7. The Time of Jacob’s Trouble

According to biblical prophecies there is definitely a time of great distress and tribulation coming for Israel and the entire apostate world, from which only a small remnant will be saved. Jeremiah explicitly mentions the coming day of the Lord: “Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it” (Jer. 30:7). The “trouble” not only refers to the wrath of God which will be poured out upon rebellious humanity, but also to the deception and fury of the false messiah which will be unleashed upon all the subjects of his global empire. In reaction to the severe trouble, a minority of Israel and the nations will turn to the true Messiah and be saved (Rev. 12:11), while the majority will follow and worship the false messiah. Many people will die during the judgements of God while they are in “the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14).

The coming time of trouble coincides with the 70th year-week of Daniel, when the false messiah will conclude a covenant of seven years with Israel and many other nations (Dan. 9:27). This seven-year period is clearly divided into two halves of 3½ years each or, even more specifically, as 42 months (Rev. 11:2; 13:5) or 1 260 days each (Rev. 11:3; 12:6). In this way the length of the 70th year-week is literally and unambiguously confirmed; 42 months of 30 days each being exactly 1 260 days, or 3½ prophetic years of 360 days each. These are clearly not symbolic expressions.

During the first 3½ years Israel and the Gentiles will regard the false messiah as the true Messiah and share in the deceptive benefits of his false world peace and unity. During this time Israel will rebuild the temple in Jerusalem – oblivious of the evil plans which the false messiah will have in mind for the project. This will not so much be a time of physical tribulation, but of spiritual deception as never before. The second 3½ years will comprise a great tribulation which will be unequalled in world history (Matt. 24:21).

Great deception

During the first 3½ years of the tribulation period, Israel and the Gentiles will be the victims of intense deception, and most of them will accept the false messiah as “the Messiah” and special representative of God. As universal messiah he will be the cohesive factor among all the religions of the world. To the nominal Christians of that time he will be the Christ, to Muslims the Imam Mahdi (who will allegedly act in unison with Jesus, son of Mary, who is the Muslim Jesus), to Hindus he will appear as a new incarnation of Krishna, to Buddhists he will be introduced as the Maitreya Buddha, and to Jews he will be their promised Messiah. All faiths will be closely related religions that accept one another by virtue of the deceptive premise that all of them worship the same God and should therefore all be followers of the same Messiah.

During this time Israel will rebuild their temple as part of their covenant with the false messiah. By this act they will indicate their continued rejection of Jesus as Messiah and Saviour, and it will be an overt expression of their support for the “alternative messiah”.

The 144 000 sealed ones

The conversion of 144 000 Jews and their dedication to the service of the Lord will be a very important event at the beginning of the tribulation period, just after the revelation of the Antichrist. The 144 000 will be the first group which will represent the ongoing spiritual restoration of Israel as a people: “And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed” (Rev. 7:4).

There is nothing vague about this statement and it is completely unjustifiable to identify the 144 000 Jewish evangelists as the church, or as any other group of people outside Israel. In this chapter, no use is made of symbolic language. The twelve tribes of Israel constitute a well-known historical nation; consequently, the term Israel is not a symbol or allegorical description of the church or any non-Jewish group.

Likewise, the number 144 000 is not symbolic, but literal. Its components are not 3 X 4 X 12 X 1 000 as is sometimes alleged (3 referring to the Triune God, 4 referring to the four corners of the earth, 12 referring to the 12 apostles, and 1000 referring symbolically to any large group of people), but its components are 12 000 X 12: it is 12 000 people from each of the 12 tribes of the children of Israel. According to Ezekiel 48, the Promised Land – which is much bigger than the present Israel – will be subdivided and allocated to the twelve tribes during the millennial reign of the Messiah.

From a dispensational point of view it is quite obvious why the 144 000 Jews will be saved and dedicated to the service of the Lord. After the Lord Jesus removes His church, which He commissioned to be the light of the world during the present dispensation, He will utilise the spiritual potential of Israel to make His light shine in the dark night of the tribulation period. When Elijah was caught up to heaven, his mantle and prophetic ministry fell upon Elisha. Likewise, after the rapture of the church, the Lord will find a substitute in the Messianic Jews to be His witnesses during the reign of the Antichrist.HisHis

Revelation 7:1-8 ties up with an extensive series of prophecies in the Bible in which the guarantee is given that the Lord will not only restore Israel physically to their land, but that they will in the latter days also experience a spiritual revival: “Now therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ... Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me” (Jer. 32:36-40).

Today there are many thousands of Jews who have been exposed to the New Testament facts about the Messiahship of Jesus, but most of them are deferring a final decision because of uncertainty, or because of the threat of persecution. A decision will only be taken after the rapture has occurred and all the Messianic Jews (those who have previously accepted Jesus as their Messiah) have been taken away at the rapture and as part of the church of Christ. A thorough re-evaluation of the facts related to the Messiah will then have to be made by those who have been left behind. According to Zechariah 12:10, the Holy Spirit will work powerfully among them and many will accept Yeshua Ha Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah).

From this revival the Lord will have 144 000 of his servants sealed early in the tribulation and appoint them to a special evangelistic ministry (Matt. 24:14). As happened with Daniel’s three friends, they will be kept safely in the fire of tribulation so that they can continue to fulfil their ministry in a particularly trying time.

The salvation of the 144 000 will occur after the church dispensation, as their religious position is clearly related to their national identity – also with regard to the tribe to which they belong. That is distinctly different to the situation that prevailed during their dispersion among the nations in the church age when national identity was not relevant to the salvation of people. Galatians 3:28 says that in Christ Jesus no distinction is made between Jew and Greek. However, after the church age, God will again deal with Israel as a nation that was called by Him. The physically and politically restored Israel must also be spiritually restored.

The 12 tribes of Israel mentioned in Revelation 7 have a special composition and are also listed in an uncommon order. They are Judah, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin. Of the two sons of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, who were adopted by Jacob as his own according to Genesis 48:5, only Manasseh is mentioned. Joseph is mentioned in the place of Ephraim. Usually, Joseph does not feature among the 12 tribes when both his sons are mentioned, e.g. in Ezekiel 48. Levi is also not usually mentioned as the Levites do not inherit tribal land like the other tribes. As priests, God is their inheritance and they must settle on the Holy Land. However, in Revelation Levi is taken up in the list in the place of the tribe of Dan.

Why has Dan been omitted from the list in Revelation, compared to the one in Ezekiel 48? The reason is that Dan is probably the tribe from which the Antichrist will emerge. In Genesis 49:17, Jacob said about this tribe: “Dan shall be a serpent by the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider shall fall backward.” In the spiritually restored Israel there is no place for the rebellion that is associated with Dan.

The tribal names in Revelation, as well as the order in which they appear, have a special significance. All the names have meanings and when the meanings are put together in the order in which the tribes are listed in Revelation 7, a significant statement is made. The introductory words are in Revelation 7:4: “144 000 of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed.” In conjunction with the subsequent tribal names and their meanings, the sentence may be read as follows: “144 000 sealed Israelites who praise and honour God (Judah); because they see the Son (Reuben) they overcame (Gad) and are happy (Asher); their struggle (Naphtali) He made them to forget (Manasseh) by hearing them (Simeon); to him who adheres to God (Levi) there is reward (Issachar) and residence (Zebulun); may the Lord add to them (Joseph) through the Son of His right hand (Benjamin).

The persecution of saved Jews

For obvious reasons, there will be tremendous polarisation and conflict between the followers of the true Messiah and those of the false messiah. The supporters of the false messiah will be in the vast majority and stand firmly behind their long-expected messiah. Even when he reaches out to other nations and religions to also offer himself to them as messiah, thereby drawing Israel into an alliance of world religions, his followers will remain blind to his deception. The Antichrist will oppose the true Messianic revival with all his might, as they will brand him as a false messiah and warn their fellow Jews, as well as other people, against him. They will be regarded as a great threat to his position in Israel and also to his world empire, which he will consolidate with great success.

A most violent persecution of Messianic Jews will be instituted. Like Nebuchadnezzar of old, the Antichrist will announce extreme punishments for those who refuse to join his state religion and honour and worship him as Messiah. Like Daniel’s three friends, the 144 000 will resist and withstand all pressure which is applied against them by absolutely refusing to bow down before the Antichrist. Daniel’s friends reacted as follows to the orders of the mighty king of their time:

“Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king: O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Dan. 3:16-18).

The Lord will strengthen and save His faithful witnesses in the hour of great peril, as He did with Daniel’s friends and also with Daniel himself in the lions’ den, after he had continued to worship the true God of heaven three times a day despite royal decrees to the contrary. The persecution will nevertheless continue and its level of violence will escalate.

In Revelation 14:1-5 the 144 000 are seen surrounding the Lamb on Mount Zion. After their earthly ministry they will be united with Him and occupy a special place in His kingdom. It is said of them that they never defiled themselves with women as they walked in purity before the Lamb from the beginning. What does that mean? In 2 Corinthians 11:2 the church of Christ is depicted as a chaste virgin. In Revelation 17:4-5 the false, unfaithful world church is referred to as “Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots”. The apostate church will amalgamate with many false religions whose members are portrayed as ‘harlots’, and the false church as the mother of them all.

The 144 000 are a group that never have any involvement with these religious harlots, or unclean women. They were not defiled by the false religions; neither do they originate from the degenerate and false Christian church of the end-time. Consequently, they do not entertain any distorted theological views. They are therefore a new undefiled ‘virgin’ group that is redeemed from Israel by the Lord Jesus. They will faithfully follow Him and refuse any association with the false world religions. As a result of their uncompromising attitude they will also be discredited and persecuted by the alliance of world religions that gave its full support to the Antichrist. John said of this treacherous and defiled bride of the Antichrist: “And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Rev. 17:6).

The two witnesses

Following the rapture, the world will be in utter spiritual darkness and, in addition to the 144 000 Jews who will be assigned to the evangelistic ministry, the Lord will raise up two special witnesses who will wield great power. Revelation 11 makes mention of these two outstanding witnesses who will be mightily used of God to proclaim the truth and strongly rebuke His enemies:

“And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire. When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, Come up here. And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven” (Rev. 11:3-13).

Various commentators are of the opinion that the two witnesses will be Elijah and Moses in mortal, physical bodies, who will return to the land and people of Israel. However, it is not a foregone conclusion that Elijah and Moses will personally be sent back to earth to be slain by the Antichrist and his evil forces, which implicates Moses dying for a second time. It is more likely that two outstandingly gifted and godly Messianic Jews, perhaps even drawn from the ranks of the 144 000 evangelists converted to faith in Yeshua Ha Mashiach, will be raised up ‘in the spirit and power’ of Elijah and Moses.

It would, therefore, be advantageous to investigate aspects of the roles, exploits and ministries of these two great prophets of Israel, particularly with a view to their end-time recurrence. They were singled out for the great honour of appearing on the Mount of Transfiguration with the Redeemer-Messiah Himself (Matt. 17:1-3), which was a precursor to the future revelation of the Lord Jesus in His kingdom during His second coming. The parallels between the ministries of Moses and Elijah and those of the two witnesses are quite striking.

Regarding Elijah’s role as prophet, it is recorded in the last two verses of the Old Testament that the Lord of Hosts declared: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:5-6).

This prophecy was partly fulfilled at Christ’s first coming. When the disciples mentioned that “the scribes say that Elijah must come first,” Jesus replied: “Elijah has come already.” They then understood that He had referred to John the Baptist (Matt. 17:10-13), whom the angel Gabriel prophesied would “turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God” and “go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:13-17). When John was asked the question as to whether he was the prophet Elijah, he said: “I am not” (John 1:21). He did, however, fulfil a preparatory role during the Messiah’s first coming, just as another prophet will prepare the way for the Messiah’s second coming.

The prophecy of Malachi 4:5-6 will finally be fulfilled shortly before Christ’s second coming when, just as John the Baptist acted in the spirit and power of Elijah at Christ’s first coming, the two witnesses will act in the same spirit and power before His second coming. They will prepare His way by turning many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and the hearts of the fathers to the children, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

For 3½ years, that is during the first half of Daniel’s 70th week and before the dark days of the great tribulation in the second half of the week, these two witnesses will minister so powerfully to the people of Israel that a remnant of the nation will return to the God of their fathers. In defiance of the Antichrist’s ideology of abolishing national identity to achieve world unity, the two witnesses will succeed in restoring the remnant’s national identity and calling as a people uniquely chosen of God.

There will be a serious generation gap, most probably due to the younger generation preferring to abandon their distinctive national identity in favour of the Antichrist’s globalism and the worshipping of the cosmic Messiah of all faiths, while the older generation will cling to orthodox traditions and a lifeless form of godliness due to the continued rejection of the true Messiah. The inspired ministry of the two witnesses will succeed in bridging this gap and unifying the generations in a new-found faith in the coming Yeshua Ha Mashiach.

Elijah is known as the prophet who was used powerfully by God to perform great miracles in Israel. When he ascended to heaven in a whirlwind, Elisha, his successor, said of him: “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” (2 Kings 2:12). To Israel, he was worth more than its defence force and chariots because the power of the Lord worked so strongly through him. The two witnesses will come in that same power and the fear of the Lord will come upon many people. Elijah raised the widow’s child from the dead and confronted the prophets of the false religion of Baal, successfully calling down fire from heaven to defeat them. He also “prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months” (Jas. 5:17). In the spirit and power of Elijah, similarly the two witnesses will miraculously use fire to defeat the false prophets of the Antichrist’s world religion and to shut up heaven so that no rain falls during the days of their prophecy, i.e. 3½ years.

The two witnesses will also come in the spirit and power of Moses. He was the great leader whom God raised up to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, through the wilderness and to the borders of the Promised Land. He also fulfilled the role of mediator through whom God gave His Law to Israel, and who also interceded on their behalf before God, when they fell into sin. Like Elijah, Moses was used mightily by God to perform signs, wonders and miraculous acts of power:

“Since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, before Pharaoh, before all his servants, and in all his land, and by all that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel” (Deut. 34:10-12).

Moses directly confronted the wicked Pharaoh concerning his oppression of the children of Israel and announced severe plagues upon the land and people of Egypt. Likewise, the two witnesses will oppose the Antichrist and his wicked global empire that will oppress the people of Israel, and strike the earth with awful plagues. They will use their miraculous power to kill any enemies who seek to harm them.

Moses was an outstanding type of Christ whom he foreshadowed and clearly prophesied of: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear” (Deut. 18:15). By means of this prophecy Moses was clearly preparing Israel for both the first and second coming of their Messiah. Tragically, the nation rejected Him at His first coming.

The two witnesses will urgently and powerfully prepare the remnant of Israel for the imminent second coming of their true Messiah and strongly urge them to abrogate and renounce their covenant with the false messiah. The witnesses will admonish and teach the remnant of Israel that they, along with the witnesses themselves, will have to suffer reproach and persecution for their loyalty to the true Messiah, Jesus, and His coming kingdom in which Israel will have a key role to play.

Both Elijah and Moses faced great opposition and suffered affliction because of their faithful witness and dedication to God and His people. Of Moses it is said: “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasure of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ [the Messiah] greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:24-27).

By taking a firm stand against the kingdom of darkness which will be ruled by the Satanic triumvirate, the witnesses and the remnant of Israel will pay a heavy price of persecution for resisting the false messiah. But they will be richly rewarded if they willingly suffer hardships for the sake of the true Messiah.

The powerful witness and exploits of the two witnesses will have a world-wide impact during the first half of the tribulation period. It is no wonder that the Antichrist and his followers will be furious because of their activities. When the Antichrist usurps all power and authority in the middle of the tribulation period, he will turn his fury towards the two witnesses, fight against them and kill them. But the Lord will raise them from the dead after three and a half literal days and summon them into heaven, to where they will ascend in full view of their enemies, their mission having been successfully accomplished.

Subsequently, the dark and stormy period of the Antichrist’s reign of terror will engulf the entire world and all its inhabitants for 42 months of the most appalling and gruesome tribulation in the history of mankind. Not many will survive the wars, pestilences, disasters and judgements that will befall the wicked during the awful day of the Lord.

The middle of the week

In the middle of the tribulation period Satan will make another effort to wipe Israel from the face of the earth. He wants to prevent the survival of a remnant of the nation who will be able to meet the Messiah on the Mount of Olives to be spiritually restored and established in His millennial kingdom as the head of the nations. If that takes place, Satan knows very well that it will be at the expense of his own world empire under the leadership of the Antichrist.

The outcome of a war in heaven between the kingdoms of God and Satan will be an important reason for the intensified struggle on earth, as described in Revelation 12:

“And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven: Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. … Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Rev. 12:7-12).

Before his expulsion, Satan’s attention is divided: Firstly, he accuses believers before the throne of God, day and night, and claims control over their lives when they are sinning and rebelling against God. Secondly, he is engaged in deceiving the nations and destroying the physical creation of God. In the middle of the tribulation he and his fallen angels will be cast down from heavenly places and barred from further access to the throne of God. After this further humiliation they will focus all their attention to events on earth. From that moment on, Satan will vengefully do everything within his power to destroy God’s people and His creation by attempting to make the world uninhabitable, by committing genocide against the Jews, and by ordering the summary execution of all who confess allegiance to the Lord.

That will also be the time when the Antichrist will declare himself to be God in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, demand the compulsory worship of his image, rule by way of military decree, and will not hesitate to use maximum power to subdue and eliminate his adversaries.

The flight to the wilderness

During this time, Satan will devise an evil plot to kill all the Jews who refuse to worship the Antichrist as God, and who have withdrawn from his satanic world order:

“Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time [3½ years], from the presence of the serpent. So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth” (Rev. 12:13-16).

This flight of Israel to a place in the wilderness, possibly Petra in the Negev desert, south of the Dead Sea in Jordan, will take place very hurriedly. It will occur shortly after the Antichrist has declared himself to be God in the temple, resulting in his rejection by many in Israel. They will then withdraw from his satanic new world order in which they were involved for the first 3½ years. When his image is placed in the temple and all people are forced to worship it, the Israeli people who refuse to do this, will have to flee in great haste, as the Antichrist will pursue and attempt to kill them (Matt. 24:15-22).

The prophecy in Matthew 24:15-22 clearly applies to Israel and is aimed at protecting a remnant of this nation from annihilation by Satan and the Antichrist during the dark days of the great tribulation – that is the last 3½ years of the tribulation period. The Sabbath laws are enforced only in Israel, which state that only a short journey of less than two kilometres may be undertaken on the Sabbath day. So, if their flight had to be on a Sabbath, the forces of the Antichrist would catch up with and kill them along the way. The Jews should pray that their journey not be impeded by winter cold, expectant mothers or those with small babies as that would also hinder their escape.

The rift between the Antichrist and Israel will occur so suddenly, and his measures to stop them from getting away will be so rapidly instituted (much like those of Pharaoh before the Exodus), that there will scarcely be time for them to pack their clothes or gather provisions for the journey. They will have to get away as quickly as possible. Up to that moment, according to John 5:43, they will have accepted the Antichrist as Messiah, but when he declares himself to be God they will immediately realise that he is a false messiah. They will then have to stay out of his reach, as Israel’s reaction will pose a real threat to his new world order.

Israel will be protected by divine intervention from being overtaken and annihilated by the Antichrist and his satanic forces. An earthquake may occur, forming a large crevasse which will swallow up or stop the pursuing ground forces of the Antichrist. This could represent another parallel with the destruction of Pharaoh’s forces. A further possibility is that other revolts against the world government of the Antichrist will erupt in other places, thus forcing him to turn around and react to those threats. Daniel says: “But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many” (Dan. 11:44).

Another part of Satan’s war is described in Revelation 12: “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17). The Antichrist will act with equal fanaticism against Messianic Jews, as they will reject him and love and worship only Israel’s true Messiah, Jesus Christ. In this sense they are also offspring of the woman, Israel.

The desecration of the temple in the middle of the tribulation period will be a sign given by the Lord to the inhabitants of Judea that they should hastily flee to the mountains to survive. The temple which they will build in the first half of the week, and the reintroduction of animal sacrifices (which will once again demonstrate their rejection of the unique, once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, for their sins), will shortly afterwards be the cause of great disillusionment and tragedy to them. According to Daniel 9:24, a time of great deception and falling away lies ahead for the people of Israel before their sins will end and they will be brought into a state of ‘everlasting righteousness’. Because of this, they will have to endure a time of severe trials and purification.

This process of suffering and testing was foreseen long before by Moses, who warned Israel of a time of great distress in the last days: “When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the Lord your God and obey His voice (for the Lord your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them” (Deut. 4:30-31).

The day of the Lord

The second half of the tribulation period comprises the 3½ years between the Antichrist’s desecration of the temple when he will declare himself to be God, and the second coming of the true Christ on the Mount of Olives. It will be during this time of “great tribulation” (Matt. 24:21) that the Lord will protect a remnant of His people in the wilderness. Derived from prophecies in the Old Testament, even orthodox Jews are aware of the judgements of the day of the Lord, as well as the destructive consequences that those judgements will have.

The day of the Lord will be great and terrible when the powers of heaven will be shaken. People will be plagued by scorching heat and droughts, and also by total darkness and severe earthquakes. Sinners who have hardened their hearts will be destroyed together with their works, and end up amongst the rubble of a devastated world:

“Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine. I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, a man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger” (Isa. 13:9-13).

Isaiah recorded other similar warnings about the judgements of the Lord’s day to ensure that people would not simply brush them aside and disregard them. The reason for these judgements and the global extent of the destruction, being an excessively wicked generation of people as in the days of Noah and Lot, is emphasised repeatedly:

“Behold, the Lord makes the earth empty and makes it waste, distorts its surface and scatters abroad its inhabitants. ... The land shall be entirely emptied and utterly plundered, for the Lord has spoken this word. ... The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left” (Isa. 24:1-6).

Joel says that the day of the Lord will come “as destruction from the Almighty” (1:15), for “the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; who can endure it?” (2:11). Zechariah also ensures his readers that a day of the Lord is coming when Jerusalem will be besieged and taken by its enemies, and that half of the city will go into captivity (14:1-2). During this time of great distress the Messiah will suddenly appear on the Mount of Olives and destroy His enemies (14:4-5, 23-13). Directly afterwards, He will establish His reign of peace and the nations will go up to Jerusalem every year to honour the Lord (14:9, 16).

Malachi says: “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts. ... But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings” (Mal. 4:1-2). Unrepentant sinners will be judged but believers who remain true to the Messiah will be blessed.

Encounter at the Mount of Olives

After the accord with Israel has been broken and the false messiah has declared himself to be 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 have strong convictions about His coming, as their journey and approach to the city will be fraught with danger. The enemy will be all around them, and a heavily armed strike force will be closing in on 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).

At the moment that the true Messiah arrives on planet earth, the Mount of Olives will be cleaved and the darkness of God’s judgements 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. At 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 could not offer any sacrifice or atonement for their sins.

Even 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 trust Him for salvation. When the dark clouds of judgement envelope Jerusalem and its surroundings, the remaining Jews there will flee into the place of refuge created by the sudden rupture of the Mount of Olives. There, literally at the feet of Jesus, they will be safe. Great confusion will reign among their enemies as they are overcome by divine judgement, and they will start killing one another.

As the evening approaches it will become light again, for by then the victory will have been achieved. The false messiah and the false prophet, the two leaders of the worldwide rebellion against God and His people, will be captured and cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone (Rev. 19:19-20). Jesus will reach out to His people in order to bless them. They will be terrified when they see the marks in His hands, and their first words to Him will be: “What are these wounds in your hands?” and He will answer them: “Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends” (Zech. 13:6). How will the Jews account for the fact that the Messiah will have wounds in His hands when He descends onto the Mount of Olives? How will they be able to explain where these wounds were inflicted on Him? It could certainly not have been in heaven! They will indeed look on Him whom they had pierced during His first coming.

It will be a dramatic reunion, one in which joy will be mingled with sorrow. The remnant of Israel will grieve for what they had done and the nation will accept Jesus as the Messiah (Zech. 12:10‑14). All will be lost for the false messiah and his hordes of followers 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

After the Messiah has made His dramatic return to the Mount of Olives and has revealed Himself as the One who was crucified by Israel during His first coming, they will enter a period of great mourning: “They will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a first-born. 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, ... 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. 12:10-12; 13:1).

The period of mourning will probably last for 30 days, as was customary in Israel. The following are two examples: “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. The mourning which followed the death of an only son or a firstborn was particularly bitter and profound. The light of a family was deemed to be extinguished by the death of an only son. With the death of a firstborn, 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. According to Duane Lindsey (1985:1567): “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 for a most extreme individual (Zech. 12:10) and to corporate catastrophes of the nation.”

Rev. Isaac Jennings (1866:302) says the following regarding the mourning of Israel during their national repentance:

“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 (Matt. 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!”

Regarding the fountain which will be opened for Israel’s sins on the day of the Lord (cf. Zech. 13:1), Lindsey (op. cit., p. 1568) states: “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.”

Daniel’s schedule of events regarding the end-times also makes provision for the 30 days of mourning following the great tribulation and the second 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 timeline is evident from these verses:

·      From the time that the false messiah abolishes and prohibits the sacrificial offerings and defiles the temple by placing an image of himself in the Holy of Holies, 1 260 days will run their course before the advent of the Messiah on the Mount of Olives (Dan. 9:27; Rev 13:5). After a further 30 days of mourning, the spiritual reconciliation between the Messiah and the remnant of Israel will be complete. By that time, it would have been 1 290 days since the false messiah’s self-deification in the temple.

·      The marriage feast of the Lamb, the restoration of the throne of David and the judgement of the nations will last a further 45 days (Rev. 19:7-9, Acts 15:16-17, Matt. 25:31-32). By then it would have been 1 335 very dramatic days since the very evil day when the false messiah declared himself to be God in the temple and had instituted his satanic reign of terror. After 1 335 days, the Son of the living God will have crushed the evil powers and established His kingdom of peace. The Jews who survive the terrible onslaught during the 1 260 days of great tribulation, will witness the return of the Messiah. After 1 290 days they will be spiritually restored, and after 1 335 days they will enter the promised kingdom of the Messiah.

It is clear that end-time events regarding Israel are scheduled to take place 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 atoning death of the Lamb of God – the One who has the wounds in His hands. Only a minority of them will, however, make the right choice.

The spiritually regenerate Israel will be joyous in the Lord, they will serve Him with one accord, and proclaim His praises among the nations (Isa. 12:3-6; 40:9). The Lord says that He will give Israel a heart to fear Him forever, also for the future generations; therefore they will not turn away from Him. The Lord will rejoice in them and do good to them (Jer. 32:37-42). Israel’s fullness will be riches for the Gentiles (Rom. 11:12). “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. ... For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:2-3).