There are three great purposes for the Tribulation: 1) to prepare Israel for her Messiah; 2) to bring judgment on all unbelievers and unbelieving nations; and 3) to bring salvation to the repentant lost. In this post we will deal with the first purpose.
To prepare Israel for her Messiah
This is probably the most primary purpose—that God would use His wrath to prepare Israel by tribulation, and thus to cause them to repent of their rebellion against Him. And I suppose the most well-known passage that declares by decree how Israel will come to repentance is Daniel 9:24.
According to this six-point decree and prophecy through the angel Gabriel, “Seven weeks [or 490 years] have been decreed for your people and your holy city…” The first two promises by decree are…”to finish the transgression [and]; to make an end of sin…” we will stop there because, out of the six, these two have most to do with how God brings Israel to repentance.
The first decree, “to finish the transgression,” is focused on some specific transgression. What would that be? Down through the years Israel has committed many sins, as we all have; but the transgression inferred here is obviously their sin of the rejection of Christ as their Messiah. All that will come to an end. Miraculously, God will break them during the Tribulation. They all at once will repent and turn to Him.
We don’t know in detail how it will happen, but we do know that two-thirds of the Jews will die during the horrors of the Tribulation (Zech. 13:8-9); and then, when Jesus comes, and they see Him, they will recognize Him as their Messiah and turn to Him (Zech. 12:10).
The second decree, “to make an end of sin,” will be all on God’s part, but it will nonetheless be the result of the bitterness of the Tribulation. Hence, as Ezekiel 36:25-29 describes it, He will cleanse Israel from all their filthiness and their idols; and He will give them a new heart and a new spirit.
In addition to this decree in Daniel, there are several other Old Testament prophecies of how God will prepare Israel for her Messiah. Here are three of the more prominent ones, with a few comments.
And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you shall be left few in number among the nations, where the Lord shall drive you. 28 And there you will serve gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. 29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. 30 When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice. 31 For the Lord your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.
Here we see that Israel’s suffering through trails began quite early (with their dispersion, beginning in 722 B.C.); and so, He was working on them very early, preparing their heart. And then, much later, during the bitter days of the Tribulation, He will cause them to return to the Lord and to listen to Him.
‘Alas! for that day is great,
There is none like it;
And it is the time of Jacob’s distress,
But he will be saved from it.
8 ‘And it shall come about on that day,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘that I will break his yoke from off their neck, and will tear off their bonds; and strangers shall no longer make them their slaves. 9 ‘But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.
10 ‘And fear not, O Jacob My servant,’ declares the Lord,
‘And do not be dismayed, O Israel;
For behold, I will save you from afar,
And your offspring from the land of their captivity.
And Jacob shall return, and shall be quiet and at ease,
And no one shall make him afraid.
11 ‘For I am with you,’ declares the Lord,
‘to save you;
For I will destroy completely all the nations where I have scattered you,
Only I will not destroy you completely.
But I will chasten you justly,
And will by no means leave you unpunished.’
The day of Tribulation is called the day of Jacob’s distress (or trouble), referring to Israel. In this future time God will bring them through terrible distress in order to discipline them and to save them. In the end they will serve the Lord their God and Jesus Christ their king during His millennial kingdom (the reference of David here is a reference to Christ who is in the line of David).
“And it will come about in all the land,”
Declares the Lord,
“That two parts in it will be cut off and perish;
But the third will be left in it.
9 “And I will bring the third part through the fire,
Refine them as silver is refined,
And test them as gold is tested.
They will call on My name,
And I will answer them;
I will say, ‘They are My people,’
And they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.'”
During the terrible Tribulation, two-thirds of Israel will die, but one-third will survive. And God will bring them through the fire of the Tribulation in order to make them pure just as gold and silver is refined and purified by fire.