The Great Tribulation

THE TRIBULATION EXPLAINED

¶ “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.
Matthew 24:9

Perhaps nothing has struck more terror in the hearts of young believers than the teaching by Bible-Prophecy preachers about the coming tribulation! I have literally spoken with young people who have had to see a counsellor to try and deal with their resultant anxiety. It is claimed that this coming global calamity will be divided into two equal parts. The first 3½ years will be tribulation where the Anti-Christ will beguile the world into making him their leader, yet all the while hatching an evil plot to exterminate the Jews. The second 3½ years, of the 7 year period of Tribulation, will be known The Great Tribulation. This, it is stated, will be when the Anti-Christ will declare himself to be God, sit “on the throne of God” and challenge the Son of God to war, referred as Armageddon.    

¶ “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
Matthew 24:29

Many people have been led to believe that this horrific period is forecast in the Book of Revelation. But how many have their understanding of the Book of Revelation distorted by their lack of understanding about historical context, the use of Biblical language, and even modern opinions?

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

The Problem With The Book of RevelationAnd this is one of the biggest problems with how people approach the Book of Revelation: the historical background to the Book is unknown to most readers. The second huge problem is that most people who promote themselves as experts on “End Times” or “Bible Prophecy” do not understand how the principles of sound Biblical hermeneutics also apply equally to the Book of Revelation. For example, one of the first assumptions that those who employ sound hermeneutics use is, treat any Biblical book as if it was written to someone else. This demands that we study the original audience context as well as the Biblical context. But this presents a problem to the modern reader since we are at least two thousand years removed from the original audience. If we fail to address these problems when interpretting what the Book of Revelation means by tribulation, we are doomed to commit the same errors that have plagued the history of Revelation’s interpretation. (I have compiled a small list of such of failed interpretations.)

Revelation as Apocalyptic LiteratureAnyone who studies the Book of Revelation will soon come across the term “apocalyptic”. The language of the Book of Revelation is regarded as “apocalyptic”. Similarly, the student of Revelation will read that “apocalyptic” has to do with symbolic prophetic language regarding the end of the world. This definition though is somewhat unsubstantiated. “Apocalyptic” does not mean the end of the world, rather it means to unveil. It comes from the Greek word, apocalypsis. This is the original Greek word for the English word translated as Revelation. Thus, while the nature of the term apocalyptic is certainly symbolic, certainly prophetic, and certainly about the ending of something, but it is not necessarily (if at all) about the end of the world.

Speculation about the Book of RevelationIf a student of the Book of Revelation (i) ignores the historical context of the book, (ii) assumes that it is describing the end of the world (an expression no where found in the Book itself) – it will inevitably lead to some wild speculation about what this book means. History reveals that this speculation has brought much discredit to the cause of promoting Christ and His infallble Word when well-meaning (but mistaken) people make bold claims that the Book of Revelation predicts the fortunes of their own nation in their own day. The Book of Revelation not only does not make this claim, it actually claims to be speaking to a first century audience within the existing Roman Empire. But I am now rushing ahead of myself.

Understanding the Book of RevelationThe Book of Revelation is the last book of the Bible for good reason. It requires some knowledge of the rest of the Bible in order to appreciate it. Without understanding the overall context of the Bible, it is impossible to understand the Book of Revelation. It draws upon the language and imagery of the Old Testament. For example, in Revelation 17 it describes a great prostitute who is curiously dressed in the exact fashion described in Exodus 29 yet with deliberately different embossed wording. Failure to appreciate Revelation’s usage of the Old Testament will cause the reader to miss this connection and then fail to get the point of what the author is saying.

Background to the Book of Revelation

The Persecution was the TribulationThe single greatest historical factor affecting the first century Church was: persecution. This was coming from two colluding sources. Knowing this dramatically affects how we interpret the Book of Revelation. These two sources are consistently referred to throughout Revelation- Beast and the False Prophet, Beast from across the sea and the Beast of the Land, the Seven Headed Beast and the Mother of Prostitutes.

I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 1:9

The Church was being persecuted by Jerusalem and Rome. Christians were being martyred. We are told in Revelation 2 that Antipas had been killed for being a Christian. We are told in Revelation 6 that there were many martyrs who had been killed for following Christ. Even John was writing this Book as a persecuted Christian. It looked to many believers that the Church would be conquered by this unrelenting persecution. But John’s visions of Christ’s Revelation, reassured the suffering Church that Jesus was indeed Lord, and that He would indeed conquer. 

Rome launched its persecution against Christians in 64AD under the direction of Caesar Nero. This ended with his death in 68AD. It had lasted around 1240 days (3 and half years). Rome launched its attack against Jerusalem in 66AD and this ended when Jerusalem fell under the leadership of Caesar Vespasian in 70AD. This was a period of 1260 days (3 ½ years). Those who fail to appreciate this background to the New Testament are the ones who have conjectured a tribulation yet to come, with the first three and half being designated as ‘tribulation’ and latter 3 ½ years being designated as the ‘great tribulation’.

The collusion between Rome and Jerusalem against the Church

The Book of Revelation was not written to an English-speaking Church living in Western affluence. It was written to a First Century Church undergoing intense tribulation – initially from Jerusalem, then from Rome – and wondering whether their faith in Christ had been in vain. Just as there are lessons for the modern Church from any New Testament book, there are some powerful lessons for today from this ancient book.

I have written a fuller explanation of the book of Revelation in my eBook- THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE (click here to read a preview).

Amen.

What Does The Bible Say The Future Holds?

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY THE FUTURE HOLDS?

It wasn’t that long ago that the Bible Prophecy teachers abounded. They each claimed to have special insight into Bible prophecies which enabled them to forecast what was around the corner for our world. Some of them, such as Hal Lindsay, sold millions of paperback books promoting their interpretation of Bible prophecies. Others, such as Tim LaHaye, novelised their interpretations into the ‘Left Behind’ series which also sold in the millions.

This unquenchable longing by people to know what the future holds and hopes that the Bible spells it out in detail, shows that believers have undergone a conditioning over the past century and a half that this is what Bible prophecies are about.  

For the past decade and a half I have been arguing that this is not the focus of either the Bible or its prophecies. Rather than approaching the Bible with a set of assumptions about its contents, it is better to approach the Bible seeking to understand its original message. This process is known as exegesis. To exegete a Scripture, and especially a Biblical prophecy, we must answer several questions:

  1. Who is this Scripture written to? (Clue: The answer will never be “us” or even “me”).
  2. How would the original audience have best understood this Scripture? (Clue: The answer will nearly always include some relevance for them.)
  3. Which other Scriptures give insight into this Scripture in question? (Clue: there will be other Scriptures which will be helpful to our understanding of a Scripture passage.)

If you want to know what the Bible forecasts for our future, you have to start with the right questions. Since the Scriptures were written to particular audiences and not to us, we need to distinguish who the Bible’s message is to and who the Bible’s message is for. The expression “last days” in the New Testament has more to do with the ending of the Old Covenant economy which included the temple in Jerusalem, the Levitical Priesthood, the system of animal sacrifices, and the ceremonial rituals. This was all made obsolete at the Cross (Heb. 8:13) and then finally done away with when the New Covenant had been offered to all those under the Old Covenant economy (Col. 1: 5-6, 23).

If you’re hoping to use the Bible to determine who will be the next President of the United States or Leader of the Kremlin, you’re going to be disappointed. To be sure, the Bible did indeed forecast with uncanny accuracy the coming world empires and even predicted the name of one of these Emperors (Isa. 45:1) But it did so with reference to the audience it was written to. It also did so because it was linked to God’s redemptive plan in Christ. We could surmise a few things though from what see in those prophetic Scriptures which looked way beyond its original audience. For example, in Revelation 7:9 we get a glimpse of the final harvest of souls and this glimpse should cause us to take heart. In Revelation chapter 20 we get a glimpse of Christ’s protective nurture of His faithful in the midst of growing hostility toward His followers from those destined for wrath (Rev. 20:9ff). In Revelation 21 and 22 we are given a glimpse into our eternal bliss which still awaits us. 

Therefore, as we exegete the Scriptures we should be more confronted with what the Scriptures calls us to do – which includes, to bear witness to Christ, and His saving work, to a world enslaved in spiritual darkness. We should be shaped by how the Scriptures commission us to do this witness-bearing which includes being as wise as serpents and as a subtle as doves (Matt. 10:16), and accepting that as we are faithful to Christ in being these witnesses, we will have to endure the world’s hostility. That’s what our future holds.

Andrew Corbett

What Does The Bible Say Our Future Holds?

What Does The Bible Say Our Future Holds?

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY THE FUTURE HOLDS?

It wasn’t that long ago that the Bible Prophecy teachers abounded. They each claimed to have special insight into Bible prophecies which enabled them to forecast what was around the corner for our world. Some of them, such as Hal Lindsay, sold millions of paperback books promoting their interpretation of Bible prophecies. Others, such as Tim LaHaye, novelised their interpretations into the ‘Left Behind’ series which also sold in the millions.

This unquenchable longing by people to know what the future holds and hopes that the Bible spells it out in detail, shows that believers have undergone a conditioning over the past century and a half that this is what Bible prophecies are about.  

For the past decade and a half I have been arguing that this is not the focus of either the Bible or its prophecies. Rather than approaching the Bible with a set of assumptions about its contents, it is better to approach the Bible seeking to understand its original message. This process is known as exegesis. To exegete a Scripture, and especially a Biblical prophecy, we must answer several questions:

  1. Who is this Scripture written to? (Clue: The answer will never be “us” or even “me”).
  2. How would the original audience have best understood this Scripture? (Clue: The answer will nearly always include some relevance for them.)
  3. Which other Scriptures give insight into this Scripture in question? (Clue: there will be other Scriptures which will be helpful to our understanding of a Scripture passage.)

If you want to know what the Bible forecasts for our future, you have to start with the right questions. Since the Scriptures were written to particular audiences and not to us, we need to distinguish who the Bible’s message is to and who the Bible’s message is for. The expression “last days” in the New Testament has more to do with the ending of the Old Covenant economy which included the temple in Jerusalem, the Levitical Priesthood, the system of animal sacrifices, and the ceremonial rituals. This was all made obsolete at the Cross (Heb. 8:13) and then finally done away with when the New Covenant had been offered to all those under the Old Covenant economy (Col. 1: 5-6, 23).

If you’re hoping to use the Bible to determine who will be the next President of the United States or Leader of the Kremlin, you’re going to be disappointed. To be sure, the Bible did indeed forecast with uncanny accuracy the coming world empires and even predicted the name of one of these Emperors (Isa. 45:1) But it did so with reference to the audience it was written to. It also did so because it was linked to God’s redemptive plan in Christ. We could surmise a few things though from what see in those prophetic Scriptures which looked way beyond its original audience. For example, in Revelation 7:9 we get a glimpse of the final harvest of souls and this glimpse should cause us to take heart. In Revelation chapter 20 we get a glimpse of Christ’s protective nurture of His faithful in the midst of growing hostility toward His followers from those destined for wrath (Rev. 20:9ff). In Revelation 21 and 22 we are given a glimpse into our eternal bliss which still awaits us. 

Therefore, as we exegete the Scriptures we should be more confronted with what the Scriptures calls us to do – which includes, to bear witness to Christ, and His saving work, to a world enslaved in spiritual darkness. We should be shaped by how the Scriptures commission us to do this witness-bearing which includes being as wise as serpents and as a subtle as doves (Matt. 10:16), and accepting that as we are faithful to Christ in being these witnesses, we will have to endure the world’s hostility. That’s what our future holds.

Andrew Corbett

The Damage Of Misinterpretation

The Damage Of Misinterpretation

WHEN WRONG INTERPRETATION OF BIBLE PROPHECY CAUSES PEOPLE TO LOSE FAITH

Recently, one of the world’s most listened to Bible teachers received a question from a listener about Christ’s failure to return “soon”. It’s actually a great question and is frequently responded to with answers from most popular Bible teachers that actually portrays the Bible as nonsensical! How this question is answered depends on the method we use to interpret any Scripture passage. Yet, using the principles of sound Bible interpretation is the very reason why such Bible prophecies about Christ’s “soon” return are a problem for the thoughtful Bible reader. 

The Book of Revelation explained

The Book of Revelation explained

The opening chapters of the Book of Revelation describe the coming of Christ as “at hand”, “soon”, “this hour”. Since Christ has not returned soon, many commentators have assumed illogical and unbiblical notions of such terms meaning the very opposite of what they mean in ordinary usage.  

Sound hermeneutics demands that we begin by exegeting a text rather than eisegeting a text. That is, the first step to proper Bible interpretation is that we determine what the Scripture says (exegesis) rather than what we think it says or what we believe it says (eisegesis). Thus, the first thing to notice about each of these time-frame prophecies about the return of Christ is that none of them contain the word: return! In fact, while it might seem like a small point of distinction, the word most commonly used with these time-frame references is: coming. In English, this word has been eisegetically made to mean: return. But it doesn’t! It means coming – and it is most commonly used of God coming in judgment.

¶ An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.
Isaiah 19:1

before the LORD, for He comes, for He comes to judge the earth.
Psalm 96:13

By exegeting those passages describing the soon ‘coming’ of Christ we can see that they generally refer not to His return, but to His coming in judgment to bring the Old Covenant to an end and to hold Jerusalem to account in judgment.

In another talk-back Christian radio program/podcast a confused listener rang in asking how many resurrections there would be since he heard this particularly Bible teacher describe the resurrection of the righteous at the beginning of the one thousand year reign of Christ from Jerusalem, and then another resurrection of the wicked at the end of this thousand years. The listener was reasonably confused about those who would be born and die during this one thousand year period. How do they get resurrected bodies if there are no more resurrections to come? The talk-show show, despite being a seasoned Christian apologist, admitted that eschatology was not his strong point and that these details were also confusing for him.

But these things needn’t be confusing. I once had someone tell me that no-one could ever truly understand the Book of Revelation because it was a mystery. But, as I tell people whenever I teach on the Book of Revelation, if Revelation is not meant to be understood, then in what way is it a revelation

This and other commonly misunderstood facts about Bible prophecy can be seen in my eBook on the Book of Revelation available from Amazon or here.

Andrew Corbett

Growing In Confidence In God’s Word Because Of Bible Prophecy

IS GOD’S VIEW OF THE FUTURE ‘OPEN’ OR ‘CLOSED’?

One of the most heated recent theological debates centred around the notion of whether God not only knows the future, but whether He decrees it. On one side of the debate there are those who claim that the future is open even to God. They claim that the future is up for grabs. God, in their view, has expressed His desire for how He would like the future to unfold. In order for this to happen, because the future is open, God’s purpose needs people to move history toward this end. Those who have a closed view of the future strongly disagree with this assessment.

One of the reasons why I have a Theologically closed view of God and the future is that the Scriptures are full of predictive prophecies and very often the account of their precise fulfilment as well. Far from the need for God’s people to leave the bleachers and step onto the field to try and help God out, we have Biblical records of God’s immediate and unaided redemptive intervention into human affairs just as He had prophesied. We refer to this exclusively divine attribute as God’s sovereignty.

What Christ prophesied in Matthew 24 is a classic example of this. There was no way that His disciples could have manipulated the fulfilment of the events which Christ stunningly predicted. This is why I am confident that He will also orchestrate the events described in the closing Book of the Bible in His good time!

Join with me in a quest to grow in our understanding of these things as we look at a chapter of the Book of Revelation each day via YouTube. As you do, I invite you to leave your comments and questions (as you’ll some have done) and let’s see if we can unpack this culminating book of the Bible together. [continue]

Andrew Corbett

CONFIDENCE IN GOD’S WORD BECAUSE OF BIBLE PROPHECY

Fulfilled Bible Prophecy Confirm It's Divine Inspiration
The Book of Revelation explained

The Book of Revelation explained

GROWING CONFIDENCE IN GOD’S WORD BECAUSE OF BIBLE PROPHECY

There are several reasons why we can have confidence that the Bible is truly God’s divinely inspired, infallible, inerrant, Word to mankind. It is historically verifiable, it is experientially testable, it is philosophically credible, but perhaps one of the greatest evidences for the Bible’s divine inerrant inspiration is fulfilled prophecy.

THE GREAT ISAIAH SCROLL, part of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery.When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1946, it gave the world irrefutable proof that the contents of the Book of Isaiah were undoubtedly written before the birth of Christ. This means that the passages of detailed prophecies within Isaiah about the coming Messiah must have been written before the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, actually came. 

¶ Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
Isaiah 52:13-14

The Isaiah 52-53 passage contains some 40 prophetic details about the coming Messiah, including a sketch of The Christ’s childhood, His appearance, His atoning and redemptive work, His death, the location of His burial, and His resurrection from the dead, which were all precisely fulfilled by Jesus. Here is a survey of some of these passages within Isaiah 53-

1. That there would be nothing outstanding about his appearance
(we note that when Judas betrayed Jesus to the Chief Priests he had to point him out with a kiss) –

For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
Isaiah 52:2

2. That His execution would involve being “pierced”

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5

3. That He would be silent before His accusers

¶ He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
Isaiah 53:7

4. That He would tried in a court of Judgment and falsely accused

By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
Isaiah 53:8a

5. That His death would be a substitutionary atonement

and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
Isaiah 53:8b

6. That He would be buried in a rich man’s tomb

And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Isaiah 53:9

7. That He would die and rise again, from the dead

when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
(11) Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Isaiah 53:10b-11

Apparently the odds of one human being fulfilling these 7 prophecies within their lifetime is something like one in a trillion trillion. Jesus fulfilled all 40 of these Isaiah prophecies about the Messiah – and those are just the ones from the chapters 52 and 53!

 

IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

When we look at what Christ Himself prophesied, particularly as it related to the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple by 70AD, the amount of detail on the public record before it was precisely happened is stunning! [Watch my YouTube explanation of this]

But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
Matthew 24:2

What Christ foretold of in Matthew 24 seemed most unlikely at the time. Yet, historians have noted that what proceeded after Christ gave these prophetic declarations was uncannily fulfilled-

The forty years that intervened before the destruction of Jerusalem were full of these in all directions; but we may probably think of the words as referring specially to wars, actual or threatened, that affected the Jews- such, e.g., as those which we read under Caligula, Claudius, and Nero (citing Plumptre).
The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary on the New Testament, Lewis and Booth, London, 1896, page 552

Even Christ’s statements about earthquakes in Matthew 24 seems odd until you read some of the historical reports of the unusual amount earthquake activity in that region between 30AD to 70AD – some of which is also recorded in the New Testament.

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.
Matthew 24:7

Once again, both the New Testament and the first century historian, Josephus, record that there were an increasing number of severe earthquakes leading up to 70AD –

(286) for there broke out a prodigious storm in the night, with the utmost violence, and very strong winds, with the largest showers of rain, with continual lightnings, terrible thunderings, and amazing concussions and bellowings of the earth, that was in an earthquake.  (287) These things were a manifest indication that some destruction was coming upon men, when the system of the world was put into this disorder; and anyone would guess that these wonders foreshowed some grand calamities that were coming.
Josephus, Flavius, The Works of Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 4 Chapter 4

 

25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.
Acts 16:25-26

The New Testament records that earthquakes commenced at the crucifixion of Christ (Matthew 27:54) and His resurrection (Matt. 28:2).

The New Testament also describes peculiar (“great”) famines taking place in the mid first century.

Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.
Acts 11:28
(Extract from The Most Embarrassing Verse In The Bible)

 

Bible prophecies from both the Old and New Testaments which can be demonstrably shown to have been fulfilled are an extremely persuasive evidence of the Bible’s divine inspiration and proof for the existence of the God of the Bible. While many Christians speculate about what they feel the Bible prophesies regarding today’s world events, we are always on solid ground when we point to those Scriptures from the Old Testament which foretold of Christ, and those from the New Testament which were foretold by Christ including His own death, resurrection, and what He foretold about the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple.

Andrew Corbett

And when it comes to teaching on some of the most difficult subjects, such as End Times, discover why thousands of pastors from around world have found the eBook, THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE so helpful for them to understand what the Church’s role in this world should be amidst the shrill of so many Bible-Prophecy ministries which forecast doom and gloom. Check it out and you’ll see why. PREVIEW

Follow me on Twitter

Subscribe To Our Finding Truth Matters (ftm) Perspectives eMail

Subscribe to receive the latest news, updates and discounted special offers.

Thank you for subscribing to the Finding Truth Matters PERSPECTIVES with Dr. Andrew Corbett regular eMail