22 Dec Is “Jacob’s Trouble” still future?
In Jeremiah chapter 30, we find the phrase that has come to define what many understand as the worst time of suffering that the Jewish people will ever experience, which takes place just before the return of Jesus. Jeremiah’s prophecy reads as follows:
Now these are the words which the LORD spoke concerning Israel and concerning Judah: “For thus says the LORD, ‘I have heard a sound of terror, of dread, and there is no peace. ‘Ask now, and see if a male can give birth. Why do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in childbirth? And why have all faces turned pale? ‘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. 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 will no longer make them their slaves. ‘But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. (vv. 4-9)
Paraphrasing the passage above, the angel Gabriel’s words would later be recorded in the Book of Daniel addressing this time of unparalleled tribulation for the Jewish people just prior to the resurrection of the dead:
“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. (Dan. 12:1-2)
Jesus would also later refer back to Gabriel’s words in the Olivet Discourse:
“For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. (Mat. 24:21)
So Gabriel expounds on the words spoken to Jeremiah and then Jesus expounds upon the words of Gabriel. If this time of tribulation is described as the worst period of tribulation that will will ever befall the Jewish nation, and if it is to take place just prior to the resurrection of the dead, then does this mean that what lies ahead for the Jewish people is even worse than the Holocaust? If this is the case, then unarguably, this is the most significant and looming challenge to the Church today. Nothing else compares. So what are we doing about it? And how will we fare when we stand before the Jewish King as our Judge, if we failed to properly respond to and prepare for what the Scriptures say is coming?
But because the catastrophe of what we are considering is truly beyond anyone’s ability to fully fathom, understandably, many have attempted to argue that the passages quoted above, and many others similar, all relate to the events of 70 AD with the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish Temple. This interpretive perspective is what is known as the preterist method of interpretation. Many argue that Israel’s worst period of suffering is thus all behind them. I recently came across the following comments, which are quite indicative of how some view the previous passages:
There will be tribulation for the whole world before Christ’s Second Coming, but that is not what Jesus was talking about in the Olivet Discourse. Do we really think that what would happen thousands of years into the future mattered at that time to him? What mattered was to warn his disciples of what was about to happen and to tell them how and when to make their escape. It was not for us!!!! And is there to be a future generation of Jews that will suffer yet an even greater tribulation? That’s not possible. What crime could a future generation of Jews commit which would be in any way comparable to that of betraying and crucifying their Messiah? The people of Israel will never suffer again as in the days of the siege by the armies of Prince Titus.
Another article featured a few years ago on the web-site of the ICEJ, an organization that I truly stand behind, was titled, “The Worst I’ll Ever Do.” It makes very similar arguments to those expressed above.
I must admit that there is a deep appeal in such arguments. The appeal however is not to embrace the painful reality and the stigma of what the Scriptures say, but more of a humanistic sympathy that seeks to vindicate humans while indicting God for a lack of justice. Out of love for the Jewish people, it can be deeply tempting to embrace this view and enjoy the comfort of denial. There is one word however that thoroughly dispels and dismantles the entire argument: The word is Shoah, or in English, Holocaust. As bad as the events of 70 AD were, they paled in comparison to the Holocaust. The glaring reality of the Holocaust, only 60 years removed from us now, remains to be the single greatest reality that the Church has absolutely failed to truly grapple with either theologically or practically in a way that even begins to satisfy what it demands. In considering the article or the preterist interpretation of the Olivet Discourse above, it is as if the Holocaust never even happened. But the days are quickly coming where such denial will no longer be an option. Beloved, the time to wake up is now.