Some erroneously teach that we are already in the great tribulation. We are not in the great tribulation, and the Bible provides us benchmarks that we can look at to understand when we are close to the start of the great tribulation. In this article, I will discuss the timing of the great tribulation and highlight several events and developments that will warn us that the great tribulation is approaching.
The Start of the Great Tribulation
Christ taught that the great tribulation (not to be confused with the term “tribulation”) will begin when the “abomination of desolation” mentioned by Daniel is established:
“(15) When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) (16) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:… (21) For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matthew 24:15-16, 21)
Daniel wrote that the abomination that causes desolation would be in place starting at the midway point of the final week or seventieth week of Daniel:
“And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” (Dan 9:27)
The seventieth week of Daniel (or what many call the “tribulation period”) is seven years in length.1 Therefore, the great tribulation cannot begin until 3.5 years through the seventieth week of Daniel since it begins at its midpoint.
I don’t believe it is going to be difficult for people living during the end times to determine whether the start of the great tribulation is near if they understand what to look for and to pay attention to news events. Here are some indicators which can help people identify the relative closeness of the start of the great tribulation.
Indicator 1: Confirmation of the “Covenant With Many”
The confirmation of the “covenant with many” (which is likely a Middle East peace deal involving Israel) is probably going to be highly publicized event given that the Middle East often dominates news headlines around the world, so a person just needs to add 3.5 prophetic years or 1260 days to the day when the covenant’s confirmation is announced to find the start date of the great tribulation (see the footnote at the end of this article for more about why 3.5 prophetic years = 1260 days).
Indicator 2: Antichrist Declares Himself to God in Jerusalem
Recall that Christ warned that the great tribulation is about to begin when an abomination of desolation is established. I believe this is event is connected with what Paul described in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, which is a scene where Antichrist will claim to be God while he sits in a temple in Jerusalem:
“(3) Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (4) Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” (2Thessalonians 2:3-4)
I imagine that this event is probably going to be broadcasted around the world because it probably is going to be the Antichrist’s first public claim that he is God. People who see images of the Antichrist sitting in the temple claiming to be God should realize that the start of the great tribulation is imminent.
Indicator 3: Sacrifice in a Jerusalem Temple
Related to indicator #2, the establishment of the abomination of desolation mentioned by Christ and Daniel will occur in a temple in Jerusalem where daily sacrifice will transpire (Daniel 9:27). Consequently, it is not possible for the great tribulation to begin without a temple first being built in Jerusalem (it currently does not exist) and for daily sacrifice to begin in that temple. People who claim that the great tribulation has already begun miss this point.
4. The Bible indicates that the Antichrist, an extremely arrogant leader, will attack very powerful opponents and win militarily:
“(36) And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done…(39) Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain.” (Daniel 11:36, 39)
The start of the great tribulation is likely near when there is an arrogant leader waging war against very strong opponents and winning. The presence of such a leader is an indication that the Antichrist is on the earth and is working to amass power prior to his claim that he is God.
Indicator 5: Fallen Angel Invasion
I’ll offer one additional thing that is probably going to be more difficult to decipher than the other indicators mentioned. Satan and his angels are probably going to be cast to the earth near the midpoint of the seventieth week of Daniel (the time when Antichrist is about to establish the abomination of desolation in the Jerusalem temple):
“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:9)
The arrival of Satan and his angels on the earth is as an indicator that the great tribulation is near if Satan chooses to publicize his arrival or the arrival of his angels in anyway (i.e. an “alien invasion” where Satan’s angels masquerade as aliens).
I hope this article helped you to understand when the great tribulation will begin and to understand what to look for when attempting to identify how close the great tribulation is from beginning. If you want to learn more the persecution that will take place during the great tribulation, click this link for an article about the topic.
The Length of the 70th Week of Daniel and Prophetic Years
Gabriel told Daniel that 70 weeks have been given to the people of Israel and the city of Jerusalem to bring about several things:
“(24) Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. (25) Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. (26) And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.” (Daniel 9:24-26)
Most Christians who study Bible prophecy agree that the first 69 weeks of this prophecy was fulfilled over a several-hundred year period with a call to rebuild Jerusalem in the 20th year of Artaxerxes Longimanus’s reign (Nehemiah 2:1-5) and the death and ascension of Christ. Therefore, Gabriel did not mean 70 literal weeks where each week is 7 days in length. The Hebrew translation of the word “week” in Daniel is shâbûa‛, which actually means “seven”. Therefore we can also refer to Daniel’s prophecy as “the 70 sevens”. The length of a prophetic week can be determined by analyzing the structure of the 70th week of Daniel. Daniel’s 70th week is divided into two halves. In the first half Antichrist confirm a covenant with Israel, but will break it halfway through the seven.
“And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” (Daniel 9:27)
The 2nd half of the week is a period of severe persecution. This period of time will last for “time, times, and a half”. The Hebrew word for “time” is “mô‛êd”, which also can mean “a year”. Nearly every commentator who analyzes Daniel’s 70 week prophecy agrees that “time, times, and a half” means 3 ½ years. Therefore, a prophetic week is a seven year period.
“And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.” (Daniel 7:25)
In Revelation 12:14 we learn that 3 ½ prophetic years is the equivalent of 1260 days. If we divide 1260 days by 3 ½ years we will find that a prophetic year is 360 days long.
“And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.” (Revelation 12:14)
“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” (Revelation 12:6)
Similarly, 3 ½ years is also defined as 42 months since seven years is the equivalent to 84 months. Therefore a prophetic month is 30 days long since 1260 days divided by 42 months equals 30 days/month.
“(2) But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. (3) And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.” (Revelation 11:2-3)
Given this information, we can confirm that the 70th Week of Daniel will be 2520 days long three different ways:
- 30 Days (in a Prophetic Month) x 42 Prophetic Months (in Half a Prophetic Week) x 2 Halves = 2520 Days
- 7 Prophetic Years (in a Prophetic Week) x 360 Days (in a Prophetic Year) = 2520 Days
- 1260 Days in “Time, Times, and Half” x 2 Halves = 2520 Days.