My goal for this study is to inform both Christians and non-Christians of the time period the bible says we are soon approaching. For the believer in Christ, this will serve as an informational source to sharpen your understanding of scripture, but for the unbeliever, it is a warning posed by the bible for those who will be left behind after the rapture of the church. Through this study of the tribulation, I hope to inform skeptics of the truth and necessity of the Gospel. Time is short and this study is one of the many ways I’m using to communicate that.
Before we start I think it’s important to first talk about what the tribulation isn’t. Unlike what the majority of the world may believe the bible is saying, the tribulation does not equate to the “end of the world” as so many people believe Christians are talking about. It’s not a doomsday scenario where the world explodes or a zombie-apocalypse we often see in movies. This is a period of time that will be the climax of human history as we know it. It’s only a small “sliver” in the grand prophetic scheme of things but is still key to understanding what God has in store in these last days for mankind. Essentially the tribulation marks the end of this “age” and the start of a new one (Matthew 24:3). After the tribulation Jesus will return to earth and usher in his kingdom which will be characterized by 1,000 years of never before experienced, unrivaled peace on the earth. Afterwards will be eternity where all things are made new and humans have an everlasting relationship with God forever. In the first part of this study I’ll take a look at what the tribulation is, how it starts, and its purpose. With this understanding let’s dive into this study.
The tribulation is a 7 year period that will be the worst period of time in human history. The tribulation is divided into 2 parts, each being 3 1/2 years: tribulation and great 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. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22).
It’s also called “Jacob’s Trouble” and “Daniel’s 70th Week”; it’s a time apportioned for Daniel’s people – Israel. It may seem like a horrible punishment and time of judgement brought upon by God but in fact it is by the act of God which keeps this time period to only 7 years.
“’Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.’ ‘Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall,
Even in troublesome times.’ ‘And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.'” (Daniel 9:24-26)
How does the Tribulation start?
The tribulation starts with the antichrist’s confirming of a covenant with many for a “week”, the week being symbolic for 7 years. The Hebrew word used here for week is “Shabuwa” which is used to denote a period of 7 (days or years) depending on the context given. Shabuwa is defined as “seven, period of seven (days or years), heptad, week.”
In Daniel 9:24, Daniel is told his people – Israel – have 70 weeks set up for them for certain events to occur (i.e. decree to rebuild the Jewish temple, the Messiah’s crucifixion, etc). These 70 weeks are weeks of years so in fact it is a prophesied 490 years for Israel in which only 483 of them have been realized thus far. This last “week” will bring the completion of this prophesied 70 weeks. I plan to discuss Daniel’s 70 weeks in more detail in a separate article.
The antichrist later breaks this covenant in the middle of the tribulation in an event known as the “abomination of desolation” where he goes into the Jew’s rebuilt 3rd temple, stops the sacrificial system and sets up something within the temple that is deemed an abomination to the Jews, “Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.” (Daniel 9:27)
In doing so he also sets himself above anything and everything called God or is worshiped as such and demands worship of himself. This event marks the start of the great tribulation, “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Matthew 24:15-16).
“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” (II Thessalonians 2:3)
Again, from the context of Daniel 9:27 and later in Matthew 24:15-16, we can be sure that the period of 7 meant in Daniel 9:27 is indeed a period of years as Jesus himself eludes to Daniel’s prophecy of the abomination of desolation as yet a future event. If this was a period of days, it would make no sense as to why Jesus would be referring to 490 weeks (of days) that have long occurred before his time and reference it as a future prophecy to his disciples.
Before the antichrist can confirm this covenant, he first needs to rise to power and be a prominent force on the world stage, and for this to happen the bible tells us the “restrainer” must first be removed and then the antichrist can be revealed.
“And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.” (II Thessalonians 2:6-8)
Many – including myself – believe this restrainer to be holy spirit indwelt Christians that now, through the power of God, are restraining greater evil from coming upon the earth. However, once born again Christians are removed, the Holy spirit “steps aside” in some sense and allows the antichrist to come to power. The antichrist is allowed power to a certain extent which is ultimately all for God’s purposes. We can see this displayed in the authority he will gain over the whole world and the power he is granted to kill those who align themselves with God, “It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:7-8)
Until this event occurs none of this will start. This event where millions of people will disappear from the earth is the rapture of the church. Although there are differing views to the timing of this, I believe it takes place before the tribulation and have a dedicated a separate study for that here. It’s been often thought that once this occurs and millions of people disappear from the face of the earth, many will be deceived into believing it was some kind of mass alien abduction event, earth “purging” itself, or some failed scientific experiment. Whatever they use to explain it away, it’s all false and has in fact been talked about for years by Christians and is a major focal point of my blog. Don’t be deceived.
Purpose of the Tribulation
The tribulation serves 2 purposes. First, it’s meant to “refine” Israel and bring them back to God as can be seen in Zechariah 13:9; it’s for the corporate salvation of Israel. They will unfortunately go through severe persecution during the tribulation but by it’s end they will call upon the name of the Lord and all of Israel will be saved, “I will bring the one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; and each one will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” (Zechariah 13:9)
Earlier I touched upon the “abomination of desolation” that will occur 3 1/2 years into the tribulation in which Jesus gives a stern warning that once the Jews see this, they must flee. At this point, the Jews that do flee are supernaturally protected for the remaining 3 1/2 years of the tribulation. We can see this story symbolically told in Revelation 12:13-17 with the woman being Israel, the dragon being Satan/antichrist world system, and the male child as the raptured church. I will be going more into depth with this and how it ties into the rapture of the church in a later article.
“Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 12:13-17)
The tribulation’s also meant to test the whole world, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10). During this period of time, those on the earth will need to choose what side they want to be on; the devil’s or God’s. Choosing one or the either has its eternal consequences, heaven or eternal damnation at the lake of fire.
Although we all have the free will to reject or accept the free gift of salvation, if you are not a believer, I hope you will consider what I presented in this study and do your own research. In part 2 of this study I detail what will occur during the tribulation, how we can know it’s close by, and what you can do to not be a part of it. You can go here to learn more about why we need salvation in the first place. Also navigate to my commentary page to stay up to date with latest events and bible prophecy as we watch Christ’s return draw near and the tribulation cast an ever growing shadow in our current time. Time is short and none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Why don’t you accept Christ today?
“And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe.” (John 14:29)
- Shabuwa – Blue Letter Bible