Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Biblical overview of the Tribulation period - Old Testament

Deuteronomy 4:30-31 When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice. 31 For the Lord your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.

The above text stands as perhaps the first mention in the Bible of a period of time that Jesus calls "the tribulation" (Mark 13:19). Much ink of course has been spilled over the nature and purpose of the Tribulation period, and even as to whether or not it is currently happening right now or is yet to come. The aim today will not be to trace out those various viewpoints (that is for another post, another day). In today's post I simply want to list some texts of scripture that speak of this period to give you the reader an overview of what the Bible has to say about the Tribulation period.  We will begin in today's post by tracing this teaching through the Old Testament.

1. Deuteronomy 4:26-31 - First mention of the tribulation in the Bible
We began today's post with this text, being that it is the first mention of the tribulation period. God lays out the prophetic history of Israel through the Old Testament and human history (4:26-28) with reference to her going through a time of great difficulty and deliverance by her Lord in 4:29-31. At this early stage Israel's whole history and the tribulation period are treated as one, seamless history.

2. Isaiah 13:6-18 - The day of the Lord is associated with the Tribulation
The heart of this passage is expressed in Isaiah 13:9-11a "Behold, the day of the Lord is coming,Cruel, with fury and burning anger,
To make the land a desolation; And He will exterminate its sinners from it. 10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light.
11 Thus I will punish the world for its evil
And the wicked for their iniquity." Twice in this passage we find reference to what is called "the day of the Lord".  We are not told the duration of this "day" in the passage, only its character and purpose.  Later passages in the Bible will aid in answering the exact time frame of this "day".  The punishment of mankind on the earth is a revealed purpose of this period.  

3. Isaiah 17:4-11 Israel will be prepared to meet her Lord

Isaiah 17:7 notes "In that day man will have regard for his Maker and his eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel."

4. Jeremiah 30:4-11 The Tribulation is termed "The time of Jacob's distress or trouble"

It is in this passage that we gain further evidence of God turning His attention back to Israel. During the Tribulation period God will be preparing Israel to meet her Messiah through a process of chastening, purification, purging and protection. 

5. Ezekiel 20:33-38 The tribulation period will purify Israel to enter into the Lord's Kingdom

Ezekiel 20:38 states - "and I will purge from you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they will not enter the land of Israel. Thus you will know that I am the Lord." Thus far in our study of the Tribulation period, we have discovered that the judgment of the earth will occur and that the preparation of Israel for her Messiah will be the specific focus. The scriptures are teaching us the character and purposes of the Tribulation period.

6. Daniel 9:26b-27 The duration and details of the Tribulation period

Daniel 9:26b-27 "and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. 27 And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”It is in this passage that we first gain access to the time frame of this period - seven years.  Daniel's prophecy also unfolds another chronological feature: that this seven year period will be at the end of a 490 year period of time prescribed for Israel by God with regards to His program for her.  The final "seven" in the prophecy will be divided into two parts of 3 1/2 years each, featuring a tyrannical ruler called "the prince", who especially in the latter half of this period will unmask his true intentions.

7. Daniel 12 reveals details about the latter 3 1/2 years of the tribulation, called "The Great Tribulation"

Daniel 12:1 reads - “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued." As you read on down through the chapter, you discover the specific time frame of this vision to occur in the future and in the same latter 3 1/2 year period that Daniel spoke of in Daniel 9:23-27.  Daniel's prophecies in 9:23-27 and chapter 12 form the foundation of Jesus' teachings on the tribulation period in His Olivet discourses of Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. 

8. Zechariah 14:1-4 The end of the Tribulation period witnesses the return of the Messiah to the earth. 
Zechariah 14:4 reads - "In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south."

In this fly-over of the Bible's teaching of the Tribulation period, we have attempted to look at the major Old Testament Prophecies that speak specifically about it. We have concluded the following:

1. It will be an unprecedented time of human history, occurring at the end of this age. Being that the Old Testament predicts its uniqueness, the likelihood of it referring to a general pattern of tribulation that covers the church age or some other broad period of history is pretty slim.

2. The Tribulation period's purpose is two-fold - to judge the world and prepare Israel to meet her Messiah

3. The Tribulation period's duration will be seven years. The first half is hardly mentioned, with the overwhelming focus on the events of the latter 3 1/2 years that Jesus calls later on "The Great Tribulation" in light of Daniel's prophecies.

4. A Tyrannical ruler will attempt to blaspheme God and lead the whole world astray in outright rebellion again God.

We could have looked at more scripture, but the ones above constitute the majority report of the Old Testament on the Tribulation period. In tomorrow's post we will consider what the New Testament has to say about this future period of time.

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