One of the most frequently expressed concerns among Christians is: When is the Tribulation going to begin? The real question that people seldom ask is: When is the Tribulation going to END?
Tribulation has been ongoing for thousands of years in the long-term sense. In addition to this, of course, there have been short-term tribulation times specifically directed against certain nations in specific geographical locations.
In the book of Judges we read about six distinct times of tribulation, or trouble, where the people of Israel were oppressed by neighboring nations. We have seen in our previous issues that God Himself put Israel into all of these captivities according to His Word in Deut. 28, where He spells out the laws of tribulation. (These laws are also found in Leviticus 26.)
None of these captivities in the book of Judges ended until Israel repented and cried out to God for deliverance. In fact, during the first of those captivities, Israel only had to cry out to God for deliverance. But as time progressed, God required repentance before He would send their deliverer (the Judge).
During Israel's first captivity to Mesopotamia (Judges 3:7-10), we simply read in verse 9,
9 And when the sons of Israel cried to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother.
Asking God for deliverance was all that was required to end this first captivity. The same is true with the second captivity to the Moabites (Judges 3:15) and with the third captivity to the Canaanites (Judges 4:3).
However, during the fourth captivity to the Midianites, God required more. We read in Judges 6:6-10 that when Israel cried out to God, He did not immediately send a deliverer. Instead, He sent a prophet to them to tell them why they had gone into captivity. It was because they had not obeyed the voice of God with whom they had made a covenant of obedience. After the prophet's message had been given to them, only then did God send Gideon as their deliverer.
The next two captivities were back to back. First Israel was captivated by the Ammonites for 18 years on the other side of the Jordan river (Judges 10:8). Note God's response when they cried out to Him this time. Judges 10:10-14,
10 Then the sons of Israel cried out to the LORD, saying, "We have sinned against Thee, for indeed, we have forsaken our God and served the Baals." 11 And the LORD said to the sons of Israel, "Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the sons of Ammon, and the Philistines? 12 Also when the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hands. 13 Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods; therefore I will deliver you no more.14 Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress."
God did not show much sympathy for Israel here, because they wanted to be delivered from oppression without actually turning from their false gods. They wanted the benefits of God's liberty without repentance and changing their life style. He told them that if they had such confidence in their other gods, then they should pray to those false gods for deliverance. The story continues:
15 And the sons of Israel said to the LORD, "We have sinned, do to us whatever seems good to Thee; only please deliver us this day." 16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them, and served the LORD; and He could bear the misery of Israel no longer.
Only then did God raise up Jephthah, who delivered the tribes east of the Jordan river from the captivity of the Ammonites. But the west bank Israelites apparently did not feel the need to repent, so God immediately put them into a captivity to the Philistines, who lived on the coastal plain of Canaan.
During that captivity, God raised up Samson to judge Israel. But he was not a deliverer. In fact, ultimately he was taken captive by the Philistines (Judges 16:21). The reason God left Israel in captivity to the Philistines for 40 years becomes apparent in reading the first few chapters of 1 Samuel. There we find that the priesthood itself had become corrupted under the high priesthood of Eli. (See 1 Samuel 2:12-25.)
God then raised up Samuel and trained him in the house of Eli for a future time. Toward the end of Eli's life, the people--led by the corrupted priesthood--attempted to free themselves from the Philistine captivity without first repenting. They even took the ark of the covenant with them into the battle, thinking that God would never allow His glory to be taken captive by those pagan Philistines.
When the ark was moved from the tabernacle at Shiloh, no doubt the priests spoke the words in Num. 10:35,
35 Then it came about when the ark set out that Moses said, "Rise up, O LORD! And let Thine enemies be scattered, And let those who hate Thee flee before Thee."
The priesthood had a form of godliness, but it was an empty shell. They thought that if they just spoke the right words and performed the right actions that God would be obligated to deliver them. They were wrong. Israel lost the battle against the Philistines.
And yet their prayer in verse 35 above did indeed come to pass. God's "enemies" were indeed scattered. Those who hated God really did flee before Him. Israel met "the enemy" of God, and it was Israel. In the sight of God, the corrupted priesthood hated God, as proven by their actions. So God answered their prayer and scattered the army of Israel, giving victory to the Philistines.
This is a very important lesson for us in our study of tribulation. The whole world has come into captivity to the entity called in the book of Revelation, "Mystery Babylon." America was fully conquered in 1913-1914. Why? Was it because certain wicked men were so smart and powerful? No, it was because of a corrupted priesthood patterned after Eli and his sons. The Church was lawless, so God put the whole nation and the world into captivity. Why? Because the Church had authority and responsibility before God to teach righteousness, yet they failed to do this. So God raised up the "Philistines" to put us into captivity until we repent of our lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). The Greek term is anomia.
Tribulation Upon Shiloh
When the Philistines defeated the army of Israel under the leadership of Eli's two sons, the sons were killed and the ark was taken captive (1 Samuel 4:11). When Eli heard the news, he fell and broke his neck (4:18). The same verse says that he had judged Israel 40 years.
The ark remained in the hands of the Philistines for just seven months (1 Samuel 6:1). Then they returned it to Israel in 1 Samuel 6:13 during the time of wheat harvest (Pentecost). The next chapter then tells how Samuel led Israel into battle against the Philistines, and God gave Israel the victory.
In other words, the 40-year Philistine captivity ended about a year after the death of Eli and his sons. This tells us that Eli's 40-year high priesthood coincided almost perfectly with the 40-year Philistine captivity. It is likely that Eli became the high priest about a year before the Philistine captivity began.
When the ark was taken, the Philistines also marched upon Shiloh itself and destroyed the town, killing the priests that lived there (Psalm 78:64). The priestly center was moved to the town of Nob. About four years later, Saul was crowned king of Israel, and during his reign David came on the scene as the future king.
When Saul perceived David as a threat to his power, David fled from Saul and went to Nob where Ahimelech the priest was officiating (1 Sam. 21:1). Ahimelech helped David, and when Saul heard of it, he told an Edomite named Doeg to kill Ahimelech. 1 Samuel 22:18-20 says,
18 Then the king said to Doeg, "You turn around and attack the priests." And Doeg the Edomite turned around and attacked the priests, and he killed that day eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod. 19 And he struck Nob the city of the priests with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and infants; also oxen, donkeys, and sheep, he struck with the edge of the sword. 20 But one son of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David.
We see here that Doeg destroyed the entire town of Nob, much like the Philistines had done to Shiloh. However, Abiathar escaped and fled after David. He later became the high priest until the days of Solomon when he was replaced by Zadok (1 Kings 2:35). Abiathar was the last of the line of Eli, so he had to be replaced by a different line before the prophecy to Eli would be completely fulfilled.
After the death of King Saul, David became king of Israel and reigned 40 years. He brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, where it remained in the "tabernacle of David" until his son, Solomon, built the temple. It was then placed in the new temple.
God Forsakes Jerusalem as Shiloh
In Psalm 78 we read of the history of the movement of the ark of the covenant from Shiloh to Jerusalem (with a temporary stop at the town of Nob). Psalm 78 says,
59 When God heard, He was filled with wrath, and greatly abhorred Israel; 60 So that He abandoned the dwelling place at Shiloh, the tent which He had pitched among men. . . .
67 He also rejected the tent of Joseph, and did not choose the tribe of Ephraim, 68 but chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which He loved. 69 And He built His sanctuary like the heights, like the earth which He has founded forever.
God says here through the Psalmist that God had rejected Shiloh, which was a town of Ephraim, and for this reason, He caused the ark of God to be removed from that place. God then chose Jerusalem to house His glory in place of Shiloh.
But Jerusalem later fell into idolatry, even as early as the days of Solomon, the builder of the temple. His sin and rebellion foreshadowed that of the nation itself in the next two centuries. Finally, in the days of Jeremiah we find that God would abandon the temple in Jerusalem in the same manner as He abandoned Shiloh. Jeremiah 7 says,
9 Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal, and walk after other gods that you have not known, 10 then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered [i.e., "saved"]!' -- that you may do all these abominations? 11 Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen it," declares the LORD.
12 "But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I made My name dwell at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel. 13 And now, because you have done all these things," declares the LORD, "and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you but you did not answer, 14 therefore, I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. 15 And I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brothers, all the offspring of Ephraim.
It is critical that Christians understand the prophecy here. God said that He was going to do to Jerusalem what He did to Shiloh. God left Shiloh and never returned, but instead took up His earthly residence in Jerusalem. Later, when Jerusalem's priesthood corrupted the temple in the same manner that was done earlier at Shiloh, God forsook that house as well--never to return again. This was reaffirmed in Jeremiah 26:4-6,
4 And you will say to them, Thus says the LORD, If you will not listen to Me, to walk in My law, which I have set before you, 5 to listen to the words of My servants the prophets, whom I have been sending to you again and again, but you have not listened; 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh, and this city I will make a curse to all the nations of the earth.
The people did not repent. In fact, the priests condemned the prophet to death (Jer. 26:11) and would have killed him as a false prophet. But the people and the princes saved the prophet's life (26:16). The Word of the Lord through Jeremiah was not popular theology. Neither in his day, nor in ours.
Ezekiel saw the glory of God depart in Ezekiel 10:4, 18 and in 11:23. It went to the mount of olives on the east side of the city, and there it remained hidden until Jesus Christ ascended into heaven from that spot (Acts 1:9-12).
When the glory returned ten days later on the day of Pentecost, it did not return to the temple in Jerusalem, but upon the disciples in the upper room. From this point on, God's temple was a body of believers, not buildings or temples made of wood and stone. 1 Cor. 3:16 says,
16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
The point of this is to show that Jerusalem was to share the same fate as Shiloh. First, God said His glory would leave Jerusalem as it left Shiloh. Secondly, it would be destroyed, along with its priesthood, even as Shiloh and its corrupt priesthood was destroyed.
Yet the destruction of Jerusalem and its priesthood has had more than one level of fulfillment and meaning. There was the short-term fulfillment from 604-586 B.C., when the Babylonians conquered and ultimately destroyed the city. A secondary fulfillment of Jerusalem's tribulation occurred in 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed the city. And finally, there is a modern fulfillment that will complete the prophecy and bring tribulation to Jerusalem.
In order to understand the history of tribulation relative to Jerusalem, we must list the main chronological events in past history.
607 B.C. Babylon becomes an empire.
604 B.C. Babylon conquered Jerusalem.
586 B.C. Babylon destroys Jerusalem and the temple.
537 B.C. Babylon conquered by Medo-Persia.
534 B.C. Edict of Cyrus ends captivity. Foundation of the second temple laid, but the work ceases.
520 B.C. Haggai begins prophecy, and the work on the second temple resumes.
515 B.C. Second temple completed and dedicated, but no glory comes to fill that temple.
Take note that this captivity was to last 70 years (Jer. 25:11). It was 70 years from the year Babylon became an empire (607 B.C.) to the year it was conquered by Medo-Persia (537 B.C.).
It was 70 years from the time Jerusalem was conquered (604 B.C.) to the year the people were free to return and resettle their land (534 B.C.).
It was 70 and a half years from the destruction of the temple in August of 586 B.C. to March of 515 B.C., when the second temple was completed.
The time of tribulation in Babylon lasted precisely 70 years, although there were many beginning points and many end points. This was the fulfillment of the law of tribulation which specified in Lev. 26:18, 21, 24, and 28 that they would be punished "seven times" for national lawlessness.
In this case, it was 7 x 10 years, or 70 years.
In 70 A.D. the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the second temple on the same day of the year that the Babylonians had destroyed the first temple. This war lasted 7 years from 66-73 A.D. The law of tribulation was fulfilled at that time in just 7 years. This was the short-term application of the "seven times" law in Leviticus 26.
But there is a third application of this law in the long-term judgment of Jerusalem. It is 7 x 360 years, which is 2,520 years. This is the time frame that appears in the book of Daniel and Revelation. It is generally disregarded, however, because those writers speak of half this period of time--1,260 "days," or "42 months," or "three and a half years."
Yet when we look at actual history, we find that history is being repeated on a 2,520-year cycle.
Babylon became an empire in 607 B.C. Precisely 2,520 years later, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act in 1914, creating modern Mystery Babylon.
607 B.C. + 2,520 years = 1914 A.D.
Babylon conquered Jerusalem in 604 B.C. Precisely 2,520 years later, British General Allenby freed Jerusalem from Turkish rule in 1917.
604 B.C. + 2,520 years = 1917 A.D.
After Jerusalem's 70-year captivity, the Edict of Cyrus freed the people in 534 B.C. Precisely 2,520 years later brings us to 1986-7, which was the 120th Jubilee from Adam. Although the Church did not proclaim the Jubilee that year, God allowed the Overcomers to declare the Jubilee ten years later on Sept. 23, 1996. This was according to the principle of the Hezekiah Factor, which we explained fully in my book, Secrets of Time.
534 B.C. + 2,520 years = 1986-7 A.D.
Haggai's prophecy resumed the work on the second temple in 520 B.C. Precisely 2,520 years later brings us to the year 2001, when we enter what appears to be a five-year final work to complete the true temple--the body of overcomers that are called to bring the earth into subjection to the Kingdom of God.
520 B.C. + 2,520 years = 2001 A.D.
If we continue the 2,520-year cycle from these dates, we find the time of "rebuilding the temple" is from 2001-2006 A.D.
515 B.C. + 2,520 years = 2006 A.D.
Haggai said that the glory of this temple would be greater than in Solomon's temple (Hag. 2:9). He was not speaking of the temple in his day, but the temple in our day. Further, he was not speaking of a building made of wood or stone, but of the temple that is made of living stones (1 Peter 2:5), built upon the chief corner stone (Jesus Christ) and the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:19-22).
I believe that we will see some manner of fulfillment from 2001-2006 A.D. I believe that God is going to call forth His living stones, and unite them into one building for the purpose of placing His glory upon them as a corporate body.
At the same time I would expect to see the final casting out of the old Jerusalem ("Hagar") and her children (as Paul said in Galatians 4:25-30). The old Jerusalem is the rival of the heavenly Jerusalem. Hagar is Sarah's rival to bring forth the promised son. Ishmael is Isaac's rival to receive the promise and calling of God. A point in time is coming when God's calling will manifest upon those of Sarah who are of the Jerusalem that is from above. It seems to me that the years 2001-2006 should bring this dispute to a clear resolution.
There is indeed a tribulation history in regard to the old city of Jerusalem. It has had a short-term fulfillment of just 7 years from 66-73 A.D. It has had a mid-term fulfillment of 70 years from 604-534 B.C. It has also had a long-term fulfillment of 2,520 years (7 x 360) with various starting dates which end from 1917-2006 A.D.
With this background, we can now understand better what must shortly come to pass. But this we must reserve for our next bulletin.