The Tribulation

"The Tribulation refers to events during the "signs of the times", first mentioned by Jesus (Matthew 24:1-51; Mark 13:1-37; John 16:1-33) and is also referenced in Revelation 2:22; 7:14. The Tribulation is thought by some to be a future time period when the Lord will accomplish at least two aspects of His plan: 1) He will complete His discipline of the nation Israel (Daniel 9:24), and 2) He will judge the unbelieving, godless inhabitants of the earth (Revelation 6 - 18). The length of the Tribulation is seven years. This is determined by an understanding of the seventy weeks of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27). Personally I'm leaning toward the orthodox view that the Tribulation already took place as Jesus predicted (Matthew 24:34), in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. It also helps to know how horrible this event was. Charles Spurgeon said, "“The destruction of Jerusalem was more terrible than anything that the world has ever witnessed, either before or since.” In Matthew 23, Jesus speaks His harshest words ever recorded upon the religious leaders and the entire chapter records him rebuking them publically. He finished by declaring:

"Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’" (Matthew 23:33-39).

What's interesting are the next few verses. Matthew 24:1-2 says, "Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” So Jesus then goes and shows them the stones which will be leveled and the disciples are freaking out. The disciples are going to Jesus privately and asking when it will happen. They know it is in their lifetime, their "generation." Jesus then tells them the "signs of the times" they should look for. He then describes the Great Tribulation and starts by saying, "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place..." It's pretty clear that Jesus is talking about them, right?

Then in Matthew 24:3, the disciples ask one question with essentially two parts: When will the destruction of the temple happen and what are the signs to look for. Why do people ignore Matthew 21:1-24:2 and think the disciples suddenly started asking about the second coming of Jesus and the end of planet earth? It doesn't make sense because they didn’t believe in the resurrection and they had no awareness of the second coming of Jesus, so how would they even know to ask about His second coming? They couldn’t have. Also, why would they switch from talking about the destruction of the temple in Matthew 24:2 to talking about the end of the planet earth in Matthew 24:3? They wouldn’t. Note also that Jesus gives them precise information that wouldn’t help a future generation:

  • “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains….” (Matthew 24:16). What about the rest of us? This is worthless advice for us nowadays.
  • “Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.” (Matthew 24:17). This wouldn't apply either.
  • “And pray that your flight will not be in winter or on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 24:20). Wouldn't apply either.
  • Notice also the amount of times that Jesus uses the present tense “you” in His prophecy. Wouldn’t the Gospel writer be more careful to show that the prophecy was about people 2000+ years in the future? He could have used the word “they,” said it wouldn't affect them, etc. but He did not.

    Then you have verses like Hebrews 10:25 which make a lot more sense in this context:

    “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
    The early church was meeting daily, house-to-house, and the Day they saw approaching was the destruction of Jerusalem. However, Josephus records that “not one Christian died in the destruction of Jerusalem” because they had all fled to Mt. Pella.


    The Great Tribulation is said by some to be the last half of the Tribulation period, three and one-half years in length. It is distinguished from the Tribulation period because the Beast, or Antichrist, is revealed, and the wrath of God greatly intensifies during this time. Thus, it is important at this point to emphasize that the Tribulation and the Great Tribulation are not synonymous terms. Within eschatology (the study of future things), the Tribulation refers to the full seven-year period while the "Great Tribulation" refers to the second half of the Tribulation.


    George Peter Holford's book "The Destruction of Jerusalem." Copies may be found at the following links:
    1. Scan of the 1812 Publication (New York Public Library)
    2. Scan of the 1812 Publication (HathiTrust Collection)
    3. Scan of the 1858 Publication (HathiTrust Collection)
    4. Various Different Scans in Both English and German (Open Library Internet Archive)

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