Nearly every Chirstian knows the phrase “Great Tribulation.” But most don’t have a clear understanding of what it is, how it fits in with the rest of Daniel’s 70th Week, and what exactly will happen during this time. So what does great tribulation mean?
Jesus himself coined the phrase in the Olivet Discourse, Jesus’s answer to quesitons his disciples had about the Time of the End. It had been a rough day for the disciples, Jesus had just had a knock-down verbal sparing with the Jewish Leaders in the Temple. (His famous “woe to you scribes and pharasees” speech in Matt. 23). Prior to that speech, the Disciples were still probably hoping that the religious leaders would name Jesus as Messiah and King right there and then. After the speech, they knew there was no going back; a confrontation was coming. On there way out of the Temple, they tried to break the awkward silence by commenting on size and beauty of the Temple stones. Jesus’s curt reply was that soon not one stone would remain on another.
“Great,” the Disciples probably thought, “we won’t even have a Temple!” When they got back to their camp on the Mount of Olives, they gathered the guts to ask Jesus about Daniel’s 70th Week. Their specific questions actually quoted the Book of Daniel:
As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen (referring to the destruction of the Temple), and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24: 3 NASB)
Jesus chose not to answer the question about the timing of the destruction of the Temple. In answer to the “sign of his coming,” Jesus gave an entire series of signs that form a “roadmap” of Daniel’s 70th Week. The final question about the end (SUNTELEIA) of the age is a direct quote from the Book of Daniel. English translations miss this completely, but Matthew 24: 3 quotes this word from the Septuagint (Greek) Old Testament:
There shall be a time of tribulation, such tribulation as has not been from the time that there was a nation on the earth until that time: at that time thy people shall be delivered, even every one that is written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to reproach and everlasting shame. And the wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and some of the many righteous as the stars for ever and ever. And thou, Daniel, close the words, and seal the book to the time of the end (SUNTELEIA). (Dan. 12: 1-4 LXX)
The word “end” here is a specific term in the Greek (SUNTELEIA) which means “completion of many parts.” The many parts we now know is the opening of the 7 Sealed Scroll pictured in Revelation chapters 6-8. It also carries the meaning of “consumation of a transaction.” Jesus paid our sin debt on the cross and that will allow the resurrection (“awake, some to everlasting life” Dan. 12:2) and the rapture (” the wise shall ‘shine’ as the brightness of the firmament” Dan. 12:3) both pictured here in Daniel. He will consumate the “transaction” he paid for with his blood when Jesus opens the scroll and the names of the righteous that he purchased will be revealed.
So this is what the Disciples were asking about: this specific passage from the Book of Daniel. Jesus refers to this passage directly later in his answer:
For then there will be a great tribulation (MEGALE THLIPSIS), such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. (Matt. 24: 21 NASB)
Jesus is quoting from the first part of Daniel’s passage (Dan. 12:1) that is highlighted in the above section. He is letting the Disciples know his answer involves the same period of time Daniel was talking about, and that it will result in the same wonderful results: a resurrection and rapture. In Revelation 7: 14, John sees a multitude no one can count praising Jesus in heaven and is told they are those that came out of the “Great Tribulation.” These are the resurrected and raptured saints.
Jesus uses the phrase “great tribulation” and these words are the heart of this post. What do these words mean? THLIPSIS is the word that we translate “tribulation.” The Greek literally means “pressure that confines us in a restricted place.” The picture this word paints is of an internal pressure of being trapped with no escape. It also carries the meaning of oppression or persecution. This word appears 45 times in the New Testament, but only twice is the term “Great Tribulation” used (Matt. 24:21 and Rev. 7:14). This is a specific time of persecution.
Knowing what Jesus meant by “great” will help us understand this time period. The Greek word we translate as “great” is MEGALE which means “biggest or widest in sense.” There is a misconception that the oppression during this time will be worse than the persectution saints have endured throughout the ages. This simply isn’t true if we look at the word Jesus used for “great;” it means the most “wide spread” tribulation, not the worst. The tribulation being experienced by our brothers and sisters being beheaded and raped in the Middle East today and the tribulation of those fed to the lions in the second century was not less severe than what will be experienced in the Great Tribulation. The difference is that at that time, most Christians world wide will experience it. The “scope” of the tribulation will be broader.
When those believers who follow the Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory say “my God would never do that to his Bride, the Church” (meaning we won’t be subject to this tribulation.); they are 100% mistaken. God has already allowed His saints throughout the ages to be subject to this type of persecution unto death. The difference is that this type of persecution was limited to smaller geographic areas in the past. The oppression that is coming will most likely be world wide.
“How Long, Oh, Lord?”
When the fifth seal is broken on the 7 Sealed Scroll, the martyrs under the altar in heaven cry out, “how long” before God ends the carnage and avenges their deaths. Some believe the Great Tribulation is the entire last half of Daniel’s 70th Week (last 3 1/2 years). This is also incorrect. Jesus has told us that he is going to shorten the Great Tribulation so it is less than the full 3 1/2 years.
For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days (the Great Tribulation) had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. (Matt. 24: 21-22 NASB)
So what causes the Great Tribulation to end? Certainly the Rapture will truncate the Great Tribulation, but the Great Tribulation actually ends before the Rapture.
But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (Matt. 24: 29 NASB)
It is the Celestial Earthly Disturbance event that ends the Great Tribulation! This is not understood, even by many prophecy teachers. This also clearly shows that the final blood moon of the current blood moon tetrad that is occuring cannot end up being the Celestial Earthly Disturbance because the Great Tribulation hasn’t started let alone completed. So how does the Celestial Earthly Disturbance end the Great Tribulation? We learn this from another view of this event in Revelation:
I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. (Rev. 6: 12-15 NASB)
The forces of the Antichrist will be hiding in caves!! There will be no time to kill Christians when they are hiding! Now that we know when it ends, lets look at when it starts:
Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains . . . For then there will be a great tribulation (Matt. 24: 15-16, 21 NASB)
It is abundantly clear that the Great Tribulation starts at the Midpoint of the 70th Week when the Antichrist sets up the Abomination of Desolation. The time from the Midpoint to the Celestial Earthly Disturbance event should be slightly less than 2 1/2 years, so that is an approximate length of the Great Tribulation.
We’ve seen that the Great Tribulation will be a time of wide spread persecution unto death (just like what is happening now in the Middle East except world wide.) It will last just a little bit less than 2 1/2 years and the Celestial Earthly Disturbance event will end the persecution.