Troublesome Topic: There Is No 7-Year Tribulation in Revelation

Revelation 11:1

Translation

Then a calamus reed as big around as a staff

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was given to me by him saying, “Rise, and measure

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the temple of GOD,

specifically,

the people worshiping

in it, and also the altar,

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Paraphrase

Then a method of evaluating people

was given to me by him,

saying, “Rise and

evaluate the quality of the those that are connected to THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS,

by that I mean the people worshiping God because they are connected to Him, and also their spiritual life and communion with God,

Revelation 11:2

Translation

but you must absolutely exclude

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the outer court,

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and do not measure it,

because it has been given to the Gentiles.

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The Gentiles

will trample

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on

the holy city

for forty-two months.

Paraphrase

but you must absolutely exclude those who are just pretending to follow God,

do not bother to evaluate their quality,

because they are just as evil as the openly rebellious.

The openly rebellious will

show contempt for

the true people of God

for a short time.

Revelation 13:3

Translation

And one of the

heads of

THE BEAST appeared to have been mortally wounded to death,

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but the deadly wound was healed,

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and the whole world followed

THE BEAST in amazement,

Paraphrase

And one of the leaders with legal authority belonging to THE FEROCIOUS CREATURE appeared to have been wounded beyond recovery, but the deadly wound was healed, and the whole world followed THE FEROCIOUS CREATURE in amazement,

Revelation 13:4

Translation

and they worshipped THE DRAGON who had given his authority to THE BEAST;  and they worshipped THE BEAST saying, “Who is like THE BEAST and who can

make war against it.”

Paraphrase

and they worshipped

THE GREAT DECEIVER who had given his authority to

THE FEROCIOUS CREATURE, and they worshipped THE FEROCIOUS CREATURE saying, “Who is like THE FEROCIOUS CREATURE and who can make war against it.”

Revelation 13:5

Translation

THE BEAST was given a mouth to speak great things

and blasphemes; and it was also given authority to act for

42 months,

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Paraphrase

THE FEROCIOUS CREATURE was given the ability to reveal amazing things

including blasphemous things; and it was also given authority to act for

a limited period of time,

Revelation 13:6

Translation

so it opened its mouth in order to speak blasphemies against GOD,

against His name

and His tabernacle, that is, those who tabernacle in heaven.

Paraphrase

so it opened its mouth in order to speak blasphemies against THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS, against His name and the method He uses to meet with mankind, that is, those who continually live in God’s presence and enjoy intimate communion with Him.

The Hebrew calendar was a lunar calendar, not a solar calendar. Their year was made up of twelve 30 day months, with an extra month added 7 times during 19 years (an average of once every 2.7 years) to make up the difference between their lunar calendar and the more common solar calendar. For them 1260 days was exactly 42 months, or 3.5 years.

The best way to understand their use of the symbol of 3 ½ years is to read about the drought of Elijah’s time. I Kings 18:1 specifically says the confrontation with the prophets of Baal and the subsequent rain happened “during the third year,” as in, two and a half, or two and three quarters years into the drought, but definitely before the third year was complete. However, the only times that the drought of Elijah’s day is mentioned in the New Testament (Lk 4:25 and James 5:17), it is given a length of three and a half years. The Luke 4 passage was Jesus speaking. Said drought was both a demonstration and a punishment. The use of the symbol three and a half meant the drought or punishment would be cut short, not a complete punishment, as a seven-year drought would have represented.

Thus a period of three and a half years is a symbol for a period of time cut short. Forty-two months and 1260 days are different ways of saying half of seven years, or a period of time that is incomplete, cut short.

In these various ways God was sending encouragement to the believers suffering persecution. He was telling them through this vision given to John that the time of their suffering would be cut short, it would be tolerable. So hang in there, you can make it!

What about a seven-year tribulation?

A specific 7 year period of worldwide persecution is not found in Revelation! I base that statement on the following points.

  1. The phrase which is often translated “great tribulation” is used twice in Revelation 2:22 and Revelation 7:14. The first is when Jesus is explaining the punishment which will befall those who have entered into idolatry and sexual immorality. So that one does not “count” because it is about the wicked reaping the consequences of their sins. The phrase “great tribulation” is used in Revelation 7:14 of the “those who have emerged from great tribulation,” but no length of time is given. Therefore the idea of a “great tribulation” comes from one single verse and that verse does not provide the scope or length of that tribulation.

In fact the uses of 3 ½ years are not even close to Revelation 7:14. The context of chapter 7 and that of chapters 11 and 13 are very different. Revelation 11:2 says “the gentiles will trample on the Holy city for 42 months.” Revelation 13:5 says the beast “was also given authority to act for 42 months” and that he blasphemed against God and against those who “tabernacle in heaven.” It is quite presumptuous to assume that a time frame given in chapters 11 and 13 defines an event mentioned briefly in chapter Revelation 7:14, even though 7:14 gives no amount of time.

  1. A period of time 3 ½ years is mentioned four times in revelation, forty-two months is mentioned twice (11:2 & 13:5), and 1,260 days is mentioned twice (11:3 & 12:6). Notice that a tribulation of 7 years is never specifically mentioned.

Scholars have arrived at a seven-year “Great Tribulation” by adding together the three and a half year periods of time found in Revelation 11:2 and 13:5 (the 3 ½ year period of 12:6 has already happened in the past so it does not figure into the calculations, and the period of time mentioned in 11:3 does not refer to persecution, so they exclude that one as well). 11:2 states that the Gentiles will trample the Holy City for 42 months, meaning that the rebellious will show contempt for the people of God for a short period of time. The passage found in 13:5 tells us that the Beast will be granted the opportunity to act for 42 months. But that is not how a Jew of that day would have communicated a specific 7 year period of time that is different from all other periods of time (and Jesus was a Jew, and He was talking to John who was a Jew). Seven meant “all” or “complete,” half of seven meant “incomplete.” If seven years were meant, they would have said seven years, not half of seven and then the other half of seven! Repeating “half of seven” so that it was said twice did not mean the same thing as saying “seven;” repeating 3 ½ was a way of reinforcing the idea of a period of time cut short. For the Jews of John’s day the symbols of 3 ½ plus 3 ½ would not equal the symbol seven! The images always retained their meaning regardless of how many times they were repeated. Besides that, taking the 3 ½ from 11:2 and the one from 13:5 is not what I would call a clear repetition. Trying to force a seven-year tribulation into this vision requires ignoring the meaning that Jesus’s words had for Jesus, for John, and for the people of John’s day.

  1. The global nature of this 7 year period of persecution is never stated; it is assumed because it is thought to be necessary. Scholars have assumed that the economic stranglehold described in chapter 13 require global control, but the believers at Thyatira were already going through that very thing.

This means there is no specific seven-year period of global tribulation prophesied in Revelation. Instead believers of all times, in all areas of the world, are expected to face and endure strong opposition and persecution. All believers in those situations should find encouragement in this book of the Bible we call Revelation. If you are not encouraged when you read Revelation you are not reading it correctly.

This is one of the most powerful realizations about Revelation that this method of study brings forth. All of the modern “last-days schematics” of the prophecy experts are built in some way around this idea of a seven-year tribulation that is global, terrible, and inescapable.  If there is no seven-year tribulation, their time-table falls apart. This is true for pre-trib, post-trib and mid-trib interpretations. None of them stand if there is no seven-year global persecution.

What about the theory that Jesus will return part way through the “Great Tribulation?” Wouldn’t that require using the numbers 3 ½ and 3 ½?

No, that theory does not hold water for the following reasons:

All the modern futuristic viewpoints are built on a 7-year period of tribulation. Even the Mid-Trib perspective still needs a 7-year tribulation; 3 ½ years must come at the halfway point of something, and that something is (supposedly) a 7 year worldwide tribulation. But no 7-year tribulation is found in Revelation.

In the book of Revelation, what are the 3 ½ year periods of time connected to? Are they clearly connected to a rapture? No! Neither 11:2 nor 13:5 are clearly connected to a rapture.

SUMMARY: There will indeed be persecution for the followers of God, but a global persecution is never clearly predicted, and a specific, 7-year period of time is never described. In order to arrive at a specific 7 year period of time that is unique in human history one must use highly questionable methods. This entire schematic is based on speculation!

Regardless of which study series you are reading, the next lesson is: 666

Footnotes

1: “Calamus reed”

Their measuring rod was typically a Calamus reed. In this passage of Revelation the word “reed” would be understood from context as a measuring reed. However, this reed is given more description for the sake of clarity; it is described as being like a staff. While the word for staff can mean several things, I believe its use here is to emphasize and clarify that the measuring rod given him was a large one, and to remind the reader of Ezekiel 40 in which the rod’s length was clearly defined (11 feet by our measurements). The fact that John was given a large tool with which to measure implies that it was a large task, i.e. he was to evaluate all the people of God, not just take a poll.

2

Is this measuring in preparation for punishment or reward? In Scripture it is more common that such measuring would precede punishment, but here it is only for reward because only the saints are measured, not those who are faking it (the outer court, v. 2), for they are just as evil as the rebellious (represented by the word “Gentiles,” v. 2), and God knows the latter deserve punishment. The contrast between true believers and the rebellious is a reminder that God will judge all men and punish or reward according to what He finds. The implication is that God will protect and reward the faithful; It is also a warning to those who are “faking it.” This evaluating serves to confirm that He is right and just when He rewards some and punishes others.

3

Which altar? Once again I take this to be the altar of incense, not the altar of sacrifice. There is a slight possibility that it could refer to the altar of sacrifice, and by doing so point to God’s provision of salvation through Jesus, the true sacrifice. However, that does not fit well with the idea of measuring, for we know the sacrifice of Jesus was perfect and complete. Revelation seems to be consistent in NOT using the altar as a picture of the blood of Jesus because that could cause confusion in the minds of some Jewish readers still struggling with the transition from Judaism to Christianity. Besides, it appears that John is told to evaluate the people of God, for which the altar of incense fits best.

4: “must absolutely exclude"

This is not just the word “exclude” in the sense that English readers are accustomed to; this is a very strong Greek word meaning “to expel, or cast out, or throw away.” Here exclusion is the intent, but since it is a strong word, I have chosen to express is as “must absolutely exclude.”

5

Here the outer court is used as a negative symbol.

6

Here Gentiles are used as a picture of those who are contrasted with true believers. We all know that there are followers of Jesus among the nations, and John is writing to many of them, but that is not the point. A contrast is being made using symbolism, and Gentiles is the symbol chosen for the rebellious.

7

To “trample” meant to show contempt. Contempt is the first step leading toward persecution. The first century Christians knew that John’s picture of contempt meant much more than that, it was another way of saying strong opposition or persecution.

8

The Greek verb used here usually means “to slay,” and the phrase means “slain to death, or mortally wounded to death.” The word “to death” is not needed, it simply adds emphasis to the already strong verb that means sure death.

9: “The deadly wound was healed"

This is obviously a mimicking of what God has done by raising Jesus from the dead. Christianity has been the only religion to have a leader and founder who has died and been raised back to life. The resurrection is unique. But here is one who will claim to have the same credentials. Apparently, many will be deceived by the master deceiver.

10

For an explanation on why 3 ½ plus 3 ½ does not equal 7 see my study topic entitled THERE IS NO 7 YEAR TRIBULATION IN REVELATION.