Have you ever been in the wrong place at the wrong time? This could be serious, such as witnessing a crime. Or it could be inconsequential, such as walking in on an argument or overhearing a private conversation. Either way, we try to avoid these types of situations.
Dispensationalism boasts the greatest “wrong place at the wrong time” scenario of all. It teaches that after the Rapture, God will vent His wrath against sinful mankind during a 7-year period called the Tribulation. This will be His final effort to bring Israel to repentance.
In other words, everyone in the world will be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Tribulation will begin when Antichrist makes a covenant that allows Israel to rebuild the temple and reinstitute sacrifices. Halfway through the Tribulation, he will break this covenant, ushering in the Great Tribulation.
Severing the “Sevens”
Dispensationalists appeal to Daniel 9:20-27. Gabriel tells Daniel, “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city” (9:24). These “sevens” (or “weeks”) are periods of seven years each. Messiah will appear after seven and sixty-two “sevens,” during which Jerusalem will be rebuilt.
The last seven is where it gets tricky. Gabriel predicts, “After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death…The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary…He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” (9:26-27)
Dispensationalists argue the final “seven” is the Tribulation, and the “ruler who will come” is Antichrist. By doing so, they insert a gap of at least 2,000 years between the sixty-ninth and seventieth “seven.” They also argue that Jesus teaches the Tribulation when He refers to the “abomination that causes desolation” (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14).
Historical context yields a more sensible interpretation. Jerusalem’s temple and wall were rebuilt during the sixth and fifth centuries. The Roman army destroyed them both in A.D. 70. It is better to see Daniel’s prophecy fulfilled in this actual, historical event rather than a future, imaginary one.
The literary context of Jesus’ words supports this interpretation. In the parallel passage in Luke, He does not refer to the “abomination that causes desolation.” Instead He says, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near” (Luke 21:20).
Jesus’ language suggests that the destruction of Jerusalem fulfills Daniel’s prophecy. He leaves no room to speculate about a future Tribulation period, for He goes on to say, “This is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written” (Luke 21:22).
Tampering with “Jacob’s Trouble”
Tribulationalists also appeal to Jeremiah 30:7. God says, “How awful that day will be! No other will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it.”
Context again offers a correct interpretation. God promises a few verses earlier, “The days are coming…when I will restore my people Israel and Judah back from captivity” (30:3). This “captivity” refers to the Jews’ exile in Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., recorded later in Jeremiah (39:1-9).
Finally, proponents of the Tribulation enlist Revelation 7:14. John sees a heavenly multitude in white robes, those “who have come out of the great tribulation.” It is even argued Revelation 6 – 18 is all about the Tribulation!
Yet John is not envisioning a future period of hardship. Rather, he is referring to the historical reality of Christian persecution. Jesus Himself says, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).
Trashing the Tribulation
The Tribulation has been trashed. There is no Scriptural evidence for a future 7-year outpouring of God’s wrath. Passages used to support the Tribulation more naturally refer to Jerusalem’s destruction in 587 B.C. or A.D. 70, or the ongoing persecution of Christians throughout church history.
However, God’s wrath will be revealed at Jesus’ return. On that day, He will tread “the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty” (Revelation 19:15). His enemies will “drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath” (14:10).
This is truly the “hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world” (3:10).
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