Here is an article on a topic about which many have only the vaguest notions. We are commanded to ‘search the Scriptures’, especially where they deal with the ‘last days’, in order that we might ‘discern the signs of the times’, Matthew 16:3.
Events in Israel are very much as a clock which indicates to us that that tells us that we are drawing nearer to the end of this age and the return of the Saviour in glory.
I trust that this study is a help to all in understanding what lies ahead for the ancient people of God in their homeland.
Sincerely in Christ’s name,
THE TIME OF JACOB’S TROUBLE
“Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it,” Jeremiah 30:7.
The student of the Bible cannot hear and see reports of the recent horrific scenes in Israel, wrought by those who are the ‘spiritual’ descendants of the Philistines of old, if not the actual progeny of that race of haters of the ancient people of God, without thinking of our text.
Ezekiel the prophet of old refers to the Philistines, the former occupants of that area today known as ‘the Gaza strip’, in this manner. “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because the Philistines have dealt by revenge, and have taken vengeance with a despiteful heart, to destroy it for the old hatred,” Ezekiel 25:15.
Note the term, ‘the old hatred’! That is what lies behind the terror attacks of late and the many like acts of savagery of which the present-day Palestinians have been guilty.
That ‘old hatred’ will continue, irrespective of what Israel does in order to hinder and curb the terrorism of the Muslim Palestinians. As it was with the rage of the Babylonians against Judah in the days of Jeremiah, so in the end of this age, the Lord will use the bitter animosity of Israel’s neighbours to bring about His eternal purpose for His ancient covenant people.
Hear what Jeremiah said regarding Babylon and how it was His instrument of chastening to humble rebellious Judah and a means of cutting off one of the chief trouble-makers amongst His people, Pashur, the false prophet.
“For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will make thee a terror to thyself, and to all thy friends: and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and thine eyes shall behold it: and I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive into Babylon, and shall slay them with the sword. Moreover I will deliver all the strength of this city, and all the labours thereof, and all the precious things thereof, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah will I give into the hand of their enemies, which shall spoil them, and take them, and carry them to Babylon. And thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thine house shall go into captivity: and thou shalt come to Babylon, and there thou shalt die, and shalt be buried there, thou, and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied lies,” Jeremiah 20:4-6.
This same truth is repeated many times in Isaiah and Jeremiah and others of the Minor Prophets. The Lord used the enmity of Israel’s haters to humble His people and bring them to repentance.
That is what the ‘Day of Jacob’s Trouble’ will be all about!
In considering this wonderful prophetic verse, I wish to consider the chief words within it.
1. IT BEGINS WITH THE WORD, ‘ALAS’.
Jeremiah had many sad proclamations to declare to the people of His day. This word ‘alas’, is chiefly translated ‘woe’ in the Old Testament, and introduces a reference to the most sad period of the experience of the Jewish people. It is the time of suffering under the future Antichrist, just prior to the Saviour’s return.
It was revealed to Daniel just what the ‘Antichrist’, the ‘Man of Sin’, would do in the closing days of this age.
“And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. He shall enter also into the glorious land . . . ” Daniel 11:40-41.
Regarding the scenes of the last days revealed to him, Daniel was deeply grieved and vexed at what he saw for he could not fully understand it. “I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me,” Daniel 7:15. He was informed by an angel what the meaning was of what he had just had revealed to him. “I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things,” verse 16.
But he was shown further revelations related to the time of the latter-day attack upon Jerusalem by the Antichrist.
“And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered,” Daniel 8:9-12.
“And the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate,” Daniel 9:26-27.
The things thus revealed to Daniel in these visions greatly perplexed and grieved him for it was clear that the revelations dealt with some terrible times of suffering for the Jewish people at the end of this age. He sought for an answer but was not given any further clarification. “Then I Daniel looked, and, behold, there stood other two, the one on this side of the bank of the river, and the other on that side of the bank of the river. And one said to the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, How long shall it be to the end of these wonders? And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished. And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end,” Daniel 12:5-9.
I believe that final phrase indicates that many of the prophecies, “hard to be understood” (2 Peter 3:16) will be opened up to God’s people in the latter days.
Undoubtedly, there is an application of the words I have quoted from the book of Daniel, to Antiochus and his persecutions of the Jews, some two centuries before Christ. But ever remember that the enemies of God throughout the ages, small or great, were all moved by the same spirit of enmity in their defiance of God and their hatred of His people and therefore bore a likeness to each other. But we can be sure that these words particularly apply to the final manifestation of ‘antichristianity, the Antichrist of the last days, for the Saviour so applied them.
“And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. . . . . Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other,” Matthew 24:11-21, 29-31.
The days just before the return of the Saviour will be days when the Lord takes a final reckoning with His wayward Jewish people. As a result of that final chastening, great blessings will be their’s. “And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me. And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it. Thus saith the LORD; Again there shall be heard in this place, which ye say shall be desolate without man and without beast, even in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, that are desolate, without man, and without inhabitant, and without beast, the voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the LORD of hosts: for the LORD is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the LORD,” Jeremiah 33:7-11.
2. PLEASE NOTE THE WORD ‘GREAT’.
I have already touched upon the unparalleled trouble that lies ahead of Israel. The Lord’s use of the word ‘great’ emphasises this dreadful fact.
The first appearance of this word ‘great’ in the Bible helps us to understand just how significant are the days of trouble that lie ahead for Israel. “And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also,” Genesis 1:16.
There are countless millions of ‘lights’ in the sky. I can recall as a boy gazing upward at the splendours of the night sky when I lived in Keenaghy, Lisnaskea. There was no ‘light pollution’ from street lights etc there. Indeed, there was no electricity anywhere near us and the glow of a ‘Tilley Lamp’ did not create much by way of a hindrance to fully seeing the stars in the heavens!
Now, the sun and moon far outshone any of the stars that I could see. They were by far, ‘great lights’ in comparison. In like manner, the days of tribulation and trouble that will yet come upon Israel will thus compare to the past and present troubles Israel has experienced, in their greatness and distress, as do the sun and moon compare in their greatness to the other heavenly lights in the sky.
Oh let us learn what a dreadful thing is sin and the judgment that will follow it. Little did the people of Israel know what would be the outcome for their offspring when they defiantly responded to the declaration of Pilate, as recorded in Matthew’s account of the rejection of Christ.
“When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children,” Matthew 27:24-25.
If you are not saved today, your continued rejection of God and His Word will bring great and eternal wrath upon you. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” John 3:36.
Hear and heed the call of gospel mercy today. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” Matthew 11:28-30.
3. ANOTHER WORD I WANT US TO CONSIDER IS ‘JACOB’S’.
When we read the Bible, let us ever remember that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” 2 Timothy 3:16. “Every word of God is pure,” Proverbs 30:5. It is ‘unalloyed’! It is without defect. We must therefore take note of every word that “proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
The people of God are referred to as ‘Jacob’. You will know that the name of Jacob was changed to that of ‘Israel’ following his sanctifying experience in prayer at Peniel when He ‘wrestled’ with the Lord. From that day he had “power with God”, Genesis 32:28. The name ‘Jacob’ means ‘supplanter’ and is his birth name and is a reference to his old nature and character. The name ‘Israel’ means ‘Prevailer with God’ and signifies a ‘prince with God’ and highlights his new and fuller relationship with God.
But in the day of trouble here referred to, the favoured nation is not in such a relationship with God as to be referred to as ‘Israel’ but rather they are called ‘Jacob’, a name that signifies one who was self-seeking and grasping after self interests.
That is basically the state of the Jews today. They have no time for the God of the Bible or His glory. The spirit that prevailed at Calvary is abiding upon the nation still.
It must be noted that the tribulation is especially referred to as being ‘Jacob’s’. Doubtless, any who show sympathy or support toward the Jews in the days of Antichrist’s rage against them will feel something of that rage as well BUT, this trouble is particularly directed at the Jew and it is not specifically directed against Christians.
Today, in the wake of the murderous attack by Hamas terrorists against the Jews, any who show sympathy toward the Jewish people have come under abuse and even assault from Muslim mobs in various parts of the world for daring to organise pro-Israel protests against what Hamas has done.
It is but a foretaste of what lies ahead for any who seek to stand with God’s covenant people.
4. LET US CONSIDER THE WORD ‘TROUBLE’.
I have already referred to the prophecies of Daniel and the words of the Saviour related to the ‘troubles’ the Jewish nation will encounter just before the end of this age. The Hebrew word translated ‘trouble’ in our text, is translated by other words, all denoting the awfulness of that time.
“And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went,” Genesis 35:3. That was a day when Jacob was fleeing from the threat of the revenge of Esau. (Genesis 27: 41-45).
“And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us,” Genesis 42:21. This was the distress felt by Joseph’s brothers when they thought upon what it was they had done when they sold him into slavery!
“Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation,” Judges 10:14. This is the same word but translated by the English word ‘tribulation’ and it is used by the Lord of the days that had come upon Israel as a result of their departure from God to follow false gods.
“And David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said unto them, As the LORD liveth, who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity,” 2 Samuel 4:9. These are the words of David and he is referring to the many difficulties and life-threatening circumstances out of which the Lord had delivered him.
This variety of translations of the Hebrew word tsarah, indicates the combination of distresses and perplexities that will come upon the Jewish nation as God works out His purpose amongst them.
5. ONE FINAL WORD, IT IS ‘BUT’.
That little word introduces a very different revelation. God always has a word of ‘contrast’ to those He loves. He here turns from wrath and judgment to ‘salvation’ for that troubled people. “But he shall be saved out of it.” A study of God’s Word will reveal that when the Lord sets forth the judgments that will befall the Jewish nation in the last days, there is always a stating of the blessings that will follow the chastening of His people. There are many prophecies of ‘good days’ for the Jews. The nation will not always be guilty of rejecting Christ. Please consider these verses.
“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days,” Hosea 3:4-5.
“When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever,” Isaiah 59:19-21.
“In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn,” Zechariah 12:8-10.
“Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle,” Zechariah 14:1-3.
“Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul. For thus saith the LORD; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them. And fields shall be bought in this land, whereof ye say, It is desolate without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans. Men shall buy fields for money, and subscribe evidences, and seal them, and take witnesses in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, and in the cities of the mountains, and in the cities of the valley, and in the cities of the south: for I will cause their captivity to return, saith the LORD,” Jeremiah 32:37-44.
“As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment,” Ezekiel 34:12-16.
Please see how our text is immediately followed by wonderful words of mercy?
“For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him: but they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them. Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished,” Jeremiah 30:8-11.
Yes, a wonderful day of blessing and salvation is promised for the Jewish people. It will be a day of innumerable displays of grace and mercy. In the light of the ongoing campaign to oust Israel from her land at present in Israel, here is a particularly wonderful prophecy.
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim. But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them,” Isaiah 11:11-14.
Did you note the phrase: “They shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines.” God is going to employ those presently cruelly opposing and warring against His covenant people to carry them back from the four corners of the world to which they have been scattered because of their rejection of Christ and rebellion against the Lord.
Here is another verse which states the same truth.
“For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory. And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles. And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD. And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the LORD. For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD,” Isaiah 66:18-23.
I have heard it repeated ad infinitum by Muslims that the Jews have no rightful claim upon the Holy Land! Even foolish Christians have been heard to endorse this false claim! In truth, the Jews have a title deed to the Holy Land signed by the Lord many years ago.
Here is the first copy of the title deed given to Abraham and his seed as a perpetual possession. “And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land,” Genesis 12:7. It was reiterated many times. Here it is enlarged upon. “And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever,” Genesis 13:14-15.
It is robbery of the highest order to try and take away the land from those to whom God gave it. It was His to give to whom He wished. “Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people,” Joel 2:18. Proper care therefore was to be taken of it by those to whom it was given. “And they shall not sell of it, neither exchange, nor alienate the firstfruits of the land: for it is holy unto the LORD,” Ezekiel 48:14.
In these islands of ours, the Normans replacing the Anglo-Saxons is but one example of the shifting ethnic tides within the populations of nations. Such overthrowing and resettling seems to have been acceptable to God. But that is not the case with Israel. The Holy Land is theirs and theirs alone. The attempts by the Muslim nations to cast out the Jews is the most blatant attempt to accomplish what would be the greatest act of robbery in history.
However, Israel’s security is the strong arm of the Lord and as David overthrew the wouldbe ‘robber’, Goliath, so ‘great David’s Greater Son’, will overthrow any and all who seek to rob Israel of their possession.
Let all take note: “For the LORD will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land,” Isaiah 14:1. The Jewish people will yet sing: “But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble. Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing: for God is my defence, and the God of my mercy,” Psalm 59:16-17.
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
Wednesday, 18th October 2023