Purpose of this Session
The tribulation period is generally considered to be either a seven-year (or a three and half year period: see alternative interpretation of Daniel’s seventy week prophecy in this module).
As glorious and unimaginably beautiful as the time to follow in the millennium will be, so the few years prior to this will be unimaginably terrible.
The Scriptures refer to it often, and the idea of a period of terror is not drawn from few isolated scriptures.
The tribulation period is referred to as:
i. The time of Jacob’s trouble Jer 30:7
ii. The seventieth week of Daniel (or part therof) Dan 9:27
iii. Jehovah’s strange work and strange act Isa 28:21
iv. The day of Israel’s calamity Deut 32:25; Obad 12-14
v. The tribulation Deut 4:30
vi. The great day of the wrath of the Lamb of God Rev 8:16-17
vii. The indignation Isa 26:20; Dan 11:36
viii.The overflowing scourge Isa 28:15,18
ix. The day of vengeance Isa 34:8; 35:4; 61:2
x. The year of recompense Isa 34:8
xi. Day of gloominess, clouds, thick darkness Zeph 1:15; Joel 2:2
xii. The time of trouble Dan 12:1; Zeph 1:15
xiii.Day of wrath, distress, wasteness, desolation and darkness Zeph 1:15
xiv.Day of darkness Amos 5:18,20; Joel 2:2
xv. Day of the trumpet and alarm Zeph 1:16
xvi.Day of clouds Rev 14:10,19; 15:1,7; 16:1
xvii. Hour of trial Rev 3:10
xviii. The day of the Lord 1 Thess 5:2
xix.The wrath to come 1 Thess 1:10
xx. The Wrath 1 Thess 5:9; Rev 11:19
xxi.The Great Tribulation Matt 24:21; Rev 2:22; 7:14
xxii. The Tribulation Matt 24:29
xxiii. The Hour of judgement Rev 14:7
The following are some of the characteristics also described in Scripture in respect to this time:
1. It will be a time of tribulation such as never has been since the foundation of the world Matt 24:21; Daniel 12:1
2. It will be a time of fear, pestilence, war, natural disasters, famine and untold troubles (Rev 12-16)
3. During this time an individual will come to power who is the very personification of satan, he is referred to as “the man of sin”, “the antichrist”, “the beast” 2 Thess 2:3-4; Rev 13:1-7; 1 Jn 2:18)
4. The antichrist will be given 42 months (3 and one half years) where he will wield demonic authority across the earth and persecute and seek to destroy the people of God (Rev 13:5)
5. The antichrist will perform great signs and wonders and appear to rise from the dead (Rev 13; 2 Thess 2:9-12)
6. He will be accompanied by a false prophet who likewise will move in lying signs and wonders and act as a mouthpiece for the antichrist (Rev 16:13; 19:20)
Economic Meltdown and the mark of the beast
7. It will be a time of economic meltdown (Rev 18-19)
8. During this time people will be forced to receive a ‘mark’ on their hand or forehead in order to buy or sell, if the mark is not taken they will be killed (Rev 13:16-17)
The Final Battles of Armageddon and Gog & Magog
9. These final battles will take place when the antichrist and satan amass great armies to fight against those who follow God, at which time he and his armies will be destroyed by the return of Christ (Dan 11:40-45; Joel 3:9-17; Zech14:1-3; Rev 16:14-16)
10. All of these things will immediately precede the second coming of Christ (Matthew 24:29)
Will the church be kept from this time?
As noted earlier the Scriptures suggest that the church will be delivered or kept from this time of tribulation.
Such verses include:
Luke 21:34-36 "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."
Isaiah 26:20-21 “Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past. For behold, the LORD comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain.
Zephaniah 2:1-3 “Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, before the decree is issued, before the day passes like chaff, before the Lord's fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the Lord's anger comes upon you! Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord's anger.”
Revelation 3:10 “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”
Revelation 12:6 “Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.”
Depending on the stance of the interpreter some believe that portions of these Scriptures refer not to the church (who if raptured will not be present during the tribulation) but to national Israel. The key component for you and I is not necessarily the precise interpretation of the characters referred to, but rather the character of faith and devotion Jesus encourages us to develop prior to His return – one of prayer and watchfulness, and one of faith. If our focus is on these things we will be ready whenever the time demands it.
Will this occur by a literal rapture of the church prior to these events, or are the Scriptures talking about preservation during the events of the tribulation?
Some believe that the entire church will be raptured prior to this period and not experience any of the judgements about to come upon the earth.
The primary scripture this is based on is found in 1 Thess 2:2-8:
“not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.”
(2Thessalonians 2:2-8 NKJV)
Although these verses appear to state that Christ will not return until after the coming of the antichrist, and a great falling away or apostasy from the faith occur before this time, pre-tribulationists argue that the “falling away” (Greek: apsotesia) does not mean a metaphorical departure from the faith, but a physical ‘departure’ or ‘snatching away’ from the earth by means of the rapture.
Furthermore, they argue that ‘he who now restrains’, preventing the manifestation of the evil one, is the Holy Spirit in the church. The argument is that the antichrist cannot be revealed until the church is “taken out of the way”. With the salt and light removed the path is opened for the overflowing of abominations and gross darkness.