Dispensationalists look to the last seven years of the present age known as the Tribulation Period when God will pour out great judgments upon the world because of the sins and wickedness of men. Although not the ultimate judgments, these terrible judgments associated with the Tribulation Period are pictured as seven seals opened (Revelation 6), seven trumpets blown (Revelation 8-9), and seven bowls poured out (Revelation 16) in God’s last effort to reconcile man to God through the grace of Christ.
Dispensationalists teach that you don’t have to worry about the Tribulation Period because the “church” will be raptured before it begins. So who remains to suffer the tribulation? If the church is gone, all those left will be Gentile unbelievers and Jews. This presumes God has separate redemptive plans for Gentiles and Jews, which I don’t accept.
Dr. David Reagan sees this separate plan because of Daniel 9. Daniel was told by God’s angel that there would be a period of 490 years, called the 70 weeks of years, in which God will deal with the godlessness of the Jewish people. God will attempt to accomplish some very specific purposes, and one of His most important objectives involves the salvation of a great remnant of the Jewish people. For the Jews, the prophetic time-clock stopped ticking when Jesus died on the cross, for the Jewish people had refused to accept Jesus as their Messiah. Some 483 prophetic years had passed, according to Daniel’s prophecy, when the Messiah was “cut off.” Seven prophetic years as they relate to the Jews remain. The last seven years, also called Daniel’s Seventieth Week, have been put off until after the Church Age. Think of it as God calling a time out in a football game. The last seven prophetic years are waiting to be completed. These seven years are in reality the Tribulation. [Dr. David Reagan]
A Time of Distress Like No Other
Mankind has suffered tribulation throughout the ages but dispensationalists distinguish a future tribulation unlike any we have experienced. It is a seven year period that comprises Daniel’s 70th week ending with the second coming of Christ and the setting up of the Millennial Kingdom.
One of the passages Dispensationalists point to that describes this future time of tribulation is taken from the Olivet Discourse.
“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel–let the reader understand– then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. – [Matthew 24:15-28]
I’ve written about this passage elsewhere (The End of the World) and believe when it’s read in context, Jesus was not talking about some future events but things that were going to come to pass on the generation living at that time. Preterists take a more optimistic view than dispensationalists and see the time of great distress as something that occurred in the troubles of the early church culminating in the destruction of the temple in AD70.
That being said, I do believe there is tribulation ahead of us. I find it difficult to accept the full preterist interpretation that Rev. 21-22 has already been fulfilled. It is difficult indeed to find John’s depiction of the eternal state as fulfilled in this age—Satan destroyed, no more curse or dying, all things new, etc. Rather, I would tend to agree with the partial preterist view that some of these prophecies are yet to be fulfilled.
Regardless of whether the tribulation represents the judgment of God on the nation of Israel in 70AD or if it’s some future event, man will still not avoid God’s final judgment.