Summary: A unique but Biblical/Historical description of the Great Tribulation
The Great Tribulation
While this title has been popularized during the past century and a half by the pre-tribulation rapture theory, which also tagged it with the traditional 3-1/2 year time period, the fact of the matter remains, the Bible does not explicitly indicate an exact length of time for ‘the tribulation, the great one’ as stated in the Greek text of Revelation 7:14.
This is the only place in the Scripture where the article translated ‘the’ appears before the words ‘great tribulation’. In this passage the elder uses the article because he is looking back upon the completed time period called ‘the great tribulation’.
The Lord Jesus refers to this time of great tribulation in Matthew 24:21 pointing out that it will be ‘shortened’ or literally cut off ‘for the elect’s sake’, with the elect here referring to the saints as the elect are referred to again on two other occasions in this passage (v.24, 31).
The word in the verb form translated ‘tribulation’ was used by those before the time of the Lord Jesus Christ, to mean ‘to press’ (as grapes), which was ‘allied with affliction’ [Thayer’s Lexicon]. The Lord used it in Matthew 3:9 where it is translated ‘throng’ indicating the activity of pressure from the multitude that ‘heard what great things He did, came unto Him.’ (Matthew 3:8) He also used it to indicate ‘a compressed way, i.e. narrow, straitened, contracted, Matthew 7:14 [Thayer]
The vast majority of over (50) times the verb and noun are found in the N.T., they refer to the suffering of great pressure, tribulation, affliction, torment and persecution, stemming from the religious persecutors, against the saints, the people of God with at least (40) references demonstrating that it is the lot of God’s people to ‘suffer tribulation’.
Yes, we are promised to be delivered from God’s Wrath (I Thessalonians 1:10, 5:9), the Day of the Lord, which is yet to come upon the world, but, as Foxes Book of Martyrs records, the saints of God have been persecuted and killed as a matter of course in history past which is continuing through the present day.
And, this suffering and persecution will continue throughout the age in which we live and will only increase and intensify as the end of the age draws near, finally coming to a close when the saints are miraculously rescued by the rapture when the Lord Jesus Christ comes in the clouds and takes them home to be with Him. (I Thessalonians 1:10, 4:13-18; 5:1-10)
Statistics tell us that there were more Christians killed for their faith in the Twentieth Century than in all of the nineteen previous centuries combined. Therefore, in reality, the time of affliction when ‘they shall deliver you up to be afflicted and shall kill you’ (Matthew 24:9) as described by the Lord Jesus Christ has already begun, for the start and escalation of martyrdom in the last century is proof that many Christians across the planet have already been suffering ‘great tribulation’.
The Lord also used the word chosen/elect in Matthew 20:16 and 22:14 in the familiar ‘many are called but few (are) chosen’ passage again referring to the saints. He utilized this word when referring to all those chosen of God in Luke 18:7:
‘Shall not God avenge His own elect who cry day and night unto Him?’
This verb is used a total of 23 times in the New Testament with (3) referring specifically to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself , (17) referring to the saints, (2) references to the church, and (1) referring to angels. In Matthew 24 it is used to refer to the saints, the chosen of God, who are being shown mercy by their Father, the Ever-loving Husbandmen and Sovereign Caretaker of the Branches, doing just what He promised, shortening this their most intense time of trouble (v.21), warning them not to believe the deception (v.24), and finally in (v.31) the very gathering of the elect when He rescues them from Satan’s
So, if the Lord is going to cut short this time of trouble in His mercy, just how long do the saints have to endure this unparalleled affliction? The answer depends on just when it begins, and according to the text in Matthew 24:9 the affliction begins right after the period the Lord designated ‘the beginning of sorrows’ (v.8).
Notice, He did not say that this time of ‘great tribulation’ was going to start when the ‘abomination of desolation’ was seen standing ‘in the holy place’ (v.15), no, the Lord in chronological sequence is describing how the events are going to unfold during the time just before the end of the age.
‘The abomination of desolation’ marks the beginning of the final period, and does not necessarily begin this time of unparalleled tribulation. The saints are already being martyred around the globe as indicated in (v.9) showing the time of worldwide trouble through (v.14). Then, the focus turns to the nation of Israel in (vs.15-28) when the affliction rises to the max, or as in the Greek ‘mega’ indicating the maximum suffering as martyrdom of the saints rises to its zenith.