Week Two: The Purpose of the Tribulation

Last week’s study on Rev. 4 & 5 was such a blessing to me. It’s comforting to think of the Throne of God, and when no one else was worthy to open the scroll, the Lamb was found worthy! If there’s anything God is teaching me through this study, it’s that He is in control! My heart’s desire is to surrender to Him daily because HE IS WORTHY! Whatever is happening in your life today, take heart in the fact that the Lamb of God stands worthy and capable to handle whatever you’re facing.

We have seen God’s throne as a throne of grace, but it’s also a throne of justice. In reading Revelation, have you ever wondered why the world ends with such swift judgment? It’s hard to swallow, but we must remember the holiness of God. Psalm 97:2 says, “righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (NKJV). God’s righteousness and justice go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other! Romans 2:5 refers to the Tribulation as “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (NKJV).

“The day of wrath” is just one of the many names for the tribulation in the Bible. Other examples include: “Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7), “Daniel’s 70th Week” (Dan. 9:27), “the day of vengeance” (Isaiah 34:8), just to name a few. Perhaps the most popular name in the Bible for these 7 years is “the Day of the Lord, or the Day of Jehovah” (1 Thess. 5:2).

Next week we’re going to study Daniel 9:24-27 and Isaiah 28:14-22 in explanation of the coming destruction in Daniel’s 70th Week, but for now I want to share some thoughts on the general purpose of it. Mark Hitchcock in his book, The End, offers 5 purposes in answer to the question, “why the tribulation?” (see Hitchcock’s The End, pp. 237-241).

A first purpose is for Israel. God desires to prepare Israel to be saved. We can see God’s heart in Jeremiah 30:7-11. Verse 7 says, “For I am with you,’ says the LORD, ‘to save you; though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice and will not let you go altogether unpunished” (NKJV). Fruchtenbaum says, “the stubborn will of the Jewish nation will need to be broken” (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 177). During the tribulation, the nation of Israel will be held accountable for rejecting Christ, but they will also be given another opportunity to accept Him. God desires to refine Israel (Zech. 13:8-9 and bring restoration to her (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

A second purpose is for the Gentiles. God is holy and must deal with sin. Dwight Pentecost said, “this world will receive this divine visitation because of the world’s rejection of Jesus Christ as Savior” (Hitchcock, p. 238). Just as Israel will be judged for their rejection of Christ, so will the whole world. Next week we will see that one purpose of the 70 weeks of Daniel is to “bring an end to the transgression.” In the context of the Day of the Lord, this applies to both Jews and Gentiles as God desires “to make an end of wickedness and wicked ones (Isaiah 13:6-16)” (Fruchtenbaum, p. 181). Isaiah 26:21 says, “For behold, the LORD comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will also disclose her blood, and no more cover her slain” (NKJV).

A third purpose is for God’s righteous judgments to be displayed. In the prelude to the Revelation 15 bowl judgments, the victorious ones sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. They sing, “great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested” (Rev. 15:3-4 NKJV).

A fourth purpose is “to portray Satan’s true character” and defeat him. “He will be fully unmasked for what he is: a liar, a thief and a murderer” (Hitchcock, The End, p. 239). Part of dealing with sin is dealing with the author of it, the devil. We will continue to see this unfold as we study the Tribulation. Revelation 12:12 says, “therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (NKJV). My dad used to say that Satan is “on a leash.” That is so true, his time is short and one day he will be shown for what he truly is and defeated forever.

A fifth purpose is to provide salvation. This purpose is manifested in the Tribulation Saints. “The Lord will graciously use the Tribulation to drive men to Himself in repentance and trust. He will harvest more souls during this time than anyone can count. There will be a great revival during the Great Tribulation” (Hitchcock, The End, p. 239). Revelation 7:9-10 speaks of the Tribulation Saints and describes them as “a great multitude which no one can number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” (NKJV). Revelation 7:1-8 “describes the means by which God will bring about the worldwide revival. Here John introduces the 144,000 Jews which will be sharing the gospel in all the world” (Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 176).

The moment Adam and Eve sinned; God had a remedy. “Redemption was no last-minute thought, brought into being to meet an unexpected emergency. No sooner had sin entered the garden than God spoke of One who was to come and who was to crush the serpent’s (that is Satan’s) head, His own heel being bruised in the process (Genesis 3:15), and to restore all the damage which sin, and Satan had done. God thereby revealed that the sad turn of events had not taken Him by surprise, but that there was One in reserve to meet this very situation. Scripture calls Him the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), because with God the remedy antedated the disease” (Hession, We Would See Jesus, Loc. 226 of 1736, Kindle quote).

Since the beginning of time, man has been given every opportunity by grace through faith to believe (Eph. 2:9-10). Peter reminds us, “the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation” (2 Peter 3:15 NKJV). One day soon, the Age of Grace will come to an end, and a time of judgment will begin. The 7-year tribulation marks an end to the world as we know it. Hitchcock says, “it will be the darkest hour in human history” (p. 235). But God has a plan. Through His righteous judgments He will bring about the restoration of the world to its rightful King Jesus! Praise God that as believers, we are not destined for wrath (1 Thess. 5:9-10), and we can trust Him to bring about His plan for the future!

Week Two: Homework Reflections

Day 1: A Purpose for Israel

  1. Read Jeremiah 30 and list everything you observe about God’s heart and plan for Israel.
  2. How does Joel 2 compare with Jeremiah 30?
  3. Read Jeremiah 31:31-34. What will God ultimately do for Israel when the remnant finally recognizes Jesus as their Savior?

Day 2: A Purpose for the Gentiles

  1. Read Isaiah 13:6-16 and record how the tribulation is described.
  2. Read Ezekiel 30:1-9 and describe the effects of the tribulation on the Middle East and Egypt.
  3. Read Zephaniah 1:14-18 and 2 Peter 3:10-12. How is the tribulation described in these passages?

Day 3: A Purpose for God’s Righteous Judgments to be Displayed

  1. Read Revelation 15:2-4. What are the victorious ones praising God for?
  2. How does heaven rejoice in God at the end of the tribulation according to Rev. 19:1-6?
  3. How does it comfort you to know that God is righteous in His judgments?

Day 4: A Purpose to Expose Satan and Defeat Him

  1. Read Isaiah 14:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:12-18. Assuming the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28 is also a reference to Satan (as some commentators believe), what do you learn of Satan’s past from these two passages?
  2. Read Job 1:6-7, 1 Peter 5:8, and Ephesians 2:1-2. What do these verses tell you about Satan’s present occupation?
  3. Read Rev. 12:7-12, Rev. 20:1-3 (this is where Satan is during the Millennial reign of Christ), and Rev. 20:7-10. What is Satan’s future?

Day 5: A Purpose for Salvation

  1. Read Rev. 7:1-8. What do you learn about the 144,000 Jews that will be sealed during the tribulation?
  2. Read Rev. 7:9-10. What do you learn about the multitude saved during the tribulation?
  3. According to 2 Peter 3:10-17, what is one reason Christ’s return hasn’t happened yet? What encouragement do you see for your own life as you wait for His return?

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