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13.1. Trouble Ahead

A major theme throughout Scripture is the impending arrival of God’s Kingdom on earth. Although the Kingdom will be a time of great blessing, peace, and prosperity upon the earth, Scripture reveals that the arrival of God’s Kingdom on earth is characterized by conflict and judgment.

Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion.” I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Ps. Ps. 2:1-9)

This psalm records the general opposition of man to the rule of God, especially by the leaders of men. The divine response to this rejection includes wrath and a promise that Jesus will ‘break them’ and ‘dash them.’ These are not terms describing gradual Christian conversion and enlightenment which will one day encircle the globe as men continually turn to God. Rather, this psalm describes the radical intervention by God into human history to overthrow the rejection of His King. God’s climactic intervention in the affairs of a rejecting world to establish His kingdom on earth is the theme of numerous other passages. For example:

You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. (Dan. Dan. 2:34-35)

And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold-the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure. (Dan. Dan. 2:44-45)

In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, interpreted by God through Daniel, an image made of various metals representing a series of kingdoms is described. Significantly, the dream includes the vision of a stone “cut without hands” which strikes the image resulting in the various metals being “crushed.” The imagery here is violent, sudden and dramatic—the exact opposite of the gradual worldwide conversion which postmillennialists expect to be the fruit of the gospel spreading across the earth.

I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom. Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces. The ten horns are ten kings Who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings. He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time. ’But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever. Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’ (Dan. Dan. 7:21-27)

Daniel’s dream and visions record yet another abrupt transition. Prior to the “judgment in favor of the saints,” the “horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them” [emphasis added]. This passage describes events immediately prior to the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. This coming of God’s kingdom is something which Jesus instructed His disciples and by extension, all believers throughout the ages to pray for (Mtt. Mat. 6:10). Did the kingdom come in this sense at the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus? No. We know this from the conditions which the Lord set forth in the prayer: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.” [emphasis added] Until God’s will is being done “on earth as in heaven,” the kingdom of God has not come in the sense Jesus would have us pray for, nor in the way the previous passages describe. Idealists interpret these passages as symbolizing spiritual conflict rather than physical conflict whereas preterists tend to see these passages as hyperbolic descriptions of first-century events. But literal interpretation and the many passages indicating that the earth will reject the knowledge of God (Mtt. Mat. 24:10-12; 2Th. 2Th. 2:3; 1Ti. 1Ti. 4:1-3; 2Ti. 2Ti. 3:1-9; 2Pe. 2Pe. 2:3-7) indicate that Christianity will not gradually subsume the social and political institutions of earth resulting in a “Golden Age.” Rather, the world system is predicted to eventually reject and intensely persecute the people of God. It is only by the direct intervention of God and by His own hand that peace and justice will prevail. See Campaign of Armageddon. As in previous dispensational tests of mankind,1 this age will also end in trouble. The Scriptures frequently describe the events attending this period using the term tribulation.

The term tribulation is used in several different ways in Scripture. It is used in a non-technical, non-eschatological sense in reference to any time of suffering or testing into which one goes. It is so used in Matthew Mat. 13:21; Mark Mark 4:17; John John 16:33; Romans Rom. 5:3; Rom. 12:12; 2 Corinthians 2Cor. 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2Th. 1:4; Revelation Rev. 1:8-9+. It is used in its technical or eschatological sense in reference to the whole period of the seven years of tribulation, as in Revelation Rev. 2:22+ or Matthew Mat. 24:29. It is also used in reference to the last half of this seven year period, as in Matthew Mat. 24:21.2

Several well-known titles are applied by Scripture to this coming time of trouble: the Day of the Lord, the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, and the Great Tribulation.

The Tribulation precedes the Messianic Kingdom on Earth

The Tribulation precedes the Messianic Kingdom on Earth 3

The concept of trouble or tribulation is associated will all three [titles]: the Day of the Lord in Zep. Zep. 1:14-17, the Time of Jacob’s Trouble in Jer. Jer. 30:7, and the Great Tribulation in Dan. Dan. 12:1 [Jesus’ Great Tribulation statements in Mtt. Mat. 24:21, Mat. 24:29 were a reference to Daniel Dan. 12:1, indicating that Daniel is referring to the Great Tribulation]. All three of these Old Testament passages use the same word for trouble. The Hebrew scholars who produced the Septuagint used the Greek word for tribulation to translate this Hebrew word for trouble in Zephaniah Zep. 1:15 and Daniel Dan. 12:1, showing they understood that both the Day of the Lord and the Great Tribulation will be characterized by tribulation.4

This time of trouble is unavoidably connected with “the problem of man.” This problem is as old as Satan: pride. It is God’s express purpose to turn man’s pride to humility in “the Day of the Lord.”

Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust, from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the LORD of hosts Shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up-And it shall be brought low- upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan; upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up; upon every high tower, and upon every fortified wall; upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all the beautiful sloops. The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day. (Isa. Isa. 2:10-17) [emphasis added]


Notes

1 e.g., Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, mankind prior to the flood of Noah, Israel’s rejection of Messiah at the First Coming of Christ

2 J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), 170.

3 Copyright © 2003 Ariel Ministries (www.ariel.org), P.O. Box 3723, Tustin, CA 92781. This image appears by special permission and may not be duplicated for use in derivative works. [Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 2].

4 Renald E. Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1995), s.v. “Trouble Ahead.”