The time of Jacob's trouble – What is it?

The "time of Jacob's trouble" comes from Jeremiah 30:7 that says, "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" (KJV). What is this "time of distress for Jacob" (ESV)?

In previous verses, God promised He would someday restore His people to their land, meaning the land of Israel. Despite a great time of distress for the Jewish people, the Lord would save them from it. Jeremiah 30:8-9 make it clear that this time would be a period in which God's people no longer served other masters, but would serve the Lord and "David their king, whom I will raise up for them" (v. 9).

The imagery in the Jeremiah passage most closely resembles the predictions given by Jesus in Matthew 24. For example, Jesus called the trials that would take place among the Jewish people "the beginning of the birth pains" (v. 8). In 1 Thessalonians 5:3, Paul also describes this period by saying, "While people are saying, 'There is peace and security,' then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape."

Jacob's trouble or Jacob's distress refers to the difficulties the Jewish people will face during the seven-year tribulation period. During this time, the Jewish temple will be rebuilt, yet desecrated. The Antichrist will break a covenant and set himself up as ruler and expect to be worshiped. He will force all people to receive a mark to buy or sell goods. In addition, much war and famine will occur, with Jews fleeing Jerusalem to the mountains.

Despite these troubles, the Lord will fulfill His promises. In addition to protecting His people, He will return in victory (Revelation 19:11-21). Following His victory, the Messiah will rule from Jerusalem in peace for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-6). Following one last attack led by Satan, the Lord will defeat His enemies, complete His final judgment, and establish a new heavens, a new earth, and a new Jerusalem where He will dwell with His people forever (Revelation 21—22).

All of these prophecies developed more fully in Revelation are helpful in better understanding the time of Jacob's trouble mentioned by Jeremiah. Further, with the coming of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, some of the prophecies of Jeremiah have already been fulfilled.

In addition, Israel has already been re-established as a nation in 1948 following 1,900 years without a nation for the Jewish people. This historic change offers evidence that God has not abandoned the Jewish people but has kept His promises to bring Israel back to its land in the last days. Though Israel will continue to experience difficulties now and in the future, God promises He will ultimately restore His people and offer peace during a time when He rules over His people.

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