The ideas behind this question are many and varied. Whether you’ve been taught a pre-tribulation rapture, where the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord are viewed as the same, or you’re inclined to the post-tribulation rapture where some see the Seven Seals, Seven Trumpets, and Seven Bowls as overlapping events, you’re basically left thinking the two events cover the same time period. Let’s begin to put that idea to the test. To do this effectively, we must first look at the characteristics of each time period to see how and if they relate to one another.
Deception and Tribulation
Immediately most students of the Bible will go to Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, and Revelation 6 to review these characteristics. We’ll do the same and start there, but we’ll also list what we find. The first time period we encounter is called the beginning of birth pains.
|Deception, false Christ’s, false prophets|
|Those bearing witness to the gospel|
They will hate and persecute you
Beat you and lay their hands on you
Throw you into prison
You’ll be brought before officials to be judged
You’re to bear witness to the gospel
|Deception, false Christ’s, false prophets|
War, famine, and disease
|The world as a whole|
(Matt 24:4-13; Mark 13:5-13; Luke 21:8-19; Revelation 6:1-11)
Some of the characteristics of these last days are natural. Most require humanity’s involvement; deception, martyrdom, war, and famine. So clearly this period, called the Beginning of Birth Pains, is a period of tribulation and struggle for those witnessing to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Recall that Christ was speaking first to his disciples and followers about things they themselves would experience. He also describes this as a time of ever-growing chaos and deception for the world as a whole.
Greater Tribulation and Greater Deception
As these witnesses get nearer the time when Christ is to reappear, the authors describe a period of great tribulation or such tribulation as never before seen. This period of the Great Tribulation is an amplification or increase of the tribulation experienced during the beginning of birth pains. (Matthew 24:21-22; Mark 13:19-20; Revelation 6:9-11)
Christ first warns his initial followers about the attempts to deceive them. Yet as the time draws nearer to his return Christ becomes clearer in his warning:
23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.
21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.
He goes on to explain one of the reasons for the warning – that his return will not be in secret or hidden in any way. It will be clear and visible as lightning shooting across the sky from the east to the west. (Matthew 24:27)
So during this time of lawlessness, which increases the tribulation and suffering of those witnessing to the gospel of Jesus Christ, Christ himself is not physically present. Hence the reason for his warning them so they’re not deceived. Also, since Christ himself claims he will come to cut short this period of Great Tribulation, how could he possibly be the cause of it?
21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.
The most obvious question becomes – who then is behind this period of persecution and tribulation? If this is a period of deception, why not look to the source of deception, the devil and Satan. This is exactly what Paul does in his second letter to the Thessalonians.
2 Thessalonians 2:3 – Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
Notice that he begins with the same warning that Christ made; Let no one deceive you. The Day of the Lord (Christ’s return) will not come until:
- A rebellion comes first
- The man of lawlessness is revealed
Who is this man of lawlessness?
2 Thessalonians 2:4-10
4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
Paul goes on to describe him as;
- The son of destruction. He comes to conquer and destroy (Revelation 6)
- He exalts himself above all gods
- Proclaiming himself (is pretending) to be God
- His power, signs, and wonders come by the work of Satan
He is the same beast power spoken of in Revelation 13.
- The beast power
- The antichrist (the false Christ)
- Given power over the saints for 42 months (Revelation 13:5-10)
This false-Christ, together with the false prophet, is the source of the increased deception in the world and the increased tribulation against the witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Clearly during this period of Great Tribulation it’s the deceivers (beast and false prophet) who are exalted.
Clear Separation Between Deception and Redemption
Up until this point there’s mostly been increasing deception, death, and destruction. Christ’s command repeatedly throughout this period to his followers is – be not deceived. All the deception and destruction in the world, and the tribulation of Christ’s elect is occurring at the hands of the man of lawlessness (the beast power) and the false prophet. This is the period of Satan’s wrath. But God is getting ready to visibly step into the scene in a very dramatic way.
In each account of Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, and Revelation 6, there is a unique event that precedes Christ’s appearance. Each describes it similarly, but with varying detail.
|Revelation 6:12-14||Matthew 24:29||Mark 13:24-25||Luke 21:25-26|
|The Sixth Seal|
A great earthquake
Sun goes black
Mountains moved out of place
|Signs in the sun, moon and stars|
In addition to these accounts, which all claim to precede Christ’s appearance, we can go to one scripture that states the progression of these events clearly and unequivocally.
30 And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.
Notice what else Joel offers for those experiencing this period of chaos.
Joel 2:32 – . . . that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. . .
These heavenly signs serve as the marker between the time of deception and tribulation of Christ’s saints and that of our Lord’s return. With him he brings the very salvation of our souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9)
To dig deeper into Christ’s intent for His chosen ones, Read more.
Our Blessed Hope Appears
What comes after this period is partly spoken of by Isaiah. Notice that he also provides some of the underlying motivation for what occurs.
Isaiah 2:10-12, 17
10 Enter into the rock and hide in the dust
from before the terror of the Lord,
and from the splendor of his majesty.
11 The haughty looks of man shall be brought low,
and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled,
and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
12 For the Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty,
against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low;
17 And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled,
and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low,
and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
The Lord is exalted in the Day of the Lord, and those who are proud and haughty shall be brought low.
Glory to the Lord on High
All the events that occur after the heavenly signs revolve around the multifaceted work of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who gave his life for the world. Part of that work includes the glorification of his faithful saints. They are the firstfruits of salvation (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14), called to glorify God and his Christ at his appearing (1 Peter 2:9-10).
2 Thessalonians 1:6-7, 10
6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels . . . 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.
We who are believers not only share in the glory of our Lord when he appears, but we also contribute to it (1 Peter 1:7) – we confirm, add evidence, and proclaim to the world:
- that he is the Son of God
- that he is the Redeemer
- that he is the Forgiver of sin
- that he is our High Priest
- that he is the Resurrection and the Light
In doing so we have a part in fulfilling Christ’s own prayer (Fourth Gospel 17:20-26). We proclaim and are evidence:
- that God loved him
- that God loved us – those he gave to him
- that the world may know and believe (just as we know and believe)
Jesus Christ is glorified at this time not only because of his position as the Son of God. He alone has been given all things in heaven and earth, along with the power and authority to rule them (1 Corinthians 8:5-6; 15:27-28; Revelation 5). His primary glory comes because of his relationship with humanity and the fulfillment of his Father’s will for them (Revelation 1:5-8).
To discover more about the plans Christ has for his body of believers, read my recent book . . .
The Rapture Question: An Unfiltered View
The work he plans to complete is far more involved than what is traditionally taught. Let me give you just a sampling from scripture of some of the work Christ seeks to complete as he continues to build his kingdom on earth (1 Corinthians 15:20-26):
- To provide salvation and eternal life for his faithful elect. These firstfruits of the Gentiles will rule with him in heaven (1 Corinthians 6:3) and on earth (Revelation 5:9-10). Those who are the first are not the only.
- The sealing and protection of 144,000 of the descendants of Israel (Jacob), which ultimately leads to their salvation (Revelation 7:3-8; 14:1-5). These are considered the firstfruits of Israel. Again, those who are the first are not the only.
- Continued correction for the unfaithful in Israel and Judah. To show them the futility of the idols they serve and which cannot save them. Christ will lead them to his mercy, forgiveness, and a new covenant (Joel 2; Jeremiah 30; 31)
To dig deeper into Christ’s plans for Israel and Judah, Discover more.
Correction for the World
One of the larger goals for Christ in his 1000-year reign on earth is to lead the nations into obedience to God (1 Corinthians 15:25-26). Jerusalem will be the seat of his government, and Israel and Judah will be the example to the nations. Before he can begin restoring the truth to the world, he must first overcome the powers which lead humanity into death and destruction.
Since Jesus Christ, and he alone, has the authority and power to execute God’s wrath (Revelation 1; 5) it stands to reason that God’s wrath has to follow Christ’s appearance. When we strip away all other presuppositions, that is precisely what scripture reveals:
- Christ appears in the heavens (Matthew 24:29-30; Mark 13:24-26; Luke 21:25-27; Revelation 6:14-17)
- At a time appointed by God (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32-33)
- To end the tribulation and wrath against his faithful elect
- He sends his angels to gather his chosen ones (resurrected dead and transformed living) (Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:27; Luke 21:28; Revelation 7:9-17)
- He send his angels to seal the 144,000 of Israel’s descendants as protection during God’s wrath (Revelation 7:1-8)
- Christ begins the distribution of God’s wrath upon an unbelieving world (Revelation 8; 9; 10; 14; 15; 16; 17; 18
- The King of Kings triumphs in the final battle at Armageddon to overcome the opposing powers in heaven and on earth (Revelation 19:11-21)
- And Christ will reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet (1 Corinthians 15:25)
Building a kingdom, like any other worthwhile goal, requires a process. With the final battle finished, he can begin the rebuilding process. We must however keep his underlying goal in mind.
1 Corinthians 15:24-26
24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Christ’s work will ultimately bring all people to his feet and all will recognize his Lordship. However, not all will voluntarily surrender to that Lordship. (Ephesians 6:12-13; Philippians 2:9-10; Colossians 1:15-20; Revelation 1:7-8; 19:11-20:6; 20:11-15)
Our goal in this article was to identify some of the distinguishing factors about the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord to determine if there was a relationship between the two. Scripture appears to indicate that relationship clearly. It is only by holding onto inaccurate presuppositions that we’re prevented from seeing it.
The period referred to as the Great Tribulation is a time of deception and destruction upon the world. Deception for the people of the world, and tribulation focused at the righteous and faithful who are committed to God and his Christ (Matthew 24: 23-26; Fourth Gospel 3:36; 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; 2 Timothy 3:10-17; 1 John 4:1; 2:18-26; Revelation 12:17; 13).
The Day of the Lord and the wrath of God is a time of redemption and correction; redemption and salvation for his faithful elect, and correction upon the unrighteous and disobedient of the world. God’s correction, however, ultimately leads to the redemption of all humanity willing to surrender to the Lord. (Matthew 24:38-39; Fourth Gospel 3:36; Romans 1:18-32; 2:1-11; 3:1-20; 9:21-24; Ephesians 5:1-6; Colossians 3:1-11; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; Philippians 1:27-30; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-8; Revelation 6:12-16).
This might raise further questions in your mind:
- What is Christ’s involvement in releasing the four horsemen described in Revelation 5?
- Are there other details about the heavenly signs buried in Scripture?
- Who is it that Christ wants to reveal his glory to?
- What is the underlying purpose for allowing deception and destruction to overtake the world?
- What is the underlying purpose for the wrath of God upon the world?
These and many other questions are answered in my recent book . . .
The Rapture Question: An Unfiltered View
There is much more to learn about each of these topics and links have been provided to related articles. Those tagged with Read more lead you to related channel questions and their basic answers. Those tagged Discover more are part of a more in-depth study program. Any tagged with Learn more address methods, processes, and resources which can aid your approach to learning. All are free resources to assist you in gaining a more unfiltered view of God’s word.
At the close of each article, the relevant presuppositions that support it will be cited. This enables the reader to gain a clearer and deeper understanding of the context. To learn more about presuppositions, see the About page.
- Revelation 5 establishes Yeshua, the Christ, as the only one worthy to oversee the final events of the last days. He does this not just by his positional authority as the Son of God but also by his relational authority as the Lamb of God, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and the Root of David.
- The Mystery of God revolves around the salvific work of Jesus Christ and is manifest in his new creation. (Fourth Gospel 3:1-21; Romans 8:28-31; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Galatians 6:14-18)
- The biblical reference to the last days refers to the time period just after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ until his second coming to establish his kingdom on earth. (Acts 2:17-21; Hebrews 1:1-4; Fourth Gospel 6:37-40, 44)
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