The Coming Tribulation :: by Britt Gillette

The bible states that in the time just prior to the Glorious Appearing of Jesus Christ, the world will experience a time of unprecedented trial and tribulation. This seven year period is referred to by most Christians as “the tribulation.” But the bible refers to it by many names, including “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” “the seventieth week of Daniel,” and “the day of the Lord’s vengeance.” Regardless of the phrase used to describe it, the tribulation will be a time of great testing for every person on earth as it will be a time of enormous pain and suffering.

When asked by His disciples to describe the signs of His coming and the end of the age, Jesus pointed to this time period as a time of anguish greater than any since the world first began:

“‘The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about – the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place.’ (Reader, pay attention!) ‘Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat. How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. And pray that your flight will not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again.’” Matthew 24:15-21 (NLT)

While the tribulation will be a worldwide experience, it will strike the nation of Israel and the Jewish people with particular severity. The last three and a half years of the tribulation are a time period the bible describes as “the Great Tribulation,” and it will be a time of unrivaled persecution of the Jewish people.

Given our generation’s firsthand experience of the Holocaust, it’s difficult to fathom that a time of greater horror is yet future for the Jewish people. But according to the bible, this will be the case. Nevertheless, hope still exists, because this time period will end with the Glorious Appearing of Jesus Christ and the establishment of His Righteous Kingdom.

Daniel’s 70 Weeks

The Book of Daniel, written over 600 years before Christ was born, provides some of the clearest and most detailed prophecies concerning the tribulation period. During one of his heavenly visions, Daniel learns the following from the angel Gabriel:

“A period of seventy sets of seven has been decreed for your people and your holy city to finish their rebellion, to put an end to their sin, to atone for their guilt, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to confirm the prophetic vision, and to anoint the Most Holy Place.” Daniel 9:24 (NLT)

What does this passage mean? Let’s examine it piece-by-piece:

1) Seventy Sets of Seven: This phrase is sometimes translated as seventy sets of weeks, and it can be confusing to the modern reader. Nevertheless, bible scholars are in full agreement that the original Hebrew word for “week” is best translated as “seven years,” much like the English word “decade” is best translated as “ten years.” Therefore, seventy sets of seven (70 sets of 7 years), in the context of this passage, is 490 years.

2) Your People and Your Holy City: In this context, “your people” means Daniel’s people, and “your holy city” means Jerusalem. Therefore, this passage is in reference to the Jewish people and the Holy City of Jerusalem.

Knowing these two things, Gabriel’s message from God to the Jews is this – 490 years have been decreed to:

1) Finish their rebellion against God (accept Christ as the Messiah)

2) Put an end to their sin (make a conscious decision to stop sinning)

3) Atone for their guilt (accept the blood of Christ as payment for sin)

4) Bring in everlasting righteousness (witness the establishment of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom)

5) Confirm the prophetic vision (witness the fulfillment of all Messianic prophecies)

6) Anoint the most Holy place (witness the anointing of the Temple by means of the physical presence of the glorified Messiah, Jesus Christ)

According to the angel Gabriel, God has promised the Jewish people that all six of these objectives will be achieved within a 490 year period, and that 490 year period would begin with the decree to rebuild the Temple. However, what the prophecy didn’t reveal is that the final conclusion of the 490 years would be interrupted in year 483 by the most significant event in human history – the arrival of the Anointed One who will be killed “appearing to have accomplished nothing.”

483 Years Until the Messiah Appears

The heavenly message Gabriel relayed to Daniel provides one of the clearest biblical proofs that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God:

“Now listen and understand! Seven sets of seven plus sixty-two sets of seven will pass from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until a ruler – the Anointed One – comes. Jerusalem will be rebuilt with streets and strong defenses, despite the perilous times.” Daniel 9:24-25 (NLT)

According to the Book of Daniel, 483 years [(7 sets of 7 years) + (62 sets of 7 years)] will pass between the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One (the Messiah) comes. Since a biblical year is 360 days, we’re actually being told that 173,880 days will pass. To calculate the exact date of the Messiah’s arrival, readers of this prophecy would need to count forward 173,880 days from the time of the command and look for the Messiah’s arrival in Jerusalem at that time.

The date of the command to rebuild the Temple is recorded in the Book of Nehemiah.

According to Nehemiah 2:1-8, the command to rebuild Jerusalem was given in the 20th year of the reign of Artaxerxes (446 B.C.) during the month of Nisan (March/April). Counting forward 173,880 days from both the first day and the last day of Nisan (since the bible isn’t clear of the exact day), one will calculate a target arrival date for the Messiah of somewhere between 13 April A.D. 31 and 12 May A.D. 31.

Did anyone appear in Jerusalem between those dates who fulfilled the prophecies of the Messiah and was killed, “appearing to have accomplished nothing”?


During the Passover festivities in Jerusalem in the year A.D. 31, Jesus of Nazareth was killed in such a way, thus fulfilling the prophecy given to Daniel:

“After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple. The end will come with a flood, and war and its miseries are decreed from that time to the very end.” Daniel 9:26 (NLT)

The latter part of this prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70, thirty-nine years after Jesus was crucified. In that year, the future Roman Emperor Titus led his armies into Jerusalem where they destroyed the City and the Temple.

7 Years of Tribulation Remain

Following the crucifixion of Jesus, the final seven years of the 490 years decreed were put on hold. Many explanations have been offered as to why these final seven years have been put on hold and recounting them all is beyond the scope of this article. But regardless of the reason, we can be certain these final seven years are yet future. Why? Because Jesus Himself said so.

While speaking to His disciples in reference to the end of the age and His Coming, Jesus said:

“The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about – the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place.” Matthew 24:15 (NLT)

This verse describes an event which has not occurred. Therefore, it is yet future.

“Immediately after the anguish of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Matthew 24:29-30 (NLT)

Obviously, this verse also describes a future event, and it’s a key verse in determining the length of the tribulation, when it will begin, and when it will end.

When Will the Tribulation Begin?

According to the Book of Daniel, the tribulation will begin when Israel and the Antichrist confirm a covenant:

“The ruler will make a treaty with the people for a period of one set of seven, but after half this time, he will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings. And as a climax to all his terrible deeds, he will set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration, until the fate decreed for this defiler is finally poured out on him.” Daniel 9:27 (NLT)

This treaty between the Antichrist and Israel will signal the beginning of seven years of tribulation. Three and a half years later, the Antichrist will break this covenant by entering and desecrating the Jewish Temple.

How Long Will the Tribulation Last?

According to Jesus, His return will take place immediately after the turmoil and tribulation which follow the abomination of desolation. This particular period of the tribulation (the last 3 ½ years) is known as the Great Tribulation, and it will be the most horrible time in human history. The fact that this time period will last 3.5 biblical years (or 1,260 days) is evidenced by numerous scriptural references (italics added are mine):

“He will defy the Most High and oppress the holy people of the Most High. He will try to change their sacred festivals and laws, and they will be placed under his control for a time, times, and half a time.” Daniel 7:25 (NLT)

“Then the beast was allowed to speak great blasphemies against God. And he was given authority to do whatever he wanted for forty-two months.” Revelation 13:5 (NLT)

“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where God had prepared a place to care for her for 1,260 days.” Revelation 12:6 (NLT)

“There she would be cared for and protected from the dragon for a time, times, and half a time.” Revelation 12:14 (NLT)

“They will trample the holy city for 42 months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will be clothed in burlap and will prophesy during those 1,260 days.” Revelation 11:2-3 (NLT)

“Then I, Daniel, looked and saw two others standing on opposite banks of the river. One of them asked the man dressed in linen, who was now standing above the river, ‘How long will it be until these shocking events are over?’ The man dressed in linen, who was standing above the river, raised both his hands toward heaven and took a solemn oath by the One who lives forever, saying, ‘It will go on for a time, times, and half a time. When the shattering of the holy people has finally come to an end, all these things will have happened.’” Daniel 12:5-7 (NLT)

Jesus Offers Hope

The bible is clear. The tribulation will be a time of unprecedented suffering and horror. Nevertheless, humanity’s future is not bleak. The Lord Jesus Christ offers hope to all who trust in Him, and He offers the following promise:

“Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world.” Revelation 3:10 (NLT)

Those who commit their lives to Jesus Christ before the arrival of the tribulation will experience the blessed hope of the rapture, rather than endure the judgments of the tribulation. This is because God has appointed those filled with the Holy Spirit to enjoy His salvation, not to endure His wrath:

“For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9 (NLT)

This wonderful blessing is not due to any great feat on the part of those who receive it, but is, by all accounts, evidential proof of God’s merciful grace.


Unfortunately, while those filled with the Holy Spirit will escape the tribulation by means of the rapture, the nation of Israel will be left to endure the final seven years of her 490 year purification process. In fact, Israel will bear the brunt of the tribulation. Nevertheless, the tribulation should be viewed as a time to rejoice. Its arrival, just like the pain of childbirth, foreshadows a time of indescribable joy. For the tribulation signals the imminent return of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and the eternal exaltation of Israel.

God makes this promise in the Book of Jeremiah:

“In all history there has never been such a time of terror. It will be a time of trouble for my people Israel. Yet in the end they will be saved!” Jeremiah 30:7 (NLT)

As well as the Book of Daniel:

“Then there will be a time of anguish greater than any since nations first came into existence. But at that time every one of your people whose name is written in the book will be rescued.” Daniel 12:1 (NLT)

The people of Israel will be rescued by the Glorious Appearing of Jesus Christ:

“Immediately after the anguish of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Matthew 24:29-30 (NLT)

After destroying Israel’s enemies, He will establish a Kingdom that will never be destroyed:

“Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:3-4 (NLT)

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!