Imagine someone who has never seen a football game before coming to America in January and hearing one conversation after another about the Super Bowl. They don’t understand, so they ask you to explain what the Super Bowl is. You begin by telling them a little about the game of football and how it is played. They stop you and then say, “Oh, I’ve seen the Super Bowl. I just didn’t know that’s what it was.” “When did you see the Super Bowl?” you ask. “I saw some young boys playing that game in the park on the way over here today.” Then you say, “Well, there are many football games played by many different players. But there is only one Super Bowl each year.
People have faced many tribulations over the centuries, but the Bible makes it clear there will be only one “Great Tribulation” that will yet occur, and it will be unlike any other tribulation the world has ever seen.
The prophets of old first introduce this Great Tribulation in the Old Testament:
For thus says the Lord, I have heard the sound of terror, of dread, and there is no peace. Ask now, and see if a male can give birth. Why do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in childbirth? And why have all faces turned pale? Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s distress…. – Jeremiah 30:5-7 (NASB)
Later Daniel writes about this time, and talks about the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. He records that it will be a desolate time (see Daniel 9:24-27).
Referring to this period as “the day of the Lord,” Joel chimes in with this:
The Lord utters His voice before His army; Surely His camp is very great, For strong is he who carries out His word. The day of the Lord is indeed great and very awesome, And who can endure it? – Joel 2:11 (NASB)
Daniel tells us when this period will begin, what will happen (in a nutshell) and how long it will last (Daniel 9:24-27). Many other passages from the Old Testament also allude to and/or describe this yet future period of great tribulation.
This Great Tribulation will be a 7-year period (Daniel 9:24-27) that will have two halves. It will start on the day the leader of the western coalition of nations signs a 7-year treaty with the nation of Israel.
In Revelation 4-18 we get a graphic depiction of what this period will be like. We are told that halfway through the 7-year treaty period, this leader of the western coalition of nations, called the beast or antichrist, will break the treaty with Israel, and will unleash his fury on the Jewish nation and any believers in Christ who have come to faith in Him after the church was raptured. We are told there will be a great revival of the people of Israel and 144,000 of them will be sealed and sent as missionaries all over the world. The response will be multitudes of people beyond counting that will receive Christ.
While the antichrist is carrying out his reign of terror on believers, God will unleash His judgmental fury on the whole world. God’s motive is to get as many people as will to turn to Him and away from this false impostor of Christ, the antichrist.
God’s judgment, this Great Tribulation, will see disease and plagues affecting the world, all sea life will die, all fresh water will be contaminated and sun bursts of energy will fry the flesh of people and animals, along with ongoing darkness as well as unrelenting earthquakes, volcanoes and 100-pound hailstones all over the world.
And the response of the people of that world in that day who have not already received Christ? It paints a picture of people climbing to mountaintops and shaking their fists at God, cursing Him, and crying out for Him to just kill them and get it over with. Not repentance. No pleas for mercy. Just get it over with.
By the end of this time, over half of the world’s population will have died, the planet will be an ecological disaster and the world will be on the brink of a world war that includes all the nations on the planet, converging on the Middle East to do war with God.
According to Revelation 19 this Great Tribulation will end with all the armies of the world gathered under the command of the antichrist, with the goal of defeating God and His angelic army, the hosts of heaven. But it will not end well for the antichrist or any of his followers. They will all be slain in one fell swoop by Christ, as the Lord of hosts, in the Valley of Megiddo of northern, modern-day Israel.
Some claim this tribulation has already taken place. Some say it just represents hard times in life. But you can’t truly study all the passages of Scripture that deal with this period of time and claim it has already happened – unless you are willing to fudge on a normal, literal interpretation of the Bible. But if the Bible does not speak authoritatively on this and other prophecy, then we have undermined the Scriptures from being the final authority and made ourselves or our theology the final authority.
There are many football games but only one Super Bowl. There are many tribulations in this world, past and present, but only one Time of Jacob’s Distress, Day of the Lord: The Great Tribulation. And it is yet to come.