Tribulation (The Great Tribulation)

The phrase “Great Tribulation” appears in Matthew 24:21 and Revelation 7:14.  In both of these contexts this tribulation period is tied to the first century, because it is in “this generation” (Matt. 24:34) or “must shortly come to pass” (Rev. 1:1; 22:6) because “the time is near” (Rev. 1:3; 22:10).

There are two components to the TRIBULATION periods mentioned in the New Testament.  The first is the TRIBULATION and persecutions that were brought against the first century saints by the Jews and the Romans because of their faith in Christ.  The second is the TRIBULATION of wrath that Christ brought upon unbelieving Israel during the Jewish-Roman war in which the nation of Israel, the city of Jerusalem, and the temple were completely destroyed (More accurately referred to as THE GREAT WRATH OUTPOURING).

Jesus told His disciples they would be delivered up to TRIBULATION and persecution.  This was during the transition period between His first and second comings in the first century AD.  That was culminated when the saints suffered the persecution and GREAT (NERONIC) TRIBULATION (AD 64-66).

9 Then they will deliver you up to TRIBULATION and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.(Matt 24:9).

Jesus prophesied about the TRIBULATIONS that would be intensified to the extreme in AD 64-66 (GREAT (NERONIC) TRIBULATION) just prior to His second coming Parousia to rescue His saints in May of AD 66.[see: Josephus – Wars 6.5.3].

21For then there will be GREAT TRIBULATION, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.  22And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but FOR THE ELECT’S SAKE those days will be shortened.” (Matt 24:21-22).

Apostle Paul described the TRIBULATIONS those first century saints experienced.

19 Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged hint out of the city, supposing him to be dead.  20However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city.  And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.  21And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many TRIBULATIONS enter the Kingdom of God.’”(Acts 14:19-22).

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our TRIBULATION, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any TROUBLE, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.(2 Cor. 1:3-4).

4so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your PERSECUTIONS and TRIBULATIONS that you endure,” (2 Thess. 1:4).

Apostle John recorded that he was already in the TRIBULATION at the time of his writing the book of Revelation, as well as described the identity of those martyrs who were waiting in heaven for the Lord’s second coming in AD 66 to avenge their sufferings in the GREAT TRIBULATION.

I, John, both your brother and companion in the TRIBULATION and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Rev. 1:9).

13Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?’ 14And I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’  So he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of THE GREAT TRIBULATION, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’” (Rev. 7:13-14).

The TRIBULATION on the church was between AD 62-66 (culminating in the GREAT NERONIC TRIBULATION in AD 64-66).  The Parousia began in May AD 66 and the church was safely raptured out to the unseen realm to join the resurrected saints out of Hades/Sheol to all go meet the Lord in the aer.  Once the Lord returned at His Parousia and raptured His church out of harm’s way, He turned His wrath on unbelieving Israel (THE GREAT WRATH OUTPOURING).  This lasted for three and one-half years until Jerusalem and the temple were completely destroyed in AD 70 by the Roman armies.

6since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with TRIBULATION those who trouble you, 7and to give you who are troubled rest with us WHEN THE LORD JESUS IS REVEALED FROM HEAVEN WITH HIS MIGHTY ANGELS, 8in flaming fire taking VENGEANCE on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.(2 Thess. 1:6-8).

9When He opened the fifth seal, I saw UNDER THE ALTAR the souls of those who HAD BEEN SLAIN for the word of God and for the testimony which they held 10And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’  11Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest A LITTLE WHILE LONGER, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” (Rev. 6:9-11).

1After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!  2For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged THE GREAT HARLOT (Jerusalem) who corrupted the earth (Israel) with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.’” (Rev. 19:1-2).

My study of the Bible has my position on the timing of the events line up with the same position as Ed Stevens below:

“I see the rapture as occurring in AD 66, at the time the Jewish war with Rome was shaping up.  This was the time when Christ appeared, raised the rest of the dead out of Hades, raptured the “living and remaining ones” and began His three and a half year presence (Parousia) from AD 66–70.

Josephus (Wars 6.5.3) says they saw the angelic armies in the clouds in AD 66 just before the war began.  He even identifies “the day and the hour” of this event: Iyyar 21 in the hour just before sunset (early May on our calendar, a month after Passover and about two weeks before Pentecost).  This is confirmed by Tacitus (Histories, Bk. 5, “The Jews,” sect. 13), Eusebius (Eccl. Hist., Bk. 3, Ch. 8) and the Talmud Bab.  (Yoma, folio 39b) also mentions these same kinds of things happening at this time. 

The faithful saints, the true believers (not the mere “professers” or “sleepers” who were left behind) were “caught up” to accompany Christ and His angelic armies during the time when their persecutors (the Jews) were being destroyed (AD 66-70).  This was the three and a half year Parousia (presence) of Christ to judge the Jewish nation for their covenantal unfaithfulness and vindicate the Church.  Here’s the chronological sequence I’m suggesting for the rapture:

1. AD 62-66 (Satan released for short time – the Great Tribulation on the Church)

2. Mid-AD 66 (the Return of Christ, Resurrection, Rapture, and the beginning of the 3 ½ year judgment on Israel)

3. Mid-AD 66-70 (Christ’s continued presence for Wrath and Judgment)

Notice that there is an approximate seven-year period here.  The rapture occurs in the middle of that period after the great tribulation on the Church, but before the wrath is poured out upon the Jewish nation.  I define the tribulation as the whole period including both the tribulation on the Church and the wrath outpouring, I would classify this position as “mid-trib, pre-wrath, postmillennial, and Full Preterist.”

I understand the Parousia to have been a three and a half year presence (Mid-AD 66-70) in which He judged the Jewish nation for “all the blood that was shed on earth from the blood of Abel” (Matt. 23:32-35) until AD 66.  Christ came in AD 66 to begin that judgment.  He resurrected the dead out of Hades (in the unseen realm) and “snatched away (raptured)” His living and remaining true saints to Him in the heavenly realm.  The twelve apostles sat on thrones next to Him as He rode the heavens with His angelic armies to judge the Jewish nation (Matt. 19:28).  They all accompanied Christ in the unseen heavenly realm and watched their vindication and avengement upon the Jewish nation.

The concept of rapture taught today by futurists is a Hollywood-style distortion, which has made the idea of a rapture even more repulsive to postmillennialists, historicists and amillennialists and some Preterists.  We instead need to discover what kind of rapture the Bible promises to its saints who endured the tribulation.  We need to let the Bible define what the rapture was supposed to be, not Hollywood or modern premillennialists.  Then it won’t be as hard to understand and accept.  It was an instantaneous change from the physical/visible realm to the spiritual/invisible realm “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”  It was not the prolonged visible ascent into the sky that popular fantasy has imagined.  Like Enoch’s departure, one second he was here; and the next second “he was not, for God took him.” (Gen. 5:24)

We have historically credible testimony “at the mouth of two or three [credible] witnesses” saying that the angelic armies were seen surrounding the cities of Israel just before the war with Rome began (Mid-AD 66).  Since this testimony was given to Josephus by more than one witness, and since Tacitus also records it, and Eusebius quotes it as accurate, there is every reason to believe that it really happened.  It fits the way God worked in past Theophanies, and is exactly what we would expect at the final redemptive Theophany of God to reward His servants and destroy His enemies.  He had snatched His servants out of tribulation before, so this is not something totally new.  It fits His character and the pattern of His dealings with man throughout Biblical history.”


See also related “Topic Studies & Terms”:

One Hundred Forty Four Thousand (144,000 of Revelation chapters 7 and 14)


Second Coming (Second Advent)


For a more in-depth study see the related full “Study Series”:

Study Series 7 Lesson 2 Matt. 24:15-28

Study Series 14 Lesson 3 Resurrection: 1 Thess. 4:13-17

Study Series 16 Lesson 2 Rev. Chapters 5 thru 9