POSTMILLENNIALISM & THE GREAT TRIBULATION (6)

PMW 2020-052 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

We are nearing the end of our series on the great tribulation in postmillennialism. if you endure to the end, you surely must be saved! Let us know consider the verse that directly mentions “the great tribulation.”

In Matthew 24:21 the Lord states that

“then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.”

Was AD 70 the worst catastrophe ever? What about World Wars I and II? Surely they were much worse than the first-century Jewish War with Rome. How can we explain this statement of Jesus while maintaining our first-century interpretation?


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When we consider this in its biblical context, however, ample information supports my conclusion that A. D. 70 is in view. Note the following points.

First, Matthew 24:34 states that “all these things” shall occur in “this generation.” We must notice that verse 34 appears just thirteen verses after verse 21. Therefore, “the great tribulation” must be one of “these things” to occur in “this generation.”

Second, more catastrophic than our recent World Wars was Noah’s Flood. And it must even be worse than the supposed future great tribulation. For in Noah’s Flood the entire human population perished, except for one family (1 Pet 3:20; 2 Pet 2:5). And yet Jesus mentions Noah’s Flood in his context (Matt 24:37–39). So something else must be going on here.

Third, to interpret Jesus properly we must understand the use of hyperbole in Old Testament prophetic language. Very often we find that judgment language in prophecy is formulaic, stock-in-trade, highly stylized, poetic language. For instance, in Exodus 11:6 we read these words regarding the tenth plague on Egypt: “’Moreover, there shall be a great cry in all the land of Egypt, such as there has not been before and such as shall never be again.” Which is it? Is the great tribulation the worst judgment, as per Matthew 24:21? Or is the tenth plague upon Egypt the worst, as per Exodus 11:6?

In Ezekiel 5:9 we read of the Old Testament destruction of the temple by the Babylonians: “Because of all your abominations, I will do among you what I have not done, and the like of which I will never do again.” But in Matthew 24 it happens again. This is apocalyptic, poetic, dramatic imagery.

In fact, Josephus evaluates the Jewish War similarly to Christ:

“Whereas the war which the Jews made with the Romans has been the greatest of all those, not only that have been in our time, but, in a manner, of those that ever were hear of, both of those wherein cities have fought against cities, or nations against nations” (Jewish Wars, Preface 1 §1).

“The misfortunes of all men, from the beginning of the world, if they be compared to these of the Jews, are not considerable as they were” (Jewish Wars, Preface, 4 §12).

“Neither did any other city ever suffer such miseries. . . from the beginning of the world” (Jewish Wars 5:10:5 §442).


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Such comparative language is even used in more mundane, less dramatic circumstances in Scripture. Consider the sterling, high praise of both Hezekiah and Josiah — from the same book! Both are declared to be the best ever:

2 Kings 18:5 (regarding Hezekiah):
“He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him.”

2 Kings 23:25 (regarding Josiah):
“Before him there was no king like him who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.”

We even tend to use language in a similar, boldly exaggerated manner. This is like our saying to our child: “Haven’t I told you a million times not to do this?” Or: “I have a ton of work to do.” Or: “This will take me forever to straighten out.”

Thus, Jesus’ declaration in verse 21 is dramatic speech emphasizing the remarkable nature of this event. It is not meant to be literally understood.

Just one more article to go! Please join me next time.

For more information, see: https://www.cruciformministries.org/a-purchased-victory

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One thought on “POSTMILLENNIALISM & THE GREAT TRIBULATION (6)

  1. Zack Preston July 4, 2020 at 8:41 pm

    The flood — how did I miss this connection? I was meditating on 1 & 2 Peter recently and the significance of his weaving of the flood into both epistles (1 Peter 3:20, 2 Peter 2:5) eluded me. He sounds like a colonel preparing a battalion with strategic words, so he was clearly not waxing poetically to recall Noah. In light of Part 5 of this series in which you describe how the Christians fled from Judah to Pella (the organization of this seemingly being sorted out when Peter wrote these epistles), the overlapping references you highlight here clearly substantiate the symbolic language used to describe the great tribulation.

    Is there room in the interpretation of Matthew 24:21 to apply the never before and never again factor with respect to judgement, in that salvation is now only through Christ’s blood, and/or covenants, be they old or postponed? The first thing Noah did after coming out of the ark was build an alter. While no more altars were needed after Christ’s resurrection, is the tribulation a point of no return (pencils down, papers to the front) after a period of time sufficient for the Good News to have sunk in with those through whom it was delivered?

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