Who hasn’t heard the question, “Are we there yet?” Usually it comes from our children as we are on a road trip or hiking to a mountain lake. But today, in light of the COVID-19 virus pandemic, and the changes to the world we live in that have resulted, many adults are asking, “Are we there yet?” “Is this ushering in the end of the world?” “Have we come to the finale of history?” “Are we in the “great tribulation” that Jesus predicted (Mt. 24:21)? Is this “the time of Jacob’s (Israel’s) distress” of which “the LORD spoke concerning Israel and concerning Judah” to the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 30:7,4)?
While this pandemic is very real and will result in the death of thousands of people world-wide, has caused many to fear and—out of panic—do irrational things— and has resulted in a drastic change in lifestyle, we are not yet in the “great tribulation” or “time of Jacob’s distress” for several reasons (which are given below). But, we can definitely see how the conditions and events that the Bible details for that period of seven years of severe judgment upon the earth prior to Christ’s return to reign can quickly take place and must be “just around the corner.” As people often say who live in a remote corner of a rural area, such as in eastern Montana: “This may not be the end of the world, but you can see it from here!” Well, this current situation may not be the end of the world, but you can see it from here! It could be very, very close.
Daniel, along with other hostages, was taken captive as a youth by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C. to Babylon where he would spend the rest of his life as a government official and as a prophet of the true God. In 587 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar returned to quell a rebellion in Jerusalem and carried off 10,000 more captives, among them King Jehoichin and Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:1-3). Then in 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, and reduced Jerusalem to rubble (Jer. 52:1-11). The Jews (from the southern kingdom of Judah and Benjamin) would spend 70 years in captivity in Babylon as punishment for 490 years of disobeying God’s command to rest the land each seventh year. Since they failed to do that 70 times, they would spend 70 years’ captivity in Babylon (Lev. 26:33-35; II Chr. 36:21-23; Jer. 9:2; 29:10,11).
Toward the end of that 70 years, the Jews were obviously wondering what their future held, so God spoke through Jeremiah (who had been allowed to remain in Jerusalem) saying, “ ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’ “ (Jer. 29:10,11). In Babylon, God sent the angel Gabriel with a message for Daniel in response to his prayer (Dan. 9:1-19) regarding the future of his people (the Jews). Daniel, along with Jeremiah, had probably been thinking about the years of the captivity (Dan. 9:2) when Gabriel said to him, “Seventy weeks (heptads = “seventy sevens” cf Gen. 29: 27,28) have been declared for your people and your holy city (a total of 490 years) , to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place…” (Dan. 9:24-27). Gabriel goes on to speak of the decree (from Artaxerxes [Neh. 2:5]…March 14, 445 B.C) to go back to rebuild Jerusalem until the Messiah is cut off (April 6, 32 A.D.) would be a period of 69 weeks of seven years or 483 years (173,880 days when using the prophetic lunar calendar of 360 days per year and accounting for leap years). Then there would be a gap in the 490 year period before the final seven years prophesied for the Jews (the seven-year tribulation or “time of Jacob’s distress”) During this time gap, Israel would be set aside while God calls out for Himself a people for His name from among the Gentiles (the church…Acts 15:14). Paul writes about this to the Romans, saying: “For I do not want you brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come (the church is completed); and thus all Israel will be saved” (Ro. 11:25,26a).
Prior to Jesus sacrifice for sin and return to heaven, He told His disciples, “…I will build My church…” (Mt. 16:18). After Christ returned to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to indwell believers and to baptize (immerse) everyone who believed after that into the body of Christ, the church (I Cor. 12:12,13). But one day soon, He will return in the air to take the church (called the “Bride of Christ” …Rev. 21:2,9; 22:17) to be with Him in heaven (Jn. 14:3; I Thes. 4:13-18). That will usher in what Scripture calls “The day of the Lord” as God again turns His attention back to Israel and fulfills the prophecy given to Daniel for his people. The final week of seven years (called the Tribulation or “time of Jacob’s distress) will begin with the revealing of the “antichrist” (I Jn. 2:18 cf “the lawless one”…II Thes. 2: 8; the “beast coming out of the sea” of Rev. 13:1ff) who will make a covenant with the nation of Israel to protect her for seven years, but break the covenant after 3 1/2 years and lead the nations of the world to come against Israel. This charismatic world leader will establish a one-world government, economy and religion. He will set up an image of himself in the rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem and expect people to worship him and have his “mark” imbedded in either their forehead or in the back of their right hand, without which people cannot buy or sell (Rev. 14:16-18).
It is during this seventieth week of Daniel’s prophecy that the three series of Divine judgments (seal, trumpet, and bowl) described by John in Revelation chapters 6-19 take place. There will be famine, pestilence, war, great earthquakes, stars falling from the sky, the sun darkened, the moon becoming like blood, mountains crumbling and islands slipping into the sea (6:12-15). There will be hail and fire from heaven burning up 1/3 of the earth and all the grass (Rev. 8:7). One third of the sea will turn to blood, killing 1/3 of all sea life and ships (Rev. 8:8,9). And it gets even worse from there!! Needless to say, we are not there yet. The “Day of the Lord” has not come yet (II Thes. 2:1-12). The church is still here. The antichrist has not been revealed. World conditions are bad, but nothing compared to what they will be during the Tribulation. But, we can surely see how these things could be coming soon. The world is being prepared for a strong leader to take control and bring in a global government, economy and religion. You probably heard that Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister, a left-wing Labor leader said, in response to the corona virus pandemic, “There has to be coordinated global response. It calls for the creation of a temporary form of global government to be set up!”
So. “This may not be the end of the world, but (I believe) we can see it from here!” The next prophetic event to take place will be the removal of the church, the Bride of Christ. What we see happening is just a reminder that we need to be ready and that it could be very soon. Are you ready? Have you trusted Christ for eternal life? If you haven’t and Christ comes for the church, you will remain here to go through the Tribulation, may not get another chance to receive Christ as your Savior and will spend eternity separated from Him in hell. So, don’t put off a decision! If you are in Christ, Peter has an admonition for us, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God…” (II Pet. 3:10-12a). And John challenges us with these words: “And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (I Jn. 2:28).