The “seven-year tribulation” theory has its roots in dispensationalism, which in turn originated, not in historic Protestantism, but in the 1800s with J.N. Darby. Darby was the leader of the major segment of Plymouth Brethren, a wonderful group of people, but hardly representative of historic Protestantism.
Even more disconcerting is the fact that Darby revived the counter-reformation views of a Spanish Jesuit priest 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 says or even hints that the seven seals are loosed, the seven trumpets are sounded, and the seven plagues are poured out during a seven-year period. A seven-year period is not even mentioned in the Book of Revelation.
It is true that 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. (See pages 52-55.) Therefore, the reformers such as Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, and Wesley believed the 3½ years or 1,260 days were symbolic of a 1,260-year period that 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. (70 weeks x 7 days = 490 days.) All agree, upon the basis of Ezekiel 4-6—a day for a year—that these seventy weeks equal not 490 literal days, but 490 years. Again, there is unanimity that the 69 weeks of Daniel 9:25 mark a period from a decree issued in Nehemiah’s day to the First Advent of Christ. Daniel 9:26 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 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 mistranslation of verse 26, which states that “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. Thus, the seven-year tribulation concept falls.
* George Eldon Ladd.
Hope, pp. 32-34. Copyright 1956 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
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, however, 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 fact that this “gap” is purely an assumption not founded on scripture seems to matter little to the seven-year dispensationalists.