One of the key distinctions to being able to understand end times chronology is understanding the difference between tribulation, great tribulation, and wrath. While the title “Tribulation” is generally used as a broad term to describe end time events, it’s a very misleading name. It leads to the major sticking point between the views of “pre-tribulation” and “pre-wrath” rapture groups. So let’s examine what each means:
Tribulation – a cause of great trouble or suffering
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
The body of Christ, commonly called “the Church”, is not promised to be spared from tribulation. The opposite is true – we are assured to have trials and sufferings in this life. God doesn’t spare us from these, He helps us through. Tribulation, including martyrdom, exists throughout the Church Age. Tribulation comes both from fallen humans and from satan and his fallen angel horde.
Great Tribulation – like tribulation, but worse
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. Matthew 24:21
The body of Christ, commonly called “the Church”, is not specifically promised to be spared from great tribulation. Believing Israelites (and anyone who wishes to join them) ARE offered a chance of escape from the Great Tribulation, if they identify its start point and flee immediately. The Greatest Tribulation, that would kill everyone alive if unchecked, is defined by Jesus as beginning at the “abomination of desolation”, and ending with the coming of the Son of Man (Himself). The Greatest Tribulation will come from satan and his fallen angel horde, through the “antichrist” as well as from humans cooperating with satan’s agenda. The wilderness area near Israel (likely Petra, in present-day Jordan) will be protected from the antichrist.
Wrath – extreme anger
The body of Christ is promised to be spared from God’s wrath. God has wrath, which will be poured on the earth in the future in the Day of the Lord:
But on that day, the day that Gog shall come against the land of Israel, declares the Lord God, my wrath will be roused in my anger. For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I declare, On that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. (Ezekiel 38:18)
For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10
Believers are not promised to be spared from Satan’s wrath. Satan also has wrath:
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea. (Revelation 12:9-17)
We see satan and his fallen angels thrown down from heaven at the same time as salvation (“you will be saved”) comes to those who have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb (“and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead”) and by the word of their testimony (“if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord”), having not loved their lives even unto death (“For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” – Hebrews 3:14). Note how Romans 10:9 fits in. The heavens rejoice, but the earth will suffer because satan comes down in wrath. He first pursues the woman who birthed the child (believing remnant of Israel), but she ends up fleeing and is protected in the wilderness. He then pursues (gentile) believers in Christ. In Revelation 12 we see some believers spared, Israel fleeing, and some believers on the receiving end of satan’s wrath.
Ok, so we have tribulation, great tribulation, and wrath. In the wrath category, both God and satan have wrath. In the believers category, we have church-age believers, the believing remnant of Israel, and post-rapture believers.
Post-rapture believers are not promised to be spared from tribulation, great tribulation, or wrath of any kind. It’s the opposite, they are actually told they will greatly suffer, and many will be martyred. The believing remnant of Israel will be cared for in the wilderness, in a place prepared for her. The Woman, Israel, will be spared from great tribulation, satan’s wrath, and God’s wrath there. Church age believers are only promised to be spared from God’s wrath.
So, we have to find out when God’s wrath begins in order to figure out when we (church age believers) will be spared.
I mentioned that the term “Tribulation” or “7-Year Tribulation” is a very misleading name. What is generally referred to as the “Tribulation” actually encompasses several broad periods of time – the 70th Week of Daniel and the Day of the Lord. These have distinct purposes. So let’s briefly examine them:
The 70th Week of Daniel
The 70th Week of Daniel is 1260+1260 days long (7 360-day years). This is why the “Tribulation” is called the “7-year Tribulation”. However, nowhere is it mentioned that this “week of years” will be filled with “tribulation” specifically. What Daniel states is that:
And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. (Daniel 9:26)
This was fulfilled with the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70AD. Its end did come suddenly, as prophesied by Jesus in Luke chapter 21:20-24. Daniel mentions “to the end there shall be war”. Jesus also mentioned that the church age would be marked by war, “And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” (Luke 21:9) Daniel also mentions that “desolations are decreed” for the interim between the destruction of the city and the temple, and the strong covenant which will be made at the end. Dictionary.com defines “desolation ” as “a state of complete emptiness or destruction” and “anguished misery or loneliness”. Basically, this desolation describes the scattering of the Hebrews among the nations. Israel was decreed to lie in emptiness and destruction, which it did, for almost 1900 years.
And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” (Daniel 9:26-27)
The 70th week of Daniel begins at the signing of a covenant with Israel. This covenant likely involves a land settlement (which Israel is never supposed to do), allowing Israel to rebuild the Third Temple and institute an Old-Testament style sacrificial system. The first half of this “week”, 1260 days, will likely be relatively peaceful – at least for Israel. There is no unusual “tribulation” mentioned.
Depending how satan’s deception of 2 Thessalonians 2 unfolds, the antichrist will be rising to power during this time and may proclaim himself to be the Jewish “messiah”. He will be conquoring Israel’s enemies, so there may be “tribulation” against other religions, like Islam. We know this Temple and sacrifices are in place by the middle of the “week”, because at this midpoint the daily sacrifices are caused to cease. It is for the last half of the week, or 3.5 years, that the antichrist will set up the “abominations” and will make “desolate”.
It is this latter 3.5 years that the time of “greatest tribulation” occurs (Matthew 24). Thus, the “Great Tribulation” coincides with the last half of the 70th Week of Daniel.
The purpose of the 70th Week of Daniel is for national and ethnic Israel, particularly Jerusalem, and involves:
- Spiritual Testing, purification, and refinement of Israel and the holy city of Jerusalem
- Preparation to receive her King and inaugurate His kingdom rule
- Fulfilling all remaining prophecies in the Bible
- Ending with God’s presence filling the earthly (Millennial) Temple
So we have found out that the 70th week of Daniel likely has some regular tribulation for half of it, just as the entire church age is filled with “tribulation”. Tribulation is part of life in this fallen world, and opposing the world and aligning with Christ brings additional tribulation. We know that war and desolations are decreed until the very end, so these are to be expected to continue. However, starting halfway through the week, is the Great Tribulation. Satan’s wrath can definitely be seen in the Great Tribulation part, even if it can’t be pinpointed to the first half. There is no mention of God’s wrath in the 70th week. So, we are not promised to be spared from the 70th Week of Daniel.
Daniel’s 70th week, and the Great Tribulation, ends when the antichrist’s rule ends, which is through the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
A further discussion of the 70th Week of Daniel is found in THIS POST.
The Day of the Lord
The Day of the Lord is an intense period of God’s intervention and judgment (wrath) on earth. God will rise up to protect Israel from certain destruction in order that all prophecy can be fulfilled; this begins the Day of the Lord.
The Day of the Lord will start suddenly, unexpectedly, and catastrophically. It is described as coming upon the earth “like a trap”, “as labor pains”, and “as a thief in the night”. The Day of the Lord starts with an earthquake that becomes global in scope, like nothing the earth has ever experienced before. The beginning of the Day of the Lord has strong connections with the events of Seal 6, the beginning of birth pangs (Olivet Discourse), and the Gog Magog war, and is marked by:
- God rises in judgment and wrath (Mt 24, Rev6, Ez38-39)
- The “beginning” of birth pangs (Mt24, Mk13, Lk21)
- Sudden, unexpected destruction (Mt 24, Rev6, Ez38-39)
- Great war (Mt 24, Rev6, Ez38-39)
- Global earthquake (Mt 24, Rev6, Ez38-39)
- Famine (Mt 24, Rev6)
- Pestilence (Mt 24, Rev6, Ez38-39)
- Dark sun (Rev6)
- Blood red moon (Rev6)
- Men HIDE in fear (Rev6)
Ezekiel chapter 38-39 details a future war of “Gog and Magog”, in which God will rise up in wrath at the time of His choosing. God arranges the war at an appointed time by putting thought’s in “Gog’s” head, and “putting hooks into [his] jaws”. God then “drives” and “leads” him to fulfill his purposes. There are strong parallels between this Ezekiel 38-39 war and the “beginning of birth pains” as recorded in the Olivet Discourse, as well as Seal 6.
During the Day of the Lord:
- The earth, and in particular Jerusalem, will be cleansed of its bloodguilt (answering the prayers of the Seal 5 martyrs)
- Nations will be judged by how they treated Israel
- Wickedness will be purged from the earth
- Those who rejected God’s salvation plan will be punished
- The earth will be prepared physically and spiritually to receive her true King (Jesus)
- Israel will be reconciled to God (the believing remnant)
- Israel will be fully restored and elevated as God’s holy nation
The entire Day of the Lord will be marked by God’s wrath, which will come off and on in a series of 14 specific judgments detailed in the 7 Trumpets and the 7 Bowls. This wrath is not “tribulation”, although there will certainly be suffering because of it. Believers are promised to be spared from God’s wrath, and thus the entire Day of the Lord.
Like a pregnant woman who writhes and cries out in her pangs when she is near to giving birth, so were we because of you, O Lord; we were pregnant, we writhed, but we have given birth to wind. We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth, and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen. Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by. For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain. (Isaiah 26:17-21)
The passage in Isaiah 26 is particularly interesting in that it connects the dead rising (resurrection), God’s people entering their chambers to hide (rapture), and God coming out of His silence to punish the earth (beginning of wrath).
The Second Coming of Jesus Christ ends the wrath of the Day of the Lord, just as it ends the 70th week of Daniel and the Greatest Tribulation. The earth will have been prepared physically and spiritually for Jesus to usher in His Millennial Kingdom. Ultimately, the Day of the Lord will bring about Israel’s reconciliation with God and elevation as God’s holy nation.
A further discussion of the Day of the Lord is found in THIS POST.
The 7 Year Key
Believers are not promised to be spared from the 70th Week of Daniel or the Greatest Tribulation. However, we saw that believers are promised to be spared from God’s wrath, which is encompassed in the Day of the Lord. So, what we need to do is find out how the Day of the Lord and the 70th Week of Daniel fit together on a timeline.
The connecting key we are looking for is found in Ezekiel Chapter 39:
Behold, it is coming and it will be brought about, declares the Lord God. That is the day of which I have spoken. “Then those who dwell in the cities of Israel will go out and make fires of the weapons and burn them, shields and bucklers, bow and arrows, clubs and spears; and they will make fires of them for seven years, so that they will not need to take wood out of the field or cut down any out of the forests, for they will make their fires of the weapons. They will seize the spoil of those who despoiled them, and plunder those who plundered them, declares the Lord God. “On that day I will give to Gog a place for burial in Israel, the Valley of the Travelers, east of the sea. It will block the travelers, for there Gog and all his multitude will be buried. It will be called the Valley of Hamon-gog. For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them, in order to cleanse the land. All the people of the land will bury them, and it will bring them renown on the day that I show my glory, declares the Lord God. Ezekiel 39:8-13
At the conclusion of the war of Gog/Magog, the entire house of Israel will bury their bodies for a 7 month period. Israel will additionally burn the weapons from this war for a period of seven years. Whether they begin burning the weapons WHILE they are still burying bodies is unknown. Whether there is a supply of weapons that could be burned LONGER than 7 years is also unknown. What we are told is that they will burn the weapons for a period of 7 years, at which point the weapons burning will stop. This 7 years is not defined by months or days, so could be a little more or a little less than 7 years.
There are two possible scenarios here. One, is that the weapons burning ends at the abomination of desolation, when the believing remnant of Israel flees to the wilderness as per Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 24. Remember this involves 1/3 or less of the Hebrews (Zechariah 13:8). 2/3 or more will remain and not flee, so the other scenario is that the unbelieving Hebrews (who will likely follow the antichrist) continue burning the weapons until the Second Coming of Christ. I will try to illustrate this from minimum time to maximum time:
- Burning Starts at the same time as Burying Dead Starts–(7 years)—Burning Stops at Second Coming of Christ. Total 7 years.
- 7 month Cleanup–Burning Starts–(7 years)–Burning Stops at Second Coming of Christ. Total 7 yrs 7 months.
- Burning Starts at the same time as Burying Dead Starts–(7 years)–Burning Stops at Abomination of Desolation–(3.5 years)–Second Coming of Christ. Total 10.5 years.
- 7 month Cleanup–Burning Starts–(7 years)–Burning Stops at Abomination of Desolation–(3.5 years)–Second Coming of Christ. Total 11 years 1 month.
Since the Gog/Magog war is when God rises in wrath, it begins the Day of the Lord. Since we have a given timeline of 7 years weapons burning, there must be at least 7 years between the beginning of the Day of the Lord (Gog/Magog war) and the end of the Day of the Lord (Second Coming of Christ). Remember that the Second Coming of Christ ends The Day of the Lord, The 70th Week of Daniel, and the Greatest Tribulation.
Thus, the Day of the Lord INCLUDES the 70th week of Daniel (which is 7 360-day years) but may be LONGER than it. Put this way, the Day of the Lord will be AT LEAST as long as 2520 days but probably not longer than about 11 calendar years.
So here is the important point.
If we are spared from the wrath of God, we will ALSO be spared from the entire 70th week of Daniel which includes the time of “Greatest Tribulation”, because the wrath of God is at least as long or LONGER than Daniel’s 70th Week.
New believers who come to faith after the rapture of the church will NOT be spared, unless they flee with the Hebrews to the wilderness (likely, Petra).
Yes, I am making the assumption that weapons burning does not continue into the Millennial Kingdom. This is based on the following Scriptures:
The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. (Revelation 16:17-20)
The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft on its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses. And it shall be inhabited, for there shall never again be a decree of utter destruction. Jerusalem shall dwell in security. (Zechariah 14:10-11)
The earthquake at Jesus’ second coming is so severe that ALL the cities in the world fall, EVERY island flees, NO mountains remain. Israel is turned into a plain, and the site of Jerusalem (which has been split into 3 parts) is raised up. It doesn’t sound like weapons, whatever they are, will stick around and be burned for a little while in the 1000-year Kingdom. God is refashioning the earth for Jesus’ Millennial rule, and I’m sure He will figure out how to provide for shelter and provisions in His Kingdom.
The Bible is infallible. I am not. Be a Berean – examine the scriptures for yourself to see if these things are so!