The 35 Most Asked Prophecy Questions – Program 8
| September 23, 2013 |
|By: Dr. Renald Showers; ©1995|
|Many Bible scholars believe Christians will be removed from the earth before the tribulation begins, and thus escape God’s wrath during that time.|
- 1 The Timing of the Rapture
- 1.1 What Is Being Taught in 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2
- 1.2 When Will the Tribulation Time Period Begin?
- 1.3 Will the Rapture BEGIN the Seven-Year Tribulation Period?
- 1.4 How Do We Know the Tribulation Will Last for Seven Years?
- 1.5 Why Does It Matter to Us That Certain Hebrew Words Were Translated a Certain Way in the Greek Septuagint?
- 1.6 In Matthew 24, What Period of Time Do the Words “Birth Pangs” Refer To?
The Timing of the Rapture
- Shower: We’ve been talking about the seven-year Tribulation period, the Second Coming of Christ, and also to a certain extent the thousand-year reign of Jesus during the Millennium here on the earth. But we’ve mentioned in passing that it is our understanding that before the seven-year Tribulation period begins, that Jesus Christ will come from Heaven to the air above the earth and will rapture His bride, the Church, out of the world to meet Him in the air and then to return with Him to the Father’s house in Heaven. In other words, we believe that Christ will rapture the Church in a pre-Tribulation Rapture before the seven-year Tribulation period will begin. Why do we believe that? What are some of the reasons?
- One reason is that the New Testament, in a number of passages, teaches the imminency of Christ’s return. Now, the word imminent carries with it the idea of something that is always hanging overhead, and because it’s always hanging overhead, it could fall at any moment, an any-moment happening of this particular event. Other things may happen before it transpires, but we can’t count on anything else happening. Nothing else must happen before it transpires. And the Scriptures teach that there’s a coming of the Lord that has that characteristic of imminency. One of the passages that indicates that to us is 1 Thessalonians 1:10 where the Apostle Paul is talking about an outlook or attitude that the Thessalonian Christians had in the first century. He indicates of them that they were “waiting for His Son,” God’s Son, “from heaven whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus.”
- It’s interesting that the tense of the verb “wait” here is that of a continuous action. They were continually waiting for Jesus to come from Heaven. And the words translated “to wait” literally means “to wait up for.” The analogy is this that Paul was implying, that people will wait up for the arrival of an individual if they are convinced that individual could arrive at any moment. They will not go to bed at their normal time. They will wait up for him to arrive because they are convinced that he could come at any moment. If they knew he could not come, say, for another five hours, they wouldn’t wait up for him beyond their normal time to go to bed. They’d go to bed. They’d sleep for the five hours, and then have their alarm wake them up five hours later so they’d be awake whenever he would come. And so the concept is that the Thessalonian Christians had the understanding that they should be in essence constantly waiting up for the Lord Jesus to come from Heaven to take them to be with Him and the reason they should have that constant attitude is because He could come at any moment and take them out of the world to be with Him. That is the idea of imminency.
- It’s very interesting that Paul did not tell the Thessalonians that they were wrong to have that concept of the imminency of the Lord’s return; in fact, if you read the whole context, the implication comes across he was commending them for having that attitude that the Lord could come at any moment.
- Now, as soon as you say that He cannot come, say, for another three and a half years. Say He cannot come until the middle of the Tribulation, since the seven-year Tribulation hasn’t started yet, then you’re saying, “Well, He can’t come for at least another three and a half years,” that destroys the concept of imminency because you’re saying, therefore, He couldn’t come today. He couldn’t come at any moment. He can’t come for another three and a half years. If you’re going to say that He can’t come for about three fourths of the Tribulation period, again, that destroys the concept that He could come at any moment. Or if you’re going to say as some sincere Christians do that He can’t come until the Second Coming after the Tribulation period, in other words, you’re saying that He can’t come for another seven years, that destroys the concept of imminency. Really, the only view of the timing of the Rapture of the Church that fits the New Testament concept of imminency is the pre-Tribulation Rapture view which says, although many things may happen before the Lord comes, biblically there’s nothing that must happen. He could come at any moment. We can’t count on any time period between now and the Lord’s coming and therefore, we should be ready every moment, moment by moment, for the Lord to come and we meet Him face to face. So imminency of the Lord’s coming is one of the reasons why we believe that the Lord will rapture the Church out of the world before the seven-year Tribulation period begins. But there’s something else in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 that is significant with regard to this. Paul says that they were waiting for God’s Son from heaven, the end of the verse, “which delivers us from the wrath to come.” The implication being that this coming of the Lord at any moment to rapture His bride, the Church, out of the world will deliver the Church from a future unique period of wrath, the wrath to come. And the Greek construction indicates this was a future period of wrath that the Thessalonians already knew about. And it’s a specific, unique period of wrath that we will be delivered from as Church saints as a result of the Lord coming first and taking us at any moment out of the world.
- Now, when you go through the Scriptures, you will find a term that crops up from time to time called “the Day of the Lord.” The Day of the Lord. Interestingly, when you look at everything the Bible teaches about the Day of the Lord, you will find that there is a broad Day of the Lord in the future that initially will consist of a period of darkness. To put it another way, a period of tremendous upheaval and chaos upon planet earth. But then, that period of darkness will be followed by a period of light, spiritual light, God’s light in the world and great blessing for the world, and that will be the Millennium, the theocracy of God, the thousand-year reign of Christ after the period of darkness, the seven-year Tribulation period.
- It’s interesting to note that terminology, “the Day of the Lord,” because when you go back to Genesis 1, when God used the term “day” there, the days there always started out with a period of darkness followed by a period of light. The evening and the morning were the first day. The evening and the morning were the second day. Interestingly, historically the Jewish people begin their day at sundown, so the first part of their day chronologically is darkness followed by a period of light when the sun rises in the morning. And so you have this same pattern for this designation “the Day of the Lord.” First a period of spiritual darkness and chaos upon the face of the earth, the seven-year Tribulation period; then followed by a period of spiritual light and blessing in the world, the thousand-year Millennial Reign of Christ.
- So the Bible indicates that one of the features of the Day of the Lord during the darkness period will be a time of tremendous wrath where God will be pouring out His wrath upon planet earth during the seven-year Tribulation period. In light of that, the first phase of the future Day of the Lord will be a period of divine wrath being poured out upon the world. When Paul says here in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 that Christ “delivers us,” us Church saints, “from the wrath to come,” it’s our understanding he means by that as a result of the Lord coming in His imminent return to rapture the Church out of the world, He will thereby as a result of removing us from the earth, will remove us from the earth before that future Day of the Lord wrath of the seven-year Tribulation period will begin.
- Along similar lines, in 1 Thessalonians 5, in the opening verses, Paul talks about the future Day of the Lord and he tells the Thessalonians Christians, verse 2, they already knew “perfectly” how the Day of the Lord will begin. The word perfectly means “accurate.” They already had an accurate knowledge about the future Day of the Lord. And then in that context, when he’s talking about the Day of the Lord and how it’s going to catch the unbelievers off guard as judgment of God’s wrath is poured out upon them, Paul says to the Thessalonian Christians, verse 9, “For God has not appointed us to wrath.” Well, what wrath? Well, in the context, he’s been talking about the future Day of the Lord wrath. And Paul is saying here to the Thessalonians Christians who are Church saints, “You’ve not been appointed to that future Day of the Lord wrath.” The implication seems to be, again, that they will escape that totally because they will be removed from the earth before the future Day of the Lord wrath will begin.
- Now, the question is, but when will that future Day of the Lord wrath begin? Well, it’s interesting that when you look at Revelation 5, Jesus, we are told, in the future will take from the hand of God a sealed scroll, sealed with seven seals. And as Jesus begins to break those seven seals, very traumatic events will begin transpiring upon planet earth. For example, when He breaks the fourth seal, one fourth of the world’s population will be destroyed through four means: the sword, which means war; famine, pestilence and wild beasts. Now interestingly, in Ezekiel 14:21 God makes this statement: “These are my four sore judgments: the sword, famine, pestilence and wild beasts.” The same four things that in the fourth seal of Revelation will destroy one fourth of the people of the world. What we’re saying is that fourth seal is certainly an expression of God’s wrath upon planet earth. In fact, it’s very interesting to note who is breaking the seals, all seven seals. It’s Jesus Christ who is breaking the seals. Not Antichrist, not Satan, not some human ruler here on the face of the earth. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is breaking the seals and so He is the One who is unleashing all these devastating things upon the face of the earth through the breaking of the seals and so these are expressions of God’s wrath and judgment upon the earth. Now, if you were to compare the first four seals of Revelation 6 with what Jesus back in Matthew 24 called “the beginning of sorrows,” more literally, “the beginning of birth pangs,” you would see that by comparison, the beginning of sorrows of Matthew 24 are the same thing as the first four seals of Revelation 6.
- Now, it’s interesting, Jesus put the beginning of birth pangs or sorrows before the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet. And the abomination of desolation, according to Daniel 9:27, will take place in the exact middle of the seven-year Tribulation, or in Daniel we could call it the seventieth week of Daniel 9. Well, if the abomination of desolation takes place in the middle of the seven-year Tribulation, and Jesus placed the beginning of sorrows or the first four seals before the abomination of desolation, this indicates that Jesus was putting these first four seals, or the beginning of sorrows, in the first half of the seven-year Tribulation period and since those will involve an outpouring of God’s wrath upon the world, this means therefore that even the first half of the seven-year Tribulation period will be characterized by an outpouring of God’s wrath upon the earth and since as we saw in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 that Jesus, through His imminent coming, “delivers us from the wrath to come,” and 1 Thessalonians 5:9, the Church saints “have not been appointed to the Day of the Lord wrath,” we conclude, therefore, that the Church will be raptured by the imminent coming of Christ before even the first half of the seven-year Tribulation period, which, again, would indicate a pre-Tribulation Rapture out of the world before the wrath of God is poured out upon planet earth.
- Now, let me say some more about the Day of the Lord. When you look at everything the Bible teaches about the future Day of the Lord, it’s used in a broad sense, and we’ve already referred to that, covering a period of time, including the seven-year Tribulation period, the Second Coming of Christ, and then, the thousand-year Millennial Reign of the Lord Jesus here on the face of the earth.
- But there are passages which imply at least that there’s also a more narrow sense of the future Day of the Lord, and that is referring to one specific 24-hour day, namely the day that Jesus Christ will come out of Heaven after the seven-year Tribulation period in His glorious Second Coming in order to set up the theocratic Millennial Kingdom. That day is referred to in the Bible as “the great and terrible Day of the Lord.” In other words, the most intense time of God’s wrath upon planet earth because in that day, that’s when the unsaved who are still alive on the earth are going to be exposed to the full glory of the Son of God and that’s when all the armies of all the nations of the world and all the rulers of the Gentile nations of the world are going to be judged and destroyed by the Lord Jesus at His glorious Second Coming and that Satan is going to be bound and removed from the earth and cast into the abyss together with his demonic fallen angels. The great and terrible Day of the Lord.
- Now, how do we know that there is this more narrow future Day of the Lord, the one specific day of Jesus’ Second Coming? We saw in an earlier session, according to Revelation 16, the armies and rulers of all the nations of the world do not even begin to gather into the land of Israel until the sixth bowl or vial judgment, which is the next to the last judgment of the Tribulation, which means that the armies and rulers of the Gentile nations don’t even start coming to the land of Israel until almost the very end of the seven-year Tribulation period. When you go to the Prophet Joel, chapter 3, there’s another prophetic reference to the armies of all the nations of the world gathering together there in the land of Israel at one location; the same gathering that’s described for the end of the Tribulation period of Revelation 16. But when you read Joel 3, we’re told there that once the armies are gathered there, there is a Day of the Lord that is at hand or that is near, indicating that there’s a more specific Day of the Lord that’s about to transpire when all the armies of the world are gathered there against Israel at the very end of the Tribulation period.
- But notice, there’s already been a Day of the Lord already going on throughout the seven-year Tribulation period as God’s been pouring out His wrath during the first half of the Tribulation period, during the second half of the Tribulation period, so you’ve had a Day of the Lord already going on throughout the seven-year Tribulation period. But now that the Gentile armies are gathered in Israel at the very end of the Tribulation period, there’s another Day of the Lord that’s at hand. When you tie that in with Revelation 16, it says that the armies are gathered there in Israel for the battle of the great Day of the Lord, or the great day of God, and it will be Armageddon. Armageddon is going to transpire on the day that Jesus Christ comes out of Heaven in His full glory in His glorious Second Coming and He pours out the wrath of God upon the rulers and armies of the world that are gathered there together against Him and who are trying to destroy the nation of Israel. And Armageddon is not so much one nation fighting against another, Armageddon is going to be the confrontation between the greatest accumulation of Satan’s forces here on the earth on the one hand, and Jesus Christ and His heavenly forces, His holy angels and saints of God, on the other hand. The final showdown between Christ and the forces of Satan, and Christ will crush Satan. And so, according to Revelation 19 and Zechariah 14, when the Lord comes out of Heaven, He’ll go to war against the rulers and the armies of the world that are gathered there in Israel and He will destroy them.
- We looked at Daniel 11 in an earlier session and in verse 45 of Daniel 11, we saw how the Antichrist in the middle of the Tribulation will take control of Jerusalem and make it the capital of what he hopes will become a worldwide kingdom. We did not finish verse 45. The end of that verse says of Antichrist, “Yet he shall come to his end and none shall help him.” Revelation 19, where John records the Second Coming of Christ on His great and terrible Day of the Lord when He comes out of Heaven to confront these forces of Satan, Revelation 19 says this to us in verse 19: “And I saw the beast”—that’s the Antichrist—”and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse”—that’s the Lord Jesus—”and against His army, and the beast”—the Antichrist—”was taken and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast and them that worshipped his image.” These both, the Antichrist and the false prophet, “were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.” In other words, when the final showdown comes between God’s ultimate Man, His last Adam, the Lord Jesus, the true Messiah, and Satan’s ultimate man, the Antichrist, the false Christ, the Antichrist will be no match for the Lord Jesus. Christ authoritatively will have him removed from the earth, cast into the eternal lake of fire where he’ll be tormented forever throughout eternity. No wonder therefore Daniel says of the Antichrist in Daniel 11:45, “Yet he shall come to his end and none shall help him.” Antichrist will be no match for the true Christ.
- And then Revelation 19:21 says, “And the remnant”—the other political rulers and their armies that were there—”were slain with the sword of Him that sat upon the horse; and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.” Here’s the great and terrible Day of the Lord, the specific day that Christ comes out of Heaven, and the conglomeration of Satan’s world forces are gathered together there against Him to try to prevent Him from coming back to the earth. And Christ will destroy these godless forces of Satan and Satan himself will be finally crushed and removed from the earth and imprisoned in the abyss or bottomless pit for the next one thousand years.
What Is Being Taught in 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2
- Showers: One of the passages that is often a question mark with regard to the timing of the Rapture is 2 Thessalonians 2. Paul in verse 1 says, “Now, we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and by our gathering together unto Him.” That’s definitely a reference to the Rapture, when Christ is going to come out of Heaven and gather His saints together with Him. Let me point out to you, the Greek language, what it says is: “We beseech you, brethren, on behalf of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him.” Let me tell you why Paul was saying that. Paul had taught the Thessalonian Christians, we understand, that the Lord would come and rapture the Church saints out of the world before the future Day of the Lord would begin at the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation period with the outpouring of God’s wrath. But after Paul had taught the Thessalonians that and had left the city, somebody had sent a letter or had passed on words through some form to them to the effect that Paul now was teaching that the Day of the Lord had already begun and that they as Christians were already in the Day of the Lord. And obviously, that false teaching would completely contradict what Paul had already taught them about the Church being raptured out of the world, the Church saints being raptured to Christ, that they’d be raptured out before the future Day of the Lord would come. And the Thessalonian Christians were shaken by this because the false teachers said Paul himself is the one who has taught this, that the Day of the Lord has already started; you’re already in it. And they were using as evidence of that the fact that the Christians were already being persecuted and saying, “Well, look, the Day of the Lord is here.”
- And so Paul is writing to rebut that false teaching, to try to drive home the point as Christians, you’re not in the Day of the Lord. And I’m writing to you on behalf of the teaching I already gave to you about the coming of the Lord to gather us together to Him in the Rapture. I’m writing in defense of that teaching that we’re going to be removed from the earth before the Day of the Lord, and therefore, we as Christians will not be here when the Day of the Lord comes and to drive home to them that the day of the Lord has not started. He says to them in verse 2, “that you be not soon shaken in mind or be troubled neither by spirit nor by word nor by letter as from us as that the day of Christ is at hand.”
- Now, many of the Greek manuscripts which are regarded as very reliable say that “the Day of the Lord is at hand.” And literally, it’s that the Day of the Lord, in essence, is already here. That was the problem. Somebody had said, “You’re already in the Day of the Lord.” And that contradicted what Paul had taught to the effect that Christians would not be in the Day of the Lord. They would be removed before the Day of the Lord had begun and so to prove to them that the Day of the Lord had not already started, Paul says, verse 3, “Let no man deceive you by any means, for that day”—the Day of the Lord—”shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition”—who is the Antichrist. He’s saying that the evidence that the Day of the Lord isn’t already here and you’re not in it is the fact that two things that have to happen before the Day of the Lord will take place have not happened yet, namely, the apostasy and the revelation of the man of sin.
- So Paul is not teaching here that the apostasy and revelation of the man of sin have to take place before the Rapture takes place. What he’s saying is, the apostasy and the revelation of the man of sin, or the Antichrist, have to take place before the Day of the Lord begins. The implication being that the Antichrist would already be on the world scene and in a position of power before the Day of the Lord and the seven-year Tribulation period begins. He would have to be that in order to make or confirm the covenant with Israel at the very beginning of the seven-year Tribulation period. Certainly Israel would not enter into a confirmed covenant relationship with this man if he weren’t in a position of authority or power to confirm such a covenant with him. So Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2 is not saying that here are two things that have to happen before the Rapture: the apostasy and the revelation of the man of sin or the Antichrist. What he is saying is, here are two things that must take place before the Day of the Lord begins, not before the Rapture begins.
When Will the Tribulation Time Period Begin?
- Someone raised the question, “What does Paul mean, though, in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 by the man of sin being revealed? How will he be revealed and when will that take place? Some hold the view that he won’t be revealed until the middle of the Tribulation period whenever he announces that he is God. According to the Scriptures, there are several other things that will transpire long before he announces he is God in the middle of the Tribulation period. Several other things will transpire that will indicate who the Antichrist is.
- According to Daniel 7 that we looked at in earlier sessions, the Antichrist will be an eleventh ruler who will rise to power from within the revived Roman Empire that will have ten divisions with ten equal rulers, and as this eleventh ruler rises to power, he will overthrow three of the original ten rulers that were already there. Daniel 7 makes it very clear that’s who the Antichrist is—that eleventh ruler who overthrows three and thereby gains controlling authority over the revived Roman Empire. Now again, he’s going to have to be in that position of authority in order to confirm a covenant with Israel and according to Daniel 9:27, the confirming of the covenant between Antichrist and Israel is the historic event that will officially begin the seven-year Tribulation period. It’s not the Rapture of the Church that begins the seven-year Tribulation period, it’s the confirming of this covenant between Antichrist and Israel that officially begins the seven-year Tribulation period. And, even that event, the confirming of the covenant, will identify who the Antichrist is three and a half years before he announces that he is God.
- But some would say, “But wait a minute. The unsaved world isn’t going to recognize that he is an evil man until he announces that he is God in the middle of the Tribulation period.” Paul’s not talking here about this man being recognized by the unsaved world. He’s talking about this man of sin being revealed, whether the world recognizes it or not. God has given a lot of revelation to the world and it’s here and it’s genuine but the world, the unsaved world won’t recognize the revelation God has given. We’re talking here about revealing the man of sin, and Daniel 7 and Daniel 9 points out some things that will transpire by the beginning of the Tribulation period that will reveal the Antichrist: his rising to power as an eleventh ruler within that ten division revived Roman Empire and overthrowing three of the original ten rulers and then once he’s in that position of authority, then at the very beginning of the Tribulation period confirming a covenant with the nation of Israel.
Will the Rapture BEGIN the Seven-Year Tribulation Period?
- We had stated that the Rapture is not the event that will begin the seven-year Tribulation period. What do we base that upon? Well, it appears as if there will be a period of transition between the time of the Rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation period. Now, I base that upon two things in 1 Thessalonians 5. In 1 Thessalonians 5:1 Paul says to the Thessalonian Christians, “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I write unto you, for you yourselves know perfectly that the Day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.” At the beginning of 1 Thessalonians 5:1, Paul introduces that verse with a combination of two words in the Greek language: peri de. And every other time the Apostle Paul used that combination of those two Greek words, he used it to introduce a new subject that’s different from the subject he just dealt with previously. Now, at the end of chapter 4 of 1 Thessalonians Paul was referring to the Rapture of the Church. Now, when he comes to chapter 5, verse 1, he uses peri de to say, “Now, as I’m going to talk about the Day of the Lord,” this is a different subject from the subject of the Rapture of the Church I just dealt with at the end of chapter 4. Now, the second thing is that in chapter 5, verse 2 he tells the Thessalonians that they already had an accurate or perfect knowledge about the Day of the Lord. By contrast, when you go back to chapter 4 and verse 13 where he introduces the subject of the Rapture he says, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.”
- Notice, Paul is saying that before Paul wrote this 1 Thessalonians epistle to these believers, they were ignorant about certain things with regard to the Rapture of the Church. But by contrast, in chapter 5, verse 2, he indicates that before he wrote 1 Thessalonians to these believers, they already had an accurate knowledge about the Day of the Lord. Well, if the Rapture of the Church is part of the Day of the Lord, even the beginning part of it, the start of it, and they had an accurate knowledge about the Day of the Lord, then they would not have been ignorant about some aspects of the Rapture. So that indicates, again, that the Rapture is not part of the Day of the Lord, not even the starting point of the Day of the Lord. It’s an event that’s totally separate from the Day of the Lord. Both of these items we’ve seen here, the peri de and the contrast between ignorance about the Rapture and yet accurate knowledge about the Day of the Lord, both of these indicate that the Rapture is a totally separate, distinct event from the Day of the Lord. It is not part of the Day of the Lord. It’s not even the beginning or starting point of the Day of the Lord. And to me that says that there must be a transition period between the Rapture and the beginning of the Day of the Lord, and since we saw earlier that the Day of the Lord is even in the first half of the seven-year Tribulation period, even from the beginning, that says to me that there’s a gap of time, a transition period between the Rapture and even the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation period.
How Do We Know the Tribulation Will Last for Seven Years?
- How do we know that the Tribulation period will last for seven years? We know that because of what is stated in Daniel 9:27. In that Seventy Week prophecy God was foretelling that there would be seventy periods of time, but each one of the seventy periods of time would consist of seven years. Now the first 69 of those periods of seven years were already fulfilled by the period or an event in the first coming of the Lord Jesus. But the last seven year period, the seventieth period of seven years has not yet transpired and that will take place in the future and as we’ve already noted, the historic event that will actually begin that seven year period of time will be the confirming of a covenant between Antichrist and the nation of Israel in the Middle East and then we’re told that in the middle of that seven year period that Antichrist will commit the abomination of desolation and Jesus, referring to that abomination of desolation in Matthew 24:15 which we looked at earlier, then indicated in verse 21 that will begin the Great Tribulation, indicating that the second half of that seven-year period will be the unparalleled time of trouble for the earth. But Daniel 9:27 is indicating that it’s seven years that this Tribulation period lasts. That’s where we know that it’s seven years in duration.
- Now, some have raised the question, “Okay, Jesus applied the term Tribulation to the second half of that seven-year period, but the Bible does not specifically apply it to the first half of this seven-year period. So how can we say that all seven years are the Tribulation period?” Well, for one thing, people who make that claim that there’s no reference to tribulation in the first seven years are overlooking the fact that many of the things that will transpire during the first half of the seven-year period of time are foretold in the Old Testament prophets. For example, war, famine, pestilence, wild beasts being instruments of God’s wrath, destroying people here on the face of the earth. In the Septuagint, which is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament over from the Hebrew language into the Greek language that was prepared by Jewish Hebrew scholars back about 200 years before the birth of Christ into the world, in that Greek translation by Hebrew and Greek language scholars, when they translated some of the Old Testament prophets describing some of the dramatic things that will take place during the first half of the seven-year period, they used the Greek word thlipsis to describe some of the turmoil there and the Greek word thlipsis is the word for tribulation. And that tells us that the Jewish language scholars who prepared this Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament called the Septuagint, they understood that the Old Testament prophets by revelation of God were saying that even events of the first half of that seven-year period will be characterized by tribulation. And so this is indicating that the Scriptures are teaching that even the first half of that seven-year period will be characterized by tribulation and so it is valid to apply the word tribulation even to the first half of that seven-year period of time, not just to the second half which Jesus called “the Great Tribulation.”
Why Does It Matter to Us That Certain Hebrew Words Were Translated a Certain Way in the Greek Septuagint?
- Some one raised the question, “But it doesn’t matter what the translators called that, you know, what do the Scriptures say?” I think they’re overlooking the fact that Jesus and the Apostles in their statements recorded in the New Testament frequently quoted verbatim the Septuagint, that Greek translation, and applied what the Septuagint said to these events. And so Jesus took the Septuagint as being an accurate translation, and the Apostles took the Septuagint as an accurate translation, accurate portrayal of what God was saying through the Old Testament prophets would be characteristic of even the first half of that seven-year period of time. And so if we’re going to say it doesn’t matter what the translators said would be true of it, then what do we do with Jesus accepting what the translators say as being valid and the Apostles accepting what those translators said as being valid?
- In Zephaniah 1:14, the subject of the Day of the Lord is introduced. In fact, the Day of the Lord specifically is referred to. In verse 15, Zephaniah described characteristics of the future Day of the Lord. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness. Now, when he talked about a day of trouble and distress, one of the Hebrew words there, either trouble or distress, translated trouble or distress, was the Hebrew word for tribulation. And when the Jewish scholars who produced the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Septuagint, when they translated, they translated that with the Greek word thlipsis, which is the Greek word for tribulation. But Zephaniah was making it very clear that the Day of the Lord would be characterized by tribulation.
- Interestingly, in Romans 2, Paul says, “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God who will render to every man according to his deeds,” etc., then he goes on to point out what God will render to man in the day of God’s wrath. Verse 9: “tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Gentile.” Now, notice, Paul here is saying that the day of God’s wrath, which is the Day of the Lord, will also be characterized by tribulation, and it’s the Greek word thlipsis, which is what the Septuagint translators used for the Day of the Lord in Zephaniah 1. Now, the point is, when does the Day of the Lord begin? When does God begin pouring out His wrath? Well, again, as we saw, certainly it is the wrath of God in the first four seals. Those first four seals are the same as what Jesus referred to as “the beginning of sorrows” or beginning of birth pangs in Matthew 24 and Jesus put that before the abomination of desolation which according to Daniel 9:27 takes place in the middle of the seven-year period. So Jesus is putting the beginning of sorrows, beginning of birth pangs in the first half of that seven-year period, which means that the “Day of the Lord’s” wrath is in the first half of that seven-year period. And Paul here is indicating that the day of God’s wrath is characterized by tribulation and anguish. That term is not applied just to man’s wrath against man. It’s specifically used in the Bible here in Zephaniah 1 for God’s wrath being poured out upon the earth as well, tribulation.
In Matthew 24, What Period of Time Do the Words “Birth Pangs” Refer To?
- You have the term “birth pangs” used by the Lord Jesus for the first half of that seven-year period. He puts the beginning of birth pangs before the mid event of the seven-year period, namely, the abomination of desolation. So he’s using the term “birth pangs” for the first half. You have the term “birth pangs” for the whole Day of the Lord. You have birth pangs in Jeremiah 30 associated with “the Time of Jacob’s Trouble” which is in the second half so that the Bible consistently uses the same terminology for both halves of that seventieth week, that seven-year period. The beginning of birth pangs, even that term “beginning of birth pangs” implies there are more birth pangs coming later. So if you have that same terminology used for both halves, birth pangs, what’s the problem in using the same term of tribulation for both halves? To me it’s inconsistent to say, “Well, if he could use the same terminology over here for both halves, then you can’t use the same over here.”