Updated: Nov 27, 2021
There are many who believe that the rapture and the second coming of Christ Jesus to earth are the same event. This is known as the Post-Tribulation rapture. Some believe that the rapture happens midway through the Great Tribulation period. This is referred to as the Mid-Tribulation rapture. Others believe that the rapture occurs prior to the Great Tribulation period. This is commonly known as the Pre-Tribulation rapture. Before discussing these views, it is important to understand the prophetic timeline of events given to the prophet Daniel.
God’s Prophetic Timeline for Israel
The book of Daniel was written in the sixth century B.C. It begins in 604 B.C., eighteen years prior to the destruction of the first temple in 586 B.C. Daniel and several of his friends, all fairly young men, were deported from Judah to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. The book of Daniel ends in 532 B.C., two years after the end of seventy years of exile (2nd Chronicles 36:21, Jeremiah 25:11, Daniel 9:2), during the reign of King Cyrus II (539-530 B.C.) of Persia.
Construction of the Second Temple
The Medes were an ancient Iranian people who inhabited an area known as Media between western and northern Iran. They were an important ally to the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar. Media was conquered in 539 B.C. by Cyrus II and was combined with the Persian empire to form the Medo-Persian empire. This combined empire conquered the Babylonians in 539 B.C. during the reign of King Belshazzar (556-539 B.C.), the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. This event is recorded in Daniel 5:25-31.
“Now this is the inscription that was written out: ‘MENĒ, MENĒ, TEKĒL, UPHARSIN.’ “This is the interpretation of the message: ‘MENĒ’—God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. “ ‘TEKĒL’—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient. “ ‘PERĒS’—your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.” Then Belshazzar gave orders, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a necklace of gold around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he now had authority as the third ruler in the kingdom. That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain. So Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two.
After the fall of Babylon to the Medo-Persians in 539 B.C., exiled Jews were permitted to return to Judah to rebuild the temple that was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar. This occurred during the “first year of Cyrus king of Persia” as recorded in Ezra 1:1-4.
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. ‘Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem. ‘Every survivor, at whatever place he may live, let the men of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.’”
Construction of the second temple began around 537 B.C. – the “second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem.” This is documented in Ezra 3:8.
Now in the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak and the rest of their brothers the priests and the Levites, and all who came from the captivity to Jerusalem, began the work and appointed the Levites from twenty years and older to oversee the work of the house of the Lord.
The second temple was completed in 516 B.C. – “on the third day of the month Adar; it was the sixth year of the reign of King Darius” (Ezra 6:15). King Darius I reigned from 522-486 B.C.
The “Seventy Weeks”
Darius the Mede (not to be confused with the Persian King Darius I) reigned from 538-536 B.C. His reign was concurrent with King Cyrus II (539-530 B.C.). “Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian” (Daniel 9:6). Daniel understood from the scriptures that the 70 years of exile were nearing completion.
Daniel 9:1-3 – In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.
In answer to his prayer (Daniel 9:4-19), a fully accurate timeline of events was given by the angel Gabriel (Daniel 9:20-23) to Daniel. This prophetic timeline, the “seventy weeks”, is recorded in Daniel 9:24-27.
Daniel 9:24 – Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.
Seventy weeks (heptads) is seventy periods of seven years. Leviticus 25:8 refers to this as “seven sabbaths of years.” A year is defined as 12 months or 360 days according to the Hebrew calendar. Thus 490 years have been decreed for the nation of Israel and Jerusalem.
The “Seven Weeks” – Restore and Rebuild Jerusalem
Daniel 9:25 – So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.
The seventy weeks is broken down into three periods of time: seven weeks (49 years), sixty-two weeks (434 years), and one week (7 years).
The “seven weeks” period began around 445 B.C. under the reign of King Artaxerxes (465-424 B.C.). According to Nehemiah 2:1-9, the decree to rebuild Jerusalem was issued “in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes.” Although construction of the second temple was completed approximately 71 years earlier (516 B.C.), the rest of Jerusalem was still in ruins and needed to be rebuilt. It was reported to Nehemiah that those “who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:3). When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, he reported that “You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate, and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach” (Nehemiah 2:17).
One possible reason for the divide between the “seven weeks” and “sixty-two weeks” periods is that it took approximately 49 years to rebuild the city of Jerusalem along with its walls and gates. Another possible reason for this divide is that the end of the “seven weeks” signals the beginning of the intertestamental period – the time between the Old and New Testaments – the end of the prophecies given to Malachi and the beginning of the events described in Matthew. This is known as the “400 years of silence” from God.
The “Sixty-Two Weeks” – Between The Testaments
The “sixty-two weeks” period began around 397 B.C. This period started during the reign of King Artaxerxes II (404-358 B.C.). Alexander the Great battled and conquered the Persian Empire (334-331 B.C.). The Jewish people assimilated to the Hellenistic culture of the Macedonian empire. Macedonian rule over Israel ended in 324 B.C.
The Egyptians ruled from 324-204 B.C. It was during this time that “Koine Greek” became the world trade language. The Old Testament Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek around 200 B.C. This is known as the Septuagint.
The Syrians ruled from 204-165 B.C. under the Seleucid ruler Antiochus Epiphanes. By 167 B.C. Epiphanes killed thousands of Jews, including women and children. Sacrifices at the second temple were stopped and a statue of Jupiter Olympus was erected on the temple’s alter. The Jews were about to revolt.
Judas Maccabaeus led a revolt against Epiphanes in 165 B.C. The temple was cleansed and sacrifices were resumed. This led to Jewish autonomy under the Seleucid Empire, and eventually full Jewish independence under the Hasmonean Dynasty (140-63 B.C.).
The Roman Empire, under Pompey the Great, sieged Jerusalem in 63 B.C. Herod the Great was appointed by Rome to rule over Judea. The original structure of the second temple was completely overhauled and refurbished by King Herod around 20-19 B.C.
“Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king” (Matthew 2:1).
Daniel 9:26 – Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.
It is clear that the first sixty-nine weeks ends when the Messiah (Christ Jesus) is “cut off and will have nothing.” Isaiah 53:1-12 is a prophecy about the suffering servant – the future Messiah. Isaiah 53:8 states “That He was cut off out of the land of the living.” Thus the sixty-nine weeks ended around the time when Jesus was crucified and died. Most historians agree that Jesus was crucified in the year 33 A.D. The “people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary” was fulfilled when the Roman Empire, under Titus, destroyed the second Temple and Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
The “One Week” Tribulation Period
Daniel 9:27 – And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.
The ”one week” is in reference to the seventieth week (7 years) of Daniel’s prophecy since the first sixty-nine weeks ended. We see this week broken into two distinct three and a half year periods.
In Revelation 11:3 God grants authority for His two witnesses to “prophecy for twelve hundred and sixty days” (3 ½ years). They will be overcome and killed by “the beast that comes up out of the abyss” (Revelation 3:7). The first four seals recorded in Revelation 6:1-8 will be opened during this period. Revelation 6:8 states that over a fourth of the world’s population will be killed “with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.” The fifth seal (Revelation 6:9-11) will be opened during the end of this period – “those slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained” will cry out “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” It is apparent that those who come to faith in Christ during the first half of the Tribulation period will be martyred because “of the word of God” and “the testimony which that had maintained.”
The events of Revelation 13:1-5 kick off the second half of the Tribulation period. The “beast coming out of the sea” will be given “a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies” and “authority to act for forty-two months” (3 ½ years). The remaining two seals be opened and the “Bowl of Wrath” judgments (Revelation 16:1-21) will occur during this period, leading up to the visible and glorious second coming of Christ (Matthew 24:29-31, 25:31; Revelation 19:11-19).
Isaiah 2:10-17 tells us that there will be “a day of reckoning” against “everyone who is proud and lofty”…“The pride of man will be humbled, and the loftiness of man will be abased; and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.” Zephaniah 1:18 states “Neither their silver nor their gold Will be able to deliver them On the day of the Lord’s wrath; And all the earth will be devoured In the fire of His jealousy, For He will make a complete end, Indeed a terrifying one, Of all the inhabitants of the earth.”
Some would argue that the Tribulation period occurred during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes who ended temple sacrifices and erected a statue of Jupiter Olympus. This was definitely an abomination. However these events happened about two hundred years before Jesus was born. In Matthew 24:15-16 Jesus warns “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand.)” He also states 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.” Thus the Tribulation period is a future event.
The purpose of the “great tribulation” is to judge the nation of Israel and bring them to repentance so that, when the time comes, they will say “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13:35). The rest of the world will also experience God’s wrath as recorded in the Book of Revelation.
The question is this: will the church be raptured before, during, or after the seven-year Tribulation period? I will discuss this in “The Rapture Part Two – When Will It Happen?”
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth"
2nd Timothy 2:15
All scripture cited in this post is taken from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update.