The Great Tribulation

One day, my friend Pastor Jere Cang called me and said, “Hi bro, I’m going on a Holy Land tour soon. I have two slots. My wife is not sure if she can come. Would you like to join me?”

I replied, “Yes, of course! I’ll be crazy to say no!”

He said, “Okay. I will get back to you in a few weeks.”

A few weeks later, he called again and said, “Sorry, bro. My wife decided to come with me.”

Lord-willing, I will visit the Holy Land and walk the road where Jesus walked.

Everybody wants to go to Jerusalem. But Jesus is saying here, “Get out of Jerusalem.” Why does Jesus call for an urgent escape from Jerusalem? The answer is that the “great tribulation” is coming.

Jesus said, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matt. 24:21). The word “for” gives the reason for Jesus’ exhortation. The “great tribulation” (thlipsis megale) refers to a time of terrible suffering that has never been seen in history and never will be again. It is a one of a kind period, “the tribulation of those days” (v. 29). It has never yet happened in history. It is yet future.

The great tribulation fits the last three and a half years of tribulation in Revelation. John wrote, “But do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months” (Rev. 11:2). “And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months” (Rev. 13:5). Forty-two months is equivalent to three and a half years. For three and a half years, the Antichrist and the nations supporting him shall desecrate the temple of God in Jerusalem. They shall rule the world for three and a half years. This is called the “Great Tribulation,” the period of three and a half years of intense persecution of believers and suffering of all peoples.

When will the Great Tribulation be? The Great Tribulation period will begin at the end of the age, at the middle of the Tribulation period, when the Antichrist, the abomination of desolation, is installed in the Temple. The Tribulation period is a period of seven years, Daniel’s seventieth week (Jer. 30:7; Dan. 9:26). At the middle of the Tribulation period, after the first half of three and a half years, the Great Tribulation will begin.

Where will the church be by the time of the Tribulation period? I believe the church will be raptured before the Tribulation period. Believers in Christ will meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:15-18). God has not destined us for the wrath to come (1 Thess. 5:9).

The sufferings of both believers of Christ and unbelievers during the Great Tribulation will be so great that God will shorten the period. Jesus said, “And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matt. 24:22). The point is the intense suffering of people in this period. If God will not cut it short, no one will be saved. The future passive verb “saved” (sozo) means “save, preserve from harm, rescue.” (Friberg) It refers to physical safety, not spiritual salvation. If God will not cut it short, no one will be preserved physically. It implies that the great tribulation will involve physical violence by the Antichrist and the nations.

Why would God cut short the Great Tribulation period? It is “for the sake of the elect” (v. 22). The elect are those who follow Jesus (Matt. 20:16; 22:14; 24:24, 31). God will cut short the suffering of people for the sake of the elect. It means that God blesses unbelievers because of believers.

Do you know that God blesses your family because of you? Do you know that God blesses your workplace because of you? Do you know that God blesses our nation because of Christ-followers?

Conclusion

By the time the Antichrist will appear, I believe that believers will be gone—caught up in the air to be with the Lord. But Christ will come anytime now. He can come today or any day, at any moment.

When He comes, will He find you loving Him and loving others? Are you walking with God today? Maybe you say, “I’m out of touch with God. I want to go back to God. I want to serve the Lord.” Now is a good time to do that.

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