Prophecy people always read 'the time of Jacob's trouble' (Jeremiah 30:7) as futuristic but is it bound to be futuristic?
UK Apologetics Reply:
This a a very good question indeed! Let us look at this:
How awful that day will be! No other will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it. (Jeremiah 30:7).
Okay, now let's get a fuller context:
1. This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2. "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you. 3. The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, 'when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their ancestors to possess,' says the Lord." 4. These are the words the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah: 5. "This is what the Lord says: "'Cries of fear are heard - terror, not peace. 6. Ask and see: Can a man bear children? Then why do I see every strong man with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor, every face turned deathly pale? 7. How awful that day will be! No other will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it. 8. "'In that day,' declares the Lord Almighty, 'I will break the yoke off their necks and will tear off their bonds; no longer will foreigners enslave them. 9. Instead, they will serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. 10. "'So do not be afraid, Jacob my servant; do not be dismayed, Israel,' declares the Lord. 'I will surely save you out of a distant place, your descendants from the land of their exile. Jacob will again have peace and security, and no one will make him afraid. 11. I am with you and will save you,’' declares the Lord. 'Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only in due measure; I will not let you go entirely unpunished.' (Jeremiah 30:1-11; NIV throughout).
A Prophecy Clearly Already Fulfilled
So here we have a clear prophecy coming from Jeremiah, referring to the final results of the captivities of Israel and Judah (Israel had already gone into captivity, taken by the Assyrians, now - that is, in Jeremiah's day - Judah was about to go into captivity with the Babylonians, around 125 years after Israel had been taken). The prophecy states that much of Israel would eventually return to the promised land (verses 3, 10). This indeed happened after 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10), the time of this regathering being referred to in books such as Ezra, Haggai and Nehemiah. This, of course, was after the Medo-Persians had taken over Babylon. In general (though not in every single case), the Medo-Persians were more merciful to the people of Israel and wished them to be restored to their land.
So God delivered and restored His people of Judah 60-70 years after their captivity, a noted fact of history. Here we may note a pattern of suffering and deliverance in Jewish history throughout the centuries. Now, this does not mean that every single person of Israelitish/Judaic descent returned to Israel at that time but it is known that a goodly portion of them did.
So the concept of "Jacob's trouble" comes from Jeremiah 30:5-7. Let's just briefly remind ourselves of that once more:
"This is what the LORD says: 'Cries of fear are heard - terror, not peace. Ask and see: Can a man bear children? Then why do I see every strong man with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor, every face turned deathly pale? How awful that day will be! None will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it.'"
The context of the entire book of Jeremiah rules out the possibility that 'Jacob’s trouble' refers exclusively to events that are yet to unfold, that is, purely futuristic events, since an immediate application is demanded by virtually everything that precedes and follows these chapters (check out Jeremiah 29, for instance). For the prophecy to have made any sense to Jeremiah and to those who heard it, "Jacob's trouble" had to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and of the first temple and the imposed exile of the Jewish people by the Babylonians. Without question, all of this took place in Jeremiah's time.
David Will Be Raised Up Again?
Some will note verse 9 of the chapter we have just considered. It states the following:
Instead, they will serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.
Whilst we all know that David will eventually be raised in the resurrection of the dead, in the case of this particular verse, this does not necessarily mean anything more than the fact that the returning Israelites would be given a strong leader who would serve the people in the spirit and dynamism of the former King David (just as John the Baptist was prophesied to come "in the spirit and power of Elijah" - See Luke 1:17). Indeed, the dynamic Zerubbabel became the new leader, eventually getting work started on building the new temple. See Haggai 1:1-2.
So 'Jacob's sufferings,' at the time of the Babylonian captivity, a major theme in Jeremiah, certainly was primarily fulfilled around 600-585 BC, with Judah's captivity, followed by a restoration to the 'promised land' 70 years later.
Now some might say, could this also possibly refer to Israel's many severe sufferings through history, such as the Holocaust? Yes, it could, although the later sufferings of the Jewish people - after their rejection of Christ - undoubtedly owe much more to another Scripture, this time in the New Testament:
24. When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man’s blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!" 25. All the people answered, "His blood is on us and on our children!" (Matthew 27:24-25).
All keen students of the Bible must reject the idea that the prophecy of Jeremiah 30, including verse 7, refers to a time yet future in our own day. The prophecy is really quite specific and was fulfilled when Israel and Judah went into national captivities, with Judah returning to the land of Israel around 70 years later.
But could there be a yet futuristic element? Yes, it is not entirely impossible. In our own day 'the time of Jacob's trouble' would be a time of difficulties and persecution upon the church, one may briefly note that Revelation 11 describes a future time when, just briefly, the church is silenced but this is but a very short time before Christ returns to earth. See Revelation 11: 7-14.
Robin A. Brace. March 31st, 2017.