This has been one of the toughest years in living memory. At the time of writing close to 700,000 people have died from a disease nobody knew about nine months ago. In many cities there have been riots, looting, and other signs of lawlessness. People are suffering. Some fear the imminent emergence of the antichrist.
Not only that, but strange signs have appeared in the sky, such as this rare appearance of Godzilla…
Okay, that last one was a joke.
Seriously though, I am seeing something I have never seen before. In addition to all the usual end times’ hucksters stirring up fear to hawk their products, mainstream news outlets are jumping on the end time’s bandwagon. Outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times have discovered that stories headlined with “apocalypse,” “end times,” and “end of the world,” are hot, hot, hot. Even Fox News has got in on the game. Some outlets are even asking if are on the brink of the Great Tribulation.
I hope you realize that newspaper eschatology will leave you either cynical or fearful, which is not what Jesus wants. But what about the Great Tribulation he spoke of? Is it about to start? Are we close?
Nope. Not by a long shot.
Several years ago I wrote an article entitled “When is the Great Tribulation?” In it I listed the various prophecies Jesus gave in connection with the Great Tribulation, and I explained how all of them were fulfilled by the summer of AD70. The Great Tribulation is past, not future and it will never happen again. It’s not something you need to fear.
At the time, many people welcomed the article, but some were not convinced. I was wrong, they said. Which is fine. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. But what was interesting were the reasons why I was wrong. I’ll list these below along with my responses.
I appreciate that you may have little interest in end time’s debates. Fair enough. I totally understand. Come back next week when I promise normal service will resume. However, if you would like to learn more about what Jesus had to say on this subject, check out my Patreon study note, “Ten reasons why you will never experience the Great Tribulation.”
Still here? Okay, let’s set the scene.
Jesus is sitting on top of the Mount of Olives and he’s speaking to four disciples – Peter, James, John, and Andrew – about a coming Great Tribulation (see Matt. 24:21, Mark 13:3). Jesus tells them to watch for several signs. He tells them where (Jerusalem), when (within a generation), and how (swords, embankments, etc.) the Great Tribulation will unfold. Fast forward to AD70 and everything Jesus said happened exactly as he foretold.
And that ought to be the end of the matter.
But it isn’t because many of us have been fed an alternative narrative, one where the Great Tribulation is in our future, not theirs. This alternative narrative mixes up a bunch of other prophecies about the rapture and the return of the Lord. Since those things have not happened, the argument goes, neither has the Great Tribulation.
My strong view is the Great Tribulation happened in the manner Jesus predicted and in the timeframe he specified. The Great Tribulation is past, not future. But not everyone agrees, and those who don’t say things like this:
The Great Tribulation is a future event that will last seven years
Not according to Jesus. He told the disciples the Great Tribulation would happen within a generation and be a short event (Matt 24:22, 34). He was spot on. Judea fell swiftly and the AD70 siege of Jerusalem lasted only 150 days. It was one of the fastest sieges in history.
The Great Tribulation can’t have happened because the antichrist has not been revealed
Different subject. Jesus is the only person to speak at length about the Great Tribulation, yet he said nothing about the antichrist. Not one word.
The Great Tribulation can’t have happened because the sun and moon have not dimmed and the stars have not fallen from the sky
Actually, they have.
The Great Tribulation can’t have happened because we have not been raptured/the final judgment has not happened/Jesus has not returned
Don’t confuse these are separate events. The Great Tribulation has happened; the others have not.
You’re crazy if you think the rapture has happened or Jesus has returned
The Great Tribulation can’t have happened because the Son of Man has not come on the clouds
Indeed, he has. Whenever Jesus is described in scripture as “coming on the clouds”, he is coming to heaven. The phrase comes from Daniel’s vision. It’s the Son of Man approaching the Ancient of Days. When Jesus spoke (in Matt. 24) about the Son of Man coming on the clouds and the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, he was referring to his imminent ascension and glorious return home. Like the Great Tribulation, this prophecy was fulfilled within a generation, just as Jesus said.
Jesus said the Great Tribulation would be unprecedented, yet many cities have fallen to sieges in history
It is true that many cities have fallen, including Jerusalem on more than one occasion. But the fall of Jerusalem in AD70 was unprecedented in terms of the horrors inflicted and the casualty rate. In a city home to less than 200,000 people, more than a million people died (depending on how much you weight you put on Josephus’s figures). The larger number reflected the Passover pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem from all over the world. All of them died within the city’s walls.
The Roman siege of Jerusalem was the world’s deadliest successful siege. It effectively destroyed the city and the nation. It was so destructive that later visitors to Judea had trouble identifying where Jerusalem once stood.
Yeah, but the Holocaust was worse, so AD70 cannot have been the Great Tribulation
The Holocaust may have been worse in absolute terms, but in relative terms nothing tops the first-century genocide of the Jewish nation. After AD70 Israel essentially ceased to exist. Most of the population had been exterminated or enslaved. Which is why Jesus wept when he saw it coming.
Okay, the Great Tribulation partly happened in AD70, but it will happen again in our future
Jesus said it would happen once and never again (Matt. 24:21), just like the Great Flood.
Why would John write (in Revelation) about a Great Tribulation that had already happened?
To encourage the church. In contrast with Jesus who gives us a play-by-play account of what will happen, John mentions the great tribulation in passing (in Rev. 7:14). Unlike Jesus who was looking into the future, John writes about the Great Tribulation in the past tense. This gives the impression that he was writing about something that was in his past. It had already happened.
The letters to the seven churches were written to prepare them for the Great Tribulation
No they weren’t. Even if you believe Revelation was written before AD70, which I don’t, the seven churches of Asia were hundreds of miles away and largely unaffected by the troubles that fell on Jerusalem and Judea.
You’re nuts! Jesus said he would be returning soon. His return is imminent.
I’m not sure what the return of Jesus has to do with the Great Tribulation. One thing has happened; the other is yet to happen. Incidentally, Jesus never said he was returning soon. That’s a common misperception.
You must be one of those loopy preterists.
Labelling people to dismiss them is intellectually lazy. I almost wish I was a preterist because the way this group is treated is disgraceful. Please, leave off the personal attacks and stick to the prophecies. My view is that some prophecies have been fulfilled; others are yet to be fulfilled. Jesus told the disciples about a lot of future events, including some they would personally hear about and see. History proves Jesus was right.
I still don’t believe the Great Tribulation happened in AD70
That is a luxury you can afford, but anyone who shared your view in AD70 would have died in AD70. In contrast, those who heeded Jesus fled to the mountains and lived.
If we were better acquainted with scripture and Jewish history, the Great Tribulation would not be a controversial subject. We would not waste time arguing about it and we certainly would not be fretting about it. Instead, we would be marveling at the stunning fulfillment of Christ’s prophecies. Truly they were signs to make us wonder.
His words, which saved the lives of many believers, inspire us to praise him in twenty centuries later.
Want to dig deeper into Christ’s amazing prophecies? Want to learn more about the Great Tribulation? Check out Paul’s study note, “Ten reasons why you will never experience the Great Tribulation” on Patreon.