The Great Tribulation
How does the Bible describe the Great Tribulation?
It will be a time when sin will increase. “And because iniquity shall abound, and the love of many shall wax cold” (Matt. 24:12).
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:1–5).
“There should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts” (Jude 1:18).
It will be a time when witchcraft, drugs, and idolatry will abound. “And the rest of the men . . . repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorcery [drugs], nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts” (Rev. 9:20,21). See also Rev. 16:13,14; 18:23.
It will be a time of great apostasy. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:1,2). See also 2 Thess. 2:3; 2 Tim. 4:3,4.
It will be a time when many will say, “Peace and safety.” “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (1 Thess. 5:3).
It will be a time when the man of sin, the son of perdition shall be revealed, “who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped. . . . Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thess. 2:3,4,9).
It will be a time when false prophets will work lying wonders. “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Matt. 24:24).
“And he [the false prophet] doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire [to] come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men” (Rev. 13:13).
It will be a time when Satan and the man of sin will be worshiped. “And they worshipped the dragon [Satan] . . . And they worshipped the beast [the man of sin], saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?” (Rev. 13:4).
“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him [the beast], whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).
It will be a time when the Church will be hated by all nations and the beast. “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake” (Matt. 24:9).
“And it was given unto him [the beast] to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations” (Rev. 13:7).
It will be a time when the deceived will make an image to the beast. “And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live” (Rev. 13:14).
It will be a time when all who do not worship the image will be killed. “And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed” (Rev. 13:15).
It will be a time when no man will be able to buy or sell without a mark (666) in his right hand, or in his forehead. “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. . . . And his number is Six hundred three–score and six” (666) (Rev. 13:16–18).
The Bible warns, “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name” (Rev. 14:9–11).
It will be a time of such great tribulation that God will shorten those days for the sake of the Church. “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matt. 24:22).
It will be a time followed by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to gather His Church. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt. 24:29–31). See also Mark 13:24–27; Luke 21:25–28.
The Church will be gathered “immediately after the tribulation.” What exactly is meant by the term “Church”?
The true Church is not a church building or organized religion. It consists of people who have received salvation through “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21,28).
When will the Great Tribulation take place?
The Great Tribulation is the last period in history preceding the return of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 24:21–31).
How can we be certain that the Great Tribulation will be on earth just prior to the coming of the Lord Jesus to gather His Church?
Jesus foretold that the days of great tribulation will be shortened for the sake of the Church (Matt. 24:21,22; Mark 13:20–22). This would be unnecessary if the Church had already been gathered. Without the Church there would be no need to shorten those days. Jesus also said that the Church will be gathered “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Matt. 24:29–31). He also asked, “When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). This implies that the situation on earth would become dark before His coming.
Paul also indicated that tribulation will occur just prior to the Second Coming when he wrote, “we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:15,17). “Alive and remain” appears twice in this passage. According to Strong’s Concordance, the word “remain” may be translated “survive.” In other words, Paul spoke of those who are “alive and survive.” Survival evidently refers to the great persecution of the Church that will occur before the coming of the Lord. Moreover, Paul wrote that the Church will be gathered after the man of sin is revealed and that Christ will destroy him with the brightness of His coming (2 Thess. 2:1–3,8).
The Book of Revelation describes the reign of the Antichrist and persecution against the Church right up until the time of our Lord’s coming. For example, when the fifth seal was opened, John saw “the souls of them that were slain for the word of God. . . . And it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled” (Rev. 6:9,11). Immediately afterwards, when the sixth seal was opened, John foresaw the coming of Christ and the saints who came out of great tribulation (Rev. 6:12–17; 7:14,15).
Will the Great Tribulation affect the Church or only the Jews?
The Great Tribulation will affect the whole world. The Bible says, “And power was given him [the beast] over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:7,8).
“And he [the false prophet] causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads” (Rev. 13:16). The Church, however, will be affected primarily by persecution. She will “keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” and refuse to worship the man of sin and his image, and to receive his mark or the number of his name, 666 (Rev. 14:9–12; 15:2; 20:4). The beast will make war with the saints (Rev. 13:7), and all nations will hate them (Matt. 24:9).
Why will the Church be hated by all nations?
There are many reasons why men hate: envy (Gen. 37:4); pride (Psa. 83:2; Pro. 13:10); covetousness (Luke 16:14); selfishness (Psa. 44:10; 2 Tim. 3:2,3); a wicked heart (Pro. 26:24,25); spiritual blindness (1 John 2:9,11); and because they themselves have not experienced the love of God (John 5:18,42; 8:40,42,47; 16:2,3).
If we follow Jesus, we will be hated for the same reasons men hated Him—He was not of this world (John 15:18–20; 17:14); He spoke the truth of God (John 8:40); and He testified against the evil of the world (John 7:7). Indeed, He was hated “without a cause” (John 15:25). The apostles remind us, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you” (1 John 3:13); “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).
How will this hatred be manifested?
The Church will experience the same hatred that Jesus, the prophets, the apostles, and the early church received from their contemporaries. They were falsely accused, rewarded evil for good, cast out, reproached, beaten, tortured, imprisoned, driven from city to city, betrayed, and killed.
This hatred will affect all relationships. Jesus said, “And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake” (Luke 21:16,17); “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:36,37).
What should I do when I’m hated and persecuted for righteousness’ sake?
Remember that your persecutors are persecuting the Lord Jesus Christ, not you. Jesus said, “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil” (John 7:7). See also Zech. 2:8; Acts 5:39; 9:4.
Do good. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you: That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:43–45). See also Gen. 50:19–21; Ex. 23:4,5; Job 31:28–30; Luke 6:27–30; Rom. 12:14–21; 1 Pet. 3:9.
Exhibit patience. “Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it” (1 Cor. 4:12).
Let God fight your battles. “He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me” (Psa. 18:16,17). See also Psa. 44:4–8; 106:10,11; Luke 1:70,71.
Believe God! “So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God” (Dan. 6:23).
Rejoice, your reward is great in heaven! “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets” (Luke 6:22,23). See also Isa. 60:14,15; 66:5,6; Matt. 5:12; 2 Cor. 12:10; 1 Pet. 4:12,13,16.
Do not fear! Jesus said, “Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake” (Matt. 10:22), and gave three reasons not to fear:
1. “Fear them not . . . for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known” ( 10:26).
2. “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” ( 10:28).
3. “Fear ye not . . . ye are of more value than many sparrows” ( 10:31). Not one sparrow falls to the ground without our heavenly Father knowing it ( 10:29). How much more He must care for us! See also John 14:27; Phil. 1:28,29; Isa. 35:4; Joel 2:21,22.
Be able to stand alone. Individuals must know God and His Word so that they are able to trust Him and to stand alone. The apostle Paul testified, “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me. . . . Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me” (2 Tim. 4:16,17). He also admonished, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:13).
The prophet Elijah stood alone against four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. “Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men” (1 Kings 18:22).
Don’t be surprised if persecution comes from lukewarm Christians. David said, “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company” (Psa. 55:12–14).
Jesus and the early church were persecuted by the chief priests and elders (Matt. 27:1,2; John 18:3; Acts 23:12–15); the high priest (John 18:19–24,28); and the scribes and the Pharisees (Luke 11:53,54).
Although the world may hate us, Jesus loves us. He has promised to love us to the end. When we walk after the Spirit, nothing can separate us from His love (Rom. 8:35–39). Let us be strong, therefore, to suffer gladly with Jesus, to pray for our enemies, to show patience, to let God fight our battles, to believe in God, to always rejoice, to fear not, and not to be surprised if persecution should come from lukewarm Christians. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).
Isn’t the Great Tribulation a time of “Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:6,7) when Israel will be tested and persecuted, but not the Church?
Some propagate this teaching, but there is no evidence to prove that “the time of Jacob’s trouble” is the Great Tribulation. “Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? Wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it” (Jer. 30:6,7). More likely, these two verses fit the description of the Day of the Lord, which follows the Great Tribulation. This truth may be seen by comparing the events of “the time of Jacob’s trouble” with those of the Day of the Lord:
| The Events of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble
| The Events of the Day of the Lord
| As a women in travail—Jer. 30:6.
The day of the Lord. . . . as travail upon a woman—1 Thess. 5:2,3. See also Isa. 13:8,9; Psa. 48:6
| Alas! for that day is great—Jer. 30:7.
That great and notable day of the Lord—Acts 2:20. See also Joel 1:15; 2:11,31; Zeph. 1:14; Mal. 4:5; Rev. 6:17
| So that none is like it—Jer. 30:7.
The day of the Lord. . . . there hath not been ever the like—Joel 2:1,2. The great day of God Almighty. . . . such as was not since men were upon the earth—Rev. 16:14,18.
| That day—Jer. 30:7.
The day of the Lord. . . . that day — 1 Thess. 5:2,4. See also Luke 21:34; 2 Thess. 2:2,3.