In his messages to the seven churches, John the Apostle warned his hearers of an “hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev. 3: 10). This same event is also mentioned in Rev. 2: 22 and Rev. 7: 14. It describes a period of worldwide “travail” which shall ensue immediately before the “birth” of Israel; that is, of the First Resurrection. It marks the last period of the “sixth day” which will end in the worldwide Kingdom of Christ, when all secular world power shall be put away and the kingdoms of this world be given to God (Dan. 2: 44; cf. Rev. 11: 15; Zech. 14: 9; Haggai 2: 21-22).
While some students consider this tribulation as having been fulfilled in the events of the Jewish War (A.D. 67-70) a better acquaintance with the Old Testament prophets shows this to be impossible. As I wrote in my last article, it is abundantly witnessed in the prophetic writings of both the Old and New Testaments, that the time of tribulation occurs when a personal Antichrist is governing the earth. This Antichrist is mentioned in the Old Testament books, sometimes under the guise of Antiochus Epiphanes (Dan. 8: 23-25; 11: 21-45), but more often as Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon (Isaiah 10, 13, 14; Jeremiah 50, 51; Daniel 4). It is he who shall oppress Israel during the last three-and-a-half years of the present age.
The period of his tyrannical reign is described as “great tribulation” and “a time of trouble” (Dan. 12: 1). If we go back to Matthew 24, and hear our Lord’s own words, we’ll find out when this tribulation begins. Christ says: “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand): then let them which be in the Judea flee into the mountains […] For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24: 15-16, 21).
In mentioning the “abomination of desolation,” the Lord is making reference to Daniel 11: 31, which describes the infamies of Antiochus: “And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.” A close comparison of Daniel 11 & 12 would inform us that the antitypical event marks the beginning of the “time, times, and a half,” or three-and-a-half years, during which “many shall be purified, and made white, and tried” (Dan. 12: 10). This period of the tribulation will end in the coming of Christ and the First Resurrection, when “many of them [not “all”] that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12: 2).
Also, the coming of Christ takes place at a time when Antichrist is sitting in the temple, boasting himself that he is God (2 Thess. 2: 3-8). Paul must have viewed this as a fulfillment of the inspired predictions of Isaiah, who foresaw the “king of Babylon” saying, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will also sit upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14: 13-14). Compare also with Daniel 11: 45: “And he [Antichrist] shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.” Thus, when Christ comes, there shall be a personal Antichrist occupying the Jewish temple.
But before the Lord returns there shall be a period of “great tribulation.” Antichrist will ally himself with apostate Jews to persecute those who keep the holy covenant (Daniel 11: 30, 32). It is probably this apostate element that represents the “false prophet” of Revelation 13: 11. The false prophet will command an image of Antichrist to be placed in the temple, and will cause all to bow down to worship him (Rev. 13: 15). The “beast” is Antichrist, the revival of Antiochus Epiphanes, whose deadly wound is healed. After gaining prominence through flatteries and deceitful tactics (Dan. 11: 21-24), he shall oppress and persecute the people of God during forty-two months (Rev. 13: 5)–exactly three-and-a-half years, or a “time, times, and a half.” This is the time of great tribulation.
In His Olivet Discourse, Christ prophesies unto the Jews (“this generation”) that at what time they see the abomination of desolation they are to flee. “For,” He says, “For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled” (Luke 21: 22). The predictions of Matthew 24 and Luke 21 are tied together by Daniel 11, which places the abomination of desolation in the midst of great national upheaval, when “they that understand and instruct many” shall “fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days” (Daniel 11: 33). During this time Jerusalem will be surrounded with armies (Luke 21: 20) and “this people” (the Jews) “shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem will be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21: 24).
Zechariah tells is that when all nations are gathered against Jerusalem to battle, “the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city” (Zech. 14: 2). He also writes: “And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God” (Zech. 13: 8-9; cf. Dan. 11: 35, 12: 10; Amos 9: 9-10).
These verses are very important, as they predict the conversion and salvation of the Jewish people. Remember that Christ told the Jews: “Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 23: 39). Hence the Jewish nation must repent before Christ returns. It is the Great Tribulation that will issue in this repentance & conversion. The timing is when all nations are gathered against Jerusalem. When the Jews repent, Christ will come, and the heathen will be destroyed (Zech. 12: 9 ff., 14: 3). Then the horns of the Gentiles will be cast out (Zech. 1: 20-21), and the kingdom restored to Israel (Micah 4: 8; Matt. 19: 28).
The Jewish salvation is also mentioned by Isaiah: “A voice of noise from city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the Lord which rendereth recompense to His enemies. Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children” (Isaiah 66: 6-8). Now take a look at Revelation 12: 1-5, and you’ll find this same vision being fulfilled. The first-fruits of the Jewish conversion occur immediately before the three-and-a-half year Tribulation. These first-fruits are represented by the 144,000 sealed Jews (Rev. 7: 4-8; 14: 4). The sealing takes place before the Tribulation commences.
These are the faithful witnesses who, like the Maccabees, shall “be strong, and do exploits” (Dan. 11: 32) during the tribulation period. These have God’s name in their forehead (Rev. 14: 1). They are distinct from the wicked apostate Jews who carry the mark of the beast, and help forward the persecution of the saints. They are also distinct from the “great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” who likewise go through great tribulation (Rev. 7: 9-17).
This imagery helps fix the true nature of the tribulation. It focal point is the city of Jerusalem. However, due to Antichrist’s supremacy over the Gentile world-governments, it shall also extend throughout the world. “This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all nations” (Isaiah 14: 26). World peace will come only after Antichrist is destroyed and Israel redeemed to God (Isaiah 14: 1-7). When once the beast and false prophet are “taken and cast alive into the lake of fire” (Rev. 19: 20) and Jesus Christ sits upon the throne of David, the Millennial blessings will commence. This is the “blessed hope” to which all Christians daily look forward. Maranatha!