Two Different Great Tribulations
by David Vaughn Elliott
How many "great" tribulations are there? Read Matthew 24:21 and Revelation 7:14. Many people think these texts speak of one and the same tribulation. But take a closer look.
Matthew 24:15-21 speaks of "the holy place" in Judea. The parallel passage in Luke 21:20-24 mentions Jerusalem, Judea, and "this people." It is the Jews who suffer in this great tribulation.
The opposite is true of Revelation 7. Verses 9-14 show us that this great tribulation was suffered by multitudes "of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues."
Revelation 7:14 further shows that this multi-national group had "washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." These are saved Gentile believers.
Back in Luke 21:22,23, there is a very different picture. That tribulation was a matter "of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled... for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people." This tribulation is an outpouring of the wrath of God upon the unbelieving Jews. In verse 21 (and Matthew 24:16), Jesus warned his disciples to "flee." Thus, this tribulation would overtake only unbelieving Jews who did not heed Jesus' warning.
In Matthew 24 and Luke 21, the great tribulation is God's punishment upon the Jewish nation for their unbelief and rejection of the Messiah. In Revelation 7, saints of all nations who endured great tribulation for the sake of Christ afterward rejoice with their God. Two very different "great" tribulations.
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