"for then there will be a great
tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until
now, nor ever shall."
- Matthew 24:21
In the previous
installment I surveyed some of the biblical teaching on the great
tribulation. It will not come as a
surprise to most of you that many do not see the tribulation as a yet future
time. Historicists and preterists
believe that much, if not all of the tribulation has already occurred. Therefore, if one denies the futurity
of the tribulation then it produces a great distortion of biblical prophecy.
teaches that the events of the tribulation, as noted in the book of Revelation,
have been occurring throughout the entire 2,000 years of the current church
age. Historicist, Steve Wohlberg, says, " Historicism is the belief that the
prophecies of Daniel and Revelation find fulfillment throughout the history
of Christianity."  They usually teach that the six seal,
six trumpet and seven bowl judgments are cyclical of seven major judgments
throughout the history of the church.
Generally, they believe that we are awaiting the breaking of the seventh
seal, which will complete the judgments of revelation (i.e., the tribulation),
lead to the events of Armageddon and then the second coming. Thus, according to historicism, the
time of the tribulation is equated with what has been thus far about 2,000
years of church history, with only Armageddon and the second coming still in the
scheme will not work if the prophetic events of the tribulation are taken
literally. Historicists have to
allegorize many details of biblical prophecy in order to make their system
appear to explain Scripture. For
example, they turn 1260 days (Rev. 11:3; 12:6) into 1260-years, the antichrist
is not a person but the papal system of Roman Catholicism and entities like
angels (the three angelic witnesses of Revelation 14) turn out to be humans
what have lived in the past during the current church age. Historicists generally regard the
belief that the tribulation and most Bible prophecy still awaits a future
fulfillment as a Roman Catholic plot implemented by the Jesuits in the
sixteenth century. Historicism says that we are in the
tribulation now, even though most of it has already passed. Such a view is not supported by
Christ' s explanation of the great tribulation in Matthew 24.
go even further than historicists and say that the entire time of the tribulation
is totally past and that it was entirely completed by a.d. 70.
Preterist, Dr. Kenneth Gentry says, " I hold that the Tribulation occurs
in our distant past in the first century; . . . I hold that the Tribulation closes out the Jewish-based, old
covenant order, and establishes the new covenant (Christian) order as the
conclusive redemptive-historical reality."  " This statement of Christ is
indisputably clear- and absolutely demanding of a first-century fulfillment of
the events in the preceding verses, including the Great Tribulation (v. 21)," 
declares Dr. Gentry. So how does
Dr. Gentry take Matthew 24:21? He
says, " This is prophetic hyperbole."
He further explains:
" Clearly, the unique-event language is common parlance in prophetic
literature. We must not interpret
it in a woodenly literal manner." 
What does he mean
by " prophetic hyperbole" ? Dr.
Gentry cites Exodus 11:6, Ezekiel 5:9; 7:5- 6, and Daniel 9:12
as examples of other passages using similar language. Further, Dr. Gentry argues that the Flood of Noah was a
worse judgment than described in Matthew 24 since it " destroys the entire world
except one family."  I believe there are a number of errors
in Dr. Gentry and preterist thinking at this point. First, they generalize many of the specifics of a given text
that limit the scope of these absolute descriptions. These passages that preterists cite are all limited in
scope, not simply the greatest disaster of any time, place, or thing. A few years ago I wrote Hebrew
Christian scholar, Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum and presented these same arguments
made by Dr. Gentry' s fellow preterist Gary DeMar a few years ago. Here is Dr. Fruchtenbaum' s able
for Exodus 11:6, the focus here is specifically on one country, which is the
nation of Egypt. Furthermore, the
verse is not saying that what happened with the ten plagues was the worst
judgment that Egypt will ever experience and, therefore, the correlation
between 14 million and 55 million is irrelevant. The text is saying that there was not such a great cry in
all the land of Egypt in the past, nor will there be such a great cry in the
land of Egypt in the future. The
emphasis is not on the judgment itself but on the Egyptian response to the
judgment. The first-born son of
every Egyptian family died, but the remainder of the family was spared, so
every single family was affected.
In the tribulation, there is no need to assume that every family will be
affected and, furthermore, rather than merely one or two members of the family,
whole families might be destroyed; and if whole families are destroyed, there
will be no one to mourn for that particular family. Another point is the Bible says that one quarter of the
world's population will be destroyed, but mentions the world population in
general and does not apply that exactly twenty-five percent of the Egyptian
population will be destroyed. In
other words, whether we speak of twenty-five percent or seventy-five percent of
the earth's population destroyed, most of it is among the nations outside of
the Middle East and, therefore, will not effect Egypt to the same degree as it
would affect, let' s say North America or Europe. Therefore, there might be a lot less death in Egypt than
there would be elsewhere, and it still might be less than those who died in the
tenth plague. In other words,
Exodus 11:6 simply does not present such a great problem.
concerning Ezekiel 5:9-10, . . .
There are two implications.
The first implication is that what happened in a.d. 70 was far more severe than what happened in 586 b.c. That point is true.
But the point of Ezekiel 5:9 is that God, in this case, is going to
perform a judgment of the type that He has not done before and will not do again,
and the type of judgment was that one third will die by plague and famine, one
third will die by the sword, and one third will be scattered to the four
winds. It did not happen that way
in a.d. 70, and it will not happen
that way in the tribulation. What
Ezekiel is describing is something that happened uniquely in the Babylonian
destruction of Jerusalem when the inhabitants were equally divided into thirds
with two thirds dying in two different ways, and one third surviving but under
divine judgment were scattered. No
such three-fold division equally happened in a.d.
70. Even the tribulation where it
does mention in Zechariah 13:8-9 that two thirds will die and one third will
survive, it does not say that the two thirds will die in an equal two halves by
sword and by famine. Furthermore,
the remaining surviving third is not under divine judgment and remaining
surviving third is not under divine judgment and scattered, but rather, they
are saved and regathered. So,
Ezekiel' s words can be taken as literally true; what he said did happen to
Jerusalem and was unique to the Babylonian destruction.
second implication is his statement under point 4: " The flood was obviously a greater tribulation." This is true as far as tribulation in
general. However, here we are
dealing specifically with the Jewish people and Jerusalem. The focus of the flood was not on the
Jewish people, since Jewish history had not begun as yet. Nor was the focus on Jerusalem since
that city had not existed yet. The
Noahic flood destroyed the world in general and was the worst flood that ever
was or will be. But Ezekiel's
prophecy focuses specifically on the Jewish people and Jerusalem which was not
or will not be destroyed by flood.
And while God will once again destroy the mass of humanity, according to
Isaiah 24, it will no be by means of water but by means of fire.
none of these " problems" that Gary DeMar is presenting are in any sense a great
problem. They are all solvable if
we remain with their own context and we move carefully through the actual words
and to what they are referring.
These issues are
not a problem if one follows the context that governs the words of these
passages. It is quite clear that
if the plain meaning of the text is allowed to stand then a first century
interpretation is precluded. Preterists
must revert to sophistry in order to say why the text does not mean what it
says so they can suggest a meaning in support of their view. Interestingly, they tend to only take
this approach with given passages that do not appear to support their thesis,
but take verses plainly that appear to support their views, even when figures
of speech are embedded in the text.
No, the great tribulation has not yet happened, but the world is now
being prepared for this future time (2 Thess. 2:6- 7).
The Book of Daniel
Matthew 24:21 Christ speaks of a yet future time that will be the worst time in
the history of the world for the Jewish people. Nevertheless, He will deliver those who come to faith in Him
as their Messiah from this terrible time (Matt. 24:31). These things must take place in order
that God' s plan for history to work out issues of good and evil. How do we know this? Matthew 24:21 is a quote by Jesus from
context of Daniel 12 provides further information about what Christ has said in
Matthew 24:21. Daniel' s response
is not surprising to the revelation of the tribulation as we see in Daniel
12:8: " As
for me, I heard but could not understand; so I said, ' My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?' " This is often a question that comes
into our mind when we read of the events of the tribulation. God' s answer through the angel is as
follows: " And
he said, ' Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up
until the end time. Many will be
purged, purified and refined; but the wicked will act wickedly, and none of the
wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand.' " (Dan.
purpose of the tribulation, especially the great tribulation (last three and a
half years), is to purge out those unbelieving Jews through the events of this
time and to bring to faith the elect Jewish remnant. We know that the events described in both Matthew and Daniel
have not yet in the past lead to the mass conversion of the Jews as these
passages indicate. That the
conversion of the Jews is yet to occur, no Christian would doubt. Since the tribulation precedes and
gives rise to their conversion, there is no doubt that it too lies in a time
future to our own day. Maranatha!
Continued . . .)