The Time of Tribulation Established
We now come to a different phase of our enquiry, namely the great tribulation. Numerous books have been written about this dire event that have filled many minds with fearsome foreboding. Dispensationalists interpret this manifestation of Divine wrath as taking place in the 70th week of Daniel's prophecy still future. The Scofield R.B. says, "From this time begins the great tribulation which runs its course during the last half of Daniel's week, namely, three and one half years." p. 918. As a corollary of the teaching the Jews are to be regathered in Palestine and make a covenant with the antichrist, while the church is to be raptured away previous to the bitter vials of tribulation visited on the inhabitants left on the earth. After the tribulation Christ is to set up His kingdom on earth with headquarters at Jerusalem and reign in splendor for 1000 years during which time the Jews are to be preeminent.
To support this teaching dispensationalists quote Daniel 12 :1, which says, "And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time." If we can identify the time Daniel had in mind it should not be difficult to recognize the trouble he predicted. A definite clue to the time is furnished in verse 8 of the same chapter. It reads as follows :, "And when he shall have accomplished to SCATTER the power of the holy people, all these thing shall be finished." This is rendered by Knox as, "Strength of God's holy people must be broken utterly ; when that is over, all is over and done." Regardless of what trouble Daniel had reference to, it is evident that it was not to end with a regathered Israel installed in supreme authority for any prescribed period of time, but on the contrary it was to end in dispersion and with their power utterly broken. Moreover, when the scattering of Israel was to take place, then all Daniel's prophecy was fulfilled. Naturally this includes the 70th week. One scarcely needs to recall the tragic dispersion which history records as having occurred in A.D. 70. Every detail mentioned by Daniel was minutely fulfilled when the Jews were driven from their land and scattered throughout the nations of the world.
Light From Other Bible Translations It has been clearly established that the 70th week of Daniel came to pass as God determined during the life, death and resurrection of Christ, through which He ratified the everlasting covenant. Actually Daniel makes no mention of the word tribulation. He does speak of "The over-spreading of abominations he shall make it desolate," 9:27, but a careful reading of vv. 26, 27, will show that this desolation is not included in the 70 weeks, although it is closely related to that event. "Be assured of this, and mark it well ; a period of seven weeks must go by, and another period of sixty-two weeks, between the order to rebuild Jerusalem and the coming of Christ as leader . . . Sixty-two weeks must pass before Christ is done to death ; and the people will disown him and have none of him. [and they (the Jews) shall NO MORE be his people. Marginal reading.] High covenant he shall make before another week is done, and with folks a many ; but when that week has run half its course, offering and burnt sacrifice shall be none." Knox Translation. This version of this particular passage serves to strengthen our conclusion that all 70 weeks are accounted for, and that Christ did make His covenant in the 70th week. After the prophecy that Christ is rejected and crucified, however, we read, "Then the army of an invading leader will destroy both city and sanctuary, so that his taking away will mean utter destruction ; only a ruin is to be left when that war is ended . . . in the temple all shall be defilement and desolation."Knox. There can be no difficulty in identifying this desolation with the complete destruction that overwhelmed Jerusalem in A.D. 70, particularly in the light of Christ's words, "Behold your house (the temple) is left unto you DESOLATE." Matt. 23:38 and Luke 13.35.
An Unmistakable Sign Given
The prophecy of the tribulation is told in Matt. 24 in answer to this question asked by the disciples. "Tell us when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and the end of the world?" vv. 3, 4. Jesus first warned His disciples not to be deceived. Then He said, "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 anything 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." ch. 24 :15-21.
In considering the words, "VVhoso readeth let him understand," we conclude that what is written is not meant to be obscure. For that reason we are forced to take issue with the dispensationalists who assert that the abomination spoken of by Daniel "is an idol placed in the holy of holies of the temple during the reign of the anti-christ." See Blackstone p. 187. A little sober reflection with the aid of the Word of God will dissipate any such private interpretation.
In the first place the origin of this teaching is found in the apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees, 1:57, "On the fifteenth day of the month Casleu, in the hundred and forty-fifth year, king Antiochus set up the abominable idol of desolation upon the altar of God, and they built altars throughout all the cities of Judea round about." Dispensationalists borrow this historic incident connected with Antiochus and maintain that it will be repeated in the future under anti-christ. The statue referred to is that of Jupiter which desecrated God's altar during the reign of Antiochus. Many identify Antiochus as a type of anti-christ. The difficulty encountered here, however, is apparent when we remember that an idol in the holy of holies could not possibly serve as a warning to the people of Judea for they could not SEE such a thing. Only the high priest was allowed in that shrine. Jesus spoke of something the people I could see. Evidently it was something that could not be mistaken when it came to pass. We submit the following evidence to support this contention.
The tribulation prophecy is found in Matthew, Mark and Luke. In Matthew it is written primarily for the Jews who were familiar with the Old Testament prophecies and would, therefore, recognize the warning when it came to pass. That is why Matthew says, "Whoso readeth let him understand." For them it was simply a case of fulfilled prophecy. But the gospel of Luke was written especially for the Gentiles and they were not acquainted with prophecy. Thus when the disciples asked the same question about the tribulation in Luke 21:5-8 we find the answer given from verses 8-21 of which vv. 20, 21 are as follows: "And when ye shall SEE Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the DESOLATION thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in JUDEA flee to the mountains . . ."
Terrible Nature of the Destruction of Jerusalem. It is very apparent that a conquering army is a desolating instrument of judgment and that it can plainly be seen. History records the fact that when the armies of Rome led by the Roman PRINCE Titus surrounded Jerusalem, the Christians living in Judea fled to the mountains and thus escaped annihilation. They were saved. Josephus, an eyewitness who recorded the history of the tragic war, records that when Jerusalem withstood the siege longer than Titus expected, that the Roman armies turned in desolating wrath upon Judea and wreaked fearful vengeance upon the inhabitants who remained there - but the Christians had gone. While Titus was carrying out this terrible mission in Judea, the Christians fled from Jerusalem, knowing from the words of Christ that judgment awaited that city also. Thus the Christians were "saved" out of it. The sign Christ gave them was one they could plainly see, or reading they could understand.
In order to escape the inevitable consequences of this conclusion the Scofield R.B. presents the entirely unwarranted inference that there are two destructions of Jerusalem, one of which took place in A.D. 70 and another in the supposedly future 70th week of Daniel. The words of Luke preclude this view for we read, "For these be the days of vengeance THAT ALL THINGS WHICH ARE WRITTEN MAY BE FULFILLED." Luke 21 :22. Of course if ALL things are fulfilled, it is impossible to look for a future fulfillment of this prophecy. Even the Scofield R.B. makes it clear that the account in Luke describes the Roman conquest and the Bible says that event "fulfilled all things which are written."
It is also to be noted that this destruction was done by a Roman prince, named Titus. Thus the armies of Titus were "The people of the prince that shall come." Dan. 9 :26. The punishment meted out by his armies is without parallel in history. It is recorded by Josephus that during the siege he crucified Jews around Jerusalem until there was no room to put the crosses nor wood to make them with. After unbelievable slaughter, the entire surviving remnant of the nation was sold into slavery and have been a wandering people without a homeland. Truly it was the "Day of Jacob's trouble." Moreover great as was the slaughter by the Romans, it is recorded that more people perished within the city by the hands of rebels, suicides, anarchy and famine than by the hands of the enemy. The dead bodies in some instances were piled five feet deep in parts of the temple courts. Even Josephus, who was an unbeliever declared that it seemed to be the result of a judgment on the people.
Is it any wonder that Christ gave His followers such explicit instructions to escape this terrible ordeal ; how fitting His words that they pray "that their flight be not in winter or on the Sabbath Day !" How natural that His loving heart should break into sobs as He beheld the city and wept over it because of its impending judgment. Even when He carried His cross, He said, "Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and your children."
Doubtless this world will see tribulations in the future and certainly there is a coming judgment. But the great tribulation spoken of by Matthew, Mark and Luke which was foretold by Daniel is unquestionably a matter of history. It is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Moses in Deut. 28:64, "And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even to the other:" No words could have been more accurately fulfilled during the past 2000 years. And in support of the conclusion set forth above we would point out the effect the vision had upon Daniel as told in Dan. 10:2, 3. It says, "In those days, I, Daniel, was in mourning three full weeks." Manifestly Daniel saw the destruction of his nation rather than its re-establishment as a world power, and its tragic end was of such a nature as to cause Daniel to mourn three full weeks.