What is the Tribulation Period? A Study From the Bible

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

What is the tribulation period?  When is the tribulation supposed to begin?  Will Christians be around when it occurs?  What does the Bible say about the tribulation?

What is the Tribulation?

Is the tribulation what Jesus spoke about when He said,For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again (Matthew 24:21)?  Is this also the time that Daniel prophesied about in Daniel 12:1 writing,At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress [tribulation] such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people–everyone whose name is found written in the book–will be delivered? Can we read Joel 2:2 and say it was a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come that predicted this day of tribulation?

Many Bible scholars believe that the tribulation is a time of great distress that occurs just prior to the return of Christ.  The majority of Christians have been taught that they will escape this day of the wrath of God in what is called the rapture.  The tribulation is when the wrath of God is poured out on a world that has rejected God for so long. They loved a lie over the truth and have grown more and more wicked over time.  God was patient for so long but even God’s patience comes to an end when humans, like at the time of Noah, only thought of ways that were evil continually.  There is some good in humans yes, but apart from the Holy Spirit of God, there is no real good in humans because even our good works are like filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6).

What Will the Tribulation Be Like?

The tribulation is when the wrath of God is poured out on a world that has rejected God for so long.

The events described in many places in the Bible give a horrific view of what will be taking place on the earth at this time.  It is important to understand when you read about the tribulation in Matthew 24 and in Revelation, that the Book of Revelation is not written in exact chronological order.  When you understand that, the book will make a lot more sense to you.  Revelation 16:18 gives a brief glimpse of just how awful it will be for the residents of earth at that time because “Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake.”  Jesus gave an excellent description of what the tribulation will be like in the Olivet Prophecy in Matthew 24 and 25. The disciples had just asked Jesuswhat will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age (Matthew 24:3)? The so-called “end of the age” is the time just prior to Jesus’ Second Advent, when literally, all hell will break lose.  In Matthew 24 Jesus says,You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains (v 6-8).  Jesus says, you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold (v 9-12). In fact, It will be so bad that “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened (V 22).

Then we begin to see nature itself begin to show signs unraveling because, Immediately after the distress of those days“ ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken (Matthew 24:29).  Could this blotting out of the sunlight and moon and the stars being hidden by the clouds be the result of nuclear fallout or from gigantic volcanic eruptions and fissures of the earth opened up by such titanic earthquakes that the world has never seen to date (Revevelation 16:18, Matthew 24:8)?

Things really turn horribly bad when the Seventh Seal is released and an angel takes a fire-filled censor and casts it down to earth (Revelation 8:5) because this causes peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.”  When the Seventh Seal is opened, the seven angels blast seven trumpet blasts, each with a fierce and mighty judgment for the earth’s occupants. In Revelation 8:7-12 we see what happens when the first angel sounds his trumpet:

and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.

The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.

The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.”

When the fifth angel blows his trumpet Johnsaw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth.  They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not allowed to kill them but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes. During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them (Revelation 9:1-6).  What these “scorpions” are we can only imagine.  And for those who seek death but will not find it for they will long to die, but death will elude them reveals that the suffering is so great that people will want to kill themselves to end their suffering but will be unable to do so.

It is so bad that beast like locusts had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon [that is, Destroyer] (Revelation 9:10-11). The hearts of the unsaved will be so hardened by this time that God has to send beasts where,The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths.  The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury. The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons,) and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts (Revelation 9:17-21). Amazingly, through all of this, mankind doesn’t repent. If this sounds like a nightmare, it is worse than any you could ever imagine, dream, or invent.

Will Christians Go Through the Tribulation?

God has not appointed His wrath to be poured out on believers because His wrath has been satisfied for they have placed their trust in Christ and Jesus’ took the wrath of God for us.  As a result, the wrath of God that is to be poured out on the unrepentant and unregenerate world will be unlike anything that the world has ever seen (Matthew 24:21).  There are said to be many who will be saved during the tribulation as we read in Revelation 7:14, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”  Those who will be saved in the tribulation will have to pay with their lives as it says in Revelation 20:4, when the Apostle John saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”

Most biblical scholars say that Christians will not go through the tribulation but the tribulation will make many martyrs become Christians but they will have to pay the price of their life.  Christians are believed to escape this tribulation period by what is called the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

When is the Tribulation?

No one can say when the tribulation will start with exactness because no one knows the moment of Christ’s return (Matthew 24:36).  We are to always be ready because He will come like a thief in the night and when no one really expects Him (Matthew 24:43-44).  Many will take His return for granted, not believe in Him, and will pay with their lives for that because when He does return, it will be too late to repent from their sins and confess them to Him (Matthew 24:50-51).  Since no one knows the exact moment of Jesus’ return, we need to place our trust in Christ today and understand that God has not appointed His wrath and righteous indignation on believers (1 Thessalonians 5:9) because He Who knew no sin was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).  If you have not yet believed in the Son of God, I beg you to consider it today, while it is still called today (2 Corinthians 6:2).  Tomorrow may be too late.

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