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THEOLOGY > Future > End of the Age > Great Tribulation > Description of the Great Tribulation


The following description is based on chapters from the books of Daniel (9, 12), Matthew (24), Mark (13), Luke (21), II Thessalonians (2), and Revelation (6-19). This list of characteristics of the Great Tribulation is neither exhaustive nor comprehensive, but the list does provide a glimpse into that future period.

The following description is predicated on the premise that the Great Tribulation is indeed future and will be an event at the end of days. It will precede the glorious and triumphant return of Christ (see: Interpretations of the Great Tribulation).

The Great Tribulation will occur at the end-time. Instead of looking backward for the intent of the Biblical teaching or looking throughout history to find the meaning, this site posits a tribulation that is future. It comes at the conclusion of history.

Just before the information given by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse regarding this awful period, He states: “then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14). In context it is difficult to accept the fact that Jesus is speaking of an “end” that is not the final end, the end of the age. After describing the flow of history which includes nation arising against nation, famines, earthquakes, persecutions, and false prophets, He speaks of the universal proclamation of the Gospel. At this point He predicts: “and then the end will come.” In the following verses He also announces: “then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now” (v. 21). When the end comes, the Tribulation will come.

The Great Tribulation will be world-wide in scope. John wrote in Revelation of “the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world” (3:10). Also in Revelation 7 “a great multitude . . . from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” is depicted; and the ones making up the multitude are “the ones coming out of the great tribulation” (vs. 9, 14). Jesus even states that if those days were not cut short then no flesh would be saved or left alive (Matt. 24:22) because the intensity of the tribulation will be universal.

The Great Tribulation will be a time of distress, distress in the sense of affliction, suffering, persecution, and environmental upheaval—a time unique in the history of the world (Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21; Rev. 6-18; see 6:12-17; 16:17-21). Consider the following verses:

And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time (Dan. 12:1);

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);

There was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place (Rev. 6:12-14).

The Great Tribulation will be the time of the Antichrist. John reminds his readers that they have heard that Antichrist is coming (I Jo. 2:18), and he informs them that the spirit of Antichrist was already in the world in their day (4:4).

The essence of Antichrist is “anti” or “against” Christ. So the end-time period of trouble will be characterized by vicious and determined opposition to the Christian faith and to those who profess it. All that is associated with the God of the Bible and with His Christ will be blasphemed and violently prohibited. See: Antichrist – The Man of Sin.

The Great Tribulation will be a time of martyrdom; it will be brought about by severe persecution of believers by the brief rule of the Antichrist. Revelation records numerous references to believers who suffer and are killed (Rev. 6:9-11; 13:7, 10, 15; 16:6; 19:2).

I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne (Rev. 6:9);

Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them (Rev. 13:7);

those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain (Rev. 13:15);

He has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of His servants (Rev. 19:2).

Martyrdom of believers during the tribulation at the end of time should not be thought strange or inconsistent with the life of the believer. The record of history is the record of the same. Believers have always suffered and died. It was predicted by our Lord and has been the experience of the Church. Why should the Great Tribulation be any different?

For those who affirm a “great escape” via the Rapture from this final period of persecution and death deny the plain teaching of the Scriptures regarding suffering and martyrdom, ignore the testimony of history, and exhibit a selfish fantasy that somehow thinks the believers during this time deserve to escape such trouble. But our Lord Himself was not spared death.

The Great Tribulation will be a time of God’s wrath (Rev. 6:16-17; 11:18; 14:10, 19; 15:1, 7: 19:2). Early in the book of Revelation at the opening of the sixth seal, the statement is made regarding God the Father and the Lamb: “for the great day of their wrath has come”;  the question is asked: “Who can stand?” (6:17). At the seventh trumpet the twenty-four elders say: “The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged . . . and for destroying the destroyers of the earth” (Rev. 11:18). The wrath will be God’s judgment upon the unbelieving world that is smitten with the Antichrist and is yielding allegiance to him. According to Revelation there will be seven seals (Rev. 6), seven trumpets (Rev. 8-11), seven thunders (10:1-7), and seven bowls (Rev. 16); together these constitute God’s wrath.

Predictions of God’s wrath assure the believer that evil will not triumph and continue unpunished; God will bring justice and will avenge His elect. The struggles of the psalmist, and the struggles of every believer, will find resolution in the action of God who is just and who judges justly. Until then the believer waits in faith.

The Great Tribulation will be limited in duration. Jesus plainly affirms that the severity and length will be lessened for the sake of the elect (Matt. 24:22). If this was not so, then all flesh would be killed. Phrases in Revelation support the idea that the Great Tribulation will be relatively brief:

they will trample the holy city for forty-two months (Rev. 11:2);

they will prophesy for 1,260 days (Rev. 11:3);

she is to be nourished for 1,260 days (Rev. 12:6);

she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time (Rev. 12:14).

The above verses from Revelation remind the reader of Daniel’s statement: “And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering” (9:27). Still ahead is the seventieth week of Daniel which will be seven years, of which the above verses are describing the last half of that week. During the final half of the seven years will be the Great Tribulation.

The Great Tribulation will be a time of salvation (Dan. 12:1-2; Matt. 24:22; Rev. 7:14; 13:8; 14:12; 17:13). In Daniel Michael speaks of “a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time” (Dan. 12:1), but he also affirms that Daniel’s people will be delivered, “everyone whose name shall be found written in the book” (v. 2). While speaking of the final days Jesus makes reference to “the elect” (Matt. 24:22); these are those who are “chosen and faithful” (Rev. 17:14; see: The Elect in the Olivet Discourse). John in Revelation is shown a great multitude “clothed in white robes” who have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:13-14). And in Chapter 13 reference is made to the vast majority of people who will follow the Antichrist, “everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb” (v. 8). During the Great Tribulation there is “a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus” (Rev. 14:12).

So it is obvious that many saved people will be upon the earth during the final upheaval; there will be those who reject the Antichrist and give allegiance to the Lord. Even in the darkest moments of history God is still calling His own to Himself.

The Great Tribulation will be a time of deliverance for Israel. It is spiritual Israel, the Church, that is true Israel. But this does not negate the fact that ethnic Israel will be in existence at the end-time and a significant number, even a majority, of the people will turn to their Messiah and become part of true Israel. This is the truth revealed by Paul in Romans 11. Daniel was also assured that at the end-time when the time of trouble comes ”your people will be delivered” (Dan. 12:1), both physically and spiritually. Regarding the city of Zion the prophet stated that Jerusalem will be restored and “it shall not be uprooted or overthrown anymore forever” (Jer. 31:40; see: Jer. 30-31). Perhaps the true understanding is that the earthly Zion will give way to “the holy city, new Jerusalem” (Rev. 21:2).

The Great Tribulation will be a time of preparation for the major end-time political and military conflagration, known as Armageddon (Rev. 16:16). Armies of the world will converge in the land of Israel, not knowing that they have a date with destruction and death.

Instrumental in this preparation will be the spirit world. Demons will be the unseen force behind the vast movements: “For they are the spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of the great day of God Almighty” (Rev. 16:14). Upon the mighty army of the end-time God will bring defeat:

Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against Him who was sitting on the horse and against His army. And the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who in his presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped hiss image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of Him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh (Rev. 19:17-21).

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