Over the years, I’ve often heard Christians refer to “the seven-year trib” (as in “seven year tribulation”). Indeed, I’ve heard it repeated so often that it has virtually risen to the status of a dogma in modern Christendom. Is this term even in the Bible? Will the Great Tribulation really be a seven-year event? This blog is dedicated to responding to those questions.
To begin with, the term “seven-year tribulation” does not occur in the Bible. Most assuredly, there is a “great tribulation” period mentioned in the Bible. Jesus Christ/Yahshua refers to this time in Matthew 24:21 as occurring at the very end of this age, but he does not link any specific length of time to this “tribulation” period in Matthew 24:21-22. Where then, does modern Christendom derive the idea that the “great tribulation” will be a seven-year period of time? The seventy-week prophecy of Daniel 9:20-27 refers to 69 prophetic weeks being passed before the Messiah “shall confirm the covenant with many for one week.” A “week” is seven days so some believe that the 70th prophetic week designates the final seven years at the end of our age. That seems to me to be a very plausible interpretation. However, that scripture makes no statement that the “great tribulation” is synonymous with the entire final seven-year period. Daniel 9:27 refers to the “sacrifice and oblation” stopping “in the midst of the week” and then it refers to the abomination of desolation which is mentioned in other biblical prophecies. This blog will not address the abomination of desolation as this blog is focused on the length of the great tribulation period.
The language of Daniel 9:27 strongly indicates that the final half of the last seven-years of this age will be much more sinister than the initial first half. This indicates that for the first three and one-half years of the final seven year period of time, “sacrifices and oblations” are apparently being offered at a dedicated Temple site as they are suddenly stopped “in the midst of the week.” This prophetic verse indicates that the first half of the final seven-years of our age will be much more benign than the last three and one-half years. The fact that “sacrifices and oblations” are being offered (presumably) through the first half of this seven-year period of time reveals a certain degree of religious tolerance as these must refer to Jewish sacrifices being offered at a dedicated Temple site. Matthew 24:23-27 supports such a view as Jesus Christ herein warned that the antichrist system will (at least initially) be so deceptive that “if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” If even the very elect are almost deceived by the final antichrist system, there has to be a period of time where the global deception “looks so good” that many Christians (even the “very elect”) will find it attractive. This also fits with I Thessalonians 5:3 that there will be a period acclaimed by many to be a time of “peace and safety” which will occur just prior to a time of “sudden destruction” coming upon the earth.
If the last three and one-half years of our age are the time of heightened danger, does this have other biblical support? It certainly does. Revelation 13:1-7 prophesies that when the beast system takes authority over the earth, it will last “forty and two months” (verse 5). Forty two months is equivalent to three and one-half years. However, the beast and antichrist system will not have undisputed sway over the earth during that final three and one-half years. Revelation 11 contains a prophecy about the Two Witnesses, two great prophets of God who will be mightily empowered by God at the end of this age. Indeed, their ministry will last 1260 days (verse 3) which is also the equivalent of three and one-half years. The Two Witnesses will be Divinely empowered to plague the earth (ruled by the beast) with droughts, turning waters into blood and whatever other plagues “as often as they will” (verse 6). So even though the beast power will exercise political/economic dominance over the world’s nations, the nations of the earth and the beast itself will be subject to being plagued by the Two Witnesses for a considerably overlapping period of time. It is clear that the Two Witnesses and the beast power have overlapping periods of time as the beast power kills the Two Witnesses after their ministry of 1260 days (Revelation 11:7). Revelation 16:3-10 describe a period of time when great plagues (including water being turned to blood) will befall the nations and even strike the very “seat of the beast” himself. These plagues may be instigated by the Two Witnesses as their ministry parallels that of the beast’s reign.
There is no scripture in the Bible, however, which directly connects the “Great Tribulation” with either the 42 months of the beast’s reign or the 1260 days of the Two Witnesses’ ministry. Let’s look at Matthew 24:21’s reference to the “great tribulation” and see what it does address. Matthew 24: 21-22 says the “great tribulation” is, specifically, a time of unprecedented danger on the earth during which “there should no flesh be saved” unless Divine intervention occurred. Verse 22 foretells that “except those days be shortened,” all flesh would go extinct. Therefore, the Great Tribulation is limited to a time of exceptional global danger at the end of our age when “all flesh” on the earth faces mass extinction. Personally, I think the eruption of World War III (the global Gog-Magog war of Ezekiel 38-39, also called the battle of “Armageddon” in Revelation 16:12-18) is most likely to be the event which brings mankind to the brink of global extinction. Notice the same prophetic phrase “It is done” occurs in both Revelation 16:17 and Ezekiel 39:8, confirming these are parallel prophecies addressing the very same end-of-the-age period of time.
There are so many exotic weapons which could be unleashed by both sides of the Gog-Magog war that it could easily bring mankind to the brink of extinction. These new categories of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) include Chinese nanotechnology weaponry, invisibility weapons, HAARP and Scalar weapons, weather-modification weapons, chemical/bacteriological weapons, plasma and quantum weaponry, new space-based weapons platforms, etc. I have previously blogged on the Chinese nanotechnology and invisibility weaponry as well as the HAARP weapon which was apparently tested/used off Norway’s northern coast last winter and the new American X-37B spacecraft with secret capabilities. Even if nuclear weapons are banished someday (a possibility which would convince a gullible global populace that “peace and safety” had arrived), there are plenty of types of WMD already in existence or being developed which could eliminate “all flesh” from the earth. This time of global warfare that threatens the extinction of “all flesh” would meet Jesus Christ’s criteria in Matthew 24:21-22 for the great tribulation. This being the case, the unleashing of all these new high-tech weapons could jeopardize all flesh on earth within days (or even hours). Therefore, I think that the “great tribulation” occurs at the very climax of the final seven-year period of time which concludes our age before Jesus Christ returns. It may last a very short time.
Jesus Christ warned in Matthew 24:22 that the onset of the great tribulation’s threat to render all flesh extinct will cause “those days…to be shortened.” What “days” was he referring to? The 1260 “days” of the Two Witnesses’ ministry? The final “days” of the Beast’s 42 month reign? The three and one-half “days” during which the bodies of the Two Witnesses lie dead and unburied (Revelation 11:11)? We don’t know which periods of prophetic time Jesus Christ was addressing in his statement. What does seem evident, however, is that Jesus Christ is foretelling us that prophetic periods of “days” will have to be “shortened” to prevent mankind from going extinct prior to various prophetic periods of “days” running their full course. That means Christ will be coming earlier than certain prophecies would indicate. This is entirely consistent with the parable of Matthew 25:1-13 wherein Christ warned his latter-day followers that his return will occur sooner than any of them expect at the end of our age.
So how long do I think the “great tribulation” will last? By definition, it occurs only at the very climax of this age when “all flesh” faces imminent extinction. This period of time may be mere days or even hours. When the “great tribulation” conditions come to pass (when all flesh faces extinction), Jesus Christ has to return to stop it from occurring and in Matthew 24:22, he says he will.