Eschatological Absolutes – Jacob’s Trouble – Matthew 24:15-31; Jeremiah 30:1-11


From time to time, you will hear me use the term “Jacob’s Trouble.” I believe that this is one of the Eschatological Absolutes – one of the assured events of the future. When I use that term, I am using it as a synonym for the seven year “Tribulation” spoken of by Daniel, and which is expounded here, and in Revelation as well as in other scriptures. The term is used only once in the Bible, and that is in Jeremiah 30:7. Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it. For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him: But they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them. Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.” Despite the rarity of the term, the principle of “Jacob’s Trouble” is stated clearly and often in the Bible.

It is likely that when Jeremiah gave this prophecy, the immediate thought of his hearers was of the Jews’ captivity by the Babylonians. That was the primary current event in the days of Jeremiah, filling the newspapers and social media. But there are images here which push us beyond the initial and immediate context – For example, the men of Israel were in unnatural pain unheard of before. Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; BUT he shall be saved out of it. There is the suggestion of peace, but it will be replaced by fear and trembling. The Lord then promises salvation and deliverance from all the nations into which Israel has been sent. Furthermore He says that “I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee.” That has not yet taken place, but many scriptures guarantee its fulfilment. “I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee (Israel): but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.” That is the purpose of the Tribulation – it is first and foremost “Jacob’s (Israel’s) Trouble,” preparing that nation for the arrival of their Messiah.

It is hard to summarize the subject of the “Tribulation” into a few minutes, but I am going to try. And even though it is one our“absolutes,” I warn you that I’ll venture into areas where my opinions are debated. Many things about the Tribulation are NOT absolute. Not everything about the Tribulation are absolutes, but that a period of special tribulation shall take place IS absolute.

First we begin with the fact that it is JACOB’S Trouble – it is not designed for today’s saints or the church.

Some think that “the church” – by whatever definition people give to the word – the church will have to pass through all or part of the tribulation. There are several scriptures used to encourage that opinion. And one is found in Matthew 24:14 “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end be.” Who is going to preach the gospel if it’s not you and me? The Lord has answered that in other scriptures – it will be redeemed sons of Israel.

God’s basic purpose for the Tribulation will be judgment, but it won’t be like that of the Lake of Fire. By that I mean that mixed with the judgment will be the unmistakable grace of God. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end be.” Some people believe that those seven years will be a time of great spiritual revival. I don’t believe that, and yet there will be many people redeemed out of every kindred, tribe and nation. The tribulation will further prove that nothing but grace can humble the rebellious heart of man. Despite the deaths of billions of people during that time, multitudes of Jews and perhaps some Gentiles will be given grace to repent and believe on Christ. These will be the people who joyfully enter the blessedness of the Millennial Kingdom naturally.

We see that the Lord Jesus makes reference to Daniel’s prophecy in verse 25 – “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” The first thing that we have to do here is determine to whom the pronoun “he” refers. Following the general rules of grammar, we step back to a previously mentioned person, and we come to the prince of the people who destroyed Israel. This one, who confirms and breaks this covenant, is earlier described as “the little horn” – the Antichrist But then who are the “many” of this verse? That is open to conjecture, but there is no question in my mind – it is Israel.

For one week – seven years in God’s time table – this wicked prince will establish a treaty with Israel. Another name for this 70th week is “The Tribulation.” The Antichrist will promise to protect Israel against her neighbors and much of the rest of the world. But in the midst of that week he will not only break his treaty, but he will shame his former friends and personally desecrate their place of worship – the rebuilt temple.

Our Lord did some teaching about the tribulation – and about the destruction of the temple under Titus. This was in Matthew 24 “And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?”

Along with many other details Jesus 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 Judaea flee into the mountains:…. For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened…. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”In Matthew 24:15 the Lord Jesus refers to the same incident which takes place in the middle of the week, at the 3½ year mark.

Gabriel and Christ Jesus aren’t the only ones to teach us about this seventieth week. The Apostle John in Revelation 11, speaking about other events of the Tribulation period refers to forty and two months – 3½ years. And in Revelation 12 we are told about tribulation and some degree of divine protection for a time, and times and half a time – once again for 3½ years. Then in Revelation 13 we have more information about the Tribulation and particularly the last half. “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear.”

To summarize things, there are 70 weeks from the time of Daniel, during which God will deal with Israel. The first 69 weeks expired at the crucifixion – they are history. But at that time, the Lord broke the succession of weeks, delaying the last week for a very long time. After the crucifixion of Christ, Israel was put on the shelf, as thankfully, the Lord’s attention turned toward saving Gentile sinners and establishing His church. At the time which the Lord has determined to switch back to Israel. The primary purpose of the Tribulation will be to bring that nation to her knees before God. The problems and trials of that week will begin slowly, but at the mid-point, the Tribulation will become “the Great Tribulation.” The rest of the unbelieving world will not simply be witnesses. Those seven years will bring natural and supernatural disasters the magnitude of which Hollywood block-busters are made. And if YOU are not a child of God when the tribulation begins, then I’m afraid that I have no assurance that you will ever be given repentance and faith to be saved.

The Lord has been extremely gracious toward us in providing us this little key-hole through which we can look into the future. For us that future is not very far away. And the application ought to be – repent before God, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Among several smaller points, there are three major objectives of the Tribulation.

Despite what I have said about Israel, the Tribulation will also bring some judgment upon the Gentile nations. Later here in Matthew 24 the Lord will make reference to “the days of Noah.” The Noahic flood brought judgment upon the whole world for its sins against God. I can’t say for a fact that the sins of Noah’s day were NOT worse than ours, but I have my doubts. There is no reason NOT to expect severe judgment for our society before the end of its reign. But remember that Israel has always been Jehovah’s chosen people, and generally speaking what happens to the Gentiles during the Tribulation relates to Israel in some fashion.

For example, there are many scriptures similar to Deuteronomy 30:7 – “And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee.” Whole chapters of Isaiah prophesy God’s wrath upon the wicked nations or on the world in general. Despite the fact that the Tribulation is primarily intended for Israel, those nations who have hated Israel will also feel God’s wrath.

A second purpose for the Tribulation is the witness of God. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end be.” It is through the gospel that the message of salvation is proclaimed, but there is no salvation in the gospel itself. It is Christ who saves the sinner, not merely the message of Christ. One of the primary purposes for preaching the gospel is “for a witness unto all nations.” The gospel glorifies God unlike anything else in this world – whether or not people are saved. During the Tribulation there will be the 144,000 Hebrew evangelists and common evangelism. Furthermore, the Two Witnesses will provide a special evangelistic witness to Israel. Revelation 14 even suggests that angels will be involved in awakening the people of the world. How many people will be saved during the Tribulation? Probably a small percentage of billions alive at the beginning, but there will be millions never-the-less.

The primary purpose of the Tribulation period – “Jacob’s Trouble” – will be to break the will of Israel. God will use a variety of agencies – human, natural and even Satanic – to bring that nation to her knees – figuratively and literally. She must be brought to humbly see that Jesus Christ is her Messiah. That will not bring about His return, but it will be necessary for Israel’s participation in the blessings of Christ’s Kingdom. First, the Lord will return Israel to the land before and during the tribulation. “I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out.” Ezekiel 20:34. Once the tribulation begins God says, “I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the LORD” Ezekiel 20:37-38. This tells us that a great many of the unbelieving Jews will be removed.

Now listen to Zechariah 13:7-9 – “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones. And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.” Zechariah gives us a numeric ratio that will be purged. We learn that two-thirds of Israel will be purged through the fire of the Tribulation, leaving the one-third elect who will be converted to Jesus as their Messiah. Romans 11:26-17 – “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” What a glorious day that will be! Remaining Israel will be converted to Jesus as their Messiah at the time of Christ’s second coming, which will then begin the millennial reign of Christ.

I don’t believe Calvary Independent Baptist Church is to be found in these Tribulational activities. While many people think the tribulation will involve today’s saints, I do not believe the Bible teaches that. The New Testament teaches that Christ’s true churches will disappear because its members will be translated to Glory to forever be with Christ. We can’t find them in the Book of Revelation after chapter 3. There will be professing Christians and false churches left behind to face the Tribulation, but not the Lord’s people of today. Praise His glorious Name. “Maranatha” – Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Some say, “The church will go through the tribulation because the Bible says that we will suffer for our faith.” Certainly the Bible teaches that God’s saints shall suffer persecution. John 16:33 “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” II Timothy 3:12 – “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” And we have seen the ebb and flow of this kind of tribulation throughout history. Hundreds of professing “Christians” are being slaughtered even today, but that doesn’t put us into the midst of “Jacob’s Trouble.” And the very term reminds us that the Tribulation is not about us – it is primarily about Israel. When a person understands what the Bible says is God’s purpose for the tribulation, they should realize that today’s saints should be taken away before the tribulation. You and I have not been appointed for wrath – even the wrath of the seven year Tribulation.

What will be the event which sparks the tribulation “Jacob’s Trouble?” Some would have you to believe that it is the translation of the saints – the so-called “rapture.” Actually that is not quite correct. It wasn’t because the residents ran to the fire escapes that the building caught fire. The tribulation in Bible prophecy is the period of time that will begin with the signing of a covenant between Israel and the Antichrist. Prior to the Tribulation there will be wars and rumors of wars in the Middle East and elsewhere, but then there will be a superficial peace treaty arranged by Daniel’s “little horn” – the Antichrist. Israel may think that it has suffered persecution and tribulation in the past, but that peace treaty will mark the beginning of an unprecedented period of wicked persecution and divine judgment. In Revelation 6-19 John provides a detailed exposition of Daniel’s “70th week”Daniel 9:24-27.

Some of the terms used to identify those seven years include – tribulation, great tribulation, the day of the Lord, the day of wrath, the day of distress, the day of trouble, Jacob’s trouble, a day of darkness and gloom, and the wrath of the Lamb. That seven years of Tribulation are looming in our future, there should be no doubt. “Jacob’s trouble” is one of Eschatology’s absolutes.