By Nathan Jones, Evangelist & Web Minister
Lamb & Lion Ministries has been inundated with emails asking this very question.
The news has assaulted us with sadistic accounts of Christians being massacred on a horrific scale by the Islamic State in Iraq and Boko Haram in Nigeria. Wars are escalating between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Russia is encroaching on the Ukraine. Iran continues unimpeded in building a nuclear weapon to “wipe Israel off the map.” Terrorists are creeping across our borders. Race riots rage in our Mid-West. Western politicians are indecisive, hiding at their golf courses because they’re unable to deal with the horrors spreading across the world like a cancer.
It looks terribly bad out there. People are naturally scared. But, is it so bad that we’re actually now living in the Tribulation?
Recently I was interviewed by Vic Batista, senior pastor of the Miami-based Calvary Chapel Aventura on his radio program “The Truth Will Set You Free” via TWave Radio. We discussed below why we are currently not living in the Tribulation.
If you like a good discussion on various topics related to Bible prophecy, then we invite you to tune into “The Truth Will Set You Free” via TWave Radio every Wednesday at 11 am EST.
What exactly is the Tribulation?
Nathan: Matthew 24:21 reads, “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.” This passage says that the Tribulation, also called the Day of the Lord, is going to be the worst time period in all of human history. It will be so bad that it’ll be unlike anything experienced before in world events. Humanity will endure an apocalyptic era.
Vic: Society today is obsessed with movies which talk about the apocalypse, the end times, and the end of humanity. In fact, a lot of movie imagery is based on what the Bible teaches concerning the Tribulation. It’s almost as if the world is being prepared for such an event. We see all these movies coming out about zombies and vampires and stuff which portray humanity at the end of its rope.
Nathan: Recently a survey was made of teenagers. It asked them, “What is your biggest fear of the future?” You would think they’d have said jobs or uncertainty about college, but no, their number one fear is of a coming apocalypse. So, it makes you wonder, because a lot of these kids aren’t schooled in the Bible, where they’re getting this notion that the end of the world is coming.
Even though Hollywood and books and TV are obsessed with the idea of the end of the world, it’s an event long ago foretold in the Bible. These media reinterpret the Tribulation, of course. Nevertheless, the Bible teaches that there’ll be a great Tribulation coming upon the world – an apocalypse – an end time which will result in the almost total destruction of humanity.
How long will the coming Tribulation last?
Nathan: The Tribulation will last seven years, divided into two sections of 42 months each, and that’s in 30-day months. The length is described in a variety of ways as “one seven” year block in Daniel 9:27, half called “times, time and half a time” in Revelation 12:14, consisting of two “1260 days” periods in Revelation 11:3, or two “42 month” periods in Revelation 11:2 and 13:5.
Daniel 9:24-27 tells us this era begins when the Antichrist – a one world ruler who will come on the scene – will make a peace covenant with Israel. The day that he makes his peace covenant with Israel starts the countdown to the end of the Tribulation. The Tribulation ends when Jesus Christ finally returns to defeat evil and begin his Millennial Kingdom.
Will Christians have to endure the Tribulaton?
Nathan: For believers in Christ, the Bible promises the Rapture of the Church. First Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15 and other verses describe how Jesus will return to take the Church – believers in Christ – up in the Rapture to Heaven. We will not have to endure the seven-year Tribulation. God promises that the Church is not destined for the wrath of God (1 Thes. 1:10; 5:9; Rom. 5:9; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:4; Rev. 3:10).
Therefore, Christians then should not get freaked out thinking we’re living in the Tribulation.
What are the purposes for the Tribulation?
Nathan: This Tribulation has three purposes. Jeremiah 30:7 gives us the first purpose – a time of great distress for Israel.
For the last 2,000 years, God’s focus has pretty much been on Gentiles coming to know Jesus as Savior through the activities of missionaries through the Church, but God isn’t done with the Jewish people. He has a redemptive plan for them, which is why He’s regathered them back into the land of Israel. It’s amazing that after 1,900 years of the Jews being in exile, Israel is a nation once more.
A nation coming back from the dead after centuries has never happened before. You don’t see the Hittites coming back and rebuilding their country. But, when Israel happens to be brought back into their land, it means something. They are still important to God. Jesus in Matthew 24 said that when we see Israel brought back together as a nation again, then the Tribulation will come.
Vic: I think you once mentioned something like six million Jews have returned to the Holy Land since 1948?
Nathan: Yes, there’s about 12.5 million Jews worldwide, and today half of them live in Israel. The fact of the matter is interesting, because Zechariah prophesied again and again that Israel would be the center of the world’s attention and that people would be consumed over who gets to control Jerusalem. All you have to do is turn on the news and everything’s about Israel. It’s Israel this or Israel that, and of course right now Israel is having to deal with Gaza.
The fact that Gaza is sort of recognized as a nation once again plays into Bible prophecy, because Psalm 83 prophesies that Israel will have to subdue their hostile neighbors such as Gaza. Maybe that’s what’s happening in Gaza right now with Operation Protective Edge. Maybe this conflict is the beginning of that Psalm 83 War the Bible prophesied would happen before the Tribulation.
It’s just incredible that we’re seeing all these events that the Bible prophesied coming true in our day!
The Tribulation is about bringing the Jews to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. A third of the Jewish people who will have survived the Tribulation will come to know Jesus as their Savior.
Nathan: The second purpose of the Tribulation is a judgment on the world. Revelation tells of 21 judgments that will befall this world during that time. They’ll devastate the world economy, society, ecology and the human population.
God also uses these disasters to bring people down to their knees where they’ll finally accept Jesus as Savior. During the Tribulation many Gentiles from every tribe, tongue, nation and people will accept Jesus as their Savior. Jesus Christ wants to rescue people’s souls for eternity. So, as terrible as the Tribulation sounds, sometimes that suffering is what it takes to turn people’s hearts towards Him. Sometimes God just has to bring people to their knees before they’ll finally relent and surrender and give their lives to Jesus Christ.
The third purpose for the Tribulation is for King Jesus who will return to defeat evil and set up His Millennial Kingdom.
Will the first half of the Tribulation be peaceful?
Nathan: Revelation divides the judgments of the Tribulation into three groups of seven – the Seven Seal Judgments, the Seven Trumpet Judgments and the Seven Bowl Judgments.
The First Seal Judgment starts with the Antichrist conquering the world. The world will cry out for a one-world ruler to fix all of their problems. The world will get someone who at first will dazzle them, but as time goes on they’re not going to like who they get. Initially, he’ll be a great orator and politician. Revelation 6 says he conquers with a bow, but he has no arrows. In other words, he doesn’t at first need war to conquer.
Vic: The old saying is true, “We get what we ask for.” A demon is what they’re going to get – Satan himself.
Nathan: The Antichrist will be a monster of a person possessed by Satan. He’ll plunge the world into World War III. We read in the Second Seal Judgment how the world will be plunged into war as the Antichrist conquers the nations that resist his rule.
The Antichrist’s peace treaty with Israel protects Israel for the first 3.5 years of the Tribulation. The Antichrist uses that time to conquer the rest of the world. We read that a quarter of the world population will die in that war, which is 1.5 billion people in today’s numbers.
Vic: Oh, how awful! Nathan, we know that all this is coming right around the corner compared to the thousands of years that we’ve waited for Israel to become a nation again. These Tribulation events can literally unfold in the very near future.
Nathan: Yes, I agree. Jesus said that as we get closer and closer to the end times, then the signs of the end times which He gives us in Matthew 24 will come upon the world more frequently and more intensely. For example, with natural disasters, we’ve always had them, but they’ll come more frequently and more intensely. The chaos from the fragility of the politics of the world will come more frequently and more intensely. The wars and rumors of wars will come more frequently and more intensely.
These signs of the end times are what we are seeing happening today, and not the Tribulation itself.
Just watch the news and you’ll see how the world is ratcheting up for something big. In the center of it all is Israel, just like God said in Zechariah 12 and 14. He said that Israel would become the center of the world’s attention. The world today blames Israel for all of its problems, for its financial problems and for the political situation in the Middle East. Anti-Semitism is on the rise, so we know that prophecy is being fulfilled and so Jesus is coming back very soon.
After this terrible world war, the Third Seal Judgment follows bringing famine and disease. The result will be that another quarter of the world’s population will die. So, just in the first year or two of the Tribulation, half the world’s population will die from war, famine and plague.
Vic: Absolutely terrible! What a sound of alarm that should be for people today. They must take it seriously.
Nathan: And that’s just the beginning of the first half of the Tribulation. The second half, called the Great Tribulation, is far, far worse.
Vic: Nathan, what a great point you made. Many people are mistaken thinking that the first 3.5 years of the Tribulation are going to be peaceful, but the Bible says otherwise. It says that there’s going to be a major earthquake that’s felt around the world and many other terrifying events during the first half.
Nathan: Yes, the Tribulation pretty much begins with an earthquake that’s so bad that it levels the mountains. It says that the rulers of the world will hide in caves and cry out for the wrath of the Lord to stop.
Pastor Vic, we haven’t even talked about the seven Bowl Judgments in Revelation 16, where most of the world is utterly destroyed. There are very few people left alive by the end of the Tribulation. That’s why this is the time for everyone to give their heart to Jesus Christ and avoid all of the coming horrors and be freed from their sins.
Vic: Wow, those are some amazing yet terrible events coming down the line! That’s why I want to offer some hope to everyone, because a lot of what you are sharing with us is something that is coming in the near future. We believe the Tribulation is coming up quickly. Nobody promises us tomorrow, therefore we need to be ready today.
Have you given your life to Jesus Christ? Is He the savior of your soul?