Excursus on the Tribulation
Dr. Mike Johnston
Anti-PreTrib antagonists fight over definitions of words that hold no value to their argument. From the very first mention (Deut. 4:30-32) the tribulation – including the great tribulation – has been a prediction of a future period of judgment upon Israel and the world preceding the Revelation of Jesus Christ to set up the Millennial Kingdom in Jerusalem foretold by Daniel the prophet, the Lord Jesus, and the Apostle John in the Revelation. By means of Progressive Revelation we adduce this period will consist of seven years coinciding with Daniel’s missing week that will begin with a seven year covenant of peace brokered in some manner by the Antichrist (Dan. 9:24-27; see 7 yrs in Rev. 11:2,3; 12:6, 14). Jeremiah – following the lead of Moses – taught that God’s purpose for the tribulation is to restore Israel (Jer. 30:3, 10) and judge the Gentiles (Jer. 30:11). Bear in mind, neither Moses, Jeremiah – nor any of the major or minor prophets knew anything about the mystery Body of Christ and NEVER wrote a word about her. Since this time of tribulation was predicted by the prophets for Israel specifically, the Lord Jesus said: “For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled” (Luke 21:22).
Vengeance for whom? Israel!
Fulfilled by whom? The prophets speaking to Israel.
There was nothing prophesied for the Body of Christ, so nothing has to be fulfilled through her; the tribulation is clearly for Israel and those placing the church here for even a moment do so with ill intent devoid of Scriptural support.
As we’ve stated previously, the First Mention of tribulation is in a prophecy from Moses concerning Israel in the last days (Deut 4:30). Subsequently, through the Progressive Revelation Principle the prophets unfold it as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer 30:7); “a time of trouble” (Dan 12:1), “day of the Lord” (Isa 2:12; 13:6; etc), “day of wrath” (Zeph 1:15), and “the hour of temptation” (Rev 3:10) among other well-recognized titles. Regardless of the name used for it, in every instance, the tribulation implicates the nation of Israel.
Dispensationalists teach that the tribulation will occupy the missing week in Daniel’s prophecy which will intensify over time (Dan 9:24-27; see Rev. 6-19), ultimately leading to Christ’s revelation and the inauguration of the Covenanted Davidic Kingdom in Jerusalem. (See also Isaiah 10:20-27). While anti-PreTrib teachers fail to maintain sound systematic theology, they generally eschew the fact that this seventieth week fits perfectly into ours.
As part of “the day of the Lord” (Isa 2:12; 13:9; 34:8; Jer 46:10; etc), the tribulation will culminate with all the nations of the world who join forces to destroy Israel and divide the Covenant land coagulating together in a winner take all bloodbath at Armageddon (Joel 3:14; Zech. 14:1-3; Rev. 14:20; 16:16; 19:11-21). Frankly, with the uprising of Islam – ISIS in particular – around the world as well as Russia’s presence in the Middle East, Armageddon may not be that far off. At any rate, Jeremiah the prophet – though not included in the tribulation trilogy – provided some collateral information about Israel in the tribulation you need to study for more background context (Jer. 30:1-31:40).
Ancillary Info Regarding Israel and the Tribulation
(1) Israel exists from prophecy and includes 5 Covenants covering her past, present, and future
(2) The goal of prophecy – as well as Israel’s covenants) is the glorious appearance (Revelation) of the Messiah – from the lineage of David
(3) The purpose of the coming of the Messiah is to establish Israel’s kingdom of heaven on earth in the city of Jerusalem (Isa. 24:23; Mic. 4:7) – in fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant (1 Sam. 7:16) following the tribulation – which is the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7; Dan. 9:24-27; Matt. 24-25; Rev. 19-20)
(4) Jacob is Israel (Gen. 32:28)
(5) The tribulation trilogy is a three-part, end time’s message for Israel unfolding the goals of prophecy through a Progressive Revelation introduced in Daniel’s prophecy where it was revealed and codified into a seventy week period
(6) The term is Seventy weeks” (of seven years- 490 years total, with one still future). It focuses on “thy people” (Jews) in “thy holy city” (Jerusalem), in order to “finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness” (the Kingdom), which means “to anoint the Most Holy” (the reigning King, Messiah).
(7) This prophecy continued its Progressive Revelation journey through the Olivet Discourse where the Lord Jesus clarified it and where John in the Revelation will conclude it.
(8) All of this is in fulfillment of prophecy as the Lord Jesus summarized in the Olivet Discourse recorded in Luke 21:22: “For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” Fulfilled for whom? Israel!
(9) The mystery Body of Christ was never seen by the prophets, so nothing has to be fulfilled through her; the tribulation is clearly prophecy for Israel.
AntiPreTrib Problems Associated with the Tribulation
The Tribulation is a ubiquitous term that has become a well-known doctrine. Prophecy is for Israel and the Tribulation exists purely as prophecy. It was well known by the prophets (Deut. 4:30) so it was never a part of the mystery. That being said, there isn’t a prophecy or verse for that matter anywhere in Scripture: (1) clearly consigning the mystery Body of Christ to the time of Jacob’s trouble, or (2) revealing her as being on earth for a single hour during this time [unless two terms used for Israel, “elect” and “saints” are pulled from their context to prove something that simply is not provable in any other fashion].
There are several problems AntiPreTrib advocates have with the Tribulation.
- Their first problem is what to call it.
Tribulation which includes the great tribulation (Matt. 24:21, 29), is part of “the day of the Lord” (Isa. 2; 13; 34; Jer. 30-31; 46; etc). It is also called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7) [Jacob is Israel], “Daniel’s Seventieth Week” (Dan. 9:24-27), and the “time of trouble” (Dan. 12:1)
- Their second problem is the length of it.
The first mention of seven in the Bible tells us how it stands connected in God’s mind. “. . . on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made” (Gen. 2:2). Seven from that point on signifies something started and finished. Since Daniel’s prophecy of seventy weeks is our Rosetta Stone for interpreting the tribulation trilogy, we have one seven year period still future, dispensational Bible scholars view in connection with the beginning and ending of tribulation and great tribulation period; Scripture bearing witness. In the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:21; 29), and the Book of Revelation, two separate three and one-half year periods form one whole seven year tribulation: 42 months (Rev. 11:3); 1260 days (Rev. 11:3, 12:6); and time, times, and half a time (Rev. 12:14).
However, in a concerted contrarian effort to thwart scholarly teaching, you’ll find antiPreTrib proponents to be of the most creative antagonists on the planet; especially those espousing the most recent – and perhaps most confusing – PreWrath rapture ruse. Their claim to fame is in arbitrarily placing the church into the time of Jacob’s trouble for most of seven year period with nothing more than bizarre calculations and misguided outcomes they arbitrarily apply to the Body of Christ without ever proving she is here during any part of the Tribulation aka Jacob’s trouble.
- Their third problem is not accepting its origin and purpose.
The Tribulation is for Israel through prophecy; Moses being the first prophet to reveal it (Deut. 4:30). The purpose of the tribulation is to punish sin and purify Israel and her supporters for the Millennial Kingdom (Jer. 30-31; Obad. 1:15; Matt. 25:31-46). “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city . . . to seal up the vision and prophecy …” (Dan 9:24). Although Daniel prophesied that the seventy weeks would seal up the vision and prophesy, there appears to be a secondary reference here to a cessation of prophecy which occurred at the 69th week and will last for an unspecified time. Knowing what we now know, that happened when God moved from prophecy to mystery at the rejection of Jesus’ Kingdom offer. Interestingly, the corollary to this rejection brought about a dual blindness each leading in separate directions for distinct purposes – but leading back to Israel in the end (Luke 19:42; Acts 28:26-28; Rom. 9-11; 2 Tim. 1:11).
- Their fourth problem is consigning the Body of Christ to it.
The tribulation is a watershed for Israel given through prophecy before she ever knew about the coming kingdom (Deut. 4:30). It was later expanded upon by the prophets (Jeremiah, Isaiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, etc) through Progressive Revelation. When the Lord summed up Israel’s end time’s scenario in Luke 21:22, He referred to this epoch as “the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” The days of vengeance is the tribulation – aka the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7), and the “time of trouble” (Dan. 12:1), also referred to as Daniel’s Seventieth Week for Israel and Jerusalem. All things fulfilled refers to Israel’s prophets. The notion that the Body of Christ will share in the prescribed horrors of the Jewish tribulation is an invented doctrine without clear Scriptural support.
In summary, the Tribulation aka known by other names – covers Daniel’s Seventieth Week and as such is seven years in length. Its purpose is to punish sin and prepare Israel for the Revelation of the Messiah and the Davidic Kingdom on earth which the prophets applied exclusively to Israel. Any suggestion that the Body of Christ will be here for a moment of the time of Jacob’s trouble is without Scriptural authority and should be rejected out of hand with no more ink devoted to it.