The case for a 3½-year tribulation

The case for a 3½-year tribulation

Most Christians believe the end-times tribulation spans seven years, but does it? Those who don’t understand what the Word plainly says will be unable to recognize and discern key markers and may be deceived into receiving “the mark of the beast.”

We are not here to criticize and condemn those who have been errantly teaching this doctrine for centuries. Rather, we are here because we believe God has unsealed and revealed this critical piece of the end-times puzzle in these last days and made a way for us to share this with whomever He leads here and gives eyes to see and a mind to understand.

Before proceeding, it is very important that you first read our Introduction page. Also, there are a number of topics within this study that we have omitted or only briefly addressed because to do so would exponentially lengthen this article, the focus of which we want to be on proving the true duration of the tribulation. We will post future articles related to the end times, as well as other Biblical topics.

Brief history

The foundation for the tribulation itself begins in the book of Daniel. Specifically, what is commonly known as Daniel’s 70th week.

Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. (Daniel 9:24)

Foundationally, the belief in a seven-year tribulation comes from what we are told about the length of the 70 weeks, which is that each week represents seven years. We are also told that 69 weeks have been accomplished, leaving one final week or seven-year period.

Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: (Daniel 9:25a)

The case for a 3½-year tribulation

In order to understand why the tribulation lasts just 3½ years, we must first state that this has nothing to do with a mid-tribulation rapture.

What we are going to prove from the Word is that the first half of the 70th week of Daniel was already fulfilled with Jesus’ 3½-year ministry. The Word is clear but has been misunderstood and propagated for centuries. The reason is that it isn’t until these last days that God has unsealed and revealed this.

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. (Daniel 12:4)

And he said, Go thy way, Daniel; for the words are shut up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall purify themselves, and make themselves white, and be refined; but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand; but they that are wise shall understand. (Daniel 12:9-10)

Daniel 9:24-27 lays out the prophecy of the 70 weeks which is divided into four parts. We have created the chart below for visual clarity.

The 70 Weeks of Daniel
Click chart to view full size

70 weeks: who and why

Let’s make a list of what Daniel 9:24 tells us is the who and why of the 70 weeks. Understanding this is key to understanding the 70 weeks itself.

Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. (Daniel 9:24)

  • “thy people” is the Jews;
  • “thy holy city” is Jerusalem;
  • “to finish transgression” or put an end to lawlessness and injustice;
  • “to make an end of sins” in His people;
  • “to make reconciliation for iniquity” is the price Jesus paid for the forgiveness of sin, if we will receive it;
  • “to bring in everlasting righteousness” is the establishment of Jesus’ eternal kingdom in which there is no sin;
  • “to seal up vision and prophecy” refers to God hiding the true meaning of visions and prophecies until their appointed times, some of which remain sealed until the actual second coming of Jesus the Messiah.

Part 1: Weeks 1-7 of 70

Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks, (Daniel 9:25a)

Within this 49-year period the temple was built and Jerusalem restored, all in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.

Part 2: Weeks 8-69 of 70

And after the threescore and two weeks shall the anointed one be cut off, and shall have nothing: 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 even unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined. (Daniel 9:26)

This 62 weeks (434 years) when added to the seven weeks (49 years) completes 69 of the 70 weeks, bringing us to the start of the ministry of “the anointed one, the prince” who is Jesus the Messiah.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, yet when he was afflicted he opened not his mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who among them considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due? (Isaiah 53:6-8)

So when during the remaining 70th week (seven years) will “the anointed one, the prince,” be cut off?

Part 3: first half of the 70th week

And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate. (Daniel 9:27)

Pastors and teachers for centuries have told us that “he” who makes “a firm covenant with many for one week” is “the Antichrist,” “the Beast” and/or “the Antichrist-Beast.” They usually use these terms interchangeably.

With even a basic understanding of English, we must ask why Daniel 9:24-26a speaks of “he” as “the most holy” and “the anointed one, the prince” and then halfway through verse 26 the “he” suddenly switches to “the Antichrist and/or Beast” without any warning whatsoever.

The only explanation is that due to the errant belief in a seven-year tribulation this was the only way to make this figure (Antichrist/Beast) responsible for some kind of world covenant with markers that even the most lost person would be able to recognize.

Jesus is “the prince of the people”

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 even unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined. (Daniel 9:26b)

We have already established that Jesus the Messiah is “the anointed one, the prince,” so because there is nothing to indicate a change in this context for “prince,” this can only mean that Jesus is this prince.

Therefore, because the Jews were the people of the prince (Jesus), they were the ones who destroyed “the city and the sanctuary.” It is they who rejected the Messiah and sealed their own fate:

So when Pilate saw that he prevailed nothing, but rather that a tumult was arising, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man; see ye to it. And all the people answered and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. Then released he unto them Barabbas; but Jesus he scourged and delivered to be crucified. (Matthew 27:24-26)

And then this confirmation of their abomination happened the moment Jesus breathed His last on the cross:

And Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake; and the rocks were rent; (Matthew 27:50-51)

Their rejection of Jesus and therefore God the Father was an abomination that led to this particular desolation. (Daniel 9:26 states that desolations are determined; it’s not just one.)

Let’s continue with this particular desolation that Jesus prophesied prior to his crucifixion:

And as he was now drawing nigh, even at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works which they had seen; saying, Blessed is the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from the multitude said unto him, Teacher, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said, I tell you that, if these shall hold their peace, the stones will cry out. And when he drew nigh, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known in this day, even thou, the things which belong unto peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, when thine enemies shall cast up a bank about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall dash thee to the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. (Luke 19:37-44)

This destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD caused desolation but God left their temple desolate long before. Remember what Jesus said prior to His crucifixion:

Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. (Matthew 23:38-39)

How Jesus fulfilled the first half of the 70th week

John the Baptist was in the wilderness, preaching to any who would listen of the imminent arrival of the Messiah. When Jesus came into John’s presence, he immediately recognized Jesus as the Messiah.

John baptized Jesus and immediately the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove. Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where He completed a 40-day fast and resisted the temptations presented by Satan.

Then He accomplished His 3½-year ministry that is well-documented in the Gospels, culminating in His death, burial and resurrection.

As Daniel 9:27 states, it was in the middle of this 70th week that He (Jesus) caused the sacrifice and oblation to cease.

You may be wondering how this could be Jesus.

First, we have already established that there is no justification to jump from the most holy, anointed prince to some Antichrist figure. So we must see how this translates to Jesus.

Jesus established His blood covenant. This is the “covenant with many.” So why is it only for one week? Because that’s all that remains of the 70 weeks. It is an eternal covenant but it is going to be accomplished in just one week (seven years).

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it; and he gave to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took a cup, and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins. But I say unto you, I shall not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. (Matthew 26:26-29)

Clearly, when Jesus was crucified He was “cut off,” as the prophecy states He would be. Here is how He caused the sacrifice and oblation to cease:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. (Matthew 23:37-39)

Jesus left their city and sanctuary. Why?

For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, But a body didst thou prepare for me; In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hadst no pleasure: (Hebrews 10:4-6)

Jesus spoke of a better temple that His enemies didn’t understand:

Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. The Jews therefore said, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou raise it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he spake this; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. (John 2:19-22)

The clock stopped for 2000 years

Once Jesus was cut off the clock stopped. We know this because the world didn’t end 3½ years after Jesus was crucified. And we have these words from Jesus:

And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice: and they shall become one flock, one shepherd. (John 10:16)

And later from Apostle Paul:

But it is not as though the word of God hath come to nought. For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel: neither, because they are Abraham’s seed, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, it is not the children of the flesh that are children of God; but the children of the promise are reckoned for a seed. (Romans 9:6-8)

In other words, the 70 weeks applies both to natural Jews and spiritual Jews; that is, Gentiles who were grafted into the place of the natural Jews who were broken off for their unbelief.

I say then, Did they stumble that they might fall? God forbid: but by their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy. Now if their fall is the riches of the world, and their loss the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? But I speak to you that are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I glorify my ministry; if by any means I may provoke to jealousy them that are my flesh, and may save some of them. For if the casting away of them is the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? And if the firstfruit is holy, so is the lump: and if the root is holy, so are the branches. But if some of the branches were broken off, and thou, being a wild olive, wast grafted in among them, and didst become partaker with them of the root of the fatness of the olive tree; glory not over the branches: but if thou gloriest, it is not thou that bearest the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, Branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; by their unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by thy faith. Be not highminded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, neither will he spare thee. Behold then the goodness and severity of God: toward them that fell, severity; but toward thee, God’s goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they continue not in their unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou wast cut out of that which is by nature a wild olive tree, and wast grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree; how much more shall these, which are the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? (Romans 11:11-24)

The clock stopped when Jesus was “cut off” at His crucifixion after a 3½-year ministry in order to graft in Gentile believers who are then accounted as part of “all Israel.”

For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant of this mystery, lest ye be wise in your own conceits, that a hardening in part hath befallen Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in; and so all Israel shall be saved: even as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: And this is my covenant unto them, When I shall take away their sins. (Romans 11:25-27)

In the final 3½ years God will finish grafting in Gentile believers as well as graft back in a remnant of natural Jews.

Part 4: second half of the 70th week

And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate. (Daniel 9:27)

This last half of the 70th week (3½ years) is what the book of Revelation is all about. It is incredibly detailed and covers many topics.

After these things I saw, and behold, a door opened in heaven, and the first voice that I heard, a voice as of a trumpet speaking with me, one saying, Come up hither, and I will show thee the things which must come to pass hereafter. (Revelation 4:1)

And if we need further proof that this period of time is 3½ years, an angel told Daniel this:

And from the time that the continual burnt-offering shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand and two hundred and ninety days. (Daniel 12:11)

That’s 3½ years.

The main point for the context of this article is this, as it relates to the resumption of the clock which will continue counting down to the second coming of Jesus:

When therefore ye see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let him that readeth understand), (Matthew 24:15)

for then shall be great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be. (Matthew 24:21)

Jesus said that when we see the abomination of desolation that Daniel prophesied that this will be the sign that the final countdown has begun.

The God that made the world and all things therein, he, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; (Acts 17:24)

Since God does not dwell in temples made with hands, that means the temple of our body is the holy place, just like Jesus spoke of the temple of His body that the Jews would destroy but that He would rebuild in three days.

We believe this end-times abomination of desolation refers to Christians receiving the mark of the beast. Receiving this mark is a permanent rejection of eternal life in Christ and it will begin happening when the countdown resumes at the beginning of the tribulation.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. (Romans 12:1)

How is it possible to present our bodies as a living sacrifice and remain holy if we’ve received the mark of the beast? It’s not.

Understanding the importance

Someone will inevitably ask, “So what if you’re right. Why does it matter?”

Great question. Let’s start here:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: (Hosea 4:6a)

We see here that God’s own people who lack knowledge regarding matters of life and death are at risk of destruction which, depending on the circumstances, could simply be physical death with salvation intact or permanent separation from God due to receiving the mark of the beast.

This “lack of knowledge” pertains both to rejection of truth and willful ignorance of truth, for a conscious rejection of even the willingness to examine doctrine that challenges commonly-held beliefs (since historically the majority on anything are almost always wrong) is itself a rejection of knowledge.

According to our case for a 3½-year tribulation, if you believe that you will be removed from the world by a rapture prior to the start of the end-times tribulation, you may be deceived into receiving the mark of the beast. Clearly, if you don’t believe you will be on earth to witness the mark being forced upon the world, you could easily be deceived into receiving it and therefore be permanently separated from God and receive the eternal judgment that comes with it.

If any man worshippeth the beast and his image, and receiveth a mark on his forehead, or upon his hand, he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, they that worship the beast and his image, and whoso receiveth the mark of his name. (Revelation 14:9b-11)

Those who believe in a mid-tribulation or post-tribulation rapture during a seven-year tribulation could just as easily be deceived into receiving the mark. Since our case presumes the mark will be mandated at or near the beginning of the tribulation, those who believe in a seven-year tribulation, regardless of when you believe the rapture will occur, could be deceived into receiving the mark because it is assumed in the case of a seven-year tribulation that the mark will not be mandated until the halfway point of the tribulation.

Take a deep breath

We understand that the various rapture doctrines are complex and are usually deeply-held. We’ve been there. Most believers start their walk believing in a pre-tribulation rapture because that’s what we are taught in the overwhelming majority of denominational churches. Some then come out from among them, looking for greater truth, and often end up believing in a post-tribulation rapture.

But we are confident that if you truly pray for greater truth and are not walking in willful sin, God will unseal and reveal to you that this case for a 3½-year tribulation is the truth and many other truths will follow as you begin reading the word anew.

Remember therefore how thou hast received and didst hear; and keep it, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. (Revelation 3:3)

work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; (Philippians 2:12b)

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