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The tribulation is the coming seven-year time when God’s patience ends, and He pours His wrath out, undiluted, on the unbelievers who remain after Jesus raptures His Church. God’s plan is for these rebels to repent and believe in Jesus’ name, but most won’t. It is the beginning of the unbeliever’s eternal separation and suffering.
“I have heard a sound of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask now, and see, can a male labor with child? Why do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in labor, and all faces turned pale? Alas! for that day is great, so that no one is like it; it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.”
The seven-year tribulation follows the rapture of the Church, but the rapture doesn’t trigger the start of the tribulation. There may be a delay — an uncertain time — between the rapture and the beginning of the years of tribulation. The triggering event is when the world leader (a.k.a., the Antichrist, the Beast) signs a peace treaty:
“And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week (seven years). But in the middle of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the offering to cease” (Daniel 9:27).
“Tribulation” is another name for the seventieth week of Daniel; Daniel’s weeks are ‘weeks’ of years, not days.
The Bible book of Revelation tells us that half of the tribulation lasts 1260 days, 42 months, and “for a time and times and half a time,” i.e., three and a half years (Revelation 11:2; 12:6,14).
A heavenly war will occur between Satan and his angels and Michael, God’s archangel, and his angels. Michael will defeat Satan and his angels, and they will lose their access to heaven. Michael will cast them out, and a heavenly announcer will proclaim woe to the earth. Because Satan is cast down at the tribulation midpoint, he has a short time; 42 months are left to terrorize the inhabitants of the earth and sea! That’s one reason the second half of the tribulation is called the Great Tribulation.
“Woe unto the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you in great wrath because he knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12:12).
The Beast, a.k.a. the Antichrist and world ruler of this time, will enter the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and proclaim himself as God.
These midpoint events will lead to the following:
Here is a chronological chart for the events to come in the tribulation:
God pours out His wrath against sin and sinners in the tribulation in a series of judgments. But Jesus has already suffered God’s wrath against sin, so those who believe in His Name during this age won’t be subject to God’s wrath a second time.
He suffered God’s curse against anyone ‘hung on a tree (Jesus’ cross)’ in the place of the believer:
“How much more then, being now justified by His blood, shall we be saved from wrath through Him” (Romans 5:9).
“You turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead—Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
After the judgments are poured out, God’s wrath against sin is complete:
“The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” (Revelation 16:17).
Jesus returns to earth and defeats the armies attacking Jerusalem. His return ends the seven-year tribulation:
“Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to wage war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. But the beast was captured and … the remnant were slain with the sword which proceeded out of the mouth of Him who sat on the horse” (Revelation 19:19-21).
Jesus’ Judgments are Next!