The nature of the Tribulation can best be revealed by examining the various Tribulation Scripture passages (both Old and New Testament) to see what words are used to describe it. In my research I found about thirty passages and an equal number of words (in the NASV). And I thought it best to combine them; I came up with four different categories to explain the Tribulation: a day of destruction and disaster, a time of trouble and distress, a day of vengeance and wrath, and a time of fear and terror. In this blog we will cover the first category.
A Day of Destruction and Disaster
In the Scripture passages below, I found the following five words that fit under this heading: destruction, calamity, devastation, disaster, and shaken. Notice that I put these words in bold to emphasize them. Notice also that there are a few other descriptive words in these passages (from other categories), indicating that the Tribulation is full and intermixed with every kind of horror.
‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,
In due time their foot will slip;
For the day of their calamity is near,
And the impending things are hastening upon them.’
36 “For the Lord will vindicate His people,
And will have compassion on His servants;
When He sees that their strength is gone,
And there is none remaining, bond or free.
This passage (above) is prophesied for the nation of Israel. God’s vengeance is coming in the Tribulation to bring calamity on the unrepentant wicked; but His vindication (forgiveness) and compassion are coming for the righteous. These will either be saved and raptured before the Tribulation, or saved sometime during the Tribulation; in that case they will either be martyred and spared from His wrath, or God will put His seal of protection on them.
“Do not gloat over your brother’s day,
The day of his misfortune.
And do not rejoice over the sons of Judah
In the day of their destruction;
Yes, do not boast
In the day of their distress.
13 “Do not enter the gate of My people
In the day of their disaster.
Yes, you, do not gloat over their calamity
In the day of their disaster.
And do not loot their wealth
In the day of their disaster.
These words of destruction and disaster are a warning and a prophecy for all evil nations. Just as they gloat and rejoice over Israel’s calamity and disaster, the same will be done to them in the Tribulation. As verse fifteen declares, “For the day of the LORD draws near on all the nations. As you have done [to Israel], it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head.”
Behold, the Lord lays the earth waste, devastates it, distorts its surface, and scatters its inhabitants. 2 And the people will be like the priest, the servant like his master, the maid like her mistress, the buyer like the seller, the lender like the borrower, the creditor like the debtor. 3 The earth will be completely laid waste and completely despoiled, for the Lord has spoken this word. 4 The earth mourns and withers, the world fades and withers, the exalted of the people of the earth fade away. 5 The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant. 6 Therefore, a curse devours the earth, and those who live in it are held guilty. Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.
These words look forward to the Day of the Lord—the Tribulation, of which the prophet Isaiah has already spoken more specifically in chapters 13-23. Here, and also in chapter 13:1-16, it is clear that His judgments will include the entire earth. The entire earth will be “laid waste and completely despoiled.” All its inhabitants will be scattered and few will be left alive.
The earth is broken asunder,
The earth is split through,
The earth is shaken violently.
20 The earth reels to and fro like a drunkard,
And it totters like a shack,
For its transgression is heavy upon it,
And it will fall, never to rise again.
Here we see quite a vivid picture of how earthquakes will shake the earth during the Tribulation. The prophet compares its shaking to the stumbling walk of a drunkard and to a flimsy old shack being tossed around.
Alas for the day!
For the day of the Lord is near,
And it will come as destruction from the Almighty.
Joel, like an evangelist gives a warning to his own people, the Jews, that God’s judgment is near and they must repent.
“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
1 Thessalonians 5:2-4
For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
In summary, these passages indicate the destructive nature of the Tribulation. And the words in bold help us to picture what will happen to the earth. The earth will be destroyed, devastated, and “completely laid waste” (Isa. 24:3). It will happen through war and killing, but even more by the supernatural acts of God through earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and by dramatic celestial disturbances. All these things we know will happen, because they are recorded for us in the book of Revelation by way of the seals, trumpets and bowl judgments (Rev. 6-16). Here are a few samples of the more dramatic occurrences.
Revelation 6:12-14 (from the sixth seal)
And I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 14 And the sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
Revelation 8:8-9 (from the second trumpet)
And the second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood; 9 and a third of the creatures, which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed.
Revelation 16:18-21 (from the seventh bowl)
And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. 19 And the great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. 20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. 21 And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.