The Tribulation: Nature and Purposes
By Nathan Jones
What is the nature of the Tribulation?
(Note: This and other questions sent in to Lamb & Lion Ministries about the Tribulation were answered by Dr. David Reagan, Nathan Jones, and Tim Moore on our television program Christ in Prophecy.)
Tim Moore: The Tribulation as the Bible describes it is a seven-year period of time when the Lord’s wrath will be poured out upon the earth. It has specific purposes both for the Jewish people and for the Gentiles. This is not a time period when we expect the Church to even be here, for it’s an outpouring of wrath upon those who have rejected the offer of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Dr. Reagan: When speaking about the Tribulation, I often get from people a follow-up question: “Why do you guys in Bible prophecy spend so much time talking about the Tribulation as it’s such a gory, horrible thing? Why don’t you talk about something positive?”
Let me give famed Left Behind author Tim LaHaye’s response to this:
“The Tribulation receives more space in the Bible than any other historical period described, whether it be past or future. Compare, for example, the period known as the Millennial Kingdom. We would be hard-pressed to find a dozen chapters in the Bible that describe this incredible thousand-year period. And yet, the short seven-year Tribulation is mentioned 49 times in the Old Testament, given two chapters each in both Matthew and Luke, and one chapter in Mark, and it’s mentioned in 1 and 2 Thessalonians and 13 chapters in the book of Revelation among others. In fact, the only subject in the New Testament that is given more space than the Tribulation is the subject of Jesus Himself.”
Tim Moore: Wow! That is a demonstration of God’s love. Before God pours out His wrath, in His mercy, He always warns. That is exactly why God has warned the whole world that He intends to pour out judgment on those who have rejected His offer of salvation. That’s why there is so much space given in Scripture to warning the world that the Tribulation is coming. And, that’s the reason why Bible prophecy teachers talk so much about the Tribulation as well.
Dr. Reagan: The importance God puts on letting the world know about the Tribulation certainly justifies us spending a lot of time talking about it, especially when you have that much of the Bible devoted to the topic.
What are the purposes of the Tribulation?
Nathan Jones: The Tribulation is God’s victory lap, if you think about it like that. We have thousands of years of human government failing mankind. Human government cannot keep war, poverty, hunger, and disease at bay. It’s often corrupt and it can be vile. And yet, God promised to the prophet Daniel that one day a stone not cut out by human hands would destroy the statue of Gentile world government and would then fill the whole world. God was foretelling about His Son’s Kingdom. Jesus’ kingdom of peace, righteousness, and justice will be established. But first, Jesus has to destroy the Gentile powers. And, that’s what the Tribulation in part accomplishes.
There are a number of other purposes as well. Tim touched on a few. I’d go back to what I was saying, that one of the main reasons for the Tribulation is for the Lord to come and defeat the Gentile world rulers and human governments in order to set up His Kingdom. To accomplish bringing an end to fallen human government, the world will have to go through these seven horrific years, just as was told to the prophets. So, one purpose includes Jesus returning to set up His Kingdom and another purpose is also for destroying the Gentile world powers.
Other reasons for the Tribulation exist as well, reasons like for instance bringing salvation to the world. What a wondrous act of mercy God will perform during the Tribulation. The Lord in putting the world under a pressure cooker, so to speak, forces the rebellious people to get down on their knees and finally make a decision for Christ or not. As a matter of fact, we know that by the end of the Tribulation every person will have been given the Gospel so that all people will be without excuse. They will all know about Jesus and so must choose Him or not. What a blessing from God among all that horrific judgment!
Dr. Reagan: You’ve put a lot of emphasis on God pouring out His wrath upon rebellious Gentile nations in trying to bring people to repentance. True, the fundamental purpose really is not to pour out His wrath just to punish people, but to pour out His wrath in order to bring people to the end of themselves so that they might be saved. We know that most will not accept Jesus. Tragically, they will double up their fists and curse God instead of accepting Christ’s salvation.
Nathan Jones: Unfortunately, yes. More will die in rebellion that those who will accept salvation, but the numbers of those getting saved will still be quite significant, virtually uncountable.
Dr. Reagan: I consider the most important purpose of the Tribulation to be about the Jewish people.
Tim Moore: Obviously much of the Old Testament focuses on God bringing the Jewish people into a time of great distress. Why? Because they have rejected His Son as their Messiah. But, God’s goal is to actually lead a remnant of the Jewish people to salvation. Scripture tells us that a number of Jewish people will come to accept Jesus Christ as Messiah. They will be ready to look upon Him whom they have pierced and join with other Gentile believers in rejoicing when Jesus returns to the earth.
Dr. Reagan: The Tribulation is, in fact, the Seventieth Week of Daniel, meaning the last week of Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy. In that prophecy, God said He was going to accomplish six things among the Jewish people. Most people agree that He’s only accomplished one of those and that is the atonement for their iniquity, but the other five are yet to be achieved, and they are going to be achieved during this final seven-year period of time.
Nathan Jones: That’s why the prophets, both Minor and Major, called the Tribulation “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7).
Dr. Reagan: Daniel also called it a “time of great distress” for the Jewish people.
Nathan Jones: We know the Tribulation as “the Day of the Lord” and “the Day of God’s Wrath.” It will be the absolute worst time for the Jewish people when the whole world will be gathered against them in a second holocaust. We live in a time period when the Jewish people are now being gathered back to their land and they’re finally back in control of Jerusalem. They’re gathering in one place — Israel — where they will be tried by the fire of the Antichrist and his world forces.
Tim Moore: Jesus prophesied that it would be a time of unprecedented tribulation, not only for the Jewish people but for the entire world.
Dr. Reagan: How true. The only event we have to compare with the Tribulation is Noah’s Flood. But, think about the fact that the Flood was over very quickly, people drowned, and that was it. But, the Tribulation is going to be agony and horror for seven consecutive years.
In the second segment of answering questions about the Tribulation, the Christ in Prophecy team will explore how the goodness of God could also bring judgment upon the earth.