Statement of Fundamental Beliefs -
THE "GREAT TRIBULATION"
Framework for Prophecy
We need to understand the time sequence leading up to the Christ's second coming. There are three major prophetic milestones leading up to His return:
- The Great Tribulation
- The Heavenly Signs
- The Day of the Lord
These three events cover a period of about three-and-a-half years. There are more than 30 prophecies in your Bible referring to the Day of the Lord. How long is the Day of the Lord? Two scriptures give us the answer. Speaking of God's judgments on the nations, Isaiah writes, "For it is the day of the Lord's vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion" (Isaiah 34:8). Isaiah 63:4 also shows that the Day of the Lord in end-time prophecy, the time preceding Christ's return, is a period of one year!
In addition to those milestones, the book of Revelation reveals four ongoing events that continue for that period of three-and-a-half years. What are the four ongoing events that occur during the three-and-a-half years? The first event is that Jerusalem is trampled by the Gentiles for 42 months (Revelation 11:1–2). The second event is the Two Witnesses prophesying for 1,260 days (Revelation 11:3). The third event is the Church's time in the wilderness, which the Bible describes as "a time, and times, and half a time"—biblical language for three-and-a-half years (Revelation 12:13–17). The woman described here in Revelation 12 is symbolic of the Church. The fourth event is the Beast continuing for 42 months in its final revival (Revelation 13:1–5). This Beast symbolizes a revived Roman Empire. For more detail on this vital topic, be sure to request our free booklet, The Beast of Revelation, Myth, Metaphor, or Soon-Coming Reality? This revived Beast will be a superpower that will rival and eventually surpass the United States! Watch events in Europe as this Beast prepares to appear on the scene.
Three major milestones lead up to the second coming of Christ. The Great Tribulation lasts for about two-and-a-half years. Next, the Heavenly Signs shock people all over the world. The Heavenly Signs introduce the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord is the prophetic time period of one year leading up to Christ's return. So there are four ongoing events during these three-and-a-half years: Jerusalem is trodden down by the Gentiles, the two witnesses prophesy, the church is nourished in the wilderness, and the Beast power dominates for 42 months.
The Great Tribulation
Jesus warned us of the Great Tribulation—a time unique in all history (Matthew 24:21–22). The Great Tribulation begins shortly after the "abomination of desolation" (v. 15), and is the result of the final end-time fulfillment, in rapid succession, of the first five seals. After the first four seals were opened and John saw the "four horsemen" ride forth for their end-time fulfillment, the fifth seal was opened and he was again called to come and watch. He saw a strange vision that, when properly understood, was the harbinger of terrible religious persecution on a scale that is almost unimaginable to us in the modern Western world. John described seeing "souls under the altar" and hearing them cry out asking God "how long" until they would be avenged. The answer is that the time of God's judgment on their oppressors will not come until the number of martyrs is filled up. There is to be an end-time martyrdom that must yet take place.
Notice the symbols that John described. As is often the case in Revelation, it is important to understand the symbolism of the Jerusalem temple. What is meant by "souls under the altar"? The Bible uses the term soul (nephesh in Hebrew and psuche in Greek) to refer to creatures with life—both human and animal. Leviticus 17:11 states that the life is in the blood. The blood of sacrificial animals was poured out at the base of the altar of sacrifice, one of two altars in the temple. The altar of sacrifice was outside the sanctuary, and the altar of incense was inside, directly in front of the mercy seat. (In the temple at Jerusalem, before the earthquake that followed Christ's death, a veil separated the altar of incense from the mercy seat). The altar of sacrifice is the basis of the symbolism used in Revelation 6.
In Genesis 4:10, we are told that the blood of righteous Abel figuratively "cried out" from the ground, demanding retribution from a God of righteous judgment. If the blood of one martyr cried out, with how much louder voice would the collective blood of all the righteous martyrs down through time cry out? In the vision, John heard them being told that they must continue to rest in their graves. More martyrs would die before the time would come for God's judgment to be poured out.
This future time of trouble will clearly be a time of intense religious persecution, when all will be forced to conform to false religious practices that will be portrayed as "Christian." All will be required to give their devotion to the great false church and its hierarchy, labeled in Revelation 13:15 the "image of the beast." An outward sign of conformity called the "mark of the beast" will identify those whom Scripture labels as the children of disobedience.
There is another aspect of this coming Great Tribulation that is often overlooked. It is not only a time of religious persecution but it is also identified as "the time of Jacob's trouble" in Jeremiah 30:7. We know that this is identical with the time of which Jesus spoke in Matthew 24:21, because in both places we are told that it is a unique time, a time such as never was before nor ever again shall be. There cannot be two separate times like that!
If you are not familiar with the identity of Jacob's end-time descendants, we invite you to write in for our free booklet, The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy. This will give detailed explanation and proof that is beyond the scope of this current booklet. The coming Great Tribulation will be a time of intense pressure and persecution directed against both spiritual Israel (the true Church of God) and physical Israel, which includes not only the Jews, but also the modern descendants of the so-called "lost ten tribes." It represents Satan's wrath and begins in deadly earnest once he is cast back to earth for the final time (Revelation 12:12–13).
If you would like to receive more information or have any questions please call our Canadian Regional Office toll free at 1-800-932-4262, or (905)814-1094 within Toronto, and ask to speak with a minister.