There are at least four purposes, we saw, in this tribulation period in the mind of God. The first was to bring history to a right conclusion, and we see that Daniel refers to that in Daniel 9:24, where he speaks of the Lord bringing in everlasting righteousness. So this tribulation period will bring a fitting consummation to an age when men have been called upon to obey and believe in the Lord, and so the Lord will eventually bring in a reign of righteousness. Secondly, a purpose that God has in the tribulation is to fulfil Israel’s prophecies. You will recall in our last verse from Daniel 9:24, it is specifically the 70th week that relates to ‘thy people’, Daniel’s people, that is the Israelites, and ‘the holy city’, that is Jerusalem. So we see that there is a purpose, particularly towards the Jew, in this 70th tribulation week.
So the Jews’ return to the land in 1948 was not a coincidence, it is indeed a fulfilment of prophetic scripture – but there are many other prophetic Scriptures related to the Jew and the nation of Israel which still have to be fulfilled during this tribulation period, such as the rebuilding of the Temple, and the renewal of sacrifices in the Temple. So we see very clearly that God is not finished with the Jewish people – whatever certain theologians in the Reformed school of prophetic theology might tell us – God still has a plan for the nation and the people of Israel.
The third purpose we outlined for the tribulation period in the mind of God was to shake man from his false sense of security. Of course, stability on a human level leads man to think that he can function independently of God – but we’re going to see, of course, as we have seen in the seven seals, again in the seven trumpets tonight, that God, through various physical phenomena – earthquakes, plagues and so forth – will cause humanity at least to consider the existence of Almighty God. Then what outshoots from that is the fourth reason we gave for the tribulation period: God intends to force mankind to choose between Christ and antichrist. During this seven year time period, billions of human beings will not live out their normal lifespan amidst many dramatic events, and they will have to make an eternal decision – either for Christ or for antichrist. If they choose Christ they will become servants of God and receive the mark of the Father on foreheads; and if they choose antichrist, they will receive the mark of the beast on their foreheads and on their hands – and that will be an irrevocable decision.
If they choose Christ they will become servants of God and receive the mark of the Father on foreheads; and if they choose antichrist, they will receive the mark of the beast on their foreheads and on their hands – and that will be an irrevocable decision…
Now all the details provided concerning this 70th week of Daniel, this seven-year tribulation period, throughout the whole of Scriptures make it very clear, I believe, that this is a future event. Nothing has ever taken place like this in the whole of human history, and it certainly isn’t happening now as some would try and tell us. What’s more, the Lord Jesus Himself said that ‘great tribulation’ would take place just before His glorious appearing, Matthew 24:29-30: ‘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’.
I quoted to you last week one author who sums up this time period like this: ‘Take the horror of every war since time began, throw in every natural disaster in recorded history, and cast off all restraints so that the unspeakable cruelty and hatred and injustice of man towards his fellow men can fully mature, and compress all of it into a period of seven years – even if you could imagine such a horror, it wouldn’t approach the mind-boggling terror and turmoil of the tribulation’. Now last time, you will remember, we looked at chapter 6 through to chapter 8 verse 5. We looked first of all at the seven seals that would be opened, which would be seven judgements. Then we looked also at another parenthesis, another gap period, where the saved of the tribulation are brought to us – and those were found in two groups: 144,000 Jewish evangelists who would preach on the earth, that’s chapter 7 verses 1-8; and their converts from verses 9-17 of chapter 7, who would be converted to the gospel and would be martyred, and they would eventually end up in heaven.