Before the Tribulation:
What Should We Expect?
From The Message of
Bread Upon The Waters Ministry
This page is included to answer the question above in the context of the Tribulation-Second Coming scenario presented in the "Great Tribulation" and related pages.
Using that as the starting point, it becomes possible to build a hypothesis about this, that is consistent with both Scripture and reality, based on what Jesus said in Matthew 24 and the parallel passages in Mark 13 and Luke 21.
Before we get into that, a word of advice for all Christians who really want to know what is going on in the world, and its relevance to Prophecy. Two points, actually.
- First, remember that one of God's purposes in the Great Tribulation is to destroy the world, and in particular to put an end to the technical civilization we have built. Remember also, that if the prophetic scenario this site presents proves generally correct, the United States will be destroyed right at the start of the Tribulation. Nothing that is going on in the United States will have much, if anything, to do with what happens during the Tribulation.
- Second, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, if you really want to know the truth about what is happening, read the financial media. As it says in Ecclesiastes 10:19, "money is the answer for everything". (Did you know that that was in the Bible?) The people who write and publish in the financial media know that money - big money - may be riding on what they say, so their reporting is more factual, down to earth and realistic than what you may read elsewhere. And they will tell you things you will never hear anywhere else. Even about religion! This writer's favorite newspaper is the Wall Street Journal, and he doesn't own so much as a single share of stock. He also reads Fortune magazine, among other such publications.
Beware of Second Coming Paranoia
Now as far as what will happen before the Tribulation, be careful about what rumors you believe. As stated elsewhere in this site, don't make these things a matter of faith. There is a lot of "Second Coming Paranoia" around. It manifests in sensational (in the tabloid sense) ideas and rumors, often frightening, relevant to Prophecy, that have little or nothing to do with either the Bible or reality. One thing that gives it away, especially in the United States, is that the people who are promoting ideas of this type are consciously or unconsciously thinking of the United States having a major role in the events of the Tribulation. There is no Biblical basis for that idea at all! It has been suggested that Isaiah 18 is about the United States. This may be true, but the only thing we can get out of that chapter, if it is, is that the United States will be a very powerful nation that apparently will worship the God of Israel, and support the State of Israel, as has happened. Otherwise, there is no mention of the USA in the Prophecies, especially not in the Revelation. The reason why it is not is that when the Tribulation begins, it is the end of the USA. Therefore, all rumors that have to do with the USA being involved in the Tribulation, or anything or anyone therein, relevant to the "Antichrist" and the number "666" should be automatically dismissed as nonsense.
The "Antichrist" is not in power and operating out of "666 Fifth Avenue".
Social Security checks with a "666" on them are meaningless (if they even exist).
Bill Clinton is not the "Antichrist".
The International Product (Bar) Code probably has nothing
to do with the Mark of the Beast.
One thing that many Christian leaders keep proclaiming is that there is going to be a big, presumably global, revival. Those involved in the "Toronto Blessing" and "Pensacola Revival" movements tend to think that these things are the beginning of it. However, it has been seriously argued, with good reason, by other Christians that these movements are not true revivals, and in fact, not even of God. From the standpoint of psychology, these things could be interpreted as mass hysteria events. They could even be demonic. In fact, recent accounts of such things as dental fillings miraculously turning to gold actually lean toward supporting a Satanic origin for this movement. This kind of thing, to this writer's knowledge, has been, in our time, previously reported only in connection with the cult of "Mary".
This "proclaiming revival" has been going on for years. This writer attended an "America For Jesus" rally in Washington DC in 1988. A speaker there made a big point of saying that revival was coming. He quoted Amos 3:7, which says that God always tells His servants what He is going to do, and he said that God was telling His servants that there was going to be a revival. Unfortunately, the speaker was taking the verse out of context. This verse refers only to warnings. Read verses 6 & 8. Warnings are a major theme of Bible Prophecy. Revivals are not. It has been more than ten years since that rally, and we still haven't seen the revival that speaker said was coming.
There has been a certain degree of spiritual awakening in this country in recent years, represented especially by things like the Concerts of Prayer movement, which this writer supports. But there is a spiritual problem with the Church today that even manifests itself in that movement. As stated in the "Where is the Promise?" page, the main goal of Christianity in this world is having a better quality of life in the here and now, not being ready for the Second Coming, or pleasing God generally. Not a "hunger and thirst for righteousness." To the extent that Christians want righteousness, they want it so life will be better. Again, as said in the "Great Tribulation" pages, we are living in the Age of the Church of Laodicea, the lukewarm Church. The fact that Jesus will vomit that Church out of His mouth shows that the problem of lukewarmness is, under normal circumstances, incurable. That's part of the reasons why there is going to be a Great Tribulation. And it is why there probably isn't going to be a big revival. It can't be said absolutely that there won't be, but it looks wildly unlikely.
So make these two ideas a major part of your thinking: Whatever is happening in the United States probably has nothing to do with the Second Coming, and there probably isn't going to be any widespread revival.
A Major War?
Again, this is one of the things many people are proclaiming. Many Christians are still expecting Russia to invade Israel. Much of this is based on how they interpret Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39.
Remember that a major premise of this message is that our understanding of the events related to the Second Coming must be based mainly on the Book of Revelation. In this context, those two chapters are about the Battle of Armageddon, and that happens at the end of the Tribulation.
Look at two passages of Scripture: Matthew 24: 6 and I Thessalonians 5:2 & 3.
Notice, in Matthew 24:6, after mentioning "wars and rumors of wars", Jesus adds the words, "but the end is not yet"!
Then notice in I Thessalonians 5:2 & 3, that just before the day of the Lord comes, people are saying "There is peace and safety". And then sudden destruction comes.
The sudden destruction will be the asteroid or comet collision described in the "A Mountain Burning With Fire" page. But if anything, in the years just before it happens, it may look like we are, at least at the international level, getting our political problems straightened out.
For all of the "wars and rumors of wars", that is actually the way it looks now. The end of the Cold War was a big part of that. There are other things that are happening that indicate a trend in that direction. Don't expect a big war. Expect peace. Little "brushfire" wars will probably continue, (the recent bombing of Serbia was an example) but they will involve only very small percentages of the earth's land area and human population. There probably won't be another big war.
As far as Russia is concerned, they are not about to invade anybody. Do you remember that they gave up in Afghanistan? Did you notice that the Russian army was not been able to win an easy victory in Chechnya? It has recently been revealed that the Soviet Union never really had the kind of military might that the US Government was saying they had during the Cold War. They have even less now. And they are planning to get rid of more of it.
Do you know that the Persian Gulf War played a big role in bringing down the Soviet Union? One of the main things that held up the communist regime was the backing of the Soviet military. The Soviet military had armed and trained Saddam's troops. They seriously expected that the Iraqis would really hurt us in the ground war. The Allies actually beat them worse on the ground than in the air. Even the supposedly mighty and fearsome Republican Guard was easily crushed. The Soviet military had been taking the word of the KGB, that if a war between the USSR and the NATO powers occurred, the Soviets would win easily. The Persian Gulf War told them something drastically different. The Soviet military leaders lost their confidence in the Soviet system, and when Boris Yeltsin took his stand against it, the military for the most part stayed out of the fight. And the Soviet Union fell.
The Russians may take part in the Battle of Armageddon, but otherwise, don't expect them to invade Israel. According to what the Book of Joel says, (Joel 3:9-11) every nation that can put a soldier in the field will take part in that. But there is no realistic reason to expect a Russian invasion of Israel in the foreseeable future. As long as the United States and its Allies are part of the equation, Russia does not have the military might to do such a thing, and they know it.
Update: The War on Terror might be thought of as a major war, but look at it this way: There were battles in the I & II World Wars in which more people were killed in a single day than have been killed in the entire War on Terror, both sides included. The same thing happened during the American Civil War. Military, even the war in Iraq qualifies as a "brushfire war".
There are many Christians who expect a nuclear war before or as a major part of the Great Tribulation. There is no question that fear of nuclear war has been one of the motivators for the current wave of Second Coming Fever. It has been widely believed that II Peter 3:10 is a reference to nuclear holocaust. However, as shown in the "A Mountain Burning With Fire" page, what the Bible actually predicts at the beginning of the Tribulation is an asteroid or comet collision. The expression "The Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night" is probably a reference to the collision, not the actual Second Coming.
As always, this writer admits that he could be wrong about this, but he doesn't believe that there will ever be a major nuclear war. This is not to say that there will be no nuclear weapons used. It is a real possibility that nuclear - armed Third World countries like India and Pakistan could attack each other with nuclear weapons. It is not impossible that Muslim terrorists might use nuclear weapons against the United States. But in either case, what they would do would not likely constitute a major nuclear war such as might have been fought between the NATO powers and the former Soviet Union.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia and Red China (Note that we don't usually use the word "Red" anymore.) have been increasingly linked with the West for purposes of commerce and trade. It is wildly unlikely that there will be any war at all between the major powers in the foreseeable future. The fact is, there is so much international economic interdependency that if there were a major war, no matter who won militarily, economically everyone would lose.
As far as the Muslims are concerned, there is at least one major interpreter of Second Coming Prophecy on the Internet who thinks that the Muslims will destroy the United States with nuclear weapons purchased from Russia. There are three major reasons why this is unlikely, even in human terms. First, the Russians aren't so stupid and irresponsible as to sell large quantities of weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. It is not impossible that terrorists might illegally get possession of a few, but enough to destroy the United States?
Then there is the problem of retaliation. If Muslims use nukes against the U.S., they are likely to get nukes back. Consider what happened in August 1998. Two large terrorists' bombs got about 80 U.S. Tomahawk missiles launched against terrorist targets. And one of those targets, the pharmaceutical plant, might have been a mistake. If Muslim terrorists use nukes against the U.S., it is a safe bet that the U.S. will retaliate in kind. The terrorists don't want that! And if by some improbable circumstance the Muslims should make a nuclear attack that destroys a large portion of the U.S., it is altogether possible that the U.S. would respond by virtually annihilating the Arab-Muslim world. The Muslims could destroy many U.S. cities and military bases, but they could not destroy the ability of the U.S. to retaliate. Especially not the guided missile submarines. Every major Arab-Muslim city would likely get nuked. If American commanders weren't too careful about retaliating against ordinary terrorism, and they knew that their country had just been destroyed, they probably wouldn't be too careful about deciding exactly who was responsible. Again, a large scale nuclear attack by Muslims on the United States would probably precipitate the destruction of the entire Arab-Muslim world.
Update: As you surely know, on September 11, 2001, the Muslims made their biggest terrorist attack ever on the United States. It is notable that as terrible as it was, they did not use nuclear weapons. More than that, it is equally notable what the U.S. response has been. It is not really likely, in this writer's view, that such an attack on the U.S. will happen again anytime soon, for all the terrorist threats. Talk is cheap. Note that this is not to say absolutely that it won't happen; it certainly could. Nevertheless, at this writing, it has been nearly three years since the 9/11 attacks, and there has yet to be a sequel.
Finally, there is a major problem with nuclear war such that God cannot allow a major nuclear attack to happen if the prophecies are to be fulfilled in any way that resembles our expectation. The problem can be stated in two words: radioactive fallout! Even if the Muslims were to destroy the U.S. with nuclear weapons, and there was no retaliation, the radioactive fallout from the attack would blanket the entire northern hemisphere, including much of the Arab-Muslim world, and Israel. No one north of the equator would be able to escape exposure to harmful levels of radiation. The suffering this would cause would go on for decades, at least. There would be a Great Tribulation, alright, but not as described in the Bible.
As stated in the "Scorching Sun" page, it is quite likely that Mecca will get nuked toward the end of the Tribulation, but this is the only thing prophesied that appears to be a nuclear attack. As far as large-scale use of nukes otherwise, before and during the Tribulation, it appears highly unlikely.
Widespread Persecution of Christians?
In a word, NO! There will be no serious, widespread persecution of Christians in any areas where it isn't happening right now. Of course, there is persecution happening in a number of places right now, and it may be getting worse. Especially in Muslim countries. However, there is reason to believe that some reports in the media and on the Web are seriously exaggerated. Furthermore, the victims represent only a small percentage of the Christian world
The really bad, really widespread persecution will come when the Beasts rise to power, in the middle of the Tribulation. Christians predicting persecution now is another aspect of Second Coming Paranoia. This writer was once showing a Christian film about the events leading up to the Second Coming to a group of unsaved college students. They were very interested until the narrator started talking about Christians being persecuted. Even to this writer, a committed Christian, it sounded crazy. Most of the group got up and walked out. Which meant that only about three out of about forty of them were around for the invitation to accept Christ at the end of the film. This is an example of the harm that Second Coming Paranoia does.
This is not to say that there won't be any local incidents of serious persecution. That has been happening since the early days of the Church, but there won't be anything both widespread and serious. Frankly, most Christians today aren't effective enough to provoke real persecution.
A Rebuilt Temple?
Another major expectation is that there will be new Jewish Temple built on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Maybe.
This idea has gained quite a bit of credibility recently because of the birth in Israel of a red heifer. (Definition: a heifer is a young cow, usually so called until it has had its second calf.) This heifer is said to fulfill the Biblical conditions of Numbers 19:2. When it is three years old, this heifer will be burned and the ashes will be used to make water for purification. The people who enter the Temple site to rebuild it will have to wash in this water first. It is said that this is the first such calf born in Israel since the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. Jewish proponents of rebuilding the Temple are calling the birth of the red heifer a miracle and a sign from the Lord. Again, Maybe.
Note: Since this page was originally posted, this writer has heard that white hairs have been discovered in the "red heifer's" coat, which disqualify her from being the one required for the rebuilding of the Temple. However, this report has not been confirmed.
Like revival, it can't be said absolutely that this won't happen, but don't depend on it. Remember that the Arabs claim ownership of the Temple Mount, and consider it sacred to Islam. There will be a real problem with the Muslims if they try rebuilding the Temple, though it might be resolved peacefully. But Muslims would be dead set, to the point of violence, against offering any kind of animal sacrifices on the Temple Mount. It could start a war. This is a problem that the would-be Temple builders may not be able to overcome.
Expecting the Temple to be rebuilt may be another error that sets Christians up for a terrible surprise. Believing that the Prophecies make it necessary may be a classic case of reading something into the Bible that isn't there.
There are only two passages that appear to form a Scriptural basis for the idea that a rebuilt Temple exists during the Tribulation:
One is II Thessalonians 2:3 & 4, which people assume is about the "Antichrist" sitting in the Third Temple. The "temple of God" Paul was referring to in these verses may be the same one as in I Corinthians 6:19, which see.
Concerning the "man of sin" in II Thessalonians 2:3, he may not be the Beast. Like the "Antichrist", as in I John 2:18, he may be a type of person. The type that worships himself as god and rejects all standards of morality. And just as there are "many antichrists", we now, in this sense, have many "men of sin" running around.
The other passage is Revelation 13:14 & 15, which is about the image of the Beast that the False Prophet brings to life. The assumption is made that the image is set up in the Temple, but the Bible doesn't say that. Actually, the image is another clue to the idea that Mystery Babylon is a revived Babylonian Empire. Compare those verses to Daniel 3:1-7.
Again, the idea that the Temple has to be rebuilt may be another teaching that is setting Christians up for a terrible surprise. We can't say absolutely that there won't be a Third Temple, but it isn't prophetically mandatory.
Moral Decline - Increase in Wickedness?
Yes! Jesus said it would happen (Matthew 24:12), and it has happened.. Satan has come down, having great wrath because he knows he has a short time (Rev. 12:12). So he is going all out with temptation and deception. The entire unsaved world, and unfortunately, too much of the Christian world, is falling for it. Things that would have gotten a person arrested and put in jail in the United States when this writer was a teenager are now socially acceptable. Crimes never heard of then are now common. Like all the recent shootings in American schools, for example. We should expect the moral and social situation to get increasingly worse. Sin will increasingly abound. Expect it.
Update: The increase in wickedness has been demonstrated in all the corporate scandals of the past couple of years.
Maybe! Some economic problems will necessarily result from the disasters mentioned below, but mostly in regard to skyrocketing prices, particularly food prices. This will contribute to famine. Otherwise, don't expect a big stock market crash, economic collapse, etc. This writer works for one of the world's biggest financial firms, and he can tell you that the business isn't really expecting one. The crashes of 1929 and 1987 didn't just happen. They were caused! Caused by things like investors selling in panic when they should have just sat tight, and, also, in the latter case, programmed trading that could have been stopped but wasn't, until too late. The people who run the financial markets know better now. Nothing like those events will ever likely happen again. One "prophet" years ago said that we would be in a state of international economic chaos now. This is not to say there are no problems, but we aren't in chaos. Economically, for the world as a whole, things have never been better. (This writer has recently seen this in print in the financial media!) And the disasters discussed below can actually be long - term beneficial to the economy. They create new markets for durable goods.
The Year 2000 Problem with computers did not cause a major economic catastrophe, as many people, Christian and otherwise were predicting. It is equally likely that nothing else will cause such a catastrophe, either. An economic recession is possible. A bear market for a while is possible. (italics as of 12/6/08, see below)
Update: 8/15/02. We are in a major economic recession. As I said, it is possible. It is however, an equally major mistake to see this as an economic collapse. President Bush is quite correct in saying that in spite of the current economic problems, the U.S. economy is basically sound. Furthermore, the growth has not stopped, it has merely slowed down. It is almost certain that it will pick up again in the not-too-distant future. A total economic collapse?
Update: 8/22/04. The economy has certainly had it's ups and downs since the update above, but still no economic collapse!
Update: 12/6/08. Okay, we are in the midst of a financial crisis. I did say that this could happen (see italics above). But this is still not the economic catastrophe that many Christians have been predicting. Okay, some of the Christians who have been predicting such as collapse are saying that this is it. I say it is not. If it were, all this "bail out" stuff that is going on wouldn't be possible. There would be no money available to bail anyone out. Okay, so we don't know yet how bad the crisis will get, and the fearmongers could still turn out to be right, but I doubt it. (I always admit I could be wrong.)
I don't like his positions on gay rights and abortion, but right now, president-elect Barak Obama is starting to look like he will be one of the most gifted administrators we have ever had in the White House. He is making what appear to be many wise choices. If this proves true, the economic crisis may be over within a year. But as I say in my "The Proper Handling Of Prophecy" page, the only way to be sure is "wait and see".
Famines, Floods, etc.
Yes. All kinds of environmental upheavals. We should expect these. "El Niņo" may be just the beginning of the seriously freaky weather phenomena that are coming. Again, Jesus said these things would happen (Matthew 24:7 and Luke 21:25 & 26), and they are happening. Even people who do not believe the Bible and aren't Christian at all have noticed that the last few decades have seen an awesome rise in the number of earthquakes, severe storms, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, etc. These things should get worse. They will send food prices skyrocketing, resulting in widespread starvation. Global warming may account for some of the problems, but they can't explain it all. Biblically, these things represent an effort on God's part to get an increasingly sinful world to wake up. Unfortunately, the warnings will not be heeded, or at least they will be heeded only by at most a relative few.
The drought and massive brush fires in the State of Florida, USA, and the severity of Hurricanes Georges and Katrina, and the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, all of which have occurred since this page was originally posted, are excellent examples of the kind of things that we should expect.
Right now, there is reason to believe that a long term, cyclical increase in turbulence on the surface of the Sun is causing changes in the earth's magnetic field, which are in turn causing major weather upheavals, and that may be responsible for increased earthquake and volcanic activity as well. It is interesting to note though, that if this is true, then things should actually start to settle down in the middle of the next decade. If that happens, it would be consistent with the "peace and safety" idea based on I Thessalonians 5:3.
False Christs and False Prophets?
Of course! More and worse! Again, Jesus said they would come, and they have come. And we can expect more of them. Some of these guys (or gals) will be (are and have been) displaying real supernatural power. Christians should not be impressed. Again, Jesus said that that would happen (Matthew 24:23-26). When they show up, the best thing to Christians to do, aside from reaching out evangelistically to and praying for their followers, is to ignore them. If you feel you should pray for the false Christs and false Prophets, you might pray for the Lord to bind Satan's powers in their lives, and for His justice to be done relative to what they do and teach. However, don't expect any of them to get saved (See II Peter 2). Otherwise, again, ignore them. That includes both following and attacking them. In terms of II Thessalonians 2:9-12, God is allowing them to exist as part of His judgment on the unsaved world.
Update: 8/22/04. This writer has been contacted directly by one false christ, and by a disciple of another within the past three months. The false christs are here and active.
As stated in the "Danger to Christians" page, it is spiritually dangerous for a Christian to be too interested in UFOs. The same goes for being too interested in false Christs and false prophets. It is "touching the unclean thing", and it can get you into spiritual bondage without your even realizing it is happening. The best thing to do is stay away, as Jesus said.
So again, expect them and know that they are a sign that...
Contact Author, William D. Brehm