Saturday, March 18, 2023

A Study Of Jesus Teachings About The Tribulation Period In Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Introduction & Review

    Today's post will focus upon Jesus' teaching on the tribulation period in His final public sermon. To understand what is meant by "The Tribulation Period", let me review briefly from our last post. In our last post we concluded the following regarding the Old Testament's teaching about the Tribulation period:

1. The Tribulation period will be an unprecedented time of human history, occurring at the end of this age. 

Daniel 12:1 

“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."

    The tribulation period is so-called due to how God will pour out what is called His "eschatological wrath" (that is, "His final expression of judgment") upon this world's unbelieving system and inhabitants. It is called by other names ("Day of the Lord" - Zephaniah 1:15;  "Daniel's seventieth week" - Daniel 9:23-27; and "time of Jacob's trouble" - Jeremiah 30:7. just to name a few).

2. The Tribulation period's purpose, in addition to God's judging of this world, is prepare Israel to meet her Messiah (see Zechariah 12 and 14, as well as Romans 11:25 and Revelation 14). 

    We can also note, especially from Revelation 7, that many people will get converted to Christ in the Tribulation period as a result of the efforts of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists preaching the Gospel.

3. The Tribulation period's duration will be seven years. 

    This length of time is drawn from the final seven year period or "final week" of Daniel's seventy weeks prophecy in Daniel 9:23-27. In Daniel 9:26b-27, we discover that the final seven year period is sub-divided into two equal halves of 31/2 years each. 

    Jesus refers to this prophecy, noting in Matthew 24:21 that the latter half is called "The Great Tribulation", due to the increased intensity and frequency of God's outpouring of wrath. The first half is not focused upon near as much as the latter half in other prophetic passages (especially in Revelation 13-18, which details the events of that final 31/2 year period). 

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

    This ruler is called by many names in prophetic Scripture (the son of perdition, anti-Christ, the beast). His regieme will be known as "Babylon the Great", and is detailed in Revelation 15-18. 

5. Christ's rapture of the church will precede this event. 

    The rapture and His second coming constitute part one and part two of His overall return, with the tribulation ooccuring in between both. His return to earth to rescue Israel will close out this period of time. We do not find mention of the rapture in the Old Testament, due to it being an event revealed by Jesus, then His Apostles, for the church and this current period of time for which the church eagerly awaits the return of her Lord (see Philippians 3:20-21 for example).
    Readers may review the last post by clicking here:

    As we continue on in our Biblical overview of the Tribulation period, we enter now into the New Testament with the aim once again to understand what the Bible has to say about this subject. In today's post, we shall review Jesus' teaching on the tribulation period.

Jesus' teaching on the Tribulation period

   Jesus is recorded saying the following about the tribulation period in Matthew 24:21-22

"For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 22 Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short."

     The above citation is taken from Jesus' final public teaching on the Mount of Olives - called by scholars "The Olivet Discourse". To understand why Jesus focuses attention on the tribulation, we first need to note the setting of Jesus' sermon.

The setting of Jesus' sermon on the mount gives insight into His remarks on the tribulation period. 

    The history of the Mount of Olives gives insight into understanding why Jesus would devote so much time to expounding upon the tribulation period. 
    This particular mountain is spoken of in Ezekiel's vision of the glory of God departing from the Temple in Jerusalem and resting over "the mountain to the East" in Ezekiel 9-10. 

    The setting of Jesus' sermon tells us that His sermon is detailing how God will deal with Jerusalem in history and prophecy. Zechariah 14, another significant prophetic passage that highlights this famous mountain, will feature the Lord Jesus returning to earth at the end of the tribulation period to restore Israel unto Himself before beginning His earthly reign. Such Biblical background aids us in seeing the significance of Jesus' remarks on the Divine plan for Jerusalem, the future tribulation period, and His second coming. 

How Jesus' teaching is presented in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

    The three versions of this teaching, found in Matthew 24:1-31; Mark 13:1-27 & Luke 21:5-28, are the passages we look to to understand Jesus' teaching on the Tribulation period and His Second coming back to earth. 
    In the citation from Matthew 24:21-22, we find Jesus alluding back to Daniel 12:1ff. This allusion signals to us that Jesus is not only referring to the pending destruction of Jerusalem and its temple 40 years future to Jesus' words, but also The Tribulation period at the end of this age. 

    Matthew and Mark's accounts appear to emphasize Jesus' predictions a near event future to them (destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D) and the Tribulation period at the end of this age. 

    Luke's account does the same as Matthew and Mark, with the additional phrase of the "times of the Gentiles" referring to the Gentile occupancy in Jerusalem that began in the days of King Nebuchadnezzar, and which will cease at the end of the future Tribulation.

Some specific observations about the tribulation period from Jesus' teaching in His sermon on the Mount of Olives.

    There is much more that could be said about Jesus' teaching, but we can note a few points about the Tribulation from these texts:

A. Jesus utilizes Daniel's prophecies throughout His sermon, meaning that He uses similar language to describe a future seven year period, divided into two equal 3 1/2 year periods, with the latter being the most severe (see Daniel 9:23-27 and Daniel 12:1-3).

B. Jesus refers to the whole period as "The Tribulation Period" (Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24) and the latter half as "The Great Tribulation" (Matthew 24:21). Jesus uses phrases from Daniel 9:23-27 and Daniel 12 to describe this period as being unprecedented.

C. In all three passages there is reference made to a fairly near event future to Jesus' time as well as the far future tribulation period. The near future event of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D acts as a template to preview what will be the final seven year tribulation period spoken of in Daniel. 

    In Daniel's prophecies we see this same phenomena of "double-fulfillment", wherein he speaks of a fairly near set of events 250 years from his day (which is the attack of Jerusalem and its temple by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168-165 b.c.) and of course the far future event of the tribulation period at the end of this age.

D. Jesus' continuity with Daniel's prophecies gives us a bridge between the Old and New Testament teachings on the Tribulation period. Every passage that follows throughout the New Testament on the Tribulation period does so from Jesus' sermon interpreting the extensive Old Testament treatment on the subject.

A quick note about the absence of the rapture in Jesus' teaching on the tribulation period

   A final remark needs made about the rapture, or the lack of mention thereof.  So, why no mention of the rapture of the church in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, or Luke 21? As we labored to show already, Jesus' is laying out God's final dealings with the Jews both in the near prophetic sense (destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.) and far prophetic sense (Daniel's 70th week or tribulation period). 

    In the chronology of Jesus' teaching, once he completes His Olivet Discourse, it is then where He and his disciples go to the upper room to begin the celebration of the Passover (see Matthew 26:1; Mark 14:1; Luke 22:1; John 13:1). 

    Since Jesus is instituting the Lord's Table in the context of the Passover Celebration, and since His Lord's Table is a new Covenant meal for the pending coming Church age (which would begin in Acts 2), it makes sense that Jesus would make reference to the rapture of the church in John 14. 

Closing thoughts:

    Today we surveyed Jesus' teaching on the Tribulation Period in His sermon on the Mount of Olives. The takeaways for this study are as follows. First, God's pledge to bring His chosen people, Israel, to faith in her Messiah, as well as His promises to their forebears Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, require the Tribulation period. The primary purpose of this period is to prepare Israel for the coming of her Messiah at the end of this age. God's promises to His people Israel says something to those who are His people in the Church - that God never breaks His promises. Then lastly, drawing attention to this period of time places urgency on evangelization of neighbors and friends as to how they can avoid the coming wrath of God upon the earth. 

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