“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matthew 24:21)
I don’t believe Christians will have to suffer through the seven-year tribulation that the Bible promises. As far as I am concerned, I rest my case on what the Apostle Paul said at 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
While the Bible is pretty graphic about the kinds of things that the world will see, words really cannot express the pain and suffering that people will experience over that period of time. The question is why would God bring such harsh judgment on the world? In other words, what’s the purpose of the tribulation?
In general, the tribulation is an open judgment against all of mankind for our sin and disbelief. In fact, God’s wrath will spare no one. John the Revelator described it this way: “And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’” (Revelation 6:15-17)
The Tribulation is also an opportunity for God to discipline Israel for her stubbornness and rejection of Christ. In fact, it was Jesus who said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
The Bible tells us that 144,000 Jews will be saved during the first 3½ years of the tribulation and will evangelize the name of Jesus throughout the world. Through them, many others will come to a saving knowledge of Christ. In fact, these will be the last souls that Jesus will save.
The tribulation will also reveal the true character of Satan. Many of us have on occasion questioned the existence of the devil. The truth is a lot of Christians don’t often make the link between all the wrong we see in the world and Satan. That will become obvious during the tribulation. Satan will be exposed for who he is, the devil himself. Jesus couldn’t be any clearer about it than when he said at Revelation 20:1-3: “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished.”
Finally, the tribulation will demonstrate that God can be both righteous and just. The age of Grace will be over and God will begin to deal with those who did not take him at His word.
There are many who believe Revelation is symbolic and that very little of what is prophesied will actually happen. But God warned us against such thinking through the Prophet Isaiah: “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish what I please.” (Isaiah 55:11)
Perhaps we should let our friends and loved ones know that there is still time to take God at His word?