The Tribulation


Dispensationalists believe Christ will return to earth to establish a kingdom over which He will rule for a thousand years.  Great emphasis is placed on what will transpire during a supposed seven-year period of time before Christ comes to rule over His kingdom.

This is supposed to be the 70th week of Daniel 9:24-27. It will be a time of great tribulation, worse than anything man has ever experienced before.

It will begin immediately after the rapture although some say the rapture will occur halfway through this seven-year period. The Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem and the antichrist will arise to deceive men.

The tribulation will come to an end with the battle of Armageddon which will be WW III. A vast number of people will be wiped out.

Hal Lindsey says, “The largest descriptive volume of the tribulation is found in Revelation 5-19.” He points out that the first five chapters mention the church 30 times but beginning with chapter six the church is never mentioned again.

This is because the church has been raptured and no longer exists. The purpose of the rapture is to rescue all faithful Christians from the terrible calamity that is about to take place on the earth.

With the purpose of the church now completed God will direct His attention toward the nations and especially the Jews with the establishment of a Kingdom over which Christ will rule for a thousand years.

Dispensationalists see Revelation 6-19, Matthew 24:4-51 and Daniel 9:24-27 as applying to the final seven years and a third coming of Christ. Their doctrine misrepresents what is taught in these passages.

First, it is to be recognized that the Bible nowhere teaches that there has been a pause between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel 9.

Neither does the Bible say the 70th week will be a period of tribulation. Keep in mind that Daniel’s immediate concern was what will happen to the Jews in Babylon!

Gabriel tells Daniel God is setting aside a seventy-week period of time, that is, 490 years, to accomplish certain things.  Sixty-nine weeks, that is, 483 years, included more than just the return of the Jews from Babylon Captivity to Jerusalem.  Timewise it brings us to the time of Christ.

Gabriel tells Daniel that during the 70th week, a seven-year period of time, the ‘Anointed One’, the Christ, will suffer a violent death, which happened when Christ was crucified on the cross.

The remaining 3½ years are taken up with the establishment of the church and the gospel being preached to the Jews. So, God gives Daniel more than he asked for.

The Jews will be restored to Palestine but something greater than that will happen. God’s Anointed, Christ, will come.  He will die on the cross. Then He will establish His Kingdom, that is, the church.

The gospel, that is, the good news about His death and resurrection will be preached to the Jews. After this, the gospel will then be taken to the Gentiles.  Thus the 70th week was fulfilled long ago.

A study of Revelation reveals that the book was written to suffering Christians in highly symbolical, apocalyptic, language. It deals with the severe persecution that Christians would endure in the early years of the church.

This persecution against the church came from Judaism, paganism and the Roman government. The book is written to encourage these suffering Christians.  The conclusion is that the Lord will give victory to the church over its enemies.

When it comes to Matthew 24 Dispensationalists teach that verse 21 refers to the so-called ‘tribulation’.

“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world to this time.” Matthew 24:21

With complete disregard for the context, they teach that these words describe a worldwide catastrophe anticipatory of the second coming of our Lord. Jesus is speaking of a tribulation to be experienced by the Jewish nation, primarily Jerusalem.

Matthew 24:4-35 describes the tragic fall of Jerusalem. God’s wrath and vengeance were brought to bear upon the wicked city of Jerusalem.

Josephus the Jewish historian and an eyewitness to the fall of Jerusalem writes, ‘O most wretched city, what misery and so great as this didst thou suffer from the Romans.’ Again he wrote, ‘Neither did any other city ever suffer such miseries nor did any age ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness than this was, from the beginning of the world.’

Due to the coming destruction upon Jerusalem, these early Christians were told to flee to the mountains when they saw the Romans approaching. Jesus warned them.

“Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  Let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house.  And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” Matthew 24:16-18 / Mathew 14:21

If the Dispensational view of the rapture is going on at the same time as their seven years of tribulation as some teach, then there would be no disciples left on earth to flee from Jerusalem because they, the church, would have been caught up in the rapture and thus would be somewhere up in the sky.  The church would no longer exist because he has been raptured.

The documented historical fact is these disciples were spared the tribulation that fell on Jerusalem by escaping as the Romans approached. Josephus tells us that not one Christian perished in the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Matthew 24:4-35 gives us a detailed account of the destruction of Jerusalem and the overthrow of Judaism. Jesus ends this discussion with these words in verse 34. ‘Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled.’

Thus Jesus is not speaking of a seven-year period of time at the end of the Christian age. Instead, he was speaking of what would happen later in ‘their’ generation. The ‘tribulation’ of Matthew 24 took place over 1900 years ago.

Beginning at verse 36 Jesus speaks of the end of time. He said, ‘But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.’ Men have tried to set specific dates, but they always prove to be false.

The fact is that the church has faced tribulation in every age down through the years. Notice what the apostle John wrote.

‘I John, your brother and partaker with you in the tribulation and kingdom and patience which are in Jesus.’ Revelation 1:9

John was in tribulation just as the churches to which he wrote were in tribulation. For example, he told the church in Smyrna.

‘I know your works, tribulation, and poverty.’ Revelation 2:9.

Notice what Paul says to Timothy.

‘Persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me in Antioch, in Iconium, in Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.’ 2 Timothy 3:11-12

Thus persecutions, tribulations, and hardships have been and will continue to be the lot for God’s people.

We learn that Paul and Barnabas warned the new churches they had established and said the following.

‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.’  Acts 14:22

Look at what Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica.

‘We ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure.’ 2 Thessalonians 1:4

Dispensationalists point to the earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, hurricanes and wars in the Middle East and say these are more frequent than ever before which is a sign that a great tribulation is about to explode on the earth such as never seen before.  The fact is we have always had these things.

Years ago people did not have the communication technology that we have today thus they were not as aware of these things as much as we are today.

For example, an earthquake might occur in China and no one in Europe would know anything about it.  Today, we would know within minutes.

At least 200 battles have been fought in the valley of Armageddon. This was due to the fact this plain was a crossroads for many ancient kingdoms that fought each other. Israel and Judah were constantly at battle with their neighbours. Israel and Judah even fought each other.

Since the time of Mohamed and the Crusades, there have been constant wars in the Middle East. European nations have fought many battles with each other for centuries. If anything, there are probably fewer wars now than in past history.