes also referred to as the Church Age because it is during this period that God is saving people from among all men and placing them in a body of believers called the Church, or the Body of Christ. Every true believer during this age is a member of the Body of Christ.
This period is a mystery because it was never revealed to former generations (Ephesians 3:1-10). Therefore it was not part of the prophecies of the Old Testament. But after the Body of Christ is caught up or raptured to meet Jesus Christ in the air, there comes a seven-year period of time that was prophesied. That period of time is known as the Great Tribulation.
The Great Tribulation is a time when God's wrath will be poured out on a sinful humanity. Jesus talked of this time in Matthew 24:21. He said that it will be a time "such as has not occurred since the beginning of time until now," In other words, if we think we have problems now, they aren't anything compared with what is to come. It will be worldwide and not just a localized time of great disasters and trouble. It will be so bad that many will want to die rather than continue living in the wrath that is being poured out.
People today talk as though it is the end of the world. Yet they go on marrying, having children, going to work and conducting business as usual. However, when the Tribulation comes, people will hide in bomb shelters and caves and not look forward to the future because they won't see anything that will look attractive about it.
The major prophecy in the Old Testament for this period is Daniel 9:24-27. This talks about seventy weeks which is actually seventy weeks of years. To make things less complicated, all but one of those seventy weeks was already accomplished when Jesus Christ made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. After that Jesus was cut off or killed, as prophesied. He died on the cross a week later. After His resurrection, Israel rejected her risen Messiah, so God interrupted His plan for Israel, temporarily (Romans 9-11). However, that final week is still to come. Each day of the week represents a year, so there are actually seven years of Tribulation ahead.
A major question that we have to answer is this: "Why the Tribulation?" At least two reasons can be gleaned from Scripture:
1. The first is that it is a time of judgment on the earth's inhabitants for sin. God is a God of grace, mercy, and love, but He is also a holy God who cannot let sin go unpunished. Therefore, the wrath of God upon sin is seen during this time.
2. The second reason is that during the Tribulation, Israel, as a nation, will be enticed to turn to their Messiah, whom they rejected so many centuries earlier. And as Paul says in Romans 11, "all Israel will be saved." That is not to say that every individual Israelite will turn to Christ, but national Israel will turn to Him, thus leading the way for Christ's promised earthly Kingdom.
I. A General Overview
There are a lot of things going on during this seven-year period of time. However, here is a general overview. First of all the Body of Christ, the Church is gone because of the rapture. They have been caught up to meet the Lord in the air (I Thessalonian 4:13-18). You can imagine the chaos that follows this event. Millions of people just disappear in the twinkling of an eye. But this is nothing compared to the chaos that will happen next.
The Great Tribulation will be the absolute worst event the world has ever known. This future event was foretold by the Old Testament prophets, but especially Daniel 9:24-27. And it is the main subject of most of the book of Revelation. It can be found in Revelation 4-19. As I alluded to, the book of Daniel describes 70 prophetic weeks in which God deals with His people Israel. Sixty-nine weeks of years were accomplished by the time of Christ's triumphal entry. Then Christ was cut off in death, and after he was raised up was rejected by Israel. Now after this present unprophesied age is over, which was brought about by the temporary casting away of Israel, the stage is set for the seventieth week. God will again deal with the nation of Israel and fulfill the promises made to the patriarchs. And He will bring great judgment on the world because of sin.
During this time a revived Roman empire will emerge. It will be a world empire energized by Satan himself. The head of this great empire will be a person called the Antichrist, or the Man of lawlessness (II Thessalonians 2:1-12). In Revelation 13:1 he is called the beast coming out of the sea.
Another major player in this drama is a person called the False Prophet. He is talked about in Revelation 13:11-18. Here he is called the beast coming up out of the earth. He is named as the False Prophet in Revelation 16:13, 19:20 and 20:10. The False Prophet promotes the Antichrist's power and later convinces the world to worship him as god. While Antichrist will be chiefly a political and military leader, the False Prophet will be a religious leader. Church and State will unite in a worldwide religion to worship the Antichrist.
II. The First Half of the Tribulation
The Tribulation begins with the signing of a covenant between the Antichrist and Israel. It can be broken down into two 3 1/2 year periods. The Lord refers to the first half as the beginning of sorrows in Matthew 24:5-8. During this period there will be wars, famines, pestilence and earthquakes in many places throughout the earth. During these years the Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached all over the world (Matthew 24:14). It will call for repentance, and for everyone to get ready for the return of Christ.
III. The Second Half of the Tribulation
The second 3 1/2 years will be a time of unprecedented great tribulation. Jesus said it would be the worst that the world has ever known. This period begins with the "abomination of desolation" referred to by Jesus (Matthew 24:15) and Daniel (9:27 and 12:11). The Antichrist will actually sit in the Jewish temple and claim to be god, and will perform miracles to try to prove it. Believing Israel is persecuted and flees Jerusalem. God keeps two witnesses to preach in Jerusalem for the 3 1/2 year period. They are later killed, then resurrected three days later and taken up to heaven (Revelation 12).
Numerous judgments befall mankind throughout this period. However, it will cause most to harden their hearts and curse God rather than turn to Him.
IV. Jesus' Return to Earth
At the end of the Great Tribulation, Jesus Christ Himself will return to join Israel. He will descend to the Mount of Olives, the same place in which He left the earth. (Zechariah 14:4 and Acts 1:11-12). The Lord will gather His people to Himself, while the Antichrist and the kings of the earth will gather to fight against Him. The Antichrist and his followers are then defeated. After this, the Antichrist and False Prophet are both thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:19-20).
Satan and his demons are cast into the bottomless pit. So, for a while, they are no longer able to influence men (Revelation 20:1-3). The next major event following all of this is the Millennium. We'll save that for the next installment.
The Great Tribulation is not a time in history in which any person would want to live. Prophecy is given to warn us so that we can make changes now. My concern for anyone reading this is that you be prepared for the return of Christ. Believers in the Lord during this period of God's grace will be spared all of the wrath poured out on the world during the Tribulation. Now is the time to escape the Great Tribulation and the judgment to follow. May you heed the warnings of Scripture and accept the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross for your sins.
If you are already a believer, be assured that God has not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ ( I Thessalonians 5:9). We can be thankful that the Lord will spare us this great judgment that He has in store for the world.
However, we all know someone who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Knowledge of what they will face should make us want to warn them of what lies ahead.
Let us never forget that we can make an eternal difference in someone's life by sharing with them the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and His love for them. Our voice of testimony may be the only thing standing between them and eternal judgment. Let us not grow weary in proclaiming the truth. Someone's eternal soul may depend upon it!
© 2011 Jeff Shirley