The Great Tribulation
The Great Tribulation was one “such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will” (Matthew 24:21). This was the tribulation of the Antichrist, Satan, against the saints. It was incredible from the view of the world because “the Church” inflicted great suffering upon the saints, through religious war and burning at the stake.
The spiritual attack began when “the place of his (Christ’s) sanctuary was cast to the ground,” (Daniel 8:11). An army was given over to Satan to oppose the daily sacrifice, and “fling truth to the ground” (Daniel 8:12). The Spirit of truth no longer sanctified the Church, and the power of the Church to remit sins through baptism was taken away. The saints lost the Holy Spirit, which was the “guarantee” of their inheritance (Ephesians 1:14). So Satan accused them “day and night,” (Revelation 12:10). The penances, indulgences, and so on, that the Church claimed would remove sins, were useless. Daniel 12:7 described this as the “shattering of the power of the holy people.”
But the saints overcame Satan’s accusations “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, and did not love their lives to the death” (Revelation 12:11).
The Reformation brought the correction, “salvation is by faith.” But the saints still lacked “the guarantee of their inheritance” which could only come through receiving the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:14). Satan’s tribulation of the saints did not end until “the stone that struck the statue grew into a great mountain” (Daniel 2:35); the Sanctified Church was re-established.
Jesus said: “unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved (by the true Gospel) but for the sake of the elect, those days were cut short” (Matthew 24:22). In Matthew 24:29, Jesus prophesied that we would go “straight” from the Great Tribulation, into the period of the Seven Trumpets. The Seven Trumpets began when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the saints (Revelation 8:5), finally ending Satan’s tribulation of the elect; “blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on,” (Revelation 14:13). The elect once again have the “guarantee” of their “inheritance,” that comes by receiving the Holy Spirit.
Asides from the Great Tribulation, the Bible does not prophecy any further tribulation of the saints. There will be a tribulation against the people of this world, called “the Day of the Lord,” which is the Battle of Armageddon, and the flaming fire of God’s judgment. Regarding this Day, Paul wrote, “it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation, those who trouble you” (2 Thessalonians 1:6).
there was given to me a measuring rod – this brings us back to Ezekiel 40:3, and the vision of a man with the appearance of bronze, having a measuring rod to measure the temple. The measurements, from Ezekiel 43:1, are the boundaries of the sanctified Church. The measurements are the Gospel of Jesus Christ that allows “the glory of God to come in,” Ezek 43:2.
measure the temple of God and the altar – here John measures the sanctified Church, the true Church according to the measurements of Gospel of Christ, and counts those who are true.
leave out the court which is outside – the Gentiles or Nations, were confined to the outer court under the Old Covenant, and John is told that they will also be excluded from the New Covenant grace.
they will tread the Holy City underfoot for 42 months – the Gentiles trampled the Gospel for 42 months, which are 1278 days, 1278 years, from 193 AD until 1471 AD, when the first Protestant Church broke free from the Papacy.
And I will give power to My two witnesses – the word power, or authority, is not in the original text. The two witnesses, like the beast and the false prophet, are not “real persons.” However, they are represented by real persons. The Two Witnesses represent the faithful saints who prepare to protest against the beast, and can be particularly identified as Jan Huss and Martin Luther (blessed is he who waits and comes to 1335 days, Dan 12:12). These are the two great spokesman who liberated the saints from the power of the beast.
they will prophesy 1260 days – the prophets are the saints who recognized the false teachings of the beast over this period, for example, the Waldenses and Albigenses, from 1175 to 1180 AD. “From Constantine to Hildebrand, from the third to eleventh centuries…Every country in Europe swelled with dissidents who repelled as the Antichrist the Bishop of Rome.” 1)1. Historical Studies, Eugene Lawrence, 1876, pp. 202.
in sackcloth – sackcloth in the Bible is a sign of personal or national disaster, described in verse 2, the saints have been “tread underfoot” by the nations.
the two olive trees – see Zechariah 4:3,11-14, the anointed ones, meaning the saints, who are represented by Jan Huss, and Martin Luther.
and the two lampstands – the Moravian and Lutheran churches. Jesus equated lampstands to churches in Revelation 1:20.
fire comes out of their mouths – to preach the truth, and to protest. They speak the word of God, “is not My word as fire” (Jeremiah 23:29).
If anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way – by the word of God, which will devour him; “I am making My words in your mouth fire, and this people wood, it will consume them” (Jeremiah 5:14).
power to shut up the sky – literally “heaven” as it bears the meaning of “heaven” in Revelation 10:5,6, etc. The two witnesses are “the anointed ones” (Zechariah 4:14), who have been “anointed” by the Spirit of Christ. They have the keys to the kingdom of heaven. They have the power to bring forth the spiritual rain of the Spirit of Christ, the “Rock” that strikes the “statue,” of the beast (Daniel 2:35). These are also great men of faith, like Elijah, “who prayed earnestly that it would not rain…then he prayed again, and the sky produced rain,” (James 5:17, 18, and 1 Kings 17:1).
turn the water into blood and strike the earth with a plague – as the beast has been exposed by their preaching, baptism into the kingdom of the beast now result in spiritual death, as also described in Revelation 8:8. The kingdom of the beast has been struck with a plague.
the beast…will kill them – most notably Jan Huss, the founder of the Moravian Church, and the Moravian saints who formed the first Protestant Church. Jan Huss was burned at the stake, in 1415 AD, for his opposition to Catholic theology. The Moravian Church brothers were slaughtered in the forest until 1471 AD.
the Great City – their bodies are figuratively murdered by the Great City of Mystery Babylon, the Great Harlot, which is Sodom and Egypt, the place of sin and captivity
those from the nations…will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days – all who watch believe their mission has been absolutely finished.
Albert Barnes, in his commentary asks:
“is there a time in history, when the nations considered the Reformation dead for a period of “three and a half days” or rather 3 1/2 years? Yes, in fact, in the ninth meeting of the Council of Lateran, the Orator of the Council stood up and announced – ‘Jam nemo reclamat, nullus obsistit ‘- ‘There is an end of resistance to the papal rule and religion; opposers there exist no more:’ This was on May 5, 1514. Exactly 3 years, and 180 days later, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the door of the Catholic Church.”
those who dwell on the earth will rejoice – the world remains under Satan’s power. The whole world continues to “follow after the beast” as described in Revelation 13:3.
they will send gifts to one another – the joy of this apparent “defeat” of the Reformation, is contrasted with the “mourning” after the success of the Reformation, described in Revelation 18:11, “the merchants of the earth weep and mourn.” The men of this world think only of worldly gain, and worldly power.
and their enemies watched them – symbolically the whole persecution and massacre of the Reformists became a public event where the Martyrs willingly accepted God’s call up to heaven, into the First Resurrection described in Rev 20:4.
a great earthquake – meaning a great war. See Rev 16:18 for the great earthquake that describes the battle of Armageddon. Ongoing religious wars and persecutions followed the Reformation for about 100 years. The Book of Revelation refers to people as “the earth,” and the battle of the people as a “quake.”
a tenth of the city fell – those of the “Great City” who died. The estimate of the deaths in this period range from 6 to 18 million; being one tenth of the 80 million people in Europe in 1600 AD.
seven thousand were killed – see 1 Kings 19:18, “the knee who did not bow to Baal” that is the saints “in the wilderness” Rev 12:14, who did not “worship the beast” – the comparison is with Elijah in verse 6. These seven thousand represent the faithful matyrs.
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|1.||￪||1. Historical Studies, Eugene Lawrence, 1876, pp. 202.|