In Part-6 of this series, we’re going to continue where we left off in Part-5, as we look at Israel’s expectations about tribulation and the end of their exile. This was outlined in the introductory article. Our focus this time will be on the sixth and tenth expectations(1):
6. The tribulation is depicted as the eschatological climax of Israel’s exilic sufferings, often through the imagery of the Deuteronomic covenant curses.
10. Typological images from the Old Testament are used to depict the tribulation.
In Part-5 we showed how there is an initial advent of Israel’s Messiah to secure the promises for all Israel, though it was only applied to a chosen remnant – a firstfruits of the harvest from Israel. In Israel’s future there is a second advent of their Messiah in which the covenant offered to a chosen remnant will now be offered to all Israel. To bring the disobedient descendants of Israel to the repentance necessary for that covenant, they must come through the refining fire. What the OT calls the time of Jacob’s trouble.
A Time of Jacob’s Trouble
Though it is a latter time of great distress for Israel and Judah, on the other side of their correction and tribulation the Lord has prepared grace, mercy, and a new covenant.
4 These are the words that the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah:
5 “Thus says the Lord:
We have heard a cry of panic,
of terror, and no peace.
6 Ask now, and see,
can a man bear a child?
Why then do I see every man
with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor?
Why has every face turned pale?
7 Alas! That day is so great
there is none like it;
it is a time of distress for Jacob;
yet he shall be saved out of it.
10 “Then fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the Lord,
nor be dismayed, O Israel;
for behold, I will save you from far away,
and your offspring from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease,
and none shall make him afraid.
11 For I am with you to save you,
declares the Lord;
I will make a full end of all the nations
among whom I scattered you,
but of you I will not make a full end.
I will discipline you in just measure,
and I will by no means leave you unpunished.
Jeremiah’s prophecy, though partly fulfilled when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians and again later by the Romans, there remains a later fulfillment that includes the Lord’s direct intervention on their behalf (Zechariah 13:8-9 – 14:2; Isaiah 31:4-9).
Even Moses spoke of their eventual return to the Lord after Israel had been scattered among the nations.
Deuteronomy 4:27-31 (ESV)
27 And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you. 28 And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. 29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice. 31 For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.
Notice that the NASB translation renders verse 30 punctuated differently – When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice. Now I’ve argued in the past that the specific curses mentioned earlier in this chapter were not specific to the Great Tribulation but were experienced within generations of taking possession of the land promised to them and were the result of their failing to keep the conditions of the covenant. Yet clearly their continued tribulation leads up to a point when they finally seek the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul. And the latter days being referred to here can occur between the period of Messiah’s first advent and his second.
The real highlight of Moses’ prophecy, as we’ll see in more detail later, is that God is faithful and will not abandon his covenant with them even though they’ve abandoned him. It indicates two important aspects of how God will respond to an Israel gone astray into idolatry;
- He will allow them to be distressed to the point that they will eventually return to him – in the latter days you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice.
- God will not abandon them and leave them to destruction – For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.
If we consider the numerous prophecies for Israel and Judah that reference these latter days, it becomes apparent that they span a greater period of time than what our NT perspective would expect. There are multiple reasons for this. For example. In his discussion about the Seventy Weeks prophecy of Daniel, Peter Gentry clarifies that Israel will experience two stages to their return from exile(2):
- In their return from Babylon to the land of Israel. This is seen historically in the work of God through his Gentile servant Cyrus. He was their source of physical liberation after seventy years of captivity. (Isaiah 42:18 – 43:21; 45:1-7)
- In their return from the broken covenant to a right relationship with God. This is fulfilled through the Son of God as reflected in Daniel’s prophecy, upon which an anointed one is cut off for many. We also see the six purposes toward Israel fulfilled by him. (Isaiah 43:22 – 44:23)
What we see, though, is that this second stage (restoration of the broken covenant) was accomplished by Christ, but only toward a chosen remnant; the twelve apostles and the thousands called in faith to Christ as their Messiah. Recall that Daniel reflects that those whose names are written in the Book of Life are delivered from the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (Daniel 12:1), the very thing Christ warned his disciples about (Matthew 24:15-20; Mark 13:14-18; Luke 21:20-24).
What Daniel doesn’t address though is the two-stage method that can be applied to their restoration of the broken covenant. It’s another application of the already, but not yet pattern. We can see that the initial restoration occurred for the faithful remnant called into Christ at his first advent and since (Romans 11:2b-7) – the firstfruits. The remainder of Israel, those cut off due to disbelief, will be grafted back in again sometime at or just after Christ’s second advent (Romans 11:11-12,23-24). It’s at his second advent that he intervenes on Jerusalem’s behalf and the call goes out to all the nations for the greater exodus of Israelites to return to their homeland (Isaiah 31:4-9; Jeremiah 23:7-8).
Oppressed by the Beast
Prior to the second advent of Christ and his appearance in the clouds, we see that Jeremiah speaks of a time of great distress and trouble for Jacob (Jeremiah 30:4-7). This appears to coincide with the prophecies in the Book of Revelation to John concerning the Beast power.
5 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.
Whatever authority this Beast has, there is a period of 42 months where he’s allowed to exercise it over most of the world. The scope of his power and influence reaches beyond the descendants of Jacob (Israel) and extends to all those whose names are not written in the Book of Life. He will also make war on those whose names have been written in the Book of Life – the saints. According to the Book of Revelation, the authority of the Beast ends around the time of the seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15-18), when the wrath of God nears its end and the King of kings sets foot on earth at the Mount of Olives to intervene for Jerusalem and those inhabiting her (Zechariah 14:1-5; Revelation 14:1; 19:11-21).
One thing those faithful in Israel and Judah will have in common with faithful Gentiles is the impact this period of rulership by the Beast power will have on them. He is allowed to make war on the faithful, the holy ones, and overcome them. Yet their inheritance is secure, even beyond death, in Christ our Lord.
We also can’t forget that a primary motivator for our Lord’s appearance in the clouds is to first intervene for the saints (Matthew 24:22; Mark 13:20). At the time of his appearance the Beast power has already been in force for some time and is oppressing the saints and deceiving the world. This implies an overlap in the period of the Beast’s with the Day of the Lord which is initiated after Christ appears in the clouds.
To discover more about the timing of Christ’s appearance in the clouds and his descent to the Mount of Olives, read my recent book – The Rapture Question: An Unfiltered View
When we tie together some of the OT scriptures regarding Israel’s correction before and after the Day of the Lord, we see that the time of Jacob’s trouble spans both the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord(3).
Corrected by the Lord of lords
Though they were put to shame and brought upon themselves correction from the Lord, his people will be called to return to him and he will show them mercy and grace as they’ve never seen before. Clearly their harsh and severe correction is meant for their redemption and restoration. God has used Gentile kings and various nations of the world to correct Israel and Judah, to turn them back from their idols to serve the living God. The time is coming when the Lord of lords will lead the unbelieving into belief.
- The Day of the Lord is near and coming fast
- It is a time of wrath, distress and anguish, ruin and devastation, darkness and gloom
- The Lord will bring distress upon mankind because they have sinned
- Death awaits them
- Their idols will not be able to save them
- In the fire of his jealousy all the earth will be consumed
- He is the Lord, creator of heavens and earth
- He formed man and the spirit of man within him
- He will make Jerusalem a means of correction for all the nations
- It will also be for Judah’s correction
- All will be hurt who lift their hands against Jerusalem
Zechariah 13:8-9 – 14:2
- In one strike the Lord will bring correction for all and redemption for some
- The focus is Jerusalem
- The nations gathered against her are used for her correction and redemption
- Then the Lord will intervene for his people and fight against the nations
- Yet many of these nations will survive to come up and worship the King of kings and Lord of lords (14:16)
The subject here continues to be the Day of the Lord and a time of continued correction for Israel, especially Judah. But they are not alone in their idolatry and sin (vs 2-6). All the ungodly will face the Lord’s wrath. Yet even in his wrath he allows for the repentant (Zephaniah 2:3) and ultimately leads them to redemption (Zephaniah 3:8-13).
- God allows Israel to be distressed to the point that they will eventually return to him;
- The Great Tribulation, though motivated by the Man of Lawlessness for the destruction of any who would align with God, ultimately serves to move those willing to repent and returns them to God.
- The Day of the Lord, although typically viewed only as a time of judgment and condemnation, reveals a much higher and broader purpose; the redemption and restoration of Israel.
- God will not abandon them and leave them to destruction (Joel 2), ultimately . . .
- the Lord calls many to repentance
- the Lord extends mercy to his people
- the Lord will make a new covenant with them
- everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved
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 the descendants of Israel and Judah, and for the world, read my recent book –
The Rapture Question: An Unfiltered View
- 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/
- Daniel’s Seventy Weeks and the New Exodus, Peter J. Gentry, Southern Baptists Journal of Theology 14.1 (2010, page 39)
- The Rapture Question: An Unfiltered View, Gerard Majella, 2021, Lulu.com; Claim II, Chapter 4
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