The Tribulation is prophesied as seven-years of God’s judgement of the Earth. Many have analyzed Biblical texts to understand the details of how this will play out. I will only provide an overview of the tribulation and leave the details to more astute scholars. However, there are many commonly taught points that I disagree on.
Matthew 24:21 Then there will be great tribulation, unlike anything since time began, nor thereafter.
Many have researched and written on this topic, including novels such as Tim Lahaye’s Left Behind series. I feel that most underestimate the impact of God’s catastrophic judgements. Many project a gradual worsening of the world from a contemporary perspective. Although they embrace supernatural aspects such as the rapture and God’s judgements, they tend to interpret these from a natural perspective and miss the rampant implications of an unleashed spiritual realm. Such a perspective leads to a lot of false speculation and alarmism. Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonian church addressed rumors that Paul had written to them, that they were already in the tribulation. Some estimate 75% of the world dying during this time. I expect over 90% of the world will perish. That is before Jesus’ return to slaughter all who swore allegiance to the antichrist. After Jesus’ wipes them out perhaps only millions will remain to repopulate the world during his millennial reign.
These are the main biblical references about the tribulation.
Daniel 9:27 And he will confirm a treaty with many for one week. And in the middle of the week, he will put an end to the sacrifices and worship. And by spreading out disgusting things he will ruin it, even until everything’s complete, and that which is planned will be poured out on him.
Revelation 4-19 collects various visions revealed to Jesus as recorded by his disciple John.
We live in a world that rejects the supernatural and shuns ancient history which records such events. Evolutionism sets a mindset of gradual change and an arrogant superiority complex over our ancestors’ intellectual and technical abilities. This mindset permeates the church, and thereby influences fundamentalist Christians’ interpretation of future events. Most interpret the tribulation as a progression of current geopolitics. I expect a chain of cataclysmic events even prior to the tribulation that render any such interpretations useless. We must therefore be very careful with teachings on end times according to Jesus initial response to this topic:
Matthew 24:4 Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no-one deceives you.
There are many out there whose teachings are deceptive – even well-studied and godly people don’t get it all right. Certainly, don’t trust anyone who doesn’t affirm the truth of the Bible, including creation in six days six thousand years ago, the global flood and exodus from Egypt as true historical events. If they don’t accept the historical truth of the Bible, how can they have any hope of interpreting future prophecy?
I recommend the following teachers:
- David Jeremiah is a respected, well-rounded TV minister.
- Arnold Fruchtenbaum is a messianic scholar of end times
- Ken Johnson is a scholar of ancient writings, specializing in the dead sea scrolls
- Chuck Missler lead several US defence contractors, combining his technical and political associations with his passion for the Bible and ancient writings.
- Perry Stone is a prophetic minister with a passion for Israel and times both ancient and future.
- John Barnett is an amazing Bible college professor.
It’s useful to google Tribulation Timeline images to see a swathe of interpretations. I recommend extracting the common points from many witnesses to establish a balanced understanding, just as one would examine a legal case.
The tribulation begins with a world emperor confirming a world peace treaty with Israel for seven years. Halfway through this, Satan will embody this emperor. He will enter the Jewish temple and declare himself to be God, to have offensive sacrifices made to himself there, and commit holocaust on the Jews. He will demand everyone swears allegiance to him, to worship him and take his mark of allegiance. Consider how Islamic militants such as ISIS wear an armband or headband as a mark of allegiance.
During these seven years, increasingly severe catastrophes will affect the whole earth:
Seven seal judgements Revelation 6
1. Conquest by “world peace”
2. World civil war
3. Global famine
4. Death by starvation, nature and violence
5. Persecution of believers
6. Global earthquake kills quarter of the world and darkens the sky
7. Leads into the seven trumpets
Seven trumpets Revelation 8
1. Plague of hail, fire and blood burns up a third of vegetation
2. A third of the oceans turns to blood and dies
3. A third of the waterways turns to blood, and many die from the pollution
4. Sun & moon darkened by a third
5. “Locusts” torture the ungodly, but they can’t die
6. Spirit army kills a third of the world
7. Leads into the seven bowls
The Antichrist Revelation 12
People swear allegiance to him and worship him by receiving his mark in their right hands/arms or foreheads.
Those who don’t, can neither buy nor sell.
Seven bowls of wrath Revelation 16
1. Boils on the Antichrist’s allies
2. All oceans turn to blood and die
3. All waterways turn to blood
4. Sun burns everything
6. Euphrates dries up, armies gather at Armageddon
7. Great earthquake reshapes the entire earth and 50kg hail
These judgements are reminiscent to the plagues of Egypt before the exodus, leading to the collapse at the end of their early kingdom.
Then Jesus will come with the saints to the slaughter of Armageddon and set up his kingdom to restore the Earth to a near-Eden state and reign over the earth for 1000 years, like the sabbath day ending the week. After this there will be a rebellion, which will be slaughtered. Then this space-time will be destroyed to be replaced with an eternally perfect one.
All of this demonstrates God’s almighty sovereignty. Although God is merciful, he is also just. As a compassionate father, he restores his broken children, but he delivers vengeance on those who seek to destroy them. He is patient, desiring that all would turn from their ungodly ways. He provided himself a sacrifice to restore all to him, to give us all a chance to receive his solution to our imperfection. God brings all the wicked to punishment, but first he is giving you and me a chance to turn from our sins. This amnesty for us to turn in our sinful ways will eventually come to an end and those who refused will be judged according to the law. Even as he judges the wicked world, he provides every opportunity for people to turn from their rejection of him. Despite this indisputable proof of God, the world will aggressively reject him and conspire to destroy God and those who follow him. God’s judgement on the world will be logically and perfectly justified.
The purpose of the tribulation
Is for the salvation
of the Jews.
Ancient Jews (the Essenes) divided time into:
- The age of
chaos or the patriarchs
= 2000 years until Abraham
- The age of
= 2000 years from Abraham until the Messiah
- The age of
= 2000 years from the messiah until the end
- The millennia of rest.
Many believe that the tribulation starts with the rapture of the church. After this, God’s focus will return to Israel, raising up 144,000 evangelists to restore them to him.
Matthew 23:39 For I [Jesus] tell you, you won’t see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
As during ancient Israel, many non-Jews will also become believers through the Jews.
Ultimately the tribulation is a particular chapter in His-story, demonstrating God’s perfect justice, grace and mercy. This demonstrates God’s quest to save as many people as possible. After this, all nature will be relieved of the burden of sinful humanity and governance, although some effects of the fall will remain until the completion of this space-time.
Many teach the Antichrist will arise out of Europe. This derives particularly from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2 of a statue representing the empires controlling Israel. From Daniel’s prophecies, the empire that kills the messiah will resume in the end under the rule of the Antichrist. But Rome doesn’t match the geography of Europe. Rome was a Mediterranean empire – not a European one – see this Roman empire map timeline: https://youtu.be/GylVIyK6voU
Around New testament times, the roman empire looked something like this
Over the millennia, various empires have sought to control the Mediterranean – Charlemagne, the Ottomans, Kaiser Wilhelm, Napoleon, Hitler.
I believe the cataclysm of Ezekiel 38-39 war of Gog of Magog, will drastically alter world geopolitics and religion. Assuming a pre-trib rapture, this event too will have a drastic impact on geopolitics. Even without much time, the world will be extremely different. Then the Roman empire will be restored, maybe at the start of the tribulation. Of course, the catastrophes of the first three and a half years of the tribulation are enough in themselves to produce ten political regions “nations” around the Mediterranean, that will unite to elevate the antichrist to power.
For example, I crudely imagine ten “kingdoms” could be something like:
- Iberia (Spain & Portugal)
- France + southern Germania
- The Balkans (Greece, Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria)
- The Levant: Syria, Jordan, Israel
- Egypt & North Sudan (Ancient North Ethiopia)
- Algeria (& Tunisia)
To be continued…