The Great Tribulation

The second 3 1/2 years of Daniel’s 70th week is the “Great Tribulation.”  The name comes from Matthew 24:21.  The Bible says that this period of time will be unlike any before it or after it.  Joel 2:2 describes the end of this time, the day of the Lord with the same language.  Zephaniah 1:14-18 uses some unique language to describe this time.  It says that the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.  This is a time of the wrath of God poured out upon the earth for their great sins.  It is a time of the distress of men.  Matthew 24:21 speaks of the intensity of God’s judgement upon the earth at this time.

Matthew 24:22 speaks of the universal scope of God’s judgement at this time.  The judgements of the 7 years of the tribulation are compared to the birth pangs of a woman in labor.  Labor begins with the birth pangs spread out.  As the time for the birth gets closer and closer, the labor pains get more intense and closer together.  This is the same way the judgements of God work during the tribulation.  Revelation 5 has a description of a scene in heaven where there is a book, sealed seven times that only the Lamb is worthy to open.  This book contains the complete wrath of God for the tribulation period.  As each seal is opened, another part of the wrath of God for the earth is unleashed.  The opening of each seal seems to correspond with the beginning of each year of the tribulation.

As was already described in the teaching page on the beginning of sorrows, the first four seals are opened during the first 3 1/2 years of the tribulation.  Revelation 6:8 says that these judgements affect 1/4 of the earth.  They are centered in the Middle East.  In the second half of the tribulation, the Great Tribulation, the 5th, 6th, and 7th seals are opened.  Contained within the 7th seal are the 7 trumpet judgements described in Revelation 8 – 11.  The seven trumpet judgements seem to happen within the 7th year of the tribulation.  The intensity of these judgements is much greater than the previous seals.  The geographical scope of the trumpet judgements is the entire earth.  The first four trumpet judgements destroy 1/3 of all of nature.  The last 3 of the trumpet judgements unleash hell and death upon the earth.

The sounding of the 7th trumpet marks the end of the AntiChrist’s reign.  It is the end of the 1260 days of the prophesying of the two witnesses (Moses and Elijah) of Revelation 11:3.  The sounding of the 7th trumpet marks the 3rd part of the harvest, the gleanings.  It is the rapture of the martyred tribulation saints, the third “come up hither.”  Contained within the 7th trumpet judgement are the seven vial judgements.  These are described in Revelation 16.  The vial judgements are so terrible that if God did not shorten these days no flesh would be saved.

An explanation of a few verses is in order here.  Matthew 24:22 says, “those days should be shortened.”  Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 say that no man knows the day or the hour of the second coming of Christ, only the Father knows.  Revelation 11:2 and Revelation 11:3 give two different time periods for the Great Tribulation, 42 months and 1260 days respectively.  Although every commentator that I know says that 42 months and 1260 days are the same, they are not.  1260 days is 42 months of 30 days each or would be 3 1/2 years of 30 day months.  However, since the time of the flood, our years are 365.25 days long and not 360.  Over a 3 1/2 year span there are up to 18 extra days over the 1260 mentioned in Revelation 11:3.  This period of up to 18 days is the time that the Father will shorten for the sake of saving the elect.  No one knows, only the Father, how many days He will shorten this time.  This is the time of the vial judgements and the day of Christ’s return happens somewhere in here.

Matthew 24:23-26 is a section of scripture that warns about deception.  The False Prophet described in Revelation 13 is said in verse 14 to deceive those that dwell on the earth by means of miracles.  Revelation 16:14 describes the spirits of devils that go out working miracles to gather the whole world to Armageddon.  Christ is saying to the Jews don’t be deceived and don’t go.  One reason Christ’s words would be especially important to the Jew is that they seek after a sign.  Jews are particuarly susceptible to deception through miraculous signs.

Jesus says in verse 27, when I come you won’t be able to miss it.  Revelation 1:7 says every eye shall see him.  The second coming of Christ to judge the world is not an invisible spiritual event.  It is a dramatic physical event.  Just as Christ visibly ascended, He will also visibly, physically return.  Although it is difficult to tell exactly what the sign of the Son of man is at his coming, it has something to do with the clouds.  It may be similar to the pillar of cloud that God went before the Israelites with during the Exodus.

Because the Bible has much to say in great detail about the Second Coming of Christ, I will discuss it on its own page.  However, there are a few other details to consider about the Great Tribulation and the lead up to the Second Advent.  The general message that Christ has for His Church and also His servants is watch and be ready (pray).  In Matthew 24:33, Christ says that those who know him should be able to see the signs and know that His return is near.  We will not be able to know the day or hour of His return but we can know the season is near.

The message that Christ has about the world’s reaction to this tribulation is they will not change a thing except to be hardened.  In the midst of all this judgement, the Bible also talks about the time leading up to the return of Christ like the days of Noah leading up to the flood.  Right up to the day of the flood, the people were going about their lives as if a final judgement would never come.  The wickedness of the earth was great before the flood and it will be great before the return of Christ.  Revelation 9:20-21 says that the men of the earth even after experiencing tremendous plagues did not repent of their idol worship, devil worship, murders, sorceries, fornication, nor of their thefts.  Drunkeness seems to be a sin that will be very prevalent because it is mentioned in most of the warnings.

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