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8  What about the Great Tribulation?

"... I will never, never fail you nor forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5 (TLB)

If we have any reluctance to accept the idea that the End-Time is with us now, this is surely because of what we have heard it will bring along with it: namely the Great Tribulation, including the "final battle" - Armageddon. A very natural reluctance, surely! But could this negative thought maybe keep us from seeing the Blessings that are in store for us? Let us look closer then, at this Great Tribulation bogeyman, and get down to some real facts. The picture may be brighter than it's been painted!

First of all, what is the basis in the Bible for fears about this terrible "end of the world"?

The Gospels record Jesus as speaking of "great tribulation":

"For then there will be great tribulation ... such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now; no, and never will be [again]."
Matthew 24:21 (Amp.)
Then in Revelation the reference becomes even more specific:
And he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
Revelation 7:14 (RSV)
A good number of Christians are expecting there to be a seven year Tribulation. Where does this belief come from? One part of the answer would seem to lie in the following verse:
Then the Dragon encouraged the Creature to speak great blasphemies against the Lord; and gave him authority to control the earth for forty-two months.
Revelation 13:5 (TLB)
^  So the "Creature" (which could stand for our species as a whole) is going to turn against the Lord; but the period of rebellion is given here as 3½ years, not seven. Perhaps this parallel passage provides a bridge to the seven year view:
"But do not measure the outer court," I was told, "for it has been turned over to the nations. They will trample the Holy City for forty-two months.b
And I will give power to my two witnesses to prophesy 1,260 daysb clothed in sackcloth."

[b] 3½ years, as in Daniel 12:7.
Revelation 11:2-3 (TLB)
It isn't clear in these verses is it, whether the two periods of 3½ years are one and the same, or if they follow each other? However, if we assume that they are consecutive (that is, the sacriligious acts done by Earth's peoples, and the drought and plagues of the two prophets - please see verses 5 and 6), in that case, we can see a seven year tribulation foretold in the above quotation.

The following passage in Daniel refers more directly to a seven year period.
(The TLB footnotes give further clarity):

24 "The Lord has commanded 490 yearsc of further punishment upon Jerusalem and your people ... then the kingdom of everlasting righteousness will begin ...
25 "Now listen! It will be forty-nine years plus 434 yearsd from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem, until the Anointed One comes! ...
26 "After this period of 434 years, the Anointed One will be killed, his kingdom still unrealized . . . and a king will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple ...
27 "This king will make a seven-year treaty with the people, but after half that time, he will break his pledge ... then ... the Enemy shall utterly defile the sanctuary of God."

c Literally, "seventy weeks" or "seventy sevens" (of years). These were not in uninterrupted sequence. See verses 25-27.     d This totals 483 years, instead of the 490 years mentioned in verse 24, leaving seven years unaccounted for at the time of Messiah's death. For their future fulfillment see verse 27 and the Revelation. Or, consider the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 by Titus and the subsequent slaughter of 1,000,000 Jews during the following three and a half years as at least a partial fulfillment of this prophecy.
Daniel 9:24-27 (TLB)

As the second footnote indicates, this Prophecy should be read in conjunction with the verses quoted above from Revelation chapter 11 (please see also Revelation 12:6,14). It has led Christians to expect a seven year Great Tribulation sent to punish the people of Earth. However, not all of these same believers expect to have to undergo this distress.

What can we say at this point? We have found:

1.  There is a Scriptural basis for a "Great Tribulation."

2.  The Bible has some pointers to this tribulation being for seven years - but this evidence is not conclusive.

3.  The evidence is sufficiently strong that a good number of Christians have been brought to a firm belief in a tribulation (of perhaps seven years), this tribulation bringing about the end of the world as we know it.

Now let us see what ground there is for taking a more optimistic view.

^  The Seven Year Apocalyptic Doom - Hopeful Signs against

Let us consider this question under eight headings:
1.  The Bible and Tribulation.
2.  Israel as a Model.
3.  The Three and a Half Year Tribulation.
4.  The Real Tribulation.
5.  Christians' Expectations.
6.  Overkill?
7.  Jesus said the Nuclear Holocaust need not happen!
8.  Real Purpose for a Seven Year "Tribulation."

1.  The Bible and Tribulation: Among the various references in the Bible to "the tribulation," there are no direct references to a seven year Tribulation. Most of the Prophecies take the form of this one, in which no timescale is mentioned:

"After the tribulation ends, then the sun will grow dim and the moon will not shine ..."
Mark 13:24 (TLB)

2.  Israel as a Model: God's nation of Israel has acted as a forerunner for the rest of us (an idea introduced in chapter 6). As a result, their service to God has been our model. Events that Israel has endured therefore, can be a guide to what may happen in our future.

One signal punishment doled out to the people of Judah was the exile in Babylon. This lasted, not for seven years but for 70 years. This period of exile was prophesied first of all - please see Jeremiah 25:11-12 and 29:10; then the prophet Daniel noted the end of the 70 years - Daniel 9:2; finally, when the people had returned to Judah, a Reminder was given us - in Zechariah 7:2-5 - as to the Truth of God's Statements.

3.  The Three and a Half Year Tribulation: Persecution for a period of 3½ years is prophesied in a number of places in the Bible. And once again, vicious trials lasting for this time-period have already been visited upon the people of Israel. Daniel wrote of a wicked one who would arise:

"He shall speak against the Most High and oppress the holy ones of the Most High, thinking to change the feast days and the law.*
They shall be handed over to him for a year, two years, and a half-year."

[*] 7,25: The reference is to the persecutions of Antiochus IV and his attempt to force the Jews to give up their customs and to adopt Hellenistic ways (1 Mc 1, 33f). A year, two years, and a half-year: an indefinite, evil period of time. As seven is the Jewish "perfect" number, half of it signifies great imperfection. Actually, this corresponds fairly accurately to the duration of Antiochus' persecution."
Daniel 7:25 (NAB)
(Note. The reference in the above NAB footnote to "1 Mc" is to I Maccabees 1:33-40. The two books, I and II Maccabees, are included in Catholic Bibles. [Most Protestant and Jewish Bible authorities place them in the Apocrypha.])

^  The NAB highlights one Fulfillment of the 3½ year Prophecy: Israel's suffering under Greek domination. Another, already covered in the previous section, was the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

Finally, the most vicious of the trials that Israel endured is the Holocaust, as we have seen. But how could that trial fit the timescale we are looking at here? For we've already quoted the timescale of the Holocaust as being 1933-1945. Still, let's look again. The awfulness of the Holocaust was in its culmination - the massacre of millions of Jews. The order to begin this "Final Solution" did not go out until early 1941. The real slaughter of Jews then began - in about July 1941 - and the last use of the gas chambers at Auschwitz was on October 30, 1944. So there was a crucial phase within the overall period of the Holocaust, and it lasted maybe a little short of 3½ years (actually three years and four months). If we are willing to accept this reading of the situation.

Another Fulfillment relates to WWII - broadly the same time of struggle. In this case the focus shifts to the USA (and her allies).

America entered WWII on December 8, 1941 (the day following the attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor). WWII ended in two stages: First came victory in Europe, on May 7, 1945 - exactly three years and five months after the Pearl Harbor attack. Then on August 14 Japan surrendered - three years, eight months and one week after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Please consider how this fits the following Prophecy:

... "How long will it be until all these terrors end?"
He replied ... that they will not end until three and a half years
after the power of God's people has been crushed.
Daniel 12:6-7 (TLB)
WWII, and especially the 3½ years during which Hitler and the forces of the Axis waged war against all the Allies, must qualify - on the basis of the death toll - as the most terrible in known history. A warning of just how bad it would be is given in verse 11 of the same Bible chapter. Here is prophesied the "Horrible Thing" - surely the atom bomb which brought WWII to an end:
"From the time the daily sacrifice is taken away and the Horrible Thing is set up to be worshiped, there will be 1,290 days. And blessed are those who wait and remain until the 1335th day!"
Daniel 12:11-12 (TLB)
Please compare the 1941-1945 timescales given above with these given in Daniel 12. (Using the Hebrew calendar month of 30 days, the 1,290 days equates to 3 years and 7 months, while 1,335 days amounts to 3 years and 8½ months.)

The "public justification" for dropping the Bomb was based on a calculation, so we were told. Namely, how many lives would be lost - or, what the daily sacrifice would be - if the Allies were to wait for the war to end using conventional weapons. So the reasoning put forward to America and the world for using the Bomb - two Bombs actually - invoked some of the same language as the Daniel verse above - another match with Prophecy? It now seems that what the public were told, and the reality in the corriders of power, may have been two different things(1). Which detracts somewhat from this prophetic match. Except that for those of us who - for decades - believed the official line, the coincidence still has some force.

"Well clearly the Bomb doesn't fit the above Prophecy," you may say. "Because the 'Horrible Thing' will be 'worshiped' and we don't worship the Bomb!" There is a sense in which we do worship the security the Bomb is supposed to bring us, though. Otherwise, why would the first test bomb (set off at Alamogordo, in a New Mexican desert called "Jornada del Muerto" or, Journey of Death) be called "Trinity"?

The writer's claim is that WWII fulfills this Daniel Prophecy, and helps to confirm what is being said here in this chapter. Notice how the definition of "God's people" has been extended to include Christian countries? Notice too that the "crushing" of the power of God's people is not the damage done to the US Pacific Fleet - for America was not crushed by this. No, the Bible gently points out that it is when we feel forced to abandon the path of peace that we give up our real power.

^  We have seen then, that a 3½ year tribulation has taken place on a number of occasions. Israel endured such a trial under Greek rule (Antiochus IV), from about 167 to 163 BCE. And again when the Roman troops of Titus sacked Jerusalem and Judea, from 70 to 73 CE. But finally, in the End-Time, the last 3½ years of WWII - from Pearl Harbor until the fighting ceased - resulted in the widest-scale, most dreadful conflict this world has ever seen. (And the people of Israel, as already stated, played their full part in this suffering, because the 3½ years of Hitler's Final Solution closely paralleled this period.)

It would be foolish to maintain that never before was there a trial lasting for seven years. In fact the French and Indian War in America had a European phase. In this phase, Britain, Prussia and Hanover fought with Austria, France, Russia, Saxony, Sweden, and Spain, from 1756 to 1763. This was actually called the Seven Years' War. However, this writer is not aware of any link having been proposed between Bible Prophecy and that war, despite its being of seven years duration.

4.  The Real Tribulation: We have just reminded ourselves that WWII was the worst calamity the world has ever known. It was also fought at a time when WWI ("the war to end all wars") was still fresh in people's minds. As if WWII was not enough, lurking in the background was the covert wickedness of the Holocaust. The explanation for all these sorrows - this e-book tries to show - is the End-Time. Being a time of trial which began in 1914, and continues to this day.

Is there any Scripture supporting the idea that the End-Time and "tribulation" go together? Consider this:

"Because you have patiently obeyed me despite the persecution, therefore I will protect you frome the time of Great Tribulation and temptation, which will come upon the world to test everyone alive."

e Or, "I will keep you from failing in the hour of testing . . ." The inference is not clear in the Greek as to whether this means "kept from" or "kept through" the coming horror.
Revelation 3:10 (TLB)
Other versions read: "hour of trial." As we saw in chapter 6, an "hour" can equate to 83 years, on God's Timescale. So an "hour" which began in 1914 would last until 1997, or roughly the end of the last century. Surely, this is the Tribulation? WWI and WWII - this was tribulation harsh enough to merit the name, wasn't it?

^  If then the End-Time "hour" has included the Tribulation, we can be glad that it has not been unremitting "horror." For despite this being the "hour of testing" some very good things have happened, such as the freeing of our brothers and sisters in the former USSR and Eastern Europe from the bondage of state control, in varying degrees.

We can say then that as well as seven years, there are a number of other contenders for the duration of the Great Tribulation. So far we have 83 years, 3½ years, and 70 years. Please note with reference to the 70 year period, that Biblically a prophetic "time" frequently equates to 70 years.

(Notice also that the Eastern European democratic movement flowered in 1989, which is 72 years after the Russian Revolution, and 75 years after the start of the End-Time. This is a prophetic "time" plus a margin.)

5.  Christians' Expectations: The Church in general is not afraid of the Tribulation (whether it lasts for seven years, or any other period of time). Those believers who expect a Tribulation - one that destroys the world - have defenses against being flattened by this prospect. They deal with this threat in a variety of different ways.

For instance, there are a number of Christians who do not expect to be around when the Tribulation is taking place. They believe that a Merciful God would not repay them for their patient service by hitting them with the Tribulation. They expect to be removed from the scene, the Earth being subject to the full force of Satan's destroying power when they're away. This aspect of the Tribulation doctrine is quite important to them and ties in with their understanding of how a Loving God works.

The spread of this "escape route to Heaven" doctrine has enabled many Christians to face the thought of a terrible seven year tribulation without fear. So in this sense it could be said to have been a helpful belief - but is it right?

Jesus gave these very positive guidelines to His followers:

"You are the salt of the earth ... You are the light of the world ... Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
Matthew 5:13-16 (NAS 1975)
Are these words consistent with the idea that God's chosen ones would be safely transported to Heaven while the rest of humankind is lambasted as never before? Surely a world without believers would be a world without hope. But does God ever leave us entirely without hope? If there are hard times to be endured by Earth's people, then is it not perhaps more likely that faithful believers would be here to help others through it? And if so, then we come back to the idea that it might not be "fair" to true disciples of Jesus to hammer them with a horrendous Seven Year Tribulation.

6.  Overkill? If this present world were to come to an end, then the way many people would expect this to happen is by means of a nuclear holocaust. And as was mentioned before, Scripture many times makes reference to such an outcome. For example:

Then the thunder crashed and rolled, and lightning flashed; and there was a great earthquake of a magnitude unprecedented in human history ... and cities around the world fell in heaps of rubble ...
Revelation 16:18-19 (TLB)
^  There are two difficulties in fitting this holocaust into the Seven Year Tribulation doctrine. The first is the speed with which (it is anticipated) a nuclear WWIII would be over - the timescale would be hours, rather than years. Again this fits in with Bible Statements: "Mourn, mourn for this great city, Babylon ... doomed as you are within a single hour." Revelation 18:10 (Jer.) 

The second "problem" is more weighty. If nuclear war comes now, this is on top of all the other death tolls (through war, natural disaster, disease, etc) that we have had ever since 1914. Does it not seem a bit like "overkill," for Earth's people to undergo seven more years of tribulation (including a nuclear holocaust) after all of that?

We've been looking in this e-book at the imminent prospect of Jesus bringing about the Kingdom of God on Earth. Does the above seem to be the kind of scenario that would usher in this Kingdom?

7.  Jesus said the Nuclear Holocaust need not happen! And here are the verses where He said so:

For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
Matthew 24:21-22 (KJV)
In other words, many are being allowed to go astray at present. If God does not step in - "shortening the days" - some fool will press the nuclear button one day. "Should" these days be shortened? Scripture says that for the sake of "the elect," yes they should. And who are the elect? Those faithful people who choose God as Savior - trusting and relying on God - thereby being counted among God's chosen ones. The lesson is clear then: if we hasten to elect Jesus, we can forget about doom and gloom. Because for the sake of this great number - the number who will welcome Him - Jesus will spare the world.

8.  Real Purpose for a Seven Year "Tribulation": There is room nonetheless, for a doctrine of a Seven Year Tribulation - but of a very different sort. We should not dismiss the teaching on this altogether, the writer believes. When our Lord returns, and in order to bring in an Age of Goodness, then there would be a place for this doctrine. Let's examine this now, and hopefully we will agree on the right way to view the subject.

As mentioned before, our Lord can be expected soon. Clearly, unless billions of people decide to trust in Jesus in the very near future - though that would be nice, mind you! we cannot anticipate that everyone in the world will believe by the time the Messiah returns to us. Realistically, we can foresee a number - probably a large number - of people who do not believe in Jesus at that time. Assuming for the moment that Jesus in His Grace does return at such a time, we can be confident that He will take care of this situation.

^  Miraculously, at His Appearing there will be an instant change of heart on the part of those who had held onto their unbelief. ("Seeing is believing"!) However, these souls are not volunteers to the faith, but "conscripts." It may seem a hard thing to say, but to the extent that the Gospel was held out to them and they didn't accept it, there is a problem. It follows that these folk must have a difficult time in the early days. It will not be a smooth passage for them as they struggle to come to terms with the Christian way.

Furthermore, we can all expect to have to make adjustments to a vastly different way of living - Kingdom living. In addition, to the extent that our (brief and not so brief) times of unbelief have made God's job harder over the years than it need have been, we can expect God's Loving Rebuke for this.

All of this adds up to a case for "tribulation" to take place after the Lord returns to us. This may sound like heresy - the very idea that anything nasty could happen once our Lord is here as King of the Earth! However, it may not be so much heresy as practical reality, for which we should be glad - on two counts. Firstly, that God will have nothing to do with sin or the second-rate. Glad also because Jesus loves us so much that He wants us to be free from those things which are unworthy of us:

"My son, pay attention when the Lord punishes you, and do not be discouraged when he rebukes you. Because the Lord punishes everyone he loves, and chastises everyone he accepts as a son."
Hebrews 12:5-6 (TEV) - itself a quote from Proverbs 3:11-12.
For sure, this "tribulation" will be nothing like the trials that beset us in the 20th century. The End-Time will be over and done with; a new era will have begun! Those earlier trials were marked by godlessness, whereas this one will be touched by God's Anointing.

Jesus will see us through each of these early years:

So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, yet they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.
Genesis 29:20 (NAB)
Jacob here stands as a model for us certainly, but can he not also stand for Jesus Himself? After all, Jesus - Excellent Leader as He is - surely would prefer to set us a seven year trial of a similar kind to one that He he'd already gone through Himself, wouldn't He? Furthermore, there is a Scripture passage backing up this reading of the above verse, confirming that Jesus is indeed our Forerunner in this. The passage is found in Daniel 4:8-37. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, has a dream. But the kingly description in his dream doesn't exactly fit Nebuchadnezzar: he can hardly be king over all the Earth (vs.11), and he certainly doesn't provide food for "all flesh" (vs.12 KJV).

This is a description that only works on a Messianic scale. Nebuchadnezzar here surely serves as a model for Jesus our Messiah. Our Savior reduced in a parallel manner to Nebuchadnezzar, for seven years? Praise Jesus for showing such Toughness, such Grace, once again!

And at the end of the day, we will be fit for the Holy One, Whose Purpose in this is to accept us as sons and daughters in God's Wonderful family.

Concluding Ideas

There may be those who will need more convincing. Can we just take the Seven Year Tribulation doctrine - the one that Christians have believed in as a major, world-shattering tragedy - and at a stroke turn it into this much milder and more welcome thing: seven years of preparation under Jesus' Guiding Hand? Among the appendixes to this e-book you can find a further Hint as to why this optimistic view is the one we should adopt. The writer believes that the timing of Israel's declaration of independence in 1948 is meant as a parallel or model - for the End-Time as a whole. Just as the high points of the Jewish faith in God are presented to the world as a model. The point being, we haven't experienced the Seven Year Tribulation yet, and since it doesn't seem to fit into the End-Time, it must take place thereafter. So, first Jesus brings the End-Time to a close, then we undergo refining for the next seven years. But throughout this tribulation, there will be a major source of comfort - namely the Divine Presence! (Please see Appendix D for an explanation of the idea that Israel's year is a "parallel.")

You might be wondering, Will this time of trial really ever end? The Bible makes clear that the End-Time will be completed at Jesus' Return, when He will vanquish antiChrist, and save the world. The KJV has a wonderful term for this moment in history - it is called the consummation. So we may be assured that the End-Time will indeed be brought to an end - right on time! Then we will be able to affirm the Truth of this Scripture:

Better is the end of a thing than the beginning of it,
and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Ecclesiastes 7:8 (Amp.)

^  Summary

This chapter has put forward evidence to show that the End-Time and the great tribulation are wrapped up together, whereas the Seven Year Tribulation is something else. (Note. The writer has to confess that earlier, he was confused over these two tribulations, and he was claiming that the End-Time did not end until the second one, the seven year one, was over. However, he has become convinced by the many Bible commentators who are sure that Scripture shows it will be Jesus' Return that brings about the "end of the age" [which is another term for the end of the End-Time]. So, he has now changed the above text accordingly. Sorry for the confusion!)

Since 1914, when the End-Time began (this writer submits), we have come to know what is meant by the Bible term "Great Tribulation." Instead of this being a mere seven years long, this period of trial has already lasted - as of 2016 - for more than 100 years. Using our Lord's Measure, we can know that this testing time is almost over! (Notice that the year some of us feared - 1984 - was the year that marked 70 years into the End-Time. We wouldn't have been ready for the Kingdom in 1984, but hopefully we're a bit more ready now.)

Given this ray of light, what can we do? We can put the fear of Armageddon out of our minds, and teach our young people to do the same. Forgetting the bleak prophecies of inevitable doom, we can look forward to what comes after this present "tribulation."

The key word is trust. Can we find the inner resources to really trust God? If we can, then do we have any business worrying about a nuclear Holocaust? Or any other destructive force?

We can allow any remaining troubles to refine our characters. Faith under fire can be seen to be real faith. The vision that we have we can share with our turned-off teenagers. We should let people know that they can trust God for an excellent future.

By the way, we could ask, "Why were we given this concern about a seven year world-shattering doom in the first place?" This writer believes that the overwhelming Kindness of God is the answer. A clue can be found - it is suggested - in these Bible verses:

I PLEAD WITH you—yes, I, Paul—and I plead gently, as Christ himself would do. Yet some of you are saying, "Paul's letters are bold enough when he is far away, but when he gets here he will be afraid to raise his voice!"
I hope I won't need to show you when I come how harsh and rough I can be. I don't want to carry out my present plans against some of you who seem to think my deeds and words are merely those of an ordinary man. It is true that I am an ordinary, weak human being, but I don't use human plans and methods to win my battles. I use God's mighty weapons, not those made by men, to knock down the devil's strongholds.
II Corinthians 10:1-4 (TLB)
The suggestion is that like the Corinthians, we have been out of line. Like St. Paul, Jesus has put some rough words into the Bible, so that we will heed the lesson. That way He can be as Gentle as possible when He comes to us. How thankful we can be that God is unlike the sort of person who insists on getting their way by force!

Chapter 8 Notes

^  1. Hiroshima Atom Bomb Calculation:
Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Decision to Drop the Bomb - Jung Oh -
Atomic Bomb : Decision - Documents - compiled by Gene Dannen -
The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb - source material edited by Robert H. Ferrell -
The lies of Hiroshima live on - John Pilger -

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