What is the Tribulation?
Modern dispensationalists have taught that there is to be a seven-year time of destruction and judgment. It is based primarily on the notion that the “clock” stopped for Israel when Jesus was crucified. It supposedly stopped because the Jews rejected the Messiah, and so God imposed an interim “Age of Grace” to focus upon the “gentiles.”
The end of the “Gentile” period is said to end with their “rapture,” at which time Daniel’s 70th week starts, and the “Great Tribulation” begins. Some say that the Antichrist will come at the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation, while others believe that he will come in the middle of the Tribulation.
This idea that the “clock” stopped at the beginning of Daniel’s seventieth week (or in the middle of it) is fully dependent upon Daniel’s Seventy Weeks not being fulfilled yet in its entirety. It presupposes that Jesus was crucified in the middle of the seventieth week, and that this stopped God’s clock of history, to be resumed at the end of the “Age of Grace.” But history itself proves that Jesus was crucified at the end of the seventieth week of Daniel, so one cannot use the seventieth week of Daniel itself to prove the tribulation.
But what about the idea of Tribulation itself? Is there yet to be a time of tribulation, whether based upon the Dispensationalist view or not? If so, when is it? How long is it? What is its purpose?
The Laws of Tribulation
A good place to begin is by looking at the laws of tribulation found in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. It is according to these laws and for the reasons stated therein that God has brought judgment upon Israel throughout history.
Leviticus 26:1-13 presents first the blessings for obedience to the divine law. Then in verses 14-16 we read,
14 But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments; 15 if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances so as not to carry out all My commandments and so break My covenant, 16 I, in turn, will do this to you...
What follows is a lengthy list of divine judgments for refusing to obey the law of God and for being “hostile” against God. At various points in the text Israel was told that if they remained hostile to God, God would judge them “seven times,” as, for example, we read in verses 23 and 24,
23 And if by these things you are not turned to Me, but act with hostility against Me, 24 then I will act with hostility against you; and I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins.
Israel could even end up in captivity in foreign lands, if they continually refused to be obedient.
33 You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste.
In a parallel passage in Deut. 28:48, this is called “a yoke of iron.” Once in captivity, the only way to end the divine judgment is by repentance. Lev. 26:40-42 says,
40 If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me— 41 I also was acting with hostility against them, to bring them into the land of their enemies—or if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled so that they then make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember My covenant with Jacob... Isaac, and... Abraham as well, and I will remember the land.
Note that it requires repentance of their hostility to Yahweh, the Lawgiver, before God will reverse their captivity. To be hostile toward Jesus is to be hostile toward Yahweh.
Yahweh is Yeshua-Jesus
It is important to recognize first that Yahweh in the Old Testament was incarnated in Bethlehem as Yeshua, or Joshua (Jesus). The Hebrew name means “salvation” and appears often in Scripture. For instance, when Simeon saw the baby Jesus, having had prior revelation, he said in Luke 2:29 and 30,
29 Now, Lord, Thou dost let Thy bond-servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, 30 for my eyes have seen Thy salvation [Yeshua].
Simeon understood by revelation in the Word that the Messiah would be named Yeshua, and it had been revealed that he would see the Messiah before he died. Thus, when Mary and Joseph brought Yeshua-Jesus to the temple, Simeon was waiting, for he knew He would be brought to the temple according to the law.
Jesus also knew that the Scriptures prophesied of Him by name. In John 7:37 Jesus said, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” This was a reference to Isaiah 12:2, 3, saying,
2 Behold God is my Yeshua, I will trust and not be afraid; for Yah Yahweh is my strength and song, and He has become my Yeshua. 3 Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of Yeshua.
In other words, Yahweh became Yeshua, from whom we may draw the water of the Holy Spirit in order that we too might become wells of living water. Isaiah was actually quoting from Exodus 15:2, saying,
2 Yahweh is my strength and song, and He has become my Yeshua; This is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will extol Him.
Since Yahweh was the One who gave the law to Moses, it is evident that the law was given to Israel by the One later known as Jesus Christ. Hence, in the laws of tribulation, we see that when Israel acted with “hostility” against Yahweh, they were really acting with hostility against Yeshua, Jesus Christ.
This is the reason for tribulation, and the only way to reverse that tribulation would be to cease being hostile to Yeshua-Jesus. There is no way to truly understand the reason for tribulation until we see that it is all about ceasing to be hostile to Jesus Christ.
Modern Zionism, on the other hand, seeks to return to the old land and lay claim to it while yet in a state of hostility against Yeshua. They claim to be followers of Yahweh, of course, but if that were the case, God would never have cast them out of the land and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. We read in 1 John 2:22, 23,
22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
From a New Testament viewpoint, one cannot claim the Father (Yahweh) without confessing the Son (Yeshua). They are one and the same. Hostility toward Yeshua is hostility toward Yahweh, whether they realize it or not. And so the reason for the Jewish dispersion under the laws of tribulation have not been resolved as of today. Leviticus 26 makes it clear that God would remember His covenant ONLY WHEN Israel confessed its hostility to Yahweh-Yeshua-Jesus.
The Jewish Revolt and the Tribulation
The bulk of the prophecies in Matthew 24 deal specifically with the tribulation surrounding the Jewish revolt from 66-73 A.D. It began while people were walking to Jerusalem to attend the feast of Tabernacles celebration in 66 A.D. The people fought and nearly destroyed Rome’s 7th Legion, which then brought about a reprisal from Rome.
Many of the Jewish zealots thought that God would be forced to save them and His temple, and so they were determined to fight to the end. Their zeal proved to be disastrous. However, Christians remembered what Jesus had said in His warnings in Matthew 24. When there was a lull in the fighting in 68 A.D., due to Nero’s death, the Christians left Jerusalem and settled across the Jordan River in the town of Pella. We read of this in the History of the Church by Eusebius, the fourth-century bishop of Caesarea:
“Furthermore, the members of the Jerusalem church, by means of an oracle given by revelation to acceptable persons there, were ordered to leave the City before the war began and settle in a town in Peraea called Pella.”
A more complete account of this revolt and the destruction of Jerusalem can be found in my book, Lessons from Church History, Volume 2 entitled, The Jewish Revolts.
Certain schools of thought teach that the entirety of Matthew 24 was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem from 66-73 A.D. They fail to take into account the fact that Jerusalem has been rebuilt (more than once since then) and that this means Jerusalem will have to undergo yet another time of tribulation which will complete the revelation of Jeremiah. Recall that the prophet was instructed to take the old clay jar and smash it in gehenna. We read in Jer. 19:10, 11,
10 Then you are to break the jar in the sight of the men who accompany you 11 and say to them, Thus says the Lord of hosts, Just so shall I break this people and this city, even as one breaks a potter’s vessel which cannot again be repaired....
In the days of Jeremiah, the city was destroyed, but it was later “repaired” under Nehemiah. It was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., but later rebuilt. It is today a functioning city as of this writing, having been repaired multiple times over the centuries.
Hence, Jeremiah’s prophecy has yet a final fulfillment. For this reason, Jerusalem must yet again be destroyed, after the Zionist experiment has run its course.
Will this again be a seven-year time of tribulation, as it was in the first century? I do not know, but if so, it will be because the pattern has been set in the first century—not because Daniel’s Seventieth week was delayed. We do know that prophetic history tends to repeat itself, so it is possible that a seven-year tribulation period will emerge as we saw from 66-73 A.D. But Isaiah 29:5, 6 seems to indicate a rather sudden destruction by nuclear device, and Paul seems to confirm this in 1 Thess. 5:3.
The most important thing to see is that Jerusalem is slated for utter destruction. How long that takes is not the important factor. The Dispensationalist teaching that Jerusalem will be the capital of the Kingdom of God in the age to come does not take into account Jeremiah’s prophecy of utter destruction upon Jerusalem. Further, when we study Paul’s discussion of the two covenants in Galatians 4, we see that the old Jerusalem is “Hagar,” that must be cast out. Hagar can never bring forth the Kingdom of God, for Ishmael is not the heir of the promises (Gal. 4:30).
The Wooden and Iron Yoke
One primary feature in the laws of tribulation is the use of the term yoke as a metaphor for captivity or bondage. Deut. 28:48 promised that if the nation rebelled against God, He would impose upon them “a yoke of iron.” This is defined as war, destruction, and deportation by a foreign nation. Moses says nothing of a wooden yoke, but leaves it to Jeremiah to reveal fully.
God told the prophet to put a wooden yoke upon his shoulders and walk around the city with a word of prophecy (Jer. 27:2). The word is summarized in verse 11,
11 But the nation which will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let remain in the land, declares the Lord, and they will till it and dwell in it.
Judgment had already been decreed (Jer. 7:1-16) on the grounds that the temple had been turned into a den of robbers (a safe house to protect people from the law of God). The people then were given a choice of either the wooden yoke or the iron yoke. If they submitted to the divine judgment, they could serve their sentence in the old land under the wooden yoke, as their forefathers had done in all of the captivities in the book of Judges. If not, they would be deported under the iron yoke.
Jeremiah was opposed by the majority of the temple prophets and priests, and finally, the prophet Hananiah broke the yoke that Jeremiah had been wearing. Jer. 28:10 says,
10 Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke from the neck of Jeremiah the prophet and broke it.
God then spoke to Jeremiah with a new verdict in verse 13,
13 Go and speak to Hananiah, saying, “Thus says the Lord, You have broken the yokes of wood, but you have made instead of them yokes of iron.”
The prophet then wrote a letter to instruct the people how to live while in exile in Babylon under the yoke of iron. (See Jer. 29.) This captivity was more difficult than it might have been, if the people had complied with the divine judgment. However, they refused to admit that they were wrong. They insisted that God would always fight on the side of His “chosen people,” and that He would never allow His temple to be destroyed.
In Jeremiah 23 God revealed to the prophet that there were two kinds of people in Jerusalem, illustrated by two baskets of figs. One basket contained very good figs, and the other contained very evil figs. The good figs represented those who submitted to the king of Babylon, knowing that this was the will of God. The evil figs refused.
And so the people of Judah and the city of Jerusalem were deported to Babylon to serve under an iron yoke for 70 years.
Meanwhile, Daniel (one of the good figs) received revelation that this captivity was going to be very long and would extend through at least four empires: Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome.
In other words, the Babylonian captivity was only the first stage of tribulation for Judah. After Babylon fell, the Persians took over, and this marked the end of Judah’s “iron yoke” captivity. It did not end the captivity itself, for they remained under the authority of the king of Persia. However, they were able to return to the old land and rebuild Jerusalem, while remaining under the easier judgment of the wooden yoke.
This condition continued after Greece took Jerusalem in 332. Years later, in 163 B.C. the Judeans overthrew the Greek Seleucid Empire after Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the temple, and God granted the Judeans a century of independence. Their time of independence was from 163-63 B.C.
Then the Romans took control of Jerusalem, and the era of the “iron kingdom” began. The Jews remained under the wooden yoke of Rome until they revolted in the first century. The revolt of the evil figs then brought the iron yoke back upon the nation, and they were scattered throughout the nations until the twentieth century.
This is the basic outline of the history of tribulation. Unless we see it in the context of biblical law, the tribulation prophecies are likely to be misunderstood and misapplied.
Seven Times of Tribulation
Earlier, we referenced the tribulation statement in Leviticus 26:24 regarding “seven times.” If Israel cast aside the law of God, then God would punish the nation “seven times.” Most people picture the intensity of judgment being increased seven times. But Daniel interprets this as an increase in length, rather than intensity. The “little horn” of Dan. 7:25 was given a time frame of “a time, times, and a half a time,” which is half of “seven times.”
In the book of Revelation, John gives us the clearest definition of this “little horn,” defining it as “forty-two months” (Rev. 13:5). A “time,” then, is twelve months, or 360 days, or, prophetically speaking, 360 YEARS in long-term prophecy.
Seven times, then, is 2,520 years (7 x 360). For this reason, we see the most important biblical events reaching their conclusions after 2,520 years. As I showed in my book, The Prophetic History of the United States, all of the important events in modern history, beginning in 1776, occur on cycles of 2,520 years.
Israel’s “tribulation” began from 745-721 B.C., when they began to be conquered and deported by the Assyrians. The conquest of the first tribes began in 745 B.C., but the actual fall of Samaria (Israel’s capital city) occurred in 721B.C. This began:
The connection between Israel and America is not generally known, because most people have been taught that the Jews are Israel. But the time cycles themselves do not lie. Time is the great connector and establishes more truth than people realize. Israel’s scattering into Assyria began to come to an end with the Declaration of independence in America, where the so-called “lost tribes” began to be regathered once again. Secondarily, from the destruction of Israel’s capital city (Samaria) to the construction of America’s capital (Washington D.C.) was also 2,520 years.
The second great 2,520-year cycle, of course, involves Jerusalem, which was the capital of the southern Kingdom of Judah. Here again we see the relevance of this long time (“great”) tribulation of 2,520 years.
In this case we see that British General Allenby took Jerusalem from the Ottoman Empire (modern Turkey) in 1917 toward the end of World War I. This put Palestine under British control, which set up the conditions for the Jewish state thirty years later.
At the same time we see the rise of a new Babylon in 1914 in the form of the Federal Reserve System. This was a new form of Babylonian captivity, as prophesied in the book of Revelation.
Most of the twentieth century, then, saw the reign of this financial beast from the earth (Rev. 13:11). It came to power in both the East and the West. Private banking families had steadily risen to power during the preceding century, and in 1914 they were able to institute a secret coup that took control of the financial system in America—and, indeed, the entire world.
The private owners of the Federal Reserve Bank provided the financing for Lenin, Trotsky, and other “Russian” revolutionaries in the East, in order to establish a new form of bondage known as Communism. The so-called Russian Revolution, then, was successful on Nov. 7, 1917 just a few weeks before Allenby took Jerusalem. This day was later celebrated as Revolution Day in the new Soviet Union.
So most of the twentieth century was spent repeating the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem on a 2,520-year cycle. This began to come to an end on the 70th anniversary of the Revolution, when Soviet President Gorbachev gave his famous speech before the Supreme Soviet on Nov. 7, 1987. This speech marked the beginning of the end, and within a few years, the Soviet Union ceased to exist.
This is important to us, because 1987 was also 2,520 years after the seventy-year captivity of Judah ended in 534 B.C. The release of the captives of Judah saw its prophetic counterpart in the release of the people of Eastern Europe from the oppression of Soviet Russia.
So the modern 70-year captivity under Communism in the Soviet Union from 1917-1987 took place precisely 2,520 years after Jerusalem’s captivity to Babylon from 604-534 B.C. By understanding the cycle of “seven times” of tribulation, we can see that a large portion of the earth was placed under tribulation of the “yoke of iron,” in what Winston Churchill called “the iron curtain.”