Biblical Audio Commentary – Proof Text for 7-Year Tribulation
[Oops! I was supposed to record this with video off…]
There is some contention among those who interpret Bible prophecy whether the Tribulation is seven years total or three-and-one-half years in length. I’ve always believed in a 7-year Trib and just came across another reason for this, literally as a proof text.
First, we have to set some ground rules. There are some folks who declare the Tribulation is only 3 1/2 years because God’s wrath only applies following the abomination of desolation by Antichrist when he desecrates the temple. This then is the Great Tribulation which is the only thing that counts. In their view, it is Satan’s wrath that consumes the world prior to that with the earlier Judgments, so the earlier 3 1/2 years don’t count as part of the Tribulation. Frankly, that’s silly. Who opens the Seals? Is it Satan? Of course not. Jesus as the slain Lamb of God is the only One who can open them, and it is that action which begins that series of Judgments, in fact which starts the entire Tribulation rolling.
Given that Antichrist commits this travesty in the temple in Jerusalem – whatever that mockery of God may be – that presupposes there’s a temple in order for him to do this. As there is no temple today, one must be built. The how or why of that is beyond the scope of this particular Commentary. One is in place during these years, and the Jews worship and sacrifice there. That brings us to our initial verses, which are Revelation 11:1-2 where John recounts:
Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.”
The question is: what 42 months? Are these the 3 1/2 years before or after Antichrist’s temple trampling?
Let’s add the next verse, Revelation 11:3 in order to discuss this:
And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
Our question pertaining to these Witnesses prophesying 1260 days is: which 3 1/2 years? Again, is this before or after Antichrist’s antics?
Let’s think about it. Scripture is clear that once Antichrist declares himself as god where God Himself should be exalted, he begins a pogrom against the Jews. Surely at this point the Great Tribulation begins because of Antichrist’ persecution of God’s Chosen People.
This being the case, is it reasonable to think that a) the Gentiles then begin trampling the outer court of the temple underfoot, AND b) the Two Witnesses begin prophesying? You might be able to make a case for the Gentiles, although in context it doesn’t seem to mesh with other events.
As we interpret the sequence of events, something starts when Antichrist confirms a covenant agreement with Israel and another – unnamed – party. Not only that, this agreement is declared by God to be a covenant with death in Isaiah 28:14-15,18:
Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers,
who rule this people in Jerusalem!
Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death,
and with Sheol we have an agreement,
when the overwhelming whip passes through
it will not come to us,
for we have made lies our refuge,
and in falsehood we have taken shelter”;
Then your covenant with death will be annulled,
and your agreement with Sheol will not stand;
when the overwhelming scourge passes through,
you will be beaten down by it.
Most prophecy teachers believe the something that starts as this deadly covenant is confirmed as the official beginning of the Tribulation. Once that happens, part of the agreement could certainly be the freedom for Gentiles to trample the outer courts of the temple.
Having made such a pact, might it also be extremely possible that this triggers the need for God to have His Two Witnesses begin preaching? Israel has just done an incredibly foolish thing, and God is not pleased, as evidenced by Isaiah.
It seems to me that the only reasonable timing we can extract from these events is that the Witnesses prophecy for their 1260 days prior to Antichrist’s temple desecration.
The persecution against the Jews will be so severe after that that they must flee Jerusalem, just as Jesus says they will in Matthew 24:15-16:
“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
They won’t be hanging around in Jerusalem to hear God’s Word from the Witnesses so that they might turn and be saved; they’re running for their lives.
We’re not told in the Biblical text what happens to the temple after Antichrist does his thing. Based on how severe the times will be then, I’m not so sure that the Jews or anyone else will know or care whether or not Gentiles are walking around the outer temple courts. Logically for these things to make sense, their presence in that holy place really only works if you place these Gentiles there prior to whatever Antichrist does to the temple.
So, what does this give us? Once more, all Judgments are the wrath of God from the very beginning of the opening of the 1st Seal. If we have 3 1/2 years of Gentiles trampling the outer courts of the newly built temple AND the Two Witnesses declaring God’s Word to the Jews along with the rest of the world, these events must happen in the first half of a 7-year Tribulation.
One other factor in the timing of all this also revolves around the Witnesses. Once Antichrist kills them, there are celebrations all around the world that these two pesky instruments of God have been dispatched. People send each other presents and are joyful at the demise of these men. This indicates that despite however bad the world has become at that point, it’s not a total wasteland as it will be at the end of the Tribulation. This also supposes there are still enough people around to even react in this manner. At the end of the Tribulation this won’t be the case. Nobody would likely be watching the Witnesses at that time if they were around, and they certainly wouldn’t be sending presents to each other. No, the Witnesses must prophesy in the beginning of the Tribulation for us to consider all this in a logical manner.
Our bottom line is this: The entire Tribulation must be seven years because of:
- All the various Judgments could not occur in only 3 1/2 years as that would be really cramming them in. Seven is the number of completion – God’s number – and His Judgments require that length of time for fulfillment.
- For our purposes today – This issue of the Gentiles and the Witnesses need to fit a reasonable timeline within the other events that occur. These two pieces of the puzzle require us to see the Tribulation as a full seven years since they couldn’t occur later – it’s simply not possible.
In order to understand the scope of the Tribulation, we have to take into account all factors, and at least suggest a rational explanation for the sequence of events in the timeline. What we have with these verses in Revelation 11:1-3 is proof that the 3 1/2 years they refer to are in the first half of the Tribulation; thus, there is a second half also comprised of 3 1/2 years.
The Time of Jacob’s Trouble is indeed a full seven years.