A Rapture Study: The Tribulation (Part 1)

Many Christians are under the false assumption that Matthew 24 is speaking to the Church despite the fact that the Church didn’t even exist at this point.

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In A Rapture Study, I examined the four main rapture views which all center around the tribulation period. This part of the study on the rapture will primarily focus on the tribulation’s purpose and who the tribulation is for. I believe these are key questions to ask to determine who will and who won’t be a part of this period of time and why. Although the tribulation is an important concept to understand the rapture, it is still one of the many pieces to this puzzle. If you’re not familiar with the tribulation and want more insight, navigate to the articles below on my 2 part study on this time period for a general overview.

  1. The Coming Tribulation (Part 1)
  2. The Coming Tribulation (Part 2)

What is the Tribulation?

Before we get to the rest of the article, I want to make two things clear, first being what I mean by tribulation. I’m talking about THE tribulation and not “trials and tribulations” we Christians experience throughout our lives. These are two different things. We, as Christians, are told to expect trials throughout our life as it is used to strengthen our faith.

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:12-13, NKJV)

In John 16:33, Jesus doesn’t just tell us that there’s tribulation in this world but rather “you will have tribulation”, a fact that’s not sugar-coated. 2 Timothy 3:12 states, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution”. Even as you’re reading this, millions of Christians worldwide are being persecuted in some way. We are not denied exemption from persecution or trials and tribulations but instead guaranteed that it will occur. However, this is vastly different from THE tribulation.

The tribulation is a 7 year period of time described in the bible as the worst period of time in humanity that will ever come on the earth. Jesus himself says that if it isn’t cut short to 7 years then all flesh on earth could be destroyed, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22, NKJV).

This same period of time is also mentioned to us in places such as Daniel 12:1, “…And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation”. The tribulation period itself is called “Jacob’s Trouble” and “Daniel’s 70th Week”. Who the tribulation is for as well as its purpose lies within these two names.

The second thing we need to keep in mind before we proceed is that Israel and the church are two separate “entities”. Israel and the church are not the same. Due to this fact, God has separate agendas for both of these entities. The church has not replaced Israel and neither does the church share the same prophetic program with Israel.

Although they have rejected their messiah and largely live in unbelief today, God is not finished with them, “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew…I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:1-2, 11, NKJV).

Paul makes it clear to us in Romans 11:25-27 that due to Israel’s rejection of their messiah 2,000 years ago, a “partial blindness” has come on them until the fullness of the Gentiles – something I plan to delve into in a separate article, “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins’” (Romans 11:25-27, NKJV).

“Jacob’s Trouble”

“Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it” (Jeremiah 30:7, NKJV).

Jacob was the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham. He was also the brother of Esau who he bought his birthright from. In Genesis 32:22-32, Jacob wrestled with God in order to receive a blessing. They wrestled to the next day and, eventually, God put an end to the fight, blessed him, and also renamed him to Israel.

We also see this name change in Genesis 35:10, “And God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.’ So He called his name Israel”. Jacob (Israel) later becomes the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. With this backstory in mind, we can see that “Jacob’s Trouble” can also be called “Israel’s Trouble”. To cement this idea further that this time period is primarily for Israel we’ll also take a look as to why it’s called “Daniel’s 70th week.”

“Daniel’s 70th Week”

Daniel’s 70 weeks is a time determined for Daniel’s people. I cover these 70 weeks of years (490 years) in more detail in my first study of the tribulation here. Daniel 9:24 shows us that 70 weeks are determined for Daniel’s people to bring 6 things to pass:

  • To finish the transgression
  • To make an end of sins
  • To make reconciliation for iniquity
  • To bring in everlasting righteousness
  • To seal up vision and prophecy
  • To anoint the Most High

483 years have been fulfilled, however, they still have one more “week” remaining. The “70th week” is the final 7 years that is still appointed to the nation of Israel.

Something we also need to consider here is who are Daniel’s People? Earlier in Daniel 9:20, we see Daniel praying and confessing not only his sins but the sin’s of HIS people, Israel, “Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel…”. Daniel’s people is the nation of Israel. The time determined for Daniel’s people is a time determined for Israel. This is the time of “Jacob’s Trouble”.

Daniel 9:24 also tells us these seventy weeks are determined for Daniel’s holy city – Jerusalem. From this verse alone we see there’s a focus on the Jewish people, exemplified through the mention of Daniel’s people and their holy city. Matthew 24:15-20 exemplifies this point further.

A Focus on the Jewish People

In Matthew 24:15, Jesus talks to His disciples about the abomination of desolation and what needs to be done by those who will witness this yet future event, “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), ‘then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.’” Jesus is referencing Daniel 9:27 concerning a covenant that will be made for a week – 7 years – but will be broken 3 1/2 years in. At this time the sacrificial system that will exist will be put to an end.

This sacrificial system will occur in the 3rd temple which is still yet future. Once this event occurs, Jesus warns that those who see it will need to flee. He even gives a specific geographical location – Judea. In Matthew 24:20, He offers more insight, “And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.” Matthew 24 is a chapter for the Jews during the tribulation and this is seen through the “Jewishness” of what Jesus is referring to.

If this wasn’t true why would Gentiles care about the Jewish temple and sacrifices being offered in it? Why would Gentiles need to worry about if it’s the Sabbath or not when they don’t celebrate it? These are Jewish concepts and focuses on the Jews during the tribulation. The reason Jesus says “pray that your flight may not be on the Sabbath” is that Jews will have to make the tough decision of either keeping the Sabbath and possibly being killed or break the Sabbath and flee with their lives. This is not a tough decision for a gentile or even enters a gentile’s mind as they don’t celebrate the Sabbath.

Many Christians are under the false assumption that Matthew 24 is speaking to the Church despite the fact that the Church didn’t even exist at this point. It’s true that all Scripture is for us (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV), but not all scripture is about us. For example, in Genesis, the flood story in Noah’s time is often referenced throughout scripture and can be used to teach a lesson or simply detail events of the past (as can be seen in Matthew 24:37-39 for example), however, the flood story is not about us. It concerns those who lived on the earth at the time and Noah’s family. Likewise, Matthew 24 is not about the church but is instead focused on Israel.

We saw earlier in Daniel 9:24 who this 7 year period of time is primarily for – Daniel’s people (Israel) and Daniel’s holy city (Jerusalem). Daniel 9:27 discusses the abomination of desolation which Jesus expounds upon to his disciples in Matthew 24:15-22. After that he further explains what those during this period of time who witness this event must do. The prophecy given to Daniel in Daniel 9:27 relates to the Jews that live during the tribulation, and likewise so does Matthew 24:15-22 and beyond.

It’s true we can glean much truth from Matthew 24 such as the timing of end-time events in relation to Christ’s second coming, but it doesn’t concern the church in terms of who Jesus is speaking to. In my opinion, many go to Matthew 24 looking for details about the rapture where there isn’t one. In future studies, I’ll look at arguments stemming from Matthew 24 that people use to support a post-trib (or any non pre-trib) rapture.

In part two of this study, I’ll be delving into the purpose of the tribulation as a period of time meant to bring the nation of Israel into a saving knowledge of their messiah and punish unrepentant mankind.

Below is a list of what I believe to be several ideas in the Bible that helps us identify and understand the rapture. Daniel’s 70th week or Jacob’s Trouble is one piece to this puzzle and I hope you stick with this study as I continue to make my argument for the pre-tribulation rapture of the church.

  • The Tribulation: “Jacob’s Trouble”/”Daniel’s 70th week”
  • Wheat and Tares
  • The “Blessed Hope”
  • Mystery of the rapture
  • Typologies
  • The “Great Sign in Heaven”
  • Fullness of the Gentiles
  • Jewish Marriage Customs
  • The 7 Churches and their rewards
  • The 24 Elders
  • The First Resurrection
  • The 3 Harvests
  • The Day of the Lord and God’s wrath
  • Kept from the hour of trial
  • Identity of the “Saints”
  • History of the Pre-trib rapture

 

 

Featured Image by Dan Kiefer

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About the Author

Ayo is an energetic blogger striving to use his insights and God given talents to share the Gospel. Through his blog, he aspires to point skeptics of the bible to the truth of the Gospel using apologetics. His aspires to also inform others - both believer and non-believer - regarding the times we're living in preceding the Lord's soon return through the study of prophecy. He hopes to both inform his readers with facts, equip them with tools to communicate the Gospel, and offer hope and encouragement through God's Word.