Everywhere we look today, we see trouble. The civil war in Syria has claimed over 150,000 lives, created over 2 million refugees, and given rise to a new terror group, ISIS. In the Ukraine, there is a civil war between that country’s government and those in its eastern provinces who would rather be aligned with Russia. There are economic troubles throughout the world and an increasing disparity in income between the rich and everyone else. New illnesses (Ebola) threaten the health of mankind.
Both Jesus and the Prophet Daniel prophesied these troubles. Daniel wrote, “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time” (Dan. 12:1 New American Standard Bible). Jesus said, “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matt. 24:21,22, NASB). Both identified the trouble as an evidence that Jesus had returned (Michael arising) to establish his earthly kingdom.
This trouble comes from the increase of knowledge interacting with man’s fallen nature and selfishness. This leads to strife between nations, religions, ethnic groups and social-economic classes.
The selfish, raging masses of mankind bring the trouble as Joel writes in Joel 2:1-3 (NASB): “So there is a great and mighty people; There has never been anything like it, Nor will there be again after it … A fire consumes before them And behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them. But a desolate wilderness behind them, And nothing at all escapes them.” Joel later calls these people, “His [Lord’s] army” (vs. 11, NASB).
While the trouble seems to be growing out of control, the Heavenly Father and our returned Lord are in control. The psalmist writes, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee [Lord]: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain” (Ps. 76:10).
The purpose of the trouble is to bring this present evil world and its selfish institutions to an end so that Christ’s earthly kingdom can be established on the earth to bless all mankind. The Apostle Peter describes this in 2 Peter 3:10,13 (NASB): “The day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up … But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”
The heavens and earth that pass away are the churches, religions, and civil governments and institutions of this world. The Lord replaces them with a new heavens [new spiritual government led by Christ and his church] and a new earth [new earthly government] led the ancient worthies [Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc].