Although John does not specifically mention it, chapter six of the book of Revelation records the beginning of the narrative of a time (epoch) referred to by Daniel the Prophet as the Seventieth Week.[i] It is also a time called the Tribulation.[ii] This time period is of great prophetic and personal significance and is the subject we will now consider.
Not only is it of personal significance to the believer, but it is also to Jesus, who expects His people to know the signs of the times (Matthew 16:1-4). Furthermore, it is important for the believer to discern the times in which he/she lives in obedience to scripture as the Apostle Peter who wrote: “you do well to pay attention to the prophets.” (2 Peter 1:19).
It is also essential that Christians realize that the Revelation we have of who Jesus is and that He will soon return comes from the Father. This type of discernment is given to the born again believer who knows the Lord personally and it comes with great responsibilities. Among these are being obedient to the word and discerning the times in which we live so that we can explain to those around what is going on in the world.
Therefore, before we look more closely at the time of Daniel’s 70th week (as detailed by John) a brief review of the previous two chapters (4-5) of the Revelation is appropriate. This will give us a broader perspective and context. In the beginning of chapter four John is observed as being translated by the power of the Holy Spirit into heaven. Upon arrival he is given a front row seat to a number of events that are part of the “Things Which Must Come to Pass Hereafter”.[iii] These are post-church age (thus post rapture) events which John is privileged to see and record for our edification.
In Revelation 4-5 John sees and describes the following heavenly events:
· God’s Throne (4:1-3)
· Twenty-Four Elders (4:4)
· Seven Spirits of God (4:5)
· Four Living Creatures (4:6-8)
· Heavenly Worship of the Creator (4:9-11)
· Seven Sealed Scrolls in the Right Hand of God (5:1-4)
· The Worthy Lamb of God (5:5-7)
· The Living Creatures and the Elders Worship the Lamb (5:8-10)
· The Worship of the Angels (5:11-12)
· The Worship of all Creation (5:13-14)[iv]
Now back to the main topic, the Seventieth Week of Daniel and Chapter Six of the book of Revelation. In Revelation Six, there is a shift from the heavenly focus of chapters four and five to events that will take place on the earth and in the sun, moon and stars. This description of events begins a detailed chronological presentation of God’s Revelation of the dramatic and terrible judgments for the post-church age world (Revelation 6:1-18:24). It is in part a biblical description of times (epochs) referred to in the Word as the Day of the Lord and Jacob’s trouble (KJV), (distress in NASU). These epochs or times will climax as the ungodly post-church age is brought to an end at the glorious return of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ (Revelation 19:11-19).
In these last days after the church age has come to an end the biblical focus shifts to the nation of Israel and the Jewish people. This is the time in which the nation of Israel is God’s focus. Daniel 9:20 states that he was speaking about Israel when given the great prophecy of the 70th week. He first (9:20) spoke of “my people Israel”, and then in 9:24-27; “seventy weeks have been decreed on your people and your holy city”. Thus Daniel placed the emphasis of the seventy weeks prophecy squarely upon Israel, Jerusalem and God’s people.
Understanding that the Jews are back in the land and that Israel is at the center of almost all world news of any significance gives one a greater understanding of the times. This is a unique understanding in the world today and is discernment which comes from the Father and Holy Spirit. Christians should be grateful and thankful to the Father and the Holy Spirit who allow such understanding. Recall that John was in the Spirit when he was given the prophecies of the book of Revelation.[v]
In a cautionary note – the study of prophecy can lead to blessings (Rev 1:3, etc). However, it may also become a topic of much confusion, contention and personal arrogance. Trusting in the Lord, listening to the Holy Spirit (Rev 2-3) and a prayerful attitude are essential in the quest of staying grounded in the word and the Lord.
Furthermore, Daniel was told that he was not given the full picture and was to go his way and rest until his allotted portion at the end of the age (Daniel 12:9, 13). Thus we can see the need to study the book of Revelation in which John is given the details that were not available to Daniel in his day.
Within chapters six through nineteen of the Revelation are two time frames (other epochs), denoted as Daniel’s 70th week and the Great Tribulation. The 70th week represents the last week of 70 weeks prophesied by Daniel in chapter and detailed in Daniel 9:24-27, specifically verses 26-27).
Additionally, Daniel’s 70th week has within it a subset of time called the Great Tribulation which Daniel did not detail. This time period is often confused with the entire seven year period which is the Tribulation. Next let’s explore the timing of the Great Tribulation.
When Does the Great Tribulation Begin?
Jesus teaches that the Great Tribulation begins in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week. In Matthew 24:15 He says, 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) (See also, Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11).
Later in the same context and chapter (verse 21) Jesus says, For then there will be a Great Tribulation (KJV, NAS), such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will (emphasis added). As is observed from the words of Jesus the event called the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION is the triggering event for the time period called the Great Tribulation.[vi]
The Abomination of Desolation
Jesus specifically refers to Daniel as a Prophet which emphasizes to the importance of the prophecy of Daniel’s 70th week. A careful reading (let the reader understand) of Daniel’s prophecy reveals the biblical fact that the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION occurs in the middle of the 70th week (Daniel 9:24-27).
Daniel 9:27 states: And he will make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one the one that is decreed is poured out on the one who make desolate (NAS).
It has been established that the 70th week is a week of years, and a week is seven days. Therefore, it follows that the 70th week is seven years in length. Then the middle would be 3.5 years into the seven. Thus the Great Tribulation (as referred to by Jesus) in terms of length and time is three things: (1) 3.5 years long (John confirms this in Revelation 13:5),[vii] (2) the last 3.5 years of Daniel’s 70th week, and (3) the last time frame before the return of Jesus Christ to the earth with His Saints (Revelation 19:14).
Henry Morris describes the details of this time period as follows:
The “abomination of desolation” refers to the “image of the beast” (Revelation 13:14, 15) which will be set up by the Antichrist and His “false prophet” (Matthew 24:11) as an object of enforced global worship, “so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God , shewing himself that he is God” (II Thessalonians 2:4). This will take place, according to Daniel’s Prophecy of the seventy weeks (Daniel 9:24-27), after the “prince that shall come” (the Antichrist) has made a seven year treaty with Israel to allow their ancient temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem and their worship rituals to be reestablished. He will break this covenant “in the midst of the week” (after 31/2 years of the treaty period), and erect his “overspreading of abominations”- His great idol image, with overstretching arms, mocking the cherubim in the original holy place-in God’s temple (Daniel 9:27; see also Daniel 11:31 and 12:11). This will signal the unleashing of his genocidal fury against Israel and all who refuse to worship him.[viii]
The Tribulation & Understanding of God’s Pattern of Judgment
In Revelation six John is giving details of the events at the start the Tribulation (the first half of the seven year period). He begins with a description of the Lamb (Jesus Christ) opening a book. This is done by the pealing back of seven seals.[ix] Each of these seals represents a judgment of God upon the physical creation other than heaven (the sun, moon, stars and the earth itself). However, these seal judgments are not the final judgments as is made clear in Matthew 24:29-31 where we read:
But immediately after the tribulation (referring back to Matthew 24:21) 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. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes
of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” (NASU, Emphasis added).
The bolded and italicized phrases in this passage are instructive regarding the timing and events of the Tribulation. Furthermore, they aid in observing the teachings on God’s Pattern of Judgment as taught throughout the entirety of the Holy Writ. Let’s examine these phrases in such light.
· THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL – This time of darkening represents a set of specific signs that will occur within the created entities, the sun, moon and stars. In addition to these three created entity events being discussed by Jesus in a prophetic context, they are part of the writings of the prophets Isaiah (13:10; 24:23), Ezekiel (32:7), Joel (2:10, 31; 3:15f), Amos (5:20; 8:9), and Zephaniah (1:15). Additionally Peter’s great Pentecost Sermon on the last days contains such references (Act 2:14-21, especially note verse 20). A similar pattern of created entity judgment is observed in Revelation 6:12-17; 8:12.
These “light givers” (Hebrew ma-or) were created on day four to produce light upon the earth, divide the light from the darkness and to rule over the day and the night (Genesis 1:14-19). How-ever, for a prophesied future period of time these entities lose their created purpose and ability to produce light, divide the light from the dark, and rule over the darkness. This does not mean that the sun and moon will cease to exist since “He (being Jesus) has also established them forever and ever; He has made a decree which will not pass away (Psalms 148:6, see also verse 3, NAS). This is true even though there will be need no need for their light providing created purpose in the New Jerusalem as the Lord Jesus will be the light to the city and the nations of the earth (Revelation 21:23-24). However, the sun, moon, and stars will continue to be a portion of the creation which tell of the glory of the Lord and bring praise to His name (Ps 19:1, 148:5). This further amplifies the idea that the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous throughout eternity (Ps 19:9:9).
In addition to the light giver judgments, there is a great earthquake as the earth along with the rest of the creation is groaning (Romans 8:22). This set of events is described as part of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12-17) happening chronologically just before the time of the First Trumpet (Revelation 8:6-7). This coincides with time frame for the first half of the Tribulation and places these signs and the time of darkness at or near the beginning time of the Abomination of Desolation and the middle of Daniel’s 70th week.
As we observe these specific entity judgments keep in mind that Jesus and Peter admonished the Sadducees and Pharisees along with believers to remember, heed and be aware of the significance of the signs of the times (Matthew 16:1-4; I Peter 1:12, 19). These types of events and judgments have been revealed to us for our instruction and edification. Jesus also amplified this point in saying as it was in the days of Noah so shall it be in the coming of the son of man (Matt 24:37). This reminder of the days of Noah is reference to another great time of judgment upon the earth. This greatest of all judgments (prior to the Great Tribulation) is used as an object lesson to inform us of the cataclysmic nature of the coming Great Tribulation. Specifically, Jesus was referring to the Genesis flood. This universal judgment event greatly altered the geological, geographic, and atmospheric created entities on the earth (Genesis 6-9). Note, however that the earth was not destroyed, just drastically altered.
Charles Clough comments on the specific judgment pattern found within the description of the Genesis Flood: 1) the judgment came suddenly (Gen 7:11), but only after a period of grace (Gen 6:1-8), 2) it involved the total physical environment in the heavens and the earth in ways previously unobserved (Gen 6:17, cf 2 Pet. 2:5-6), 3) it surgically and precisely separated the saved from the lost (Gen 6:18-21, cf 2 Pet 2:5-9), and 4) it included specific geophysical phenomena that manifested God’s glory in supernatural fashion (Ps 29:3 [cf. Gen 8:1]; Ezek 1:28; Rev 4:3 [cf. Gen 9-13].[x]
How then Should Christians Respond to the Impending Judgment?
It is both spiritually and scripturally unwise biblical to get lost in the details of the facts of a coming timing retribution and judgment and thereby lose sight of God’s purpose in these things. Paul and other biblical writers teach that God judges justly and righteously. For as Paul states, “it is only just for God to repay with affliction” those who persecute and afflict His people (2 Thessalonians 1:5-6).
The Great Hope in the Midst of Judgment SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY
– The Coming of Jesus Christ is the culminating event of the Tribulation. Right before He steps onto the earth He is seen in the sky by the tribes of the earth (the Jews who are still alive and present on the earth). This event is post-church age.
Importantly, the place in which many of these Tribulation (and Great Tribulation) events take place flip back and forth from heaven to the earth. Thus we see that the second coming of Jesus Christ includes a series of events, many of which unfold in heaven and the clouds of the sky and culminate in Him stepping onto the earth. Some are pre-tribulation or during the first half. For example, in chapters four and five of Revelation Jesus is described as being and in heaven and in the process of taking His rightful ownership from the Father. Daniel (7:13-14) states it this way:
I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven,
One like a Son of Man (Jesus) was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of
Days (the Father) And was presented before Him. And to Him was given
dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every
language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will
not pass away; And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.
THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER (Matthew 24:31).
These who are gathered are the elect (the Church) and have been previously raptured.[xi] Note that they are gathered together from various places in the heavens to participate in the final triumphant return of Jesus Christ to the earth (Rev 19:11f). Compare the chronological progression in Daniel as he moves from seeing Jesus being given His authority to judge to speaking of the holy people in 7:22b. Here, he states “Then the time arrived for the holy people to take over the kingdom”. These holy people are the ones who are in heaven and are gathered from the far reaches of the sky.
A GREAT TRUMPET – It is likely that this is a reference to the Last Trumpet in the series of seven trumpets (Revelation 11:15-19). It is also reasonable to assume that it is not the trumpet of God in I Thessalonians 4:14. This would follow since it signifies ( trumpet in I Thessalonians) Christ’s coming in the air to take His holy ones to be with Him in heaven. This rapture event occurs much earlier in the time line of events than the Second Coming which is at the end of the Tribulation. Therefore, we may conclude that the Trumpet in the Matthew passage is heralding the physical bodily return of Christ to the earth on a white horse followed by the Saints (Revelation 19:11f).[xii]
Furthermore, note that the seventh trumpet coming out of the seven seal judgments provides an introduction to the seven bowls or vials, which are final judgment events leading up to the appearance of Christ in the clouds just before His bodily return. Thus these vials (bowls) represent the final judgments poured out just before the return of Christ and are the subject of Revelation chapter 16.
Personal Significance and Needed Response
With these momentous events prophesied and some even having come to pass or in progress how should Christians respond? The bible answers these questions and gives instruction. We will observe some of these passages.
Joyful, Rejoicing and Prayerful
Luke 21:28 states: Now when these things are beginning to take place, be elated (rejoice) (KJV) and lift up your heads because you deliverance is imminent (ENT). Thus we are to be looking forward to the return of Christ and doing so in a joyful manner (See also Jude 24).
Furthermore, I Peter 1:6-7 states: In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (NAS). Here, again we are instructed that we are to be in a joyful state found in the faith, which is part of our preparation for the revelation of Christ at His second coming. Later Peter instructs us to be of sound judgment, sober spirit and prayerful, trusting in the grace of Christ because the end of all things is near (I Peter 1:13, 16; 4:7). The Living Bible states it this way: The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore be earnest, thoughtful men of prayer.
Eager for the Return
Paul, in I Corinthians 1:7 states: that we are to be “eagerly awaiting the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” and living with an expectant attitude toward the return of Christ as we are looking for the blessed hope (the Return of Christ) in Titus 2:11-13. He also instructs Christians to live in a manner in which we deny ungodliness, while living righteously and sensibly in this present age.
Prayerful – Going about the Business of Encouraging Each Other
Daniel was praying for his people, Israel right before he was given the great 70 Weeks Prophecy (Daniel 9:17-20). Also, in a prophetic passage Paul was praying for the saints when states, “to this end we also pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith in power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, NAS). From these passages we can glean the wisdom of praying for others in like manner of Daniel and Paul.
So as we learn by biblical example to pray for one another we are also “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” . . . while encouraging one another because the day is drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25; see also 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:12-13).
In the final analysis, humans can and do have a multitude of reactions to all that happening in the world in these momentous times. However, in spite of these things the bible paints a picture of the saints persevering and enduring as they fulfill the words of Paul and Jesus regarding becoming overcomers (II Thessalonians 1:4, Revelation 2:7b, 11b, 17b, 26a; 3:5, 12, 21). Therefore, in conjunction with the help of the Holy Spirit and by the blood of the Lamb we are able to overcome the things of the world as we are prayerful, faithful, joyful, fearless and eagerly look for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ – the soon to return King of Glory and King of Kings. This may best be done by obedience and giving thanks, glory and praise to the Lord for He is God, . . .He is good, . . . and He is Lord of all (Psalms 136:1-3). For the Lord Himself will deliver His people to His Kingdom – to Him be the Glory and dominion forever – Maranatha!
[i] A teaching on Daniel’s 70th week is available on-line at Calvary Chapel Lynchburg’s website. It is found under guest speakers and was given by this author on June 6th, 2012.
[ii]There are several phrases used in the scripture when describing the epochs (time periods). An epoch is a particular period of history, which may be highly significant, momentous or important. Some of these include: 1) The Last Days, – a broad term encompassing the time of Jesus from His birth (Hebrews 1:1-2), and the last hour (1 John 2:18). Furthermore, the term is associated with Joel 2 and Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost. 2) The Tribulation – is the beginning of “the day of the Lord” (1 Thess. 54:2; Zech.14; Jer. 30:7-9) and includes the millennium (Is. 19:23-25; 4:2; 12) , and 3) Jacob’s Trouble – is the phrase used by the prophet Jeremiah in 30:7. It is specific to Jacob (Israel) and describes the “day” (time period) as great and there is none like it. The “none like it” places the time squarely in the Great Tribulation. This is according to the words of Jesus when He states that the Great Tribulation is unlike any other event since the beginning of creation (Matthew 24:21).
[iii] John was given a three-fold outline by Jesus in Revelation 1:18-20. This outline covers the things which John saw when he walked on the earth with the Lord (covered in the Gospels), the things of the church age (covered in the Epistles, the book of Acts, and Revelation 2-3), and finally the things which are yet future (Revelation 4-22 and numerous other prophetic passages such as Daniel 9, etc.
[iv] These events which John saw are described in the book Revelation and the Word, by Steve Deckard, published by Icon Press. See www.iconpublishinggroup.com
[v] Also, review Matthew 16:1f, were Peter is told by Jesus that the Revelation of who He is (Messiah) is from the Father (16:17). This is right after Jesus has rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees for not understanding the signs of the times, for we must know and discern that no prophecy is of human origin, but comes from the Holy Spirit who spoke from God the Father (2 Peter 1:21) .
[vi] The words used by Jesus which are translated “Great Tribulation” in the KJV, AMP, and NAS are translated as: persecution in the Living Bible. The Greek allows for the expanded meaning of affliction, distress and oppression.
[vii]Daniel refers to the time period as time (1 year), times (2 years) and ½ time (1/2 year) and John refers to the time period as 42 months in length in Revelation 11:5, and 13:5, thus confirming the 3.5 year time frame.
[viii] Henry M. Morris is the Father of Modern Day Young-Earth Creationism and wrote extensively on the themes of prophecy, science and creationism from a biblical literalist perspective. This quote is from page 1044 of the Defenders Bible (KJV) and one of his notes on Matthew 24:15.
[ix] John describes the opening of the first seven seals in chapter 6 and then in a parenthetical chapter (7) describes the actions of four angels, a remnant of Israel (144,000) and a multitude standing in heaven. He then continues (8:1) his description of the seals with the Lamb opening the seventh one which introduces the seven trumpets. These seven trumpets are also a series of judgments upon mankind and the earth (8:1-9:21). This set of chapters 6:1-9:21 leads to the description of an angel and a second “little book” which contains the record of the judgments that will take place at or during the last half of the Tribulation known as the “Great Tribulation. These events are recorded in chapter 10-18.
[x] From Article entitled God’s Pattern of Judgment(written by Charles Clough) in Prophecy Study Bible, General Editor Tim LaHaye , p. 1342.
[xi] I Thessalonians 4:13-18.
[xii] The Trumpets of Revelation have a varied interpretation – often fanciful and detrimental to sound exegesis. Pentecost, In Things to Come, brings some sense and clarity to the subject (p. 361-363).