The word tribulation has been used in different parts of the Bible, but in Matthew 24:21 it is referred to as a  "great tribulation".  This is due to the fact that since Jesus departed to heaven, His followers began to be persecuted as never before.


Christian martyrs were fed to the lions in Rome
Christian martyrs being fed to the lions in Rome 

The persecution of Christians was intensified to a persecution of the nation of Israel.  

Matthew 24:9
"Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.

The above mentioned verse obviously refers to the tribulation of Jesus' followers, which started since the time of Christ, but this tribulation intensified and became national.

Roman Soldiers
Roman Soldiers

Matthew 24:15
"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),
Matthew 24:16
then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains ...

Mountains near Judea

Luke also warned the people of his time of the impending destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies.

Luke 21:20
But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by ARMIES, then know that her DESOLATION is near. 

The Roman soldiers entered into the holy temple and into the Holy of Holies -- an abomination. They destroyed God's temple in Jerusalem, just as Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.

Destruction of God's Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD (start of the Great Tribulation)
Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by Roman soldiers in AD 70

Matthew 24:20
But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath.

Luke also stresses the fact that  the tribulation expands to encompass the whole nation of Israel.

Luke 21:23
Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to 

This national tribulation increased in intensity:

Matthew 24:21
For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.

That there are degrees in the intensity of the tribulation is explained also in the book of Mark:

Mark 13:19
For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and
never will.

The persecution was going to be so severe that unless God intervened, no flesh would be saved in the entire cosmos.

Matthew 24:22
Unless those days had been cut short, no flesh would have been saved; but through the elect those days will be cut short.

God will send His angels to rapture us.

The devil tried to exterminate the nation of Israel at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. but God did not allow it.  Many Jews were able to escape to other lands.  Since then Abraham's descendants have had persecution in diverse places at diverse times... a pivotal time in history being during WWII when they suffered the holocaust.  

In 1948,  the Jews gained again status as a nation --almost 2 millennia after their escape from the land of Israel. This was prophesied by Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 37:21
Say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land;


Since the reestablishment of the nation of Israel on May 14, 1948, there have been six major wars between Israel and Arab nations.

Israel faces war with the Arabs

The wars are:

War of Independence, 15 May 1948
Suez campaign, 29 Oct - 4 Nov 1956
Six-Day war, 5-10 June 1967 
Yom Kippur War , 6-24 Oct 1973
Lebanon invasion, 1982
Intifada, 1986 - 

The conditions in Israel continue to be constant chaos and turmoil with terrorist attacks from the Palestinians. Truly a great tribulation that has been going on since AD70.

Luke recapitulates all the events since the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 with the following quote:

Luke 21:24
and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem
Dome of the Rock

The "times of the gentiles" are not yet fulfilled.  The Palestinian Arabs are still in control of the temple grounds in Jerusalem.
That precious piece of real estate contains the ruins of God's temple, on top of which stand the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque -- an abomination. 

Therefore, the tribulation for the Jewish nation is not over. God's holy temple grounds continue to be destroyed as we speak.  See

When will the tribulation end?  Jesus prophesied all of these events, and He also prophesied its end.  The Palestinians might not want to cease their acts of terrorism against Jews, or the continued destruction of the remains of God's holy temple, but (JHVH) our God will soon take care of this problem, because He prophesied the end of this tribulation.

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.

sun turns black and moon turns red after the Great Tribulation

Mark 13:24
"But in those days,

Those two verses show that after the tribulation there will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. At that time the rapture has already occurred.

The fact that the tribulation ceases before the rapture is also stated in the Book of Revelation. 

Revelation 6:9
When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained;

Revelation 6:10
and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"

Revelation 6:11
And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be

The number of saints to be killed is completed, meaning their tribulation is over. After this event comes the rapture. The big multitude is raptured/rescued from the great tribulation Revelation 7:14.  Satan has no more power over them.  See The Woman with 12 Stars.

A timeline of the events of the tribulation is given in more detail in Tribulation Timeline.  The events after the tribulation leading to the rapture are better explained in Time for the Rescue.


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