What Is The Tribulation ? – Part 3





After The Tribulation


This part of our study will actually be focused on what Jesus said would happen AFTER the great tribulation.  In our previous study called  What is the Tribulation ? – Part 2,  we examined the words of Jesus from  Mathew 24:4-28,  Mark 13:5-23,  and  Luke 21:6-24.   These three passages all refer to the same events that Jesus was describing;  Namely, the abomination of desolation, the great tribulation, and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, in that order.  Now we’re going back to those same three chapters, and we’ll look at what Jesus said pertaining to what would take place after the tribulation.


If you remember, Jesus had told His disciples that the beautiful temple in Jerusalem would be utterly destroyed.  He said,  “Not one stone shall be left upon another, that will not be torn down.”   Mark 13:2.  

In response to this, the disciples asked Jesus these questions..  “Tell us when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?”   Mathew 24:3.   And we studied in detail, the answer that Jesus gave concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and we saw how the destruction of Jerusalem would bring about the great tribulation.  Jesus even told how the abomination of desolation would be the “sign” of the coming tribulation. 


Luke recorded these words of Jesus. in  Lk 21:20..  “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand.”   And Mathew records these words in  Mat 24:21..  “For then there will be a great tribulation such as not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall be.”   Now we’re ready to move forward and hear what Jesus had to say about the sign of His coming, and of the end of the age. 


Let’s begin by looking at three “parallel” passages from  Mathew,  Mark  and  Luke.   By “parallel” I mean that they’re all saying the same thing, even though in slightly different words.


Mat 24:29,  “And immediately  (that word could be translated, “shortly”, or “as soon as”)  after the tribulation of those days, The sun will be darkened and the moon will not give it’s light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heaven will be shaken..”  

Mark 13:24-25,   “But in those days after that tribulation, The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give it’s light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in heaven will be shaken.” 

Luke 21:25-26,  “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among the nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves.  Men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world;  For the powers of the heaven will be shaken.” 


Many people believe that these verses are speaking of the end of the world, the “end of the age” you might say.  But that’s not what these verse are speaking of.  I’ll give you two very clear reasons why we know this doesn’t refer to the end of the world.



The way that Luke phrases his words tell us that it can’t be referring to “the end”.   Luke says men will be “perplexed”, and he says they will be “fainting from fear and expectation of the things which are coming upon the world.”  No doubt there will be lots of “fear” when Christ returns, because of all the unfaithful people.  But there won’t be any “perplexity” nor “expectation about the things which are coming”.  God has told us that when Christ returns, it will be “announced” loud and clear from heaven itself!  We’re told in  1 Thessalonians 4:17,  “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout!  With the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God!   Revelation 1:7  says,  “Behold He is coming with the clouds, and every eye shall see Him!” 


No one will be perplexed.  No one will have any expectations about what is coming upon the world.  Every eye shall see Him, and everyone will know exactly what’s happening.  The only thing that will be yet to come, will be the judgment, but it will be immediate, and everyone will know it!  So an expectation of things which are coming upon the world doesn’t indicate the END of the world, but rather a “wondering” of how things which are to come, will affect us.



Notice how Mathew records the words of Jesus..  “And immediately after the tribulation of those days..”   As I’ve already explained, that word “immediately” could be properly translated “shortly” or “as soon as”.  Any way you translate it, it means SOON.   Now, we can’t be sure just how the disciples understood these words.  Maybe they DID think that soon after the tribulation, the end of the world would come.  But we know from history, that the tribulation occurred in about 70 AD, almost 2,000 years ago, and the end hasn’t come yet!  Therefore we KNOW that these words of Jesus, about the sun and moon being darkened, and about the stars falling from heaven, are not literal words, but they are figurative, used to symbolize something.


What Is Being Symbolized ?


“The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give it’s light”,  is a symbol of something.  “The stars will fall from the sky”,  is a symbol of something.   “The powers that are in heaven will be shaken”,  is a figure of speech.   Let me show you four other places in the bible where very similar symbolic words are also used.


Isaiah 13:10,   “For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light.  The sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will not shed it’s light.” 

Isaiah 24:23,   “Then the moon will be humiliated, and the sun ashamed.” 

Ezekiel 32:7-8,   “And when I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens, and darken their stars.  I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give it’s light.  All the shining lights in the heavens (the stars) I will darken over you, and will set darkness on your land, declares the Lord!” 

Acts 2:20,   “The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.  And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 


Now let’s examine what these words are symbolizing..


#1.  Isaiah 13:10.   The very first verse of this chapter tells us specifically what is being spoken of.  It says..  “The burden that Isaiah, the son of Amoz, did see, concerning Babylon.”  The word translated “burden” means..  “an utterance, especially of doom”.  In other words this vision that Isaiah saw, was a prophecy of the impending “doom” of Babylon.  That’s why it’s called “a burden”.  It was God’s judgment against the evil nation of Babylon.  This isn’t “guesswork”, these are God’s own words of what this prophecy means.  And the symbols of the stars and their constellations not giving their light, and of the sun being dark, and of the moon not shedding it’s light are all symbols of God’s JUDGMENT, against Babylon.  These are not symbols of the end of time.


#2.   Isaiah 24:23.   This entire chapter speaks of the sinfulness of the earth and it’s inhabitants, compared to the righteousness, and righteous judgment, of God’s word.   V-1  says,  “Behold the Lord lays the earth waste, devastates it, distorts it’s surface, and scatters it’s inhabitants.”   We read in  V’s 4-6,  “The earth mourns and withers, the world fades and withers.  The exalted of the people of the earth fade away.  The earth is also polluted by it’s inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant!  Therefore a curse devours the earth, and those who live in it are held guilty!  Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.”    And then the  23rd verse  says,  “The moon will be humiliated, and the sun ashamed.”   That is JUDGMENT !   But it’s not the end of time.


#3.   Ezekiel 32:7-8.   In this chapter, Ezekiel is told by God to make a specific prophecy concerning a specific person.  Here’s what God told Ezekiel,  “Son of man, take up a lamentation over Pharaoh, king of Egypt..”   V-2.   So these words are directed specifically to the king of Egypt, and they’re called a “lamentation”, because they tell of God’s impending judgment upon the king.  The word “lamentation” means..  “the passionate expression of grief or sorrow..  weeping”.  There’s a book in the Old Testament called “Lamentations”.  It’s also called “The Tears of Jeremiah”.   And it’s called that because it contains the sorrowful words of the prophet Jeremiah, concerning the suffering that came upon the nation of Israel as they went into captivity by king Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. 


Here are some of the many figurative words, and the symbols that God inspired Ezekiel to use, as he took up the lamentation over Pharaoh, king of Egypt..  “..I will satisfy the beasts of the whole earth with you.  And I will lay your flesh on the mountains, and fill the valleys with your refuse.  I will also make the land drink of the discharge of your blood, as far as the mountains, and the ravines shall be full of you.”   These words are from  Eze 32:4-6.   And that brings us to the words that we started with,  “And when I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars.  I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give it’s light.  All the shining lights of the heavens, I will darken over you, and will set darkness on your land.”   V’s 7-8.    “Judgment” and lamentation, over the king of Egypt!


#4.   Acts 2:20.   Beginning with  V-17  of this chapter, the apostle Peter uses Old Testament scriptures to prove that Jesus is the Christ!   He says in  V-36,   “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain, that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified!”  When Peter said that “the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon shall be turned into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come”, that was part of a quotation from  Joel 2:28-32.    And those words are speaking of the coming of Jesus into the world to establish His kingdom, and to bring the forgiveness of sins to all who “call on the name of the Lord”, and to bring condemnation to all who refuse His words.  After Jesus had fulfilled His role on earth in commanding us to “Repent and believe the gospel”   (Mark 1:15)  and in giving “His life a ransom for many”  (Mark 10:45)  and by being  “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father”  (Rom 6:4)   Jesus then promised to send the Holy Spirit of God to finish the work that He had begun.  And Jesus said in  John 16:8,   “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment.”  


Listen to what God said through His prophet Joel, concerning those words that Peter had quoted..  “For behold in THOSE days, and at THAT time, when I will restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, (he’s speaking about the new Israel, the body of Christ) I will gather ALL nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat.  (Jehoshaphat means..  God judges)    Then I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations.”   Joel 3:1-2.   


And so, when the images of the sun being darkened, and of the moon not giving it’s light or being turned to blood, and of the stars falling from heaven are expressed, what common idea is being conveyed by God?  The idea of some kind of JUDGMENT is being conveyed!  NOT the end of the world, but the judgment of God upon either specific persons, or upon mankind in general.   And it’s no different with the three verses that we looked at from Mathew, Mark, and Luke.   “Immediately after the tribulation of those days”,  there would be judgment from the Lord God!



Can These Words Refer To The End Of Time ?



Can these same symbolic words, that have been used to describe various judgments upon man, also refer to the FINAL judgment at the end of time?  Of course they can.  But does EVERY usage of these words refer to the final judgment?   Of course not.   The context in which the words are used will tell us what they refer to.  Just like we’ve seen from the context of those four examples, those same words, or at least very similar words, are used by God to refer to various judgments.  Here’s one last example..


We read in  Revelation 6:12-17,  “And I looked, and when he broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became as blood.  And the stars of the sky fell to earth, as a fig tree casts it’s unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.  And the sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.  And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the commanders, and the rich, and the strong, and every slave and free man, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains.  And they said to the mountains and to the rocks;  Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb!  For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” 


Judgment has come, hasn’t it?  But judgment upon whom?  Well, the context says that it was upon  “The kings of the earth, and the great men, and the commanders, and the rich, and the strong, and every slave and free man..”    Who does that leave out?  It leaves out NO ONE!  This judgment was upon everyone!


But judgment doesn’t automatically mean condemnation.  Some souls will be judged “righteous” as a result of their obedience to God’s words, which will lead to being cleansed of their sins, by the blood of Christ.   Others will of course be judged “unrighteous” because of their refusal to comply with the commands of God.  “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming in which all who are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth.  Those who did good deeds (those who obeyed) to a resurrection of life, and those who did evil deeds (those who did not obey)  to a resurrection of      judgment.”    John 5:28-29.    And here, the word judgment DOES mean condemnation.  


But in that text from  Revelation chapter 6,  is the judgment referring to everyone who was alive at that time?  Or does it refer to everyone who has EVER lived?  In other words, does it refer to the FINAL judgment?  Well, let’s see who these words were originally written to.  Here’s how the book of Revelation is addressed..  Rev 1:1,  “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him (Jesus Christ) to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place.  And He sent and communicated it by His Angel,  (Jesus Christ) to His bond-servant John.” 


This verse states clearly that the purpose for this writing, was to show God’s “bond-servants”, the things which must SHORTLY take place.  So we can be assured that the majority of all the “symbolic visions”, and “figurative language” used here, were describing things which were going to take place almost 2,000 years ago.   They are things that would take place SHORTLY after this book was written.  Some contend that the word “shortly” can only be taken somewhat “figuratively” because of the scripture that says,  “with the Lord, one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years, as a day.”   2 Peter 3:9.   However, this book was written to comfort these first century Christians who were actually being imprisoned and typically tortured and killed in some most gruesome ways.   We must admit that it would have been of little comfort to those Christians, to be told about the judgments being exacted on persons thousands of years later. 


Here’s what we can reasonably and rightfully conclude from the three verses of scripture in  Mat 24:29, Mark 13;24-25,  and  Luke 21:25-26.   The imagery of the sun and moon and stars, along with the idea of the heavens being shaken, all indicate the judgment of God upon the unrighteous.  And man’s perplexity is only the result of his relying on his own human wisdom, of which God says,  “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever, I will set aside.”   Romans 1:19.


This type of judgment that we’re speaking of, has obviously gone on throughout history, as is evidenced by the various other Old Testament scriptures that use the same language.  And it no doubt will continue to go on until the end of time.  So what are those three verses from  Mathew,  Mark,  and  Luke  saying?  They are saying that God’s judgment will come upon the ones responsible for the great tribulation, namely the Roman empire, and His judgment will continue to be upon all ungodliness, from now until the end of time.


We’ve come to the end of our time for this study, but we’ll pick up right here where we leave off, in the next part of the study on “What Is The Tribulation”.   I sincerely thank you for studying with me here, and invite you to come back for the next part of our study.  Until then, may God bless you in the study of His word.







This article has 2 Comments

  1. Wow, this is an entire Sunday/Sabbath school bible study lesson! It’s good that you are giving your interpretation according to the bible and leaving room for conversation.

    I happen to think this is really good and thorough research. My question is about the sun, moon, and stars. Is it possible that the sign that is being referred to is when all of these things happen at once(sun darkened, moon not giving light, etc.)? I think there is the assumption that these things will not ever happen until the last days, but it seems they have happened, just not all at once. Maybe they will when that day comes?

    1. Hi Derrick, thanks so much for your comment and question. The passages about the sun and moon and stars always seem to simply be figurative, symbolizing God’s judgment. However when the end of time does come, there will be some very dramatic events also! We’re told in 2 Peter 3:9.. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief, (in other words no one knows when it will happen) in which the heavens will pass away with a roar! And the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and all it’s works will be burned up!” That will be quite an event, don’t you agree? And do you know what the next verse says? “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought we to be, in holy conduct and godliness?” V-11. I guess we know exactly what sort of people we should be, don’t we? Thanks for your visit and your question Derrick. I hope that I’ve answered your question. Again, the sun and moon and stars are symbolic, indicating the judgment of God.

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