Basic Principles of Understanding the Events Before the Tribulation Period
Most Christians are aware of the events that have been prophesied in the book of Revelations in the Bible. They are aware for the most part that a seven year period, called the tribulation period, will occur on the Earth when extraordinary natural events will cause devastation to an extent never witnessed before. There will be constant war between world powers. Control of the world political landscape will change like hands in a poker game. It will be a time of unrivaled moral decadence and decay. Many theologians and students of biblical prophecy have done an exhaustive analysis of this period described in the book of Revelations, the most notable in the last 10 years would be Jerry Jenkins and Tim Lahaye, the authors of the Left Behind series. What these scholars have overlooked in their analysis of the scriptures is that the Bible describes events that occur just prior to the tribulation period. The purpose of this book is to establish a timeline of these events that occur prior to the tribulation period, a timeline of events that have escaped the notice of the experts.
You ought to notice one very specific thing about the timeline I will propose: it doesn’t contain a prediction about the Rapture of the Church. The Rapture of the Church is God’s plan to remove those that believe in Jesus Christ from the Earth prior to the tribulation. The New Testament is very clear that no one knows the timing of the Rapture. However Jesus mentions in the Gospels that there will be definite signs of when “the latter days” will occur (“latter days” has long been thought to be a code phrase for the tribulation period). Therefore I believe scripturally I shouldn’t be able to speculate intelligently about the timing of the Rapture of the Church, but I do believe there is a ton of evidence for the other events that occur during the time prior and during the tribulation period.
The book of Daniel is the key to understanding the events that happen prior to the tribulation. So if one wants to understand the book of Daniel one must understand the history of the life of Daniel. When Daniel is a teenager he is removed from Israel and sent to Babylon with many of the other bright young men that Nebuchadnezzar takes as part of his conquest of the region. This action occurs very near the beginning of what is called the Babylonian Conquest in the Old Testament. The Babylonians rule for the next 49 years until the Persian Empire rises and the Persian ruler, Cyrus the Great, conquers the last Babylonian ruler mentioned in the book of Daniel, Belshazzar. Cyrus makes an announcement shortly thereafter that the Israelites may return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple that Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed. Many of the Israelites returned to Israel, however many remained in Assyria and Babylon. Twenty one years later, the Macedonian ruler, Alexander the Great, conquers the Persian Empire (conventional historians claim that the Persians ruled for over 200 years; I believe they only ruled 21 years and I provide evidence of this in my book The Fourth Day: Why the Bible is Historically Accurate). Alexander dies shortly after this conquest and the Macedonian Empire is divided among his generals. Eventually the Roman Empire becomes the next great power in the region displacing the Macedonians (Macedonia and Greece are used interchangeably by historians as references to the same empire).
The Dream of Nebuchadnezzar’s Statue
The circumstances of the historical events that surround the life of Daniel become product important during a particular dream of King Nebuchadnezzar. One of the first tests of faith in the life of Daniel is a situation in which King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that disturbs him greatly yet he can’t remember the details of the dreams when he awakens. Therefore he orders the wise men of his kingdom to analyze his dream but they must also tell him the details of the dream; if they can’t he is going to have all of them executed. Since Daniel is part of the group of wise men he seeks God in prayer to reveal the mystery of the King’s Dream (Daniel 2:28-45):
“But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these; As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass. But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart. Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold. And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation is sure.”