Posted by: John Gilmore | October 17, 2006

Will there be a future seven year period of tribulation?

In today’s world, from what I see and hear on television and on the radio, it appears that most Christians subscribe to the theory that all true-believers in Jesus Christ will be taken out of this world in a secret ‘rapture’ prior to a seven year tribulation period. The rapture is then the signal to the rest of the world that the antichrist will soon come to power, God’s wrath will be poured out onto the Earth over these seven years and Jesus Christ will return at the end of the seven years to save Israel and God’s saints from the antichrist at the battle of Armageddon. If you’ve read the ‘Left Behind’ books, then you are very familiar with this interpretation of Biblical prophecy. Basically, the belief is that the majority of the Book of Revelation will come to pass during these seven years. This is commonly referred to as the ‘futurist’ view of Revelation. (We’ll explore who started this interpretation of Revelation in a future discussion on the antichrist and the ‘beast’). If you’re like me, this has been what you’ve been taught your entire life, so we simply accept this interpretation as fact. The problem, once again, is that every one of us needs to read God’s word and verify for ourselves that what we’re being taught is biblically accurate and a correct interpretation. In a previous posting, we reviewed Scripture relating to the secret rapture theory. As I mentioned in that discussion, I no longer believe that there will be a secret rapture. I now firmly believe that Jesus Christ will only return for us one time at the end of this age. Based on Scripture, I also no longer believe that there will be a seven year period of tribulation for the entire world. I’m not saying that I know exactly what is going to happen or that Steve Wohlberg is 100% correct on his interpretation, but I do feel strongly that today’s popular interpretation of this prophecy is inaccurate. I believe that Steve gives us some important insight into this prophecy, but there is still something missing – which I will discuss after an excerpt from his book.

Before we begin the discussion on the seven year tribulation period, keep in mind the warnings that Jesus gave His disciples during the Mount of Olives sermon (Mathew Chapter 24) “Take heed that no one deceives you”. Jesus warned us four times during this sermon not to be deceived. Jesus was well aware of the fact that our enemy would be deceiving many during the last days of this age. If you believe, as I do, that we are in the last days, then it stands to reason that there are many deceptions out there both in the secular world and within Christianity. It also follows that if we, as Christians, believe in end time prophesies that are based on speculative interpretations of Scripture, there is a very real possibility that we are being deceived. Keep this in mind as you read this discussion taken from Steve Wohlberg’s book ‘End Time Delusions’.

Where does this ‘seven year’ concept come from anyway? It may shock you, but if you look for ‘seven years of tribulation’ in any concordance, you won’t find it. The truth is, from Genesis to Revelation, there is no exact passage that specifically mentions a seven year period of tribulation. Amazingly, the entire theory is really based on a rather speculative interpretation of two little words in a single verse. The text is Daniel 9:27; and the two little words are ‘one week’. Let me explain.

Daniel 9:24-27 contains a prophecy from the angel Gabriel to encourage the Jewish people that they would be given a ‘second chance’ to return to Jerusalem, rebuild their temple and ultimately, receive their Messiah (Jesus Christ).

This controversial prophecy literally reads:

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. 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 (62 weeks): the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. 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. 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 9:24-27 KJV)

Thus we have a prophecy about “seventy weeks”. Gabriel then subdivides the period into three smaller periods of seven weeks (verse 25), sixty two weeks (verse 25) and one week (verse 27).

Seventy weeks equals 490 days. A day in prophecy represents a year (see Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6). Thus 490 days are really 490 years. The prophecy starts with a direct “commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” after the Babylonian captivity and reaches down to the first coming of Jesus Christ. After 69 weeks (483 years), “shall Messiah be cut off”. All Christian scholars apply this to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. After the crucifixion of our Lord, “the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary”. While there are differences of opinion as to who “the people of the prince” refers to, the majority of scholars nevertheless apply the destruction of “the city and the sanctuary” to the second destruction of Jerusalem and its rebuilt temple by Roman armies under Prince Titus in 70 A.D.

So far, we have seen 69 weeks fulfilled. That leaves “one week”, otherwise known as the famous “70th week of Daniel”. Again, that highly controversial text literally says:

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….. (Daniel 9:27 KJV)

Based on the day-year principle (which is valid), the ‘one week’ remaining in this prophecy must refer to a period of seven years. Pro rapture promoters claim this is the seven year period of tribulation. Their idea is that while the first 69 weeks (or 483 years) did reach to the first coming of Jesus Christ, the prophetic clock has stopped because the Jewish people largely rejected Him. They then slide the 70th week (the last seven years) all the way down to the end times, call it tribulation, and say it applies to the Jewish people after we’re gone. Rapture teachers interpret Daniel 9:27 as follows:

1. “He shall confirm the covenant with many for one week.” “He” is the antichrist who will make a covenant (or peace treaty) with the Jews during the seven years of tribulation.
2. “In the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease….” In the middle of the seven year tribulation, the antichrist will break his covenant, turn against Israel, and stop their animal sacrifices.
3. The phrase, “he shall cause the sacrifice… cease” is viewed as irrefutable proof that a Jewish temple (which includes sacrifices) must be rebuilt on the Temple Mount inside Jerusalem.

Therefore, according to countless modern interpreters, Daniel 9:27 is applied to a future antichrist, a future peace treaty made with Israel, a future seven year tribulation and a future rebuilt Jewish temple inside Jerusalem. All of this will supposedly start with the rapture. Honestly, that’s a lot to interpret from that single verse, especially when Daniel 9:27 says absolutely nothing about any seven year tribulation, antichrist or rebuilt Jewish temple!

This may shock you, but historically, the vast majority of well-respected Bible scholars have not applied Daniel 9:27 to a seven year period of tribulation at all. Neither have they interpreted the “he” as referring to a future Mr. Deadly. Instead, they applied it to Jesus Christ.

Notice what the world-famous Bible commentary written by Matthew Henry says about Daniel 9:27: “By offering Himself a sacrifice once and for all He (Jesus) shall put an end to all the Levitical sacrifices.” Thus Matthew Henry applied Daniel 9:27 to Christ, not antichrist. Another famous commentary written by British Methodist Adam Clarke says that during Daniel 9:27’s “term of seven years”, Jesus Himself would “confirm or ratify the new covenant with mankind.”

Here’s one more statement from a book called, Christ and antichrist, published in 1846 by the Presbyterian Board of Publication in Philadelphia. On page 2, under Recommendations, are endorsements from many Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist ministers, including an official representative of the Southern Baptist Convention. Commenting on the final week of Daniel 9:27, that ancient volume states:

…sometime during the remaining seven, He (the Messiah) was to die as a sacrifice for sin and thus bring in “everlasting righteousness”. Here are allusions to events so palpable that one would think, the people among whom they occurred, could not possibly have misapplied the prophecy.

The following ten points provide logical and convincing evidence that Daniel’s famous 70th week has no application to any future seven year tribulation at all. Rather, this great prophetic period was definitely fulfilled nearly two thousand years ago.

1. The entire prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 covers a period of “seventy weeks”. Logic requires that “seventy weeks” refers to one consecutive block of time, in other words, to seventy straight sequential weeks. The truth is, there is no example in Scripture (or anywhere else!) of a stated time period starting, stopping and then starting again. All biblical references to time are consecutive: 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:4), 400 years in Egypt (Genesis 15:13), 70 years of captivity (Daniel 9:2), etc. In Daniel’s prophecy, the “seventy weeks” were to begin during the reign of Persia and continue to the time of the Messiah.
2. Logic also requires that the 70th week follow immediately after the 69th week. If it doesn’t, then it cannot properly be called the 70th week!
3. It is illogical to insert a 2,000 year gap between the 69th and 70th week. No hint of a gap is found in the prophecy itself. There is no gap between the first seven weeks and the following sixty two weeks, so why insert one between the 69th and 70th week?
4. Daniel 9:27 says nothing about a seven year period of “tribulation”, a “rebuilt” Jewish temple or any “antichrist”.
5. The stated focus of the prophecy is the Messiah, not the antichrist. After the Messiah is “cut off” (referring to Christ’s death), the text says “And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.” In the past, this has been consistently applied to the destruction of Jerusalem and the second Jewish temple by Roman armies led by Prince Titus in A.D. 70.
6. “He shall confirm the covenant.” Paul said “the covenant” was “confirmed before by God in Christ” (Galatians 3:17). Jesus Christ came “to confirm the promises made to the fathers” (Romans 15:8). In the King James Version, Daniel 9:27 doesn’t say “a covenant” or peace treaty, but “the covenant”, which applies to the New Covenant. Nowhere in the Bible does the antichrist make, confirm or break a covenant with anyone. The word “covenant” is Messianic and always applies to the Messiah, not the antichrist.
7. “He shall confirm the covenant with many.” Jesus Christ said, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many….” (Mathew 26:28). Behold a perfect fit! Jesus was quoting Daniel 9:27 specifically.
8. “In the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” After exactly three and a half years of holy ministry, Jesus Christ died on the cross, “in the midst of the week [in the middle of the seven years].” At the exact moment of His death, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom….” (Mathew 27:51). This act of God signified that all animal sacrifices at that moment ceased to be of value. Why? Because the Perfect Sacrifice had been offered!
9. “For the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate.” “The abomination of desolation” (Mathew 24:15) is not a simple subject, yet we know that Jesus clearly applied this event to the time when His followers were to flee from Jerusalem before the destruction of the second temple in A.D. 70. In a parallel text to Mathew 24:15, Jesus told His disciples, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies [Roman armies led by Prince Titus], then know that its desolation is near” (Luke 21:20). The disciples did “see” those very events. Because of the “abominations” of the Pharisees, Jesus told them, “See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Mathew 23:38). Thus Gabriel’s statement in Daniel 9:27 about Jerusalem becoming “desolate” was perfectly fulfilled in A.D. 70.
10. Gabriel said that the 70 week prophecy specifically applied to the Jewish people (Daniel 9:24). During the period of Christ’s public ministry of 3 ½ years, the Master’s focus was largely upon “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mathew 10:6). After His resurrection and then for another 3 ½ years, His disciples preached mostly to the Jews (Acts 1-6). After that second 3 ½ year period, in 34 A.D., the bold Stephen was stoned by the Jewish Sanhedrin (Acts 7). This infamous deed marked the then-ruling Jewish leaders’ final, official rejection of the gospel of our Savior. Then the gospel went to the Gentiles. In Acts 9, Saul became Paul, the “apostle to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13). In Acts 10, God gave Peter a vision revealing it was now time to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 10:1-28). Read also Acts 13:46. Thus approximately 3 ½ years after the crucifixion, and at the end of the 70 week prophecy given for the Jewish people, the gospel shifted to the Gentiles exactly as predicted in Bible prophecy.

Point by point the events of Daniel’s 70th week have been fulfilled in the past. These eight words found in Daniel 9:27: “confirm…covenant…many… midst…sacrifice…cease…abominations…desolate” all find perfect fulfillment in Jesus Christ and early Christian history.

The entire “seven year period of tribulation” theory is an end time delusion. It may even go down in history as the “greatest evangelical misinterpretation of all time”. The whole concept is like a gigantic bubble. Once Daniel 9:27 is correctly understood and the sharply-pointed pin of truth is inserted, “Pop goes the seven years!” It’s a fact: There is no text in the Bible which teaches a “seven year tribulation”.

The current debate and tremendous confusion over pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib is really a smoke screen of the enemy to hide the real issue. What is the real issue? We’ll find out when we study what the Book of Revelation truly teaches about Israel, Babylon the Great, and Armageddon.

As I said before, Steve does a very thorough analysis of this prophecy. However, after reading Steve’s interpretation, I still have some concerns – because I believe we’re missing something very significant. Although Steve points out that the 70th week should logically follow the 69th week, the angel made it clear that these 70 weeks are divided – seven, sixty-two and one. If these ‘weeks’ were to follow chronologically, then why mention a division? Why not simply say that 70 weeks have been decreed? I believe it is certainly possible that the prophecy was given in divisions because they do represent different periods of time. Verse 26 also mentions that “the end will come like a flood” and “war will continue to the end”. The fact that this verse mentions the “end” twice, leads me to believe that this prophecy does speak to events at the end of this age. Let’s take a look at verses 26 and 27 again step by step.

“After the sixty-two ‘sevens’, the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing” (vs. 26). So, this is telling us that Jesus Christ will be crucified at the end of the sixty-two sevens, not during the middle of the last ‘week’. The verse continues, “The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the santuary.” This is most likely referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Roman Empire. The verse ends with, “The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end and desolations have been decreed.” This verse is clear – war is going to continue until the end of this age and things will continue to intensify as we near the end. If you look at the world today – war has continued and things seem to be intensifying. Because of this, I believe that the angel was referring to events at the end of the age. The reference to ‘desolations’ could very well relate to the same judgments that are mentioned in the Book of Revelation – war, famine, disease, etc.

Verse 27 is where things get very difficult. The verse starts with, “He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven’.” Most prophecy teachers today believe that ‘he’ refers to some future world leader (the antichrist) and Steve believes that this is a reference to Jesus Himself. Believing that this person is a future world leader is pure speculation – there is no way for us to be sure until an event takes place during our lifetime that will give us a clue. I don’t believe this is a reference to Jesus for a couple of reasons: 1. Many translations do not translate this verse as saying the convenant, but rather a convenant. 2. God’s new convenant through the blood of Jesus does not apply to ‘many’, but to all of us. 3. Why would God’s covenant only last for one ‘seven’? I believe that this is a reference to some type of agreement on earth, but it is impossible to know what it is….for now. Some say that this relates to a peace treaty with Israel – again, pure speculation. A covenant could be any type of agreement – and the covenant is with ‘many’, there is no specific reference to Israel. The point here is that it does appear to me that someone (a world leader, a religious leader, etc) will setup some type of agreement for 7 years with many in the world. This verse, in no way, makes any reference to a secret rapture or that the judgments of Revelation will occur only during this ‘covenant’. If you notice closely, we are told very clearly that war and desolations will continue until the end, then a ‘covenant…for one seven’ is mentioned. The covenant is mutually exclusive of the war and desolations. Therefore, the covenant will simply be another sign that tells us where we are in God’s prophetic plan – it will not usher in the judgments of Revelation or be a sign that the secret rapture is near.

Let’s continue verse 27: “In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple, he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” (NIV) Like the beginning of verse 27, this is very difficult to interpret. Some translations don’t even mention a temple. Will a future Jewish temple be rebuilt and animal sacrifices started again? I don’t believe that there is anyway for us to determine this from this text. If it is rebuilt, it will certainly be considered an abomination by God, since it will be an open rejection of Jesus by Israel. Once again, this is something that we must pay attention to as world events unfold.

Why did I include Steve’s analysis of this prophecy if I don’t agree with alot of it? Because I believe that Steve is a spirit led Christian who is searching for the truth…..just as I am. Neither he nor I accept what is popular simply because many believe it. He and I are both reading God’s Word and praying to uncover the truth of what we face….and it may turn out that we both are correct about some of this prophecy. I do know, however, that this prophecy in Daniel cannot be sold as a 7 year period of tribulation for the entire world that incorporates an evil world leader and the judgments of Revelation. While the “Left Behind” books are interesting and certainly entertaining, they are not based on solid interpretation of biblical end time prophesy. We all forget that our enemy, Satan, is very deceptive. We underestimate his ability to deceive us (both Christians and non-Christians). The only way to “see” the truth in this world is with God’s help to open our spiritual eyes. If Jesus warned us many times about being deceived during the end times, it stands to reason that today’s “popular” interpretations of end time prophecy could be completely inaccurate. When was the last time you watched a television program on end time prophecy, or listened to a radio program or read a book on end time prophesy that did not subscribe to a secret rapture, a seven year tribulation period, the rebuilding of a 3rd Jewish temple and a battle at Armageddon when the world attacks Israel? If you’re like me, the answer is …never.

After thoroughly studying scripture related to end time prophesy, I believe that we’re all being deceived by this interpretation of prophecy (a secret rapture, 7 year period of tribulation, one antichrist). Why? As Steve mentioned, we’ll get to specifics when we discuss the antichrist, the “beast” and Armageddon. For now, simply think about what could happen if there isn’t a secret rapture. What if there is a nuclear war and we’re all still here? What if things begin to deteriorate very quickly in this world and we’re not being removed? War, famine, death, disease all begin to escalate. What do you think our enemy will begin whispering in our ear then? He’ll whisper all kinds of things to make you question your faith, God and His Holy Word. This deception will be used against us in the future. I have no doubt about this. We’ll talk about what I believe we’ll see and experience in place of the secret rapture and seven year tribulation when we discuss the antichrist and the ‘beast’ of Revelation.

The most important thing for us to remember now and in the future, is that we must remain close to our Father in heaven and Jesus Christ. We must pray to God for wisdom, knowledge, understanding and strength. We must continually read His Word and apply it to our lives and to what is happening in our world. If we are truly close to God, we should never be surprised at what happens in the world.


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