The Prelude to the Meditorial Kingdom - The Tribulation 1
Part Nine – The Prelude to The Meditorial Kingdom
The Tribulation Part One
In our last study, we noted that God’s restoration of His Kingdom will culminate in a seven year period known as the Tribulation. The Tribulation is the last 7 years of the Daniel 9:24-27 prophecy and its fulfillment has been postponed by God until Israel is ready to receive it. The exact timing of the start of the Tribulation is never given in the Bible however there are two signs that will announce that this period has begun. The first sign is the rapture of the church. Suddenly, all of the Church Saints will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air where He will escort them to His Father’s home or Heaven. There the Church will be judged and then its marriage to Jesus will be consummated. The second sign will be the signing of a peace pack by the prince who is to come (the Antichrist) with Israel for a period of seven years. This will provide Israel with such a sense of security that she will no longer feel the need to maintain a strong military.
With the Tribulation started, the Bible speaks of many events that will transpire during this seven year period. To cover them all would take a book which for this study we do not have the time. With that said, we will attempt to cover some of the high points of this period in this week’s lesson and the one that follows. Before we do so, let us note the some of the reasons for the events of this terrible and destructive period of human history. We must remember that God always has a perfect purpose for all that He does and allows to take place There are at least six things God is going to accomplish with the events of this period of tribulation.
1) Get Israel to carry out it original calling of taking the salvation of God to all the world
2) Show the world the true nature of being ruled by Satan and His forces as God removes the Restrainer and Satan is allowed to do as he pleases
3) Punish the Gentiles for their mistreatment of the Jewish people with the wrath of God in three series of seven judgments
4) Destroy all false religion which originated with the demons and has been instrumental to leading so many individuals unknowingly through the gates of hell
5) Finish God’s work with Israel by placing her into such a dire distress that she will have no alternative but to turn to Jesus Christ to save her
6) End the reign of Satan and pave the way to the for the restored Kingdom with Jesus Christ as the ruler of the world
Much of the information of what takes place during this seven year period can be drawn from the book of Revelation which commits the major portion of the book, chapters 4-20:3, to this subject. However it is by no means the only source that we can consult. Jesus shares additional information in His Olivet Discourse in Matt 24-25, Mk. 13:1-37 & Lk. 21:17-48 and there is a wealth information to be gleaned from both the major and minor prophets of the Old Testament.
Though we are able to discern much about what is going to take place during this time, yet there are some things which are shrouded in mystery until the time of the Tribulation. For example, we know the number of the Antichrist is 666 (Rev. 13:18), however we do not know what that number signifies and how it will be used to identify the Antichrist. That information is being withheld until the start of the Tribulation. For those who have tried looking into the book of Revelation and found it difficult to understand, I would recommend that you go to “Visual Aids” under “Prophecy” in our Bible Study Aids section and click on the “Chrono. of Rev.” to find a chronology of the events of the book of Revelation. This chronology should help you better understand how the events of Revelation fit together.
To aid as we review the events of the Tribulation, let us use the six things God seeks to accomplish as a basic outline.
1) Israel answers its call to missions: As we saw in an earlier section of our study, Israel was given by God the task of taking the salvation of God to the world. It is for this reason that God gave them a land that was the focal point of much international travel of the time. In many ways God brought the world to Israel so that Israel could share the salvation of God with all people.
Ex 19:5-6, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel."
Unfortunately for two reasons Israel never carried out this mission, First, Israel began to think of itself as the only people that God cared about and so there was no need to reach out to the Gentiles. Second, instead of trying to get the world to be like them in their worship of God, Israel instead was far more interested in becoming like the world through the worship of idols.
In the Tribulation this will be reversed. In Revelation 7:1-8, God seals off 144,000 Jewish males, 12,000 each from the Tribes of Israel. Their purpose is to serve God (3) and the service they will carry out is the evangelism of the whole world. This calling is clearly indicated in the immediate verses that follow as multitudes from all nations will come to Christ. Few realize that though the Tribulation is usually associated with great judgment, is also a time of great redemption of many people.
Rev 7:9-11, “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, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"
This mission’s effort is assisted by two special witnesses sent by God. Even though Revelation 11 does give their names many believe they are Elijah and Moses for several reasons.
a) Unique departures: Elijah did not die but was taken up in a whirl wind (2 Kings 2) and Moses’ burial was hidden by God and his body later was fought over by Satan and Michael (Jude 9)
b) Malachi 4:5-6 speaks of Elijah return as a forerunner of Christ and this is substantiated by Christ Himself (Matt. 17:10)
c) The Transfiguration was to give the disciples a preview of the coming of the Lord the Second Time in all His glory. Accompany Jesus was Elijah and Moses (Matt. 16:28-17:4)
d) The miracles that these witnesses do are those previous carried out by Elijah and Moses
e) Moses’ calling was to deliver Israel from slavery to the Gentiles and Elijah to get Israel to repent. Both of these ministries will be needed during the Tribulation
These Jewish witnesses who will proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom will catch the constant attention of the whole world through the marvelous signs and wonders that they do and through their death and resurrection. It will probably be through either the internet or satellite TV that the world will keep track for the whole world observe their dead bodies and celebrate for three days prior to their resurrection.
Rev 11:7-12, “When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.”
Some have erroneously believed that there can be no salvation during the Tribulation because the Holy Spirit will be removed from the world. They site the words of 2 Thes. 2:7. which speaks of the restrainer being taken out of the way as proof that the Holy Spirit’s presence is removed from earth. However, this does not speak of the Spirit being removed from the earth but speaks only of the end of His present work of restraining Satan and the wickedness of man. The Bible is clear that apart from the work of the Holy Spirit no man can be saved.
Jesus confirms this great work of salvation among the masses. He declares that during the first half of the Tribulation the gospel will be preached to the whole world.
Matt 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
This has never has the gospel been preached to the whole world in any generation leading up to this time. Even with the modern tools of Radio, Television, Cable, Satellites, internet, literature, Bible translation and missionaries, the Church still falls well short of accomplishing this goal. Two things should be noted at this point. God clearly demonstrates His love and mercy toward unbeliever giving them the opportunity to believe before the terrible last 3½ years of the tribulation in which a strong delusion will go forth to get men to follow Satan. Secondly, it is sad to note the number who, though hearing, ill reject this wonderful opportunity to receive eternal life.
2) A full dose of life under the reign of Satan: Even though Satan took control of the world and its human population at the fall of Adam and Eve, yet he has been restrained in what he can and can not do and to what extent he can take his rebellion. We see this played out in three accounts in the Scripture. The first has to due with the time of Noah in Genesis 6. God indicates that he is tired of trying to restrain man in his quest to pursue wickedness.
Gen 6:3, “And the Lord said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”
The second account is that of Job, In chapters one and two, we find that Satan can not touch Job unless God gives him the permission. The third is in found in Jude 6. In this passage Jude refers to a time when a group of fallen angels step outside the boundaries that God has established for them and so God chains them in prison until the day of the judgment. It is clear that this act of God places a good dose of fear in the heart of the other fallen angels as illustrated in Luke 8:30.
It can be concluded that God has acted as an governor upon Satan efforts until the time comes for God to step back and let Satan do his worse. Paul talks about this in 2 Thes 2. Satan’s ultimate God is to bring his supreme servant onto the world scene to rule the world in his stead. Though Satan has been trying to do this (1 John 2:18; 4:3) for some time he never seems to accomplish this goal because the Holy Spirit stands in the way. However, when the Tribulation begins, the Holy Spirit will step back and allow Satan full reign upon the earth.
2 Thes 2:3-9, “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. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 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.”
With the Holy Spirit ending his restricting work, the world will learn the full extent of what life under Satan is really like. His man, the Antichrist, will come upon the scene first as a localized ruler and then at the mid point of the Tribulation, he will literally take control of the whole world, forcing everyone to worship him and to take the mark of the beast (Rev. 13). If they do not take the mark and worship him, they will not be able to carry out any commerce, have a job, buy and sell (Rev. 13:16-17). The heavy hand of Satan will make life miserable at best. To add to this, many of God’s judgments will be illustrations to man of what it means to choose an existence totally separated from God. The misery that these judgments will bring upon man will be a foretaste of the Godless existence that all unbelievers will endure for all eternity in the everlasting lake of fire. Man will see first hand what the offer that Satan made to Eve and Adam in the garden truly meant.
3) The wrath of God on the Gentile nations: Though God has used the Gentile nations as His form of chastening the nation of Israel for her rebellious heart, yet God will still hold them responsible for all the persecution, torture, expulsion and genocide they carried out against His chosen people. The judgments that God pours out on the Gentile nations will come in three series of seven judgments. The first series is called the seal judgments and they take place in the first half of the Tribulation (Rev. 6:1-8:6). The second series of judgments are called the trumpet judgments and they will fall upon the world on the heal of the last seal judgment. These judgments like the first series will also take place during the first 3½ years of the Tribulation (Rev. 8:7-9:21; 11:15-19). These judgments are terrible by anyone’s standard and yet they can not be compared to the last series of judgments. These two early judgments are illustrated by Jesus to be like the early labor pains that fall upon a woman. They are bad and they hurt but they are not as intense as those which will follow after (Matt 24:8). Jesus goes on to describe the judgments of the 2nd half of the Tribulation as the great tribulation and the devastation, destruction, and personal injury they will inflict will be the greatest suffering man has ever experience!
Matt 24:21-22, “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.”
These last judgments are called the bowl judgments and they will not bring disaster on this earth but will bring about changes in the solar system and universe. To get a better look at what these judgments involve go to “Visual Aids” under “Prophecy” in our Bible Study Aids section. There you will find all three series of judgments with illustrations and information about what each involves.
At this point it is time to stop for this week. Next week we will cover the last remaining things that God will accomplish during the Tribulation. We do not know when the Tribulation will start but there are many things that have happened over the last 60 years that seem to indicate that the Coming of the Lord to rapture of the Church is drawing very near. I can not think of too many things worse than to know of one’s need of salvation and God provision through Jesus Christ, and yet to put it off for a later time. Before you are done reading this the Lord may come and remove His Church from this world. That means that you will be left to face the worse period of history that man has ever known. Even if you do accept Christ at that time, you will be persecuted and stand a good chance of being martyred for your faith. Chose Christ today for your salvation before it is too late.