The future millennium will be for the blessing of the world. God will accomplish this by the physical return and presence of Jesus Christ. By perfect obedience to God’s will, this Man will make good the government of God over the world. As the Melchizedek priest/king, Jesus will represent the God Most High (Gen. 14:18), and act on His behalf. He will rule the earth in justice and righteousness – Melchizedek means “king of righteousness.” His judgments will bring peace to the world – He is king of Salem, meaning “king of peace” (Heb. 7:1–3, Isa. 32:15 –18). As this kingly priest, Jesus will bring blessing to Israel, which will overflow to the blessing of the world (Gen. 14:18–20).
But before there can be peace and blessing for the millennial earth, God will first have to judge the world. The judgements of God are the means by which God will correct and change the world. People think that the Christian gospel is the instrument for changing the world, but this is wrong. The world will never learn righteousness by being shown grace. The world will never be right until the judgments of God make it right.
Isaiah 26:9-10 (NKJV)
9 With my soul I have desired You in the night,
Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early;
For when Your judgments are in the earth,
The inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
10 Let grace be shown to the wicked,
Yet he will not learn righteousness;
In the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly,
And will not behold the majesty of the Lord.
This passage gives an important biblical principle – the world can only learn righteous through the judgment of God; it will not learn righteousness by being shown grace. At the same time the passage indirectly presents an important contrast between the last two Bible dispensations. The Christian dispensation is associated with God’s grace by the gospel going out to all the world. Through the message of the cross, God offers mercy to anyone who will listen and receive it. This characterizes the Christian dispensation. And the negative from this passage is true – the Christian dispensation is not the time when God is judging the evil of the world. Rather, judgment is characteristic of the final dispensation. In the millennium and in the period of transition leading to it, God’s judgments will be in the earth. This will be the time when the world begins to learn righteousness; this will be the time when the world will be corrected and changed.
What then will be God’s testimony or message for the world during the tribulation? In the Bible it is called “the gospel of the kingdom” and refers to the coming earthly kingdom of God (Matt. 24:14) – that time when the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever (Rev. 11:15). This is not the Christian gospel. It is a message of warning from God of impending judgment on the world (Matt. 24:14). The gospel of the kingdom is that God is soon to make the world and the earth His possession (Rev. 10:15, 12:10, and 14:6–7).
The Jewish remnant in the tribulation may have this message and be spreading it throughout the world, but it is the gospel of the physical kingdom of God coming on the earth to possess the world – something which the Jews have always expected from prophecy. The gospel of the coming kingdom is a very earthly and Jewish message. It is a witness and warning to Israel and the nations, not necessarily the means of converting and saving them.206 During the tribulation there will be a similar testimony by the two witnesses in Jerusalem. They will testify on behalf of Jehovah, the true Lord of the earth (Rev. 11:4). Their testimony for 3½ years doesn’t attract positive attention from anybody except the remnant inside of Israel (Rev. 11:1). Think of the years that Noah preached. His message was a warning of approaching judgment and by his faith he condemned the world (Heb. 11:7). Only eight people entered the ark (II Pet. 2:5).
206 [This message may be heard by some Jews and Gentiles in the tribulation, and it could very well be the instrument which keeps them from worshipping the beast and his image and receiving his mark (Rev. 14:9–11). Those of the Gentiles who are compassionate to the elect Jewish remnant in the tribulation will be rewarded by inheriting the earthly kingdom of God in the millennium (Matt. 25:31–46). But we should not be looking for a Jewish remnant in the tribulation period going throughout the world evangelizing with a Christian gospel (Rev. 7:4–10). This thought is such a mismatch of biblical principles and character, and is a contradiction of sound spiritual reasoning]
The tribulation – the seven years preceding the return of Christ – will be when God begins to judge the world. There will be seals, trumpets, and vial judgments coming down on the earth from God’s throne in heaven (Rev. 6, 7, 8, 15, 16). When Jesus returns, His warring judgments destroy both beasts of the Revelation – the last Caesar of the revived Roman Empire (the first beast of Rev. 13) and the Jewish Antichrist (the second beast of Rev. 13) – and all their armies with them (Rev. 19:11–21). At the beginning of the millennium there are other judgments such as come on the Assyrian, Gog and Magog from the north, and the successional judgment of the living (the nations, Matt. 25:31-32). At the end of the millennium there is the judgment of the dead at the great white throne (Rev. 20:11–15). All these judgments are executed by Jesus Christ, the Son of Man (John 5:27). 207
207 [John tells us the Father has given the Son authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. It is evident that the giving of this right to judge everything is based on His perfect obedience to God as a Man in the work of the cross – He bore the sin of the world (John 1:29); therefore, He is given the right to personally judge all mankind. Please see Matt. 28:18. The exception to this seems to be the judgments from the throne of God coming down on the world during the tribulation period. It very well may be because these precede Christ’s manifestation to the world, and are, more or less, providential in character]
The seven-year tribulation will form the greater part of the transition between the present Christian dispensation and the future millennium (appendix D). Although the rapture of all those in Christ takes place before the tribulation (1 Thess. 4:13–18), this doesn’t necessarily end the Christian dispensation. Yes, the true church, the wheat, will be taken out of this world. But the tares of Christendom are bundled together and left in the world to await judgment (Matt. 13:30). I have little doubt that the Babylonian harlot of Revelation seventeen, and all the events which take place to usher in her destruction, is the judgment of what remains of Christendom entering the tribulation. She fancies herself to be the bride of Christ and has her capital city as Rome.
Being generally about Israel and God’s government of the earth, Bible prophecy portrays the future tribulation as a time in which God will deal with the nation of Israel. The biblical character of the Jews is that they can only be saved through tribulation and hardship. This certainly was the case when Israel began its history as a nation, being delivered out of Egypt. It will be the same in the tribulation. The Spirit of God speaking through the prophet Jeremiah labels this period and the events associated with it as the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7).208 Both Daniel and Jesus declare it to be a great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever will be (Matt. 24:21, Dan. 12:1). However, all three show at least a remnant of the Jews being saved and delivered. Jeremiah says Jacob will be saved out of it; the angel says to Daniel that at that time your people shall be delivered, that is, those found written in the book; Jesus declares, “And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.” (Matt. 24:22)
208 [Israel gets this character trait from their name-sake Jacob. The history of the nation of Israel is reflected in Jacob’s life and dealings with God. This is why God changed Jacob’s name to Israel – his life and his experiences serve as a type foreshadowing the history of the Jews]
The tribulation will be a terrible time for the world. Satan and his angels will be cast out of the heavens and down to the earth; he comes down with great wrath, knowing his time is short (Rev. 12:7–9, 12–17).209 This means great rejoicing for the raptured and glorified saints in heaven, but only woe to the inhabitants of the earth and sea (Rev. 12:12). When this takes place, the devil will be interested in only two things: first, he wants to remain the god of the world, possessing the throne of it; second, he hates the woman (Israel) and tries his best to destroy her and the rest of her seed (the elect Jewish remnant). In order to accomplish both these tasks, the dragon brings forth and empowers the two beasts of Revelation thirteen. The great object of all Scripture is the conflict between Christ and Satan taking place throughout time (Gen 3:15, Rev. 12:4). Revelation twelve shows the general history of his opposition to the glory of Christ, while the book’s thirteenth chapter reveals the final instruments of evil he brings forth on the earth before Christ’s return.210
209 [The time is short because the devil will only have 3½ years left to hold on to the throne of this world. He is cast down with great wrath, for he can no longer reside in the heavens and be able to oppose and corrupt heavenly things like the church and its blessings. His only option is to turn his hatred and persecution on the woman, Israel. Satan turns his attention to whichever corporate calling God is acknowledging at the time. When he had access and influence in the heavens, his efforts were to corrupt Christendom which professed the heavenly calling of the church. But with the church now glorified and removed to the heavens (rapture), necessarily there will no longer be a rightful and legitimate place in heaven for the devil and his angels (Rev. 12:8). They are cast down ingloriously to the earth. By the middle of the future tribulation, God is again recognizing the earthly calling of Israel and has chosen and sealed an end-time Jewish remnant. But the time of Jacob’s trouble (Israel’s) will be limited by God to the last half of the tribulation (Rev. 12:6, 14). This corresponds to Jesus saying, “And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days.” (Mark 13:20) The elect, for whom He shortens the days of unparalleled tribulation, are this end-time Jewish remnant (Rev. 7:1-8)]
210 [In a general way, portions of chapter twelve show how the glory of Christ is first established in the heavens. This involves two things: first, the glorified saints are raptured and taken to the heavens; then after the tribulation begins, the war in heaven removes Satan and his angels from there, casting them down and confining them to the earth. At that point the devil can only oppose the earthly glory of Christ – that of being the glorified Son of Man, King of kings, Lord of lords and also the Messiah, King of Israel. He gives the first beast the throne of this world, and this answers to His first title. The second beast is a false Messiah in Palestine, the Antichrist among the Jews, and answers to His second title. Because the nation of Israel will serve as the center of God’s future government of the millennial world and the center of Christ’s earthly glory, when cast down to the earth the devil turns his hatred towards the woman, which is a figure of Israel (Rev. 12:13, 17)]
These two beasts are given authority to continue in the period of the great tribulation. The first beast comes up out of the sea, which is from out of the Gentiles. It has the form of the fourth beast of Daniel seven – a revived imperial form of the old Roman empire with a Caesar as its head (in the west, in Europe). To him Satan will give his power, his throne (of this world), and great authority (Rev. 13:2). The second beast comes up out of the earth and is Jewish. He looks like a lamb, but speaks like the dragon. He is a false Messiah, a false prophet to the Jews. His kingdom and influence will be in the east in Palestine. He is the Antichrist, to whom Satan gives the ability to exercise all the authority of the first beast in his presence (Rev. 13:2–12).
It is helpful to understand general principles in order to focus on the bigger picture. The tribulation is a time of transition between two dispensations. Necessarily, it will see the decline of the practice of Christianity. The true church will have been removed from the earth to the heavens before the tribulation begins. The tares of Christendom will remain in the world, unknowingly awaiting judgment. Their condition will be one of outward Christian apostacy (2 Thess. 2:3); they will be under the moral judgment of God; He will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie (2 Thess. 2:11-12).
The end of the Christian dispensation will see four distinct classes of professing Christians forming the corporate body of Christendom. These are prophetically depicted by the last four churches in Revelation two and three – Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Philadelphia is the faithful remnant church and the only one excluded from the tribulation (Rev. 3:10). Christ says to the other three in succession: “Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation…I will kill her children with death…I will give to each one of you according to your works” (Rev. 2:22–23); “I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you” (Rev. 3:3); “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth” (Rev. 3:16). The final picture of what remains of Christendom in the tribulation is the Babylonian harlot of Revelation seventeen. It is God who orchestrates her judgment and destruction (Rev. 17:17).211
211 [God uses the Roman beast, its Caesar, and the ten kings in Western Europe to destroy the harlot. It is said, “And the ten horns which you saw and the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.” (Rev. 17:16) At the beginning of the tribulation, Western Europe, under the influence of its civil leaders, will become increasingly anti-Christian, wanting to end the harlot’s (Christendom’s) influence and power. The world becomes increasingly more secular and humanistic, exalting man as the center of everything. When the Roman beast receives the throne of this world, he opens his mouth in blaspheme against God, to blaspheme His name (Rev. 13:5).]
As for the other of God’s two religions, we observe that Judaism, along with a temple and animal sacrifices, will again be practiced by the Jews in Palestine during the future tribulation. Most of the prophetic events of the tribulation center around Judea and Jerusalem. The Antichrist, the second beast of Revelation thirteen, will be a false Messiah and king among the Jews. As Jesus said, the one who comes in his own name, they will receive (John 5:43). He will be given the ability to do false signs and wonders in order to deceive the Jews (Rev. 13:12–15). He will institute idolatry among them, and their final state will be seven times worse than at first (Matt. 12:43–45, Rev. 13:12, 14).
In summary, these are the key elements of the tribulation:
- The true church will have been taken from the earth to the heavens before the tribulation begins. The heavenly calling of the believer/church is completed by this event, this sovereign act of God’s power and grace.
- God again recognizes the earthly calling of Israel and seals a remnant of the nation. God will keep and preserve this remnant throughout the tribulation. There will be a temple in Jerusalem and the practice of Judaism will be established again, including animal sacrifices. The Jews will suffer great persecution and hardship, but God will save a remnant through it all.
- Because the church will be in the heavens, Satan and his angels will be cast out and down to the earth. His interest now is in keeping the throne of the world and persecuting the Jews. The two beasts of Revelation thirteen are the final forms and instruments of evil the dragon brings forth in his history of opposition to the glory of Christ.
- The first beast is civil imperial power in the revived Roman empire, ten kingdoms and kings of Western Europe – the part of the empire that long remained Christianized. These become anti-christian and are used of God to throw off the harlot and destroy the remainder of apostate Christendom. By their example and leadership, the world becomes increasingly more agnostic, secular, and humanistic.
- The second beast is religious energy seen in the eastern part of the empire, in Palestine and among the Jews. He is Jewish, the Antichrist, a false Messiah and prophet. He leads the Jews into the worst state of idolatry the nation of Israel has ever experienced in their history.
It is not my purpose to document in detail all the events of the tribulation period, but instead to paint a general picture of this time of transition between dispensations (appendix D). The tribulation will come to an end with the physical return of Jesus Christ to this world. The Christian dispensation will be officially ended and the millennium will soon begin.
“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” (Rev. 1:7)