Vol. 12 No. 2 February 2010
D. Gene West
Almost any time a person uses the word “tribulation” with reference to the Bible, those people known as Dispensational Premillennialists go into fits of ecstasy telling all about the great tribulation that is going to come on the earth before the end of time. They tell of the horrible, agonizing, indescribable suffering of the people of the earth before Christ comes again. They even go so far as to predict that the sun will refuse to shine, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from heaven, and there will be great earthquakes. They find, they think, verification for this in Matthew 24:29 in which our Lord said, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”They almost proudly proclaim, “See what Jesus said would happen during the great tribulation.” This theory of the “end of time” needs a bit of a critique, does it not?
The first thing to be pointed out is that the Lord never said anything about the sun not shining, the moon not shining, the stars falling from heaven and great earthquakes during the great tribulation. If one will even casually reread the verse, the Lord said that the sun’s being darkened, the moon’s refusing to give its light, the stars falling and the powers of heaven being shaken would take place immediately after the tribulation of those days. Therefore, my friends, whatever the tribulation was, it was going to be over when these events occurred.
The second thing to be emphasized is the use of figurative language by our Lord in this passage. As a matter of fact, He used the same figurative language almost word for word that Peter quoted from Joel 2:28-32 on the Day of Pentecost. The sun being darkened has reference to the Gospel of Christ being temporarily obscured on earth, and that is not something that is to happen, but something that happened among the Jews at the time of the fall of Jerusalem, which is the subject under discussion in this passage. The moon not giving its light refers to the fact that the Law of Moses will never again be practiced after the fall of Jerusalem. It has not been practiced to this day, and cannot be because the books of genealogy were all destroyed, and no Jew on earth today knows whether he is a Levite. The stars falling from heaven, has reference to the political and religious leaders of the Jews, including the powerful High Priest, would go out in one fell swoop like a shooting star. The powers of heaven being shaken refers to the fall of the Temple and all that this included. The word “shaken,” in this passage is from a word that means, “ruined.” It has nothing to do with an earthquake. What powers of heaven would be ruined? The Law of Moses. Although Jesus nailed the Law to his cross and nullified it spiritually forty years before the fall of Jerusalem, the Jews continued to practice it until the destruction of the Temple by Titus in A.D. 70.
The tribulation of which our Lord spoke in this passage does not point to something in our future as Dispensationalists have been claiming for the last two hundred and fifty years, but something that would come upon the generation to which Jesus spoke (Matthew 24:34). The tribulation was the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans in which so many people starved to death there was no place to put their emaciated bodies. The horrors of that siege are almost past understanding by people in our time. It was brought to an end when the Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem and began their attack upon the upper city and particularly on the Temple itself. When the Romans were fighting to subdue the Temple area, they set the Temple ablaze. Its vast wealth was for weeks hidden in its rubble. It was finally unearthed and taken to Rome where it was used to build the Coliseum, the ruins of which can be seen today. When this happened, Judaism and all that pertained thereto were forever destroyed, immediately after the tribulation of those days. Friends, this tribulation has been over for 2,000 years.