The Great Tribulation: Evidence For A First Century Fulfillment

What follows is some of the evidence which convinced me beyond doubt that the
biblical “great tribulation” was a first century event and is therefore not in our
future…talk about good news. So here we go…. (using the NASB)

Revelation 7:2-4,13-14
And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of
the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it
was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the
sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their
foreheads.” And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel….Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Revelation 7 clearly tells us that the 144,000 (the remnant of Israel) came out of
the great tribulation. Now to Revelation 14…

Revelation 14:1-4
Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.

Revelation 14 tells us that the 144,000 were the “first fruits” to God and to the
Lamb purchased from among men. Nothing could be clearer.

Now before we go further, notice the term “first fruits” in Revelation 14. The
Greek word is “aparche”, and is used 8 times in the new testament and means
“first of fruit, by implication, first of a kind”. Let’s look at a few examples.

Christ was the “first fruits” (first to rise from Hades) of those who slept
(1 Corinthians 15:20)

Epaenetus, was the first fruit (first convert) of Asia (Romans 16:5)

The house of Stephanas, was the first fruits (first converts) of Achaia
(1 Corinthians 16:15)

James, writing to the “twelve tribes of the diaspora” said that they were a kind of first fruits among His creatures (James 1:18)

The word “aparche” when referring to people in the new testament always refers
to the first generation of Christians. They were the first fruits of the gospel
message, that is, the first to hear and believe the gospel. So, when Revelation 14
tells us that the 144,000 were the first fruits to God and the Lamb purchased from
among men, this means that they were the first generations of redeemed
Christians. More specifically, the first generation of redeemed Hebrew Christians.

Therefore, consider the following:

The 144,000 came out of the great tribulation (Revelation 7)

The 144,000 were the “first fruits” to God and to the Lamb purchased
(redeemed) from among men (Revelation 14)

But, the first fruits can only refer the first century generation of redeemed

Therefore, the great tribulation must have been a first century event since the first fruit-first century generation of Christians came out of it.

This is simply scripture interpreting scripture. However, this is not the only
evidence. Notice how the words of Jesus confirm what we have said above.

Mathew 24:15-16,21,34
Therefore, when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of
through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader
understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains…. For then
there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will…. “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

Notice, Jesus places the “great tribulation” in his generation. Speaking to his first
century audience he says “when you see”…. then shall be great tribulation”….
this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

The reason why John wrote in Revelation that the “first fruits” (first century
Christians) would go through and come out of the “great tribulation was because
Jesus had prophesied it 35 years earlier on the Mount of Olives. We therefore have perfect harmony between Jesus and John. Yet that’s not all. We now go to the book of Daniel.

Daniel 12:1
Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of
your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never
occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.

There is no doubt that Jesus is quoting the prophet Daniel concerning the great
tribulation in Mathew 24:21. But here is the point. Daniel also limits the time of
the great tribulation on Israel to the first century.

Daniel 12:6-7
And one said to the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river,
“How long will it be until the end of these wonders?” I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his
left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for
a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed.

Notice, one man asked another when these things (including the great tribulation
of verse 1) would be accomplished, “How long will it be until the end of these
wonders”? The other man tells him “as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed”.

Now ask yourself these questions….

1. Who was the “holy people” of Daniel’s days that the man referred to?

2. What was their “power”?

3. Has that power been “shattered”? If so, when?

It seems to me that the answers are self-evident…

1. The “holy people” were the Jews (old covenant Israel), Daniel’s people.

2. Their “power” (dominion, authority etc.) was their covenantal relationship
with Yahweh (the promises / covenants God made to their Fathers)

3. That power was completely “shattered” when the old covenant “world”
ceased to exist through the destruction of Jerusalem and the casting out of
Israel as a covenant people in AD70 (Mathew 21, Galatians 4, Hebrews

Therefore, Daniel places the end of the great tribulation of Israel no later than the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70. Once again, we have perfect harmony between Jesus, John, and Daniel.

To summarize:

Daniel said the “great tribulation” would be accomplished no later than the fall of Jerusalem in AD70… In the first century.

John said the “great tribulation” would be something that the first generation of Christians (first fruit Christians) would experience… In the first century.

Jesus said the “great tribulation” was to come upon Israel for shedding the
blood of the prophets (Mathew 23:29f) in his contemporary generation (Mathew 24:15-16,21,34)…. In the first century

Therefore, both old and new testaments are in perfect agreement that the great
tribulation was a first century event which the first century Christians would go
through, and come out of…. some dead, some alive.

One last thought.
Since there is no future great tribulation, this means that there is:

1. No future abomination of desolation to initiate it
2. No need for a future rapture to escape it
3. No future antichrist to rule during it
4. No future judgment and destruction of Israel because of it

We could obviously go on and on, but simply put, there is nothing to fear
concerning a future great tribulation, why fear history?

Since the great tribulation is in fact history, this means that the great tribulation
described in the book of Revelation must be in our past, and must therefore refer
to the period great tribulation which historically preceded the fall of Jerusalem
and the demise of the old covenant world in AD70.

This one powerful truth – that the great tribulation has been fulfilled – has
massive implications for the dating of Revelation, its interpretation, and for all
“futuristic paradigms” in general. I hope this short study was edifying to you, and
glorifying to our God.

May the Lord bless you as you study his word and seek his truth!!

Dan Dery
Titus 1:9

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