The Tribulation’s Silver Lining
There’s something to be said for the tear-engendering invitation, “Look for the silver lining.” Tear-engendering because, in times of deep distress and suffering, it almost seems a mocking platitude to tell people things will turn out alright. To those who will endure the terrors of the coming Tribulation—when numbing, catastrophic judgments and global, physical calamity will afflict the earth—it will appear that all is lost. And, in many respects, for a world in the throes of near absolute apostasy and out-and-out, God-defying rebellion, the sun of God’s mercy will, in fact, be blotted out.
Yet, though negative elements cascade from the Tribulation-related portions of God’s Word, we must remember that behind the woes there is promise, purpose, and consummation. In other words, God knows what He is doing; and His objective is the divine silver lining.
An event in the life of the apostle Paul illustrates this principle. Paul was a prisoner on his way by ship to Rome, there to stand before Caesar to defend the faith (Acts 27). Against Paul’s advice, the ship’s crew and soldiers accompanying him opted to sail to a more favorable port to winter in. When it was too late to reverse their course, a violent storm struck the ship, threatening to sink it and drown the lot of them.
Throwing over all cargo they could move and, some believe, even cutting down the main mast, the men were driven into the teeth of destruction. All appeared lost. Nothing, humanly speaking, could save them.
When the certainty of their demise was inescapable, Paul stood up in their midst and said, “And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship” (v. 22).
Talk about a silver lining. There it is in the extreme. The ship was being lost—a practical corollary to the destruction of humanity’s Babel-like, materialistic world during the Tribulation of the last days. However, all hands were to survive. Something was going on that was of immensely more value than merchandise and a boat. A much larger issue was at hand. Paul was going to Rome. That was the promise, and nothing could alter the fulfillment of God’s higher purpose.
When we consider all aspects of the coming seven-year Tribulation, we must acknowledge the immense issues being resolved. There are extremely objective themes that ultimately unveil a stunning introduction to a glorious future. Therefore, we cannot, as many do, refuse to study the biblical Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jer. 30:7) because it appears dark or depressing. For good reason Jesus said, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Mt. 24:21).
There are basically three discernable aspects to what will be accomplished during the seven years: ruin, reconciliation, revelation.
Humanity hits the skids whenever it demands that God step aside and allow the created to assume the prerogatives of the Creator. “Let us do it our way,” the masses cry. And inescapable consequences are born whenever God leaves people to themselves. They inevitably chart a downward course until the only option for survival is for Him to step in and terminate the madness.
Contributing significantly to the contemporary dash to Armageddon were liberal theologians whose moral, spiritual, political, and social apostasies now surge on the planet. The “God is dead” and “situation ethics” devotees of the 1960s actually surrendered to the radical young revolutionaries of the day who cast off all biblical, social, and traditional restraints in favor of free love and lust. Nihilism ran amok; people denied the existence of objective truth and thumbed their noses at traditional values and beliefs.
Neo-pop theologians spread the palaver that “living by the Book” was passé; and since modern man has “come of age,” “agape love” alone is relevant. Individuals, they said, should determine for themselves what is moral and right. As Situation Ethics author Joseph Fletcher wrote, “Anything and everything is right or wrong, according to the situation [as one interprets it].”
Although not the single engine of the brave, new, humanistic world philosophy that takes God and His Word out of the picture, Fletcher’s view does expose the core of the movement that ends in the incorrigible defiance of a world that has lost its way.
With such massive evidence all around us today, we can suppose the consequences of man’s going it alone. And though we are not yet in the Tribulation, we see a clarifying sequence of developments that provide snapshots of what will grow to maturity under the Antichrist. Humanly speaking, the situation will be beyond repair—a condition not difficult to envision.
But when the cup of God’s forbearance is filled, “Then the Lᴏʀᴅ will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. ‘It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem’” (Zech. 14:3; 12:9).
In that day, God will answer all the anguished who ask, “Why doesn’t God step in?” And satanically fueled Gentile international defiance will be crushed. Battle over.
The second track of the Tribulation is Israel’s reconciliation to the Messiah. Those who claim Zionist Christians wish the Jewish people back in the land for their national destruction, so Christians can emerge triumphant, are maliciously misguided. Such has never been the objective. We speak of God’s Chosen People as a nation with a divinely charted destiny to one day become a “light to the Gentiles” (Isa. 42:6). As surely as the Lord has declared and effected their survival through centuries of torture and persecution, so, too, has He preserved them for a purpose unequalled by any other people in all of history.
A favorite verse of mine involving God’s higher purposes for His people is Deuteronomy 6:23. While wandering for 40 years in the fearsome tracks of the wilderness after being delivered from the cesspool of Egyptian slavery, Moses gave the people a silver lining: “Then He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in, to give us the land of which He swore to our fathers.”
Although a generation would pass away during the journey, the wilderness was not the nation’s final destination. The Israelites were moving on to the higher ground of the Promised Land. They had been brought out to be brought in. And that “bringing in” would not be denied.
The last act of the Tribulation will be played out on a stage of triumphant restoration and reconciliation.
I will bring the one-third through the fire, will 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, “This is My people”; and each one will say, “The Lᴏʀᴅ is my God.” But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lᴏʀᴅ: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Zech. 13:9; Jer. 31:33).
The New Testament puts it this way: “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins’” (Rom. 11:26–27).
Israel will finally be out of the fire and in an unprecedented era of peace and plenty.
The third and final act of the Great Tribulation will be the revelation of the Messiah: “And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be—‘The Lᴏʀᴅ is one,’ and His name one” (Zech. 14:4, 9).
Are Christians to believe this scenario?If you believe Jesus’ words, you believe it. Let the Scriptures speak for themselves:
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. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Mt. 24:29–31).
We will do well to think of the coming Tribulation in these terms. It is not, in the end, a bitter conclusion to human folly and divine wrath but, rather, the opening of a door into the future. That doorway leads into a thousand years of blessing, the likes of which the world has never known, and then leaps into the splendors of a fathomless eternity too wonderful to describe.
Thus there is truly a silver lining over the darkened skies of the time of tribulation.
Amen and amen!