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What Is The Tribulation?

The Word of God speaks of tribulation. Tribulations, distresses and
all that goes with it are in the world on account of sin. Believers,
though saved and no longer of the world, but delivered from this evil
age, have tribulation and persecution likewise. Our Lord said to His
disciples and to all who are His followers, "In the world ye shall have
tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John
xvi:33). "If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you"
(John xv:20). "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall
suffer persecution" (1 Tim. 12). What a record Paul wrote of his own
tribulations and persecutions. How great was his affliction,
persecution, distress and manifold tribulation! (2 Cor. xi:16-32).
"Through much tribulation we must enter into the Kingdom of God" (Acts
xiv:22). The believer is exhorted to glory (or boast) in these
tribulations (Rom. v:3). Triumphantly in faith he can say, "Who shall
separate us, from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress,
or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" (Rom.
viii:35). "Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation," is another
exhortation (Rom. xii:12). To the Corinthians Paul wrote, "I am filled
with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation" (2 Cor.
vii:4). The Thessalonian Christians suffered greatly, but met it all
victoriously so that Paul wrote them, "We ourselves glory in you in the
churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions
and tribulations that ye endure" (1 Thess. i:4). If we today know but
little persecution for Christ's sake, it is because we do not manifest
in our lives separation from the world. "For unto you it is given in
the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer
for His sake" (Phil. i:29). Tribulations, persecutions, sufferings for
Christ's and for righteousness' sake belong to the church. They are
really blessings, for all these things must work together for good to
them that love God.

But there is another tribulation revealed in the Word of God which is
of totally different nature. It is a tribulation which God permits as
a judgment to come upon all the world, a tribulation in which Satan is
concerned, in which he manifests his malice and his wrath. This
tribulation has an altogether punitive character. In different
portions of the Prophets we read of a great time of distress, such as
the sword, famine and pestilence and other tribulations and judgments,
which precede the visible manifestation of the Lord to deliver His
earthly people Israel. This tribulation is always predicted to come
upon Israel and upon the nations of the earth. It is mentioned in the
New Testament, as we shall see directly; but the Old Testament gives us
the full history of these tribulation judgments. The time when this
tribulation takes place is "the end of the age," which, strictly
speaking means the Jewish age. Every student of prophecy knows
something of that all important revelation in Daniel ix, the
seventy-week prophecy.[1]

The last prophetic week of seven years has not yet been. We are still
between the 69th and the 70th week. Those coming last seven years of
that interrupted Jewish age will bring these predicted judgments and
the great tribulation. The last 3-1/2 years (or 1,260 days, 42 months)
are the great tribulation itself.

We quote a few passages: "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is
like it, it is even the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved
out of it" (Jer. xxx-7).

"And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who standeth
for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble,
such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time. And
at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be
found written in the book" (Dan. xii:1).

It is clear beyond controversy that both passages reveal that this
great time of trouble comes upon Daniel's people at the time of the
end. It is a wrong interpretation to say that "thy people" means the
church. As stated before, the prophets have nothing to say about the
church. For what will take place in that time of trouble see Dan.
vii:21-25. We turn next to Matthew xxiv. The great prophecy of our
Lord contained in this chapter has nothing to do with the destruction
of Jerusalem in 70 A. D. It is a prophecy which relates to the time of
the end and covers the same seven years of unfulfilled Jewish history.
His disciples had asked concerning the end of the age and the Lord
answers this question. Significant it is that He calls special
attention to Daniel the prophet. This is the key. When our Lord
speaks of a time of trouble He means the same trouble of which Daniel
wrote: "For there shall be great tribulation such as was not since the
beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be" (Matt.
xxiv:21). There is nothing in the words of our Lord to indicate that
the true church is then on earth. The preaching of the Gospel of the
Kingdom as a witness to all nations during this time of trouble is the
message which the Jewish remnant gives before the coming of the
King.[2] When this great tribulation ends the Lord Jesus Christ comes
back to earth again "in the clouds of heaven with power and great
glory" (Matt. xxiv:29-30). What takes place then is revealed also by
our Lord. "And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a
trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds,
from one end of heaven to the other." Superficial teachers of prophecy
explain this as being the gathering together of Christian believers
when the Lord comes at the close of the great tribulation. We have
seen from 1 Thess. iv:13-18 how the Lord comes for His Saints. He does
not send angels to gather His church from the four winds, but He gives
the shout from the air and instead of being gathered the church-saints
are caught up in clouds, together with the risen saints to meet the
Lord in the air. The elect people who are to be gathered when the Lord
returns after the tribulation are the people Israel (see Isaiah
xxvii:13). Their hour of deliverance has come. This is the same
deliverance of which Daniel speaks in chapter xii:1. It is also
significant that our Lord after He announced the gathering and
restoration of Israel mentions at once the figtree, which is Israel.

The book of Revelation bears the same witness as to the church and in
relation to the tribulation to come. The church is only mentioned in
the first three chapters. In the church message to Philadelphia (Rev.
iii:7-13) a promise is given to the true church which is important:
"Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee
from the hour of trial which shall come upon all the world to try them
that dwell upon the earth. Behold I come quickly, hold that fast which
thou hast that no man take thy crown." The hour of trial for all the
world is the tribulation period. Here, then, is a definite promise
that true believers are going to be exempt from that coming time of
trouble. Laodicea marks a final phase of Christendom; it is apostasy.
Chapters iv and v in Revelation reveal what will take place in heaven
in the future. We behold in these two chapters the redeemed in glory,
singing the new song. These redeemed include all the church saints as
well as the Old Testament Saints. Beginning with the sixth chapter we
find in Revelation the future things, that is, what will take place
after the Lord has come for His Saints. Here the judgments, the
tribulation and the wrath are made known which will visit the earth
during the last seven years of the age. Revelation vi-xviii cover the
history of the last week of Daniel. In these chapters we read nothing
of the true church as still on earth.

Another important fact as to the tribulation period must be dealt with.
During this time of trouble there are those on earth who suffer and
whom God owns as Saints. Satan through his instruments, the little
horn and the Antichrist is persecuting these Saints and they pass
through this awful time of trouble. Daniel wrote, "I beheld, and the
same horn made war with the Saints and prevailed against them ... and
he (the little horn) shall speak great words against the Most High and
shall wear out the Saints of the Most High" (Daniel vii:21, 25). These
suffering tribulation Saints will receive the Kingdom on earth (Dan.
vii:22, 27). In the great vision of John in Revelation chapter xiii,
the same beast which Daniel saw is described. Here again we read of
Saints: "And it was given unto him to make war with the Saints, and to
overcome them" (Rev. xiii:7). Now as the church is no longer on earth,
who are these Saints? They are Jewish believers who have turned to the
Lord and whom He now owns as Saints. Their sufferings at that time, as
well as their faith, their prayers and their deliverance is the subject
of many of the Psalms. They are the sealed ones of Revelation vii.[3]
Many of them refusing to worship the beast suffer martyrdom and are
raised up.

Next: Important Conclusions

Previous: The Church And The Great Tribulation

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