Is there prophecy that just before Jesus returns the people of God will suffer the worst persecution known to mankind? Join us as Robert reveals the truth about the Tribulation.

ROBERT >> In the last several weeks here on The Truth In Love we have learned that Bible prophecy often speaks of the last days. The last days does not refer to a time just before the end, but it began 2,000 years ago with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and will continue until Christ comes again. Christ will not come at the beginning of the last days, but the very last day of the last days.

We also learned that there will be no signs to indicate when Christ is coming. It’s not something you can wait to prepare for when you see some signs; but rather you must always be prepared, because there are no signs of the end times. Christ will come suddenly and unexpectedly, and nobody but the Father knows when Jesus is coming again. And we learned that there’ll be no secret rapture of the church and the rest left behind to suffer tribulation for seven years until Jesus returns to set up his kingdom on the earth for a thousand years that ends with the final judgment, no. When Jesus comes, all the dead will be raised, every eye will see him, all will be judged to go to heaven or to hell for eternity, and the world then will come to an end.

In our last several lessons, we have been discussing the antichrist, because there are some that believe that before Jesus returns, the greatest political leader in history will arise and establish an empire over the entire world that will stand against God and his people, causing great tribulation throughout the planet like never before. In the past, some thought Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein were the antichrist, and people are still trying to identify him. And what we have tried to do is go through every passage where the term antichrist appears in the Bible, and we also noticed where the antichrist was not spoken of in the Bible. Some have gone to Daniel, but we’ve found he’s not there. Some have gone to 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, but we found he was not there. And some have gone to the book of Revelation, but even there, there’s no mention of the antichrist. We found that the Bible uses the term antichrist only five times: In 1 John and in 2 John. That’s the only place that the term is ever used in the scriptures. And according to these passages, there were many antichrists, not just one. They lived in John’s day, not just at the end of the world. They were anti-Christ, literally, against Christ. They denied Jesus Christ and the Father. They denied Jesus Christ came in the flesh. These passages never mention a world ruler who rises up against God and his people to bring the great tribulation before Jesus comes at the end of the world. This morning let’s ask, what is the great tribulation? I hope you’ll stay tuned as we learn together more about what the Bible says concerning Bible prophecy and the last days.

SINGING>> Speaking the truth, speaking the truth,
speaking the truth, speaking the truth in love.

ROBERT >> What is the great tribulation?

Well, some believe that there will be a terrible time of great suffering during the reign of the antichrist, culminating in Armageddon at the coming of Christ and the beginning of his millennial reign on the earth. The Bible speaks often of tribulation, even great tribulation; but it nowhere mentions the great tribulation at the coming of Christ in the end times.

Let’s notice that the term great tribulation is only found three times in the Bible: In Matthew 24:21-22, in Revelation 2:20-23, and in Revelation 7:14. Now, we’ll first look at these passages, and then we’ll look at some other passages used to support the false idea of the great tribulation.

Let’s begin today by looking in Matthew 24:21-22. Here’s what the Bible says: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor shall ever be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”

You might remember that this prophecy of Jesus refers to the siege and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. This is something that we’ve already looked at, and this is something that had already been prophesied by Daniel.

In Matthew chapter 24, if you’ll back up here to verse 15 and 16, let’s see what it says. “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.”

Now, what we read here in Matthew 24 is a quote from Daniel chapter 9, the abomination of desolation.

Now, what is he talking about?

I’m going to keep my hand on Matthew 24, and I hope you will, too, but I want to read the parallel account in Luke 21:20, because Luke describes the abomination of desolation in simple terms.

Here’s what he says in Luke 21:20: “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near, and then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”

You see, Matthew was talking about when Jerusalem would be beseiged by these armies, when Jerusalem would be destroyed, it and its temple. The Christians, you’ll notice in this context, were not raptured up in some secret rapture before the destruction of the temple, but rather they were told to flee to Judea. Jesus in the passage here in Matthew 24, speaking of great tribulation like had never been, he uses a hyperbolic, proverbial saying, something that was used by the Old Testament prophets when God in the past sent the great nation of Babylon upon the city of Jerusalem.

Let me go back and let you compare the language of Matthew 24 with that of the prophets of old.

Jeremiah 30:7. Again, Jeremiah has in reference the destruction of the temple that took place in the sixth century before Christ. Jeremiah described it this way in chapter 30, verse 7,”Alas! For that day is great, so that one none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.”

This time of great trouble, nothing like it, Jeremiah says. A hyperbolic, proverbial saying.

Look at Ezekiel 5:8-9. Ezekiel also is describing this destruction of Jerusalem by the great nation of Babylon as God wanted to punish his people because they went after other gods. And so when he sent Babylon against them, look how Ezekiel describes it here in chapter 5, verse 8 and 9: “Therefore thus says the Lord God, Indeed, I, even I, am against you and will execute judgments in your midst in the sight of the nations. And I will do among you what I have never done, and the like of which I will never do again, because of all your abominations.”

So the Old Testament prophets used these words, it’ll be like never happened before, like will never happen again, to describe the destruction of Jerusalem that took place back then hundreds of years before Christ.

Now, Christ is on the earth, and he is prophesying in Matthew 24 that once again, Jerusalem, that the temple there is going to be destroyed. And he uses this same kind of language here in Matthew 24 when he says here in verse 21, at the end of that verse, “Such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.”

He uses that language because this is a terrible judgment that God brings upon the people of the first century who reject Christ and his gospel. Josephus, a Jewish historian, was an eyewitness of this destruction, and he wrote, quote, Neither did any other city suffer such miseries from the beginning of the world. The phrase, “Nor ever shall be,” shows that Jesus had in mind a time near his own day, not at the end of the world.

And as he said here in Matthew 24, look in verse 34, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.”

So the great tribulation of Matthew 24 is not something at the end times, but something that would happen in the generation of Jesus and his apostles that took place in 70 AD when the Romans surrounded the city, besieged it, and destroyed it.

In Matthew chapter 23, just before Jesus gave this prophecy, he says in verse 36 through 38 these words: ”Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more it will you say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

That’s the first place that we find the term great tribulation. Now let’s take another look.

Look in Revelation 7:14. “And I said to him, Sir, you know. So he said to me, These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

This passage speaks of the faithful Christians who endured the awful persecution of the Roman empire upon the church. These ones who were faithful in spite of that great persecution were washed, they were cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

In Revelation 1:5, John talks about this when he says, “And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.”

And in Revelation 3:5, when he writes to the church at Sardis look what Jesus says: “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”

And so when we come to Revelation 7:14, we see that the sole subject of the book of Revelation has to do with this tribulation brought upon the church by the Roman empire and how that the faithful will overcome. Being washed by the blood of Christ, they will be granted white robes, robes of purity in heaven. This tribulation had already begun and was only going to grow worse. It was not something that was happening at the end of the world.

In Revelation 1:9, look what John says: “I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

You see, as John was writing this book, he was in tribulation with all the other Christians. They were already in the kingdom of Christ. This was not something at the end of the world. Christ established his kingdom, it was a spiritual kingdom, the church. And they were enjoying their place in that kingdom. But they were also suffering persecution from the Roman empire of their day.

In Revelation 2:9-10, we see where Jesus Christ has this to say to the church at Smyrna: “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

And so the tribulation of the book of Revelation, of Revelation 7:14, the great tribulation, was this persecution that was coming upon the church of the first century. And this would continue until the fall of Rome, that great persecutor of God’s people.

Look at Revelation 6:9-11, where here we see John was given a vision of those who had suffered in this persecution. And he says, “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth? Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.”

Here you see God is going to take vengeance for his people against the Romans. They needed to wait until the number was complete, till all had gone through the persecution, and their enemy would fall under the heavy hand of God.

Now, in Revelation chapter 17, look at verses 4 through 6, where John has a vision of this great enemy of God’s people. Here it says, “The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her head a name was written: Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement. This vision of John speaks of this great harlot who is persecuting God’s people to death.”

He speaks of the Roman empire of his day. And you see in verse 18 where he describes this further. “And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.”

Who can that be but the city of Rome?

I look in chapter 18 and verse 2, “And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!”

You see, just like the Babylon of old, that great empire that once persecuted God’s people, now the new Babylon, Rome, that is persecuting God’s people will fall.

He describes this further in chapter 18 verse 20 and verse 21. Here it says, “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her! And then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore.” Indeed, that empire has fallen into the dust of the earth, to be seen never again.

In verse 24 we have these words: “And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.”

Well, we’ve seen that the great tribulation of Matthew 24 did not refer to the end times, and we also see here in Revelation chapter 7 that the tribulation of the book of Revelation referred to that persecution which they were then undergoing, not something just at the end of time. But now let’s turn to the third place where we find this term, the great tribulation. This is found in Revelation chapter 2.

Look at Revelation 2:20-23. “Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.”

Here in this passage, it obviously has no reference to some tribulation upon God’s people, God’s faithful ones at the end time, but it speaks of God’s judgment upon a wicked false teacher and her followers that was troubling the church at Thyatira in John’s day.

You see in Revelation 2:14 that this letter that we just read from was written to the angel of the church in Thyatira. And you’ll notice also in verse 24 of this letter, “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden.”

So this great tribulation has nothing to do with end time. We’ve learned that was true in Matthew 24 and Revelation 7:14 and the third place that it’s mentioned here in Revelation chapter 2. So nowhere where we find the phrase the great tribulation does it have reference to some Armageddon at the end of the world caused by some great antichrist. Not at all.

Next week, Lord willing, we’ll continue this study of the great tribulation, because there are other passages that people want to go to to try to find this idea. And so I hope that you’ll join us that week. But I hope also that you’ll continue to study your Bible and that if you see that you’re not right with God, that you’ll get right with him today and that you’ll let us know here at The Truth In Love how we can help you towards heaven.

SINGING>> All hail the power of Jesus’ name, let angels prostrate fall.
Bring forth the royal diadem and crown him Lord of all.
Bring forth the royal diadem and crown him Lord of all.
Oh, that with yonder sacred throng we at his feet may fall.
We’ll join the everlasting song and crown him Lord of all.
We’ll join the everlasting song and crown him Lord of all.

SINGING>> I know that my redeemer lives and ever prays for me.
I know eternal life he gives from sin and sorrow free.
I know, I know that my redeemer lives,
I know, I know eternal life he gives.
I know, I know that my redeemer lives.
I know that over yonder stands a place prepared for me,
a home, a house not made with hands,
most wonderful to see.
I know, I know that my redeemer lives,
I know, I know eternal life he gives.
I know, I know that my redeemer lives.

SINGING>> Years I spent in vanity and pride,
caring not my Lord was crucified,
knowing not it was for me he died on Calvary.
Mercy there was great,
and grace was free, pardon there was multiplied to me,
there my burdened soul found liberty, at Calvary.
Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan.
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man.
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary.
Mercy there was great, and grace was free,
pardon there was multiplied to me.
There my burdened soul found liberty, at Calvary.

ROBERT >> I want to thank you for watching our program today, and we’d really like to hear from you. If you have any questions, comments, or requests, if you’d like a personal home Bible study or special prayers, if you’d like to order today’s lesson or any other lesson on CD, DVD, or in manuscript form, let me encourage you to write The Truth In Love at P.O. Box 865, Hurst, Texas 76053.

You may e-mail us at requests@ttil.tv.

Or call our toll-free number, 800-819-2966.

And also, please visit our web site at www.ttil.tv.

All our materials and services are absolutely free of charge. We want to thank the many churches of Christ who help support this program, and I want to encourage you to visit one of them in your area very soon. Their names are going to be scrolled on the screen at the end of our program. We just want to do what we can to help us all towards heaven. So let us know how we can help you, and please join us next time right here on The Truth In Love.

SINGING>> Sing to me of heaven, sing that song of peace.
From the toils that bind me it will bring release.
Burdens will be lifted that are pressing so,
showers of great blessing o’er my heart will flow.
Sing to me of heaven,
let me fondly dream of its golden glory, of its pearly gleam.
Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall.
Sing to me of heaven, sing the sweetest song of all.
Sing to me of heaven tenderly and low
till the shadows o’er me rise and swiftly go.
When my heart is weary, when the day is long,
sing to me of heaven, sing that old, sweet song.
Sing to me of heaven,
let me fondly dream of its golden glory, of its pearly gleam.
Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall.
Sing to me of heaven, sing the sweetest song of all.