“Tribulation” And The Lord’s Return

I am often asked whether or not the “tribulation” is a seven year period which immediately precedes the second coming of Jesus Christ, or is it the entire period of time between Christ’s first and second advent, the so-called “great tribulation?”

This is an important question for several reasons. First, when most people think of the “tribulation,” they are thinking of the popular dispensational notion that at (or about) the time of the Rapture, the world enters a seven-year period—“the tribulation”—in which the Antichrist comes to power after the unexpected and instantaneous removal of all believers. The Antichrist then makes a seven-year peace treaty with Israel, only to turn upon the nation after three and a half years, plunging the entire world into the final geopolitical crisis which ends with the battle of Armageddon. Dispensationalists believe the seven year tribulation is a time of horrific cruelty and persecution for those who are “left behind,” and that the only way to be saved during this period is to refuse to take the mark of the beast, and not worship the beast or his image, which will likely result in martyrdom. The critical flaw with the dispensational doctrine of a future seven-year tribulation is that it is nowhere found in Scripture—although dispensationalists make appeal to Daniel 9:24-27 (more on this below).

A second reason why this question is important has to do with the rise of various forms of preterism. Full-preterism is properly considered a heresy. But so-called “partial” preterism is not. Preterists (I am speaking here of the orthodox, “partial” variety) contend that Jesus Christ returned in the clouds in A.D. 70 to execute judgment upon apostate Israel, the city of Jerusalem, and the Jewish temple, and its sacrificial system. Those who hold to the various orthodox forms of preterism believe that the great tribulation spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 24:21, has come and gone with the events associated with the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by the Romans. All that remains is the Lord’s return.

In light of the tendency to relegate a time of “great” tribulation to the distant past or the immediate future, it is important to briefly survey the biblical teaching on this topic. When we do so, it becomes clear that the time of “great tribulation” cannot be tied exclusively to the events of A.D. 70, nor to the seven years immediately before our Lord’s return. The Bible does not speak of tribulation in this manner, and as we know, many of God’s people have already faced periods of horrific tribulation following the days of Christ’s redemptive tribulation on the cross, and that such tribulation for the people of God will continue until Jesus returns at the end of the age to raise the dead, judge the world, and make all things new. Read More»

Kim Riddlebarger | “The Great Tribulation—When and How Long?” | October 6, 2022



    Post authored by:

  • Heidelblog
    Author Image

    The Heidelblog has been in publication since 2007. It is devoted to recovering the Reformed confession and to helping others discover Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

    More by Heidelblog ›

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. Is it possible to hold to an amillennial framework yet see a concentrated tribulation right before the end? I ask this because the sequence in Matthew 24 seems to posit a connection between the abomination of desolation, the tribulation, and the Return of Christ. The Return of Christ terminates the “Tribulation.” That’s my reading of Matthew 24. I do agree with all of Dr Riddlebarger’s critiques of preterism.

  2. For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he swore by himself, saying, surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.
    And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.
    Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:
    That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
    Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which enters into that within the veil;
    Where the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

Comments are closed.