Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Life applications from Revelation's teaching on the future tribulation period

Image result for book of revelation
Revelation 6:1 "Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.”

The Apocalypse of John (also known as "the Book of Revelation"), details the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ with respect to present realities and future events. We explored in the last post what we can expect to take place as we move forward in history. We noted in particular an event called "the rapture of the church" and distinguished it from its closely related larger event: "the second coming of Jesus". Readers may click on the following link to review the last post here: 

In that last post, mention was made of another future time period that, per this author's understanding of eschatology or "doctrine of last things", occurs in between "the rapture of the church" and "the second coming of Jesus", namely, "the tribulation period". One could define the tribulation period as follows:

"The tribulation describes a time, yet future, in which God will pour out wrath to judge the nations, defeat Satan's kingdom and prepare Israel for the arrival the Lord Jesus Christ."

In past posts on this site, I have written more detailed posts on the subject of the tribulation period, which the reader can click on here:

also, readers may click on another post-link concerning Jesus and Paul's teaching on the tribulation here:

How can a Christian find any encouragement for godly living or any relevance from the doctrine of the tribulation period. As noted in the last post, those believers who hold to a "pre-tribulation" view of the relationship of the rapture to the tribulation, assert the church's absence during that future cataclysmic event. Revelation 6-19 contains the most detailed description of this future seven-year period, expressed in a series of cyclical descriptions that retell the sequence of predicted events. How can Christians apply such texts to their lives to bring about godliness and encouragement today? Below are some thoughts on how one may apply the teaching of the tribulation period as it is expressed in the Book of Revelation.

Drawing applications from Revelation's teaching on the Tribulation

1. God's plan for dealing with the problem of evil. 

Revelation 6-19 is undoubtedly the fullest treatment we know of regarding the Tribulation period. The whole period is future, representing God's prophetic clock for executing final judgment on this world and, as seen in Paul's writings, the destruction of evil forces as personified by Anti-Christ. Revelation 6-19 unfolds a repetition of this time period in four prophetic visions that function as transparency slides on top of one another to complete a very detailed picture of the tribulation period. With respect to how God will deal with the problem of evil, we can note the first three of these visionary sequences....

a. Vision #1 - Revelation 6-11. 

The tribulation will be Jesus Christ's theater through which He will conquer the evils of the world. This particular depiction of the tribulation period is important because God, in His Ultimate Will, has ordained that time to deal with the world in justice. Acts 17:30-31 states:

Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

b. Visionary sequence #2 - Revelation 12-14

Revelation 12 is the introduction to John's next revelatory sequence of the events of the tribulation. The tribulation will be Christ's way of preparing Israel to meet Him. In Revelation 12-14, Satan and his man, Anti-Christ, will conspire against Israel by leading a rebellion of unbelieving nations during the tribulation period. Like a set of transparency slides, Revelation 12-14 fits on top of the same time frame portrayed in Revelation 6-11.

c. Visionary sequence #3 - Revelation 15-19  

The tribulation (especially the final 3 1/2 years or Great Tribulation) will be the time in which Jesus brings an end to Anti-Christ and the system of evil which will had gripped the future world.  This fully functioning future world system, described in Revelation as: "Babylon the Great", will function in the tribulation as the religious, economic and political web spun out by Satan, the Anti-Christ and the False Prophet of Revelation 12-14. After the half-way point of the tribulation period, the world system will begin to grow hostile toward the Anti-Christ and his regime. A final war, (known as "Armegeddon"), will feature all the forces of evil arrayed against Jesus during His second coming at the end of that period. Like a transparency slide once again, Revelation 15-19:10 fits over the previous visions of Revelation 6-11 & 12-14, completing for us the most detailed treatment of the tribulation period in the Bible.

2. God's promises are true

We have observed how God will deal resolutely with the problem of evil and suffering which plagues the greatest minds and hearts in this current age. So what guarantee do Christians have in the "nasty-now-and-now" that God will keep His promises? One only has to look at how He will bring to pass His promises to Israel. 

In an Old Testament prophecy about the tribulation period, Ezekiel 20:38, we find the following promise:

"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." 

During the tribulation period, judgment of the earth will occur while God prepares and purifies Israel to anticipate her Messiah - Jesus Christ - right before the end of the tribulation. The Apostle Paul in the New Testament affirms this promise of Israel's restoration as a proof for the assurance of God's promises to Christians in Romans 11:25-26 - 

"For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”
The Great Tribulation will be a time in which the evils of man and the Anti-Christ's regime is brought to a close, with Christ's return marking the end of the tribulation -i.e "the day of the Lord". The church will be with Jesus in the marriage supper of the Lamb, protected from wrath and return with her Lord who Himself will fight and defeat the armies of the world in the battle of Armegeddon. We can therefore trust God's plans and promises. Now let's consider one final application for understanding the doctrine of the tribulation as found in Revelation 6-19....

3. God's powerful motivation to do missions

Revelation chapters 7 and 14 feature a group of Jewish evangelists called "144,000" who will share the Gospel with all the nations. In Revelation 7, we find multitudes of people getting converted during the tribulation. The consequence of converting to Christ will lead to their deaths for Jesus. Both chapters have statements that tie present motivation for sharing the Gospel to what will be that innumerable throng of people getting converted out of the nations. Revelation 7:10b records: "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb". Revelation 14:13 records an even more remarkable statement that has clear application to the church now and to the future tribulation martyrs: 

"And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”  

For those who evidence no concern about the pending tribulation period or spiritual matters in general, this truth can expose their false profession. The motivation to carry the Gospel to as many people as possible is reinforced by what the world can expect when it comes to the final moments of world history. We may wonder why God delays such events as He urges us to have an awareness about them. We know that God delays the return of Jesus to grant people everywhere the time and space to repent and turn to Him in faith (2 Peter 3:9). We also are told by Jesus Himself that the course of history is regulated by the amount of people that get to hear the Gospel in every nation (see Matthew 24:14).  

Closing thoughts

Today's post aimed to provide life-application of the Biblical doctrine of the tribulation period to current Christian living. We focused in particular on Revelation 6-19, since the Apostle John provides for us the most detailed treatment of the subject. We reached the following three applications:

1. The tribulation period reminds us that God has a plan for defeating evil and suffering.

2. The tribulation period reminds us that God's promises are true.

3. The tribulation period reminds us that God has provided a powerful motivator for sharing the Gospel.

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