Transcript © Faith Dialogue, Inc 2020
Pastor Ken Behr
Welcome today to our Wednesday message. We are in our new series called “Pondering Prophecy”
At Faith Dialogue, we have two messages each week. In our services on Sunday we are presently going through the Acts of the Apostles in a series called “unstoppable” We are going through this book, verse by verse, word for word. It’s our preferred method of teaching and understanding the Bible.
On Wednesdays, we have just finished up on a two-year overview of the parables of Jesus. And today we are only in week 2 of this series so there is much for us that we could discuss.
Last week, I mentioned three principles that will guide our look at prophecy and these are bedrock principles. We may not always mention them but we will always maintain them. The three principles are:
- Thy Kingdom Come: these three words are from The Lord’s prayer and they remind us that actually, looking to prophecy, looking to the second coming of Jesus is something that actually we pray for always, every time we pray they Lord’s prayer: Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done” and these words of Jesus tell us that there is a Kingdom that is coming and it is something that we actually pray for daily.
- Prophecy is profitable: The Bible tells us that ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: We need to be reading prophecy in order to be complete…to be ready . As Prophecy constitutes between 25% to 33% of the Bible or one out of every three to four verses. If we Ignore prophecy or avoid it, we miss a huge part of the words in the Bible that were given for our benefit.
- The Second Coming of Jesus is the “Blessed Hope” The Apostle Paul spoke often of the second coming and he called it the “Blessed Hope” We’ll talk today a little more about why the “Blessed Hope” and His “glorious appearing” it is something we embrace, not something that we fear.
So, as we study prophecy not only today but on our future Wednesday teaching sessions, we’ll always remember these three bedrock principles. You’ll likely hear me mention them again.
Today, I thought I’d spend some time talking about what many people refer to often and that is the Tribulation, also known as the seven year Tribulation or sometimes the Great Tribulation.
As I was preparing this message, I was listening to Pastor Greg at Celebration Community Church who is presently teaching on the Book of Revelation and he mentioned something that I took note of, it is worthy of repeating.
And that is when we look at prophecy, when we look at the book of Revelation for example or the Book of Daniel that we’ll be spending some time in today, he said that when we look at prophecy, we don’t want to interpret prophecy based on today’s newspapers, or what the media, or someone is saying today but we always want to interpret prophecy on what the Bible says.
The Bible interprets the Bible and when we talk about the prophecies in the Bible that point to the second coming of Jesus, of the establishment of the Millennial Reign of Christ, we will be looking at the Old Testament. A person that really want to understand ‘Last Day’s prophecy’ what is called “ESCHATOLOGY” which is Latin for the Study of the last things” that person would be wise, WE WOULD BE WISE to study the old testament prophets and carefully do some research before we jump to any conclusions.
So today….as we begin to explore what is referred to as the Tribulation. Let me first define the term as it’s typically described and then we’ll be looking at the Old Testament prophet Daniel, often thought of in connection with his three friends: Shadrack Meshack and Abednego.
So before we get into the text and dig into some of the scripture in the Bible that refers to this time of the end that we call the tribulation, let me tell you a story.
I’ve had the privilege of serving in pastoral ministry for almost 20 years. This is my second career so during these 20 years I went back to school, attended a conservative Biblically centered seminary and have the opportunity now to pastor and share the gospel.
As a pastor, one of the questions that comes up from time to time, is Do you take the Bible literally?”
I don’t particularly like the question however it deserves a response. The reason I don’t like it isn’t because I don’t like talking about my approach to the Bible in general and prophecy specifically, but this question does not have an easy “yes” or “no” answer.
I let them know I personally teach that the Bible is literally the word of God. The Bible tells us that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (that’s 2 Tim 3:16).
So yes, we read the prophet Isaiah that a Virgin would conceive and give birth to a son whose name would be Immanuel, meaning God with us and we find that fulfilled literally with Jesus being born of a virgin named Mary. We read in Micah that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, and when the wise men arrived in Jerusalem and inquired where the King of the Jews would be born, the religious leaders were able to tell them “Bethlehem” because they took the prophecy literally.
However, we often see metaphors and symbolism in the Bible and Jesus says he is the “Good Shepherd” That’s a metaphor, Jesus says he is the door – that is symbolic language.
The mistake many people make the mistake of reading something that is controversial or spectacular and determining that because these are things they either don’t want to believe or find it hard to believe, they determine that these scriptures are not to be taken literally.
So, when the Bible says that Jesus took a few loaves and fishes and fed 3,000 or 5,000 many say well that is not to be taken literally - - as if the creator of the universe would find it too difficult to stretch a meal.
Unfortunately, prophecy (and that is where we are spending our time now on Wednesdays) is that which is often controversial or spectacular. Because it is often controversial and spectacular many have decided that it is too difficult to understand literally so it has to be taken allegorically or symbolic and as a result, it is then rarely read or taught.
However, over 25% of the Bible is prophecy and to date all of the prophecies that have been fulfilled have been fulfilled exactly as described.
Sometimes we’ll read a passage that is clearly symbolic in fact, often these passages include the words, “and then I saw something that was LIKE….it was LIKE something, It was like a leopard, like a bear, like a dragon. This is an indication that the prophecy is using symbolic language. There is a literal fulfillment for sure but he language is symbolic.
For centuries, many of the greatest theologians in the church found it almost impossible to believe in what the Bible said that in the end times God would again regather the people of Israel that had been scattered to Europe, Asia and Africa and later to North and South America. That God would again turn his attention to the people of Israel and bring them back to the land that he had promised to Abraham and to Jerusalem, the City of David.
But that is exactly what Isaiah had prophesized nearly 2700 years before it happened. Isaiah 66:8 says,
Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children.
Israel became a nation on May 14, 1948 after nearly 1900 years after the Roman armies had completely destroyed Jerusalem and the remaining Jewish people were scattered in what is known as the great diaspora.
It was this event that should have convinced many previous skeptics that perhaps all of the prophecies regarding Israel that were yet unfilled including these prophecies we are going to read today in the Book of Daniel, were all God breathed and would be fulfilled literally. However, to this day, there are many that continue to not understand end-times prophecy because they refuse to take it literally.
Most of these end-times prophecies deal with the seven years of tribulation and the return of Jesus Christ.
One of the keys to understanding when we read what is known as Apocalyptic literature is embracing the obvious focus of these prophecies on the people and the land of ISRAEL. The word Apocalypse is a Greek word meaning " revelation ", The Book of Revelation is often called the book of the Apocalypse and the scripture is then "an unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known”.
Israel is the key and without the key, you will not understand. When we read the scriptures in the book of Revelation, of Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Joel, we see often the prophecies speak of ‘my people Israel, ‘the law’, Jerusalem, the temple, the city, the sanctuary’ and all of these are direct references to places in Israel. While the judgements of God that we read of impact the entire earth, we should not substitute the nations of the West or the Church when re read of Israel and Jerusalem. This is the key to understanding and the true meaning of these prophetic events.
So remember these two keys…..as we begin to look at these scriptures the two keys are that first, we are going to take these prophecies LITERALLY. We will take it literally even when it may be spectacular or even when it is something that may controversial.
And the second key to understanding is that the focus of the Tribulation is Israel….not that all of the judgements are upon Israel but these are the seven years of Jacobs trials, this the final week that ISRAEL will experience prior to Jesus coming in the air with the saints.
It is in this way that when we read about the temple, Jerusalem or the nations of the Middle East, we should not be tempted to think that these are metaphors for the Church or the Western Nations.
So let’s begin by a quick summary of what we typically understand to be the literal Biblical teaching of the Tribulation.
In Matthew chapters 24 & 25, Jesus is answering the questions put to him by his disciples about the signs of the time of the end and his second coming. In one passage, Jesus references the Tribulation and says
For at that time there will be great tribulation, unmatched from the beginning of the world until now, and never to be seen again. (Matthe 24:21
As this word ‘tribulation’ is actually the same word as ‘trial’ Jesus uses the adjective GREAT to differentiate this time of severe trial. In fact, the very next verses, Jesus continues and says,
“And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.
So this word “Tribulation” is the more popular term that describes a 7-year period that begins when a peace treaty is confirmed among ‘many’ (that’s the word that the scriptures say”) that provides peace and safety to the nation of Israel. The Bible says that this peace treaty will be for seven years however it is broken half way through or after 3 ½ years. So in this way, often the Seven years of the tribulation is broken up into two 3 ½ year segments and the Bible gets very specific uses both days and months even in the same passage. For example. Revelation 11 verses 2 & 3 says
And they will trample on the holy city for 42 months. And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”(Rev 11:2-3).
1260 days divided by 30 days in a month is exactly 42 months which is 3 and ½ years
The Tribulation begins with the signing of this peace treaty and the revealing of the individual we know as the antichrist. The Apostle John, who is on the island of Patmos is given this prophecy. The book of Revelation is actually one complete prophecy from beginning of the prophecy to end.
The Tribulation is the last days before the physical return of Jesus to the earth during and at the end of the climactic battle of Armageddon.
The tribulation gets underway in chapter 6 of Revelation with the opening of seven seals….the beginning of a series of sevens….seven seals, seven trumpets and seven vials.
These initial four seals are known as the ‘four horsemen of the apocalypse’ and features four horsemen on different colored horses: White, Fiery Red, Black and Pale Green representing Conquest, War, Famine, and Death. That first horseman by the way happens to be the antichrist that brokered the peace treaty.
During these three series of judgments there are many events as well as individuals that are spoken of. For example, there are 144,000 sealed from the 12 tribes of Israel. These 144,000 have an important task, we don’t know exactly the details, but they are on a mission from God. Many believe they are preachers, evangelists that are an important part of a huge revival and many people on the earth will come to salvation during the tribulation.
However, the tribulation is a violet and dreadful time and many of these that come to salvation will be martyred. They will lose their life and John the apostle writes that he saw in heaven an altar under which were the souls of people who had been slain . They cried to God, asking God for His righteous judgement, His response.
During the tribulation there are also two witnesses that appear on the streets of Jerusalem, likely during the first half of the tribulation that perform miracles, preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, teach prophecy and condemn the antichrist. These two witnesses are men, great and faithful prophets, some speculate they are like Moses and Elijah representing the law and the prophets. The Bible says that no one can come against them for 1260 days (3 ½ years or 42 months) but then God allows the antichrist to kill them and the world will rejoice…..they send presents to each other.
The trials that come upon the earth during the tribulation represented primarily by the seven seals, seven trumpets and seven vials are judgements by God on a world that has embraced evil. The Bible says that those who were not killed by these plagues, these judgments would still not repent of their murder, sorcery (and that word is pharmakia, likely referring to pharmasutical drugs), their sexual immorality, and thefts.
Also, during the tribulation There are three characters that form an evil trinity: Satan himself, the antichrist and the false prophet. It will be a time of great deception and while the antichrist leads a one-world government the false prophet leads a one-world religion. During that time, Satan gives them both power to deceive the world through signs and wonders.
During or before the tribulation the Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem and we know this because half-way through the tribulation, the antichrist defiles the temple declaring that he is a god and is to be worshipped.
We are also told that the Antichrist requires that everyone takes a mark that identifies them as a follower of the antichrist and without the mark, no one could buy or sell.
Occasionally, in the book of Revelation, during the Tribulation, we seen events also going on in heaven. One of the events is what is called the Marriage feast or supper of the Lamb and this is recorded in chapter 19 of the book of revelation after the Church has been taken to Heaven and before the return of Christ to earth at His glorious appearing.
One of the final events of the tribulation is what is known as the Battle of Armageddon and that is actually a series of battles that involves all of the nations and literally millions of troops that gather to ultimately fight against Christ.
The tribulation ends with this second coming of Jesus Christ and the scriptures tell us that The armies of heaven follow him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Many Bible scholars understand that these individuals riding on white horses and dressed in white linen are the saints of God that return with Jesus to be on the earth then for the next 1,000 years which is the millennial reign of Christ.
In the time that is remaining, let me introduce you briefly to the secondary source of much of these prophecies referring to the tribulation and that is the prophet Daniel.
The prophet Daniel was a very young and very bright man living in Jerusalem when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came and conquered Jerusalem. Daniel as well as some others that were selected to be brought to Babylon. These were to be ‘Young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace” and that is Daniel chapter 1 verse 4.
Along with Daniel, three others were Shadrach, Meshach; and Abednego, and these were their Babylonian names just as Daniel was given the name Belteshazzar.
Daniel quickly proves himself to be a great service to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and in chapter 2 interprets a dream that the King “there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come.
Daniel then reveals the dream about four world empires beginning with Babylon.
Briefly, Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that he dreamt of a statue made of four different materials, identified as four kingdoms
There was a Head of gold that Daniel said represented King Nebuchadnezzar and the kingdom of Babylon).[v.37–38]
The statue had a Chest and arms of silver. Identified as an "inferior" kingdom to follow Nebuchadnezzar that scholars identify as the combined kingdoms of Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Great
Then the statue has a Belly and thighs of bronze. Representing a third kingdom which shall rule over all the earth, believed to symbolize the kingdom of Greece.
And finally, the two Legs of iron with feet of mingled iron and clay. Interpreted to be ROME and the two legs identify it as a divided Kingdom of Western and Eastern with headquarters in Rome and Constantinople.
Daniel lives to see Darius the Mede conquer Babylon just as the dream foretold and Daniel was ultimately promoted after a brief encounter in the Lions Den
Then in chapter nine and yet another vision of Four Beasts that provides more specificity into the four world kingdoms. Daniel is an old man, likely in his 80’s and reads the writings, the prophecies of Jeremiah and understands that the exile of the Jews to Israel was prophesized to last 70 years.
As Daniel begins to pray and fast, the angel Gabriel comes to him and tells him something amazing. He tells them that while 70 years was the time of the exile, there would actually be 70 weeks or 70 SEVENS the word for week are given to the people of Israel and the city of Jerusalem to bring about several things:
Chapter 9 beginning in verse 24
“(24) Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. (25) Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. (26) And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.” (Daniel 9:24-26)
So, while this prophecy of the 70 weeks can be a little difficult at first, it starts to come together when you break it down with a little help from others that have studied it and written about it.
In verse 24, Gabriel says, “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city.” Almost all commentators agree that the seventy “sevens” should be understood as seventy “weeks” of years, in other words, a period of 490 years.
The object of this prophecy is the timing coming of the messiah not the timing of the final seven years.
VERSE 25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks:
These verses, while somewhat obscure provide the countdown clock for when Jesus the Messiah would come.
The angel Gabriel said it would be seven and threescore and two weeks. Threescore is 60 as a score is 20 so after the first seven weeks there will be another 62 weeks.
As we already said that the week represent seven years SO the prophecy would read that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be 49 years followed by 434 years (62X7).
49 years + 434 years = 483 years and there are two things that we need to add to make this prophecy even more spectacular. Scholars have determined that it was exactly 483 years after the command to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem” was given by King Artaxerxes of Persia c. 445 B.C. (see Nehemiah 2:1-8) to the time of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-9). The prophecy in Daniel 9 specifies that after the completion of the 483 years, “the Anointed One will be cut off” (verse 26). This was fulfilled when Jesus was crucified.
The Angel Gabriel’s prophecy also specified two time periods….the first being 49 years and that took us to the rebuilding of Jerusalem with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble” (Daniel 9:25). This rebuilding is chronicled in the book of Nehemiah.
So….how does this fit in with the 7 years of tribulation?
I’m glad you asked.
Daniel was told there were 70 7s or weeks. to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. (verse 24)
We won’t go into all of these specific completion but let’s just say it is complete….finished up….ended, all done.
However, 70X7 is 490 years, and so far the JEWS have completed 49 years + 434 years = 483 on God’s stop watch. 483 years and messiah was cut off…died on the cross, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and then the Holy Spirit descends on Pentecost and the church is born.
However, seven years remain. 490-483 is SEVEN years. God has one last seven year period when everything that is yet to be accomplished will be accomplished. When God turns his FULL attention back to the people of Israel. God turns his full attention back to the people of Israel as the Bride of Christ, the Church is taken first to heaven, before the tribulation….and that will be a discussion for a future Wednesday.
We’ll conclude this brief look a the tribulation period with the words of Jesus in Matthew 24 verse 29-31
29Immediately after the tribulation of those days: ‘The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.’ 30 At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 31And He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.…
Thank you for joining us today!
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