I get asked this question quite a bit, or I get told by someone by email that we are in the 3rd seal time...wrong.
To the Jewish faith...
The 7 year time Christians call 'the tribulation' is known as 'the time of Jacob's trouble' and many other names in Judaism. When Jesus spoke of it in Matthew 24 the concept of a 7 year time of difficulty in the earth had been well established since Daniel 9:24-27, when he spoke of 70 weeks of years (490 years) determined for Israel. There are about 300 mostly Old Testament references to this 7 year time.
Daniel had been taken captive to Babylon and Jerusalem was destroyed. Jeremiah had prophesied Israel would be in Babylon for 70 years, and Daniel read that (Daniel 9:2) and was praying and repenting for his people. The angel Gabriel came to Daniel (9:21) and told him 490 years in 70 sets of 7 years had been determined for Israel. Gabriel said the countdown of those 490 years would start when the command went out to rebuild Jerusalem, a process that would take 49 years, or 7 prophetic years, to complete.
That is in fact what happened, the decree went out in 457BC and rebuilding took until 408BC. These things are covered in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah in particular. 7 of the 70 years were therefore taken in the rebuilding, and Gabriel told him after that there would be 62 more weeks, or 434 years until Messiah came, but He would be killed, 'but not for Himself' (9:26).
Allowing for differences between our calendar and the Jewish calendar, that takes us to about the year 28AD, when Jesus began His ministry. That used up 69 of the 70 weeks.
This is why everyone was asking if John the Baptist or Jesus was the Messiah - they knew they were in the time frame when Messiah would appear. They were expecting Messiah.
Here was their problem
When Gabriel told Daniel at the end of 70 weeks or 490 years from the time the decree went out to rebuild Jerusalem, he said at the end of that 70th week Messiah would usher in everlasting righteousness. It would be the end of sins and iniquity, and prophecy would be sealed up at that time - the 'complete' had come.
So the people in Jesus' day were expecting a Messiah who would defeat the Romans using supernatural power. That was likely what Judas was thinking when he betrayed Jesus, trying to force Him to use His power to defeat the Romans.
Even before He ascended, in Acts 1:6-7 they asked Jesus: "Now are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" - (Now are you going to kick the Romans out? Now since you are resurrected, are you going to take control of the earth?) Jesus told them it wasn't for them to know the things the Father keeps within Himself.
The mystery kept secret from mankind for ages and generations
That leaves Israel with 69 of the 70 weeks fulfilled, and confusion; What happened? Where is that 70th week? Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:1-10, in part:
"How by revelation He made to me the mystery which was kept secret from the sons of man but is now revealed by His apostles and prophets, that the Gentiles would be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, partakers of Messiah..."
That was the mystery the Father kept secret - He was going to give not just Israel, but the whole world, all Gentile people, the opportunity to experience His salvation through Jesus Christ. Paul said it was not revealed to mankind until Pentecost - it was a secret until then.
Colossians 1:26-27: "Even the mystery which has been hidden from ages and generations, but is now revealed to the saints. That God would make the riches of His glory known to the Gentiles, which is Christ in you (Gentiles), the hope of glory."
Romans 16:25-26: "...the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery which had been kept secret since the world began...but now is revealed and made known to ALL nations..."
This is why Daniel was told there would be 70 weeks and then Messiah would set up His kingdom - but couldn't be told there was a roughly 2,000 year period of time (2 prophetic days) so that Gentiles could receive salvation. They expected Jesus to kick the Romans out, not realizing their rejection of Messiah afforded the Father the opportunity to open His salvation to the rest of the nations.
In Luke 4:18-20 Jesus is in Nazareth and given Isaiah 61, and reads v1 and part of 2: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to preach good news to the meek (teachable). He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to open the prison to those who are bound, (2) to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" ...and Jesus closed it right there and sat down.
Jesus stopped mid-sentence. The full reading of v2 says this: "To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God." Jesus stopped after 'the acceptable year of the Lord'. Why?
Because He could not tell anyone there was a 2,000 year gap between the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God (His 2nd coming). When He sat down having read only part of the passage, He said that part had been fulfilled at that time.
This is why when reading Old Testament prophecy the reader must be careful to understand they only knew in part, and knew little of the coming time of the Gentiles. There are only the most vague references to it, like Hosea 6:2: "After 2 days (2,000 years) He will revive us, and the 3rd day (1,000 years) we will live in His sight."
So are we in the Tribulation right now? In other words, are we in that 70th week? No. And next week I'll start explaining why...thanks for reading through this longer than usual first in the series....blessings,
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