The Olivet Discourse – The Great Tribulation?

19May11

As this transition from warning to events takes place let us consider the concept of the greatest tribulation ever. Before dealing with the passage in question let’s make sure there is understanding as to what is expected by Dispensationalist and what this and other passages actually say.

We are told there is a soon coming “Seven Year Tribulation” and that we can find this tribulation described in the Matthew passage. First let’s consider these things.

  • There is no mention of seven years ANYWHERE in the Bible as a time of tribulation
  • The seven years are imported from the “last week” of Daniel’s 70 Week prophecy – see previous posts for a better understanding. For now, just note that there is no warrant to take the last week and move it out of it’s 490 year limitation. It did find fulfillment in the first coming of Christ
  • The book of Revelation never mentions 7years. There are five separate mentions of 3 1/2 years. Which, if I was to be a “literalist” would have to argue the tribulation should last some 15 plus years

So, note going into the discussion of the tribulation that no where in this passage or in the rest of Scripture is their a mention of 7 years. The most one could argue given the passages in question would be 3 1/2 years.

Matt 24: [21] For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.

This is quite a point in the class when I am challenged to prove that this is the greatest tribulation ever. There are two responses that we will deal with hear that hopefully will answer the questions. They are the use of “hyperbole” and the concept of “Covenantal Unfaithfulness” which has been discussed previously but will come into play for significantly here.

BIBLICAL HYPERBOLE

The use of hyperbole is not limited to just a handful of examples. The use of the rule of language is quite common both in contemporary language as well as ancient times. The Bible employs it’s use on a regular basis. Hyperbole is sometimes described as an exaggeration to prove a point. But there is much more to it than that. It does the above but also it must be a common phrase that would remind the reader of a previous or similar act or action.

For example if i said that “I just ate the greatest pizza in the entire world,” I would be employing hyperbole. But the hyperbole only makes sense within the context of the speaker and the audiences familiar with not only pizza, but great pizza. The reader must have had a slice of great pizza at some point in the life in order to understand just how good the pizza is that I am describing.

So, how does the Bible employ this powerful linguistic tool?

Let us first look at how the Bible employs this tool outside of the passage in question. One great example is how the Bible described different kings in different eras.

Solomon
1 Kings 3:12 so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.

So we are told that Solomon was king like no other that preceded him or would ever follow him. But note what is said of Hezekiah who would follow Solomon

Hezekiah
After him was none like him among all the kings of Judah , nor any that were before him.” (2 Kings 18:5)

And what of Josiah who follow many years later?

Josiah
2 Kings 23:25″like unto him was there no king before him, . . . neither after him arose there any like him.”

If that wasn’t enough, what do we make of Jesus’ words regarding himself?

Jesus
Matthew 12:42 … she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

Wait! Weren’t we told that no one greater than Solomon would ever come after him? Or Hezekiah? Or Josiah? This form of poetic language is used to prove the point of the greatness of the one to whom the author is referring. This is an all too common form of language and should be understood within the context it is being used.

Now what about the passage in question? According to Dispensationalist some 1/3 to 1/2 of the population of the world will be killed during this tribulational time.

Matt 24: [21] For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.

What did the Old testament say about the Babylonian exile?

Ezekiel 5:9 And because of all your abominations I will do with you what I have never yet done, and the like of which I will never do again.

This is obviously quite similar to the words Jesus uses to describe something about to happen to the same people…the Jews. Also regarding the Babylonian exile…

Daniel 9:12 …For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem.

Really? Was what happened to Jerusalem the worst thing that has ever happened to any city under Heaven? What about Jericho? What about Sodom? For that matter, what about the entire world during the Noahic flood? Or what about what happened to the Egyptians at the hand of God?

Exodus 11:6 There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again.

If the Dispensationalist is correct than what do we do with the above? Won’t the Great Tribulation of Dispensationalism be far worse that the loss of the first born from each family? 1/3 to 1/2 of Egypt’s current population would be 25 to 35 million people!

See how this obviously hyperbole and is used within it’s context to prove it’s point?

It was at this point I decided to examine what leading Dispensational commentators said about the above verses and they would explain the usage of this form of language and how it relates to Jesus’ words in Matthew 24. I grabbed copies of the NIV Study Bible, Ryrie Study Bible and Scofield Reference Bible. I have painstakingly quoted the commentaries from those references regarding the three verses above.

Ezekiel 5:9 And because of all your abominations I will do with you what I have never yet done, and the like of which I will never do again.

  • NIV Study Bible – No Comment
  • Ryrie Study Bible – No Comment
  • Scofield Reference Bible – No Comment

Daniel 9:12 …For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem.

  • NIV Study Bible – No Comment
  • Ryrie Study Bible – No Comment
  • Scofield Reference Bible – No Comment

Exodus 11:6 There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again.

  • NIV Study Bible – No Comment
  • Ryrie Study Bible – No Comment
  • Scofield Reference Bible – No Comment

I hope the reader was able to gather and understand the subtle nuances of the Dispensational understanding of those passages and the usage of that type of language!

COVENANTAL UNFAITHFULNESS

The second argument in favor of an early date understanding of the tribulation is something that also been discussed previously called “covenantal unfaithfulness.Simply put it answer the challenge by responding, “The greatest crime in human history would need to have the greatest punishment.” The punishment may in our recollection not be as horrific, though that is even debatable, but the point is not about the punishment, but how horrific the crime. This generation raised their voices and asked that the punishment be on them and their children!

This would be the same generation that Jesus’ would proclaim would see all of the blood of all of the previous saints, prophets and Godly men have held against it. This was the one generation that would be found guilty of rejecting and killing the Lord of Glory by nailing Him to a wooden cross and killing Him as though He were a murderer or common thief!

The greatest tribulation – the greatest punishment – would be reserved for and could only be paid for by that particular generation. This was a covenantal punishment! The promises of Leviticus for covenantal unfaithfulness include:

Deut. 28:15 “But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you…
[21] The Lord will make the pestilence stick to you
[22] The Lord will strike you with wasting disease … and drought
[25] “The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies.
[26] And your dead body shall be food for all birds of the air
[27] The Lord will strike you with the boils of Egypt
[28] The Lord will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of mind
[33] A nation that you have not known shall eat up the fruit of your ground
[36] “The Lord will bring you and your king whom you set over you to a nation
[41] You shall father sons and daughters, but they shall go into captivity.
[42] The cricket shall possess all your trees and the fruit of your ground
[49] The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle
[53] And you shall eat the fruit of your womb … in the siege and in the distress with which your enemies shall distress you
[63] … And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering
[64] “And the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other

The above items all took place. Including Jospehus’ description of a woman so delirious and famished that she was boiling her own infant in water to eat as food. This was no simple event. This was a horrific point in human history where hundreds of thousands were killed, starved and brutally beaten beyond recognition.

But why that generation?

Matthew 27:25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”


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One Response to “The Olivet Discourse – The Great Tribulation?”

  1. 1 Yehoshuamyking

    Excellent!


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