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Israel in the End-Time 7. The time of Jacob's trouble
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The prophet Daniel describes the last 70 year-weeks (490 prophetic years of 360 days each) that will pass in the history of Israel before they will enter the time of everlasting righteousness (Dan. 9:24-27). Of this period, 69 year-weeks (483 years) have passed between the decree by Xerxes in the year 445 BC that Jerusalem was to be rebuilt (Neh. 2:1-8), and the death of Jesus on the cross in AD 33. Then the clock stopped ticking for Israel as a nation in the divine plan of God, and the time for the evangelisation of the non-Jewish world began. That meant that Israel would temporarily lose its position as a special servant and mouthpiece of God, and that all the people on earth, including the dispersed Israelites, would be given the chance to accept Jesus as their Messiah and become part of the kingdom of God.
With the present restoration of Israel and the city of Jerusalem, we are now nearing the end of the times of the Gentiles (Lk. 21:24). This means that the last year-week (seven years) of Israel's history of salvation must pass before the remnant will come to accept Jesus in one day (Zech. 3:9).
The seven years before the coming of the true Messiah will be a particularly testing time for Israel. The Bible calls it the time of Jacob's trouble. This seven year period is divided into two equal parts of three and a half years (42 months or 1 260 days) each. The false messiah will rule relatively peacefully over a united world for the first three and a half years, while spiritually enslaving the deluded masses, but the second half of his reign will be a time of physical tyranny and terror.
The whole seven year period is referred to as the tribulation period, while the last three and a half years are described as the great tribulation. According to Daniel 9:27, the false Messiah will rule over the world for seven years. Although the first half will be deceptively peaceful, it is nevertheless an integral part of the whole week. The false peace is a cleverly planned strategy for the spiritual enslavement of people within a newly established ecumenical structure for world religions. This religious system will suddenly be abandoned and replaced by a merciless dictatorship combined with the forced worship of the false messiah during the second half of the tribulation.
A time of testing
Israel will be severely tested during the false messiah's reign. In Ezekiel 22:19-22, God says that the nation will be in a furnace of tribulation during this time - not to destroy them, but to refine them spiritually by driving them back to Him.
Please don't think that I am describing the tribulation of Israel in an unsympathetic way, for that is definitely not my intention. I care for the people of Israel very deeply, and therefore desire only the best for them. It is because I care for them, that I have to warn them about the coming tribulation and the deception of the false messiah. As in the time of Noah and Lot, the faithful will not be punished with the godless - but then they will have to turn to the true Messiah before the time of judgement. Those who refuse to turn to Him now, will later call on Him under very difficult circumstances to save them (Hos. 5:14-6:3).
Unfortunately, there are people who regard themselves as friends of Israel, yet they fail to warn the nation of Israel against the terrible dangers awaiting them during the time of tribulation, and also against the deception of the false messiah. Anyone who is not prepared to inform Israel of the dangers ahead, is not a true friend of them. Man's relationship with God has been severely disrupted. This spiritual alienation has given rise to sin, which, in turn, is responsible for all the problems people all over the world are experiencing every day.
Israel as a nation didn't walk close to God and refused to accept the Messiah when He came almost 2 000 years ago. They had to bear the consequences of that tragic decision during the past two millennia. However, the time has now come for the resumption of God's dealings with Israel as a nation in their own land. For obvious reasons the Satanic trinity (Satan, the false messiah and the false prophet as the counterfeit God the counterfeit Messiah and the counterfeit Holy Spirit) wish to rob Israel of the blessings that are in store for them. The present situation is very serious indeed. Every Jew must realise that if he or she is not prepared to enter into a new covenant with the living God through the Messiah, Yeshua, and in this way become reconciled with God, he or she will soon be under pressure to enter into a covenant with death. The false messiah will shortly be revealed and will earnestly desire to be worshipped by all people on earth, and particularly by the Jews.
A covenant with many nations
The false messiah will become a prominent and widely recognised world leader soon after his appearance. He will establish political, economic and religious unity. In a very short space of time, major political treaties will be signed, religious ties will be established and economic agreements will be reached. These initiatives will all occur within the framework of the New World Order and will give expression to the generally accepted policy of world unity.
In Daniel 9:27 we read: "Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week." Many people expect that this peace process will start at a peace conference in the Middle East, and that Israel will be greatly encouraged by the prospect of peace in the region. It is more likely, however, that the false messiah will reveal himself at the height of a Russo-Arab invasion in Israel. Ezekiel 38 and 39 explains that God will defeat the invaders on the mountains of Israel, but it is possible that the false messiah will use the opportunity to claim that he was the one who saved Israel. For we know that he will be endowed with all of Satan's powers, as he will even be able to make fire come down from heaven. He will use his supernatural powers to perform astounding signs and wonders to deceive Israel and the nations into concluding a covenant with him. His success as peace-maker in the Middle East will form the basis from where he will rise to power in the Mediterranean alliance of the revived Roman Empire.
All countries will eventually become signatories of the peace treaties of the false messiah, and he will use the Mediterranean alliance to become the undisputed leader of the world. His success and diplomatic skills will deceive everyone. At that stage, very few people will dare to state that he is involved in the greatest deception of all times, and that he will in a few years time become the worst dictator in the entire history of the world!
Concurrent with his diplomatic successes, the false messiah will also achieve prominence as a religious leader. At that stage all the biggest religious groups of the world will have been united into a single ecumenical movement based on the misconception that all religions worship the same God. A large number of deceived Jews and Muslims will believe the lie that Yahweh and Allah are the same God. It is against this spiritual background that the false messiah will present himself as the messiah of all religions. He will claim the titles of:
This common belief will establish closer ties between all the different members of the 'family of world religions'. One of the results of the movement will be an end to the jihad between the Islamic world and Israel. The Jews will be allowed to build their temple north of the Muslim Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, and the ancient sacrificial rites will be re-established. Millions of people will be astounded at what the false messiah has achieved. People all over the world will believe in his deity. His ally, the false prophet, who could possibly lead the united world church then, will do spectacular miracles.
Most of the Jews will be influenced by these highly dramatic events and will be quick to accept this man as their messiah. He will probably use a false genealogy, which will lead them to believe that he is indeed a descendent of King David and a member of the tribe of Judah. The world-wide peace and unity introduced by him, together with the fact that he will encourage the Jews to rebuild the temple, will render him a national hero in Israel. Soon he will also become the hero of all the nations of the world.
During the mind-boggling revelation of the Evil One as an internationally accepted angel of light at the beginning of the seven year period, there will be a revival in Israel in which 144 000 Jews will accept Jesus, the true Messiah. They will openly declare that the man officially recognised as the Messiah by the Israeli government is a false messiah. This revelation will cause severe tension and immediately lead to the persecution of all those who refuse to worship the universal messiah.
Desecration of the temple
Halfway through the seven year period, the whole world will be shocked out of the false sense of peace that it enjoyed for three and a half years: "For when they say: Peace and safety! then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labour pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape" (1 Thes. 5:3; emphasis added).
This sudden terror and disaster will be caused by various factors, including an attempt to assassinate the false messiah. In this attempt he will be fatally wounded, but because of his demonic powers he will rise from the dead. That will also be the end of his peaceful reign. He will hunt down his enemies with vengeful violence, deify himself and mobilise a powerful army to subject all his enemies.
Even though there will be such a drastic change in his reign, most of his followers will accept his claim to deity, worship him as the god of this world, and also admire him greatly for his military prowess: "...and all the world marvelled and followed the beast. So they worshipped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying: Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?" (Rev. 13:3, 4).
Israel will be greatly disillusioned when they realise that they have been worshipping a false messiah, and immediately terminate their peace accord with him. Then the false messiah will forbid them to sacrifice in the name of Yahweh, and erect a statue of himself in the Holy of Holies in the newly built temple in Jerusalem: "...and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and offering to cease [for the remaining three and one-half years]; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate; until the full determined end is poured out on the desolator" (Dan. 9:27 AB).
Paul also refers to this abomination:
"Let no one deceive you by any means; for that day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and that man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (2 Thes. 2:3-4). He will therefore publicly proclaim himself as God!
In Revelation 13, John tells us that the false prophet will force everyone to worship the false messiah:
"And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image of the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed" (Rev. 13:14-15).
At the same time, the false messiah will establish a world-wide economic dictatorship. It will most probably be a computer controlled system in which cash will disappear from the monetary markets, as all transactions will be done electronically:
"And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six " (Rev. 13:16-18 KJV).
The King James Version renders this verse correctly when it refers to people receiving a number in their right hand or in their foreheads. The technology now exists to implant a tiny computer chip into a person's body. It is simply injected under the skin and can therefore not be lost, stolen or forged. However, to accept the number of the false messiah will involve the signing of an oath of allegiance to him and his world government, also in his capacity of self-proclaimed God. To worship the false messiah as God and to accept his number, will involve the selling of your soul to Satan:
"If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name" (Rev. 14:9-11 KJV).
Flight to the desert
As in World War II, genocide will be perpetrated against the Jews during the second half of the tribulation - in that 3½ year period known as the great tribulation or the time of Jacob's trouble. The true Messiah described this time of terror in His prophetic discourse:
"When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand,) then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should be no flesh saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened" (Mt. 24:15-22 KJV).
Daniel also refers to this time of terror in his prophecies. Some of the Jews will support the false messiah because they will hope to gain from it, but others will oppose him and be violently persecuted:
"His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him. Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time" (Dan. 11:31-35 NIV).
After the termination of the peace accord between Israel and the false messiah, many Jews will flee to the desert. This group will be protected against the dictatorship of the false messiah during the 42 months of the great tribulation. They will remain there until the time for the return of the true Messiah.
Encounter at the Mount of Olives
After the accord with Israel has been broken and the false messiah declared himself as God, another 42 months (1 260 days) will pass before the true Messiah will make His appearance on the Mount of Olives. When the appointed time draws near, the surviving Jews will return from their place of refuge to Jerusalem. They will be determined to be at the Mount of Olives on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). It will be an extremely dangerous time for them, as the false messiah will still endeavour to kill all the Jews he can find. At that stage there will be a powerful multi-national force in Israel. They will be under the command of the false messiah, and based between Jerusalem and the Mediterranean Sea (Dan. 11:45).
The Jews who return to Jerusalem to await the Messiah will need to be strongly convinced about His coming, as their journey and approach to the city will be fraught with dangers. The enemy will be all around them, and a heavily armed strike force will be closing in upon them with every passing minute. Many houses will be plundered in Jerusalem as the invaders start demolishing the city. People will flee to the Mount of Olives in panic. Some will even lose hope and say: "Our hope is lost; we are completely cut off" (Ezek. 37:11 AB).
Just as the false messiah is about to annihilate the remnant of Israel, the dramatic event of the second coming of the Lord, as described in Zechariah 14, will occur:
"For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, for the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with You. It shall come to pass in that day, that there will be no light; the lights will diminish. It shall be one day which is known to the Lord - neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen that it will be light... And the Lord shall be King over all the earth... And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths. It shall come to pass in that day that a great panic from the Lord will be among them. Everyone will seize the hand of his neighbour, and raise his hand against his neighbour's hand" (Zech. 14:2-7, 9, 12-13).
The moment when the true Messiah arrives on planet earth, the Mount of Olives will be cleaved and the darkness of God's judgement will become physically manifest, just as it happened almost 2 000 years ago when God's judgement for the sins of the world were carried by Jesus on a cross outside Jerusalem. Now, during His second coming, grief and sorrow will overcome those who rejected the substitutionary death of Jesus and worshipped false gods and a false messiah who can't offer any sacrifice and remission for their sins.
At this critical moment when the wrath of God is poured out over a sinful world, mercy and grace will still be offered by Jesus to those who put their faith in Him, and hoped for His salvation. When the dark clouds of judgement engulf Jerusalem and its surroundings, the remaining Jews will flee into the place of refuge caused by the sudden cleaving of the mountain. There, literally at the feet of Jesus, they will be safe. Great confusion will prevail among their enemies and they will start killing one another.
Towards the evening it will become light again, for then the victory will have been gained. Jesus will reach out to His people in a gesture of blessing. They will become terrified when they see the marks in His hands, and their first words to Him will be: "What are these wounds in your hands? Then he will answer: Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends" (Zech. 13:6). [How do the Jews account for the fact that the Messiah will have wounds in His hands when He arrives on the Mount of Olives? Where were these wounds inflicted on Him? It could certainly not have been in heaven! They will indeed look on Him whom they have pierced during His first coming].
It will be a dramatic reunion, mingled with joy and sorrow. The remnant of Israel will grieve for what they have done and the nation will accept Jesus as the Messiah (Zech. 12:10-14). Then all will be lost for the false messiah and his hordes on this last day of the tribulation:
"And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh" (Rev. 19:19-21).
Aftermath of His coming
When the Messiah has made His dramatic appearance on the Mount of Olives and revealed Himself as the One crucified by Israel during His first coming (Zech. 12:10), a time of great mourning will follow:
"In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn, every family by itself... all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves. In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness" (Zech. 12:11-13:1).
The above period of mourning will probably last for 30 days, as was customary in Israel:
"Now when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, all the house of Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days" (Num. 20:29).
"And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. So the days of weeping and mourning for Moses ended" (Deut. 34:8).
Zechariah likens the death of the Messiah to that of an only son and a firstborn. Mourning for an only son or a firstborn was particularly bitter and violent. With the death of an only son the light of a family was extinguished. With the death of a firstborn the honour of a family, 'the first instalment of God's blessing', and therefore the most loved, was removed.
The mourning for the Messiah is also likened to the mourning for King Josiah. Profs. Walvoord & Zuck (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 1567) say:
"The future mourning of Israel over her Messiah is likened, in the second place, to the weeping on the day when godly King Josiah, the last hope of the fading Judean nation, was slain by Pharaoh Neco II, at Hadat Rimmon, traditionally identified as a village near Jezreel, in the plain of Megiddo (2 Chron. 35:20-27). Thus the greatness of the mourning at this final outpouring of the Holy Spirit can be compared only to the weeping of a most extreme individual (Zech. 12:10) and to corporate catastrophes of the nation."
Rev. Isaac Jennings (The Imperial Bible Dictionary, Vol. IV, p. 302) says:
"The great mourning of the last days described by Zechariah, when the whole land shall mourn, and every family apart unite in the act, refers to the repentance of the Jewish people, and their deep contrition in view of their past unbelief, when, convinced of the sin of rejecting the Messiah, they shall look on Him whom they have pierced, and shall mourn, and find cleansing in the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness; and so all Israel shall be saved (Rom. 11:26). Blessed are those who mourn thus (Mt. 5:4), for they shall be comforted, through the pardoning mercy of our God freely remitting all their sins, and imparting peace to their souls.
"This subject vividly reminds us of sin, as the original cause of all mourning, and of the source of all the sufferings and all the ills that flesh is heir to. It reminds us too of the blessed object of the coming of the Son of God into the world to save from sin, and therefore, finally, to save from all mourning and all sorrow. From the day that our first parents went forth in sadness from the garden of Eden until now, earth has been a vale of tears; and such it shall ever continue to be, till the second coming of our Lord to create all things new, when sorrow and sighing shall flee away, and earth again, in more than primeval beauty, in greater than Edenic bliss, shall become the abode of everlasting joy!"
In his statement Daniel provides, among others, for the 30 days of mourning after the great tribulation and the coming of the Messiah:
"...and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered... And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days" (Dan. 12:1, 11-12).
The following is clear from these verses:
About the fountain that will be opened on the day of the Lord for Israel's sins (Zech. 13:1), Profs. Walvoord & Zuck (op. cit., p. 1568) say:
"On the day of Christ's crucifixion the fountain was opened potentially for all Israel and the whole world. At the Second Advent of Christ, the fountain will be opened experientially for the Jewish nation. The spiritual cleansing of the nation is associated in other passages of Scripture with Israel's spiritual regeneration and the inauguration of the New Covenant (e.g. Jer. 31:31-37; Ezek. 36:25-32; Rom. 11:26-27). 'The house of David' (political leaders) and 'the inhabitants of Jerusalem' include all the people of the land who need cleansing. The terms sin and impurity can refer specifically to idolatry... but they probably have a broader reference here to the total sinful condition of the people."
End-time events for Israel have been very clearly scheduled between the beginning of the 70th week of Daniel and the establishing of the Messiah's reign on earth. Of particular significance to the Jews is the strong challenge to be able to distinguish between the seducing powers of the kingdom of darkness, and the voice of the Holy Spirit who calls them to repentance on the strength of the substitutionary death of the Lamb of God - the One who has the wounds in His hands.