The Tribulation


John Hoole – June 17, 2012





How many of you here today are able to keep up with all the technological changes that have taken place in the last 2 or 3 years.  The world is changing every day.  I am no geek, but I do subscribe to a number of computer and technology magazines, and receive, almost daily, a number of e-mails from technology sites on the web.


For instance, did you know they have now created a plastic that will heal itself if damaged.  When humans get hurt they bleed.  It’s nature’s way of telling us something is wrong and we need to be careful with that area of our body until it heals.  Now that same process has been used to create a self-healing plastic material that informs us visually when it has been damaged.The new material has been developed by a research team headed up by Professor Marek Urban at the University of Southern Mississippi.  When damaged, the clear plastic turns red, demonstrating where and how extensive the damage is.  The healing takes place when the damage is exposed to sunlight or significant temperature change.  The surface of the damaged area will return to exactly the way it was prior to being damaged.


Rapid Technological Changes


Did you know:


•  There are 240 million TV’s in the United States.  2 million are in bathrooms.


•  More video was uploaded to YouTube in the last two months than if ABC, NBC & CBS had been airing new content 24/7/365 since 1948.


•  Wikipedia launched in 2001.  It now features over 13 million articles in 200 different languages.


•  The top ten in-demand jobs in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004.


•  We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist using technologies that have not yet been invented in order to solve problem we don’t even know are problems yet.


•  One out of every 8 couples to get married today met online.


•  The number 1 ranked country in Broadband Internet Penetration is BERMUDA.  U.S. is #19,


•  The first commercial text message was sent in December 1991.


•  Today, the number of sent and received text messages every day exceeds the total population of the earth.


•  In 2010 the amount of new technical information was doubling every two years.


•  That means that a student just entering a 4 year technical degree, half of what they learned in their first year of school will already be outdated by their third year of study.


Every new technological advance seems to hurtle us further into the future.  Emerging trends pass us by before we can even comprehend them.  The world of tomorrow looks less and less like the world of yesterday with every passing day.  Before we can catch our collective breath, we are hurried on to the next series of events of our future.


New technology used to catch us unprepared to deal with it.  For instance, the telephone was invented in 1876, but it wasn’t until 1929 that President Hoover had one installed in the Oval Office at the White House.  Today, we can’t wait to get our hands on the latest innovation.  We grab every new gadget that comes along and reorder our lives to accommodate it.  The cell phone alone has revolutionized how we work and play.  We can attend a program put on by our grandchildren, and still send or receive a text message to/from someone at your work place.


It seems that ours is a generation blinded by the speed of its own journey.  We are so busy that we don’t want to stop and ask ourselves “where, exactly, are we going?”  We are caught in the rapid-fire pace of the moment and give little thought to the question of what is really happening to us.  We are riding the roller coaster of human existence.


Many people believe we are living in the last days.  And I am not talking about theologians, but political and economic experts.  The technology has occurred at such a pace that it has outpaced our ability to control it.  Rogue nations, like Iran, North Korea and others, cause some leaders to believe the world has become a powder keg, and humankind just might not survive another century.


Our world has spawned scientific and technological giants but produced spiritual pygmies.  While some political and economic experts forecast the possible end to this world as we know it, the Bible tells us this world still has a fairly lengthy future – a minimum of 1,007 years.  And the Bible tells us that the majority of those years will be peaceful, with the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ Himself, ruling the world.  But before it get better, it will first go through a period that is so much worse.


Over the last few months, we have looked at what the Bible says about the Rapture of the Church.  We examined all of the various positions held by Christians about this momentous event.  We throw around major Rapture positions called Pre-Trib., Mid-Trib. and Post-Trib.  Just what is this TRIB. thing?


This future period of time is most recognized by the name, THE TRIBULATION.  It is also identified in the Bible by other names, which we will look at later.


As we learned in an earlier lesson, all Christians can expect a certain amount of tribulation, persecution and anguish during their lifetime.  But such general tribulation is to be distinguished from the Tribulation period of the future.  This period of great distress, judgment and godly wrath is so unlike anything before it.  Not only will the intensity level of tribulation be beyond anything we might imagine, it will also extend its impact to include the entire earth.  So, let’s investigate what the Bible tells us about this thing called, THE TRIBULATION.


We learned from our recent two-part lesson on the overview of the book of Revelation, that the majority of its message deals with this very period of time.  Chapters 6 through 19 – more than two-thirds of the book – give us many details of this period.  But there are a large number of other passages, in both Old and New Testaments, that present additional information of the future Tribulation.  One of those is Matthew 24.


Jesus summed up the effect of all these calamities and distress in Matthew 24:21.


         For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.


To emphasize its appalling nature, Jesus goes on to predict that the calamities and terrifying days would have to be curtailed, or else no flesh would remain alive (Verse 22).


Christ was speaking about a time of Tribulation (with a capital “T”) which was yet future.  It is still future from where we sit in history today.  He said the Tribulation will be of greater intensity than anything this world has ever seen.  He also added that it will be worse than anything that would follow it as well.


Many prophets, in both the Old and New Testaments, speak about this period of time.  No other event is the Bible, except perhaps the Second Comings itself, is mentioned more frequently than the Tribulation.  There is seemingly no end to the astonishing events that will characterize this awful period.  We will take note of some of them later.


There are four other passages that are very similar to the one we read a moment ago in Matthew 24.  They also speak of a time of extreme tribulation and calamity that will be far more severe than any other period in history.  It will become such a terrible holocaust because it combines the wrath of God,  the fury of Satan, and the evil nature of man run wild.


Let’s look at these other 4 passages.


Mark 13:19 (NIV) records Marks account of the same statement by Christ recorded in Matthew.


19     because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now-and never to be equaled again.


Jesus wasn’t the only one to predict that cataclysmic events would occur at the end of the world as we know it.  The other three passages are found in the Old Testament.


Back in the Old Testament, around 538 B.C., the prophet Daniel had visions concerning how the world was going to end.


Dan 12:1 NIV


1       At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then.


Daniel’s prophecies include some of the same sort of disasters which Jesus spoke about.


         •        The earth will be severely damaged by natural and man-made and God-made disasters.


         •        There will be earthquakes, disease, and warfare.


         •        Humanity will be on the verge of extinction.


Daniel’s prophecies, along with the statements of Jesus and the Book of Revelation, form the foundation of what we know about the tribulation.  And it is Daniel who reveals to us how long the Tribulation will last.


Let’s look at the other two Old Testament Passages which spells out, like Christ and Daniel, a time of great and frequent catastrophes, that no other is like it in the history of the world.


Joel 2:1-2 NIV


1       Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand-  

2       a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come.


Jeremiah 30:1-7 NIV


1       This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:

2       "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: `Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you.

3       The days are coming,' declares the LORD, `when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess,' says the LORD."


Jeremiah speaks of a time when the Jews will be back in their land.  He goes on in verses 4 & 5 to tell of a time when the people would be trembling with fear and where there would be no peace.


This time of trouble will be so intense that it is likened to a mother experiencing travail in childbirth.  Then, in verse 7, it says: How awful that day will be! None will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it.


This passage in Jeremiah definitely places this Tribulation AFTER the return of the Jews to their land.  None of these verses could have been speaking about 70 AD or Hitler’s holocaust or any prior Jewish persecution.  That is because the Jews had not yet been restored and in control of their own land.


I have read each of these five Passages to make this point: There cannot be two events in human history which are more terrible than any before or after it.  For that reason, each of these verses must be speaking about the same event.  The Tribulation is going to be the worst time in the history of the earth.


Of the many dozens of events of the Tribulation, that are detailed throughout the Bible, two of them will result in the death of one-half of the world’s population.  Today there are 7.0 Billion people living on planet earth.  Let’s assume 600 million of those living will rise to meet Christ in the air.  It may be more than that, but that makes our calculating these two events quick and easy.  That leaves 6.4 Billion non-Christians on earth.


Notice what Revelation 6:7-8 (NKJV) tells us


7       When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, "Come and see."

8       So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.


One fourth of the world’s 6.4 billion people will be killed.  That’s 1.6 billion.


Revelation 9:14-18 NIV


14     It (A loud voice from the golden altar) said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates."

15     And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind.


18     A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths.


One third of the remaining population will be killed.  That amounts to another 1.6 billion people.


These are but two of the many judgments to occur during the Tribulation.  As mankind is left alone to his own devices, and without restraint, conditions on this earth will continually and quickly degenerate.


Take the horrors of every war since time began.  Then throw in every natural disaster recorded in history, and cast off all restraint so that unspeakable cruelty and hatred and injustice of man toward his fellow men can fully mature, then compress it into a period of just 7 years.  Even if you could imagine such a thing, it wouldn’t approach the mind-boggling terror and turmoil of the Tribulation.




1.      The Day of the Lord (31 times).  This title is used more frequently than any other.

(See for example: Isaiah 2:12;  13:6, 9;  Ezekiel 13:5, 30:3;  Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14.

Amos 5:18, 10;  Obadiah 15;  Zephaniah 1:7, 14;  Zech. 14:1;  Malachi 4:5;  Acts  2:20;    1 Thess. 5:2;  2 Thess 2:2;  2 Peter 3:10)


2.      The day of God’s vengeance                          Isaiah 34:8;  63:1-6


3.      The Time of Jacob’s Troubles                        Jeremiah 30:7


4.      The 70th week of Daniel                                Daniel 9:24-27


5.      The day of Israel’s calamity                            Deut. 32:35;  Obadiah 12-14


6.      The time of the end.                                       Daniel 12:9


7.      The great day of His wrath                             Revelation 6:17


8.      The Day of Wrath                                          Zephaniah 1:15


9.      The hour of his judgment                                 Revelation 14:7


10.    The end of this world                                      Matthew 23:40, 49


11.    The hour of Trial                                             Revelation 3:10


12.    The indignation                                                Isaiah 26:20-21;  34:2;  Daniel 11:36


13.    The overspreading of abomination                   Daniel 9:27


14.    The time of trouble such that never was           Daniel 12:1


15.    The Tribulation                                               Matthew 24:21, 29


It appears to me that the last title – the tribulation – very adequately describes the entirety of this period of time under discussion today.  Therefore, it will most often be referred to as the Tribulation.






Fortunately, we are able to pinpoint the exact spot from the words of Jesus Himself in the Olivet Discourse.


Matthew 24:29-30 NKJV


29     "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

30     Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.


It should be obvious the Tribulation must occur immediately before the second coming of Christ.  This location in time was echoed or confirmed by the apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2.  In the first 10 verses, Paul predicts that the coming of Christ to earth will not occur until the “man of sin … the son of perdition” is revealed, and that Christ will “consume [him] with the breath of His mouth and destroy him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him with the brightness of His coming.”




                   1.      Satan


                   2.      Antichrist


                   3.      False Prophet


                   4.      144,000 Jewish evangelists


                   5.      The 2 Witnesses in Jerusalem


                   6.      The Nation of Israel


                   7.      The Revived Roman Empire (EC)


                   8.      4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse


                   9.      Martyred Christians.


                   10.    Michael


                   11.    3 Angels


                   12     Bride of Christ


                   13.    Christ


For a moment I want to focus on three of these characters: Satan, the Antichrist and the False Prophet.  Satan is a master at imitating the things of God.  Way back before his prideful fall, He said “I will be like the Most High.”


What we have, embodied in these three – Satan, the Antichrist and the False Prophet – is a clever counterfeit of the Holy Trinity.  I will say more about these impersonations, and other Satanic counterfeits, in a future lesson.




1.      Setting up of the super, false, apostate church


2.      The appearance of the Antichrist and the False Prophet                           Revelation 13


3.      Revival of the Roman Empire – 10 nations united by Antichrist                Daniel 2 & 7


4.      Treaty between the Antichrist and Israel                                                  Daniel 9:27


5.      Opening of the 7 Seals of judgment                                                         Revelation 6


6.      Conversion of the 144,000 Jews                                                             Revelation 7:1-4


7.      Rebuilding of the Jewish Temple                                                              Ezekiel 40,  Matt. 24:15


8.      Ministry of the two witnesses and their death                                            Revelation 11:3-13


9.      The alignment of nations                                                                           Ezekiel 38


10.    Satan is cast out of heaven                                                                       Revelation 12


11.    Persecution of the Jews and their flight into the wilderness                         Revelation 12:6, 13, 14; 

                                                                                                                                                    Matthew 24:15-21

12.    The institution of the Mark of the Beast                                                     Revelation 13:16-18


13.    The blowing of the 7 trumpets                                                                   Revelation 8:7 – 11:15


14.    Special messages by 3 angels                                                                    Revelation 14:6-12


15.    Pouring out of the 7 Vials (Bowls) of judgment                                           Revelation 15 & 16


16.    World’s worst earthquake                                                                         Revelation 16:18-21


17.    The fall of Babylon                                                                                     Revelation 17 & 18


18.    The Battle of Armageddon                                                                         Revelation 16:16,  19:11-21


No wonder that Jesus said the tribulation will be totally unique from anything that has ever happened or would happen again.






There is only one book of the Bible that will answer these questions – Daniel.


Daniel 9:27


27     Then He (the Antichrist) shall confirm a covenant with many for one week.  But in the middle of the week, he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.


When the prophesied time arrives for the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week, it will be a simple thing to discern its beginning.  It will be marked by the moment the “coming prince” (i.e., the Antichrist) confirms a treaty with the leadership of Israel that is to last 7 years.


Not only does the book of Daniel reveal the length of the period, it also reveals its two major divisions of equal length.  He gives us the specific events that signal the beginning, middle and the end of this period.  The middle of the treaty period is marked by the Antichrist breaking the covenant.  And, as we read earlier in Matthew 24, the period ends with the 2nd Coming of Christ.  Let me insert here that it is always beneficial to study Revelation and Daniel together.


This past week, I was online reading and searching the Babylonian Talmud.  The TALMUD is a central text of mainstream Judaism.  It is a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, and history.  There are two primary records comprising most of the Talmud.  They are the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud.  The Babylonian Talmud doesn’t mean that Babylonians wrote it.  Rather, it was written by Jewish rabbis while in exile in Babylon.


I was searching in the Babylonian Talmud because I remembered some statements in it, but could not remember the quotes.  The Babylonian Talmud states:


“Our Rabbis taught:  In the seven-year cycle at the end of which the son of David will come…… at the conclusion of the septennate the son of David will come” (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin, 97a).


Raphael Patai, a Hungarian-born Jew, wrote a book on all the Old Testament Messianic Texts.


He writes: “The idea became entrenched that the coming of the Messiah will be preceded by greatly increased suffering……This will last seven years.  And then, unexpectedly, the Messiah will come.” (Messianic Texts, 1989, pp 95-96).


In another section of the Babylonian Talmud, we find:


“The advent of the Messiah was pictured as being preceded by years of great distress” (Babylonian Talmud Shabbath, 118a).


The Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as other ancient documents, called the severe troubles of the seven years prior to the Messiah’s coming, “the birth pangs of the Messiah.”


Millar Burrows pointed this out in his book on the Dead Sea Scrolls:


“A prominent feature of Jewish eschatology, as represented especially by the rabbinic literature, was the time of trouble preceding Messiah’s coming.  It was called……sometimes more briefly … as ‘the Messianic woes.”


Again, from the Babylonian Talmud:


The future troubles were called “the birth pangs of the Messiah.”  Why, because travail precedes birth, and this travail ‘precedes the birth of a new era.”


Renald Showers, in his book, MARANATHA, writes, “Some rabbis have taught that the Messiah will not come until the birth pangs become so severe that the Jews will ‘despair of the Redemption … when, as it were, Israel will have neither supporter nor helper.’ ”


Showers also writes that some of the rabbis wrote they wished not to be alive when the Messiah comes, because of the severe pain that will precede it.


The concept of birth pangs has played a significant role in the content of Scripture as well.  The Bible includes several samples of the use of this or related words.  Job 21:17 says “God distributes sorrows” (“Sorrows” is a translation of the Hebrew word for travail or pangs).  The wicked people of Israel and Jerusalem (Isa. 26:17-18) went through pangs sent by God.  These pangs of travail also came upon:


                   •  Babylon – Isaiah 13:8; Jeremiah 50:43).


                   •  Damascus – Jeremiah 49:24


                   •  Moab – Jeremiah 48:41


                   •  Edom – Jeremiah 49:22


                   •  Nineveh – Nahum 2:10


All of these experienced birth pangs, travail.  And the common denominator of these passages indicate that these birth pangs were associated with God’s purposed judgment, wrath, and fierce anger on these people.


Not only have birth pangs of judgment occurred in the past.  They are prophesied to occur in the future, in the end of days.  But the past judgments will hold no candle to that which is yet future.  A day is coming on this earth when the worst traumas of history will be eclipsed by a period of time that will be far more terrifying and horrific than anything man can imagine.


The doctrine of the Tribulation begins in the Old Testament.  The Old Testament often refers to Israel’s “last days” or “latter days.”


Deuteronomy 4:30-31 NKJV


30     When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the Lord your God and obey His voice

31     (for the Lord your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them.


The prophets often used be’aharit hayyamim for the Tribulation.  It is used in the verses we just read and is translated “latter days.”


Daniel 10:14 KJV


14     Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days.


                   The same Hebrew phrase, be’aharit hayyamim is used.


Another Old Testament phrase used to denote the future Tribulation is the “day of the LORD.”  This phrase is used several dozen times.  While it usually is speaking of the Tribulation, it is sometimes expanded to include the Millennium.


The thought that this world will get much worse before it gets better is no recent Scriptural interpretation.  Jesus warned His disciples that in the last days there would be “great tribulation.”  The disciples were not unfamiliar with this prophesied time of anguish.  This concept played a significant role in ancient Judaism and the Bible.  Ancient Judaism taught that a seven-year period of time will immediately precede the Messiah’s coming to rule the world.


Let’s look at a few verses which speak of the conditions on the earth during the Tribulation.  Where possible, I will relate both Old and New Testament Passages which seem to address very similar conditions.


Isaiah 13:6-7, 10-11 NIV


6       Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.  

7       Because of this, all hands will go limp, every man's heart will melt.


10     The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.

11     I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.


Compare this with Revelation 6:12. NIV


12     I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red,


Isaiah 2:19 NIV


19     Men will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the LORD ……when he rises to shake the earth.


Compare this with Revelation 6:15-16. NIV


15     Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.

16     They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!


Isaiah 34:2-4 NIV


2       The LORD is angry with all nations; his wrath is upon all their armies. He will totally destroy them, he will give them over to slaughter.

3       Their slain will be thrown out, their dead bodies will send up a stench; the mountains will be soaked with their blood.

4       All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll……


Compare this with two Passages in the New Testament.


2 Peter 3:10 NKJV


10     But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.


Revelation 6:14 NKJV


14     Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.


Let me now give you a few more verses from the Old Testament which speak about the condition during the Tribulation.


Isaiah 24:1 NIV


1       See, the LORD is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants--


         Verses 19-20


19     The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is thoroughly shaken.

20     The earth reels like a drunkard……


Jeremiah 25:32-33 NIV


32     This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Look! Disaster is spreading from nation to nation; a mighty storm is rising from the ends of the earth."

33     At that time those slain by the LORD will be everywhere--from one end of the earth to the other. They will not be mourned or gathered up or buried, but will be like refuse lying on the ground.


Zephaniah 1:12-15 NIV


12     At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, `The LORD will do nothing, either good or bad.'

13     Their wealth will be plundered, their houses demolished. They will build houses but not live in them; they will plant vineyards but not drink the wine.

14     "The great day of the LORD is near- near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there.

15     That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness,


These are but some of the conditions of the Tribulation time.  The Bible has a great deal to say about this period of time in both the Old and New Testament.  But much of the details about the Tribulation is found in Revelation.  In this Book, John recounts the vision which God gave him about the end of the world.  Chapters 4 – 19 contain very detailed and specific predictions of the Tribulation.


The New Testament builds upon the Old Testament.  The first extended passage in the New Testament dealing with the Tribulation is what is known more commonly as the Olivet Discourse – Matthew 24 & 25.


When Christ spoke of the future Tribulation, He also echoed the Old Testament, by also referring to it as “birth pangs.”  Let’s read how Jesus describes it in Matthew 24.




Human history has been filled with personal, national and international tragedy.  Every century, every empire, and every era has seen multiple manifestations of man’s original sin.  Passages of biblical prophecy (and other portions of Scripture), clearly teach that the future will bring a specific period of chaos and judgment.  This Tribulation period will be both intense and global.  This period will last for 7 years and will culminate in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to establish His millennial kingdom and reign on this earth.


This Tribulation will follow the Rapture of the Church of Christ.  However, the fact we will not enter the Tribulation does not alleviate us of our daily responsibilities, evangelism, discipleship, or holy living.  Tribulation is certain, but so is triumph.  In the meantime, we are called to evangelize the lost and edify the saints.