Then I saw the Lamb open one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four animals say in a thundering voice, ‘Come on out!'  And at that, {Look!} I saw a white horse, and the one who was sitting on it had a bow. He was given a crown and he conquered and completed his victory. Then he opened the second seal and I heard the second animal say, Come on out!'  And a fire-red horse came out, and the one who was sitting on it was given a large sword. He was authorized to take peace away from the earth, so [people] would kill each other. Then he opened the third seal, and I heard the third animal say, ‘Come on out!' And I saw {Look!} a black horse; and the one who was sitting on it had a balance scale in his hand. Then I heard a voice that sounded like it came from the midst of the four animals, which said, ‘A quart of wheat for a silver coin and three quarts of barley for a silver coin... but don't waste the olive oil or the wine.' Then he opened the fourth seal, and I heard the voice of the fourth animal say, ‘Come on out!' And I saw {Look!} a greenish-yellow horse, and he who was sitting on it was named Death... and the Grave came following him. They were then given authority over a quarter of the earth, to kill with the large sword, with famines, with plagues, and by the earth's wild animals. (Revelation 6:1-8)

 

Editor's note: We are continually seeking the truth in God's word. All content has suggestive conclusions. We recommend that all readers of this website search the scriptures for themselves and pray for understanding to prove or disprove all content.

 

 

The Great Tribulation

It is in the Bible book of Deuteronomy that we read the first prophecy about a difficult time that would come upon the nation of Israel, should they ever leave the Laws and Sacred Agreement of their God Eternal. For at Deuteronomy 28:53-57 we read, ‘Then you will eat the fruit of your bodies... the flesh of all the sons and daughters that He has given you. For your enemy will bring a great time of stress and difficulty upon you. Then, even those who are kind and gentle among you will look at their brothers, their loved wives, and any children that may be left, in an evil way, and they won't offer them any of the flesh of their children to eat, for they would have nothing left for themselves. That's how your enemies will pressure you and make life difficult for you in all of your cities. And even the tender, gentle women among you - those who have never searched the ground for delicacies - will look at their loved husbands, sons, and daughters in an evil way. For, they will eat the newborn that come from between their legs secretly, because of their [hunger]. That's how your enemies will make life difficult for you in your cities.'
Then in the book of Daniel, we read more of how this prophecy of the Law would be fulfilled. For, again we read of such period (after the ‘king of the north' overruns the ‘king of the south'), which we have rendered in this Bible as a time of difficulty (a tribulation). There (at Daniel 12:1-3) we read, ‘And in that hour, [God's] Highest Messenger MichaEl (the one who watches over the sons of your people) will arise, and then a time of difficulty will begin such as has never happened before and will never happen again. [And thereafter], [God] will raise all those whose [names] were written in the book, and many who died and were buried will be resurrected, some to life in the age, some to disgrace, and some will be scattered and shamed in that age. Then those who understand My words will shine like the brightness of the sky and like the stars in the heavens for ages of ages.'


This prophecy in Daniel is particularly important, because it appears as though Jesus quoted these words of Daniel when he was foretelling the signs of his coming, when he said (at Matthew 24:21-22): ‘Then there will come a great time of difficulty such as has never happened since the world's beginning until now, nor should ever happen again. And if those days weren't cut short, nobody would be saved. But those days will be shortened because of the elected.'


Difficult Time, Birth Pains, or Tribulation?

 

The Greek words that that we have translated as the great time of difficulty (at Matthew 24:21) are tas thlipsis megale (pronounced: tahs thel-eep-sees meg-ah- leh).

 
Although the word thlipsis is used several times in the Bible, it is difficult to find an equivalent word in common American English to translate it. What it implies is a painful, difficult time, and it was used to describe a woman's childbirth labor. Tribulation and travail are nice old English words that describe the meaning fairly accurately, but they aren't the types of words you would read in a newspaper today, so we have used more common word (difficulty) to translate it.


When Will this ‘Time of Difficulty' Begin?

 

When did this great time of difficulty that Jesus prophesied begin? There are many theories and doctrines, but notice that it was to begin immediately after the thing described at Matthew 24:15, 16 happened, ‘When you see the disgusting destroyer standing in the Holy Place.'


We know that the ‘disgusting destroyer' was found to be ‘standing in the Holy Place' (God's Temple) when the armies of Rome first camped around Jerusalem in the year 66-C.E. For shortly thereafter, with the first withdrawal of the Roman armies, Christians followed the advice that Jesus had just given (found at Matthew 24:16) to get out of Jerusalem and hide in the mountains. So this appears to be the time when the ‘great time of difficulty' started for Jerusalem, because, thereafter the Roman armies returned and built a fence of pointed stakes around the city, which caused the people to starve until the city fell. In fact, the records show that this period was so difficult for the people of Jerusalem that some even ate their own children! Then (in 70-C.E.) tens of thousands were killed, the rest were carried off as captives, and the city was sacked and burned.


Therefore, we must assume that this difficult time upon Jerusalem began sometime between 66 and 70-C.E. But, did it start with Rome's first assault on Jerusalem, or when they returned some two years later? Well, according to Jesus, it would start when they first entered (came and attacked) the Holy Place, for that was to be the sign when his followers were to head for the mountains, which happened in 66-C.E.

 
And notice what Daniel was told concerning this period (at Daniel 12:11): ‘From the time when the disgusting destroyer will come and the [daily] sacrifices will end is one-thousand, two-hundred and ninety days. And the one who endures through one-thousand, three-hundred, and thirty-five days will be blest.'
Clearly, this prophecy in Daniel is saying that from the time of the coming of the disgusting destroyer (Rome) until the time when the daily sacrifices would end (the Temple would be destroyed) was to be three-and-a-half years... which is approximately (if not exactly) the same time as from Rome's first attack to the final destruction of Jerusalem (66 to 70-C.E.).


The Time of the Fulfillment of Daniel 11, 12

 

However, despite the fact that the prophecy in Daniel 12 speaks of the same event in the very same words as did Jesus (at Matthew 24:15), and that it seems to have worked out over the exact 3-1/2 years that the messenger of God told Daniel, many have trouble agreeing that:


1. The difficult time that Daniel spoke of was the 3-1/2 year period that came upon Jerusalem (they believe that Daniel was speaking of some still-future date)
2. The prophecy in Daniel has anything to do with the destruction of Jerusalem, because most apply these words (about the attack of ‘the king of the north' upon the ‘king of the south,' etc.) just to events of modern times.

 
So, let's take a closer look at the things that are described in the Bible book of Daniel.


Who was the king of the north? Notice what we are told (at Daniel 11:2-6), ‘And after he (the king of Persia) gains all his riches, he will attack all the kingdoms of Greece. Then a mighty king (Alexander the Great) will arise and gain a vast kingdom, and he will do whatever he wishes. But after his kingdom is established, it will be broken and divided to the four winds of the sky (after Alexander's death his kingdom was divided among his four generals), and it won't end up as strong as it was during his rule. For his kingdom will be plucked up and divided among outsiders. Then the king in the south (Egypt under Ptolemy) will grow in strength over him, and he will use his authority to rule over a vast kingdom. However, after his time they will all be mixed together, then the daughter of the king in the south (Cleopatra?) will [have sex with] the king in the north (Julius Caesar?), and make treaties with him.'


Here we can clearly see that the prophecy of Daniel 11 is about wars between Egypt and Rome. And it's late into this prophecy (verses 28-32) that we read of the disgusting destroyer coming against the city of Jerusalem, for there we read, ‘And when he returns to his land, it will be with much plunder and with his heart set against the Holy Sacred Agreement. Then he'll return to his land, but he'll come back... however, not from the south, and this last time it won't be the same as at first ... For he will attack those who he sees have left the Holy Sacred Agreement, then he will raise his arms and profane the powerful Holy Place, end the daily sacrifices, and bring the disgusting destroyer against those who break the Law and care little for the Sacred Agreement.'
So it is clear that this prophecy is speaking of the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and its Temple. But then, just a few verses away (verse 40) it goes on to say: ‘In the time of the end, he will lock horns with the southern king, so the northern king will gather many chariots, horsemen, and ships, and enter his land, conquer it, and pass through.

 
Now, over the past 100 years or so, what many have been teaching is that the prophecy of Daniel had at that point jumped forward a couple of millennia to ‘the time of the end' (our day). For preachers and religious groups have been saying that Daniel 11:40 is speaking of modern-day western nations (particularly the United States and Great Britain) being overrun by eastern nations (particularly Russia), not northern and southern kingdoms.


But then notice that in verse 42, Egypt is still identified as the king of the south who is conquered, for we read, ‘He will stretch out his hand over the land, and the land of Egypt won't be saved.'


So, while we do believe that the prophecy of Daniel 11, 12 will have a greater fulfillment in our day, it seems clear that the entire period (from the attack of the disgusting destroyer to the destruction of Jerusalem that is described at Daniel 12:11) is all part of the description of events that would lead up to Jerusalem's destruction in the First Century C.E.


What of the Resurrections and ‘Life in the Age?'

 

‘But,' you may say, ‘what of the prophecies in Daniel 12:1-3 that speak of people being resurrected and receiving life in the age at that time? Aren't those words referring to a future time that comes after the Battle of Armageddon?'


Perhaps that will be true in a greater, future fulfillment, but the words of Daniel's prophecy were actually fulfilled back in the First Century, for people were resurrected back then by at least Jesus, Peter, and Paul. And the promise that Jesus gave to the people of that time was (as he said at John 3:16): ‘This is how God loved the world: He gave His only-created Son so that everyone who believes in him won't be destroyed, but will get life in the age.'

 
Also, remember that Jesus said to Martha, the sister of Lazarus (at John 11:25): ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live. And all the living who believe in me won't be dead through the age. Do you believe this?'

 
So, people started receiving life in the age from the time of Jesus' death, for that's when he opened the way to life by giving his perfect life as a ransom for mankind.


Are We Now in the Great Time of Difficulty?

 

Yet, despite all the above, some still say that the great time of difficulty started after mankind's sin in the garden. We have trouble with such a conclusion, for the prophecy of Daniel clearly showed that the difficult time was to start with an attack on Jerusalem. And Jesus spoke of that time as still future, in his words of Matthew 24:21, 22.

 
Also, some have been teaching that; although the great time of difficulty began in 66-C.E., it has kept running down until our day. Yet the prophecy in Daniel 12 indicates that it was to last just three-and-a-half years. So, since that was truly a terrible time for the Jews, it would be wrong to say that we've been enduring anything like it since 70-C.E. Rather, the prophecies indicate that the first fulfillment of this time of difficulty happened between 66 and 70-C.E., or over a period of three-and-a-half years.

 
However, we still believe that there is to be another three-and-a-half year period of great difficulty, when that which Jerusalem pictured (unfaithful people who claim to be in a Sacred Agreement with God... or Christendom) is in her last throws of destruction by a modern ‘king of the north.'


Parallels to Our Day

 

So, what parallels will there be when the ‘great time of difficulty' comes in the future? Well, notice that; what happened to Jerusalem was the (God-inspired) action of a great worldly army against an unfaithful religious people, or, ‘those who he sees have left the Holy Sacred Agreement.'


Revelation the Eighteenth Chapter speaks of a similar event, when describing a symbolic woman called ‘the Great Babylon.' There she is spoken of as being destroyed by worldly armies (the Beasts). So, the indication is that the symbolic destruction of Jerusalem and the prophecy in Revelation about the destruction of the Great Babylon both picture and foretell a war that is to come upon unfaithful religions by worldly governments, and this (3-1/2 year) period will be exceedingly difficult for those who remain in those churches - a ‘great time of difficulty.'


Is this ‘great time of difficulty' the same thing as ‘the Battle of Armageddon?' No, for notice that in Matthew 24 and Mark 13, it takes place somewhere near the end of what Jesus called his ‘nearness,' or when he was ‘about to come,' but before his ‘coming.' (For more information, see the linked document, ‘Coming, Presence, or Nearness?').


It is right after this, that we read (at Matthew 24:29, 30): ‘In the days that follow that difficult time, the sun will grow dark and the moon will not light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all tribes of the earth will beat themselves in grief when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with great power and glory.'


Then, since the Battle of Armageddon (mentioned at Revelation 16:13-16 and 19:11-21) is a battle between Jesus and the Dragon (and his earthly armies), Armageddon likely begins shortly after Jesus arrives and ‘the sign of the Son of Man' appears in the sky.
Thereafter, notice that Revelation the Seventh Chapter speaks of a huge crowd of people who apparently survive this ‘great time of difficulty' (and Armageddon). For it says (in verses 9, 10): ‘After all this I saw a crowd so large that nobody could count them. They came from all countries, nationalities, ethnic groups, and languages; and they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were all wearing white robes, they carried palm branches in their hands, and they were shouting, We owe our salvation to our God who is sitting on the throne, and to the Lamb.'


Then verse 14 goes on to tell us, ‘These are the ones that have come out of the great time of difficulty.'


So, according to these verses (and history), the faithful escape the ‘great time of difficulty' by fleeing the unfaithful religious institutions that will soon be destroyed by worldly armies. Then the Battle of Armageddon against this world's governments and their armies begins, for it appears as though, that is the time when those kings and their armies turn their attention to His faithful servants.


Is the ‘Great Time of Difficulty' to be Global?

 

That's a good question, for it may not be a global thing... even upon ‘apostate' Christians. We say this because the great time of difficulty of 68-70 C.E. didn't come upon all Israel, but just on their center of worship, Jerusalem. That's why Jesus warned his faithful disciples living in Jerusalem (at Matthew 24;15, 16): ‘So, when you see the disgusting destroyer (that was spoken of through Daniel the Prophet) standing in the Holy Place (let the reader understand), those in Judea should flee to the mountains.'

 
In other words; they should get out of Jerusalem and flee to the nearby mountains, where they wouldn't be subjected to the horrors of the last days of Jerusalem. So, perhaps the ‘tribulation' will only come upon apostate religious centers... time will tell!


EliJah Will Come First

 

Although we don't wish to be dogmatic, the role that John the Baptist played in turning the hearts of the people of Judea back to God and preparing the way for the coming of Jesus, seems very prophetic. For we read at Matthew 3:1-3, ‘It was in those days that John the Baptist came preaching in the desert of Judea, saying, Repent, because the Kingdom of the Heavens has come near. He's the one that the Prophet Isaiah spoke about in the words, A voice is calling out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord! Make the roads straight for h

im.'
And after his transfiguration, notice this conversation between Jesus and his Apostles (as found at Matthew 17:10, 11), ‘Then these disciples asked him, Why do the Scribes say that EliJah must come first? In reply, he said, EliJah does indeed come, and he restores everything. However, I tell you that EliJah has already come and they didn't recognize him, so they did whatever they wanted to him.'


As you can see, Jesus started out by describing the coming of EliJah as though it was future, then he spoke of his coming (symbolically by John) in the past tense. So, it seems as though the coming of John and EliJah (the two witnesses of Revelation 10?) to prepare the way for the Lord would also see a fulfillment in our day, but how and when?


Well, it may be that the ministry of John started just six months before the coming of Jesus, but the period of the prophesying of EliJah may have lasted much longer. So, we are unsure of just how long this period will last. But we do suspect that his won't be a message of destruction, or of the blessings of God's Kingdom, but the message of John (at Luke 3:3): ‘So, he traveled throughout all the country around the Jordan preaching a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins.'


So, it was a message for God's covenant people to turn back from their sinful ways... and isn't that the message which is really needed today?


Should We Look Forward to the Great Time of Difficulty?

 

Almost all honest-hearted Christians do look forward to the day when all unrighteousness, suffering, and death will end. But we should remember the warning that was given by the Prophet Amos at Amos 5:18, ‘Woe to those wanting the Day of God, for they'll say: What's this to us, the Day of the Lord? For, it brought darkness not light.'

 
So, the great time of difficulty will be very hard for all to endure, and that's why Jesus said (at Matthew 24:22), ‘And if those days weren't cut short, no one would be saved.'

 

So, What Must We Do?

 

It would be presumptuous for anyone to try to tell us exactly what we must do in order to survive the great time of difficulty, because no one can be sure of what the exact circumstances will be then. Should we all abandon our religions? We don't know. Is there a faithful religion that we can run to that will provide safe haven? We can't tell you for sure, for none really qualify yet as His true servants. All we can tell you for sure is what was true of those in the past who survived the destructions of Jerusalem.
From the prophecies, we can see that:


· The survivors were all in a covenant relationship with the Eternal
· They treated others fairly and honestly
· They tried hard to obey God's Laws
· They were not involved in the worship of images or idols
· They loved their families
· They were faithful to their mates
· They loved God and His Son.


We know that in the case of the Christians in Jerusalem, they were told to leave the city (the center of unfaithful religion) and to run to the mountains. Could fleeing to the mountains (since mountains are used to picture governments in the Bible) also mean that we should look to worldly governments for help? Well, Jeremiah urged Jews to leave the city and to flee to the Babylonians to survive. But obviously, trusting in governments and giving them our support is what will lead to our destruction at Armageddon, for the Bible tells us that those who have the mark of the beast will be thrown into the lake of fire.

 

So, what must we do? We'll just have to wait, keep praying, keep maintaining our faith, and keep searching, knocking, and asking... and we must remember that God will never destroy the righteous and meek.

 

 

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