In my debate with Thomas Ice on May 26, 2006, on whether the Great Tribulation is past or future, I asked Ice to offer in evidence a single verse from Revelation that says there will be a seven-year tribulation period. Although there are lots of sevens in Revelation (the number appears more than fifty times), and lots of seven things, everything from seven churches (1:4), spirits (3:1), candlesticks (2:1), and stars (1:16) to seven mountains (17:9), heads (12:3), kings (17:10), and plagues (21:9),[1] there is no mention of seven years. In fact, “seven years” appears only once in the entire New Testament (Luke 2:36), and this verse has nothing to do with a Tribulation period.

As is the case with the pretrib Rapture, the rebuilding of the temple, Israel becoming a nation again, Jesus reigning on the earth for a thousand years, the antichrist making a covenant with the Jews and breaking it, here is another key dispensational doctrine that has no verse supporting it in the most important prophetic book of the Bible. It’s legitimate to ask why Revelation does not mention seven years since the time is critical to Ice’s dispensational scenario. There are two forty-two-month periods (11:2; 13:5), two 1,260-day periods (11:3; 12:6), and one “a time and times and half a time” (12:14), each adding up to three and one-half years. If they are added up, the result is seventeen and one-half years. If the years run concurrently, then each of these time periods is describing the same three and one-half year period of time. Ice did not explain how he gets seven years out of these five references. Which of the three and one-half years goes with the first half of the Tribulation, and which of the three and one-half years goes with the second half?

In the Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, of which Ice is an editor, the division is explained this way: “John in Revelation divides [the Tribulation] into two periods of three and one-half years each or 1,260 days each, a total of seven years.”[2] Where in Revelation does it say this? There is no such specific breakdown of time periods found anywhere in the Bible.

LaHaye attempts to find his needed seven years in Revelation 11:2–3 where we read of a forty-two-month period (11:2) and a 1,260-day span of time (11:3). He combines these two time periods to get his needed seven years. He says that the “forty-two months,” during which the Holy City will be “tread under foot” (11:2), “cannot happen in the first half of the Tribulation.” It follows then that the “forty-two months” of 11:2 make up the second half of the seven-year period. Confused? It gets even more confusing as we try to describe what LaHaye insists is “the most logical view of second-coming Scriptures when taken for their plain, literal meaning whenever possible.” How is it possible that the period of “twelve hundred and sixty days” (11:3), which equals “forty-two months” and comes right after 11:2, takes place in time, according to LaHaye, before the events of 11:2? If the “twelve hundred and sixty days” of 11:3 refer to the first half of the seven-year Tribulation period, then why don’t the “two witnesses” of Revelation 11 appear earlier? We should expect to find three and one-half years in Revelation 4 where LaHaye says the Rapture takes place and the first half of the seven-year Tribulation period begins. We don’t. In fact, all the three-and-one-half-year periods appear more than halfway through Revelation. LaHaye has to do a lot of juggling to get his five halves to add up to one seven-year period. If the above paragraph lost you, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

I’m still waiting for Ice to answer my question from the debate: Where in Revelation is there a verse that says there will be a seven-year tribulation period?


[1] Henry M. Morris_, The Revelation Record_ (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1983), 28–30. Morris lists “seven years of judgments (11:3; 12:6, 14; 13:5).” Not one of these references mentions “seven years.”
[2] LaHaye identifies the “forty-two months” of Revelation 11:2 and 12:6 as describing the same period of time. See LaHaye, _Prophecy Study Bible,_ 1380, 1383.