Posted by Richard on February 1, 2009
An anonymous reader asks:
What signs will we have that the tribulation is coming?
WARNING: This answer is LONG! Skip to the end if you just want to know what you need to take away from the lesson.
One of the most important promises made to us, as believers, is that we will be kept from the period known as great tribulation.
Disclaimer: This post contains some topics which are very theologically salient. It also contains quite a few theological buzzwords. Don’t let yourself be bogged down by them. Don’t be afraid to look them up at www.dictionary.com. There is great contention between many so-called believers as to how the clues left to us should be interpreted. The view presented here is based on two key principles: that the Bible is correct, and that the Bible is meant to be interpreted literally where it is clear that was the literary intention. Skip to the last paragraph for the most important takeaway point from this study.
The “pre-tribulation” view takes the Greek in Rev 3:10 (Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. ESV) tēreō ek to mean keep from, which most exegetic scholars agree is the viable interpretation. This means that believers will be rewarded for their perseverance, and be taken up in the Rapture before the tribulation pours out God’s wrath on the world (flesh-dwellers).
HSAT, now we arrive at the particulars of the question. Prophecies all over scripture have given us a picture of what the world will look like leading up to the tribulation. As the signs increase in number and prevalence, we are reminded to be prepared for Jesus’ second coming.
More after the jump!
Jesus painted one such picture in Matthew 24. Wars, famine, earthquakes will all increase in devastation and frequency in the time leading up to the tribulation (see Matthew 24:6-8). “For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.” (Matthew 24:5, ESV) Many false messiahs will come, but you’ll know they are not the true messiah. The second coming of the Son of Man will be accompanied by great signs from heaven (see Matthew 24:29-31). Many will be deceived by false prophets and false teachings (Matthew 24:11).
Other signs of the times have been given throughout scripture as well. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he expresses a direct revelation from the Holy Spirit, “that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). False, demon-inspired religions will run rampant in the world. In 2 Timothy 3:1-9, Paul explains that lawlessness and Godlessness will increase as “…people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power…” (2 Tim 3:2-5). We must remain specially guarded against apostasy, that is knowing the truth of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and rejecting Jesus as our Lord.
A few specific signs have been revealed as to the state of the world as it has to be before the tribulation occurs. Signs like this are given in prophecy as further evidence of the authority of scripture. In Luke 21:24 Jesus foretold the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, but tacked on a time limit to the continued overthrow of Jerusalem that is when the “times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” For the first time since that destruction, since 1948 now there is a nation of Israel controlling part of their original land.
The first beast mentioned in Revelation 13 will control the world in a manner of political unity previously unheard of since the fall of the Tower of Babel. Do you see any evidence of the world moving towards political unity and harmony today? Certainly governments remain fractured against each other, but there certainly has been unprecedented collaboration lately.
In Daniel 2, he interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream revealing, among other kingdoms, a revived Roman Empire. Some might think that’s utterly impossible, but its not entirely out of the question when you look at the European Union, and how all those countries which fracture from the Old Roman Empire are now collaborating again.
Also, in Daniel 11:40 he mentions Egypt attacking Israel. Does that now seem like a possibility?
There are many more signs and prophecy about events leading to end times, and a lot of them become clearer as we start to see them happen. It’s hard to understand a prediction of future events when we can’t see the possibility of them happening. Certain previously unfathomable predictions about Israel, Jerusalem and even the temple have inexplicably moved from the realm of impossible to ‘quite likely.’
The time of the tribulation will begin with the Two Witnesses sent by God with the power of the plagues to gather the nation of Israel to him (see Revelation 11:3-11). The current church created by Jesus’ ministry will be caught up with Jesus in the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), and the witnesses will be empowered on the Earth to bring God’s testimony of salvation and coming wrath. Those that convert during the tribulation because of the testimony of the two witnesses will be saved by the same truth about Jesus we know.
The exact time of the tribulation is only known by God, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Following these things, Jesus commands us “Therefore you must also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44). Christians are to keep ourselves prepared: we are to avoid the things we are warned against (lawlessness, apostasy, false teaching, etc.) and persevere until the end comes, and we will be rewarded with life.
For more detail, you can visit http://www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/1211