A STUDY OF THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TRIBULATION AND THE DAY OF GOD’S WRATH
I. EACH OCCURS AT A DIFFERENT TIME
II. THE REASON FOR EACH
III. THE LENGTH OF EACH
IV. SATAN DRIVEN AND GOD DRIVEN
I. EACH OCCURS AT A DIFFERENT TIME
In order to understand the differences between the tribulation and the day of God’s wrath we must understand that the day of His wrath is called in many Scripture passages, “the day of the Lord”. How do we know that? Rev. 6:16-17 tells us that the kings of the earth said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of His wrath is come.…”. How will they know that the day of His wrath had come? We read in Rev. 6:12-13, “and I beheld when He had opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a might wind”. In other words, the kings of the earth will know that the day of God’s wrath had come because they will see the cosmic signs spoken of in this passage. I am not suggesting that they will necessarily know the scriptures, but they obviously will know that these signs were from God, which is proved by their statement “the great day of His wrath is come”.
Let us consider the cosmic disturbances of the sun becoming black and the moon as blood and the stars falling to the earth. We read of these same cosmic events in Joel 2:31, “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come“. So these cosmic signs will appear before the day of the Lord and those of Rev. 6:18-17 will understand that they were the signs from God of the day of His wrath. Obviously, these signs will occur only once. That means that the day of God’s wrath is the same as the day of the Lord.
Now let us add one more passage to this study and we will see that the cosmic events will occur after the tribulation. We read in Matt. 24:29, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken“.
So we have the following sequence of events.
1) The tribulation, followed by
2) The cosmic events that will occur “before”
3) The day of the Lord which is. the day of God’s wrath*
II. THE REASON FOR EACH
The purpose of the tribulation is found in Rev. 3:10 which reads, “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation (the Companion Bible suggests “trial“), which shall come upon all the world to try (the Companion Bible suggests “test“) them that dwell upon the earth”. In order to understand this verse we must consider two Greek words, i.e. “oikoumenee” translated “world” in this verse and “ge” translated “earth”.
Dr. E. W. Bullinger defines “oikoumenee” as “The world as inhabited. It is from the verb “oikeo:= to dwell. It is used of the habitable world as distinct from “kosmos“. Hence it is used in a more limited sense of the Roman Empire which was then predominant”. As in every language, a word is defined by its usage. I suggest therefore, that we look at how the Holy Spirit used this word.
“Oikoumenee” is used in Luke 2:1, “…. all the world should be taxed”. It is also used in Acts 11:28, “…..through the Holy Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire world“. (The NIV has “Roman World“). It is also used in Acts 24:5, “stirring up trouble among the Jews over the world“.
I believe that the Holy Spirit used “oikoumenee” to refer to a limited portion of the world because of the verses quoted above, which obviously are limited, and also because He makes a distinction in such passages as Acts 17:24-31 between “kosmos” (“world”) and “oikoumenee” . Actually the passage in Acts 17:24-31 is an excellent example of how the Holy Spirit uses precisely the word He wants that best conveys His meaning. Verse 24 reads, “…the God who made the world (kosmos)”, and verse 26 reads, “From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the world (kosmos)”. But in verse 31 we read, “He will judge the world (oikoumenee) with justice by the Man He has appointed” It is clear that the Holy Spirit makes a distinction between “oikoumenee” and “kosmos”. The “kosmos” was created by God, and man will inhabit the “kosmos“, but God will judge the “oikoumenee“, the inhabited world. In my opinion this passage does answer the question as to whether there is a difference between “kosmos” and “oikoumenee”.
We will now begin our study of the Greek word “ge“. “Ge” is the most complex word that is translated “earth” or “world” because it could mean one of three things. It can refer to land as opposed to water, it can refer to earth as opposed to heaven or it could refer to a region or nation as opposed to the whole earth. Fortunately, in every case the meaning is made quite clear by the context and/or a parallel passage.
Because it makes no sense to say that the tribulation will come upon a limited portion of the earth to test the entire earth, I believe we must conclude that it will come upon a limited portion, i.e. the portion that is the subject of the Bible, which is the old Roman Empire.
With that in mind let me once again quote Rev. 3:10, “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of trial, which shall come upon a portion of the world (Gr. oikoumonee) to test them that dwell in the Land” In short, the purpose of the tribulation is to test Israel. (Please see the paper on the tribulation for a more complete study of the the Greek words “oikoumenee” and “ge”).
In short, the reason for the tribulation is to test Israel.*
THE DAY OF THE LORD
Now let us consider the day of the Lord. In the section above we read in Rev. 6:16-17, “…..Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him That sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”.
Upon whom will this wrath be meted out? That question is answered in Rev. 6:9-11, “And when He had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: and they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?’ And white robes were given unto every one of them”. Then in Rev. 7:13-14 we are told who they are that are given the white robes. “And one of the elders answered saying unto me, ‘What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?’ and I said unto him, ‘Sir, thou knowest;. And he said to me, ‘These are they which came out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb'”.
Immediately after the fifth seal is opened and the cry for vengeance is heard, the sixth seal, which begins the day of God’s wrath is opened. In other words, God’s vengeance will be upon those who were responsible for the deaths of the ones who were martyred for the “the word of God” during the tribulation. And that vengeance will be meted, as we saw in the section above, after the tribulation, during the day of the Lord.
In short, the reason for the tribulation is to test Israel, but the reason for the day of the Lord is to punish those who persecuted Israel during the tribulation.*
III. THE LENGTH OF EACH
There are many references in the book of Revelation to three and one half years or that length of time in months and in days. But let us begin our study of how long the tribulation will be with Dan. 9:27, “And he (the antichrist) shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate”. So in the middle of the 70th week of the 70 weeks prophecy, the antichrist will place an abomination on the wing of the temple in Jerusalem.
As we go to Matt. 24:15-16 we will see that our Lord spoke of this abomination. “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place….Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains”. I believe that it is a very logical conclusion that the placing of the abomination is a sign that the tribulation is about to begin, as that is when the Lord warns believers to flee. (I believe that the tribulation will begin 30 days after the abomination is placed on the wing of the temple. For the Scriptural evidence of that belief please see the paper on this web-site The Numbered Days of Daniel Twelve).
So we know that the placing of the abomination of desolation on the wing of the temple will be in the middle of the 70th week. That tells us that the tribulation will last three and one half years, i.e. the second half of the 70th week.
For the sake of thoroughness let us look at some verses in Revelation which also speak of the length of time of the tribulation. We read in Rev. 11:2, “But the court which is without the Temple leave out, ….for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under for forty and two months“. Forty-two months are, of course, three and one half years.
And verse 3 of this chapter reads, “And I will give power unto My two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days.…”. 1,260 days, are 3 and 1/2 years. We read in 12:6, “and the woman (Israel) fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand, two hundred and threescore days”. And again in 12:14 we read, “and to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness into her place where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time…..”, i.e. three and one half years.*
THE DAY OF THE LORD
We have seen that the day of the Lord will be the time that God avenges the death of the tribulation martyrs. And that the day of His vengeance is the day of the Lord. How long is the day of the Lord?
We read in chapters 17 and 18 of the destruction of Babylon. Babylon is represented by a woman sitting on a beast. This woman is described in verse 6 as being “the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus”. There are several passages that tell us that Babylon represents all that is evil. For example, we read in 18:3 that “all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies”. And in verse 5 we read, “For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities”.
I believe that when we read above that the martyrs of the tribulation prayed for vengeance on those who had killed them, that prayer will be answered, at least in part, by the destruction of Babylon. Because that destruction will be in the day of the Lord, we may know how long the day of the Lord will last by how long it will take for the destruction of Babylon.
We read in Rev. 18:8, “Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord God Who judgeth her”. There are three other verses that tell us of the destruction of Babylon. Rev. 18:10, “….Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come”. Rev. 18:16-17, “Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls. For in one hour so great riches is come to nought”. And also in Rev. 18:19 we read, ….Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.”
We are told that Babylon will be destroyed in “a day” and “in one hour”. I think it is clear that the day of the Lord will not be longer than one day.*
IV. SATAN DRIVEN AND GOD DRIVEN
Rev. 12 speaks of the woman, i.e. Israel (see verses 1-2 and 5) and a “great red dragon” (vs. 3). Verse 9 tells us who this great dragon is, “and the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world…..”. Then in verses 13-14 we read, “And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent”.
The phrase “a time, and times, and half a time” refers, of course, to the three and one half years of the tribulation. This passage tells us that it is Satan who will persecute Israel in the tribulation.
Dan. 7:25, “And he shall speak great words against the MOST HIGH, and shall wear out the saints of the MOST HIGH, and think to change times and laws; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time”. Again, the phrase, “a time and times and the dividing of time” refers to the three and one half years of the tribulation. And of course, the one into whose hand the martyrs will be given is the antichrist who receives his power from Satan.
Dan. 8:23-25, “….a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy People. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand”. There are several elements of this passage that we should note.
1) The “Prince of princes” is of course, Jesus Christ (please see the paper on Messiah the Prince for the Scriptural evidence of that statement).
2) The one who will “destroy the holy People” and “magnify himself in his heart” is of course, the antichrist.
3) The phrase “but not by his own power” refers to Satan’s power, and his control of the antichrist.
Dan. 9:26 reads, “…..and the people of the prince that shall come (the antichrist) shall destroy the city and the sanctuary...”.
I have tried to show that the tribulation is a time when Satan, working through the antichrist, will persecute Israel during the three and one hafl years of the tribulation. But what are we to make of such passages as Rev. 8:7 for example which reads, “the first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up”? . These things came from heaven and were cast down to earth. Surely Satan was not responsible for those. Let us consider some other things that will occur during the tribulation.
Let us consider the army of locusts in Rev. 9. To begin with let us not confuse this army of locusts with that of Joel 2. In Joel 2 we are told that God will lead that army of locusts. Joel 2:11 reads, “And the Lord shall utter His voice before His army: for His camp is very great: for He is strong that executeth His word: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?” This army will march in the day of the Lord and it will be God’s army. In Rev. 9:11 we read that this army of locusts “had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apolyon“, which the Companion Bible note tells us means “destruction” and “destroyer” respectively. Like so many other things in the tribulation, the antichrist, through Satan’s power, will attempt to copy God’s army of locusts so as to deceive people into believing that he is the one to be worshiped and feared.
So the army of locusts of Rev. 9 is the army of Satan and will march in the time of the tribulation. With that in mind let us consider some of the limits put on this army. For example, we read in 9:3 that they were “given power as the scorpions of the earth have power”. But in verse 4 we read that “it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only those men which have not the seal of God on their foreheads”.
Who were those upon which the seal of God was placed? That question is answered in Rev. 7. They were the 12,000 of each of the tribes of Israel that God will protect during the tribulation. We read in 7:3 of the angel “saying, ‘Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads’. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel”.
My point is that many of the things that will occur during the tribulation were limited in such a way as to not hurt those who had been sealed. In my opinion, that tells us that those protections will come from God to counterbalance the miraculous things that the antichrist, through Satan, will accomplish. That is to say, many may be deceived by the miraculous works done by Satan through the antichrist and the false prophet, but God will not allow Satan a totally free hand. He protects His own and shows many miracles Himself to those who will accept them.
Let us consider Rev. 9:1, “A fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven to earth unto the earth: and to him was given the key to the bottomless pit”. As mentioned above, Satan will be the leader of these locusts. What is important to note is that the fifth angel who opened the bottomless pit was from God. This shows that even though the tribulation will be driven by Satan, God is in command and will allow him to do certain things in order to test Israel.
Revelation 20:1-2 also speaks of a key to the bottomless pit, “and I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent and Satan and bound him a thousand years”. This too, in my opinion, is important because it tells us that the angel, who, of course, was sent by God, has the ultimate power, even (or especially) over the bottomless pit from which Satan led his destructive locusts in the tribulation.
Another example of this counterbalance of power is seen in Rev. 11 where we read of the two witnesses. We read in Rev. 11:3, “and I will give power unto My two witnesses, and they shall prophecy a thousand and two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth”. We are told quite specifically that these two witnesses are given power from God Himself. What will these two witnesses be sent to do? We read in Rev. 11: 13 of great earthquake at the time they will be raised to heaven after laying in the streets of Jerusalem for three and one half days as their enemies beheld them. Then we read that there will be seven thousand killed in this earthquake, but “the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven”. In other words, as the vials are opened and the trumpets are sounded, the two witnesses will be sent to bring some to belief in God and not worship the antichrist.
Another example of this is found in Rev. 14:6, “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people: Saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters”.
My point is that God will be in command during the tribulation but He will allow Satan to try to get people (especially Israel) to worship him. But God will not sit by and do nothing. God will perform His own miracles in order to both protect those He had sealed, and bring those who will acknowledge the truth to Himself. In other words, the tribulation is driven by Satan, but God will still work for those who will acknowledge Him.*
THE DAY OF THE LORD
I have tried to show in the section above that the tribulation will be driven by Satan through the antichrist. As mentioned above, God’s vengeance will come on those who murdered His martyrs of the tribulation and also on those who committed the other great sins along with Babylon the great.
In other words, while the tribulation will be Satan driven, the day of the God’s wrath, i.e. the day of the Lord, will be driven by God Himself.*
*The bold type in the quotations were added.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail at:firstname.lastname@example.org