A WAY TO ESCAPE THE TIME OF JACOB'S TROUBLE
Jews Commanded to Gather Together Before Time of Jacob's Trouble
Caught up in a vision by the Holy Spirit, Zephaniah the prophet was permitted to see a dreadful time far in the future. He saw the Day of the Lordthe Time of Jacobs Trouble. Writing about that day, Zephaniah pictured it as a time of wasteness and desolation, darkness and gloominess, wars and great destruction of life and property. A time of troubleterrible trouble!
14 The great day of Jehovah is near, it is near and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of Jehovah; the mighty man crieth there bitterly. 15 That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, 16 a day of the trumpet and alarm, against the fortified cities, and against the high battlements. 17 And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against Jehovah; and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as dung. 18 Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of Jehovah's wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy; for he will make an end, yea, a terrible end, of all of them that dwell in the land (Zephaniah 1:14-18).
Through His servant, Zephaniah, God warns His people of the coming day of trouble and distress. And even as He warns them, He tells them how they can escape that terrible day. Speaking to the generation of Jews living at the very threshold of that time, He commands them, saying:
2 Gather yourselves together, yea gather yourselves, O nation that hath no shame; 2 before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce day of Jehovah's anger come upon you. 3 Seek ye Jehovah, all ye meek of the earth, that have kept his ordinances; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye will be hid in the day of Jehovah's anger (Zephaniah 2:1-3).
"O nation that hath no shame, gather yourselves together" cries the prophet of God, addressing his people the Jews. The Hebrew word which is here translated shame also means longing.
Why would Zephaniah address his people as a "nation that hath no longing"? Longing for what? The prophet is probably referring to the fact that the Jewish people living in the end days, who are the ones to whom he is speaking, will have lost their longing for God.
It is obvious that very few modern Jews have a true and sincere longing for the things of God. Very few are longing for Messiah to come and end anti-Semitism, bring them into full possession of their land, and settle the problems of the world.
The Command is Being Carried Out
The Jewish people who are returning to the land of Israel under the Zionist movement are doing so in order to build up a national home. They are not gathering together in their homeland out of a longing for God and His Messiah and a desire to do His will.
Although they are not returning to their homeland out of a longing for God and a desire to do His will, God's will is being done. Through Zephaniah, God issued a command to His people to gather themselves together; and, whether they are aware of it or not, His command is being carried out.
Their regathering in the land of Israel is a process. The initial regathering will take place before the Time of Jacob's Trouble. The final regathering will occur afterward.
The initial gathering together¹ of the Jews is to be "before the decree ... before the fierce anger of Jehovah come upon you." In other words, they are to gather together immediately before the Time of Jacob's Trouble begins.
An Invitation to Seek God, Seek Righteousness and Meekness
Zephaniah also gives an invitation to "seek ... Jehovah, all ye meek of the earth, that have kept his ordinances; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye will be hid in the day of Jehovah's anger." It is clear that the prophet is speaking primarily and directly to the Jews who heed his command to gather together in the land. They are urged to seek Jehovah their God before the decree of seven yearsthe Time of Jacob's Troublestarts.
The ones who are urged to seek the Lord are "all ye meek of the earth, that have kept his ordinances." Through Zephaniah, God gives a clear call to the Jews, especially devout, sincere Israelites who are seeking the truth, to seek Him earnestly. They are urged not only to seek Jehovah, but to seek righteousness, seek meekness. God loves righteousness and meekness but resists those who are proud and haughty. A man's pride shall bring him low; But he that is of a lowly spirit shall obtain honor (Proverbs 29:23). God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble (I Peter 5:5).
How Jew and Gentile Can Seek and Find God, Righteousness and Meekness
How can a Jew seek righteousness? How can a Gentile seek righteousness? How can a Jew or Gentile seek meekness?
According to King David, it is not a normal thing for anyone to seek after God. He said that none is righteous, no, not one.
2 God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there were any that did understand, That did seek after God. 3 Every one of them is gone back; they are together become filthy; There is none that doeth good, no, not one (Psalm 53:2,3).
The prophet Jeremiah said,
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).
Jeremiah also said, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to evil" (Jeremiah 13:23)
Together with these passages there are many others in the Bible which declare that all are unrighteous.
Zephaniah did not say, "Be righteous" or; "Become righteous". He said, "Seek righteousness."
What is righteousness? Webster defines the righteousness of which Zephaniah spoke as "the state of acceptance with God."
If we were to keep all of God's laws perfectly we would be accepted of Him and would be well pleasing in His sight. Who among us, however, can keep God's laws perfectly? Not one of us.
Moses charged "Cursed be he that confirmeth not the words of this law to do them" (Deuteronomy 27:26).
Elsewhere the Word of God says: "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all" (James 2:10).
Zephaniah did not say, "keep the law to the letter." He knew that would be impossible. He said, "Seek righteousness."
Wise King Solomon wrote "He that followeth after righteousness and kindness, findeth life, righteousness, and honor" (Proverbs 21:21). King Solomon implies that if anyone sincerely craves to be obedient to God's laws, and exerts much energy to be kind, he will find life, righteousness, and honor.
If we honestly and sincerely attempt to keep God's laws and commandments and to be kind to others, however we will find ourselves stumbling at every turn of the road. Honesty will compel us to admit that we are bankrupt sinners in need of help.
Does this not contradict Solomon's statement? No, it does not. For though not one of us can live a righteous life in his own strength, God has provided One Who can enable us to live a godly life.
Who is that One? Messiah.
The law condemns us and teaches us that we need Messiah's help. The apostle Paul wrote, "The law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ [Messiah], that we might be justified by faith"(Galatians 3:24).
The Lord Jesus Christ said, "Believe in God, believe also in me ... I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one cometh unto the Father but by me" (John 14;1,6). Again He said, "I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly" (John 10:10).
If we harmonize what Solomon said with Jesus' statements, we will find life in Jesus Christ.
One of the New Testament writers states that we become righteous before God only through Jesus (I Corinthians 1:30; II Corinthians 5:21). The basis of this teaching is that Jesus Christ died and shed His blood in order to cover our sins. Both Jews and Gentiles must accept this truth by faith in order to be righteous in God's sight.
Moses wrote, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life" (Leviticus 17:11).
How Both Jew and Gentile Can Escape the Time of Jacob's Trouble
We can conclude, therefore, that Jews who escape the day of the Lord's fierce anger, according to Zephaniah's promise, do so through faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. They will find God and find righteousness and humility by believing that Jesus Christ gave up His life upon the cross and shed His blood as a sacrifice for their sins.
Zephaniah assures those who find God that they will be hidden "in the day of Jehovah's anger." The prophet implies that they will be protected from the judgments of that day.
In the New Testament, God promises all who come to Him through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, that they will not go into that period of wrath. No doubt, the Jews addressed by Zephaniah who are promised escape from the threatened wrath are those who accept God's grace and are beloved in His son. This promise is made to all, both Jews and Gentiles, who make peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
9 ... Ye turned unto God ... to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivereth us from the wrath to come (I Thessalonians 1:9,10).
This passage and the following one teach that all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will be taken out of the world before the Time of Jacob's Trouble, the Tribulation, sets in. You may have heard this called "the rapture of the church."
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; 17 then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore, comfort one another with these words (I Thessalonians 4:14-18).
There is no need for anyone, Jew or Gentile, to go through the terrible sufferings of the Time of Jacob's Trouble, for God has made a way of escape from that awful day. All who accept His way of escape by faith will be delivered from the Day of His Wrath.
¹ The initial returning to the land of Israel, which is going on at the present time, does not necessarily imply that every Jew will return. It simply implies that a representative number will return.