David Jeremiah - Translated Before the Tribulation
The Bible says that there is a way to test a prophet. Here it is. He has to get everything right 100% of the time. I'm not making that up. That's in the Old Testament. In fact, if you study the prophecies of the Lord, you will discover he never missed. The prophecies of the Bible that come from God are 100% accurate. Did you know there were 360 prophecies, or about that many, of the first coming of Christ, when he came to Bethlehem? Now, history has had a chance to look at those prophecies and their fulfillment. Not one of the prophecies has ever been less than totally fulfilled. God always gets it right. We may not get it right, but God always gets it right.
And one of the most persistent predictions of the future in the Bible in the Old Testament, and in many places in the new as well, is the prediction of a period of time coming in the future called the tribulation. How many of you have ever heard of the tribulation? I'm not talking about what's going on in your house right now, but I mean the tribulation in the future. The tribulation is a period of time that's going to be filled with unprecedented horrors, upheavals, persecutions, natural disasters, massive slaughters, political turmoil. And it's going to take place, according to the Bible, in a period of time after the Rapture and before the Second Coming of Christ.
Everybody that I know who believes the Bible is authoritative and accurate believes in the tribulation. They cannot help themselves because it's in the Bible everywhere. And the spiraling chaos that's going on in today's world have made some people wonder if we may not be on the threshold of it right now, and if perhaps we may soon be trapped in that time with no way of escape. So I want to talk with you about that. I want to frame it as the Bible does. I want to talk to you about where you and I will be when that happens, and how our response is going to be described in the Scripture. But before we go to all of that, let's just talk for a moment about what the tribulation is.
The word "tribulation" is not used in our vocabulary very much these days, except in off moments when we are going through a tough time, and we think we're going through tribulation. Most of us are aware of it because the word is in the Bible. And the word " tribulation" in the Bible is translated from a Greek word, listen to this, that described the giant weight that was used to crush grain into flour. So the idea behind the word "tribulation" is a crushing, pulverizing grinding. The Bible says that in the future of this world, there's going to be a time of crushing, pulverizing, and grinding in this world. Today, the most common use of the word is a technical term to designate a specific traumatic event that the Bible prophesies will occur in the future.
First thing you need to know about it is it's going to be a surprise because, you see, it comes on the heels of the Rapture, and we've learned already in this series that the Rapture is a surprise. So if we don't know when the Rapture's going to happen, and the tribulation follows it, we don't know when the tribulation's going to happen either. It could come immediately, as soon as the Rapture happens, the tribulation begins. Now, here's the thing that the Bible says so clearly and teaches so accurately, and that is the severity of the tribulation. I do not have words in my vocabulary to tell you what this is going to be like. Nowhere in all of Scripture will you ever find one good word about the tribulation. The Bible says that it is a time of great suffering and agony on this earth.
I went through the Scripture, and I found what some of the scriptural writers, how they described it. For instance, Moses called it, "The day of calamity". Zephaniah the prophet said it was, "The day of the Lord's anger". Paul called it, "The wrath to come". John called it, "The hour of trial," and, "The hour of judgment". And Daniel said it was, "A time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation". And the Lord Jesus Christ said this about the tribulation. "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved, but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened".
No passage in the Bible can be found to alleviate to any degree whatsoever the severity of this time the Bible talks about which is called the tribulation. That's what the Bible tells us. So then people are going to say, "So, why? Why is there a tribulation? What in the world would cause God to allow such a time to come on this earth for 7 years"? And as you study the Bible, there are basically two reasons why this happens, and the Bible tells us what they are. First of all, the tribulation is going to be a time that will purify the nation of Israel. The prophet Ezekiel said, "I will purge the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against me".
Moses wrote of Israel in this way. He said, "When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the Lord your God and obey his voice (for the Lord your God is a merciful God), he will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which he swore to them". And the Apostle Paul left no ambiguity as to whether this purging by Moses and Ezekiel would be effective, for he writes in Romans chapter 11, "And all Israel will be saved, as it is written, 'The deliverer will come out of Zion, and he will turn away ungodliness from Jacob, for this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.'"
He wants them to believe in him as their Messiah. And through the purging of the tribulation period, now remember, while this is going on, this terrible time of suffering, 144,000 Spirit-filled Jewish evangelists are going to be preaching the gospel all over the world. And two witnesses are going to be doing miracles that no one will be able to deny. And the Bible says, "And all Israel will be saved". So that's the first reason for the tribulation, so that Israel will hear the gospel, and once again, they will see the one who was pierced, and they will come to him as their Messiah. The second reason is more visceral for us. The tribulation will punish sinners.
I don't know about you, but have you ever thought, I mean, with all this bad stuff, I remember the day they killed those 21 guys on the beach, cut off their heads. And I remember crying out to God that day, "When are you going to do something about this"? Have you ever thought that? You look at the evil that's going on in this world, and you think, "Why doesn't God act"? Obviously, he sees what we see. He feels what we feel. And the tribulation is God's answer to that prayer. One of these days, he will set things right. An evil that has so wrought havoc with the world as we now know it will be dealt with. And Paul wrote, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness".
Now, I need to stop here for a moment and tell you what I know about all of you guys. You're just like me. You'd rather hear about the love of God. I'd rather preach about the love of God. But we don't like to hear about his wrath. But love and wrath are two sides of the same coin. One who is infinitely good as God is abhors evil because evil is the enemy of goodness. Evil is, in fact, like a parasite, a blight, a cancer on goodness. It feeds on and destroys good. Therefore, God rightly directs his wrath at evil. "The Lord avenges and is furious. The Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserves wrath for his enemies; the Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked".
So, to sum it all up, the overall purpose of the 7-year tribulation period that's coming in the future is to get Israel's attention so that they will hear the gospel and be saved, and to once and for all purge evil from this earth in response to the rebellion that so many have had against God. Now, having said all of that, here's where the fun begins. You would not believe how Christians like to dice this subject up. So let me give you what happens. There's a group of folks who say that the tribulation is going to happen, but that the Rapture doesn't take place until after the tribulation, and all of the believers are going to go through the tribulation.
So that means all of these terrible things that I've told you about that are going to happen, if you're a Christian now, according to that view, you're going to go through the whole tribulation, and then the Rapture will happen. I'm not hearing anybody clap. Then there's another group of folks who say no, Christians won't go through the whole tribulation. They're going to go through half of it. That's called mid-tribulationalism. It teaches that the church will be raptured at the halfway point of the 7-year tribulation period. And then there are those who believe, as I do and as I'm pretty certain the Bible teaches, that the Rapture will happen before the tribulation.
And over the years, I've had so many people ask me, "Why do you believe that"? So I thought I'd try to answer that question. I believe that pre-tribulationism is the accurate perspective on the timing of end time events. This means that the church will not suffer any of the terrible miseries of the tribulation. The Bible gives us at least five reasons why believers can be certain of God's protection from this coming onslaught of evil. If you're a Christian in this room today, on the authority of the Word of God, I want to say to you you will never go through the tribulation. You may have some trouble down here. The Bible says, "Yea, all those who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution". You're going to have some issues on this earth, but none of that even compares to what the Bible says about the tribulation. On the authority of the Word of God, I can say to you that if you're a believer in Jesus Christ, if you've accepted Christ as your personal Savior, the tribulation will not touch you.
Here's why, first reason. Our protection is affirmed by a promise from Christ himself. Jesus said, "Because you have kept my command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which is to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth". Hear it again. Jesus said, "I will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world". That's his promise. Now, what did we learn about the promises of the Lord? The Lord doesn't break his promises. He never out-promises himself. He always keeps his promises. He told us that the church will be kept, listen to me, from the hour of trial. Therefore, in his mercy and love, he will remove us from the scene entirely when the tribulation comes. We won't be here. The Rapture will take us out.
Number two, our protection is in accord with biblical examples and precedent. The Apostle Peter explains it to us in these words. He said, "If God did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, delivered Lot, then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation and to reserve the unjust under the punishment for the day of judgment". What did Peter say? Listen, God knows how to get his people away from judgment before it happens.
And then here's another really interesting way to understand this. Our protection is apparent in the book of Revelation. Now, let me give you a little tutorial on the book of Revelation that's really interesting. It's one of the few books in the Bible where, in the first chapter, you're given an outline for the whole book. For instance, in Revelation 1:19, God through Christ comes to John, who's on the isle of Patmos, and he says, "John, I want you to write a book, and here's what it's supposed to be about". "Write the things which you have seen, and then write the things which are, and then write the things which will take place after this".
So the book of Revelation is divided into three different places. Write the things which you have seen. Now, if you want to know what that is, you have to read the first chapter because this short section of the book of Revelation is a vision that John saw of the Lord. And when you read that vision of Christ in Revelation chapter 1, it'll give you the chills because it describes the beauty and majesty and awesomeness of Jesus Christ. John wrote about what he saw in Revelation 1. In Revelation 2 and 3, he wrote about the things which are. Those are the churches that were all around him, and the letters that he wrote to all of them. This section includes Revelation 2 and 3, and 7 letters to the 7 churches of Asia Minor. And then the third category was to write the things which shall take place after this, and that covers the rest of the whole book of Revelation from chapter 4 all the way through to the end.
Now, here's the interesting thing. The word "church" is found 19 times in the first 3 chapters of Revelation. It is not mentioned 1 single time in Revelation 4 through 19. Why? Because the church is not there. It is no longer on the earth. Believers have been removed from the tribulation and taken to heaven. So, from 4 to 19, you find the word "church," you come and tell me, but it's not there. One and three, that's all what's going on on this earth, the things which you saw, the things which are. But the things which happen afterwards, 4 through 19, that whole stretch, by the way, that is the description of what goes on during the tribulation.
I think I've already told you once don't read it before you go to bed or you won't be able to sleep. It is the thing that's going on with ISIS today in our culture is the closest thing I've ever seen in history to what the Bible describes of as the tribulation period, the cruelty, the absolute lack of concern for human life, the determination to slaughter people, to put people in cages and drown them, or burn them, and to cut off their heads. That's the kind of thing that will happen during the tribulation period, but it's happening right now in our world, unfortunately. Before the tribulation happens, the church will be caught up to be with the Lord, caught up. Say that word with me, "Caught up," amen. Caught up is the word we translate Rapture. Before the tribulation, the church will be caught up.
Number four, our protection from the tribulation is assured by God's love. This gets better and better, so keep listening. Paul assured his readers that once they become Christians, they have no more need to fear God's judgment. I love this verse, Romans 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus". We have learned already that part of the purpose of the tribulation is to execute God's wrath on those who reject him. And the simple logic then we can see is believers will be spared the tribulation because we haven't rejected him, we have accepted him. What would be the point of having Christians to endure the tribulation? By turning to God, they render themselves exempt from the whole purpose of those horrific years. Their rebellion has been forgiven. They have no need to be purged of it or punished for it.
The Bible is filled with Scriptures telling us that God's wrath is strictly reserved for those who do not follow him. Romans 5:9 says, "Much more then, having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him". Now, listen carefully, friends. When God put Jesus on the cross, he exacted from him the full penalty due for our sin. We have nothing left to pay. But if we who have been cleansed by the blood of Christ are put through the tribulation, which is a time of punitive judgment from God, it would mean that the price that Christ paid on the cross was not enough, that we still need the additional penalty of God's punitive wrath. And the whole idea negates the efficacy of Christ's sacrifice for our sins. Did the cross save us from wrath or not? Did it save us from condemnation or not? Did it save us from judgment or not?
Listen again, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus". Christ is our Savior because he paid an enormous price to save us from the eternal doom we deserve because we have all sinned. We accept his gift by putting our trust in him. And when we make that commitment, he accepts us as his very own. And that is what it means to be his church. That's what it means to be those he will exempt from the wrath of the tribulation and take to heaven with him. The time is coming, men and women, the time is coming and now looms on the horizon. When the tribulation arrives and God's people are taken into heaven, the door will be closed on those who have heard and rejected the gospel. God's grace is available to rescue you from whatever you've done.
I have people say to me, "Oh, Dr. Jeremiah, if you knew what I've done in my life". It does not make any difference what you've done. It doesn't make any difference how far you feel you're away from God. God's arms of grace are long, and reach out to all. You cannot sin away the grace of God. The Bible says today is the day of salvation. Now is the hour to accept him. So, whoever you are, wherever you are, if you're sitting here in this beautiful place where we're recording these messages, or if you're watching at home on television, I want to ask you right now, do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? Are you ready to be caught up when the time comes?