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The Seven-Year Tribulation: Clarifying Tommy Ice’s Clarifications (7)

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As I’ve shown in previous articles (they can be referenced here, here, here, here, here, and here), Tommy Ice has not supplied a single verse that supports either a pre-tribulational rapture or a rebuilt temple. Let’s move on to the third question that I ask of dispensationalists:

 3. Where in Revelation is the seven-year tribulation found?

Here is Tommy’s attempt to answer my question:

The answer to the third question is found in Revelation 11:2–3 and also in 12:6, 14; 13:5. Even if the length of the seven-year tribulation were not found in Revelation, it would be enough that it is spoken of in Daniel 9:27 and alluded to in Daniel 7:25. Whether this information is in the Old Testament or the New, we know that the Old is just as inspired as the New. We know from Daniel 9:27 that there will be a final seven year period to be divided in the middle: “but in the middle of the week.” Thus, a time of three and a half years is established as half of the seven-year period. The Bible speaks of events that will take place during each half. Revelation 11:3 tells us of the two witnesses who will prophecy for 1,260 days, during the first half of the seventieth week of Daniel. While Revelation 11:2; 12:6, 14; 13:5 and Daniel 7:25 speak of the second half of the seventieth week. Since all of the time statements equal three and a half years (1,260 days; times, time, and half a time; forty-two months), one just has to apply simple math to add the two factors of three and a half plus three and a half equals seven. So there you have it, a seven-year tribulation period in the Book of Revelation.

It’s legitimate to ask why Revelation does not include the phrase “seven years.” One would expect that a foundational principle of a prophetic system – a seven-year tribulation – would be found in the book that’s supposed to be about that foundational principle -- a seven-year tribulation period. There are seven stars, seven golden lampstands, seven churches, seven spirits, seven lamps, seven seals, seven horns, seven eyes, seven angels, seven trumpets, seven peals of thunder, seven thousand people, seven heads, seven diadems, seven plagues, seven golden bowls, seven mountains, and seven kings, but no seven years.

I hope you noticed that Tommy has to go to the book of Daniel to answer my question about a seven-year tribulation period in Revelation. “Even if the length of the seven-year tribulation were not found in Revelation, it would be enough that it is spoken of in Daniel 9:27 and alluded to in Daniel 7:25.” There’s no “even if.” There is no mention of a seven-year tribulation period in Revelation.

There are two forty-two-month periods (Rev. 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 3.5 years. How do we know which of the five 3.5-year periods should be added together to come with 7 years or that any of them should be added together?

Let’s follow Tommy’s line of argument. “Revelation 11:3 tells us of the two witnesses who will prophecy for 1,260 days, during the first half of the seventieth week of Daniel.” It’s Tommy’s position that Revelation 11:3 describes the first half of the seven-year tribulation period.  “While Revelation 11:2; 12:6, 14; 13:5 and Daniel 7:25 speak of the second half of the seventieth week.” The first mention of the 3.5 years refers to the second half of the seven-year tribulation period while the second mention of the 3.5 years refers to the first half of the seven-year tribulation period.

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 the first 3.5 years in Revelation 4 where Tommy says the “rapture” takes place and begins the tribulation period.  In fact, all the 3.5-year periods appear more than halfway through Revelation.

Fellow dispensationalist John F. Walvoord disagrees with Tommy Ice that the “twelve hundred and sixty days” of 11:3 refer to the same period of time as the “forty-two months” of 11:2:

[From the fact that the two witnesses in Revelation 11:1–13] pour out divine judgment upon the earth and need divine protection lest they be killed, it implies that they are in the latter half of the seven years when awful persecution will afflict the people of God, as this protection would not be necessary in the first three and one-half years. The punishments and judgments the witnesses inflict on the world also seem to fit better in the great tribulation period. [1]

The Tribulation period in Revelation is 3.5 years long. Since it takes place just before Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70, we should look for 3.5 years of tribulation in that time frame. Revelation 1:1 says that the events in Revelation are to take place “shortly” for “the time is near” (1:3). Kenneth L. Gentry, the leading authority on when Revelation was written, shows how Revelation’s time frame fits with first-century history.

Now from the time of this official imperial engagement in the Jewish War (early Spring, A.D. 67) until the time of the Temple’s destruction and Jerusalem’s fall (early September, A.D. 70) is a period right at the symbolic figure of 1260 days (or 42 months or 3 1/2 years). Indeed, counting backward from early September, A.D. 70, we arrive 42 months earlier at early March — in the Spring of 67! Surely the figure cannot be dismissed as sheer historical accident. Though the time-frame undoubtedly carries with it the foreboding spiritual connotation associated with a broken seven (3 1/2 is one-half of the perfect number 7), nevertheless, we are also driven to recognize the providence of God in these historical affairs. In keeping with divinely ordained symbol, in fulfillment of divinely inspired prophecy, it did, as a matter of fact, take Rome 3 1/2 years to trample Israel and the city of Jerusalem totally. [2]

The historical and biblical facts point to a period of three and one-half years of tribulation just before the destruction of Jerusalem that took place in A.D. 70.

Since Revelation does not mention a seven-year Tribulation period, Tommy must go elsewhere to find the needed seven years. He attempts to manufacture the period from the book of Daniel, in particular, Daniel 9:24–27.

Tommy separates the final seven years (one week) from the other 483 years (69 weeks) of the prophecy and inserts an indeterminate period called the “church age” between the two time periods. It looks something like this: 483 years + a gap in time called “the church age” that is nearly 2000 years in length + 7 years that make up a future Great Tribulation. The church age continues to push the final seven years into the future until the “rapture” of the church.

Tim LaHaye, a co-author with Tommy Ice, argues that “483 of the 490 years ‘decreed’ for Daniel’s people have already elapsed; the ‘divine counter’ stopped just before the death of Jesus, with seven years still left to go. That remaining seven-year period is what we call the Tribulation.” [3] J. Barton Payne, author of the comprehensive Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, [4] sums up the chronology and timing of events in Daniel 9:24–27 by following a more literal approach that finds serious problems with Tommy’s position. Like so many other scholars, Payne does not see a gap between the 69th and 70th weeks: “There could hardly have been a more miraculously accurate prediction than was this! The 490 years then conclude with the three and a half years that remained, during which period the testament was to be confirmed to Israel (cf. Acts 2:38).” [5]

According to Payne and contrary to Tommy Ice and dispensationalists in general, the remaining seven years follow immediately after the 483 years and encompass three and one-half years of Jesus’ earthly ministry to the Jews (“the lost sheep of the house of Israel” [Matt. 15:24]) and three and one-half years of the early church’s ministry to the Jews (Acts 1–9).

Daniel 9:24 states that “seventy weeks have been decreed for your people [the Jews] and your holy city [Jerusalem].” Paul was converted soon after Stephen’s death, the same year Jesus was crucified. Paul wrote that he met with Peter “three years later” in Jerusalem “to become acquainted with Cephas [Peter]” (Gal. 1:18). At that same time Peter was given instructions that the gospel was to go to the Gentiles (Acts 10–11). Paul’s meeting with Peter and Peter’s instructions concerning the Gentiles occurred three and a half years after the Crucifixion, marking the end of the seventy weeks “for Israel.” This has been the standard interpretation for centuries, except for minor differences in details. [6]

We’ve seen so far that there is no seven-year span of time mentioned in Revelation. Now we’ll see that there is no gap in time between the first 483 years and the final 7 years of Daniel 9:24–27. Let’s look at how the Bible presents the seventy-year time period of Daniel 9:24–27. Because Israel refused to honor the Jubilee years — seventy in all — God sent the nation into captivity for seventy years so the land could enjoy its long overdue Sabbath rest (Lev. 25:1–13, 18–22): “Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it” (Lev. 26:34–35, 43; 2 Chron. 36:21–23; Jer. 25:12; 29:10).

Is there any indication of a gap in this seventy-year period? No! The near end of this period of judgment and captivity under the Babylonians leads Daniel to study the Bible for confirmation of the terms of captivity:

“I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years” (Dan. 9:2).

The seventy-year period of captivity as described in Jeremiah 29:10 is a pattern for the “seventy weeks” in Daniel 9:24–27. This means that “‘The seventy weeks’ prophecy must be interpreted with regard to history in as realistic a way as Daniel did for the prophecy of Jeremiah.” [7] From this alone we can conclude that since the seventy years of captivity were consecutive with no gap in time, the “seventy weeks” must also be consecutive, seeing that nothing in the text makes us think otherwise. “Had there been a gap in Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jer. 29:10), Daniel could never have understood the years of the captivity.” [8] Daniel bases his prayer for restoration back to the land on the certainty of the reestablishment promised by God when the seventy years were completed (Jer. 29:10). God made a covenant. What right do we have to conclude that God would somehow change the way time is ordinarily kept when we come to the use of another period of “seventy” in the same chapter (Dan. 9:2, 24)?

The notable Old Testament scholar E. W. Hengstenberg describes the period of seventy weeks of years

as one that will continue uninterruptedly from its commencement to its close, or completion, both with regard to the entire period of seventy [weeks of years], and also as to the several parts (7, 62, and 1) into which the seventy are divided. What can be more evident than this? Exactly seventy weeks in all are to elapse; and how can anyone imagine that there is an interval between the sixty-nine and the one, when these together make up the seventy? [9]

To further solidify the position that the seventy weeks of years are to be interpreted as a unit, Milton Terry, an authority on Bible interpretation, notes that while “weeks” is a plural noun, it is connected “with a verb in the singular (is decreed). The seventy [weeks] are conceived as a unit, a round number, and are most naturally understood as so many sevens of years.” [10]

Contrary to what Tommy and his fellow dispensationalists claim, there is no seven-year tribulation period in Revelation. There is no gap in time in Daniel’s seventy weeks’ prophecy. When all of the elements of prophecy are put together, we find that there is no need for gaps, postponements, a seven-year Tribulation period, another rebuilt temple, or an antichrist making a covenant with the Jews and then breaking it. To get these things, Tommy has to skip over nearly two thousand years of church history, turn three and one-half years into seven, minimize the importance of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and create a new doctrine called the pretrib “Rapture” to make it all work.

  1. John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ: A Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), 178.[]
  2. Kenneth L. Gentry Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation, 3d ed. (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1998), 253.[]
  3. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Are We Living in the End Times?: Current Events Foretold in Scripture … And What They Mean (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale,

    1999), 153.[]

  4. J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy: The Complete Guide to Scriptural Predictions and Their Fulfillment (New York: Harper & Row, 1973).[]
  5. J. Barton Payne, The Imminent Appearing of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962), 148–49.[]
  6. Philip Mauro, Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation (Swengel, PA: Reiner, n.d.), 74.[]
  7. Jacques Doukhan, “The Seventy Weeks of Dan. 9: An Exegetical Study,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 17 (spring 1979), 8. Quoted in J. Randall Price, “Prophetic Postponement in Daniel 9 and Other Texts,” in Issues in Dispensationalism, ed. Wesley R. Willis and John R. Masters (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1994), 148. Price does not follow this methodology.[]
  8. E. J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel: A Prophecy (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1949), 216.[]
  9. E.W. Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament and a Commentary on the Messianic Predictions, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, [1872–76] 1956), 3:143.[]
  10. Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, [1898] 1988), 201.[]

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