The Coming Tribulation
As we enjoy this Christmas Season, it is fitting for Christian households and churches to focus on the first coming of Jesus Christ. In times past, and perhaps not so much anymore, one could see the manger scenes in town squares and in front of churches of all denominations. Christmas cards bearing the Star or the three Wisemen are passed amongst believers during this season. Preachers preach predominantly from Matthew 1-2, churches hold cantatas and the sounds of “peace on earth, good will toward men” fill the ears of believers round the world. Bethlehem, Israel becomes the focus of world stage once again, as Christian’s flock to the Church of the Nativity, which is currently held hostage by the Palestinian movement.
Perhaps people like to focus on Christ as an innocent baby or focus on the role of parenthood as Mary and Joseph cared for this child who came about supernaturally. The virgin birth of Christ and the role of Mary figures largely in Catholic circles and also in liberal and secular circles where the possibility of a virgin birth is denied. Thus Christmas, as to its true meaning (unto you is born a Savior), is controversial.
But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5
When the fullness of time had come…is a phrase so packed with meaning that it would not be possible to break it all down in the limited space (or ability) I have at my disposal. But it speaks to the eternal purpose of God’s plan for the redemption of mankind, and of all created order. It speaks to the specific moments on man’s timeline, when God would intervene, in a supernatural and visible way, to put feet to His plan.
Dr. Andy Wood’s makes much use of this phrase in his teachings, and really brought to my mind, the preciseness and purpose for why God chose that particular time frame for Christ’s first coming. Consider these points:
- Since Alexander the Great, Koine Greek became the predominant common language in the Mediterranean. Koine Greek is a very precise language which is perfect for capturing the original intent and meaning of the Scriptures…no matter which language they get translated into in the future.
- The Roman republic form of government ends under Julius Caesar and he creates a total dynastic dictatorship under what would become the rule of the Caesars. Christ was born and dies under the reign of a Caesar, and will return one day when another Caesar (Antichrist) who has set his empire up over the whole world.
- The Roman’s perfected the creation of the road networks, which spanned the boundaries of the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, Europe, and even up into Britain.
- Israel remained under the subjugation of Gentile powers (as described in Daniel 2:31-45, 7, 8, & 11) which had played out from the time of their exile to Babylon (605-539BC)
So looking at it from a holistic point of view, there was a common language (Koine Greek), an advanced network for travel (all roads lead to Rome), dominant pagan world power (fertile fields no doubt), and Israel in the final years before her diaspora. Unknown exactly which year Christ was born in, or rather, is much in dispute to the exact year, we know when He was born the nation of Israel wasn’t expecting it. We know from the world’s perspective, the birth of the Christ in some backwater province of the Roman Empire, didn’t even register a blip on their geo-geo-political radar. We know Christ lived up unto the age of 30 virtually as an unknown, before exploding onto the scene to present the world with 3 ½ years of God in the flesh, ministry. At the end of that, He managed to make the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots mad enough to trump up false charges and have Him brought before the Sanhedrin to be tried as a political prisoner.
In Genesis 49, Jacob was blessing his sons, who would become the heads of the 12 tribes of Israel. When Jacob came to bless Judah, he gave him an interesting prophecy;
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
Also, in Numbers 24:17, the prophet Balaam prophesied that this same scepter would be accompanied by a Star, by which the wise men (Matt. 2:2) would know where this One born King of the Jews would be.
“I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel,
And batter the brow of Moab,
And destroy all the sons of tumult
Modern Jewish scholars today will refute that Christ is the Messiah because their argument is that the ‘scepter’ departed from Judah back in 605BC when the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem. Furthermore, that from then, until 1948, the Jewish nation had been under some form of Gentile domination. All that is true. But what is also true is that the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans allowed the Jews to have a semi-autonomous rule (Zerubbabel, Ezra, Maccabeus) over themselves, up until King Herod Archelaus was removed from power by Julius Caesar in 6AD (Josephus, Antiquities 17:13). That’s when the Jews lost any remaining semblance of autonomy and were subject to a series of Roman procurators with Pontius Pilate being one.
Since Jews were either not anticipating the coming of their Messiah, or had largely ignored the literal fulfillment of the prophecies pertaining to Christ’s first coming, they thought they had lost their right to wield capital punishment on Him, which is why they had to turn it over to Pilate for the official sentence. Now, that didn’t stop them previously from trying to stone Him to death on a couple prior occasions when they were riled up, but He always managed to allude them. (John 8:58-59, 10:30-33) They (the Sanhedrin) didn’t want to crucify Him on Passover because of the negative publicity, but again, the timing was such that God orchestrated everything to coincide with exactly the Passover Feast. (Mark 14:1-2; 1 Cor. 2:6-8)
The victory at the Cross represented something much more significant than a literal kingdom on earth (which is still yet to come), but that Christ conquered death and hell. (Rev. 1:18) Because Christ had to be a man to die for the rest of mankind as our Kinsman Redeemer, Christ willingly endured the joy set before Him, in order to pay the price for OUR salvation. (Lev. 25; Heb. 12:2; Rev. 5:6-10) It would be equivalent to God rigging a game that placed all the burden and rules against Himself so that by His losing, we win. Christ trading His own perfect holiness, for our sinful and corrupted lives, is oft referred to as the most lopsided trade in all of recorded history…yet, that is exactly what transpired. We don’t think about it this way, but God the Son, traded His former estate, to take on forever, that of God in a glorified human body.
I’ve often heard Amillennialists and Preterists state emphatically, that Christ will not return to rule and reign on earth because they say that we are now in the Kingdom. I couldn’t disagree more. The Scriptures tell us, that this world, is under the sway and control of Satan himself. (Luke 4:5-6; 1 Peter 5:8; 1 John 5:19; Rev. 2:13) As much as these might wish, the Cross didn’t usher in some Edenic age where lambs lay down with wolves, children play with cobras, and nations beat their swords into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4, 11:2-8). Any interpretation that detracts from the actuality that God Himself will right the wrongs, and restore nature back to its original order. Anything less than that is to depart from the plain reading of the text into allegorical folly.
It was to King David that God said, “And it shall be, when your days are fulfilled, when you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up your seed after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom.” (1 Chron. 17:11) God states over and over, that the Kingdom Come is not established by man or by earthly efforts, but by God Himself (Dan. 2:44-45; Psalm 2; Rev. 19:11-16). There is the idea that the Kingdom is purely spiritual, and is argued that the Kingdom is now in play, only in the heavenly realms, this by taking several texts out of context. (Luke 17:20-22; Romans 14:17) If those who deny the literal coming Millennial Kingdom on earth had their way;
Christ would only come to earth to die, and not to reign; for Christ to be born ‘King of the Jews’, but to not actually become “King of the Jews”; for Him to ride a donkey, but not a white horse; for Christ to be spat on, beaten, and hang naked upon a cross of shame, but not to return in triumphal glory coming on the clouds with the armies of heaven behind Him. If Christ doesn’t return, then He remains defeated on the earth that He spoke into existence, that God’s word does not mean what it says, and that God can break unbreakable promises.
The reason that men and women promote these heterodox teachings, is because of man-made religion, whether it be Roman Catholic or Protestant, have become too invested in the things of this world. They want life to continue on, or maybe they just see life continuing on and on, in some endless cycle of man rising and falling (2 Peter 3). They have to depart from a plain sense reading of the text and insert their own interpretation, which supplants God’s promise to return in victory and claim what is rightfully His. And not only to claim what is His, but that every knee should bow, whether it is in heaven, on earth, under the earth, throughout all of creation, and confess that Jesus Christ is King (Philippians 2:9-11). Are these folk saying that Christ is free to rule everywhere, but the earth?
The Christ-rejecting world as well as those Christians who have fallen into spiritual slumber, will be astonished in that Day, when Christ comes for His Church. Because that Day, opens the window of time, for the Tribulation to begin. It doesn’t begin the Tribulation, but the Church has to be removed prior to the start of that final week of years, in which at some point afterward (days, weeks, months, years), the seven year Tribulation will begin just as it is noted in Daniel 9:27. The final seven-years will be the most horrific, violent, and devastating period of time humanity has ever seen (Matt. 24:21-22). God will accomplish two things by it; first, He disciplines Israel, and second, He destroys all the Gentile nations round about her, by bringing the whole Babylonian system crashing to the ground (Jer. 30:7-11).
It is noted in the Prophets, that THAT DAY will begin in unimaginable calamity, perhaps masking the Church’s departure. The prophet Joel records…“The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.” Paul writes that “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.” 1 Thess. 5:2-4
Make no mistake that the Lord will return and will come with the clouds and in great power and glory. Christ will come and reclaim that which was lost with Adam. He has the title deed to the earth. He no longer wears the crown of thorns, but now wears ‘many crowns’, meaning He has ALL authority. When the holy prophet Isaiah saw the throne room, he was undone. When the holy prophet Daniel sees the throne room, he was shaken. When John sees the glorified Christ in all His splendor, he falls over as dead. How much more traumatized will an unrepentant, Christ- rejecting world be when it sees the sky splitting open and Christ returning in power and glory? The whole world will mourn (Rev. 1:7). The world at this moment doesn’t care. The religionists try to minimalize or explain-away His soon coming with fanciful wordsmithing. Those actively opposed to Christ, who loathe Him and are filled with vengeance because this age is coming to an end, are ramping up evil in these final moments…
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. 1 Timothy 6:11-16
First published December 1st, 2014