The Great Tribulation
This chapter serves as an introduction to the following chapter. I believe that the Rapture of the Church takes place before the Great Tribulation, so it's crucial to gain insight into what the Great Tribulation entails. Why are we taken away before this period? There is much to tell about this period, and we will limit ourselves to the main points. In Chapter 5, we will delve into the Rapture of the Church before the Great Tribulation. The Lord Jesus said the following about this period:
"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." (Matthew 24:21)
It will be a tribulation unlike anything in history. In history classes, we learn about dreadful periods, and today the world is broken in many places. Yet, the Lord Jesus says, "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." The Great Tribulation will surpass all previous horrors and will be a terrible period filled with wars, natural disasters, and hardship. The following texts also speak of this time:
"(...) It shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation. (...)" (Daniel 12:1)
"For thus says the LORD: We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask now, and see, whether a man is ever in labor with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins like a woman in labor, and all faces turned pale? Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it." (Jeremiah 30:5-7
"For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be." (Mark 13:19)
After reading that the Great Tribulation is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments, we will now focus on the primary reasons for the Great Tribulation, which include:
- The pouring out of God's wrath and the wrath of the Lamb.
- The judgment of the nations.
- The discipline of the people of Israel.
- The salvation of many.
The Wrath of God and the Wrath of the Lamb
During the period of the Great Tribulation, the wrath of God is poured out upon the earth and its inhabitants. Wrath can also be translated as anger, indignation, offense, irritation, or righteous anger. During the Great Tribulation, God is going to do something with His wrath.
"Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, "Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth."" (Revelation 16:1)
"So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God." (Revelation 14:19)
"Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. (...) Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger." (Isaiah 13:9-13)
"And they said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"" (Revelation 6:16-17)
"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God;" (Isaiah 61:1-2)
Now, let's answer the following questions:
- Why does God pour out His wrath upon people and the earth?
- How long does the period of God's wrath last?
Why Does God Pour Out His Wrath?
On one hand, we are instructed not to be wrathful and angry but to be kind and forgiving. God calls us to forgive one another and to set aside our anger. This also means that we shouldn't engage in sinful actions driven by anger, such as shouting at each other or using foul language.
"Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." (Ephesians 4:31-32)
"But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth." (Colossians 3:8)
On the other hand, we read about God's wrath and how it is poured out upon the inhabitants of the earth during the Great Tribulation. How is this possible?
First and foremost, God's wrath differs from human wrath. God's wrath is always holy and justified, which is not the case with human wrath. Additionally, God calls us not to be wrathful because vengeance belongs to Him, and He will repay (Romans 12:19). Finally, God's wrath is necessary to render a just judgment upon the earth and its inhabitants.
"Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8)
God is right to repay those who oppress us, and we are not to take matters into our own hands because God will take vengeance for us. It's important to note that God's wrath is poured out only on those who have been disobedient to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness and salvation are available to everyone on Earth, but those who reject forgiveness and refuse to believe in Jesus Christ will remain under the wrath of God.
"He who believes in the Son has everlasting life, and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36)
God's wrath, which includes the Great Tribulation and the Day of God's judgment, remains upon those who are disobedient. But why is God angry with them? What have they done wrong?
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them." (Romans 1:18-19)
"But to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek." (Romans 2:8-9)
"But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience." (Ephesians 5:3-6)
God's wrath applies to those who are disobedient to the truth, in other words, those who disobey Jesus Christ. If we do not obey Jesus, we see this in the fruit we produce, such as fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, as well as outbursts of wrath and angry shouting. No one can escape the wrath of God, but fortunately, Jesus went to the cross to bring reconciliation for all who choose to obey Him. There is only one escape route, and that is through Jesus.
How long does the period of God's wrath last?
First, let's answer a different question: "How long does the Great Tribulation last?" Two different views provide an answer to this question: the seven-year view and the 3.5-year view. I would like to let the Bible speak first and then provide my personal conclusion. Therefore, let's begin with the Bible verses containing time indicators. These verses are challenging to read because they describe events that take place during the Great Tribulation. For the purpose of this book, we won't focus on these events, but rather on the time indicators.
"(…) And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth." (Revelation 11:2-3)
"Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days." (Revelation 12:6, NKJ)
"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." (Revelation 12:14).
"And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months." (Revelation 13:5)
"He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time." (Daniel 7:25)
"(…) After the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished. (…) From the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days." (Daniel 12:7-12)
In the book of Daniel, a different unit of time is mentioned. While Daniel was praying to God, he received a message from the angel Gabriel. Gabriel explained that seventy weeks were determined upon Daniel's people and the holy city of Jerusalem. Today, 69 weeks have been fulfilled, and only the last week remains. It is highly likely that one week represents seven years, making these seventy weeks a total of 490 years. This is connected to the sabbatical years in Israel (Leviticus 25:8-10), where one sabbatical year (according to the Hebrew term) lasts seven years. 69 weeks have been completed, and a pause has been pressed between the 69 weeks and the final week. We are waiting for God to press play again, resuming the last week. Concerning this final week, the following is said:
"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)
Based on the above texts, we arrive at two distinct time periods. The first period is 3.5 years (or 42 months, 1260 days, 1290 days, and a time, times, and half a time), and the second period is a prophetic week of seven years. The first period begins when Israel (the woman) flees into the wilderness, the Antichrist is allowed to blaspheme, and the devil is cast down to the earth (Revelation 12:9). Thirty days prior, a desolating sacrilege will be set up, and the future temple sacrifices in Jerusalem will be interrupted. The second period begins when the Antichrist strengthens a covenant with many, seven years before the return of Christ (and after the Rapture of the Church).
The Great Tribulation commences with the Antichrist strengthening a covenant with many. The Antichrist is the opposite and imitator of Jesus Christ. While Jesus came to Earth to do God's will, the Antichrist comes to do Satan's will. The Antichrist will perform miracles and signs on Earth to deceive the world and will rule over a large part of the Earth during the Great Tribulation (Revelation 13:7 & 13:13-14).
According to this timeline, there is a “moderate” period of tribulation with a deceptive peace lasting 3.5 years, followed by a severe period of 3.5 years when the Antichrist seeks to destroy the people of Israel. So when does God's wrath begin? It begins when God (the Lord Jesus) starts passing judgments on the Earth and its inhabitants. In the book of Revelation, a scroll is presented, and the question is asked, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" (Revelation 5:2) Only the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God, is found worthy. The scroll contains seven seals, and with each broken seal, something significant happens on Earth. Moreover, the events on Earth are directed from heaven (Revelation 6). Let's look at the first seal being broken.
"Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, “Come and see.” And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer." (Revelation 6:1-2)
This is the only seal that, at first glance, doesn't appear to depict calamity. It speaks of someone going out "conquering and to conquer." However, appearances can be deceiving. The HNV translation incorrectly uses capital letters to refer to this person. This text is not about the Lord Jesus or God; it's about the Antichrist. Daniel 9:27 speaks about the Antichrist and says that he will strengthen a covenant with many. In other words, the Antichrist is "conquering and to conquer" at that moment. Daniel 9:27 begins at the start of the seven years, so Revelation 6:1-2 also begins at the start of the seven years. In other words, the Lord Jesus' first judgment (His first wrath) is the sending of the Antichrist to Earth, which means God's wrath lasts for seven years and not less.
The Judging of the Nations
When calamities occur, and people experience great suffering, they may wonder, "Why doesn't God intervene?" This is because God is still merciful and patient. He desires that no one be lost and, therefore, delays His intervention and judgment. If God were to intervene today and judge everyone righteously, no one on Earth would survive. Fortunately, we can trust in the Lord Jesus.
"But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:7-9)
During the Great Tribulation, God judges the Earth. I'm not referring to the final judgment of God that comes after the Millennial Reign, but rather the period of the Great Tribulation. In the book of Revelation, we read that the city of Babylon receives God's judgment during this time. Additionally, the Earth and its inhabitants do not escape God's judgments.
"And they stood at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, “Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.”" (Revelation 18:10)
"Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth. (...) And I heard the angel of the waters saying: “You are righteous, O Lord, The One who is and who was and who is to be, Because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, And You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.” And I heard another from the altar saying, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.”" (Revelation 16:1-7)
The angels proclaim that God's judgments are righteous and true. At a certain point, God's patience reaches its limit, and He passes a righteous judgment on the Earth and the sins of humanity.
The Discipline of the People of Israel
During the Great Tribulation, the Church of Christ is in heaven with God. On Earth, you find a remnant church with Christians who came to faith during the Great Tribulation. Additionally, there is another people of God, namely, the people of Israel. Israel will face a terrible time before they recognize their Messiah (Jesus Christ). This period involves much tribulation, and everyone expects the complete destruction of the Jewish people. Let's read Bible verses about Israel (or Jacob) and the Great Tribulation:
"At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book." (Daniel 12:1)
"These are the words that the LORD spoke concerning Israel and Judah. For thus says the LORD: We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask now, and see, whether a man is ever in labor with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins like a woman in labor, and all faces turned pale? Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it." (Jeremiah 30:4-7)
"For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob." (Romans 11:25-26)’
"So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun; when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him. The Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob," says the LORD." (Isaiah 59:19-20)
Israel will be brought into distress one more time. The kings of the earth seek to annihilate God and His holy people (Israel) and wage war on the land. Ultimately, these kings will battle against Jesus and His army in the region of Armageddon, which is located near Megiddo in northern Israel (Revelation 16:16). How this will conclude is found in the book of Revelation, where Jesus appears on a horse.
"Then I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet. (...) These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh." (Revelation 19:19-21)
Even though the Great Tribulation will be a time of distress for the people of Israel, God will grant them victory. This victory won't come because Israel possesses a powerful arsenal of weapons, but because God will fight for them. During the Great Tribulation, God will chastise (discipline) and purify the people of Israel, meaning that ungodliness will be removed, and all of Israel will be saved and redeemed. A remnant will remain, standing pure before God, and from Israel, the Lord Jesus will judge the world during the thousand-year millennial reign. The purification of Israel from ungodliness is foretold by the prophet Zechariah:
"And it shall come to pass in all the land,’ says the LORD, ‘that two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one-third shall be left in it: 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 13:8-9)
The Rescue of Many People
I would like to conclude this chapter on the Great Tribulation with a note of encouragement. Even in His wrath, God is a merciful God. Firstly, as we have seen, Israel will be saved. Secondly, many will come to faith. Often, tribulation and pain lead to a reevaluation of life, and people come to the realization that there must be a God. This is also the case during the Great Tribulation.
"After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands. (...) Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So, he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”" (Revelation 7:9-14)
During the Great Tribulation, a vast multitude acknowledges the Lord Jesus as their Messiah. Many realize, through God's judgments and wrath, that they must surrender their lives to the Lord Jesus, after which they stand before His throne with white robes and palm branches. In the final years before the Second Coming, many will be saved.
The Great Tribulation is a dreadful period that has never occurred before. During this time, God pours out His wrath upon the Earth. God's wrath is always just and holy, and His wrath lasts for seven years. After these seven years, the Millennial Kingdom occurs. During the Great Tribulation, Israel faces distress one last time, and many will not survive this period. God saves a remnant, and these Jews will recognize the Lord Jesus as their Messiah. In addition to the Jews, many Gentiles come to faith and will praise and worship God in heaven with palm branches in their hands.
This chapter is in the book A Revelation of the End Times. Read this book right now, so that you don't miss anything about the end times, live in expectation and your faith is increased. The rapture of the church is a special prophecy from the Word of God. Due to the many theories and ideas about this event, many no longer know what is and what is not Biblical. Timo Groot takes you through the Biblical data about the rapture and why the rapture is more relevant today than ever before. The rapture is the hope of escaping the terrible things that are going to happen on earth and is the moment when the church will see the Lord Jesus face to face in the father's house of God.