Coming to Terms with the Tribulation
On the evening of May 3, 1999, a tornado in southwest Oklahoma metastasized into a monster cyclone and thundered northeast, effortlessly flattening a sixty-mile swath through town after town, neighborhood after neighborhood. When the steamroller finally ran out of energy, it had totally destroyed 1,500 homes, damaged 8,093 homes, and killed 44 people. Ninety-five percent of Mulhall, Oklahoma, was destroyed.
After the storm, meteorologists determined that the wind speed generated by the tornado peaked at 318 mph, the highest winds ever recorded on planet earth. The storm may have even created a new tornado rating of F6. The day after the tornado the local news stations ran nonstop footage of the damaged areas. The scene was heartbreaking and indescribable.
A few days later I had the opportunity to view some of the damaged area in person. I was stunned. It looked like a scene out of some post-Apocalypse movie. Twisted, scarred trees with all the bark stripped off littered the landscape, and all the grass was sucked out of the ground, leaving acres of exposed earth in its wake. As overwhelming as this F6 tornado was, the Bible says that someday God is going to unleash His own tornado of judgment on this earth— an F6 tornado of God’s devastating judgment— a time the Bible calls “the Tribulation.”
Hitchcock, Mark. The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (p. 232). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.
I. What marks the beginning of the Tribulation? ()
A. Many believe it begins with the Rapture of the Church
1. This concludes the Church-Age
2. Spares the Church from the horrors of the Tribulation
B. It really begins with the signing of a peace treaty between the Anti-Christ and Israel.
1. What we Don't know for certain about the Treaty
a. The Bible does not indicate how much time will pass between the Rapture and the signing of the peace treaty.
b. Could be days, months, or even years.
c. The Purpose of the Rapture suggests it should occur shortly after the Rapture, since if too much time passes, the Rapture would not have been necessary to occur so early.
d. The Rapture will likely be one of the mitigating events that will thrust the Anti-Christ into the major international political position necessary to accomplish his agenda.
e. Another key aspect will be the escalation of war in the Middle East making the offer of a peaceful settling of the conflict admirable to both sides of the conflict.
2. What we Do know of the Treaty according to the Bible
a. It will be between Israel and the Antichrist but will almost certainly involve others. Since the Antichrist will rise from a reunited Roman Empire centered in Europe, Europe in its final form will likely be the key player.
b. It will begin the final seven-year period of the Tribulation.
c. It will be a “firm” covenant; this firmness may indicate that it will initially be forced or compelled.
i. It may be a “take it or leave it” deal for Israel and its neighbors.
ii. It is also possible that this means the Antichrist will enforce or make strong a covenant that already exists.
d. It will eventually give Jews the right to offer sacrifices in a rebuilt Temple. This fact assumes a Jewish Temple must be rebuilt.
e. It will be broken by the Antichrist himself at the midpoint of the treaty.
3. Charles Dyer on the Treaty:
What is this “covenant” that the Antichrist will make with Israel? Daniel does not specify its content, but he does indicate that it will extend for seven years. During the first half of this time Israel feels at peace and secure, so the covenant must provide some guarantee for Israel’s national security. Very likely the covenant will allow Israel to be at peace with her Arab neighbors. One result of the covenant is that Israel will be allowed to rebuild her temple in Jerusalem. This world ruler will succeed where Kissinger, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and other world leaders have failed. He will be known as the man of peace!
II. Terms Attributed to the Tribulation
(How Significant is the Tribulation in the Biblical account?)
A. OT Terms Birth
Pangs: ; ; ; ;
Day of the Lord: ; ; , , ; ; , ; ; , ; , ; ; ;
Great and Terrible Day of the Lord:
Day of Wrath:
Day of Distress:
Day of the Lord's Wrath:
Day of Desolation:
Day of Vengeance: ; ; ;
Day of Jacob's Trouble:
Day of Darkness and Gloom: ; , ;
Day of the Trumpet:
Day of Alarm:
Day of the Lord's Anger:
Day of the Destruction, Ruin from the Almighty:
Day of Calamity: ;
One Week= (Daniel's) 70th Week:
The Lord's Strange Work: , ,
Time of Anguish/Distress: ;
The Indignation/The Lord's Anger: ;
The Time of the End:
The Lord's Jealousy:
B. NT Terms
The Day: Those Days: ; The Day of the Lord: ; ; The Wrath: ; The Wrath to Come: The Great Day of Their Wrath: The Wrath of God , ; , ; The Wrath of the Lamb The Hour of Trial: The Tribulation: (NASB); (NASB) Time of Tribulation: (NASB) The Great Tribulation: (NASB); (NASB); 7:14 (NASB) The Hour of Judgment: Birth Pangs: ;
The Reason for the Tribulation
Many pe0ple struggle with the concept of the Tribulation, because it doesn’t seem to fit with a loving God.
Why would God pour out His wrath and judgment on the world He created?
Why is such a time of unspeakable trouble necessary?
Scripture provides us at least five reasons for the Tribulation. Each reason relates to a specific group or person: Israel, the Gentiles, God, Satan, and believers.
To Prepare Israel
(A Purpose for Israel)
The Tribulation will bring the Jewish people to their knees in submission to God. God will use this “time of trouble for my people Israel” to prepare the nation for her Messiah (). God will put Israel in a vise grip from which there is no earthly hope of deliverance. God will refine the rebellious nation in the fire of the Tribulation period ().
Pentecost states, “God’s purpose for Israel in the Tribulation is to bring about the conversion of a multitude of Jews, who will enter into the blessings of the kingdom and experience the fulfillment of all Israel’s covenants.”
Many of the Jewish people will cry out to God for salvation from their sins during the Tribulation. They will implore God to pierce the heavens and come down to save them (, , ). God will mercifully answer this prayer of confession, will save many in Israel, and will bring them into the millennial kingdom under the reign of their Messiah ().
To Punish Sinners
(A Purpose for Gentiles)
God will use the Tribulation to punish the godless Gentile nations and all unbelievers for their sin, especially for rejecting His Son and receiving the Antichrist ().
Pentecost says, “This world will receive this divine visitation because of the world’s rejection of Jesus Christ as the Savior. . . . The world will worship the beast, and divine judgment will come upon them because they have despised God, rejected His Son, and acknowledged a demon-possessed man as their only king and deity.”
describes this purpose. According to , one purpose of the Tribulation is “to test those who dwell on the earth” (NASB).
The word test refers to painful trials that God sends to bring out what is in people. It pictures putting metal in a crucible to discover its worth. The judgments of the Tribulation are God’s way of testing “those who dwell on the earth.”
The phrase “those who dwell on the earth” occurs eleven times in the book of Revelation. It is not so much a term of geographical location but moral condition. The entire scope of their lives is dominated by earthly ambition, not the will of God.
Revelation consistently pictures “earth dwellers” as the objects of God’s wrath because of their hardened rebellion against Him. God gives up to evil those who continue rejecting Him even in spite of His judgments. His testing proves that they are earthly minded and don’t care about God.
According to , often called Isaiah’s Apocalypse, no one will be able to hide from God’s judgment during the Tribulation.
“Look! The LORD is coming from heaven to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will no longer hide those who have been killed. They will be brought out for all to see” ().
To Prove God's Power
(A Purpose for God)
About 3,500 years ago, the Pharaoh of Egypt mocked the God of heaven: “Who is the LORD? Why should I listen to him and let Israel go?” ().
God heard his brazen challenge, and in the next eight chapters of Exodus, God shows Pharaoh, his magicians, and all the people who He is. When God is finished with the ten plagues, Pharaoh is begging the children of Israel to leave.
In a similar show of foolish bravado the Antichrist will deny the true God and declare himself to be god. God will once again pour out His plagues to prove His power and to vindicate His reputation. Only this time it will be on a worldwide scale.
Many of the Tribulation judgments described in Revelation are the same as or similar to the ten plagues of Egypt. God will prove to a rebellious world that He alone is God ().
To Portray Satan's True Character
(A Purpose for Satan)
God will use the Tribulation to fully unmask Satan for what he is— a liar, a thief, and a murderer. When God removes all restraints (), Satan will be fully manifest as the world experiences the final firestorm from the dragon. Realizing that his time is short, the devil will pour out his venom with force and violence ().
To Provide Salvation
(A Purpose for Believers)
The Lord will graciously use the Tribulation to drive men to Himself in repentance and trust. He will harvest more souls during this time than anyone can count. There will be great revival during the Great Tribulation (, ). While the Tribulation will be a time of unparalleled turmoil and may be difficult for us to understand, God will use it to accomplish His sovereign purposes.
Can People who hear the Gospel before the Rapture and Reject it be saved during the Tribulation?
Almost all students of end times prophecy would agree that people will be saved during the Tribulation period. indicates that the Tribulation will be a time of great revival. While the Tribulation will be a time of judgment, it will also be a time that God will use to bring many to salvation.
Saving the lost is one of God’s chief purposes for the Tribulation period. Speaking of the Tribulation, says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved, for some on Mount Zion in Jerusalem will escape, just as the LORD has said. These will be among the survivors whom the LORD has called.”
However, many respected students of Bible prophecy contend that God will preclude anyone who rejects Christ before the Rapture from being saved during the Tribulation. They hold that God will send strong delusion upon them. Support for this view is usually based on .
This man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies. Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth.
It is critical to remember the context of these verses. Paul is describing what happens during the Tribulation period, not before the Rapture. It refers to those who witness the deception of the Antichrist, believe his message, and reject the truth. Those who do this will be condemned by God. He will confirm them in their unbelief and send strong delusion on them so that they will believe the lie.
I believe that many, not all, who have clearly rejected the gospel before the Rapture will continue to reject it after the Rapture. After all, it won’t get easier to be a Christian after the Rapture, but rather more difficult, since the Antichrist will openly persecute those who receive Christ and refuse to take his mark (, ). However, to say that it is impossible for anyone to receive God’s mercy during the Tribulation is expanding beyond what the context allows.
Commenting on this passage, John Walvoord says, But we have to remember the context of this passage. It is focused on people who reject Christ during the tribulation and receive the Antichrist not on people who reject Christ before the rapture.
The Scriptures definitely teach that God will send strong delusion to those who do not believe after the church is gone. God will judge their hearts, and if they deliberately turn away from the truth He will permit them to believe a lie. They will honor the man of sin as their god and as their king, instead of acknowledging the Lord Jesus Christ. The result will be “that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (v. 12).
God will use the horror of the Tribulation period to bring millions of sinners to faith in His Son (). Among this numberless crowd, certainly some who rejected the Lord before the Rapture will reconsider and humbly accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God— the One who purchased a pardon from sin for them on the cross.