"The Tribulation - Another Look" by Tricia Tillin
Part One: Reasons to Reconsider
The internet and bookstores are awash with information about "The Great Tribulation" so you may be wondering what is the point of writing something new?
Some Good Reasons:
(1) Indiscriminate Date-Setting. Many websites are speculating on the timing of the Rapture (that day described in the bible when believers will be called to God, either dead or alive) and confusion reigns. But the timing is too often based on the preconception that a full seven years MUST be deducted from the year in question, to allow for the fact that "Christians will not go through the tribulation".
For example, the point has been made that a final generation of 70 years could be calculated from the nationhood of Israel in 1948 to the date 2018. But deducting the seven years of the Tribulation leads to the statement that the Church must be raptured in 2011. While that's a nice thought I do not believe it is correct. So - how long IS the Tribulation? We need to know. (skip intro and go there now)
(2) Sign-less Rapture. When Christians believe that "nothing is predicted to happen before the rapture of the Church" and that the (supposed) seven-year Tribulation doesn't concern them in the slightest, it leads either to complacency or blindness. It sets up a situation where Christians can ignore or mistake the signs of the end. But those who walk in the light DO see the day approaching:
1 Thess 5:1-6 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.
When the disciples asked Jesus to give them a heads-up about his return, he was more than happy to do so, in detail.
Matt 24:3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying,"Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"...
The signs are those we also find in Revelation! Including the Great Tribulation! So we have to find out what the Tribulation really is and who it affects. (note one)
(3) Lack of Preparedness. "And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!". This verse alone gives us a huge clue to the Tribulation period and its timing - read on to find out why - but for now it needs to be said that those who dismiss the entire Tribulation as irrelevant to Christians will hardly be making preparations for it. They will be left floundering, ill-prepared, emotionally and spiritually deficit like the Bridesmaids without extra oil in their vessels. Jesus, after listing the signs as mentioned above said this:
Luke 21:25-33 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.
Clearly, some "things" are supposed to happen, and we are supposed to understand them as signs of his coming. (note one) Another indicator is mentioned here: "Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. (Matt 24:32-35; Mark 13:28-31) .....and he also rebukes those who do NOT discern -
Luke 12:54-56 Then He also said to the multitudes, "Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, 'A shower is coming'; and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, 'There will be hot weather'; and there is. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?
(4) Misinterpreting Scripture. This really ought to be our first consideration! Respectful as I am of those who read the scriptures in a different way, the truth about the tribulation and endtimes must come from a plain, cohesive, consistent reading of the bible. I have often challenged those who insist on the seven-year tribulation to "show me in the word" but despite being unable to do so, they still angrily insist on it. Is this truth or delusion? Let's be brave enough to hold to the scriptures even when it scares us or unsettles our preconceptions.
(5) Exaggerating its Effects. When Revelation is lumped together as one seven-year horror story, and called "The Tribulation" it's not surprising Christians want to find a way of going to heaven before it begins. But the bible makes a difference between the short time of tribulation and the three and a half years of the wrath of God poured out on his enemies.
(6) Condemning Others to Suffer. An artificial and unbiblical distinction is made between Gentile and Jewish believers, today's Christians and "tribulations saints" where all the deliverance scriptures are adopted by today's Church, and the ones about the Tribulation are left to everyone else including Israel. Again, this is born out of a need to find a way of escape from suffering. But if the first-century Jewish believers in Jesus had had this attitude they would have denied the Lord and not been martyred. Most or all of the apostles died for their faith, and many thousands if not millions have done likewise over the centuries. Acts 14:22-23 "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God."
Will the catching-away come as a sudden unexpected interruption to our morning coffee, or as a merciful release? Jesus says: "you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved". Mark 13:13 This and similar scriptures only make sense in the context of a trial to come, and we all need to be ready for it. Like it or not.
So there are numerous reasons to rethink the biblical Tribulation. But my own particular point in this article is to show that the signs Jesus gave to his disciples not only should be heeded today but are the very same ones we see both in Revelation and in the world today. We just need to understand what Jesus said in its proper context. That is the only way to avoid the ditch on either side of the road.
The narrow road with two ditches
On one side of our road is the ditch of complacency where life continues entirely normally up to the day when all Christians regardless of their condition are suddenly caught up to Heaven. What then is the need of watchfulness or patient endurance? Was Jesus warning us for no reason?
On the other side of the road is the ditch of hyper-vigilance, fear and obsession, where people pick apart every nuance of nature and politics, and interpret every event and "word" as a sure sign that the rapture (which is always before the Tribulation) is just about to occur. Websites and Youtube (etc) abound with such speculation.
This "crying wolf" will eventually lead to rapture-scepticism and boredom mixed with unbelief, so that not only the unsaved but believers miss the genuine signs of His Coming.
I believe both ditches are a place of FEAR. But this fear is born out of an incorrect understanding of the endtimes scriptures, particularly with regard to the Tribulation.
When it is seen as a seven-year-long totally unendurable horror from which no one emerges alive or sane, obviously it's something to be avoided at all costs.
In response, Christians have shyed away from the whole Tribulation thing, in various ways. If the Tribulation is a mysterious deadly device that sits brooding in the room, we have to find ways of dealing with it. The easy (and perhaps selfish) plan of whistling in the dark until the rapture snatches everyone out of harm's way is not one I find in my bible. It's like pretending the machine isn't in the room at all.
But nor is spending all your time obsessively predicting an exact date as if pressing all the buttons at once will expose the machine's secret inner workings and provide its blueprints. Surely these are two equal but opposite ways of ensuring a definite escape route - escape from a violent bloodbath that nobody wants to pass through.
I understand, believe me I do! I want to escape too but I'm not prepared to disregard the instructions of the Lord nor to twist scriptures to do it. I want to explore the real underlying message of the endtimes so as to be READY. That's the only thing that matters.
The 2012 Pitfall
We were subjected to a storm of predictions about 2012, due to the hyped-up Mayan Calendar myth about the "end of the world" in December 2012. Of course this all turned out to be bogus.
The internet is abuzz with rumours, and it seems to have captured the attention equally of christians and non-christians. If we believe all we read, then next year we will undergo:
- a "pole shift" making the entire earth revolve on its axis
- massive earthquakes, floods and climate changes such as we have never seen before
- the arrival of a second sun in the skies - due to the...
- ... reappearance of the missing planet of our solar system (Planet X or Nibiru)
- a possible comet or planetary impact
- the dramatic effects of a grand alignment of all the planets with the centre of the universe
- intense and destructive solar storms
It reminds me of the panic surrounding "Year Zero", the year 2000 belief that most computer chips would malfunction when they tried to click over to a new year, leading to the breakdown of all society and the end of life as we know it. All this is fascinating but how much is important to know? Our task is to understand what GOD is saying.
Our task is to keep walking on the narrow road with eyes set on the distance, watchful but not paranoid, sober but not fearful, trustful but not careless, unafraid of knowing the reality and gravity of this present hour.
My premise throughout this study is that, according to scripture, the resurrection-rapture happens at "His Coming" which is - as he said - "immediately after the tribulation of those times" BUT that is entirely different to the "end" or the "wrath of God" which is graphically described in the book of Revelation.
Thus, the "tribulation" has been misunderstood so thoroughly that we have almost had to invent artificial ways to avoid it. It is in fact a short time of intense pressure and persecution through which believers are kept and supported by God (if they remain in faith) immediately cut short by the "Coming of the Son of Man".
We can prove this premise by the word of God:
(1) Do you trust the words of Jesus Christ?
The disciples asked Jesus to explain "what will be the signs of (a) your coming [for us] and (b) the end of the age. (note two) What he replied is vital for our understanding of the tribulation and rapture! Look at the sequence of events:
Matt 24:4-14 And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 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.
So, in effect (and we'll look at this more closely later) Jesus laid out the same sequence of events as Revelation:
- Apostasy, Deception, False Prophets (seal one)
- Violence, Wars, Terrorism, Hatred (seal two)
- Famines, Want (seal three)
- Pestilences, earthquakes and various deadly things (seal four)
- ALL THESE ARE THE BEGINNING OF BIRTHPANGS OR SORROWS, NOT THE END
- Tribulation of believers, persecution, pressure, hated, betrayal and some martyrdom (Seal Five) Endurance
- Also, a renewed preaching of the word, (possibly the Two Prophets for Israel?)
- Rapture of believers "immediately afterwards" (see below) (Seal Six)
- THEN THE END - The Wrath of God. (Seal Seven and onwards)
Now compare again the words of Jesus as he describes what happens during the Tribulation:
Matt 24:29-31 "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
At this point I won't compare the words of Jesus to Revelation but those of you who know the scriptures will already see that the above passage describes both Seal Six, (Revl 6:12) and the Rapture/Resurrection. (1Thess 4:17). Now here is confirmation from Paul:
(2) Do you trust the words of Paul the Apostle?
When talking about the Resurrection (and after all, the Rapture IS a resurrection of believers) Paul also lays out for us the exact sequence of events. This correlates with the above words of Jesus.
1 Cor 15:20-28 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.
So once again "the end" - the wrath of God, the removal of wickedness, the harvest of the ages, the destruction of rebellion and the time when Jesus will put his enemies under his feet - comes AFTER the resurrection of "those who are his", who rise "at his coming".
But what did we learn from Jesus - the beginning of sorrows (the first four seals) is NOT THE END. The End will only come "after the tribulation of those days" and will be a sudden swift destruction. Jesus himself told us so.
The build-up towards the climax, the birthpangs, comes before the birth.
In the case of Israel, we see a Woman in TRIBULATION crying out to be delivered, (Revl 12:1) but it's only after she GIVES BIRTH that the three-and-and-half year reign of Antichrist begins.
The child that this faithful Israeli woman gives birth to is "caught up to God and to his throne" - and this is the only real description of the Rapture that we find in Revelation. (note three).
It comes at the same point in the timescale as the Rapture of the Church since a certain number of Jews do reach out to God during this time of persecution and threat, and those who receive Jesus as their Messiah accompany the other believers to Heaven in the Rapture. (note four). However, the Woman herself is not caught up. She remains true to God and to her religion but is not "saved" until Jesus visits her in the wilderness and she accept him as the Messiah.
Now we move on to examine other supporting scriptures for this timescale of the Tribulation Rapture.
(1) To those who would say that Jesus was speaking - here and in other places - of his Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation and not the Rapture, I urge you to carefully read this entire study as well as the bible to see that the two events are in fact identical so far as believers are concerned. The ONLY coming WE as the Church need to know about is "our gathering together to him" as Paul said.
(2) The disciples asked "what will be the signs of (a) your coming [for us] and (b) the consummation of this wicked age [and the coming of the promised kingdom of God]. The disciples, still at that stage being more interested in the overthrow of their enemies and the establishment on earth of the Kingdom, used the word "sunteleia" for "the end of the age". The only times "sunteleia" is used in scripture it means to bring to fulfillment and a complete end as in Matt 13:37-43, of the angelic harvest of the wicked at the "end of the age". The word signifies a consummation of the ages, the final end:
sunteleia [end of the age or world] NT:4930 signifies "a bringing to completion together" (sun "with," teleo, "to complete," akin to No. 1), marking the "completion" or consummation of the various parts of a scheme. In Matt 13:39-40,49; 24:3; 28:20, the rendering "the end of the world" (KJV and RV, text) is misleading; the RV marg., "the consummation of the age," is correct. The word does not denote a termination, but the heading up of events to the appointed climax. Aion is not the world, but a period or epoch or era in which events take place. In Heb 9:26, the word translated "world" (KJV) is in the plural, and the phrase is "the consummation of the ages." It was at the heading up of all the various epochs appointed by divine counsels that Christ was manifested (i. e., in His Incarnation) "to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself."
But - important to note - Jesus in his response did not use the word "sunteleia". Jesus used the more usual word for "end" - telos - "to complete". this is because the "end" for the CHURCH is the Rapture, whereas the "end of the age" has to do with the judgement of the rebellious.
(3) Excellent in-depth study found HERE that shows where the Rapture appears in Revelation. [http://bible.org/article/apocalypse-john-and-rapture-church-reevaluation - looks at all rapture positions for and against.]
(4) Ruling with a Rod of Iron: These caught-up ones are ALL together, as the Body of Christ, destined to be the new judges of the world. Jesus Christ the Head and believers as the Body are co-heirs and co-rulers of the world to come. Compare the rulership of the "child" with Rev 2:26-28 "And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations" and Matt 19:28 "you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" and 1Cor 6:2-4 "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?"