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Other Articles on the 7 Year Tribulation

7 Years and 1260 Days 

Is the Tribulation a Period of  Seven Years?

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"Left Behind"

Left Behind Novels Flawed




Is the Tribulation

A Period of Seven Years?


The tribulation period is variously referred to in Scripture as follows:

“Great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be,” Matthew 24:21; “A time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation,” Daniel 12:1; “a day of trouble,” Isaiah 22:5; Obadiah 14; Nahum 1:7; Habakkuk 3:16; Zephaniah 1:15; Ezekiel 7:7. It is interesting to note that nowhere in these tribulation scriptures is a seven-year period mentioned. Many fundamentalists are unaware that the “seven-year tribulation” is mistakenly based on Daniel 9:24-27—a scripture that has nothing to do with the “tribulation” that closes the Christian Age. (Turn to Appendix B for a detailed discussion on the “Origin and Scriptural Evaluation of The Seven-Year Tribulation Theory.”)

Origin and Scriptural Evaluation of
“The Seven-Year Tribulation” Theory

Many hold the “seven-year tribulation theory,” which briefly states is this: Christ secretly returns to earth to “rapture” the church and takes them to heaven. This will be followed (not necessarily immediately) by seven literal years of tribulation during which the “man of sin” enters upon the world’s stage. At the close of the seven years, Christ returns publicly with the church (“every eye shall see him”), destroys antichrist and the false prophet and begins his Millennial Reign. There are variations of the “seven-year tribulation” theory. Some feel Christ gathers the church at the middle of the seven years and call their concept the “mid-tribulation rapture.” Others hold that the church is taken after the tribulation and refer to their concept as the “post-tribulation rapture.”

The “seven-year tribulation” theory has its roots in dispensationalism which in turn originated, not in historic Protestantism, but in the 1800’s with J.N. Darby, the leader of the major segment of Plymouth Brethren, a wonderful group of people, but hardly representative of historic Protestantism.

Even more disconcerting is that Darby revived the counter-reformation views of a Spanish Jesuit named Ribera. A basic concept of the Reformation was that Papacy as a system was the Antichrist and that much of the book of Revelation was having its fulfillment during the history of the church. In 1590 Ribera published a commentary on the Revelation, as a counter-interpretation to Protestantism, in which he applied all but the earliest chapters of Revelation to the end time and that Antichrist would be a single evil person (not a system) who would rule the world for three and a half years during the end time.

Darby claimed that all the events from the sixth to the nineteenth chapters of Revelation occur during a “seven-year tribulation.” However, nothing in the book of Revelation say or even hints that the seven seals are loosed, the seven trumpets sounded and the seven plagues poured out during a seven-year period. A seven-year period is not even mentioned in the book Revelation. To be sure, a 3½-year period is mentioned. However, nowhere is it indicated to be half of a seven-year period. It can be easily proven from Scripture that the 3½ years occur before the tribulation. Therefore, the reformers such as Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, Wesley believed the 3½ years or 1260 days were symbolic of a 1260-year period which began before their time and extended to the “time of the end.”

The “seven-year tribulation" concept rests solely on an inconsistent application of Daniel 9:24-27, which speaks of a seventy-week period determined upon the Jewish people. Seventy weeks equals 490 days. All agree, upon the basis of Ezekiel 4-6—a day for a year—that this seventy weeks equals not 490 literal days, but 490 years. Again, there is unanimity that the 69 weeks of Daniel 9:25 marks a period from a decree issued in Nehemiah's day to the first advent of Christ. Verse 26 states that “after" the 69 weeks “shall Messiah (Christ) be cut off." Verse 27 shows that “in the midst of the [70th] week he [Christ] shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease." Christ's death abolished the necessity of the further offering of typical sacrifices by Israel's priesthood.

Note well that Daniel 9:26 states “after” the 69 weeks “shall Messiah [Christ] be cut off.” The Hebrew word achor means after. It does not mean in or during. Yet those who advocate the seven year tribulation say that Messiah was cut off in or during the 69th week. This is a mis-translation of verse 26 which plainly states “after” the 69 weeks Christ would be cut off. The 70th week is after the 69 weeks and verse 27 clearly shows it is in the midst of the 70th week that Christ died. Therefore the seven-year period of the 70th week is not left over until the end of the Christian age. And thus the seven-year tribulation concepts falls.

The historic position of Protestantism for 300 years since the Reformation has been that the 70th week immediately followed the 69 weeks and was fulfilled with the death of Christ “in the midst” (middle) of it. In the 19th century, dispensationalists came along and said, “Not so, there is a parenthesis between the 69 weeks and the 70th week. This gap is the period between the first advent and the rapture.” Then, they say, “The 70th week, seven years, begins to count. And the ‘he’ of Daniel 9:27 is not Christ, but anti-christ, and the seven years of the 70th week is the ‘seven-year tribulation’ during which Chapters 6-19 of Revelation are fulfilled.” The mere fact that this gap is purely an assumption, not founded on Scripture, seem to matter little to the seven-year dispensationalists.