This post comes from Calvary Chapel Pastors
I think one of the most intriguing topics in the Bible is what’s commonly called the Great Tribulation. There are few topics that are more debated and argued. Some followers of Jesus think that the tribulation was fulfilled in 70 AD, with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple. Others think we are currently in the tribulation. And still others, such as me, believe that while this world has seen much suffering and destruction, the biblical data indicates conclusively that the tribulation is a yet future period which will occur on earth.
No matter which perspective you come from on the timing of the tribulation, a key passage for consideration is Mathew 24. With no disrespect intended toward those who believe the tribulation already has, or currently is occurring, I must admit it is mindboggling to me how either position could be believed, considering Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24. Let’s take a look at five things Jesus teaches us about the tribulation in this passage.
The Tribulation is Real
As Jesus says plainly in verse 21, “there will be Great Tribulation …” In Jesus’ view of the tribulation (the only one that really matters), the tribulation isn’t fantasy, sensationalism, or eschatological obsession; it was a coming reality.
The Tribulation is the Fulfillment of the Seventieth Week Prophecy of Daniel 9
We see this from verses 15 and 21: “Therefore, when you see the ‘abomination of desolation’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place … then there will be Great Tribulation.”
Jesus was quoting from Daniel 9:25-27. This passage prophetically speaks of the coming and crucifixion of Jesus, as well as some events having to do with the Great Tribulation. Again, we believe these verses speak of the Great Tribulation because Jesus specifically says they do in Mathew 24:15 & 21. As you do the math, it becomes clear from the passage in Daniel nine that 69 weeks would occur between the “time of the going forth of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem,” and the time when the Messiah would be “cut off, but not for Himself.”
“Weeks” in context refer to weeks of years (69, seven-year cycles). Daniel is telling us that 69, seven-year periods would come to pass beginning on the date the command was given to restore Jerusalem. After 69 series of seven-year cycles was complete (483 years according to the Jewish calendar), the Messiah would be executed for crimes He did not commit and wrongs He had not done. This command was issued in 445 BC. And when you move forward in history from 445 BC, for a total of 483, 360-day years (in accord with the Jewish calendar), you come to the year 33 AD, the very time Jesus Christ was crucified and “cut off, but not for Himself,” but for the sins of the world.
As you read through the latter portion of the prophecies in Daniel 9, it becomes clear that after the execution of Messiah, there was to be another week (seven-year cycle), during which the events Jesus referred to in Matthew 24 as occurring during the Great Tribulation, would be fulfilled. So what’s the point? Daniel 9 predicts at least two things. One, the exact year the true Messiah would come and be crucified for other people’s sins. And two, the events that would occur in the final seven-year cycle (70th week). Jesus referred to the events of the 70th week of Daniel in Matthew 24 as the Great Tribulation. This means the Tribulation, according to Jesus, is the final seven-year cycle described by Daniel.
The Tribulation is Global
In verse 22 of Matthew 24, Jesus strongly implies this: “And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.” The judgments of that time, and their global scope are such that, if God did not relent, “no flesh” would survive. That means no human, animal, or any such flesh would exist if God didn’t stop the catastrophic events. The judgment of the tribulation will threaten the existence of all life throughout the globe, because its scope will include the entire globe. That is the most natural reading of the text, and it lines up exactly with what we would expect if the events of Revelation 6-19 are really descriptive of the tribulation period.
The Tribulation is Ultimate Devastation
As Jesus notes in Matthew 24:21, during the real tribulation, the magnitude of events and destruction will be, “such as has not been since the beginning of the world, until this time, no, nor ever shall be.” The world had already seen the epic destruction of Noah’s flood before the time Jesus was speaking these words. That means, according to Jesus, that the real tribulation has to be more intense than even the global flood! That’s the only way it could fit the description of being worse than anything “since the beginning of the world, until this time, nor ever shall be.”
The Tribulation Immediately Precedes the Second Coming
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days … the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:29a and 30-31). According to Jesus’ doctrine of the Great Tribulation, “immediately after,” those days, He will come again.
If Jesus tells the truth, and the Great Tribulation is real, global, ultimate devastation, which is immediately followed by His Second Coming, I can only conclude that it is not history or current, but absolutely future. As bad as the events of 70 AD were, they didn’t threaten to extinguish the life of all flesh on the earth, didn’t even come close to comparing to the carnage of the Holocaust (let alone the global flood of Noah), and they were not “immediately” followed by the Second Coming. The only way to make Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 be contained and fulfilled by the events of 70 AD alone is to allegorize them, and twist them to the point of strangulation to fit a preconceived eschatological position we want to find in the text, before letting it speak plainly to us. To paraphrase David Guzik, he said, “Every position has problems to deal with in interpreting Matthew 24, but I like my problems a lot more than those who hold other views.”
This is an in-house discussion amongst the family of the body of Christ. We shouldn’t kill each other over our differences. But our differences do matter. What do you think? Graciously and honestly share your thoughts in the comments!
continue reading the views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of Calvary Southampton