Discourse 09 - The Great Tribulation: an affliction of the faithful, or of the whole world?

The Great Tribulation: an affliction of the faithful, or of the whole world? / Reply - Marcus Franz 00, 2000-07-25

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(The Great Tribulation: an affliction of the faithful, or of the whole world? / Reply MF02, 2000-07-25)

With reference to the darkness: I do not actually think this question is so very important. All the same, for the reasons I mentioned earlier, I take the view that Rev 6,12 indicates only a temporary darkening of the sun and takes place (in terms of time) before Mt 24,29.

I would be interested to learn where you find a place in your time scheme for the darkening of the sun which takes place at the fifth plague of the bowls (Rev 16,10), and is thus much closer to the Second Coming of the Lord than Rev 6,12.

If I have understood you correctly, in your view the affliction of the faithful will be over when the sixth seal is broken. This shows consistency on your part, as according to Mt 24,29 the darkening of the sun only takes place AFTER the tribulation. So if Rev 6,12 and Mt 24,29 are to be taken as identical, it follows necessarily that the affliction of the congregation will come to an end on the breaking of the sixth seal. On the other hand, though, you also write (perfectly correctly) that the congregation will experience the Rapture only on the sounding of the seventh trumpet. So the plagues of the trumpets, too, must take place prior to this.

How, in your view, does all this hang together? Will the congregation not be affected by the plagues of the trumpets? Will the Antichrist already have stopped persecuting the congregation at an earlier stage? What do you think?

(Marcus Franz, XXXXmarcus1973@t-online.de / http://www.marcus1973.privat.t-online.de/endzeit.html

For a commentary on questions to do with the great darkness,

(See also Discourse 05: “The parallel course of events of Mt 24 and Rev 6 and 7.”)

A “synoptic overview” of all the important events of the Last Days, with an attempt to order them in terms of the chronology of the close of the age, can be found on the front page of this website.

The crux in all these questions relating to the Second Coming of the Lord is the Great Tribulation, and what it includes. People often talk or write of the Great Tribulation without having first defined just what it is supposed to mean. In Chapter 03, "The Great Tribulation", the attempt has been made to give just such a specific definition.

(See also Chapter 03: “The Great Tribulation.”)

So as to be able to reduce matters to a lowest common denominator, we can make the following statements:

The "Great Tribulation/Distress" prophesied by Scripture in a number of places is described as follows:

A great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now.

Mt 24,21 For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Mt 24,21;

And this statement is reinforced by the parallel passage in Dan 12,1-2:

There will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation.

Dan 12,1 Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.12,2 Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Dan 12, 1- 2;

This Great Tribulation, now, cannot refer just to the affliction of the faithful. We can see here in Dan 12,1-2 a clear parallel to Mt 24,21. In both passages, both the Old Testament and the New Testament one, this Great Tribulation is described as a time of distress such as has never been since the beginning of the world. And if we now try to imagine all kinds of ghastly horror scenarios in connection with the persecution of the faithful, we will not find any acts of cruelty there that have not already been perpetrated in the course of history by human beings on other human beings.

The people of Israel, in particular, have in the past suffered all the miseries which human beings are capable of inflicting on one another _ whether the torture of believing Jews under Antiochus Epiphanes, of which we can read in the Maccabee epistles (2Mac 7,1-42), the capture of Jerusalem by the crusaders, the pogroms against the Jews that were found throughout Europe or the crime against the Jewish people in our own time, under Hitler, to name just a few.

But the afflictions of the Christians, beginning with the persecution of Christians in the Roman empire, and continuing through the Catholic Inquisition right into the Counter-Reformation, have already featured every kind of torment, such as having people torn apart by wild animals, tortures inflicted under "penal interrogation" or burning at the stake.

Human individuals, and even an entire nation, can "only" be tormented to the point of death. And just this has already happened far too many times in the course of world history. The raising of this to a higher power, “such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now”, is therefore inconceivable if we have to do only with the persecution of human individuals.

But there is another indication in the text of Mt 24, which makes a view of the Great Tribulation as being not just an affliction for the faithful appear an appropriate one. There we are told, in

Mt 24,22 Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Mt 24,22;

If then, these days have been cut short “for the sake of the elect”, this implies that at this time there will also be the “non-elect”, who will likewise be affected by these afflictions. This is also confirmed by the first part of the sentence, where we are told that “no life” would have been saved. Under the heading of “no life” both the faithful and the ungodly are to be included. And the ungodly cannot, after all, be persecuted for their faith in Christ.

It follows, then, that this type of affliction - that is to say, the persecution of the faithful - cannot be that “Great Tribulation” such as “has not occurred from the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.” But with that, the thesis that the Great Tribulation is so to speak a synonym for the persecution of the faithful in the time of the dominion of the Antichrist, thus embracing only this period of time, also breaks down. Which results now in a completely different way of looking at this key event of the last days.

The correctness of this reflection is confirmed by Rev 7,9-17 as well:

Those who come out of the great tribulation will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore.

Rev 7,9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 7,10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

7,11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 7,12 saying, “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” 7,13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” 7,11 I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

7,15 For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. 7,16 They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; 7,17 for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” Rev 7, 9-17;

Here “those who come out of the Great Tribulation” are referred to. They are standing in heaven before the throne, which implies on the one hand that these are all believing Christians, and on the other that they have already been raised from the dead. If we take the formulation - “a great multitude which no one could count” - seriously, then what we have here is already practically the entire congregation, assembled in heaven, and for the Rapture on the Second Coming of the Lord there would probably be only a small remnant of still living faithful left, who then would be translated along with the dead who have been raised. This shows that here too we must have regard to these implications.

But what is interesting here is the statement made in Rev 7,15: “They will hunger no longer, nor thirst any more; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat.” Here there is no mention of persecution, martyrdom or killing: rather, what is referred to is hunger, thirst and heat. And this will have affected millions of people, if we are inclined to see the “great multitude” as really being halfway “uncountable”. Although we might understand hunger and thirst as also being typical causes of death in concentration camps, the mention of “sun” and “heat” makes it clear that we here have to do with climatic causes, such as a drought or a general climatic catastrophe. Seeing that verse 14 gives us an unambiguous proof that we are here speaking of the Great Tribulation and not of any other event, this statement also supports the assumption that the Great Tribulation is a worldwide event first of all, and secondly that the persecution of the faithful will certainly be a feature, but may be rather a subsidiary feature of this period.

Seeing that before this great multitude who come out of the Great Tribulation, as mentioned in Rev 7,9-17, we have the judgments of God with the four horsemen of the Apocalypse (Rev 6,1-8), it is an easy step to the conclusion that in these catastrophes - explicitly described as worldwide events - we have to do with the main causes of the Great Tribulation. This Great Tribulation extends over the time of the plagues of seals 1 to 4, and ends with the Second Coming of the Lord (2The 2,8) and the Rapture of the faithful in Christ at the time of the sixth seal.

If it is assumed - as we have been assuming for this interpretation - that Revelation essentially supplies us with a chronological sequence, we are forced to conclude that the Great Tribulation must be located before Rev 7,9-17 (the multitude who come out of the Great Tribulation), and this, as we have shown, is perfectly plausible. If one follows a different course, then the first may be made into the last, and the uppermost into the bottommost: arbitrary interpretation knows no limits.