The Scope of the Tribulation – An Introduction

When considering the scope of the tribulation of the latter days, there are many directions one can take as to how to approach it. There are the aspects of timing as it relates to the return of our Lord, the various people-groups and how they are affected by it, or the goals and purposes it serves as part of God’s will in achieving redemption for all humanity through Christ our Lord. Each of these I’ve covered in some detail in my book The Rapture Question: An Unfiltered View.

In the next series of articles I’d like to take a different approach which broadens the perspective and focus from that of a mostly New Testament expectation, and work from that of an Old Testament one as well, one developed from the writings of Jewish scholars during the inter-testament period. This would only be useful if their perspective in that period, which includes the time of Christ and the Jewish disciples he called, impacted the expectation of these participants regarding the fulfillment of God’s covenant to bring an end to their exile as a people.

In order to review these expectations, it will be necessary to combine several sources. The first source of these writings comes from the work of a modern author, Brant Pitre, in his book entitled Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile(1). Here Pitre provides a detailed overview which shows a relationship between the expectation of an eschatological tribulation in Late Second Temple Judaism, its part in early Jewish eschatology, and its connection to the events surrounding Jesus of Nazareth(2).

However, at the current time Pitre’s book is out of print, so I will have to rely on a review of these expectations by Dr. Michael S. Heiser from his podcast – The Naked Bible Podcast, Number 101(3). In it, Dr. Heiser points out that what Pitre’s work does is to bring out the relevance of Second Temple literature to the subject of an eschatological tribulation. What Heiser concludes is that New Testament authors were aligned with the Jewish eschatology of their day. He derives this conclusion, in part, from the list that Pitre finds in his research. This list will be the basis for future articles as we delve into their direct relationship to the work and gospel of Jesus Christ.

  1. The tribulation is tied to the restoration of Israel and the End of the Exile.
  2. A righteous remnant arises during the tribulation.
  3. The righteous suffer and/or die during the tribulation. This sometimes includes the suffering and/or death of a messianic figure.
  4. The tribulation is tied to the coming of a Messiah, sometimes referred to as the “Son of Man.”
  5. The tribulation precedes the final judgment.
  6. The tribulation is depicted as the eschatological climax of Israel’s exilic sufferings, often through the imagery of the Deuteronomic covenant curses.
  7. The tribulation has two stages: (1) the preliminary stage, and (2) the Great Tribulation.
  8. The tribulation precedes the coming of an eschatological kingdom.
  9. An eschatological tyrant, opponent, or anti-Messiah arises during the tribulation.
  10. Typological images from the Old Testament are used to depict the tribulation.
  11. The tribulation is tied to the ingathering and/or conversion of the Gentiles.
  12. The tribulation has some kind of atoning or redemptive function.
  13. The Jerusalem Temple is defiled and/or destroyed during the tribulation.
  14. The tribulation precedes the resurrection of the dead and/or a new creation.

What’s important to keep in mind is that these expectations predate Jesus Christ’s gospel of the kingdom of God.

One Appearance or Two?

Before delving into a description of the inter-testament expectations for tribulation, we must first add a New Testament perspective that guides our thinking. Normally this practice would be frowned upon, but in this case it’s necessary in order to add clarity to the very thing Christ’s disciples were confused about; their expectation for the restoration of Israel and their homeland.

Repeatedly, Christ’s disciples, and those who heard their message, revealed their expectation that the Messiah was to remain, free his people from their current oppression and reestablish their national prominence. That expectation came from the scriptures, the Old Testament, and these Late Second Temple commentaries. It’s one reason they had difficulty accepting Christ’s revelations about his pending death and resurrection. It’s as though God’s work in Christ, through his death and resurrection, and the focus of his initial incarnation in the world, was hidden from them – a mystery.

In fact, the mystery of God in Christ is the primary reason for the confusion his Israelite and Jewish disciples experienced. With the purpose for their Messiah’s initial revelation hidden from them, their expectation leaned toward those activities God intended for his second appearance to the world; his appearance in power and glory, and the Day of the Lord. For some, like Judas, or the Jewish leaders of the time, that clash of expectations was tragic.

Interested in the scope, origin, purpose, and fulfillment of the Mystery of God? Discover more.

All of Christ’s disciples had to work through their incomplete expectations as Christ slowly revealed the mystery to them. This is at the root of the story we see being worked out in the four gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The credit to them is that the majority of them got it. They made the transition from looking at their lives and the world around them through their learned expectations, and grew to see it all through God’s work in Yeshua, the Christ.

As we’ll see, when the work of God in Christ goes out to the Gentiles they do not respond with the level of hesitancy expressed by many in Judea, but with great anticipation and praise. One primary reason for this is that they are not hindered by presuppositions and well-established expectations. As they’re called by God, their minds are free to accept our Lord based on his deeds and actions, his words of life, and his gift of the Holy Spirit. To them, the gospel of the kingdom of God was a glorious answer to a question that left their lives incomplete and without hope. Many responded with praise and thanksgiving then, and continue to respond in the same way today.

The work of God in Christ was, is, and will continue to be the hope which satisfies our hearts, our minds, and our mortal lives, as people are called and led into the obedience of faith in Christ our Lord.


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.

To discover more about the plans Christ has for his body of believers, for Israel, and for the world, read my recent book –

The Rapture Question: An Unfiltered View

Footnotes:

  1. Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile: Restoration Eschatology and the Origin of the Atonement, Brant Pitre, First published December 30, 2005 by Mohr Siebeck. Later edition published on March 1, 2006 by Baker Academic. Future digital version available here: https://verbum.com/product/206799/jesus-the-tribulation-and-the-end-of-the-exile-restoration-eschatology-and-the-origin-of-the-atonement
  2. Ben Pascut’s book review blog: https://dtsbookcenter.wordpress.com/2008/05/23/jesus-the-tribulation-and-the-end-of-the-exile/
  3. Dr. Michael S Heiser’s – The Naked Bible Podcast, Number 101: Jesus, the Exile, and the Tribulation   and blog post: https://nakedbiblepodcast.com/podcast/naked-bible-101-jesus-the-exile-and-the-tribulation/

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Published by GMajella

Husband, father, and author on theological topics, with a focus on the underlying presuppositions which either cloud or enhance our view of reality. My focus is to challenge and guide fellow Christians into a deeper knowledge of God; his work, his will, and his overall purpose. My primary methods will be through books, blogs, and virtual or personal events.

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