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We are a Christian Fellowship meeting in North London with a strong interest in teaching the Bible and understanding our time in

the light of Bible prophecy

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Messiah, Israel and the Great Tribulation


When Yeshua (Jesus) was asked by his disciples, What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? he answered by speaking of a time of great tribulation on the earth :


For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. Matthew 24:21-22


This time of trouble would be different from the general troubles which Jesus told his disciples they would experience :


In the world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. John 16:33


A number of passages in the Hebrew prophets speak about this time of trouble also :


Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacobs trouble, but he shall be saved out of it. Jeremiah 30:7


For the day of the Lord is coming, for it is at hand : A day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, like the morning clouds spread over the mountains. A people come, great and strong, the like of whom has never been; nor will there ever be any such after them... Joel 2:1-2


At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; 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, every one who is found written in the book. Daniel 12:1


This raises two significant questions from the point of view of Jewish interpretation of prophecies of the Messiah.


How can Jesus be the Messiah if his coming is followed by a time of trouble?


What is unique about this time of trouble spoken of by Jesus and the Hebrew prophets?


What differentiates it from other times of trouble that the world and the Jewish people have experienced?


Let us look at these two questions.


A time of trouble AFTER the Messiah?


1) According to Talmudic writings there will be days of trouble before the coming of Messiah:


Tragedy will come upon you at the end of all the days. (Targum Yonathan)


During the Ikveta dMeshicha (the heels of the Messiah, the last days of this age) insolence will abound. The young will make the faces of the elderly grow ashen with shame; the elderly will have to rise up before the young; sons will disgrace fathers; daughters will rise up against their mothers; the members of ones family will become his enemies. ... The government will turn atheist and there will be no protest. Truth will vanish. (Sanhedrin 97a, Sotah 49b)


But after the coming of the Messiah there will be days of peace and safety. In the usual Rabbinic interpretation the three main tasks of the Messiah are :


1. To re-gather the Jewish people to Israel.

2. To rebuild the Temple.

3. To create world peace.


The main prophetic passages dealing with this subject are Isaiah 2:1-4, and Isaiah 11-12. Since Jesus came the Jewish people went into exile, the Temple was destroyed and there have been wars and rumours of wars ever since. Therefore according to Rabbinic writings Jesus is not the Messiah. There is however one prophecy which speaks of an opposite sequence of events following the coming of Messiah. It is Daniel 9:26.


And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined. Daniel 9:26


This prophecy speaks of Messiah being cut off (dying a violent death) but not for himself (not for his own sins but for others). After this the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (the Temple) would be destroyed, as they were 40 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. The flood often speaks in prophetic writings of an enemy invasion with the intention of overwhelming and destroying Israel. After this there would be a period of war and desolation.


In the Gospel Jesus prophesied that the events spoken here by Daniel would follow his crucifixion (Luke 19:41-44, 21:20-24). He promised his followers personal peace and eternal life, but made no promise that the world would know peace in this age. The reason for this is that in this age we have free will to accept or reject the Gospel message of peace with God through repentance and faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord. As the vast majority reject it, the world does not know peace.


According to prophetic scriptures this age will end with a great outpouring of the spirit of anti-christ as the nations reject the Lord and his Messiah. This is prophesied in Psalm 2, 2 Thessalonians 2 and 2 Timothy 3 amongst other passages. This will result in the period of the Great Tribulation.


A unique time of trouble?


So what will be different about this age from other times of tribulation? One clue is given in Jesus words If God did not cut short those days no flesh would be saved! If you were sitting underneath a nuclear bomb when it exploded there would not be much left of your flesh. If however you had a living faith in Jesus as Messiah your soul would be saved and you would receive a new body in which you would dwell for eternity. By referring specifically to flesh in this prophecy Jesus is indicating that without divine intervention the time of crisis known as the Great Tribulation would bring all life on earth to an end. We know that our generation is unique in the history of this planet in that we alone of all generations have the means to destroy the earth. That of course is no credit to our generation.


The prophecies in the Old Testament also indicate that without God intervening this crisis would bring total destruction. The prophecy quoted from Jeremiah 30 indicates that this time of trouble will be worse than any other time of trouble Israel has ever known, including the Nazi holocaust, which implies that without divine intervention it would end with the total destruction of the Jewish people. However God promises that this will not in fact happen :


For I am with you, says the Lord, to save you; though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice, and will not let you go altogether unpunished. Jeremiah 30:11


From this we learn that the Great Tribulation will be a time when God will save Israel from destruction and will correct something which Israel has got wrong. What is this? Undoubtedly it is the rejection of Yeshua as the Messiah. Zechariah 12 is another passage speaking of this time of Great Tribulation. This prophecy tells us of a time when the Gentile nations will come against Jerusalem to battle with the intention of destroying the Jewish people. At that time there will be spiritual as well as physical deliverance for Israel:


And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for him as one grieves for a first-born. Zechariah 12:10


The one who has been pierced is Yeshua, Jesus the Jewish Messiah, who will appear a second time at the close of this age to judge all mankind, and to save the world from destruction and will reign for 1,000 years from Jerusalem. Now that we are seeing the prophecies of his return being fulfilled, we should make sure that we are ready for that day by committing our lives to Jesus now and sharing the good news with those who do not know him. We should also pray for the peace of Jerusalem and resist those who seek to destroy the Jewish people.