What about a six-year Tribulation?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Several years ago, this author was first introduced to such a view when he heard a Sunday School teacher mention it. According to this brother, the future Tribulation period will be a mere six years long as opposed to the commonly-held seven. His argument is outlined thusly: Since one year elapsed between Acts chapter 1 and Acts chapter 7, just six years of the prophetic program now remain before Christ’s Second Coming. In other words, not only was the prophetic program operating when God paused it to save and commission Saul of Tarsus in Acts chapter 9, Daniel’s 70th Week was evidently ongoing too. As per that Sunday School teacher’s reckoning, this the Dispensation of the Grace of God splits Daniel’s 70th Week into a one-year period (history) and a six-year period (future). Is this a sound position to take? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

Our main text is chapter 9 of Daniel: “[24] Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. [25] Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

“[26] And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. [27] And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

Through the Prophet Daniel, the Holy Spirit outlines a period of “seventy weeks” that will run prior to Christ’s Second Coming. This word “week” in Hebrew functions like our English term “dozen.” Just as “dozen” is a set of 12, a “week” here is a group of seven. The modern English word is “septet,” but in obsolete English it is “hebdomad.” In summary, Daniel speaks of seventy septets, 70 times 7, or 490 items. What is the noun that corresponds to “week” here? Is it a week of days (as our common usage)? No. It is a week of years—a “week” is seven years. The “week” of Daniel 9:27 is a seven-year period, and it can be divided into 42 months and 42 months (Revelation 11:2), or 1260 days and 1260 days (Revelation 11:3; Revelation 12:6). Daniel 12:7 speaks of the latter half as “a time [1 year], times [+2 years], and an half [+½ year),” giving a total of 3½ years. You may also see Daniel 7:25, “a time [1 year] and times [+2 years] and the dividing of times [+½ year].” Revelation 12:14 says, “a time [1 year], and times [+2 years], and half a time [+½ year].” In totality, Daniel’s 70 weeks run 490 years—30 days per month, and 360 days in a year.

According to Daniel 9:25, there will be “seven weeks and threescore [60] and two weeks” between the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s city wall and Christ’s crucifixion. That equates to 69 weeks of years, or 483 years. The Bible divides those 483 years into 49 years (7 weeks of years) and 434 years (62 weeks of years). Christ dies between the 69th Week and the 70th Week. When Jesus rode the baby donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Matthew chapter 21), the 69th Week expired that very day (cf. Luke 19:28-44, especially verses 41-44). He was crucified just a few days later, in perfect accordance with Daniel. That leaves one week of years—or seven years—to be fulfilled after the cross of Calvary. Have those seven years already begun? Did the first year come to pass in the early chapters of Acts?

Let us begin by asking a simple question. What exactly initiates Daniel’s 70th Week? Dear friend, all we have to do is read the Bible! Daniel 9:27 again: And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” The Antichrist (the “prince” of verse 26) will sign a seven-year peace covenant, and this is precisely the basis for Daniel’s 70th Week. We find no such man or event in the opening chapters of Acts. No one contracted any peace treaty with Israel between Acts chapters 1 and 7. The Bible is silent, so we would greatly err to start those final seven years during Acts.

We indeed agree the time elapsed during the first seven chapters of Acts was one year. In Luke 13:6-9, we read of a parable the Lord Jesus put forth: “[6] He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. [7] Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? [8] And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: [9] And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” For three years of earthly ministry, Christ sought spiritual fruit in Israel. He found none, for their works-religion could not give them a right standing before God. Therefore, He cursed the fig tree in Matthew 21:18-22 (see our related study linked at the end of this article).

After His three years of earthly ministry, Jesus gave Israel a one-year-long renewed opportunity of repentance. This is the early Acts period, when the Holy Spirit came down (chapter 2 onward) and preached to convert lost Israel through the Little Flock (Jewish believing remnant, especially the 12 Apostles). Apostate Israel responded by killing the Prophet Stephen in Acts chapter 7, thereby committing the final act of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, leading to her temporary fall (see Matthew 12:31-32). However, we should not consider the one-year period of Acts chapters 1 through 7 as part of Daniel’s 70th Week. After all, like Calvary itself, early Acts sits in the gap between the 69th Week and 70th Week.

It is better to see Daniel’s 70th Week—a seven-year period—as entirely future from our Dispensation of Grace. That 70th Week was not even partially fulfilled yet. One last note to mention. None of the previous 69 weeks were broken up. They were all whole weeks of years—intact seven-year segments—in every instance during those prior 483 years. How incongruous it would be to make the final week two sections! Nay, it is more Scriptural (and simpler) to leave it as the standard seven-year Tribulation being future from us.

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Also see:
» Why did Jesus curse the “poor” fig tree?
» Is the Antichrist alive right now?
» Will the Antichrist be a Jew or a Gentile?