With the 6th dispensation finished and Christ having claimed his bride, it should be time for the Meaning of Life to be fulfilled. But there are two significant loose ends that need to be wrapped up.
God needs to settle accounts with the Enemy.
With his death and resurrection, Jesus technically won back the rights to the earth that Adam forfeited back in Eden. But as we well know, Satan and his minions haven’t given up the ship. Legally, Jesus still needs to “close escrow” and kick out the squatters.
The Kingdom Come has to, well, come
Also there’s the not so small matter of the unfulfilled promise of the Kingdom made to Abraham. As we saw before, God HAS to fulfill this promise. But as that post showed, the Kingdom can ONLY be established AFTER the Jews accept Jesus as the Messiah to rule it.
Thus the prerequisite to the fulfillment of the Kingdom promise is that the Jews rectify the mistake they made in rejecting Him – something they’ve been reticent to do over the centuries.
This presents God with a dilemma. He has to fulfill this promise. His plan stalls indefinitely until He does. But as a just God, he can’t force the Jews to accept Jesus…however he CAN make a very persuasive argument.
He CAN however make a very persuasive argument.
The process of dealing with Satan, and clearing the earth of his influence, as well as convincing the Jews to finally accept their Messiah comprise one of the most interesting, dramatic, frightening, devastating, and well documented periods in the Bible, known as the Tribulation*
It’s safe to say the Tribulation won’t be much fun
As the name implies, the Tribulation will not be a pleasant era. It will in fact be the most horrific period of time in the history of man.
The Bible has many (unpleasant) descriptive names for it, including: The great and terrible Day of the Lord, The indignation, the Day of vengeance, The Wrath of God, The Judgment of the Nations, The Day of Battle, the Day of Desolation, the Day of Distress, and many other warm and fuzzy titles.
It will be the apocalyptic period the world has been anticipating and dreading, chock full of all the terrifying imagery depicted in film and art – war, death, destruction, famines, pestilences, persecutions, hail and fire raining down from the heavens, water turning to blood, devastating earth quakes, demonic horsemen slapping people around, the Death Star orbiting earth (ok, I made that last one up).
It will also be the most concentrated time of evil in history (for reasons we will get into in the next post) where sin, and all manner of debauchery will be commonplace (the whole world will basically be like the backstage of a rock concert).
It’s going to be so bad, that it will nearly exterminate us!
Jesus very clearly states that if the Tribulation was allowed to continue unabated, it would end all life on earth! That’s a statement that would have been hard to imagine during the time of Christ (or even a couple hundred years ago) but we now live in a time where the specter of extinction level events caused by man are a very real possibility.
Why does the Tribulation have to be so devastating?
It’s an unfortunate necessity that the Tribulation be such an awful time in order to accomplish its two primary purposes: to kick Satan and his minions off the earth, and to persuade the Jews to finally accept Jesus. Let’s deal with Satan’s ouster first.
2000 years of history have shown that Satan and his minions have been running roughshod over the earth while waiting for Jesus to claim his property rights.
They obviously are not just going to leave of their own accord (as we’ve seen, Satan isn’t exactly a good sport about these sorts of things) so they will have to be forcibly removed.
Also keep in mind that this will not just be an eviction, it will be a judgment of the all the evil they have committed on earth.
Since He first usurped Adam’s authority, Satan has been a devastating force against man and creation. He has inspired a vast amount of the world’s horror – from murder, violence, torture, and abuse, to genocides, famines, wars, and perversions (not to mention religion and politics).
People often wonder why a just God has not executed His righteous judgment for all the ills of the world.
The Answer is, He’s been storing it up, and it will all come down in a concentrated burst of wrath that will be unlike anything that has ever occurred.
How do you force incredibly powerful entities off a planet that they’ve hunkered down in for millennia? You literally go “Old Testament” on them!
The Bible offers extremely vivid descriptions of what God’s wrath will be like during the Tribulation. (The entire book of Zephaniah sounds like it should be read by Samuel L Jackson).
God will yank Satan and his demons down from their exalted domains and down to the earth to be judged. And by the time God is done, the waters of the earth will have turned to blood, the heavens will be decimated, the mountains and islands will be gone, hail stones the size of beach balls will have battered the planet into submission, the skies will be blackened, and the earth will literally be shaken silly.
After smacking His enemies around for 3 ½ years, Jesus will be ready to come down and physically claim the world for Himself.
But even with their kingdom devastated, Satan and the fallen angels will not relent. In a final (and futile) show of defiance they attempt to prevent the Second Coming and the Kingdom by exterminating the last vestiges of the people who must usher it in. This brings us to the second reason for the Tribulation.
Another stubborn group that requires Apocalyptic prodding
One of the most common titles of the Tribulation (specifically the last 3 ½ years) is “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble”. As we saw earlier Jacob is patriarch of the Jewish people (his name was changed to “Israel”), so this period of time has a specific focus on the Jews.
When the Jewish leadership in the first century rejected Jesus as their Messiah, they were corporately blinded by God as part of their judgment. That blindness has been hard to shake off, and it will take an extreme situation to wake up the chosen people.
Its important to note that this is NOT Jesus’ preferred method. He makes it clear that He would rather a much gentler approach. Unfortunately they prove just as stubborn in their own way as the Enemy. And Satan will actually end up being the instrument that will ultimately drive the Jewish people to their destiny.
Satan has a special hatred for the Jews and has inspired a tremendous amount of anti-Semitism throughout the ages and up to the present time where you have religious nut-jobs who display their unnatural hatred for them on practically a daily basis.
A large part of the reason is that they are God’s chosen people and the physical progenitors of the first incarnation. But with Jesus’ victory on the cross a settled issue going on 2000 years, why is Satan STILL so antagonistic toward the Jews?
The Jews are THE existential threat to Satan’s earthy kingdom
Jesus will not physically come back to earth to set up the Kingdom until the Jews formally ask Him to. Thus Satan has a vested interest in making sure that request is not made. And the most foolproof way to guarantee the Jews don’t ask Jesus to come back is to make sure there are no Jews around to ask!
When the judgments of the Tribulation begin, Satan knows his time is almost up, so he will crank up his machinations to exterminate the Jews to an unprecedented level.
The persecution of the Jews during the Tribulation will make the Holocaust of the 1930’s look tame by comparison. Hitler’s Nazi’s killed 1/3 of the world’s Jews during the events of World War II. The Bible indicates that during the Tribulation, 2/3 of the Chosen People will be wiped out!
The tipping point will be an event known as the Abomination of Desolation. This is a prophesy introduced in the book of Daniel and re-emphasized by Jesus Himself, centers on the Satanic false messiah – commonly known as the Antichrist. Tragically, the Jews will initially accept him as their Messiah over Jesus! (more on him beginning in the next post)
However, he will eventually betray the Jews and set himself up in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and claim that he is God.
When this happens, the Jews are warned to get the hell out of town and don’t even bother to pack, because the Great Tribulation is coming and they are marked for extermination with extreme prejudice!
There will be no Battle of Armageddon
At the end of the devastation of the Tribulation, Satan will gather all the armies of the world (what’s left of them) and march them toward the area in south eastern Judea where the last outpost of Jewry on earth remains, with the goal wiping them out once and for all.
This is where the nigh-legendary Battle of Armageddon takes place. However, despite its ubiquity in our vernacular, there is technically no such thing as a “Battle of Armageddon”, for a couple of reasons.
First, Armageddon isn’t the name of the altercation. It’s just the place where the armies of the enemy gather. It’s a wide, flat valley in northern Israel, which will serve as the staging area for the armies before they march south to the Jews’ hiding place.
Secondly, it isn’t going to be much of a fight. As the bad guys are getting ready for the slaughter, the embattled Jews FINALLY acknowledge Jesus and call on Him to rescue them. At which point, the climax of history occurs, when the hero of the Biblical narrative returns to earth in power and great glory! [cue the cheers]
Then, in perhaps the most idiotic display of futility imaginable, the armies turn their attention toward the descending King of Kings (and His saints) to try to fight him. And while our ideas of climactic final battles would like to imagine the fight going like this, it will actually go more like this.
Jesus speaks words, and the enemy forces are immediately killed.
And then eaten by birds. End of “battle”.
Thus ends the reign of evil on the earth. And Jesus is now free to set up the long awaited Kingdom and the 7th Dispensation.
More details please!
I’ve obviously summarized quite a bit of dramatic (pre) history in this post. And since the prophesies of the Tribulation constitute a TON of scriptures in the Old and New Testaments, I would be derelict in my duty if I didn’t take us into a deep dive of these remarkable events.
We’ll start in the next post where I will present a theory about the beginning of the Tribulation that I’ve never heard from anyone else (which means it’s probably wrong).
While most people see the time of the Tribulation as either a gap between the 6th and 7th Dispensations, or a temporary return of the 5th Dispensation, I think an argument can be made this this time period actually constitutes its own “mini-dispensation”!
If the purpose of the Dispensations is to give man every alternative to God’s Plan, then there is one option that has never been fully explored – Satan’s way! During the time between the Rapture and the Great Tribulation, Satan will be given an unfettered opportunity to set up his ideal kingdom on earth, and Man can either choose it or choose God’s plan. We’ll explore this theory next time.
*[NOTE – Yes, I’m fully aware that there is technically no such thing as a “7 year Tribulation” in the Bible, and that the “Great Tribulation” Jesus speaks of in Matthew 24 is actually 3 ½ years. However when I use the term “Tribulation” in this blog, I am referring to the entire 7 year period known as the “70th Week of Daniel”, the last half of which is the aforementioned Great Tribulation. Why? Because I don’t feel like typing out “the 70th Week of Daniel” over and over.]