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Sequencing The Tribulation
by Edward E. Stevens
This article appeared in the 2021 Spring issue of Fulfilled! Magazine
Futurists disagree notoriously about whether the
Parousia and Rapture will occur before, in the middle, or
after the Tribulation and Wrath (resulting in Pre-Trib,
Mid-Trib, Post-Trib, Pre-Wrath, or Post-Wrath views). And
Preterists differ not only on how to sequence the
Tribulation in relation to the Parousia and other end-time
events, but also how to define it.
For instance, some preterists (e.g., Don K. Preston and others) equate the “Great Tribulation” (Matt 24:21) with God’s outpouring of wrath on the Jews during the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70, and then place the Parousia and Rapture “immediately after” that wrath was poured out. That is a Post-Trib and Post-Wrath Parousia.
In contrast to that, this author (and others) defines the Tribulation as having two phases—tribulation on the church, and wrath on the Jews, with the Parousia and Rapture occurring “immediately after” the tribulation was “cut short,” but before the wrath was poured out. This is a Post-Trib and Pre-Wrath Parousia.
Thus, here is how each of these two views sequence the
Tribulation and Wrath in relation to the Parousia. Note the
placement of the Parousia in each view:
“Great Tribulation” (Wrath on Jews) Parousia and Rapture
Tribulation on saints Parousia and Rapture Wrath on Jews
These two views (Post-Wrath versus Pre-Wrath) are
mutually exclusive, which means that only one of them can be
right. Therefore, in order to properly sequence the
Tribulation in relation to the Parousia and other end-time
events, we need to identify what it was and when it
occurred. There are three key texts here in Matthew 24 which
will help us do that (verses 9, 21-22, and 29).
'Tribulation' in Matthew 24:9
“Then they will deliver you to
tribulation [persecution], and will kill you, and you will be
hated by all nations because of My name.” (Matt 24:9 NAS95).
Here in Matthew 24:9-13, 20-25 (and its parallel in Mark 13:12-13) Jesus warned His first-century disciples about the coming persecution, including its intensification during the Neronic persecution (AD 64-66). There is no hint that this “tribulation” included the wrath-outpouring. It is persecution on the saints only.
'Great Tribulation' in Matthew 24:21-22
“For then there will be a Great Tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” (Matt 24:21-22 NAS95).
These two verses are key to determining the identity of the
“great tribulation” and its place in the sequence of end-time
events. At first glance, the great tribulation seems to refer
exclusively to the wrath-outpouring upon the Jews during their war
with Rome (AD 66-70). And since Luke’s parallel account (Luke
21:22-23) describes this great tribulation as being “days of
vengeance, great distress upon the land, and wrath to this people,”
it means that the great tribulation has to include the
However, we will show that the great tribulation also includes
the Neronic persecution. We know this because verse 21 says that the
great tribulation was already happening “then” (Gk. tote, “at the
time”) when they saw the Abomination of Desolation. And this is
further confirmed in Luke’s parallel account (Luke 21:12-19) where
he says that the persecution of the saints would occur “before” all
the other signs that Jesus predicted (Luke 21:8-11), including the
Abomination of Desolation (Luke 21:20), and the Parousia (Luke
21:25-28). Thus, Luke sequences the persecution phase of the great
tribulation “before” the Abomination and the wrath-outpouring.
Apostle Paul likewise teaches these two phases of the Great
Tribulation, and sequences them the same way, when he says that the
saints were destined for tribulation (1 Thess 3:3), but
not for the
wrath (1 Thess 5:9). Then he promised that they would be rescued and
saved from the wrath BEFORE it was poured out on their Jewish
persecutors at the Parousia (1 Thess 1:10; 5:9; 2 Thess 1:6-8).
This means that the persecution phase of the great tribulation
did not begin after they saw the Abomination in AD 66, but instead
was already ongoing and intensifying by the time of the Abomination
and would be cut short so that some of the elect would remain alive
until the Parousia (Matt 24:22).
Thus, it was the persecution that was cut short, NOT the wrath.
And this reveals the fatal flaw of the Post-Wrath view. Since it
identifies the great tribulation as the wrath-outpouring only, and
does not include the Neronic persecution, it is forced to conclude
that the wrath was cut short and not allowed to run its full course!
But the wrath-outpouring was NOT cut short. On the contrary,
Daniel 12:7 says that the Jews were to be completely shattered.
Likewise, both Jesus and Paul said that the wickedness of the Jews
filled up the cup of wrath which was fully (not partially) poured
out on Jerusalem (Matt 23:32-36; 1 Thess 2:16). The Jews fully drank
the cup of wrath down to its dregs. And the book of Revelation
repeatedly shows how ALL of the wrath was poured out in full
strength (Rev 14:6-11; cf. Rev 6:16–17; 11:18; 12:12; 14:10, 19;
15:1, 7; 16:1, 19; 19:15). None of God’s wrath was held back or
Therefore, the Neronic persecution had to be included in the
great tribulation so that it could be cut short by the outbreak of
the Zealot rebellion in AD 66, when both Jews and Romans had to turn
their attention away from killing Christians to fighting their own
war. This is further reinforced when we see the same phrase “Great
Tribulation” used in Revelation 7:14, where it refers to the same
Neronic persecution that killed many saints from every nation in the
Roman world, and which was cut short before the wrath was poured
This confirms that the Great Tribulation had two phases. The first was persecution on the saints, which intensified under Nero, and was then cut short so that some of the elect would remain alive until the Parousia. Then the second phase was the wrath-outpouring upon the unbelieving Jews who had persecuted the Christians. And we see both phases alluded to here in the Olivet Discourse, in Apostle Paul’s epistles, and exhibited in the real history as it was recorded by the first-century historians.
This is why a knowledge of first century history is so vitally important. We cannot be certain that we are correctly identifying and sequencing these events without matching them to the actual history. This is why futurists must speculate and guess at all of this. But we preterists have the real history with which to nail it down with certainty.
'Tribulation' in Matthew 24:29
“But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will
be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars
will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be
shaken.” (Matt 24:29 NAS95).
This third mention of “tribulation” cannot refer to Christ coming “immediately after” the wrath was poured out, since that would imply that the wrath had already been poured out before Christ came to pour it out! Thus, the phrase “immediately after the tribulation” only makes sense if it is referring to the Neronic persecution being cut short just before Christ came to rescue His saints and pour out His wrath on their persecutors.
Since the Post-Wrath view teaches that the Parousia did
not occur until immediately after the siege of Jerusalem, it
would mean that Jesus was NOT present during the siege when
the wrath was being poured out. But that contradicts 2
Thessalonians 1:4-10, which teaches that the purpose of the
Parousia was to give relief to His saints and
retribution (pour out wrath) to their persecutors. So, the
Post-Wrath view has Jesus coming to pour out the wrath AFTER
it had already been poured out during the siege! Do you
catch the fallacy of that?
We have seen that there were two phases to the Great
Tribulation (Neronic persecution and wrath-outpouring). The
persecution was cut short, and then Christ came to pour out
the wrath. This not only establishes the identity of the
Great Tribulation, but also properly sequences it in
relation to the Parousia and the other end-time events.
Thus, immediately after the persecution was cut short, Christ came with His angels to gather the elect (Matt 24:29-31). Those saints were relieved from the persecution, rescued by Christ, taken to heaven, and rewarded in His presence—BEFORE the wrath was poured out upon the unbelieving Jews. This shows that the Parousia and Rapture occurred AFTER the tribulation on the church was cut short (Post-Trib), but BEFORE the wrath was poured out (Pre-Wrath). So, it was a Pre-Wrath Parousia and Rapture.
More detailed information about “Sequencing the Tribulation” will be presented in my ongoing “Rapture” debate with Don K. Preston. If you wish to receive it, simply send an email request to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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