In Daniel 12:1 it says: “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the Book.” In the title of this article, notice the plural word, times, in “The Times of Trouble.” When an object is looked at with the naked eye, sometimes only one item is seen. But, if it is looked at with a magnifying glass, it can be seen that there are divisions. If one stands on railroad tracks and looks far down the tracks, in the distance they seem to come together and make one track.
When the prophets of old looked down the line of something far away, they tended to see it as a mass. Later prophets saw more detail. Sometimes in the experience of a single prophet, from an earlier vision to a later vision there will be a difference. The first vision appears to be looking at a mass and the later visions appear to be looking at more detail. That is why I have called this “The Times of Trouble.”
We know what trouble is. We know that the Christian’s life is a time of trouble. We can see reference to that frequently in the counsels of the Spirit of Prophecy. For example: “Remember that in every time of trouble, Jesus is near you, seeking to impress His image upon you. He is trying to help you to carry the cross. He is close beside you . . . He is always ready to clasp the hand stretched out for aid.” The Review and Herald, June 20, 1907. We have wonderful promises about any kind of trouble, any place, any time. But there is another use of the phrase “the time of trouble,” which is a little different. In the book, The Great Controversy, 614, we read about a great and final time of trouble.
In The Great Controversy, 594, God’s messenger writes about a problem the disciples had. There are at least three times in the New Testament when Jesus told them directly and specifically that He was going to be betrayed and crucified, and that He would rise from the grave on the third day. Yet, we are told in this reference, that the problem with the disciples was that they were just not listening to that information. They did not want to hear, because it was not in harmony with their ideas. They wanted a Messiah to come and establish a great empire of Israel. They wanted Israel to rule over all the nations. With such a dream in their minds, it was hard for them to get the clear picture, even though they were plainly told.
“The words which they needed to remember were banished from their minds; and when the time of trial came, it found them unprepared. The death of Jesus as fully destroyed their hopes as if He had not forewarned them.” The Great Controversy, 594.
Suppose they had internalized these statements that Jesus made about what was going to happen. Where would they have been on the morning of the third day, when Jesus had said He would rise again? They would have been there around the tomb, pressing as closely as they could, waiting for that huge event to take place.
They would have seen with their own eyes that blinding flash of glory. They would have seen the Roman soldiers fall as dead men to the ground. They would have seen with their own eyes the angel’s hand roll that stone away from the grave, and Jesus step forth proclaiming Himself Lord of all. How that would have strengthened their ministry! How much better it would have been when they went all over the world, as they then did, preaching, if they could have said, “We saw it. We were there. He told us that it was going to happen and it came about just like He said. We saw it with our own eyes.” Would that have made their testimony much stronger?
Instead, they missed it because they did not listen carefully. I want to apply this to our time. After telling us that the death of Jesus as fully destroyed their hopes as if He had not forewarned them, Ellen White says: “So in the prophecies the future is opened before us as plainly as it was opened to the disciples by the words of Christ.” Ibid. What future is she talking about? Notice carefully: ” . . . the events connected with the close of probation and the work of preparation for the time of trouble.” Ibid. Can you recite these events? What if you were asked, “What are the events connected with the time of trouble?” Could you immediately tell what they are? Do we have them as clearly in our minds as they ought to be?
Four Times of Trouble
Let us consider these events and see if we can be in a better position than the disciples. In spite of their great privilege, they were not prepared. “The events connected with the close of probation and the work of preparation for the time of trouble, are clearly presented. But multitudes have no more understanding of these important truths than if they had never been revealed.” Ibid.
This study is called “The Times of Trouble.” The reason is that the references to the time of trouble at first looks like it is one great big event. Then upon a careful investigation, it is found that the study naturally divides into four parts, or four phases, of the time of trouble.
Phase one is the time of preparation. I propose that we are in that time right now. Phase two is the little time of trouble which is just before the close of probation. Between phase one—the time of preparation, and phase two which is just before the close of probation, there is not a clear line drawn. Phase three is after the close of probation. Between phase two and phase three there is a very distinct line—the close of probation. Then phase four is after the death decree. This again is a very distinct line.
Phase One—The Time of Preparation
The word preparation occurs over and over in the inspired writer’s discussion of this topic. Ellen White refers to it as the time of the early rain, not the time of the latter rain, which very definitely comes later in phase two. In the Bible, they spoke of the early rain and the latter rain in relation to the barley harvest. It took the early rain in Palestine to cause the seed to sprout and grow. Near the end of the harvest season there would be a latter rain, which they could expect with confidence, which would cause the barley to mature and be ready for the harvest. Phase one is the early rain time and the preparation here involves a shaking. As I go about the country speaking to people in various places, I am often asked, “Brother Larson, do you think we are in the shaking time?” I have typically answered, “Yes.” But, I have not had time to explain all that I think about that. What I find is that we are right now in the mental shaking time, to be followed by the physical shaking.
Notice the two kinds of people, and the two kinds of mental preparing. “Those who are uniting with the world are receiving the worldly mold and preparing for the mark of the beast. Those who are distrustful of self, who are humbling themselves before God and purifying their souls by obeying the truth—these are receiving the heavenly mold and preparing for the seal of God.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 216.
Some people, at this very moment, are preparing for the mark of the beast, others are preparing for the seal of God. That is why I call this a mental shaking time. This is borne out by the statements about the two parties being formed. “As trials thicken around us, both separation and unity will be seen in our ranks.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 400.
“Here [Isaiah 8:11–16] are plainly represented two distinct parties formed from a company that was once united.” The Review and Herald July 18, 1907. Does anyone have any doubt that we are seeing two parties forming in Adventism today? Gradually, but unmistakably, two parties are forming. Those who love the Scriptures, and the Spirit of Prophecy and those who seem to be withdrawing, first from the Spirit of Prophecy, and then from the Scriptures.
In Phase one, the emphasis is more on spiritual preparation, than physical. What do inspired writings say about physical preparation? In Counsels on Diet and Foods, 131, we are advised to have the best physical and mental health that we can, because we are going to need it. She advises that we eat nourishing food, take rest for both body and mind, and make sure our health is in good shape to take what is coming.
The Lord also has something to say about where we should be living in preparation for the future: “Again and again the Lord has instructed that our people are to take their families away from the cities, into the country, where they can raise their own provisions; for in the future the problem of buying and selling will be a very serious one.” Selected Messages, vol. 2, 141.
What about storing up food for the very end? She says: “The Lord has shown me in vision, repeatedly, that it is contrary to the Bible to make any provision for our temporal wants in the time of trouble. I saw that if the saints have food laid up by them, or in the fields, in the time of trouble when sword, famine, and pestilence are in the land, it will be taken from them by violent hands and strangers would reap their fields. Then will be the time for us to trust wholly in God, and He will sustain us. I saw that our bread and water would be sure at that time, and we should not lack, or suffer hunger.—The Lord has shown me that some of His children would fear when they see the price of food rising, and they would buy food and lay it by for the time of trouble. Then in a time of need, I saw them go to their food and look at it, and it had bred worms, and was full of living creatures, and not fit for use. Broadside 2, January 31. 1849. (See also Early Writings, 56, 57.) “In the time of trouble none will labor with their hands. Their sufferings will be mental, and God will provide for them.” Adventist Apocalypse, 6.
We are counseled that because of increasing tensions, we should guard our words carefully. We should avoid extremes and rash movements. Some come along impatiently saying, “Let us defy the authorities, stand up to them and tell them where to go. We do not care if they put us into jail.” Some people talk like that. But we must let the Lord lead in those matters. We do not have to set up a time of trouble before the time.
What about owning property in the very end? The Lord has clearly instructed us: “Houses and lands will be of no use to the saints in the time of trouble, for they will then have to flee before infuriated mobs, and at that time their possessions cannot be disposed of to advance the cause of present truth. I was shown that it is the will of God that the saints should cut loose from every encumbrance before the time of trouble comes, and make a covenant with God through sacrifice. If they have their property on the altar and earnestly inquire of God for duty, He will teach them when to dispose of these things. Then they will be free in the time of trouble and have no clogs to weigh them down.
“I saw that if any held on to their property and did not inquire of the Lord as to their duty, He would not make duty known, and they would be permitted to keep their property, and in the time of trouble it would come up before them like a mountain to crush them, and they would try to dispose of it, but would not be able.” Early Writings, 56, 57. Each one will not dispose of his property at the same time. God will instruct us when the right time is. (See Counsels on Stewardship, 59.)
Many who are not strong enough to handle the time of trouble will be laid in their graves before it comes.(See Counsels on Health, 375.) This will include many children. “The Lord has often instructed me that many little ones are to be laid away before the time of trouble.” Child Guidance, 566.
The big point is, do not defer the preparation. The things we must do to be prepared we must do now. “I also saw that many do not realize what they must be in order to live in the sight of the Lord without a High Priest in the sanctuary through the time of trouble. Those who receive the seal of the living God and are protected in the time of trouble must reflect the image of Jesus fully.” Early Writings, 71.
“All our preparation for heaven must be completed here. When Christ comes, our characters will not be changed. These vile bodies will be changed, and fashioned after the likeness of His glorious body; but there will not be a moral change wrought in us then.” The Review and Herald, August 7, 1888. Voices all over the country are telling the Seventh-day Adventist people they do not need to stop sinning at all. Jesus is going to stop them from sinning when He comes. No way. If you ever stop sinning, you are going to do it here.
This is what we are aiming for: “Christ never murmured, never uttered discontent, displeasure, or resentment. He was never disheartened, discouraged, ruffled, or fretted. He was patient, calm, and self-possessed under the most exciting and trying circumstances. All His works were performed with a quiet dignity and ease, whatever commotion was around Him. Applause did not elate Him. He feared not the threats of His enemies. He moved amid the world of excitement, of violence and crime, as the sun moves above the clouds. Human passions and commotions and trials were beneath Him. He sailed like the sun above them all. Yet He was not indifferent to the woes of men. His heart was ever touched with the sufferings and necessities of His brethren, as though He Himself were the one afflicted. He had a calm, inward joy, a peace which was serene. His will was ever swallowed up in the will of His Father.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 3, 427, 428.
Phase Two–The Little Time of Trouble
Phase two is a short but very intense time. A time of very intense activity just before the close of probation.
Ellen White wrote about this little time: “I saw that the holy Sabbath is, and will be, the separating wall between the true Israel of God and unbelievers; and that the Sabbath is the great question to unite the hearts of God’s dear, waiting saints. I saw that God had children who do not see and keep the Sabbath. They have not rejected the light upon it.” Early Writings, 85. Pause and reflect upon that. They are not keeping the Sabbath. They have not rejected the light upon it, because they have never received the light. “And at the commencement of the time of trouble, we were filled with the Holy Ghost as we went forth and proclaimed the Sabbath more fully.” Ibid.
People responding said, “What is this? We thought that at the time of trouble there would be no use to preach anymore. What is this preaching of the Sabbath at the commencement of the time of trouble?” Mrs. White wrote another article and explained what she meant. “‘The commencement of that time of trouble,’ here mentioned does not refer to the time when the plagues shall begin to be poured out, but to a short period just before they are poured out while Christ is in the Sanctuary.” Ibid.
“At that time, while the work of salvation is closing, trouble will be coming upon the earth, and the nations will be angry, yet held in check so as not to prevent the work of the third angel. At that time [notice carefully, that little time] the ‘latter rain,’ or refreshing from the presence of the Lord, will come.” Ibid. 85, 86.
Today people are saying that they think the latter rain is falling here or there, but this is not correct—not this particular application of the latter rain. It comes in the short time just before the close of probation. “At that time the latter rain or refreshing from the presence of the Lord will come and give power to the voice of the third angel and prepare the saints to stand in the period when the seven last plagues shall be poured out.” Ibid.
“I saw that God had children who did not see and keep the Sabbath. They have not rejected the light upon it. And at the commencement of the time of trouble, we were filled with the Holy Ghost as we went forth and proclaimed the Sabbath more fully. This enraged the churches and nominal Adventists, as they could not refute the Sabbath truth. At this time God’s chosen all saw clearly that we had the truth, and they came out and endured the persecution with us.” Ibid., 33. Are you adding all of these together? We will preach the Sabbath with great power, the Holy Spirit will come with the times of refreshing, the latter rain, the churches will be enraged, the nations will be angry, troubles will be increasing. This is a short, but very, very intense time.
People will be coming out of the other churches and uniting with us and people will be leaving us and uniting with the fallen churches. Ellen White said she saw standard after standard trailing in the dust as company after company left us to join the foe, and tribe after tribe coming in to take their places. (See Testimonies, vol. 8, 41.)
“I saw the sword, and famine, and pestilence, and great confusion in the land. The wicked thought that we had brought the judgments upon them, and they rose up and took counsel to rid the earth of us, thinking that then the evil would be stayed.” Early Writings, 33, 34.
Phase two is the time of the sealing, the time of refreshing, the time when those who have been preparing to receive the seal of God, and those who have been preparing to receive the mark of the beast will receive it.
The Sunday law comes into this period also. “Just before we entered it [the time of trouble], we all received the seal of the living God. Then I saw the four angels cease to hold the four winds. And I saw famine, pestilence, and sword, nation rose against nation, and the whole world was in confusion.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 968. Big and climactic events will be happening. People will be making their final decisions to go one way or the other. The line will be drawn between them, and the two parties will reach their final fulfillment.
“Servants of God with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration, will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven. By thousands of voices all over the earth, the warning will be given. Signs and wonders will follow the believers. Satan also works with lying wonders, even bringing down fire from heaven in the sight of men. Revelation 13:13. Thus the inhabitants of the earth will be brought to take their stand . . . Family connections, church relations, are powerless to stay them now. Truth is more precious than all besides. Notwithstanding the agencies combined against the truth, a large number take their stand upon the Lord’s side.” The Great Controversy, 612.
As we continue reading in The Great Controversy, we notice that Ellen White is looking back to the past. “When the third angel’s message closes, mercy no longer pleads for the guilty inhabitants of the earth. The people of God have accomplished [past perfect, completed] their work. They have received the ‘latter rain,’ ‘the refreshing from the presence of the Lord,’ and they are prepared for the trying hour before them. Angels are hastening to and fro in heaven. An angel returning from the earth announces that his work is done; the final test has been brought [past perfect] upon the world, and all who have proved themselves loyal to the divine precepts have received the ‘seal of the living God’. Then Jesus ceases His intercession in the sanctuary above. He lifts His hands and with a loud voice says, ‘It is done;’ and all the angelic host lay off their crowns as He makes the solemn announcement: ‘He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.’ Revelation 22:11. Every case has been [past perfect] decided for life or death. Christ has made [past perfect] the atonement for His people and blotted out their sins.” The Great Controversy, 613, 614.
Blotting out of Sins
We hear a lot from time to time about the blotting out of sins. Those who try to bring the blotting out of sins down to a time before the close of probation are mistaken. “When sin has been repented of, confessed, and forsaken, then pardon is written against the sinner’s name; but his sins are not blotted out until after the investigative judgment.” Signs of the Times, May 16, 1895. [All emphasis supplied] The blotting out of sins is after the investigative judgment.
In phase two, the number of His subjects is made up. It is a very intensive, active and shaking time. People are making their final decisions.
Phase Three–After Probation Closes
Phase three is marked by the beginning of the seven last plagues. This is when we will see the most tremendous convulsions of nature, the most enormous earthquakes, the most enormous tidal waves and the largest famines and pestilences that this world has ever seen. Daniel said there will be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.
Ellen White writes about the fall of Jerusalem when the blood was flowing down the temple steps, and when the crosses were so thick around the walls that you could hardly walk between them. She says it will be like that all over the world. During all this Satan appears as Christ. It is very, very clear that by the fifth plague of darkness, he is doing his work. (See The Great Controversy, 624.)
In Evangelism, 209, she refers to thousands of cities that will be destroyed and become as Jerusalem was during this time. Her attention was directed to a particular group at this time. “I was shown a company who were howling in agony. On their garments was written in large characters, ‘Thou art weighed in the balance, and found wanting.’ I asked who this company were. The angel said, ‘These are they who have once kept the Sabbath and have given it up.’” Present Truth, August 1, 1849. They will be in the greatest distress of all.
When Christ stands up and leaves the Most Holy Place, there is no further atonement. The devil is doing his work, trying to persuade the people that we are the cause of all these terrible things that are happening in the world. This will bring them finally to the place where they are ready to destroy us and the death decree will be made.
The Time of Jacob’s Trouble
The time of Jacob’s trouble. (See The Great Controversy, 613–634.) is a particular time when Jesus says the people of God will stand without a mediator and they will not know their condition for sure.
God’s people can see the plagues falling. They can see everything that is happening all around them and their question is, “Am I right with God.” They know that there is no mediator any longer, probation has closed. If there is any sin at this point, it is hopeless.
The question comes to our mind, Why? Why does not God deliver His people out of the world and take them to the kingdom of God right now? Why do they have to go through this experience after probation has closed? The reason for this is found in Testimonies, vol. 4, 8: “The purification of the people of God cannot be accomplished without their suffering.” We probably do not understand this, and we may never understand, but it is there.
Notice this detail about the attitude of the wicked at this time. “And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire and men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues; and they repented not to give Him glory.” Revelation 16:8, 9. Even through fear they will not repent. They are so locked in an attitude of defiance against God that nothing will change them.
Eventually the last plague comes. “There fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail.” Revelation 16:21. There is still no repentance. No matter what God does, their hearts are so locked in defiance and rebellion that they will not surrender under any conditions. He is showing the whole universe that when Christ said, “It is finished,” it was finished. There is nobody else who will repent no matter what.
Phase one: The time of preparation is now. The time when we should be building a faith that is invincible, expecting tests and trials, keeping our possessions on the altar, making spiritual preparation and recognizing that some of our loved ones may be laid in the grave in order to preserve them.
Phase two: An intense time just before the close of probation. The time of the latter rain, the seal of God, and the mark of the beast. The preaching of the Sabbath, in its final phase, with great power of the Holy Spirit, with people accepting either the seal of God or the mark of the beast. Disposing of our possessions as indicated by the Lord so the money can be used in the final proclamation.
Phase three: After the close of probation, the four angels loose the four winds and the plagues begin to fall. There will be tremendous convulsions of the earth, fires, famines, earthquakes, tidal waves, etc. At this time we have the assurance that none of the faithful will die because it would not accomplish anything.
Phase four: The time of Jacob’s trouble, which is after the death decree when it is decreed that all Sabbath keepers should be put to death.
We began our study with the statement from Ellen White that these things have been clearly laid out before us. I must agree with that. The information is there and we would have to agree with the other part of her statement that many of us do not know any more about it than if it had never been revealed.
Let us try to get this firmly fixed in our minds so that we are better prepared than the disciples were. One of the best ways, is to read the last few chapters of The Great Controversy. Read them over and over, slowly and carefully and mark everything you find there.
At this time, let us determine that we are going to use the time of preparation well. The time of preparation is tremendously important, but it is not forever. The thing to keep in our minds is that those who want to stand during that final phase must reflect the image of Jesus fully. Let us make that our goal.