KEY#5: THE PRIMARY FOCUS OF THE TRIBULATION PERIOD IS ISRAEL, NOT THE CHURCH
As I mentioned in a previous key, if the book of Revelation is seen as merely allegory, then it has no real meaning. One unfortunate teaching that has come from this approach is known as “Replacement Theology”. This teaches that any reference to Israel or the Jewish people is really talking about the Church. It “replaces” Israel with the Church. Scripture clearly teaches that God is not done with the Jewish people. Read Romans chapters 9-11 and it’s abundantly clear the Jews are still God’s chosen people. That doesn’t mean they are all good or that they are saved (unless they have accepted Christ), but it does mean that God is not done with them. The Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 15, see also 12:2-3, 17:7) was an unconditional covenant. Many Old Testament covenants had conditions but this one had none. It’s based solely on God’s character and plan.
In the Old Testament the tribulation period was referred to as “The time of Jacob’s (the Jews) trouble”. In the 70 weeks of Daniel Chapter 9, it’s all about God’s plan for the Jewish race. As I mentioned in Key #1, there is a mysterious pause or break between the 69th and 70th “week” (of years) which we now know as the “Church age” or “the age of grace”.
Think of it like this. God is working out his plan for the Jewish people during the first 69 sets of 7 years, Jesus comes at his first advent, the Jewish prophetic clock pauses during the Church age. At some point (I believe sooner rather than later) the Church is taken out of the picture at the Rapture.
Soon after, the tribulation period begins (with the signing of a treaty) causing the Jewish prophetic clock to start again in order to complete the last set of 7 years — which is also the duration of the tribulation period. Jews and Gentiles will choose to follow Christ during the tribulation period, but they are referred to collectively as “tribulation saints”, not “the Church” as we refer to believers today during the Church Age. At the end of the tribulation period Jesus returns and sets up the Kingdom (as promised in the Old Testament and clearly stated in Revelation chapter 20) and reigns physically on earth for 1000 years.
Also, consider this. After 3 chapters about the Church, in first verse of chapter 4 a trumpet is sounded and John hears the words “Come up here.” I believe this indicates the rapture because there is no mention of the church again until chapter 19 when we return with Christ. We find that throughout the following chapters (4-18) God’s attention turns back to the Jews and Israel. There are 2 Jewish witnesses, 144,000 Jewish evangelists, and the entire world is focused on Jerusalem (which by the way is exactly what we’re seeing today).
A study of various key prophetic verses (especially Ezekiel 37-40) demonstrate that although the Jews are God’s chosen people, most of them won’t accept Christ until the tribulation period. Passages also indicate that a small remnant would turn to Christ before that period once they were back in their homeland.
That’s exactly what we’ve seen. Israel miraculously became a nation again in 1948 (just as predicted) but they did not control Jerusalem until 1967 after the Six Day War (in which they defeated all of the surrounding nations who attacked them…in 6 days!). Right after this war a small remnant of Jewish people began accepting Jesus as the Messiah. This phenomenon has continued. In 1967 there were ZERO Jewish Christians in Israel. Today there are over 20,000 (2011 study) and over 150 Messianic Jewish churches in Israel, and many more in other parts of the world.
A study of the people of Israel will show that prophecy has been fulfilled in many ways. It also explains why Satan has used evil rulers in every age to mistreat and attempt to eliminate the Jews. From Pharaoh, to Mordecai, to Hitler, to today’s terrorists and radical Islamic states, there has been a millennia long attempt to destroy the Jewish race.
Why? Because the scriptures and the messiah came from her, and because end-times prophecy requires a return of the Jews to their land then to their Messiah! God said Israel is the “apple of his eye“. The worst way to hurt someone is to hurt their kids. The biggest reason is Satan still thinks he can win if he destroys an essential element to end-times prophecy…the Jews.
I hope these 5 keys (Previous Keys: (1.) (2.) (3.) (4.) will help make your study of Revelation less intimidating and will provide confidence and clarity in God’s Word. It takes time and effort to study effectively but the payoff is worth it. Not only do we know the Bible better but we know Him better.
Remember the promise in Revelation 1:3 — “God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.”
RESOURCES FOR FURTHER STUDY
Here are a few GREAT books to get if you would like to dig deeper.
The Revelation Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Prophetic Book of the End of Times (Morris)
40 Days Through Revelation: Uncovering the Mystery of the End Times (Rhodes)
Charting the End Times: A Visual Guide to Understanding Bible Prophecy (LaHaye/Ice)
Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times (Walvoord)
The End Times in Chronological Order (Rhodes)
Exploring Bible Prophecy from Genesis to Revelation (LaHaye/Hindson)