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The Pre-Tribulation Misnomer August 24, 2017

Posted by stevekerp in Uncategorized.
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“Pop-eschatology” (which seemed to begin with Hal Lindsey in about 1969) says that there will be a huge number of people saved during the “great tribulation” – popularly defined as the last 3 1/2 years of the final seven years. In Revelation 7:9-14 we see this “great multitude which no one could number … who come out of the great tribulation…” etc.

But it looks like this crowd appears in heaven before the trumpet and bowl judgments, and also there is no indication in the text that the judgments of God during the Trumpet and Bowl judgments ever lead to repentance. In fact, the text says just the opposite in Rev. 9:20-21 and Rev. 16:9-11.

The phrase “great tribulation” only appears three times in the New Testament, and it’s never “THE great tribulation” as if a distinct time period or event:

Matthew 24:21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
Revelation 2:22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
Revelation 7:14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Some have suggested that Matthew 24:21 and Revelation 7:14 are two references to the same period of “great tribulation” but a careful review of the context and details quickly disproves this idea. One problem is that those who hear and obey the Lord in Matthew 24 are those who leave Jerusalem/Judea and, by leaving, survive this period of great tribulation (which appears from the context to be localized rather than global). Those who refuse to hear and/or disobey will remain and be killed. So those who are disobedient go into eternity. Should we conclude that they are rewarded for their disobedience? How do these wind up before the throne? Is remaining in Jerusalem the same as “washing their robes and making them white in the blood”?

Second, this group we see in Revelation 7 is large – like really large. The text says they are a great multitude which no one could number, and that all nations and people-groups are represented. Can this be said of the casualties in Jerusalem who die during the “great tribulation” visited on Judea?

My tentative conclusion, is that “great tribulation” is used as a descriptive phrase but refers to separate events. The “great tribulation” of Matthew 24 appears to be “great” because it is intense, but it is a short and local event. The “great tribulation” of Revelation 7:14 appears to be “great” because it is global and maybe because it lasts a long time. It is probably connected to “tribulation” as it is used in Matthew 24:9, Romans 5:3, and Acts 14:22. We ALL get tribulation; it’s part of being a Christian. It’s good for us in that it develops character, and it’s connected to the cleansing blood of Christ.

Whether it’s a last-days worldwide persecution (see Matthew 24:9) or it’s the tribulation visited on every believer for the past 2,000 years – every Christian who has washed his robes and made them white – is a separate question.

The third instance of “great tribulation” is in Revelation 2:22. Here, we see that just one person – identified as “Jezebel” – is threatened with “a sickbed.” Those who commit adultery with her are threatened with “great tribulation” unless they repent. It would be a stretch to suggest that this is a large group of spiritual adulterers who are punished by God by being subjected to “the great tribulation” and then subsequently are found in Revelation 7 standing before the Throne with white robes. And the text does not tell us whether or not they do repent, so we have no way of knowing whether this particular “great tribulation” is visited on a large group, a small group, or nobody at all. What we could safely say is that if they DO repent, they avoid “great tribulation” but stand before the Throne, whereas if they don’t repent, they experience great tribulation.

One of my conclusions is that using the term “great tribulation” has been a serious and foolish misnomer in eschatology, especially when used as a time-marker for the harpazo. Because eschatologists make up their own definitions and contexts, the “pre-trib rapture debate” has generated strife for many, many years in the eschatological community (the “eschatosphere”). Using the term “tribulation” (or “tribulation period”) to refer to Daniel’s 70th week is Biblically inconsistent and demonstrates poor scholarship. Similarly, using the term “great tribulation” to refer to the last half of the final seven years before the Millennial reign of Christ is the source of much confusion, as well as bizarre and unsupportable time lines. The “dispute” between the pre-trib and post-trib positions would probably not exist if we insisted on Biblically accurate and precise terminology.

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