"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) Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:13, 14) The Great Tribulation is the specific event of God's judgment carried out upon the earth "immediately"^[1]^ prior to the second coming of Christ in glory.

In the futurist scheme of Christian eschatology, the Tribulation is a relatively short period of worldwide persecution and judgment leading up to the Second coming of Jesus Christ. For Historic and Dispensational Premillennialists, this also precedes the establishment of his earthly Millennial Kingdom.

More specifically, the tribulation is seen as corresponding to Daniel's "seventieth week" and lasting 3.5 years -- the seven years of the "seventieth week" is divided into two periods of 3.5 years, the first 3.5 years are believed to be a time of security but the last 3.5 years is identified as "the Great Tribulation" a time of severe persecution of God's people.

The time period for these beliefs is based on the phrase "time, times, and half a time" found several places in the book of Daniel (e.g. Daniel 12:5-7), and interpreted as "a year, two years, and half a year." The phrase also occurs in Revelation 12:14, with the related periods of a "thousand two hundred and threescore days" in Rev. 12:6, and "forty-two months" in Rev. 13:5. The "thousand two hundred and sixty days" and "forty and two months" are seen as prophetic months (averaging 30 days), hence 1260/30 = 42 months or 3.5 years.

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Alternate views

In the Christian preterist view the Tribulation took place in the past when Roman legions destroyed Jerusalem and its temple in 70 CE, and it affected the Jewish people rather than all mankind. This is a view that is growing in influence among certain scholars and theologians.

Such a view is also held many amillennialists, although of course, they would dispute the extreme preterist belief that this also included the Second Coming. Riddlebarger notes that, although "Jesus' prophetic warning clearly referred to the destruction of Jerusalem" (p. 170), yet "the possibility of double fulfillment surfaces again" (p. 171), suggesting that God's church will suffer its greatest tribulation during an apostasy to occur just before the Second Coming.

In the Christian historicist view also, the Tribulation came upon the Jewish people, beginning in 70 CE. This approach was taken by Martin Luther and John Calvin, and prevailed among Protestants from the Reformation until the rise of dispensationalism. Some modern historicists see the Tribulation as continuing upon the Jews through the centuries, perhaps culminating in the Holocaust, and ending with the restoration of the state of Israel or the return of Jerusalem to Jewish control.

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  1. ? Matthew 24:29-30


  • Gentry, K. L. Jr., Hamstra S. Jr., Pate, C. M. and Thomas, R. L., Four Views on the Book of Revelation. Zondervan, 1998. ISBN 0-310-21080-1
  • Ice, T., and Gentry, K. L. Jr., The Great Tribulation: Past or Future. Kregel Publications, 1999. ISBN 0-8254-2901-3
  • Riddlebarger, K., A Case for Amillennialism (ch. 13). Baker Books (US) and IVP (UK), 2003. ISBN 0-85111-997-2