The Time of Trouble

“There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time.” —Daniel 12:1

THE Bible plainly states that this present evil world will be brought to an end in a great time of trouble that will sweep away every vestige of iniquity and iniquitous institutions from the face of earth, in preparation for Christ’s glorious thousand-year reign for the resurrection of all mankind from their graves, wherein they are sleeping and blessing them with peaceful, everlasting life on this lovely, restored planet Earth.

This foretold time of trouble has an important place in the Word of God. It was first mentioned in the Scriptures more than thirty-five hundred years ago. It is attested to by our Lord Jesus, by many of the prophets, by the Apostle Peter, by John the Revelator, and by Jehovah God himself. It is not, perhaps, a happy subject, except as it may be likened to the last violent storm of winter that clears the way for a glorious new springtime when the whole land comes alive once more with the song of birds, the form, color and fragrance of myriads of flowers and blossoming fruit trees, the forests become clothed anew in glorious green, and the hurrying mountain streams bear their pure, life-giving waters to the thirsty countryside below.

Although this time of trouble was foretold by many different prophets, often separated by great spans of time, it is always identified by some form or other of that special phrase, or hallmark, which was used by each of the prophets in describing it. It will be a time of trouble, each says, the like of which never before occurred since man was first placed on this planet; and they usually add the comforting assurance that it will never be repeated.

While this time of trouble is spoken of by so many different prophets of the Lord, we find their prophecies presented to us in varying contexts, each supplying different, but informative facets of the same time of trouble. Thus, by the Lord’s grace, he has provided that his people may be well instructed in the details of his plan for the blessing of mankind. But mostly it would appear that the Lord specially arranged it so that his people at the very end of the age would be able to recognize the signs of the times, that we might know just where we are on the stream of time, and thus be encouraged to faithfulness as we see these momentous events actually coming to pass, knowing that our deliverance, and the kingdom of God, are near.

The particular scripture relating to the time of trouble with which we are probably most familiar is the statement made by Jesus to his disciples as he sat on the mount of Olives. He had but shortly before left the Temple in Jerusalem, and had told them the building would be utterly destroyed. Curious about the many things Jesus had related to them, especially concerning the promised kingdom, they went to him and asked, “Tell us, when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming [parousia, presence], and of the end of the world [aion, age]?”—Matt. 24:3

We believe the disciples were impelled to ask this question under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, thus providing Jesus with an opportunity to supply signs of the time of his second advent, or presence, and the end of the Gospel Age of faith then beginning. In reply, Jesus described certain events that would occur during the Gospel Age, and then specifically answered their question as to the signs of his second presence and the end of the age. He said, “Then [at that time] there shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”—Mat. 24:21

The Scriptures tell us that at his first advent Jesus died to redeem mankind from sin and death. We also are shown in the Scriptures that the Gospel Age is the period of time allotted by the Lord for calling out of the world and testing and proving the little flock, those who shall be associated with Jesus as kings and priests in his kingdom of blessing. (Rev. 20:6) While this essential phase of God’s plan is in process of being completed in the final days of the harvest of the Gospel Age, Jesus will be present supervising the work of the harvest. It will be remembered that on an earlier occasion Jesus had said “the harvest is the end of the age.” Thus, when the harvest of the wheat class is finished and the wheat all gathered into the barn, the Gospel Age will end in the foretold great time of trouble, and Christ’s millennial kingdom will shortly be established in the earth for the blessing of the world of mankind.—Matt. 9:38; 13:39, Diaglott

It was for the coming of that kingdom that Jesus’ disciples on the mount of Olives were inquiring—yea, longing! It is for the establishment of that glorious reign that the Apostle Paul tells us the whole world is even now waiting “on tiptoe.” (Rom. 8:19, Phillips) It is for that same kingdom that the Lord’s people today continue to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”—Rom. 8:19, RSV; Matt. 6:10

But it cannot be set up until the elect number have all been selected and proven faithful unto death, and thus the Gospel Age will come to an end. But our Lord Jesus has graciously informed us how we should know when he would be present at his second advent, and how we should know when the Gospel Age was drawing to a close and the establishment of his kingdom at the threshold—the world would experience a time of trouble the like of which had never before occurred in the history of humankind.

These enlightening words of Jesus’ are not alone in the Scriptures, for some five centuries earlier the Prophet Daniel had said the same thing. After prophetically reviewing events that would take place in the world through much of the Gospel Age, including its closing days, Daniel wrote, “And at that time [in the end of the age] shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time.”—Dan. 12:1

According to Professor Strong the name Michael means ‘who is like God’. It fittingly represents the glorified Jesus who, as the “arm” of the Lord, and on behalf of Jehovah God, stands up, or assumes authority in the affairs of human-kind, and initiates the time of trouble that marks the closing hours of the Gospel Age preparatory to the establishment of the kingdom.—Isa. 51:9; 53:1

But Daniel, we rejoice, does not stop with the simple statement that there shall be a time of trouble in the world when Michael stands up. He supplies additional details of other marvelous events shortly to unfold at that time. He continues, “And at that time [emphasis ours] thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And … [all, Professor Young] of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting [age-lasting] life, and some to shame and everlasting [age-lasting] contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.” (Dan. 12:1-3) The time of trouble, Daniel here informs us, will immediately be followed by the establishment of Christ’s kingdom and the resurrection of the dead! These, under the loving guidance of the glorified little flock, will be given an opportunity to renounce their evil ways, and gain everlasting life on earth.—John 5:25-27; Acts 3:20-23; Isa. 45:18; Ps. 115:16

Then Daniel, under the Lord’s direction, and for the special enlightenment of the Lord’s people, provides further signs indicating that we are, indeed, in the closing days of the Gospel Age, and the time of trouble. He says that at that time “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” (Dan. 12:4) Here Daniel tells us that the same time of trouble which was a sign of Jesus’ second presence and the end of the Gospel Age, will be marked by much running to and fro, and by an increase of knowledge.

The fulfillment of this prophecy in our day is plainly to be seen on every hand. Until the early days of the last century, although man had been on this earth for nearly six thousand years, he could travel no faster than a ship could sail, or a beast of burden could carry him. Most people lived their lives and were buried within short distances of the places where they were born. How different is the picture today, with high speed automobiles and trains, jet planes, and even visits to the moon! The increase of knowledge that has come about in the last one hundred years is presently accelerating at a rate almost beyond comprehension. What wonderful confirmation and assurance Daniel gives us that our Lord Jesus is, indeed, now present, that the Gospel Age is drawing to a close, and the establishment of the kingdom and the resurrection of the dead very near.

As we look again into the Scriptures we find that long before even Daniel came on the scene this same time of trouble, with all its awesome implications, was pictured in the Bible. On this occasion the speaker and prophet is Jehovah God himself. This is recorded in the Book of Exodus where, in type, we are given our first, grand overview of God’s great plan of the ages for the deliverance of the world of mankind from their bitter bondage to sin and death, through the shed blood of the Lamb without blemish. See Exodus, chapters 1-12.

The setting for this grand drama is the land of Egypt, whence the Israelites had gone at the invitation of Pharaoh because of his love for Joseph, Jacob’s son. (Gen. 45:17-21) In the good land of Goshen the Israelites “multiplied exceedingly,” and all went well with them until “there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.” Under this new king the Egyptians made the lives of the Israelites bitter with hard bondage. When they cried to the Lord he heard their cries, and sent Moses to deliver them from the hand of the wicked Pharaoh, and lead them to the land of Canaan, the Promised Land, the land of peace and plenty, the land of milk and honey.—Gen. 47:27; Exod. 1:8

In this illuminating, real life experience of the Israelites in bondage in the land of Egypt, the Lord has graciously given us a preview, in miniature, of the sorry plight to which the whole world of mankind would fall, and the wise and loving means whereby he purposes to free and bless them. In this picture Pharaoh would seem clearly to represent Satan; and the land of Egypt, his kingdom of darkness. The Israelites in bitter slavery to Pharaoh would represent the world of mankind groaning under bondage to sin and death, and crying for deliverance. Moses, their deliverer, would picture Christ, who “when he ascended on high … led a host of captives” (Eph. 4:8, RSV) to freedom. The lamb without blemish, whose shed blood protected the firstborn from death at the hand of the destroying angel, would represent the antitypical “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”—John 1:9

The firstborn, instrumental in the ensuing deliverance of the nation of Israel, and who alone of the Israelites were under danger of death on the night of Passover, represent the little flock of the Gospel Age, the “church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven.” whose Gospel Age sacrifice is counted in with that of their Lord Jesus in the offering for the sin of the world. (Heb. 12:23) The land of Canaan with its milk and honey, the ultimate goal of the liberated Israelites, pictures the return of the freed world of mankind to the everlasting joys of a restored earthly paradise.

But we are primarily interested here in discerning just what is pictured by the plagues the Lord directed Moses to bring upon Pharaoh and his cohorts, and which directly led to the release of the Israelites from bondage just prior to their starting on their journey to the Promised Land. We believe these plagues represent the same time of trouble foretold by both Jesus and Daniel, and which those prophets of the Lord indicated would shortly be followed by the establishment of Christ’s kingdom and the resurrection of the dead. (Luke 21:25-31; Dan. 12:1-3) We draw this conclusion, not only from the obvious symbology to be found in the various individuals and details of the events involved in that experience in Egypt, but also from the use by Jehovah God himself of the same words later spoken by both Jesus and Daniel in their own descriptions of the literal time of trouble as being one that will have had no precedent in human experience, and which would never be repeated.—Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21

These identifying statements by the Lord are found a number of times in the account of the plagues on Egypt. “Behold, tomorrow about this time I [Jehovah] will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now.” (Exod. 9:18) “So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.” (9:24) “If thou refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow will I [the Lord] bring locusts into thy coast; … and they shall fill thy houses, … and the houses of all the Egyptians; which neither thy fathers, nor thy fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day they were upon the earth unto this day.” (10:4-6) “And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the coasts of Egypt: very grievous were they; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such.” (10:14) “And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more.” (11:6) How wonderfully the Lord has provided for our instruction and encouragement in this thumbnail picture of his plans for the blessing of the world after the hold of “that old serpent, called the Devil” (Rev. 12:9) upon mankind has been broken in the time of trouble, Satan is bound, and the kingdom established in the earth!

But the Lord reveals further details of this period of time through still another of his prophets. Joel refers to this time as the day of the Lord, and says “it is nigh at hand.” (Joel 2:1) However, we know that he is talking about the time of trouble, because he uses the language that is peculiar to that period of time. He describes it as “a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations. Fire devours before them, and behind after them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them. Their appearance is like the appearance of horses, and like war horses they run. As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble, like a powerful army drawn up for battle. Before them peoples are in anguish, all faces grow pale. Like warriors they charge, like soldiers they scale the wall. They march each on his way, they do not swerve from their paths. They do not jostle one another, each marches in his path; they burst through the weapons and are not halted. They leap upon the city, they run upon the walls; they climb up into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief.”—Joel 2:2-9, RSV

In the foregoing passage the Prophet Joel vividly symbolizes the frightening devastation that shall be wrought in the time of trouble by a huge, irresistible army as it passes ruthlessly through the land. It is interesting and instructive to observe the similarities between the account of the time of trouble Joel here presents (and in much the same language) with the one given to us in the description of the plague of locusts the Lord sent upon Egypt, “before … [whom] there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such.” (Exod. 10:4-15) How altogether appropriate and meaningful is the Bible metaphor which likens the total destruction brought about by a plague of locusts to that wrought by a ravishing army! Joel’s description of the time of trouble as one of unprecedented devastation is in complete agreement with the other prophetic statements describing this time. It graphically conveys a sense of the inescapable suffering that shall be endured by the world in the coming climax of the time of trouble.

We will now look at another prophecy of this time of trouble—one that comes to us with the highest credentials. It is recorded in the book of “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass.” (Rev. 1:1) From the sixth chapter on, the Book of Revelation deals largely with events of the Gospel Age leading up to its closing days in the time of trouble, and finally the establishment of Christ’s millennial reign.

We are here especially concerned with a portion of the sixteenth chapter, where we are told in the fourteenth verse that the nations are being gathered “to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.” In the following verse Jesus declares he is present, although unknown to the world: “I come as a thief.” But his presence is recognized by his footstep followers, who have been watching for the signs of his presence: “Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments.”

As the arm of Jehovah, Jesus now directs the issue: he gathers the nations together “into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.” Then comes the end, as the seventh angel pours out his vial into the air. “And there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.” The emptying of the last vial finally releases the forces that precipitate the time of trouble: “And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.”—Rev. 16:16-18

Then we read, “And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, … and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.” (Rev. 16:21) It will be recalled that the plague of hail was one of the last plagues brought by the Lord on the nation of Egypt just prior to the deliverance of the Israelites from bondage, and the start of their long journey to the Promised Land.—Exod. 9:24

Thus through the Revelator we are given an additional brief but confirming sketch of all the essential elements of the time under discussion: the Gospel Age is drawing to a close, our Lord Jesus is invisibly present, and the age ends in a great time of trouble.

Job, too, had a word to say about this hail. He wrote, “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble and for the day of battle and war?” (Job 38:22,23, RSV) Here, in a single, truth-ladened passage, Job also shows the connection between the time of trouble, the battle of Armageddon, and the hard truths that shall utterly destroy this present evil world, and prepare mankind for the blessings of the kingdom.

We believe the scriptures we have examined clearly show that the world is to be afflicted with a great time of trouble, the like of which has never previously been experienced by humankind, and which will never be repeated; that this time of trouble would be a sign that our Lord Jesus is invisibly present at his second advent; that the Gospel Age for calling and testing the church is ending; and that following the climax of this time of trouble on the world Christ’s millennial reign for the blessing of all mankind will shortly begin.

In the minds of some the question may remain, “Has the time of trouble yet begun?” We believe it has. The prophetic time of trouble, the prophets have shown, would be a unique one—one, the like of which the world had never previously known. We believe the problems facing the world this very day aptly fit that description. For never before has the world been confounded by the seemingly insolvable problems that are now developing as a result of the global population explosion. Never before has pollution of the land, the rivers and lakes, the seas, and the precious atmosphere so threatened man’s continued existence on this earth. Never before has the civilization of mankind itself been faced with the possibility of annihilation as it is today, with the invention and proliferation of the nuclear bomb.

The most powerful, dedicated and benevolent of the world’s leaders are unable to devise and implement solutions to these steadily worsening difficulties. The United Nations Organization is unable to prevent worldwide hunger, cruel violations of the rights of fellow human beings, or wars between nations. The newspapers of the world daily carry ominous statements of contention between countries, violent religious confrontations, racism, and threats of international economic and financial problems. The eminent Henry Kissinger recently gave it as his opinion that the survival of free societies is at stake. We believe these and other global problems abundantly testify to the fact that the world has entered the beginnings of that foretold time of trouble the like of which had never before afflicted the world since man was created.

The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, long ago predicted “that eventually world order would come about either through intellectual and moral insight, or through the experience of chaos.” (Newsweek, 1/24/83) The Bible puts it in simpler terms. Man must learn to love the Lord, and his neighbor as himself, or be subjected to punishment. Reviewing the evidence, it seems the world is following the way of chaos.

For any who are still uncertain whether we are today in the time of trouble we offer the testimony of one more of God’s holy prophets. Jeremiah declares that the Lord would regather his people Israel to the land of Palestine in the time of trouble.

His account reads, “Thus speaketh the Lord God of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book. For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord; and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it. … For thus saith the Lord, We have heard a voice of trembling, of tear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? Wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness. Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it.” The prophet here is clearly stating that the Lord will regather his people in the time of trouble, for he uses the language that describes that time.—Jer. 30:2-6

And so, we would ask, Have we not seen the Jews regathered to their land, as spoken by the Lord? That being so, we believe it constitutes indubitable evidence that the world has, indeed, entered into the time of trouble; that our Lord Jesus is present; that the Gospel Age of faith is drawing to a close, and the kingdom of blessing is near.

But let not our hearts be downcast at thoughts of the growing distress upon the nations, for the promises of the Heavenly Father are sure. “In the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.” (Ps. 27:5) That beautiful promise is for his special treasure, the footstep followers of Jesus. And what of the world of mankind? Beyond the wintertime of trouble will come a revival of life that will truly be one such as the world has never known since there was a nation—a glorious, bountiful, peaceful, everlasting springtime!

Therefore, dear brethren, let us look up, and lift up our heads; for our redemption draweth nigh!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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