THE GREAT TRIBULATION
THE GREAT TRIBULATION
THE SOURCE OF THE TRIBULATION
The reader is urged to read carefully Matthew 24:16—22, paying special attention to verse 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.”
This chapter which is well known to students of Bible Prophecy is commonly known as “The Olivet Discourse”, because it was delivered by our Lord as He sat upon the Mount of Olives - Vs.3.
The occasion of the discourse was a three—fold question directed to Jesus by His disciples: “. .tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world (Age)?”
In answering the three—fold question, Jesus gave His disciples — and hence all believers — some very minute details concerning the end of the Jewish Age, otherwise known to students of Bible Prophecy as the Seventieth Week of Daniel.
This “Week” we believe will be a “week of years”, thus the entire period will be seven years in length. Now in the course of describing this period of time which is yet to come upon the earth, our Lord predicted that the last three and one half years would be characterized by calamities, plagues, and human suffering such as the world has never seen before, and which it will never see again. This coming day of worldwide calamities and judgments from God is called The Tribulation, and the last half Is known to students of Bible Prophecy as The Great Tribulation.
This title The Great Tribulation is not one that was chosen by expositors arbitrarily; for our attention is immediately caught in Vs.21 by those very words “great tribulation.” The English word “tribulation” comes from the Latin word tribulato meaning “a threshing instrument”, and is a perfect word for translating the two Greek words thlibo and thlipsis, which are so often employed in the same sense in the Greek New Testament. These words occur a total of fifty six times in the New Testament, having such meanings as “to crowd, press; to oppress, afflict; to be under pressure; to be distressed, troubled, afflicted; to be in anguish of heart and mind.”
In the English Bible, these words are translated in a variety of ways, such as “affliction” twenty one times, “trouble” six times, “tribulation” twenty—two times, “angu— anguish" one time, “narrow” one time, and “throng” one time.
Some of the occurrences of these words refer to the general persecutions, afflictions, and tribulations to which believers are subject In every generation.
- “tribulations because of the world (Matt.13:21)
- “in the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33)
- “Tribulation worketh patience (Rom.5:3)
On the other hand, in some passages of Scripture, these words undoubtedly refer to a definite, specific, and future period of time which is yet to come upon the world.
- “. .and there shall be a time of trouble such as
never was since there was a nation...” (Dan.12:l)
- “. .for in those days shall be affliction (thlipsis, or “tribulation”) such as was not since the beginning of creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.” (Mark 13:19)
- “. .these are they which came out of great tribulation (Literally: “which came out of tribulation, even the great one”) and have washed their robes...” (Rev.7:14)
Some expositors and Bible teachers who do not accept the Premillennial and Pretribulational view with regard to the Second Coming of Christ, often seek to deny the fact of a coming period of time such as that described in the above verses. They insist that Christians have always been subjected to persecutions and tribulations, and that these verses are to be understood as referring to those common sufferings to which all God’s people are appointed, and nothing more.
Of course we readily acknowledge that believers are called upon to suffer for their testimony in every age; but at the same time, we also insist that the Bible in many places clearly predicts a future period of time, in which the anger of Satan and his followers will reach an apex, and will thus result in suffering, death, slaughter, blood-shed, and martyrdom, which has never been matched before.
That period of time is so explicitly described in so many Bible passages that we take a firm stand on Scriptural ground, and declare that there will yet occur a terrible time of world—wide anguish and suffering which we have every right to call “The Great Tribulation”.
In discussing The Tribulation, the question is often raised as to the source of the sufferings and calamities which will characterize the period. Will the plagues and calamities be due to natural causes, such as nature on the rampage, floods, famines, earthquakes, droughts, etc.? Will they be “man-made” by natural human cruelty? Or will they be due only to Divine punishments which will be poured out from heaven? The answer which best conforms to Scripture language is, the world-wide upheavals of The Tribulation — especially the last half - will be due primarily to direct Divine judgments, which will break out upon the earth on a scale never known before, and which will never be seen again. The source of The Tribulation sufferings will be supernatural, and not merely from natural causes.
To be sure, some of the anguish and sufferings of The Tribulation will spring from natural causes, and some of them will be due to man’s anarchy and cruelty to his fellow man. But even so, both the violent convulsions in nature, and the cruelties of men in that day will be under the control and permission of-a Sovereign God.
The events of The Tribulation will proceed according to the following Divine order:
I. THE REMOVAL OF THE “RESTRAINER”.
Read carefully the words of Paul as recorded in:
2 Thess.2:1:”Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, 2. That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the Day of Christ is at hand. 3. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away (apostasia) first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4. Who opposeth and exalt— eth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5. Remember ye not, that when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6. And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in His (God’s) time. 7. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only He Who now letteth (restraineth) will let (continue to restrain), until He be taken out of the way. 8. And then shall that Wicked (one) be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming: 9. Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power, and signs, and lying wonders. 10. And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish: because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; 12. That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
There is not a more important or more solemn passage in all the Bible than this one. It is filled with many statements of truth, all of which demand careful and thoughtful consideration.
Item: Satan works tirelessly to deceive, and to lead men astray, with regard to the future. Occultism is thriving in our day on a scale that is mind-boggling. Parapsychology is one of the most popular fields of study of the times. Many T.V. Talk Shows are featuring Parapsychologists who hypnotize subjects on camera, and send them “back” to a “former life” while they question the hypnotized subject about their “experiences” in their “previous life.”
The hypnotized subject then gives vivid accounts and descriptions about how they “lived”, how they “died”. and the manner in which they were “reincarnated”, while gullible people watch, and swallow the whole performance as being “proof” of “Reincarnation”.
Item: One of Satan’s motives in today’s deceptions is to “shake up” God’s people in their joy and steadfastness in Christ (Vs.2). Moreover he will use any means at his disposal to accomplish his purpose.
Item: The Wicked one (the antichrist) will not appear until the moral, social, spiritual, and political atmosphere is ready to receive him (Vs.3). The “Great Apostasy” must reach its ultimate stage first: then the Wicked one will be revealed.
Item: For the time being, something (or Some One) is preventing Satan from bringing the Wicked one to power (Vs. 6—8). There is considerable difference of opinion among expositors and scholars as to just what or who is restraining the rise of the Wicked one. We will discuss it later.
Item: When the Wicked one does appear, he will be energized by Satan. Consequently he will perform miracles that will dazzle the thoughtless crowd who will follow him to their own destruction (Vss.9,10).
Item: The world in general will be judicially blinded so that they will be deceived completely by the Wicked one (Vs. 11 &
We turn now to consider the question: “What or who is the “ Restrainer” of 2 Thess.2:7? This question has been sharply debated for generations; and a number of views have been set forth and strongly (if not very successfully) defended.
1. Some have held the view that the “restrainer” was The Holy Roman Empire, which indeed was enjoying great power and prestige when Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians. The Bible believer can dismiss this view quickly by recognizing that if Paul was identifying the Roman Empire as the “restrainer”, then he was in serious error, because soon after the writing of 2 Thessalonians, the Roman Empire went into national and political oblivion, and the man of sin remains yet unrevealed. No Bible believer can rest in the great fact of the verbal inspiration of the Bible, and at the same time believe in any possibility of error on the part of the Apostle.
2. Others have held the view that the “restrainer” is to be identified as human government. This view, while a little more acceptable than the first one must also be rejected, because the Apostle makes it clear that the “restrainer” is an individual, a person, rather than a system. The use of the personal pronoun “He” (Vs.7) establishes this.
Moreover other passages which describe the rise and reign of the man of sin make it clear that he will exercise his political power and authority through human government. Human government will accept him, not restrain him.
3. A third view which has been somewhat widely held is that the “restrainer” is Satan. This is a curious view to say the least, and must be immediately rejected, because it pictures Satan as working against himself. Satan may be spiritually blind, but he is not stupid.
Our Lord Himself explicitly pointed this out in:
Mark 3:23 :“And He called them unto Him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? 24. And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end!”
Satan is indeed opposed to all that is of God; but even he would not be so foolish as to work against his own interests.
But an even greater blow to the validity of this view is the fact that, in the verses that follow (Vss.9,10), Paul states emphatically that the rise of the coming man of sin will be due to the direct agency of Satan. One wonders how Satan could be the “restrainer” who hinders the rise of the antichrist, and at the same time be the agency behind the rise of said antichrist!
4. Still another view concerning the identity of the “restrainer” is that which holds it to be the Church. Now we readily grant that God has used - and is still using - the church as a restraining influence to suppress much evil; but we stress also that the church has been appointed primarily as a witness to a lost world during this Age, not as a restrainer of Satan.
5. Yet another view is that the “restrainer” is the Holy Spirit. This position is most compatible with all the Scripture passages concerning the rise of the man of sin, and the conditions which will accompany his manifestation to the world.
First: The Divine power inherent in the Holy Spirit is the only power in the world capable of withstanding the power of Satan (I John 4:4).
Second: This view harmonizes with the fact that this dispensation is the Age of the Spirit; therefore the primary exercise and display of spiritual power during this dispensation will be manifested by the Holy Spirit.
Third: The activities of Satan are manifested in all the earth, and the Holy Spirit is the only one Who can be everywhere present at all times, so as to restrain those Satanic activities.
Putting all these facts together should bring us to the obvious conclusion that The Tribulation will not and cannot begin until after the restraining power of the Holy Spirit has been removed.
Now the question arises as to just when the restraining power of the Holy Spirit will be removed. The answer is, He will be taken out simultaneously with the removal of the Church. Many students of Bible Prophecy know that this “double removal” will occur at the time of the catching away of the waiting Bride, otherwise known as “The Rapture Of The Church.”
John 14:6: “And I will pray the Father, and He will give another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever.”
It should be obvious that, since the Holy Spirit was promised to the Church as our Eternal Abider, His restraining influence and power will not be removed from the earth until the Church is caught out “to meet the Lord in the air.”
In thinking of the restraining power of the Holy Spirit over Satan, who can even imagine or describe the awful moral and spiritual conditions which will break forth upon the world when once the Holy Spirit has been removed? Satan will then have a terrible freedom and power to carry out his evil designs in the world. What evil and sinful acts men will commit! What murder and slaughter will characterize that day! What blasphemies will be heard! What unbelievable adultery and fornication will be practiced!
We are shocked every day by the moral and spiritual debauchery of our own times, but these are mere child’s play compared to that day when all moral and spiritual restraint shall be removed!
The stage will then be set for the next step in the Divine plan:
II. THE RIDING FORTH OF THE “FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE”
The inspired account of this coming event is recorded in Rev.6:1—8. As John watched the Lamb open the seals of the seven—sealed Book, the first four seals, when broken brought forth four horses, each one of a different color, and upon each horse a rider who was given specific heavenly authority.
A. The First Horseman. Rev.6:1:”And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder, one of the beasts saying, Come and see. 2.And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.”
Premillennial students of Bible Prophecy have agreed fairly closely as to the identity and significance of the second, third, and fourth horsemen. But they have differed widely as to that of the First Horseman. Two views have been about equally held by conservative expositors concerning the identity of this Horseman.
The First View: Holds that the rider on the white horse is Christ. This position is defended on a number of counts. First, the color of the horse is white, and this color in Scripture “frequently symbolizes purity and holiness”. Since Christ is holy, therefore (so the argument goes) this rider is Christ. Second, this position is further defended by stressing the fact that the rider on the white horse was given a “bow”, but no arrows. Then follows a rather involved argument in which it is inferred that the silence of the passage with regard to arrows proves the rider to be Christ, since His method is to “conquer by love” rather than by force. Third, this position is further argued by resting rather hard upon the words “and he went forth conquering, and to conquer”. The argument being: “ This undoubtedly identifies the rider as Christ, since He conquers in every realm, and in every Age.”
The writer has always felt uneasy with this view, simply because it is based entirely upon human reasoning. We are not governed by reason: we are governed by Revelation, and this is not to say that Scripture is unreasonable; but that Divine revelation is sometimes above human reasoning.
The Second Popular View: Holds the rider on the white horse to be the man of sin, the antichrist himself. Here again, this view rests upon certain “logical” arguments that are just as involved and just as ingenious as those that are used to support the previous interpretation. First, those who advocate this position insist that “white frequently symbolizes purity and holiness.” Having argued for the same meaning and symbolism for the color of the white horse, those who say that the rider on the white horse is the Antichrist, and then insist that even true holiness and purity are often counterfeited by Satan, and that in the color of the first horse, we have merely another Satanic imitation are assuming facts not in evidence in this passage.
Curiously enough, those who hold this view also think there is some significance in the silence of the passage with regard to arrows. They infer that the absence of arrows shows that when the man of sin first comes into political power, he will not exercise any show of aggression or force, but will pretend to be kind and benevolent toward Israel. They then point out that this is supported by Dan.9:27 which does establish the fact that the man of sin will enter into a covenant of peace with Israel, which he will honor for the first half of The Tribulation Week. Then in the middle of The Tribulation, the Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel, and launch the most violent persecution against the Jews which they have ever experienced.
At the risk of being branded as heretical, the writer rejects both views, and insists that there is yet another position which can be supported by the Bible itself, and which does not involve the use of human logic, and does not strain Biblical symbolism, but rests upon a sound and acceptable basis of exposition and exegesis.
But before we discuss this third view, perhaps it would be advisable to look again at both the previous positions. As to the view which holds the rider on the white horse to be Christ, we grant that white is sometimes used in the Bible to symbolize holiness and purity. However a note of caution must be sounded as to whether the color white is always a symbol of holiness or purity whenever it appears in the Bible.
Many cautious and conservative Bible expositors warn against the fallacy of what they call “the universality of symbols”. They further point out that, once a certain symbol is established in a given passage as representing a particular and specific thing, it does not necessarily follow that every occurrence of that symbolic word is to be understood as representing the same thing. For example, it is unquestionably true that the word “oil” in Scripture sometimes symbolizes the Holy Spirit. But to insist that every occurrence of the word “oil” should be understood as representing the Holy Spirit would lead the expositor into some strange ideas to say the least.
To demonstrate this, the reader is urged to look up, and read carefully the following passages, which contain references to “oil”, and notice what exegetical nonsense would be created by attempting to interpret the “oil” as being the Holy Spirit: Deut.7:13; 11:14; 14:23; 2 Kings 10:32; 2 Chron. 31:5: Joel 1:10; Matt.25:3,4,8; Mark 6:13; Luke 7:46; 10:34; James 5:14.
It should thus be quite clear that sometimes - most of the time, in fact “oil” in the Bible means oil - nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else! By the same token, we would suggest that the white color of the first horse does not necessarily symbolize holiness and purity, for the simple reason that the passage does not say so. On the other hand, the color white does signify something, since the entire passage makes it clear that the colors of the other three horses are important symbols.
What then does the color of the first horse represent? Answer: it would (in the writer’s opinion) be much more sound hermeneutically and exegetically to argue that the color of the first horse stands in direct contrast to the symbolism of the color of the second horse. Since the color red of the second horse obviously represents warfare and bloodshed, then the white of the first horse stands for the relative
peace which will characterize the first half of the Tribulation Week. It speaks of “the calm before the storm” as it were, which will disappear completely upon the breaking of the second seal.
Moreover the writer feels that the silence of the passage concerning arrows has been too zealously pressed by some expositors. To argue that this silence “proves” the rider to be Christ because He “draws men by the ‘bow’ of love, not by the “arrows of force” is eisigesis (“reading into a passage what the expositor wants it to mean”) rather than exegesis (“drawing from a passage what the writer intended it to mean”).
Furthermore it seems obvious that such an involved interpretation would not likely ever occur to the average reader unless he read it in a commentary!. If this passage was designed to show how Christ draws men by love rather than by force, why didn’t the rider on the white horse carry a bowl of honey instead of a bow?
Besides this, the symbolism of a bow is so firmly established that, the very mention of it in this passage suggests preparation for warfare during a time of relative peace. This idea will be further enlarged upon when we get to a discussion of the third view.
At the risk of laboring a point, we would say a further word about the view that the rider on the white horse represents the antichrist. This is the view of such great expositors as Clarence Larkin, M. R. DeHann, Lehman Strauss, and C.I. Schofield.
Perhaps the reader will feel that the writer is being a little more than presumptuous in daring to take a contrary view to such great men; but we must reject the view on the grounds that it too requires a certain degree of straining terms and symbols for its support.
For example, if we grant that the color white symbolizes righteousness and purity, by what contextual evidence do we flatly assert that it here represents false holiness and false purity? There is not the slightest hint of this in the verse. It seems to the writer that in order to see this meaning, the Bible reader would be required to “slip his/her imagination into overdrive”! Why not seek for an interpretation which does not require so much straining of symbols, and so much ingenuity of imagination?
At this point we will leave the discussion of the white horse and his rider until we have discussed the other three. Then we shall attempt to harmonize all four horses and their riders as to the identity and function of each.
B. The Second Horseman —The breaking of the second seal by the Lamb resulted in the riding forth of another horseman which John graphically describes as follows:
Rev.6:3:”And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. 4. And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given unto him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.”
There is little difficulty here in establishing the significance of this horse and his rider. Both the color of the horse and the actions of his rider speak of world—wide slaughter, warfare, and blood-shed. Almost every generation in human history has experienced conflict and violence somewhere on the earth; but the description recorded here seems to refer to something special- something far above and beyond the general conflicts which have so long marked the international relationships of people and nations.
This passage therefore reveals the fact that, during The tribulation Week - especially the last half - the earth will be filled with wholesale violence and conflict to a degree never before known or imagined.
C. The Third Horseman
John includes a little more detail as he describes the appearance of the third horseman”
Rev.3:5:”And when He had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo, a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. 6. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine!”
Once again the color of the horse and the actions of his rider speak of something which is not difficult to identify. Black in the Bible, when used symbolically, speaks of calamity, catastrophe, suffering. The actions of the rider, as well as the voice which speaks from the midst of the four beasts points to a time of world—wide famine and hunger. National and international hunger and suffering will naturally follow hard upon the heels of the wide-spread warfare that will break out under the previous horseman.
The awful days of The Tribulation will be marked by senseless, wanton slaughter, and by calamities of different kinds, particularly shortage of food. But this is not so strange when we consider that one of the earliest forms of Divine judgment mentioned in the Bible concerns the failure of the earth to yield her increase (Deut.28:15-68).
Moreover it is not without significance that even in these days, prior to the Rapture Of The Church, the earth seems to have become somewhat neurotic, refusing to yield her fruits without an almost endless number and variety of chemical “coaxing” such as fertilizers, plant foods, etc.
It seems that it was only yesterday when seeds thrown out the door at random would sprout and grow the very next spring; but now the seeds must be treated and improved before being deposited in the soil, and once they are planted, they must be meticulously and painstakingly cared for or they will not grow.
At the time of this writing, nutritionists, geologists, and biologists, are warning mankind that we have so polluted the earth’s ecology, that we have only a limited time to clean it up or perish!
In America alone, we are throwing away over one hundred ninety million tons of garbage a year (an average of five pounds per person per day); and by 1990 it is estimated that the amount of discarded trash and garbage will reach three hundred forty million tons annually!
If this is not bad enough, we are polluting our streams, rivers, and oceans at an almost unbelievable rate, to say nothing of the fact that we are pouring millions of tons of fly-ash per day into the air we breathe. Thus even if the Bible did not warn us of a coming world—wide famine, it should be obvious that international hunger and starvation are not far away.
It is more than a little ironic that such dire warnings should be sounded in today’s world, in the light of the boastful claims of modern science that we will one day be fully capable of so controlling the environment that we can “order” the kind of weather we would prefer for a week end of relaxation!
Such arrogant bragging will one day be thrown back into mankind’s face through the awful calamities and famines which God will pour out upon The Tribulation earth! What poetic justice that they who now use tax money to pay subsidies to encourage the world’s farmers not to plant crops, will one day gladly pay a whole day’s wages for a little wheat, or a pitifully small portion of barley.
How terrible to contemplate that the day will come when oil and wine (Rev.6:6), which are Biblical symbols of medicine and health, will be so precious that a heavenly voice will issue a command that they be used sparingly!
But what a joyous promise every believer may claim which assures him that before that “day of clouds and thick dark- -darkness” shall break forth, he shall be “caught up to meet the Lord in the air” (I Thess.4:16,17: Rev.3:10)!
D. The Fourth Horseman -
When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, another horse and rider came forth which John described in clear and forceful language:
Rev.6:7:”And when He had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. 8. And I looked, and behold, a pale horse: and his name that sat upon him was Death, and Hell followed with him, and power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with Death, and with the beasts of the earth.”
A number of things demand our attention in this passage.
First, the word “pale” is the Greek word chloros, meaning “greenish—yellow.” This is ever the color of death and decomposition. Having spent a number of years in a Mortuary, the writer has often seen the awful greenish—yellow color appear on certain parts of a body when someone was dying. And who of us has not seen this same hue in a dying plant or bush? Thus it is very fitting that this color should be associated with the fourth horse and rider.
Second, it should be noted that this rider is the only one of the four who is explicitly named. He is called “Death”. Again how significant it is that, when the Holy Spirit, Who is ever the Spirit of Life (Rom.8:2), has been removed, death will then “ride” over The Tribulation earth on a scale never before known.
As far back as 1968 (World Almanac & Book Of Facts), there was a total of one million nine hundred twenty three thousand deaths in the United States alone. One million twenty one thousand three hundred eighty of those were caused by various forms of heart disease; three hundred eighteen thousand were cancer cases; fifty three thousand nine hundred ten were automobile casualties; twenty one thousand two hundred ninety were suicides; and fourteen thousand two hundred seventy were homicides.
But these figures are as nothing when compared to the deaths that will occur during the frightening days of The Tribulation Week. What anguished wails will be heard all over the world!. What hopeless mourning will mark those awful days! The Obituary Columns of today’s Newspapers are filled with death notices; but in that coming time of carnage and slaughter, the number of deaths each day will be so great as to tax the capacity of entire Newspapers!
Dear reader, may you not read another line of this paper until you have eternally settled the all important matter of your personal relationship to God through His Son Jesus Christ!
Third: The rider called “Death” is followed by “Hell”, which the K.J.V. translators have properly capitalized. The Greek word is “Hades”. This word occurs in the following New Testament passages: Matt.11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27,31; Rev.l:l8; 6:8; 20:13.
By the use of the word in this passage, we understand it to be another sure indication of the wholesale loss of human life which will prevail through The Tribulation Week. The Greek word Hades does not ever refer to the Lake Of Fire, which will be the final abode of the wicked dead; but rather identifies their dwelling place during the intermediate period between their death and their final judgment.
Moreover this passage along with a number of others in the book of The Revelation suggests that, during The Tribulation Week, the present separation between the earth and the underworld of fallen spirits will be greatly reduced: see Rev.9:1-19; 12:1-14; 13:11-14.
Fourth, one final thing should be noted before leaving this passage. A statement is made concerning this horseman’s four-fold method of inflicting his fatal blows upon mankind during The Tribulation Week in the following significant words:
Rev.6:8:”And I looked, and behold a pale horse; and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”
Here is the New Testament fulfillment of the “Four Sore Judgments” prophesied by Ezekiel hundreds of years before Christ:
Eze.14:21:”For thus saith the Lord God, How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?”
At least two things are worthy of note before we leave this verse.
First, the words “Death” and “Hell” are capitalized be— because the King James translators properly understood the fact that “Death” and “Hell” are persons, not merely an abstract reference to a certain condition.
Consider this: The writer is quite aware of the fact that Hades is a place, and that Death is a condition; but in this passage, John is not speaking in the abstract. Moreover there is another passage in the book of The Revelation which further confirms this:
Rev, 20:14”And death and Hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the-second death.”
In this passage John is obviously not speaking of casting the place called “Hades” into the lake of fire because such an idea would make no sense. By the same token he is not talking about casting the condition known as “Death” into the lake of fire, -because the Lake of Fire is for persons. The only solution to understanding this is to accept the fact that the place called Hell and the condition called Death are each under the administration of a fallen angel.
Psa.11:17:”God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.”
Psa.9:17 “The wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God.”
Rev.9:11:”And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon (“Destroyer”), but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon (“Destroyer”).”
Second, the verse in Rev.6:8 states that during The Tribulation Week, Death and Hell will also control “the beasts of the earth” as instruments of inflicting death upon men.
The question arises here as to just how to interpret this statement. Should we take it symbolically and figuratively, or should it be understood as speaking literally?
Some expositors insist that the language is to be understood symbolically and figuratively. Therefore it is a reference to the two beasts of Rev.13.
The writer believes this view to be in error, because one of the cardinal rules of Biblical interpretation states:
“Interpret literally unless the immediate context indicates that the language is to be understood symbolically or figuratively.” There is nothing in the context of Rev.6:8 to even hint that the language is figurative or symbolical.
Moreover God has used animals as instruments of judgment and chastening in the past; why would He not employ the same means of punishment in the future?
In I Kings 13:34 God used a lion to chasten a disobedient prophet. In 2 Kings 2:23,24 God used bears to carry out punishment against transgressors.
The writer believes that once the Holy Spirit has been removed at the Rapture of the Church, even the family pet will turn vicious!
We are now ready to examine the third interpretation of the “Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse”. In our earlier discussion we looked at two interpretations with regard to the first horse and rider: one holding the rider on the first horse represents Christ; the other stating emphatically that the rider represents the antichrist.
Obviously both views cannot be correct. But since both positions have been almost equally popular, we have simply divided ourselves into two camps, and taken the view that seemed to appeal to us the most.
But is it not at least within the realm of possibility that both views are wrong? In view of the fact that each position must be defended by straining Biblical symbols, and by making use of highly questionable methods of exegesis, should we not leave an open door for exploring the matter further? Would it not be far more satisfactory to seek an interpretation that does not require any straining of Biblical symbolism, and which does not demand any unusual exercising of the believer’s imagination?
At this point we beg the reader’s indulgence while certain rules of interpretation are established. Conservative and cautious Bible expositors have long ago laid down certain basic principles which must be observed if we are to properly interpret the Word of God. We take the liberty of setting these principles down in brief form:
Rule One.. When more than one interpretation is possible, the simplest one is to be preferred. If this basic rule were always observed in the interpretation of Scripture, it would eliminate most of the theological controversies which quickly discourage the average Bible reader into believing that the Bible can only be understood by the “scholars”.
Where it is possible, let the Bible interpret itself. It is recognized by all conservative students of the Bible that many passages of Scripture are explained by other passages. Therefore we must interpret any given passage of Scripture in harmony with the immediate context, or a distant context. “A text without a context is a pretext!”
Rule Three: In seeking to establish the interpretation of any given passage of Scripture, make sure that the teaching drawn from it harmonizes with the general teaching of the Bible. This rule is grounded in the conviction that because the Bible is verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit, it will never contradict itself. Therefore any interpretation of a given passage of Scripture which runs counter to anything taught elsewhere in the Bible must be immediately rejected.
If, as we sincerely believe, the Bible is verbally inspired by the direct agency of the Holy Spirit, then it follows that any given teaching of Holy Writ will be consistently taught throughout Scripture: it will not be self-conflicting, nor will it stand at cross purposes with any other truth taught in the Word of God.
In the light of these three basic principles of Biblical interpretation, the writer honestly believes that the following suggestions concerning the identity of the first horseman of Rev.6:2 to be the most acceptable, and that it will also present a more harmonious view of the relationship of the first horseman to the other three riders of the passage.
There is good reason to believe that another prophet, who lived about five hundred twenty years before Christ had a vision of the same four horsemen which John describes. That prophet was the eleventh of the twelve Minor Prophets, namely the Prophet Zechariah.
It is worthy of note that George L. Robinson (I.S.B.E. p.3l36) aptly states that the book of Zechariah is “The most Messianic, the most truly apocalyptic and eschatological of all the writings of the Old Testament”. Most every student of the Old Testament knows that the book of Zechariah makes more references to the Coming of The Messiah — both as to His First and Second Advents as well as His future Millennial Reign — than all the other Minor Prophets combined.
The reader is now urged to open the Bible to Zechariah’s Vision of The Four Chariots (Zech.6:1—8). Give special notice to the color of the horses which are identical to that of the horses in John’s Vision (the “grizzled horse” in Zechariah’s Vision is the “pale horse” in John’s Vision). Careful attention should be given to the angel’s interpretation of Zechariah’s Vision:
Zech.6:4: “Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked with me, What are these, my Lord? And the angel answered and said unto me, These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.”
Now would it not be better exposition to say that the four horses and riders of John’s Vision are “pre-pictured” in Zechariah’s Vision?
This position would certainly not do any violence to the general teaching of Scripture, and it would not require any straining of Bible symbolism.
Furthermore in view of the fact that most conservative Bible expositors agree that the second, third, and fourth horseman of John’s Vision symbolizes world conditions that will prevail during The Tribulation Week, it would certainly be more acceptable to believe that the first horseman also represents a part of the world condition of that time.
If we are correct in believing the Vision of Zechariah is related to John’s Vision, then these four horsemen - as we are told in Zechariah - are “the four spirits of the heavens” which will “go forth into all the earth” to prepare it for the judgments of The Tribulation.
This is the very thing we might expect, for this is a Divine principle which God has observed from the beginning namely, that He often carries out His will and purposes among men through angelic instrumentality.
As a point fact, angelic activity is far more prominent in the book of The Revelation than in any other book of the Bible. The word “angel” occurs a total of seventy three times - fifty times in the singular, and twenty three times in the plural! Angels are mentioned in every chapter except chapter four, chapter six, and chapter thirteen. And if these four horsemen are “the four spirits of the heavens” mentioned in Zechariah, then angels are also mentioned in the sixth chapter.
How fitting then that The Tribulation should be ushered in by a Divine sending forth of “the four spirits of the heavens” who will prepare the earth for the awful judgments which will follow close behind them!
The Third Step in the Divine Order of The Tribulation will be
III. THE RISE OF THE MAN OF SIN.
Sometime after The Rapture Of The Church, a great world ruler will suddenly rise to power who will dazzle the earth with his political brilliance, and who will offer a plan for international political, economic, social, and military unity which will be eagerly accepted by the heads of state of the war—weary nations of the earth.
The “one—world” philosophy is almost as old as mankind itself. It first appeared soon after the Flood:
Gen.11:1”And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. 2. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar (Babylon): and they dwelt there. 3. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.
4. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven, and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
5. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. 6. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. 7. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. 8. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth; and they left of f to build the city. 9. Therefore is the name of it called Babel (Confusion): because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.”
The reader’s attention is now directed to a statement in Verse 4, in which the phrase appears “Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven.” Conservative Hebrew scholars are unanimous in saying that this phrase could be translated “whose top will be embellished with the signs of heaven (the Zodiac).” In other words, this tower was to be a pagan temple in which the worshippers would worship the stars. This was the first ecumenical attempt attempt to unify the world by establishing a one-world religion! But that religion was not based upon a Divine revelation of the One true God. It was unashamed idolatry. Moreover it is firmly established that the leader of this first venture into ecumenical unity was Nimrod (Gen.10:8—10). Verse 9 of Genesis 10 states : “He (Nimrod) was a mighty hunter before the Lord.” The word “before” can also be translated “against”. In other words, Nimrod was not the world’s first Sportsman Hunter who hunted animals: he was a hunter of men! Thus he was both a murderer and an idolator. Moreover he was also a type of the coming world ruler who will yet arise during the days of The Tribulation.
This coming world ruler of The Tribulation period is mentioned many times in Scripture under a variety of names and descriptions:
A. The “Little Horn -
Dan.7:7: “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful, and terrible, and strong exceedingly; it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue (of the previous kingdoms) with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it: and it had ten horns. 8. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.”
A “horn” is symbolic of political power and authority. The fact that this “horn” is said to be “little “ indicates that when the beast first makes his political appearance, he will seem to be just another politician; but his political clout will be established quickly and dramatically.
It should also be noted that “eyes” in Scripture symbolize intelligence. Thus this coming world ruler will dazzle the world with his intellectual powers. And why shouldn’t he, since he will be energized by Satan himself?
Once again, we are told that this coming man of sin will have “a mouth speaking great things”. Thus he will be a brilliant public speaker.
Even the prophet Daniel was deeply impressed by the personal characteristics of this “horn”:
Dan.7:19 “Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass: which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; 20. And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. 21. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; 22. Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. 23. Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. 24. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise; and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. 25. And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. 26. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.
27. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, Whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. 28. Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.”
There are a number of facts about this coming world ruler that are revealed in this passage. To develop these would take us far beyond the intended scope of this booklet. (See the author’s booklet entitled “Satan’s Super Man") But there is one thing which demands our attention here, namely the words in Vs.21: “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them. We believe that “the saints” refers to the Jewish remnant of The Tribulation, not to the Church. Thus one of the primary sources of the sufferings and anguish of The Tribulation will be the hatred and anger toward the Jews which will be manifested by the Beast.
Another name for the Beast is:
B. “The Prince” —Dan.9:26:”And after three score and two weeks shall Messiah be cut of f, but not for Himself: and the people of the prince (Antichrist) that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary: and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.”
Once again the idea of persecution against Israel is established. We fear that the blood bath which Israel endured at the hands of the insane Adolph Hitler was as nothing when compared to what the Jewish remnant will suffer during the reign of the Antichrist!
Yet another name for this coming world ruler is—
C. “A King Of Fierce Countenance” -
Dan.8:23:”And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences shall stand up. 24.And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully and shall prosper, and shall practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.”
Every passage that speaks of this man shows that he will be a cruel despot, who will persecute the Jews on a scale never witnessed before. Only heaven knows how much of the suffering and anguish of The Tribulation will be caused by the rise of this coming world ruler.
Yet another name by which this coming world ruler is identified in Scripture is
D. The Man Of Sin.
2Thess.2:3:”Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away, first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition."
We have already discussed this great passage at length earlier in this paper; but we take the liberty of advancing it a couple of steps further here.
Item: The “man of sin” cannot be revealed until after a certain great “falling away” (Vs.3). Most students of Bible prophecy know that the words “falling away” are from the Greek word apostasia, meaning “to defect, to forsake, to abandon.” This word is never used in a sense (morally).
Matt.5:31:”It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement (apostasia): 32. But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced (apostasia) committeth adultery!” (See also: Matt.19:7; and Mark 10:4)
Acts 21:17: “And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18. And the day following, Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.
19. And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. 20. And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: 21. And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake (apostisia) Moses, saying that they ought not circumcize their children, neither to walk after the customs.”
In the light of the consistent usage of the word apostasia in all the other passages of Scripture, it should be self—evident that its occurrence in 2 Thess.2:3 is speaking of a great turning away from the faith which was preached by the early Apostles.
Moreover Paul “spells it out” clearly in:
I Tim.4:1: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that, in the latter times, some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”
How can any honest observer of the present day religious situation deny or question the fact that the great “falling away” has already begun? As early as the first century of the Church, the risen Christ warns the “Church at Ephesus” about having “left” its “first love” (Rev.2:4). Soon after that, the Church entered into the period of history known as The Dark Ages. Then in 1517, the period began which is known as The Reformation, under the leadership of such men as Martin Luther in Germany, John Calvin in France, and Zwingli in Switzerland.
But a Reformation (or Revolution) always has two flaws: they are (1) Too little, and (2) Too late. Like the children of Israel who came out of Egypt, but brought much of its outlook on life with them, those who came out of Romanism in The Reformation stubbornly clung to many of the teachings of Catholicism. This is why someone once observed “The more things change, the more they remain the same!”
Fifty years ago, the big theological controversy was between Liberalism (Modernism) and Conservativism (Fundamentalism). The lines between them at that time were so clearly drawn that there were no “gray areas” in the middle.
Today the lines of demarcation have so shifted that the battle is now between Fundamentalism and Neo-Evangelicalism. Sometimes however the lines that divide them are so blurred that they are not easy to distinguish. As a result there are many Pastors, Evangelists, and local churches “on the fence.” They feel the pressure from both sides, and while they hesitate to declare themselves openly as being Fundamentalists, they sense that all is not well in the Neo-Evangelical ranks.
When the Pastor of one of America’s largest Independent Baptist Churches stepped in to “salvage” the charismatic P.T.L television ministry to “protect the cause of Christ” (!), many of his followers were stunned. But as usual most of them did some quick repairs to their “convictions” and hurriedly readjusted their thinking so as to rally behind him.
We who are Fundamentalists ask ourselves, How can such things be? Has Biblical conviction had its day? Was all the blood shed by faithful men and women who refused to yield one foot of theological ground spilled in vain?
The answers are not hard to find. Those who are Neo— Evangelical insist that the test of fellowship among pro— professed believers is “love”; whereas Fundamentalists know that the only grounds for fellowship among the early Christians was truth!
Eph.6:14:”Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.”
2 John 9: “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11. For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”
There is not a verse in the New Testament that makes the slightest provision for “dialogue” with unbelievers! The Fundamentalist must not yield to the charge of “bigotry”. To stand for Divinely revealed truth is not bigotry: to yield to Satanic pressure to surrender that truth is moral cowardice!
The so-called “love” which Neo-Evangelicals croon about has an interesting twist. In actual practice, their “love” is extended only to Modernists and to other Neo-Evangelicals. They do not seem to have a thimble full of “love” for any Fundamentalist who dares to question their permissive attitude toward doctrinal and ecclesiastical error!
One thing seems clear, namely, the spirit of apostasy which will characterize The Tribulation period is already beginning to gather momentum.
Item: The coming “man of sin” will be sealed to destruction from the start, for he is called “the son of perdition” (2 Thess.2.:3). This expression literally means “son of destruction.” Because Judas Iscariot was also called “the son of perdition” (John 17:12), some expositors have held the position that the Antichrist will be a reincarnation of Judas Iscariot. But this view has certain problems.
For one thing, it lends a certain legitimacy to the teaching of Reincarnation. Since there is not one line of Scripture to support the idea of Reincarnation, it is hard to see how a Bible believer can make any allowance for it in Biblical interpretation.
But another problem with the view that the Antichrist will be Judas Iscariot reincarnated is that it credits Satan with the power to create life. Whoever the Antichrist will be, he will be energized by Satan; but to say that he will be created by Satan is just too much to accept, in the writer’s opinion.
Item: The coming “man of sin” will claim to be Divine, thus making himself a blasphemer. The description of his rise to power in Rev. 13 gives a graphic account of how he will demand worship, and how he will persecute those who refuse to give him that worship.
Item: Because the Antichrist will be energized by Satan, he will promote world wide deception through his miracle working powers (Vss.9—12).
Item: The Antichrist whom Paul calls “the man of sin” will be destroyed at the end of The Tribulation by the “brightness of His coming. “ How fitting that the true Christ Who “humbled Himself” should be the One to destroy the false Christ who will exalt himself. But is this not in perfect harmony with the Word of God?
Prov.16:18:”Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. 19. Better is it to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”
Matt.23:12:”And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”
We turn now to discuss one more Source for the suffering and anguish of The Tribulation, namely
IV. THE RETRIBUTION & REVENGE THAT WILL RAIN FROM HEAVEN.
The Tribulation Week - especially the last half (three and one half years) — will be a time of such calamities and catastrophes upon the earth as to almost stagger the mind.
Dan.12:l:”.. .and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time.”
Matt.24:21:”For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake, those days shall be shortened.”
Mark 13:17:”But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 18. And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter. 19. For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation, which God created unto this time, neither shall be.”
Luke 21:23:”But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land (of Palestine), and wrath upon this people!”
The reader should pay special attention in the foregoing passages to such words as “tribulation. . . .affliction...” and “distress”.. .These words clearly establish the fact that when the plagues from heaven plus the persecutions from the Beast begin to occur, the pain and suffering which will result has never been equalled in the past, and will not be matched in the future.
The Bible is filled with descriptions of how awful it will be when God begins to pour out has indignation and wrath upon the earth:
Isa.24:l:”Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. 2. And it shall be, as with people, so with priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him. 3. The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word. 4. The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. 5. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, broken the everlasting covenant. 6. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.. .17. Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, 0 inhabitant of the earth. 18. And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: f or the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake. 19. The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. 20. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.”
This passage is speaking of the awful time known to students of Bible prophecy as “The Day of The Lord.” It is mentioned scores of times in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament.
Isa.26:20: Come, my people (Israel), enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.
21. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover the slain.”
This passage stands as a warning to Israel. God never calls upon the Church to “hide”. Rather, the Church is told to “stand” (Eph.6:13,14).
Joel 1:13: “Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests; howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God.: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God.
14. Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord. 15. Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come. 16. Is not the meat cut off before your eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God? 17. The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered. 18. How do the beats groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yes, the flocks of sheep are made desolate. 19. 0 Lord, to Thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field. 20. The beasts of the field cry also unto Thee: for the rivers of water are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.”
Such calamities as are described in these passages have never occurred yet; therefore they must be awaiting a future fulfillment.
We could multiply the verses that give full descriptions of this coming day of judgment and wrath from God; but we will cite only one more passage:
Zeph.1:14: “The great day of the Lord is near, and hast— eth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty men shall cry there bitterly. 15. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness. 16. A day of trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. 17. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. 18. Neither their silver or their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of His jealousy: for He shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.”
The Bible makes frequent mention of “the day of the Lord”. This is not a reference to a day of twenty—four hours; but rather describes The Tribulation period, which we believe will last seven years. The first three and one half years will be relatively mild (though it will be bad enough!); but the last three and one half years will be almost beyond the capacity of human imagination to express. The plagues that will fall upon men, the persecutions that will be multiplied toward Israel, and the mass destruction of multitudes of people are terrible in their description.
Most of the book of The Revelation is dedicated to descriptions of those awful days (chapters 5 through 19). The sounding of the Seven Trumpets in chapters 8 though 10, and the pouring out of the seven vials of the Seven Last Plagues in the 16th chapter of The Revelation, contain some of the most disturbing accounts of the judgments which God will pour out upon the Tribulation earth to be found in all the Word of God. Such accounts as these should not only strike fear into the hearts of those who are unsaved, they should also drive God’s people to even greater lengths in their efforts to win those lost ones to Christ. What fearsome times are ahead! What indescribable bloodshed and carnage is on its way! What moral and spiritual chaos is soon to break forth! May God grant to each of us a sense of urgency that will not rest as long as one friend, neighbor, or loved one remains outside the eternal circle of God’s Sovereign and saving grace!
THE SCOPE OF THE TRIBULATION
A. As To Its Length. We believe The Tribulation will prevail upon the earth for seven years, with the last three and one half years being so terrible as to be almost beyond grasping.
But the question arises as to just how we establish this length for The Tribulation. For the answer we turn to the prophecy of “The Seventy Weeks” recorded in the ninth chapter of the book of Daniel.
When this prophecy was given to Daniel, he had been praying and confessing his sins as well as the sins of his people Israel. After Daniel had prayed three weeks, the angel Gabriel came and interrupted his praying (Dan.9:21), and gave him one of the greatest prophecies in the Bible.
Dan.9:24: “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people (Israel). and upon the holy city (Jerusalem), to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy (place). 25. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
26. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for Himself: and the people of the prince that shall come (the Antichrist) shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. 27. And he (the Antichrist) shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured out upon the desolate (desolator).”
Students of Bible prophecy believe this prophetic utterance to be one of the most important in the Bible. It is the “key” to understanding all prophetic chronology.
It should also be noted that this prophecy applies to Israel only while she is in the land, and therefore it does not cover the present period of Israel’s temporary spiritual “blindness” (Rom.11:25), but will take up her history again when she is once more restored to her proper place in the land of promise.
Thus the Seventy Weeks began with the decree to “restore and build Jerusalem,” extended to the time Messiah was “cut off”, was interrupted (so to speak) by the Church Age, will resume after the Rapture of the Church, and extend to the return of Christ at the close of The Tribulation.
Consider the following:
The Six-Fold Purpose Of The Seventy Weeks.
1. To finish the transgression. The “transgression” spoken of here primarily concerns Israel. Her transgression against Jehovah broke out early in her relationship to Him. It continued throughout the dispensation of The Law, in spite of Jehovah’s chastening hand upon her. It manifested itself again in the rejection of the Messiahship of Jesus, and it will reach its ultimate limits in the worship of “the man of sin.” When Israel accepts the idolatrous worship of the Beast, her “transgression”- will be finished.
2. To make an end of sin. Again it is the sin of Israel that is spoken of here. The marginal reading here is: “to seal up sin.” That Is, to restrain sin as though It is put in prison. and the door is sealed.
The Old Testament frequently portrays Israel as the “adulterous wife” of Jehovah (Hosea 1:1—9; 2:1—12;4:1—19). But it also speaks of a coming day when all her “spiritual fornication” will be put away, and she will return to Jehovah her “husband.”
Hosea 14:4: “I will heal their (Israel’s) backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him. 5. I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon... 7. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine; the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.”
Zech.12:1O:”And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon me Whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his first born.”
Zech.13:1: “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.”
Rom.11:26: “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written (Isa.59:20,21), There shall come out of Zion The Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27. For this is my covenant with them, when I shall take away their sins.”
It should be carefully noted that every promise of Jehovah to restore Israel to His full favor and blessings is an unconditional promise. In each one, God says “I will.” He never one time says “If you will, then I will.”
3. To make reconciliation for iniquity. Once again, it is speaking of the iniquity of Israel. In this, the Church Age, the Jew must come before God simply as a sinner seeking for mercy through Jesus Christ, in Whom “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Gal.3:28). After God has “taken out of the Gentiles a people for His Name” (Acts 15:14), He will once again take up His redemptive work toward Israel as His covenant people. Then Israel “the adulterous wife” of Jehovah will be eternally reconciled to Him.
4. To bring in everlasting righteousness. There can never be “everlasting righteousness” upon the earth until the Millennial Theocratic Kingdom of Jesus Christ has been established.
Jer.31:33: “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; after those days (this present Dispensation), saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Isa.11:9:”They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”
5. To seal up the vision and prophecy. At this present time, the “vision” and “prophecy” is “sealed” to Israel, but this is temporary.
Rom.11:25: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened unto Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”
Remember that, at this time, “God is taking out of the Gentiles a people for His Name” (Acts 15:14); and when the last person has been added to the body of Christ, (which the Apostle Paul refers to as “the fullness of the Gentiles.”) He will return for His waiting Bride. After the Church has been caught out “to meet the Lord in the air,” then the “vision” and “prophecy” will no longer be “sealed” to Israel.
6. To anoint the most holy. Some expositors insist that the words “most holy” is a reference to Christ, and thus the anointing was fulfilled when the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus at His baptism by John.
But in light of the fact that the words “most holy” are not masculine in gender, but are neuter, it seems better to understand that they are speaking of the “most holy place.” Thus it would be better exegesis to say that this is a reference to the anointing of the great Millennial Temple which conservative expositors believe is described in detail in Ezekiel 41:1—42:20.
Thus, in summary, we would say that, The Seventy Weeks began with the decree to “restore and build Jerusalem” (which will be discussed later); it was “interrupted” by the Crucifixion of Christ; it will be resumed after the catching away of the Church; and it will then continue to the end of The Seventieth Week (The Tribulation).
Having discussed The Six—Fold Purpose Of The Seventy Weeks, we turn now to discuss:
The Period Covered By The Seventy Weeks
To be strictly literal, the words “Seventy Weeks” is “Seventy Sevens.” The word “Week” is used by expositors because we have no exact equivalent for the Hebrew word which signifies simply a period of “seven.”
The question then arises as to what evidence we have for saying that the word “Week” should be used here? But an even greater question arises as to how we can determine that the “Week” should be understood as being a “Week” of years?
In prophetic chronology we encounter various divisions of time, such as “hours,” “days”, “weeks,” “months,” “years,” “time, times, and half a time.”
Surely it is imperative that, in order to be properly understood, these divisions of time must all be interpreted on a standard, unchanging scale. But the question is: does such a scale exist, and, if so, where is it stated in God’s Word? We believe the answer is in:
Numbers 14:33: “And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcasses be wasted in the wilderness. 34. After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise.” (See also: Eze.4:l-6)
Thus it seems clear that, in the “Divine scale” of chronology, a day sometimes stands for a year. Applying this manner of reckoning to The Seventy Weeks would give us 490 days. or on the scale of a day for a year, 490 years.
Dan.9:25: “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and three— score and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.”
Now we have 7 weeks, plus 62 weeks, which equals 69 weeks, or 483 years. Where is the other week (7 years)?
The first step in studying the Seventy Weeks Prophecy is to establish the starting point - the date of its beginning. This is not easy to do, since there were four “decrees” concerning the restoration and building of Jerusalem, following the Babylonian Captivity.
The First Decree - was given by Cyrus about B.C. 536:
Ezra 1:l:”Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, 2. Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and He hath charged me to build Him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3. Who is there among you of all His people? His God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (He is the God,) which is in Jerusalem 4. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”
This decree is also referred to in 2 Chron.36:22, 23. But this decree mentions only the rebuilding of the house of God: it says nothing about rebuilding Jerusalem. Moreover it should be noted that the work on the temple which followed this decree soon began to decline drastically, and eventually came to an almost complete halt. Therefore we do not believe this decree to be the one which marked the beginning of The Seventy Weeks prophecy.
The Second Decree — was that of Darius, about B.C. 519:
Ezra 6:1:”Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon. 2. And there was found at Achmetha, in the place that is in the province of the Medes a roll, and thereon was a record thus written: 3. In the first year of Cyrus the king, the same Cyrus the king made a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid: the height thereof threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof threescore cubits:
4. With three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber:
and let the expenses be given out of the king’s house.. .7. Let the work of this house of God alone: let the governor of the Jews, and the elders of the Jews, build this house of God in His place. 8. Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king’s goods, even of the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered. 9. And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the priests which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail. 10. That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons. 11. Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dung-hill for this. 12. And the God that hath caused His Name to dwell there destroy all kings and people, that shall put to their hand to alter and to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed.”
The reader will note again that this decree simply reaffirmed the first decree; and mentions only the Temple, while making no reference to rebuilding the city of Jerusalem itself. Therefore we conclude that the Seventy Week period did not begin with this decree either.
The Third Decree - was that of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, about B.C. 458.
This decree is recorded in Ezra 7:11—28. It was not a public decree, but was simply an official letter from the king, authorizing Ezra and the elders of Israel to do whatever was necessary to carry out the first two decrees.
Since this decree merely repeated the first two decrees, it was limited to the rebuilding of the Temple, and made no mention of building the city of Jerusalem. Thus we do not believe that the prophecy of The Seventy Weeks should be reckoned from this point.
The Fourth Decree - was the decree of Artaxerxes Longimanus, given about B.C. 445, in the twentieth year of his reign.
Neh.2:4: “Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5. And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant has found favor in thy sight, that thou wouldst send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it. 6. And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. 7. Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah: 8. And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timbers to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.”
Since this decree included both the restoration of the temple, and the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem, we believe the prophecy of The Seventy Weeks is to be reckoned from this point.
We further believe that the 69 weeks were fulfilled when Christ made His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:29 —38). Moreover since Israel rejected Him as their Messiah on that day, God stopped “reckoning” prophetic time; and we are now living in the intermediate period between the 69th and the 70th week of the prophecy.
At this time God is adding individual Jews to the body of Christ, but He is no longer dealing with Israel as His covenant people. He is “taking out of the Gentiles a people for His Name” (Acts 15:14). As soon as the Gentile Bride of Christ (The Church) is completed (which Paul calls “the fullness of the Gentiles” in Rom.1l:25), she will be “caught up to meet the Lord in the air” (I Thess.4:16,17). Then God’s “prophetic clock” will begin reckoning prophetic time once more, and the last week of the Seventy Week prophecy will begin to unfold.
But in thinking of The Scope Of The Tribulation, we must not only establish its length, we must also seek to determine
B. Its Location - which can be established by Scripture.
1. It Will Be World-Wide In Scope -
Rev.3:l0:”Because thou (the Church of Philadelphia) hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from (not “in”) the hour of temptation, which shall come all the world (emphasis mine), to try them that dwell upon the earth.”
Rev.6:10: “And they (the souls under the altar In heaven) cried out with a loud voice, saying, How long, 0 Lord, holy and true, doest Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”
Rev.8:13: “And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe! Woe! Woe! to the inhabitants of the earth (emphasis mine), by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels which are yet to sound!”
We could multiply passages from other parts of the Bible which indicate clearly that the judgments and calamities of The Tribulation will fall upon men in all parts of the earth.
On the other hand, while the events of The Tribulation will be world-wide in scope, at the same time, they will be:
2. Centered Around The Mediterranean Sea (The Middle East).
Dan.7:2: “Daniel spake and said, I saw in my visions by night, and behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea (the Mediterranean Sea).”
Rev.8:8: “And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the (Mediterranean) sea: and the third part of the sea became blood: 9. And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.”
Rev.13:1: “And I stood upon the sand of the (Mediterranean) sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns...”
There can be no question but that the calamities and plagues that will characterize The Tribulation period will be concentrated in the Middle East, with Palestine as the focal point.
I. THE NATION OF ISRAEL
The primary purpose of The Tribulation will be to prepare the nation of Israel for the return of her Messiah. The method by which this will be carried out is the same as always, namely, by the public proclamation of God’s saving grace through Divinely appointed channels.
Matt.24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
But the question arises as to who will preach “the gospel of the kingdom”? At the Rapture (see the writer’s Booklet The Great Elopement), all born again believers of the Church Age will be “caught up to meet the Lord in the air” (I Thess.4:16,l7), thus leaving no one on earth qualified to preach or to witness. But God will raise up a great witnessing body who will faithfully proclaim “the gospel of the kingdom” during The Tribulation:
Rev.7:1: “After these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. 2. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, 3. Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. 4. And I heard the number of them that were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
This great witnessing body will faithfully proclaim God’s saving grace and mercy to the entire Tribulation earth, and will consequently win many to salvation; because immediately after John describes the sealing of the one hundred forty four thousand, he describes a great multitude who will be saved during The Tribulation:
Rev.7:9: “After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kind— reds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; 10. And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
11. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders, and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, 12. Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. 13. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? 14. And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of (the) great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. 16. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. 17. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them into living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”
This great witnessing body is mentioned again In:
Rev.14:1: “And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Sion, and with Him an hundred and forty and four thousand, having His Father’s name written in their foreheads.
2. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: 3. And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. 4. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which followeth the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
5. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.”
At this point it would be well to note that, during The Tribulation Week, the faithful Jewish Remnant will be divided into three separate and distinct groups:
A. The Preaching Remnant — which we have been discussing.
B. The Persecuted Remnant — many of whom will be martyred by the Beast:
Rev.6:9: “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: 10. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, 0 Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? 11. And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow— servants also, and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”
Rev.13:11: “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. 12. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 13. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,
14. And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had a wound by the sword, and did live. 15. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.”
Only the future will reveal the extent of the martyrdom and bloodshed which the Persecuted Jewish Remnant will suffer at the hands of the Beast. The most graphic description is that of our Lord Himself in:
Matt.24:9: “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. . .16. Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: 17. Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: 18. Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes 19. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 20. But pray ye that you f light be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day: 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. 22. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”
That this whole passage is Jewish ground is too obvious to be questioned. The reader should pay special attention to such words as “nations” (Vs.9), “Judaea” (Vs.16), “Sabbath day” (Vs.20). Moreover any attempt to place the Church in Matthew 24 must ignore every principle of Hermeneutics and exegesis. Therefore this passage is a description of death and persecution upon the Jewish Remnant during The Tribulation.
C. A Protected Remnant - which will be caught away early in The Tribulation to a special place of safety which has been in readiness for centuries:
Rev.12:1:”And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun (Israel), and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: 2. And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. 3. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. 4. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. 5. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God, and to His throne. 6. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days... 13. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. 14. And to the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. 15. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. 16. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. 17. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
That this passage is one of the most remarkable in all the Bible is self-evident. Scholars have differed somewhat as to the identity of the woman: some saying she represents the church; and others holding that she is Israel. They have also disagreed as to the identity of the man child. Conservative, premillennial students are practically unanimous in holding to the view that the woman represents Israel (Gen.37:9), and her “man—child” is Christ (Psa.2:2; Rev.2:27). The identity of the dragon has never been in doubt, because in Rev.20:2 he is clearly identified as Satan.
But the reference in verse 6 catches our attention for the moment: “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” Again in verse 14: “And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.”
Premillennial students of Bible prophecy believe that “her place” to which she will be carried away and protected from the wrath of Satan during the last half of The Tribulation is already known.
It is “The Rose-Red City of Petra, half as old as time” in the land of Edom, 60 miles south of the Dead Sea. In Old Testament times, it was known as Sela (Isa.16:1). This remarkable city was carved out of the rose—red stone by the Nabataeans (an Arabian people) approximately four or five centuries before Christ. The City of Petra (Greek “stone”) was a strong—hold which was so skillfully crafted with aqueducts and passages that it can safely house a large number of people indefinitely.
For some reason, which is still not known or understood, the Nabataeans abandoned the City of Petra about 400 years before Christ. (They even took their dead with them! ) Today it is inhabited for a few months out of the year by wandering Arabs. The writer has enjoyed the privilege of being in the City of Petra twice in recent years. It is easy to see how the Protected Remnant of Israel can be caught away to this stronghold of safety during the last half of The Tribulation.
The writer will note that the length of the stay of the woman of Rev.12 is stated two times, so that there can be no misunderstanding. In verse 6: “a thousand two hundred and threescore days” is cited, and in verse 14: “a time, and times, and half a time.” This is three and one half years. So for the last half of The Tribulation, when the wrath of Satan and the Beast will be directed against the Jews, part of the Jewish Remnant will be Providentially caught away to the City of Petra, and protected by Jehovah Himself.
II. THE NATIONS OF THE EARTH - Will also be included in the judgments of The Tribulation period:
Isa.2:4:”And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people.. .“
Isa.24:1: “Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.. 4. The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. 5. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. 6. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left... 20. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again. 21. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are upon high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. 22. And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited. 23. Then the moon shall be counfounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously.”
Isa.26:20: “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.
21. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.”
Jer.25:30: “Therefore prophesy thou against them all these words, and say unto them, The Lord shall roar from on high, and utter His voice from His holy habitation; He shall mightily roar upon His habitation; He shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. 31. A noise shall come even unto the ends of the earth: for the Lord hath a controversy with the nations, He will plead with all flesh; He will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the Lord.”
Such passages as these could be multiplied to show that God will one day punish all mankind for their iniquities. Moreover these passages show clearly that the threatened judgment will be poured out while men are still upon the earth. These judgments will undoubtedly occur during the coming period of time known as The Tribulation - especially during the last half which is known as The Great Tribulation.
Premillennial students of Bible Prophecy believe sincerely that the catching away of the waiting bride - The Church — may very likely occur soon. Sometime after that blessed event, The Tribulation will begin. May the Spirit of God give unto us a sense of urgency as we make use of every Biblical means of reaching the lost with the message of God’s saving grace, while at the same time we warn them of the wrath that is soon to come.