Can we know when the Great Tribulation will be? Or at least when it won’t be? Mark Biltz thinks so and I agree with him, except for his reckoning of the Sabbath year. Learn what the Great Tribulation is and how to tell when it is not near.
Great Tribulation Can Wait
Weeks after Mark Biltz's famous "blood moon prophecy" expired in September, 2015 I was surprised by a statement of Mark Biltz released by WND.com.
No, he did not apologize for scaring lots of people with his prophecy speculation. That would indeed be surprising.
Instead, Mark said that now that the shemitah had passed in September, 2015, that:
If the Tribulation did not start on Rosh Hashanah in 2015, it cannot start until the beginning of a new seven-year cycle meaning Rosh Hashanah of the years 2022, 2029, 2036, , etc. These are the years that begin a new seven-year biblical cycle.
Is he right? Yes and no. I'll explain below.
First, what does "the Tribulation" mean?
The Tribulation vs. the Great Tribulation
The Tribulation is actually a misnomer. There is no "the tribulation" in the Bible. Jesus in Matthew 24 referred to a time of "Great Tribulation" (Mt 24:21) soon after Daniel's "abomination of desolation" happened (Mt 24:15). The Great Tribulation is a time of the persecution of the saints by Satan through the Antichrist being in power.
The "abomination" itself is an event near the midpoint of the "70th week of Daniel" (Dan 9:27) when the Antichrist seizes power of Jerusalem and erects the statue of himself in the Third Temple that the False Prophet commands to be made (Mk 13:14=Rev 13:15=2Th 2:4).
The 70th week is the final block of 7 prophetic years ending in Jesus' return. This is what Mark Biltz and many are referring to when they say "the Tribulation." In fact, some use it interchangeably with the term the "Great Tribulation" thinking both are seven years long.
However, if the Great Tribulation comes after the midpoint of the 70th week of years as Daniel 9:27 says, then it can be no longer than 3½ years long. In other words, it is the second half of the 70th week. In case you're curious, Jesus gave the first half a name too. It is called the "beginning of birth pains" (Mt 24:8).
"The Tribulation," more accurately known as Daniel's 70th week, is mostly bad news. The terrible events described in Revelation 6 - 19 all happen within these final seven years.
When Will The Tribulation Be?
Once someone learns about the bad news of the coming Tribulation/70th Week, it's natural to want to know how soon it is coming. Date setting theories are popular for this reason, despite the fact that history shows they always fail. (Something that Mark Biltz has firsthand personal experience with now.)
Thankfully, the apostles were no different and so they asked Jesus when the "end of the age" (Mt 24:3) would be, which is the final seven years which contain the Great Tribulation. In his very helpful response, Jesus stated clearly that no man knows when the end will be, including himself and the angels (Mt 24:36).
Sadly, then, the answer to "when will the Tribulation be" is we don't know, nor can we know, at least not yet. Anyone who says otherwise or that they have figured it out is ignoring what Jesus said about date setting. They also are ignoring the utter failure of everyone before them who has predicted the end.
However, that does not mean you cannot rule out many years when the end cannot come.
OK, When Can't the Tribulation Be?
In his answer to the Apostles' question about the timing of the end, Jesus gave us ways to understand when it was not near.
First, he indicated that until a global cataclysmic famine and earthquake event came, we are to be sure "the end is not yet" (Mt 24:6, 7-8). More on that in this article on the Sign of the End.
Similarly, you can also rule out many years along the way before you see that event based on the understanding above that the Great Tribulation is the last part of the 70th week of Daniel, or the final block of seven prophetic years ending with Jesus' return. This is what Mark Biltz was basing his statement on about the next seven years being safe.
See, the 70 weeks of Daniel are 70 heptads or blocks of seven years. However, they are not just any blocks of seven years. The Torah (in Leviticus) introduces a seven year cycle for marking Sabbath years. Just as ancient Israel was to consider every 7th day the Sabbath day of rest, likewise they were to count every 7th year as the Sabbath year of rest for the land to lie fallow. No planting or reaping. If they obeyed, they would be blessed in the sixth year with an abundance to make up for the missing 7th year harvests.
Daniel's prophetic 70 weeks of years are referring to these weeks of years, each ending with a Sabbath year. The 70th week is a Sabbath year cycle and begins after a Sabbath year finishes and ends in a Sabbath year itself. This means the Great Tribulation comes in the middle of a Sabbath year cycle and ends in a Sabbath year.
We can use this knowledge to rule out the Great Tribulation several years in advance. Once a Sabbath year cycle starts, if everything is continuing as normal, then the entire seven year block is safe from being "the end." Nothing will happen the rest of the seven years!
If we know when the last and next Sabbath years are, we can always know where we are in the cycle and what years are safe.
Sabbath Year Controversy
I've been teaching the above information since 2003 and have not heard any other teachers teach in all that time. That's why I was surprised to hear Mark Biltz say what he did. It was a first.
However, while he gets the principle right, he gets the implementation wrong. The next Sabbath year cycle is not beginning Fall, 2022 like he states.
He's basing that information off of Rabbinical Judaism. At first glance, it makes sense to do that. The Sabbath years were given to Jews. Jewish rabbis have kept records of the Sabbath years. Who would know better than them when the right Sabbath year is?
Except when you diligently investigate and compare Judaism to what the Bible says, you will find they diverge in many many disturbing ways.
- The Torah teaches that the year begins in the Spring, in "Aviv," the first of months.(Ex 12:2).
Judaism teaches it begins in the Fall, the 7th month.
- The Torah teaches the month begins with the new crescent moon.
Judaism starts the month at a precalculated point 1-3 days before the new moon.
- The Torah requires the first month to start only when the spring barley crop is ready to be harvested for the wave sheaf ceremony (Lev 23:5, 10-11).
Judaism starts the first month on a precalculated point irregardless of availability of barley (since Judaism does not bother to observe the wave sheaf).
- The Torah commands the celebrations of Yom Tseruah/Day of Trumpets on the first day of the 7th month (Lev 23:23-25).
Judaism invents a new holiday called Rosh HaShanah that lasts for two days in its place (yes, instead of Yom Teruah).
In fact, whenever you read in the Gospels where Jesus is being accused of breaking "the Law" by the leaders of ancient Judaism (Pharisees, Sadducees, or Scribes), in almost every case it is one of their invented rabbinic traditions that Jesus is ignoring (like the invented holiday of Rosh HaShanah) and not the actual Torah of Moses! There was no command in the Torah to wash your hands before eating, or not glean grain, carry a mat, or not heal on the Sabbath. Many Christians read those passages assuming Jesus was breaking the Law because it did not matter at all, when in fact he did keep it to fulfill it as he said. (He also broke the Jewish tradition to show what not to do.)
The same is true today. If you trust Judaism to teach you the Law, including the calendar and Sabbath years of the Law, you will be getting the leaven of the Pharisees that Jesus warned about (Mt 16:6).
Will the True Sabbath Year Please Stand Up?
On the Sabbath question, it turns out that even the rabbis don't agree in the Talmud as to when the Sabbath years are. Their opinions vary among four popular models, all within six months of each other because two work off the premise that the biblical year begins in the fall and two off a spring beginning. Since the Bible clearly teaches a spring start to the year, you can throw out two of the models and focus on the other two to determine which one fits historical records best. See this study for details.
The dominant Sabbath year cycle model used by the Jewish calendar today is one of the fall-start models. This is what Mark Biltz is trusting in, as most do, not realizing it is disputed. That is why he and Jonathan Cahn speak of the shemitah (Sabbath year) having ended "September 13th, 2015."
The Sabbath year, like all biblical years, begins in the spring (March/April), not the fall (Sept/Oct).
I believe the correct Sabbath year model begins a year and a half later, in the spring. That would be Spring, 2016-Spring, 2017, not Fall, 2014-Fall, 2015.
Why Either Sabbath Model Is Close Enough
In the end, with how close these Sabbath year models are together, it really does not matter which one you think is right for the purposes of "Tribulation alertness." As my book explains, many prerequisite prophetic events must happen before the end. These things need to be happening shortly by the time the 70th week/Tribulation is starting for a Sabbath year cycle to be "the one."
That's why I have already ruled out the Sabbath year cycle of Spring, 2017 through Spring, 2024 from being the 70th week as the chart from my book shows. With everything going as normal this close to the start, I'm confident it won't be the 70th week. We're safe from that until 2024 at the earliest.
For more information on why I say this and what events lead up to the Tribulation, see my book or my article on why Jesus won't come back this year.
The Final 7 Years? Or 6?
Several readers have asked about an apparent discrepancy on my Revelation Roadmap chart above. They notice that the date ranges for the example windows listed (2017-2023, 2024-2030) do not cover seven full years. For example, 2024 - 2030 = 6 years. This would seem wrong with how many (including I) often speak of the "final seven years."
First, is it correct to speak of a "final seven years?"
It's true that Daniel 9 speaks of a final "one week" that the Antichrist makes a covenant for (Dan 9:27). A week of years is of course 7 years. As covered earlier, these weeks of years are not just any 7 years but aligned on the prophetic Sabbath year cycle of the Torah of Moses. This was six years of planting followed by a Sabbath year of land rest. Because Jesus returns at the end of this 70th week, it means he returns in a Sabbath year (which Isaiah 61:1-2 also alludes to). This mirrors how he declared his messiahship and the Sabbath year in the Sabbath year of the 69th week (Lk 4:21).
Biblical Years vs. Gregorian Years
Next we must remember that biblical years, including Sabbath years, do not start in the dead of winter like Gregorian years do. Instead, a biblical year begins fittingly at the start of spring, the time of rebirth. Thus when we talk about 7 year Sabbath year cycles, they also run from spring to spring such as Spring, 2024 - Spring, 2031.
2031? Then why do I list the example 70th week window above from 2024-2030 (6 years) and not 2024-2031 (7 years)?
Because we already know that the climatic events at the end of the Great Tribulation including the rapture, Jesus' defeat of the Antichrist at Armageddon, and the setting up of his reign--all take place in the fall, in the 7th biblical month of Tishrei. Jesus does not wait until the end of the Sabbath year; he comes right in the middle of it.
In other words, when I say "2024-2030" (an apparent 6 year range) what is meant is Spring, 2024 - Fall, 2030, which is actually a 6.5 year range.
A Covenant of 7 Years vs. Rule of 7 Years
But what about how Daniel 9:27 says that Antichrist "makes a covenant for one week" or one Sabbath year cycle. Doesn't that mean he rules for a full 7 years?
I used to assume so. Because of this, in earlier writings I would list the 70th week windows as 7 year periods from fall to fall. For example, the fall/middle of one Sabbath year (2023) to the fall/middle of the final Sabbath (2030). Why? Because of Dan 9:27, I felt I had to make it work out to exactly 7 years in light of Dan 9:27.
Then I realized two things I had overlooked:
First, Daniel's statement that the Antichrist has a covenant with his "the many/mighty" cohorts to rule for 7 years is not the same as Daniel saying "the Antichrist fulfills a covenant for 7 years." Or as the proverb goes, "the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray." An agreement to do something is not the same as doing it.
Solution In Jesus' Words
Second, Jesus already said that the time of the Great Tribulation--the plans of the Antichrist--was going to be "cut short."
Mt 24:22 — "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"
Various theories have been proffered to explain this verse. One says that the length of the day will be shortened. Others say that although we're told the Antichrist rules for 3.5 years/42 months/1260 days in Revelation and Daniel, in fact we can't trust the numbers because "the days are shortened."
There are problems with both these theories. Of course, shortening the length of a day from 24 hours would not have any understandable outcome related to saving people's lives. If the length of the tribulation were not knowable or reliable then why give its length half a dozen times in not only counts of days, but months (42) and years (3.5), too?
As is the case with many difficult passages, it helps to read the verse in question in multiple versions, especially more accurate and accessible modern versions. I think HCSB is the most helpful to get to the proper meaning of Jesus' words:
Mt 24:22 (HCSB) — "Unless those days were limited, no one would survive. But those days will be limited because of the elect."
The meaning is clear that if the Great Tribulation were to go on one day longer, it would be catastrophic to the survival of the planet. In other words, the Great Tribulation were allowed to go one day past its 1260 days (Rev 11:3) to a length of 1261 days, the end of all life would happen. God knows this and "cuts it short."
So you see, there is no need to manipulate the 70th week date range to make it work out to be an entire 7 years. We know the start is going to be spring because that's when biblical years start, including a Sabbath year cycle. We know the end is going to be in the fall of the Sabbath year six years later because Jesus comes in the fall and "cuts the time short" (Mt 24:22).
This, then, is why my Revelation Roadmap lists 6.5 year ranges for the 70th week windows and not full 7 year windows.
Which window it will be is of course something no man knows currently, nor do we need to, really. God's end time Elijah prophet will be sure to let us know when it is coming upon us and we need to act.
"What difference does it make?"
"6 months?" =)
Seriously, though, since writing this article I've had people ask that question:
I guess I don't need to know the exact time table? Because, really, isn't this all about my personal commitment to Jesus, rather than a calculation or time table?
Absolutely this is not a "salvation issue" nor does it have any impact on our daily walk of loving God and our neighbor as ourselves to enter the Kingdom/have eternal life (Mk 12:28-34). It is however a wisdom and blessing issue for all who take the time to study prophecy (Rev 1:3).
For me personally, having the actual start, end and length of the Great Tribulation right is indeed just a small point that only makes my teaching more cohesive and understandable. It explains what Jesus meant by "those days [of Tribulation] shall be cut short" (Mt 24:22). Jesus comes 6 months before the planned 7 year Antichrist pact is over.