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What is the great tribulation?

Just before the crucifixion of Christ, His disciples asked Him about the temple. And He answered, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2). Thinking that the destruction of the temple will come at the same time of the second coming, the disciples asked Him again, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (verse 3). This is a double question about the Jewish temple and the end of the world. So, Jesus answers these two question.

The Jewish Great Tribulation

Jesus predicted to the Jews of His time that, “there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). The first persecution of the believers was from the Jewish spiritual leaders (Acts 4:1–3; 7:59, 60; 8:1–4; etc.). After that, the Gentiles also persecuted the early church members (Acts 16:19–24; 19:29; 1 Corinthians 15:32). Later on, for about 3 centuries, Christians were afflicted by pagan Rome. In 538 AD, began the 1260 years of papal rulership and persecution.

The End-Time Great Tribulation

After the “great tribulation” of Matthew 24:21-22, the warning of Matthew 24: 23–28 applies to the last days of earth’s history and the time of trouble preceding the second advent of Christ, mentioned in Daniel 12:1. This tribulation is given as a sign of the second advent. The Bible speaks of the saints as “they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).

This great tribulation corresponds with the time of the seven last plagues of Revelation chapter 15.  “And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God” (Revelation 15:1). God’s wrath will be directed against the ones who disobey His law and oppress His people (Romans 1:18).

Also, this great tribulation will come corresponds with the Battle of Armageddon. Both take place immediately before Christ’s second coming. The apostle John writes, “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done” (Revelation 16:16,17).

The time of trouble and the great tribulation will last for a short period. Revelation 18:8 tells us, “Therefore shall her plagues come in one day.” A “day” in Bible prophecy represents one literal year (Ezekiel 4:6, Numbers 14:34, Luke 13:32). So, when Revelation says that “her plagues come in one day,” it means within, or less than, one year’s time.

The very nature of the seven last plagues-the rivers and seas turning to blood and the planet being scorched with great heat-would make it impossible for the human race to survive more than few months. This is why Jesus said, “And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:22,).

The great tribulation will prove to the universe that nothing would change the characters of the faithful. God’s people will still trust Him during the most difficult circumstances. And God’s enemies will rebel against Him no matter what. “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still” (Revelation 22:11).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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