The Great Tribulation
Part 5 of a series on Prophetic Subjects
The Lord has given to His people a “blessed hope” (Tit. 2:13), a “steadfast hope” (Heb. 6:19), and a “purifying hope” (1 John 3:3). Yet, despite such great and precious promises there are those who ask us to believe that the saints of this present dispensation will pass through the Great Tribulation. “To the law and to the Testimony,” said Isaiah; we shall, therefore, proceed to examine the Scriptures in order to ascertain what God has declared regarding that time of severe testing and trial.
There are six definite and direct references to the Great Tribulation in the Word of God at which we may look. The first is in Jeremiah 30:7, “Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.” Note the words, “The time of Jacob’s trouble.” Who was Jacob? He was the wrestler of Genesis 32 who had his name changed to Israel. Paul distinguishes the peoples of the earth in 1 Corinthians 10:32, saying, “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God.” We are not Jews or Hebrews, neither are we Gentiles, but we are those who form the Church of God that Christ loved, and for which He gave Himself (Eph. 5:25). Inveterate hate has kindled the flame of persecution throughout this long term of divine grace, and many of God’s dear saints have won the martyr’s crown for fidelity to Christ and His truth. This, however, has nothing to do with the specific “time of Jacob’s trouble.”
That matter relates exclusively to God’s earthly people, Israel; exemption must be claimed for those who compose the Body of Christ, His Church.
The second Scripture to which we would make reference is found in Daniel 12:1, “At that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” It is worthy of note that Michael has always a special association with God’s earthly people. See Daniel 10:13; 10:21. Jude 9, and Revelation 12:7. He is alluded to as the “great prince that standeth for the children of thy people.” Who was Daniel? He was a Hebrew captive in Babylon. His people then must have been Hebrews. This fact is of vital importance in the understanding of this divine truth, a truth which must be interpreted in the light of its context. There is going to be a time of trouble such as never was since the history of nations began, and at that time of trouble Daniel’s people are going to be delivered. The history of Israel has been very chequered. What has the Church to do with that chequered history, with that particular nation? Surely our only interest is that of seeking to bring the truth to bear upon the members of that nation through the Word of God.
It should be noted that in both Scriptures to which we have referred there is the promise of salvation. Deliverance will come to “the remnant,” so often alluded to in the Minor Prophets. The apostate part of the nation will be wiped out by the indignation of Jehovah, when the day of His wrath is manifested; but the remnant will be saved. To confirm this read carefully Zechariah 14:4 5. Isaiah 1:9. Romans 11:7. and Isaiah 10:20-22.
The third Scripture that we shall examine is Matthew 24. There are many who dispise the dispensational teaching of God’s precious Word; some who do so vainly imagine that they get the doctrine of the Church in the Book of the Kings and the Book of the Chronicles. Such remind me of the black man in the dark room looking for a black cat that was not there. A proper understanding of Matthew 24 and 25 is essential if we would know the mind of God regarding Israel, Christendom, and the other nations. The Olivet discourse is the greatest prophecy extant; it was spoken by the greatest Prophet, Christ Himself. The divisions of that prophecy are as follows: From Chapter 24 verse 1 to verse 44 inclusive treats of the coming of Christ as it relates to the Jew. From chapter 24 verse 45 to chapter 25 verse 30, the Lord tells three stories which are given to illustrate the coming of Christ as it relates to Christendom. The remaining portion, chapter 25 verse 31 to verse 46, presents the coming of Christ in relation to the other nations.
The reference in this passage to the Great Tribulation is found in chapter 24 verse 21, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” Throughout this section it is worthy of note that there are references to those who say, “I am Christ,” to false prophets, to those who teach conditional salvation based upon the word, “He that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.” There are references also to “the Gospel of the Kingdom,” to “the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet,” to “Judea,” and to “the Sabbath day.” Such terminology clearly reveals an application not to the Church but to the Jew. The Great Tribulation of verse 21 is synonomous with that alluded to by Jeremiah and Daniel. “No prophecy is of any private interpretation.” We adduce that the peoples to whom this period is applicable are those of the stock of Israel.
The fourth reference is found in Mark chapter 13 verse 19 to 24. This is that part of the Olivet discourse which can be interpreted in terms only of God’s people Israel. It would be redundant to go over the same ground again in this exposition, for it is clearly alluding to the same period and applies to the same people.
Perhaps it might be noticed that as Christ sat on the Mount of Olives, His disciples asked Him two questions. First, “When shall these things be?” The answer to which is found in Luke 21 and verse 7, where Christ relates these predictions to the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem in the year A.D. 70, by Titus, the Roman general.
The second question is, “What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world (age)?” The answer to this is recorded in Matthew chapters 24 to 25.
The fifth reference to the Great Tribulation is found in Revelation 2:10, where Christ says, “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” This assembly, Philadelphia (meaning, brotherly love), had been faithful towards the Lord and His word; consequently, Christ promised that they would be kept from the hour of temptation. He did not say, kept through the hour of temptation but from the hour of temptation. This hour is not one of sixty minutes, but, rather, a measured period of time, actually three and a half years. How will the Lord keep the saints of this present dispensation from that hour of trial? Is it not simple? Is it not sublime? He will take them into Eternity where joys untold, never to pass away, will dispel all the cares of time! The word of God presents to the saints of this economy a blessed hope, not a haunting nightmare. Christ said, “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1). To those who insinuate that the saints of the present dispensation must pass through the throes of the Great Tribulation, we would say that these words of the Lord are meaningless if such is the portion of the Church.
The last reference at which we shall look is found in Revelation 7:14. After John had watched the angel from the east with the seal of the living God seal the servants of God in their foreheads, one hundred and forty and four thousand; and after the sealing of these twelve thousand from each tribe in Israel, there was seen a great multitude which no man could number of all nations, and kind-reds, and peoples, and tongues. Concerning which John was informed, “These are they which came out of great tribulation (The Great Tribulation), and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (vs. 14). This remnant had been busy carrying the Gospel of the Kingdom throughout the world, and by many their message had been welcomed. Those who had thus accepted the message are seen here, for they refused the mark of the beast and testified of their faith in the true Messiah who would reign.
It is clear that the Great Tribulation refers primarily to God’s earthly people; although, through the instrumentality of the messengers of the Gospel of the Kingdom, many from the other nations will be blessed during the millennial reign of Christ. It is also definite that the Church will not pass through the Great Tribulation. She is not looking for that time of Jacob’s trouble.
Christ is about to fulfil His promise, “Behold, I come quickly.” May we from our hearts reply, “Amen, Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”