Humans are naturally egocentric, and Christians aren’t exempt from this state of mind. This can really be seen in the futurist (Premillennial) view of Bible Prophecy. When a believer states that he believes the events of the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21) to be still future, what that person usually means is that Jesus was talking about the current generation. “Convinced of their own importance, they are unable to think of themselves as living at any other time than the climax of history.”1 For some reason, Christians get upset over the idea that the Great Tribulation is past history. They are dismayed to find out that all of these horrible things were inflicted upon first century believers, so that we won’t have to endure them. They are uncomfortable with the idea that no world government leader is going to cut off people’s heads for not accepting his mandated tattoo or computer chip implant. Maybe they will be pleased to know that there are still plenty of places on this earth where they can go to get beheaded for Jesus. I, for one, am glad that I’ll never have to face what the Apostle’s did, or at least I hope not.
The Great Tribulation, according to Scripture
Yes, you read it correctly. The Great Tribulation is indeed past history, and Jesus’ words concerning this could not have been any clearer. Consider the following:
1.) Jesus tied the Great Tribulation to events prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD (See Matthew 24:1-2).
2.) Jesus warned His Disciples that “they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake.” (Matthew 24:9).
3.) Jesus warned His Apostles to flee Judea during the Great Tribulation, when they saw Jerusalem surrounded by armies (Matthew 24:15-21; Luke 20:20-24).
4.) Jesus said that the days of the Great Tribulation would be cut short for the elect’s sake, which would make no sense of the elect are going to be raptured before the Tribulation begins (Matthew 24:22).
5.) Jesus clearly said that all of the things He spoke about would happen within the Apostle’s generation (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32).
6.) Jesus threatened to throw the First Century Church in Thyatira into the great tribulation (Revelation 2:22), which would make no sense if they would all be dead 2,000 years before the great tribulation began?
Based on these and other clear statements, on what basis will one try to make the Great Tribulation a future event? Those who do are forced to play some literary gymnastics with the Scriptures. It was the Apostles who were exhorted to endure the Tribulation. It was they who would be persecuted, hated, and killed. Nothing in Jesus words even hinted at the idea that He had the 21st Century in mind, or that the church would have to wait 1,800 years before Darby and Scofield would come along and uncover the true meaning of the Great Tribulation.
The Mysterious 2,000 year gap
In order to make their doomsday prophecies concerning the future work, Dispensationalists have to invent gaps of about 2,000 years and place them between certain Old Testament prophecies. Consider this amazing quote from Todd Strandberg’s Rapture Ready Website considering Daniel 9:24-27:
“And then something strange happened: The Heavenly clock stopped. 69 of the 70 weeks had passed and all that was prophesied to happen during those 483 years had come to pass but there was still one week (7 years) left.”
What defense or explanation does the writer offer for this mysterious “Heavenly Clock” stopping? He writes, “…in the New Testament we're also told that while God is dealing with the Church, time ceases to exist for Israel (Acts 15:13-18).” I challenge anyone with a Bible to look up Acts 15:13-18 to see if it says any such thing, or you can simply click on the link provided.
H.A. Ironside agrees, stating that “The seventieth week has been postponed by God Himself. The moment Messiah died on the cross the prophetic clock stopped. There has not been one tick on that clock for nineteen centuries. It will not begin to go again until the entire present age has come to an end, and Israel will once more be taken up by God.”
An obvious question must be asked regarding this 1,976 year (and counting) gap between Daniel’s 69th and 70th week. Why didn’t Daniel mention it? After all, such a large gap is pretty significant in a 490 year prophecy. Charles Ryrie, as well as most of his dispensationalist followers, explains it by suggesting that the Old Testament prophets did not see the church age.
“The church is a mystery in the sense that it was completely unrevealed in the Old Testament and now revealed in the New Testament” - Charles C. Ryrie
There are several problems with this interpretation. First, it is clear that Bible Prophecy was indeed fulfilled after Christ’s death on the cross (For just one of many examples, see Joel 2:28-32 cf. Acts 2:16-21). How could this be if the prophetic time clock had stopped at Christ’s death?
Second, Christ Himself applied Daniel’s “Abomination of Desolation” (Daniel 9:27) to the Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70 (Compare Matthew 24:15-21 with Luke 21:20-24).
Third, contrary to Ryrie’s statement above, the prophets not only saw the church age, they looked forward to it. (See Acts 2:16-21; Acts 3:24-26; Acts 15:14-18; Galatians 3:8 for a few examples).
How consistent are these people with their interpretation? The Rapture Ready Website explains why they feel that the current nation of Israel is important to Bible Prophecy.
“Israel is important, however, because God made promises to Israel that will be fulfilled. One of the Bible's greatest predictions about Israel has already come to pass. In 1948, Israel was reborn as a nation. The rebirth of the Jewish state should have put aside any doubts that God had abandoned the apple of His eye.”
This belief is common among futurists, but begs the question, “Has the Heavenly prophetic clock stopped for Israel or not?” They can’t have it both ways. If the heavenly clock has stopped, then 1948 cannot be a fulfillment of Bible Prophecy (and by the way, it isn’t). The Rapture Ready Website itself has a section called Rapture Ready News (Events related to prophecy) which is updated daily. Apparently the belief that God’s Prophetic Clock has stopped doesn’t seem to faze Dispensationalists when it comes to current events.
Under the Glossary heading of the Rapture Ready Website, a Critical Definition of Preterism states that “Under preterism you are basically left to just waiting for Jesus to return.” What?!! No Beheadings, Satanic World Dictators, or 100 pound Hailstones falling from the sky?!!!! How disappointing huh? You have to wonder what these guys think about the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
Having established that 1.) God’s time clock has not stopped; and 2.) The Old Testament prophets did see the church age, the question still remains. Where does that large gap between Daniel’s 69th and 70th weeks come from? The answer: Someone made it up out of thin air. The Bible itself says nothing about such a gap. But this is really the only way to get Dispensationalism to work. I could go one with other strange teachings along this line, such as the idea that 144,000 Jews will be saved after the Holy Spirit leaves planet earth, but this should suffice for now. There is no Biblical reason to believe in a future 7-year tribulation period. The Bible’s message is one of Victory, not escape.
For More Information, I recommend the following:
Dispensationalism: Israel and the Church by Grover Gunn
The Great Tribulation by David Chilton
Daniel's Last Vision and Prophecy James Farquharson
Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope by Keith Mathison
1 David Chilton – Days of Vengeance, p 40