The Great Tribulation or the Time of the End

 •  23 min. read  •  grade level: 8
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The end of this age. How much God has spoken about this, and how little attention man has paid to what God has said. As it would be impossible to understand the distance, and relation of different places on a map, without a correct scale, by which to measure those distances: so it is also impossible to understand the relation that one prophecy bears to another, unless we understand the scale of time which God was pleased to give to His servant Daniel. The Lord Jesus points to this when He says “whoso readeth let him understand” (Matt. 24:15).
It is important to notice that this discourse of the Lord Jesus was His own private explanation to His disciples. He explained the parable of the wheat and tares, privately to them in the house. So it would seem having discoursed in the Temple on these matters as recited in Luke 21. Now having left it for the last time, and only three days from His own death, these explanations are given in answer to His disciples’ questions.
Surely it becomes us to examine with solemnity, that which occupied the heart of the Lord Jesus so near His death. We will now examine the scale of prophetic time. Read Dan. 9:24-27. There is God’s scale of time. Just as on a map it may be one inch to the mile: so here, it is one day to the year. “Seventy weeks are determined upon Thy people, and upon Thy holy city.” During those seventy weeks, or 490 years, all these great events were to take place. The great work of reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, indeed their whole history up to the anointing of the most Holy. The scale of time is divided into seven weeks, sixty-two weeks, and one week. “And after the threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, and shall have nothing,” marginal reading. We will leave the last week, or seven years, for a moment. There can be no mistake about the sixty-nine thus marked on the scale, and actually fulfilled. There was the starting point “the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem,” which took place in the twentieth of Artaxerxes, and the sixty-nine weeks ended at the cross of Christ, when the Lord Jesus, having made reconciliation for iniquity, God raised Him from the dead in everlasting righteousness. But also equally true, though received up to glory, yet as Messiah He was actually rejected, cut off and had nothing.
Now as sixty-nine of the weeks of years have been so distinctly fulfilled, a day for a year, may we not expect the only one remaining week, or seven years, to be fulfilled in like manner? Why do we say one remaining week? You will find there is an indefinite period between the end of the threescore and two weeks, and the last, the one week. “The people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.” This agrees strictly with the teaching of the Lord Jesus in Luke 21. An indefinite period of desolations is foretold. Jerusalem should be compassed with armies and destroyed. “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Then follows the tribulation, distress of nations and the coming of the Son of man, in the clouds with power and great glory. It is clear then, we are in that indefinite period which precedes the last week. The Romans were the people of that coming prince; as we all know they destroyed the city, and the sanctuary (in AD 70): and from that day the determined desolations have continued. It is impossible to deny this. And what has God been doing during this unmeasured period? Taking out from Jews and Gentiles the predestined church. That church as we learn, not here in the Old Testament, but in the New, will be taken up to be with the Lord before the tribulation of which we are about to speak.
We will now look at the last week or seven years of the prophetic scale. “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” He, the coming prince of the people who destroyed the city, He shall confirm the covenant with the many. All this supposes when this time of the end arrives, that the city and temple are rebuilt; and Jewish sacrifices restored, and certainly this is so from many other Scriptures. “And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate” (Dan. 11:31). And mark this wicked one is a Jew (Dan. 11:36-38). This wicked one comes in his own name, and the many Jews restored to Jerusalem, receive him, and his action marks the last week on the scale: and still more distinctly the last half of that week — the three years and a half, the time of the end. Then the wicked one confirms a covenant with the Jews for seven years, then, but not until then, Jewish time will be reckoned again. The wicked flatterer goes on smoothly for half the week, or three years and a half: then the sure sign of the great tribulation is given, he causeth the sacrifice and oblation to cease, and sets up the idol of abomination in the holy place. Daniel 12 describes this time of the end. “And at that time... there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time Thy people (the Jews) shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.”
“But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, even to the time of the end.” Thus we see these words will be sealed to the Jews unto the time of the end. This is repeated, read verses 9, 13, and mark the setting up of the abomination is the sure beacon, yes, marks the very day from which the Jews who believe God may count the very days from that event, to their deliverance and final blessing. “And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.” This is thirty days over the last half week: and still fuller blessing a little further on. “Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.” Now, as we have said, it is impossible to measure the distances on a map, unless those places are drawn to a correct scale, and also it is necessary that you understand that scale: just so is it impossible to understand correctly the prophetic periods, unless those prophecies are given on a correct uniform scale. There is no other scale of time given except this, and hence the importance of rightly understanding it. The scale then is this, seventy weeks, on the scale of a day to the year. Sixty-nine have been certainly fulfilled. One only remains. Marked by a (confirmation of a) covenant for seven years with the Jews; the last half of the seven years, to be marked by the setting up of the idol in the holy place. It must be carefully noted, that if the scale is correct, and uniform, the dates of the period of the end or tribulation, three years and a half, 1260 days, or forty two months must be understood of the same scale; that is, each of these numbers will represent the last three and a half days, (or years as a day is for a year), on the scale. Many writers have made a strange mistake as to these last days of the one week. Not only a day for a year on the scale, the last week seven years, but they have also reckoned each of those literal days of the three years and half as meaning a year also. And also another mistake, they have applied the last three years and half of the Jewish tribulation, as though it described the events of this interval of unmeasured time between the sixty-ninth, and seventieth week.
We trust the reader will understand this: as the Lord Jesus points this sign out to the Jews particularly. “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains” (Matt. 24:15).
How correctly the scale measures every prophetic scripture. Take this chapter, Matt. 24. In verse 2, Jesus speaks of the destruction of the temple or sanctuary. This we have seen marks the end of the sixty-ninth week; verses 4-14 describe the unmeasured interval of desolations and wars. Then the Lord takes up the distinct mark of the middle of the last week, or seven years. The Jews who believe are then to flee, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. Daniel had given the days with a few added to the last three years and a half. The Lord shows as to the dreadful tribulation, those (not years but) days shall be shortened. And as these are the last days before the setting up of the kingdom, the Lord tells us that immediately after the tribulation of those (not years but) days: the Son of man cometh in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Now the Spirit of God is much occupied with those days, the last half of the last week, in the book of Revelation. It will be seen in Revelation 10 that the unmeasured period comes to a close. The mighty angel does not swear “that there shall be no more time”; this cannot be correct, as time did go on, and will for more than a thousand years. It is well known this should be, that time shall no longer be delayed. The church has been taken to heaven. The unmeasured period has closed. Prophetic time, even the time of the end, now runs on. There is the temple again. It is measured. But the court which is without the Gentiles trample under foot, forty and two months: or three years and a half. So the witnesses also prophesy the same length of time (Rev. 11:2-3). God has been pleased to give us many wonderful details, about this very time of the end, in Revelation 12 and 13. Israel is brought before us, in the symbol of the woman that brought forth the man child. The man child has been caught up to God, as foretold by Micah 5:2. “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Thus JESUS, born in Bethlehem, rejected, cut off and having nothing on earth, has been caught up to God: and the heavens must retain Him until the times of restitution (Acts 3:21). And though man, He is the eternal God: and He is to be ruler in Israel. Here, as the man child He is revealed as the mystic Christ; the unmeasured interval completed. “And she brought forth a man child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up to God and His throne (Rev. 12:5). Now the church is associated with Christ in this, as it is written in Revelation 2:26. “And he that overcometh, and keepeth My works unto the end; to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron. And when Christ comes to exercise this judgment, the church comes with Him (Rev. 19:14-15). So that the full ascension of the man child is complete, when the church, His body, is caught up to be with Him where He is: and to come with Him when He comes.
All this that we may understand where we are on the prophetic scale. This, and all that follows shows we shall have now passed the unmeasured interval, and have arrived at the very point marked as the beacon by the Lord: the beginning of the last half week, or three years and a half of the great tribulation. Did He not tell them to flee that very day, not even returning into the house for their clothes? (Matt. 24:16,18). So we read here, “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand, two hundred and threescore days.” Just again the last three and half years. The saints having been caught up to the Lord (as revealed in 1 Thess. 4), you may now read of the great war in heaven that will take place: and their great joy in heaven: and how they overcame the accuser. Then Satan the devil, the dragon, is cast down to the earth, and his angels. If there is great joy in heaven: there will be great woe on earth. This is the sure prospect of the dwellers on earth when the devil is come down unto you.
All this takes place, and a great deal more, during these last three years and a half of the prophetic scale. You will notice when the dragon is cast to the earth, he cannot persecute the church, she is rejoicing in heaven. He therefore brings his whole power to persecute the woman that brought forth the man child. That is the regathered Jews. She has an astonishingly rapid flight. “And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time (year) and times (two years) and half a time, from the face of the serpent.” The same three years and half the time of the end. Then you may read of the fearful wrath of the devil during those days against those Jews, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. The prophecy of Daniel is to be sealed unto his people unto this time of the end. You may test this if you please: go to a Rabbi and ask him the meaning of Daniel 9 or 12. You will find, to him it is a sealed book. Not so when the time of the end arrives. It will then be unsealed. God can use this very little paper for this purpose if He please. When the remnant see the idol of abomination set up in their holy place, they will flee as here described.
Now if we turn to Revelation 13 we shall read how these fearful judgments affect not only the Jews, but all that dwell upon the earth. We shall find however it is still the last three years and a half of the scale. Before we do this, we will notice one most serious mistake that many have made. It is something like this. Suppose a surveyor of a new line of railway, say 490 miles in length, draws a plan of the line on a scale of one inch to the mile. The last three and a half miles is a very difficult piece, and will require a vast amount of specifications. He gives them the plan of 486½ miles. This part is to be completed first. He then gives the most elaborate survey of the last three and a half miles. It is on the same scale an inch to a mile: and therefore only three and a half inches on the scale and means three and a half miles. But as the work is so difficult he may describe it by the yard, or even by the inch. The clerk of the works makes this mistake: he supposes instead of the distance being only the three miles and a half which completes the line, that every inch in the three miles and a half means a mile. This would stretch the three miles and half far far beyond the length of the whole line. More indeed than seventy thousand miles; while the whole length of the line is only 490 miles.
Strange as it may seem, this is just the mistake often made. The whole length of the prophetic time is seventy weeks, or 490 years, the unmeasured period before the last week not being counted. Now the last half week, or three years and a half, of this prophetic time is so tremendous in its character, that it is described in times, in months, in days: each of these making the correct scale three years and a half. Now writers have, and do mistake these days, as if they meant years, and thus calling them 1260 years! Not noticing that this is far longer than the whole scale of time 490 years. These 490 years close with the anointing the most Holy. And as we have seen immediately after the tribulation of those days, He shall be seen coming with power and great glory. All sorts of fancies have been invented for the fulfillment of these 1260 years. I well remember American adventists, alarming great numbers, by proving that Christ would come in, I think it was 1843. I will tell you how they did this, or how Satan did this by them in order, after it was past, to drive the excited people to infidelity. A certain year was fixed on for the coming of Christ. They then counted backward and fixed on some event in history as a starting point. In their lectures they started in this way from 6 or 7 different points, and always of course arrived at the same year. Let us turn to the Word, and we shall find that there has nothing happened yet in this interval, at all like what will take place during those three years and a half.
A beast is seen to rise out of the sea: and this beast answers to the old Roman Empire (Rev. 13:1- 2). That beast or imperial form of empire has been destroyed — wounded with the sword. But all the world is to wonder at this beast suddenly reappearing again. And all the world worships the dragon which gave power unto the beast. This has not taken place yet: it will be so during the last three and a half years. “And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.” The exact last measure on the scale again. He can only blaspheme the church gone to heaven, forever with the Lord. But dreadful will be the condition of the poor Jews, for this short period of the end, on earth. “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them and power was given unto him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations; and all that dwell upon earth shall worship him.” And now the wicked one (see 2 Thess. 2) is revealed, the other beast (Rev. 13:11-18), coming up out of the earth. What power of iniquity he will have, he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven. He uses one fearful power for evil, in compelling all men small and great, rich and poor, to receive the mark of the beast. Certainly this has not been fulfilled yet: Satan is trying it as a cruel power, for evil at this moment, and it is a new thing in the earth, and bears the name of a living man, one of its cruel victims. It is called boycotting. “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” Oh how terrible the state of the Roman Empire when this shall be its universal condition at the time of the end. Talk of 1260 years, if those days first named to Daniel were not shortened, no flesh could be saved.
What a trinity of evil! The dragon, the imperial head, and the wicked one, the man of sin — and this terrible engine of evil, of which we hear of its sad prelude even now. But all compelled to worship the dragon and the beast or be put to death. What a reign of terror! And who can say how soon the church may be taken, and it may begin?
It may be asked, how can these things be since the Roman Imperial Empire has been broken to pieces by savage armies and does not actually exist? This was answered before its destruction. The angel explained this to John in Revelation 17. The beast or Imperial head “was, and is not, and yet shall be.” What a surprise this will be to Europe — that terrible Empire suddenly appearing again. And Satan giving his power to the imperial head. It is perfectly childish to say this has been: either in this days of Napoleon, or at any other time. For not only is there the beast, the head: but there are to be also ten horns or “kings which have received no kingdom as yet: but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.” No ten kings have done what these will do for they will “give their power and strength unto the beast” (Rev. 17:17). This is entirely new: and will take place not now but at the time of the end. It may be asked what then will become of the false professing church, when the true saints have been taken to be with the Lord, during this awful time of the end, the last three and a half years? She seems for a moment to swell to greater grandeur and iniquity than ever, as the great whore. She even sits on the blasphemous beast: and he carrieth her. This is only for a very short time: for he and the ten kings utterly destroy her. “And the ten horns which thou sawest and (not upon) the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.” Her utter destruction is then described in Revelation 18. Such then will be the reign of awful terror, the tribulation such as never was, and never shall be again: and then immediately the Son of man shall come, and every eye shall see Him: and all tribes of the earth shall mourn. Then shall take place the judgment of the quick and the setting up of His kingdom on earth.
How strangely the Scriptures have been misunderstood on these subjects. Take this one. “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Dan. 2:44). This has frequently been referred to as meaning Christianity. The least attention would have shown that those kings had not received their kingdoms when John wrote the Revelation: and as we have seen have not done so yet. No, it is at the end of the last three years and a half, in the very days of these kings, that God sets up His earthly kingdom. This may be further seen, when the terrible character of the fourth or Roman Empire is seen as foretold in Daniel 7:13. “I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven and there was given Him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages, should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” Then shall commence that glorious kingdom and reign of Christ on earth with Israel the center of that kingdom and Jerusalem the holy metropolis of the whole world. We hope to look at those scriptures which speak of that millennial reign in another paper. God could not have given more clear and distinct warning: and the very world seems conscious that some terrible judgment is at hand. Oh, reader, are you ready to go in before the door is shut, are you ready to meet the Lord? Tomorrow may be forever too late. The unmeasured period of grace may close this day. Tomorrow may be strong delusion, to believe a lie and to be damned. How Satan can deceive his poor dupes. May God enable you at this moment to flee from the wrath to come. What an end to human pride, and boasting, and progress. God’s Word will be found true. All these things shall surely come to pass. Men may cry peace and safety: but the sudden destruction shall come. No longer despise the Word of God: No longer listen to the lies of men. O God awake men from their fatal sleep. Jesus says, “Surely I come quickly.” And hearken to these, His words. He says, “I am Alpha, and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Rev. 21:6).