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STUDY 15: THE TIME OF TROUBLE

 

Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.

 

THE “time of trouble” is the name of that period of time in which God’s Kingdom, under Christ,

is to be gradually “set up” in the earth, while the kingdoms of this world are passing away and

Satan’s power and influence over men are being bound. The Bible describes it as a dark day of

intense trouble, distress and perplexity upon mankind. Revolutions have caused trouble in every

age, but this one, so much greater than any previous one, is to be a time of trouble such as never

was since there was a nation – no, nor ever shall be (Daniel 12: 1) (Matthew 24: 21, 22).

 

It is the time when Christ, as God’s representative and General, will take charge of earth’s

affairs, and eventually be recognized and accepted by all as King of kings. The prophets speak of

God’s work in setting up Christ’s dominion:

 

Psalm 2: 8: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost

parts of the earth for thy possession.”

 

Daniel 2: 44: “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom.”

The Ancient of days did sit, and there was brought before Him one like unto a Son of man, and

there was given him a dominion, that all kingdoms should serve and obey Him

(Daniel 7: 9, 13, 14, 22, 27).

 

The Time of Trouble a Natural Result of Disobedience

 

This period is called the “day of vengeance of our God” and the “day of his wrath” (Isaiah 61: 2)

(Isaiah 63: 1-4) (Psalm 110: 5), yet there is no malice on God’s part. God has established certain

laws, and those who come in conflict with them reap the penalty of their own course. His

counsel has been continually rejected by most men, yet He permitted them to have their own

way and to drop Him from their memory (Romans 1: 28). God confined His care to Abraham

and his seed, who professed to desire His way and service, but their hardness of heart as a people

prevented them from receiving Messiah, and eventually led them into the trouble which

terminated their national existence.

 

The true Church of Christ during the Gospel Age has witnessed to the civilized world the

difference between right and wrong, good and evil, and of a coming time in which the one will

be rewarded and the other punished (John 16: 8-11) (Acts 24: 25). The world, however, has not

heeded the Lord’s instruction, so the trouble of the Day of the Lord will come as a consequence.

 

God’s message to the world has been: “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking

guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it” (Psalm 34: 13, 14). The trouble

of the Day of the Lord would not come if the principles of God’s law such as these were

observed to any considerable extent. God’s law briefly summed up is: “Thou shalt love the Lord

thy God with all thy heart” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22: 37-39).

Yet the depraved mind is opposed to this law, and as a natural consequence, the trouble will

come.

 

In every age the depraved mind has followed the selfish principle, and will continue to do so

until, by the force of the iron rule of Messiah, love will decide what is RIGHT, and enforce it –

until the selfish, stony heart of man will become once more as when God pronounced it “very

good” – a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36: 26).

 

Looking back, we can see how man changed from Godlike love and kindness to selfishness.

After being expelled from Eden, man had to contend with an imperfect earth, and most of his

efforts and energy were directed at sustaining his life. His mental and moral qualities began to

dwarf from lack of exercise, while his lower qualities grew with constant exercise. Under such

circumstances mankind became selfish, greedy and grasping, each striving for most – first of the

necessities, and secondly of the honors and luxuries bestowed by Mammon, for which Satan has

taken advantage.

 

Knowledge and Liberty as Factors

 

During past ages, the great wealth of the world has generally been in the hands of the rulers, to

whom the masses rendered slavish obedience, and in whose wealth they felt a pride and interest,

as their representatives. But as the time drew near for God’s design to bless the world through

Restitution at the hands of Messiah, He began lifting the veil of ignorance and superstition. As

knowledge began to increase, there came a general elevation of the people and a decrease in the

power of earthly rulers, so that the wealth of the world is no longer in the hands of its kings, but

chiefly among the people.

 

But there still exists a large gap between the rich and the masses, and a growing opposition

between them. Many Scriptures show that this will be the character of the trouble under which

present civil, social and religious systems will pass away. This is the natural result of the

increase of knowledge and liberty, because of man’s mental, moral and physical imperfection.

Many of the prophecies of the Old Testament that refer to Egypt, Babylon and Israel had not

only a literal fulfillment, but also a symbolical and antitypical one. In this larger fulfillment,

Egypt represents the world, Babylon represents the nominal Church, called Christendom, and

Israel often represents the whole world in its justified condition, as it will be when brought into a

condition of reconciliation with God. To Israel the blessings are promised, to Egypt the plagues,

and to Babylon a complete overthrow “like a great millstone . . . cast . . . into the sea”

(Revelation 18: 21).

 

The Apostle James points out this day of trouble, and tells of its being the result of differences

between capital and labor. He says, “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries

that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted [lost its value], and your garments are moth

eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and

shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the

hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud [of

your hoarding], crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the

Lord of sabaoth” (James 5: 1-4). Then it will be as described by the prophet, when the buyer

need not rejoice, nor the seller mourn; for trouble will be upon the entire multitude and there will

be no security of property. Then all hands will be feeble and helpless to turn aside the trouble.

They will cast their silver into the streets, and their gold will be removed. Their silver and gold

will not be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s wrath (Ezekiel 7: 10-19).

 

The last forty years of Israel’s existence as a nation was a “day of vengeance” upon that people,

ending in the complete overthrow of their nation. Yet their day of wrath was merely a shadow or

type of a still greater and more extensive trouble upon nominal Christendom, even as their age of

favor, the Jewish Age, was typical of the Gospel Age.

 

Zephaniah’s Prophecy

 

Take another prophetic testimony (Zephaniah 1: 7-9, 14-18): “The LORD hath prepared a

sacrifice [slaughter], he hath bid his guests. [Compare Revelation 19: 17] And it shall come to

pass in the day of the LORD’s sacrifice [slaughter], that I will punish the princes, and the king’s

children, and all such as are clothed with strange [imported] apparel. In the same day also will I

punish [also] all those [marauders] that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters’ houses

with violence and deceit.” [This shows that there will not only be a great overthrow of wealth

and power in this time of trouble, but that those who will be used in breaking down present

systems will also be punished for their equally unjust and unrighteous course.]

 

“The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of

the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble

and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess [uncertainty

and foreboding, as well as present distress], a day of clouds [trouble] and thick darkness, A day

of the trumpet [the seventh symbolic trumpet, which sounds throughout this day of trouble – also

called the Trump of God, because connected with the events of this day of the Lord] and alarm

against the fenced cities, and against the high towers [clamorous and conflicting denunciations

of strong and well-entrenched governments]. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall

walk like blind men [groping in uncertainty, not knowing what course to pursue], because they

have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the

dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’s

wrath [though previously wealth could furnish ease and every luxury]; but the whole land shall

be devoured by the fire of his jealousy [zeal]: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all

them [the wealthy] that dwell in the land.” This final destruction will destroy many of the

wealthy; they will cease to be wealthy, though doubtless it will also involve the loss of many

lives of all classes.

 

This prophet refers to the same fire, etc. again (Zephaniah 3: 8, 9), saying: Therefore wait ye

upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to

gather the nations [peoples], that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them [the

kingdoms] mine indignation, even all my fierce anger [The gathering of the peoples of all

nations in opposition to present governments, resulting in a uniting of the kingdoms for common

safety, so that the trouble will be upon all kingdoms, and all will fall.]: for all the earth shall be

devoured with the fire of my jealousy [zeal]. For then [after this destruction of the present social

order in the fire of trouble] will I turn to the people a pure language [the pure Word –

uncontaminated by human tradition], that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve

him with one consent [accord].”

 

This fire of God’s zeal is a symbol representing the intensity of the trouble and the destruction

that will encompass the whole earth. This is not a literal fire, for the people who remain after it

are blessed. That they are not saints, as some suggest, is evident from the fact that they are then

turned to serve the Lord, whereas the saints are converted already.

 

Scriptural Symbols

 

The Scriptures use many symbols such as the following: earth represents society, mountains

represent kingdoms, heavens represent the powers of spiritual control, seas represent the restless,

turbulent and dissatisfied masses of the world, fire represents the destruction of whatever is

burned – tares, dross, earth (social organization), etc. And when brimstone is added to the fire

symbol, it intensifies the thought of destruction.

Turning to Peter’s symbolic prophecy of the Day of Wrath, he says: “The world that then was,

being overflowed with water, perished: [The dispensation or arrangement of things, existing

before the flood, passed away, but the literal earth and literal heavens did not cease.] But the

heavens and the earth, which are now [the present dispensation], by the same word [of divine

authority] are kept in store, reserved unto fire” (2 Peter 3: 6, 7).

 

“The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night [unobservedly]; in which the heavens

[present powers of the air, of which Satan is the chief or prince] shall pass away with a great

[hissing] noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth [social organization] also

and the works that are therein [pride, rank, aristocracy, royalty] shall be burned up. . . . The

heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens [the new spiritual power –

Christ’s kingdom] and a new earth [earthly society based on love and justice]”

(2 Peter 3: 10-13).

 

Some of the Apostles were prophets as well, particularly Paul, John and Peter. They predicted

things to come, and as they become due to be fulfilled, they become meat in due season for the

household of faith. As with the Old Testament prophets, the Apostles as prophets were moved to

write things which were not due in their day, so they could only imperfectly understand what

they wrote (1 Peter 1: 12, 13).

 

The prophet Malachi (4: 1) speaks of the Day of the Lord in symbol: “The day cometh, that shall

burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day

that cometh shall burn them up . . . that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” Pride will be

entirely consumed by the great trouble of the Day of the Lord and by the disciplines of the

Millennial Age and its Little Season (Revelation 20: 9).

But some of the prideful class will reform through the Millennial Age judgment processes. Only

those who refuse aid will perish with their pride, because they have made it part of their

character, and refuse to reform.

 

The Apostle Paul’s Prophecies

 

Paul refers to this same fire, and this refining process affecting believers in the Day of the Lord

(1 Corinthians 3: 12-15), saying that the symbolic fire will destroy every error and purify faith.

After declaring that he refers to those who build their faith upon Christ’s work of redemption, he

says: “Now if any man build [character] upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones

[divine truths and corresponding character, or], wood, hay, stubble [traditional errors and

corresponding unstable characters]; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for THE DAY

shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by FIRE; and the fire shall try every man’s work

[2 Peter 1: 5-11] of what sort it is.”

 

“If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon [upon Christ], he shall receive a reward.

[His reward will be in proportion to his faithfulness in building.] If any man’s work shall be

burned, he shall suffer loss [loss of the reward, because of unfaithfulness]: but he himself shall

be saved; yet so as by fire.”

 

Another way in which the trouble of the Day of the Lord is symbolically described is found in

Hebrews 12: 26-29. The Apostle shows that the inauguration of the Law Covenant at Mount

Sinai was typical of the introduction of the New Covenant to the world at the opening of the

Millennial reign of Christ’s Kingdom. He says that in the type God’s voice shook the literal

earth, but now he hath promised, saying, “Yet once more [finally] I shake not the earth only, but

also heaven.” Then the Apostle explains, saying, “Yet once more, signifieth the removing of

those things that are shaken, as of things that are made [false], that those things which cannot be

shaken [true, righteous things] may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be

moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

For [as it is written] our God is a consuming fire.” The Apostle here uses a storm to symbolize

the trouble of this Day of the Lord, which in other places the symbol of fire is used.

 

Prophecies from the Psalms

 

David, the prophet, wrote many Psalms describing this Day of Trouble by which Christ’s

glorious reign will be introduced, using various symbols such as fire, storm and darkness:

 

Psalm 50: 3: “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him,

and it shall be very tempestuous round about him.”

 

Psalm 97: 2-6: “Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the

habitation of his throne. A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about. His

lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the

presence of the LORD, at the presence of the LORD of the whole earth. The [new] heavens

[then] declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory.”

 

Psalm 46: 6: “The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth

melted.”

 

Psalm 110: 2-6: “Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. . . . The LORD at thy right hand shall

strike through kings in the day of his wrath. He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the

places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries.”

 

Psalm 46: 1-10: “God is our refuge and strength. . . . Therefore will not we fear, though the

earth [society] be removed, and though the mountains [kingdoms] be carried into the midst of

the sea [swallowed up by the turbulent masses]; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled

[infuriated], though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. . . . God shall help her

[Christ’s Bride], and that right early [at the dawning of the Millennial morning]. The heathen

raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth [society] melted. The LORD of

hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” Then viewing the results of that time of trouble

from beyond it, he adds: “Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made

in the earth. . . . Be still [desist from your former ways, O people], and know [come to the

knowledge] that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”

The “new earth” or new order and arrangement of society will exalt God and His law, as over

and controlling all.

 

Another testimony proving that the Day of the Lord will be a great day of trouble and

destruction to every form of evil (though not a time of literal burning of the earth) is found in

Revelation 11: 17, 18: “And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come.” And again in

Revelation 19: 15, 19, 20: “And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should

smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the

fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. . . . And I saw the beast [symbolic], and the kings of the

earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and

against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet. . . . These both were

cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”

 

Other Scriptures which speak of the Day of the Lord in symbolic language include:

(Revelation 14: 18, 19) (Joel 2: 9-16) (Isaiah 13: 1-11) and (Revelation 20: 1-3).

 

Duty and Privilege of the Lord’s People

 

The Lord’s people, being instructed from God’s Word, will not feel the same anxiety and

hopeless dread that will pervade the world. They will recognize the trouble as the preparation,

according to God’s plan, for blessing the whole world, and they will be comforted and cheered

through it all, as is stated in Psalm 91 and Isaiah 33: 2-24.

 

Their first duty, therefore, is to let the world see that, in the midst of all the trouble and

discontent, they are hopeful, cheerful and always rejoicing in view of the glorious outcome

foretold in God’s Word. The Apostle has written that “Godliness with contentment is great

gain” (1 Timothy 6: 6), and this admonition has never been more needed than the present.

Selfishness has taken a strong hold upon all classes, for we see the whole world striving for

wealth, with only a few being successful.

 

But the Lord’s people should not take part in that struggle, for their consecration is to run for a

higher prize – to gain a place in God’s Kingdom. Hence they are weaned from earthly ambitions,

and labor not for earthly things, except to provide things decent and needful.

 

Yet some of God’s children have gotten caught up in the discontent prevalent in the world –

seeking after earthly things. We urge such to abandon the strife of greed and vainglory and its

discontent, and to strive for the higher riches and the peace they afford. We suggest reading the

Apostle’s words in 1 Timothy 6: 6-12.

 

Besides being good examples of contentment, the Lord’s people should take advantage of the

circumstances to point the world to the good time coming, to preach to them the coming

Kingdom of God, and to show the real cause of present troubles, and the only remedy

(Luke 3: 14) (Hebrews 13: 5) (Philippians 4: 11). And the assurance given such is that their labor

is not in vain; for when the judgments of the Lord are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world

will learn righteousness (Isaiah 26: 9).

 

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