The Tribulation - 'seventy sevens'


Understanding Daniel Ch 7- 9 and Matthew Ch 24

First we should compare the key Scriptures which outline the Tribulation.

Daniel 9 v 24-27

Daniel’s seventieth week - The Seventy “Sevens”

20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill - 21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice.

22 He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding.

23 As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision:

24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.

25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.

26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.

27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.

This passage refers to three distinct periods of time that would affect the nation of Israel.

The first seven weeks (49 years) - this refers to the period following the seventy year exile in Babylon and depicts the period when the walls and the city of Jerusalem would be rebuilt.

The sixty two weeks (434 years) - this refers to the time between the return of the exiles to Jerusalem and the coming of Messiah.

The final seventieth week (7 years) - this depicts the events of the Tribulation as outlined in Revelation chapters 6 to 19.

According to Daniel 9 v 27, at the mid-point of the seven year Tribulation – Daniel’s seventieth week – judgement ushers in the second half of the Tribulation known as – ‘The Great Tribulation’

Otherwise referred to in Jeremiah 30 v 7 as ‘The time of Jacob’s trouble’. “How awful that day will be! No other will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it."

Daniel's seventy weeks 

Seventy Weeks

Keep it simple

There are 70 weeks in the vision split into 3 separate time periods in history as follows:

7 weeks or 7 x 7 = 49 years

This is history and refers to a period soon after the life of Daniel. It refers to the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.

This literally happened under the jurisdiction of the Persian King Artaxerxes and during the leadership of Nehemiah.

King Artaxerxes decree was issued circa 445 BC.

62 weeks or 62 x 7 = 434 years

This is also history, it pointed into Daniel's future to a period which commenced long after Daniel's death.

It refers to the period following the rebuilding of Jerusalem and which included the long silent years at the end of the Old Testament leading up to the life and death of Christ.

Some scholars have calculated the dates to be so accurate that they end in circa AD 32 when Christ was crucified.

1 week or 1 x 7 = 7 years

This remaining week or period of seven years was spoken of as being in the distant future. It is still future for us - but imminent!

This is none other than the seven year Tribulation. 

70 weeks or 70 x 7 = 490 years total

Daniel 12 v 11-12 describes how this seven year Tribulation is divided into two halves of 1290 and 1335 days respectively.

It is at the mid point of the Tribulation that the abomination of desolation is set up in the temple. The Antichrist will proclaim himself to be god.

The second half of the Tribulation is known as The Great Tribulation - Persecution is escalated and so is the judgement of God.

For a detailed study of these dates I refer the reader to the following book:


The Destruction of the Temple and Signs of the End Times

Matthew 24 v 1-31

1 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

THE LAST DAYS – signs of the times: v 4-8

4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.

THE TRIBULATION – first 3.5 years: v 9-14

9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.

10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.

12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

THE mid-point of the TRIBULATION: v 15-19

15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!

THE ‘GREAT’ TRIBULATION – second 3.5 years: v 20-22

20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equalled again.

22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.

23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 

25 See, I have told you ahead of time. 26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.

27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

THE end of the TRIBULATION: v 29-31

29 “Immediately after the distress of those days - the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.

31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

Explanatory note on Matthew chapter 24

Many people get confused when they read Matthew chapter 24. In this chapter the Lord Jesus talks about two great events associated with the end times.

When Jesus was teaching the disciples, these events were in the distant future. We are now living in the reality of their imminent fulfilment!

The above passage refers to the Tribulation. It is distinct from the Rapture which is outlined in the subsequent section of Matthew 24 v 36-45.

I recommend that you mark these verses in your bible to differentiate between these two passages.

The Day of the Lord: 24 v 1-31

The Rapture: 24 v 36-44

People get confused about these two great events because they fail to see the significance of why Jesus spoke of them in reverse order.

I suggest that he did this to emphasise the fact that he would one day have a literal kingdom on this earth. But it would be in the future.

The Rapture will take place first and effectively introduce the Day of the Lord, even although the actual event is referred to after the Tribulation in Matthew 24.

These are separate events and we need to differentiate between them.

How does the book of Revelation end?

To see how this amazing book comes to its victorious conclusion, please see the pages on ‘The Millennial Reign of Christ’ and ‘The Final Judgement and Eternity’.

Daniel chapter 7: The Four Beasts

Four Beasts

In Daniel chapter 7 – in his vision dream - we see four beasts coming to power on earth. There is clear succession of power or dominance depicted in this vision.

We will now consider albeit with some conjecture which of the nations these beasts might represent.

Daniel 7 v 1-28

Daniel’s Dream of Four Beasts

1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.

2 Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. 3Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.

Beast - 1

4 “The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it.

Beast - 2

5 “And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’

Beast – 3

6 “After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.

Beast – 4: Different to all the other beasts

7 “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.

8 “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.

9 “As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. 

10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.

11 “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire.

12 (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.

14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

The Interpretation of the Dream

15 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. 16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this. “So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things:

17 ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. 18 But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’

19 “Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left.

20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully.

21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favour of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.

23 “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it.

24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings.

25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.

26 “ ‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever.

27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’

28“This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”

We should point out that in recent decades, the majority of conservative scholars favour the view that these four beasts are the same as those depicted in Nebuchazzar's vision of the great statue as outlined in Daniel chapter 2. Namely; Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece and Rome.

There may well be a connection to the ancient empires depicted in Nebuchadnezzar's vision of the great statue, but on reflection, reference to the distant future - The Tribulation - must also be a serious consideration.

If the four beasts of Danial chapter 7 are indeed future; it will be a useful indeed necessary exercise – albeit with some conjecture – to try and depict which nations are represented by these four beasts during the Tribulation. This could help us to understand and contextualise events during the Day of the Lord.

For a thorough study of this important subject I repeat the need to consult those able expositors who have toiled for countless hours and years in pursuit of the hidden treasures of these prophetic Scriptures.

J Allen, in his (must read) book - Danial Reconsidered, examines this subject with genuine fairness and exercises great care and diligence. See chapter 7; page 245-313. It is a comprehensive study and is most illuminating.

Ancient history

Four Beasts 2

We have already pointed out (on the 'Middle Ages' page) that there was a dual meaning relating to the seven churches in Asia Minor. There was a 'literal condition' and there was also a 'dispensational forecast'.

These seven churches were literal and can be identified on a map of Turkey. But they also held a prophetic message for the church as the dispensations unfolded from the time of the early church until today.

There may well be a case for a similar approach with the four beasts in Daniel chapter 7. The main focus and emphasis being placed on the prophetic significance regarding the future - The Tribulation.

Nebuchadnezzar Statue 1

The giant statue - Daniel chapter 2

According to many conservative scholars - these four beasts can be compared to the massive statue in Daniel's vision in chapter 2 - above image.

Therefore, they can be taken as symbolic of the four ancient empires of 1 Babylon, 2 Medo Persia, 3 Greece and 4 Rome.

In this interpretation - the prophecy in this vision was literally fulfilled (or partly fulfilled) in the successive ancient empires as listed above.

However, there is a fundamental difficulty with this view; the giant statue has five sections that are all interrelated and interdependent. Therefore this statue has one too many constituent parts to be directly compared with the four beasts.

It is preferable that the four beasts be taken prophetically as future nations that will form part of the apocalyptic end times as they unfold in the book of Revelation. 

Who would dare to undermine the prophetic message to the church as the dispensations have unfolded in the last 2000 years? Who would dismiss the idea that God was providing in this vision a picture of the events that will unfold during the Tribulation?

Just imagine

Please indulge me for a few minutes as I try to visualise what the Tribulation will actually look like. 


J Allen discusses future events as they unfold during the Tribulation regarding the four beasts. His treatment is comprehensive.

The following hypothetical scenario is hinted at in chapter 7. It would look something like this;

Visualise the following hypothesis...

Beast 1 = America

Beast 2 = Russia

Beast 3 = China

Beast 4 = Unknown as yet

Let’s say that beast one represents America, beast two represents Russia, beast three represents China and beast four represents some as yet unknown political and military entity; bearing in mind that there has been recent discussion in Brussels regarding a new European Army.

The European Union seems to be in a state of flux. It is not difficult to imagine some new form of League of Nations stemming perhaps from the EU or United Nations. Anything seems possible these days.

If this were so; the sequence of events during the first half of the Tribulation could look like this;

Nuclear War

Russia strikes the first blow and launches a nuclear attack on America. America is militarily, politically and commercially neutralised and the nation is relegated to something far short of 'super power' status. Nonetheless America remains in tact as a nation but loses it's dominant position in world affairs.

Given the isolated land mass of America and the removal of it's air and naval strengths, it will be effectively sidelined from events on other continents, the Middle East in particular!

China Military Power

Within months of this world shattering event, China comes to the forefront and launches an attack on Russia which shares the same fate as America. Like America, Russia remains in tact as a nation but it's military and political status is neutralised.

Soon afterwards China, emerging as the new super-power, is seen as a threat to world government and is overpowered by the fourth beast – this mysterious new super-power that is yet to be recognised - will take complete control of world government. It will control all world affairs - political, religious and economic.

United Nations

Out of this new super-power emerges the Antichrist, the false prophet and the beast. They will persecute the saints and dominate what remains of the world’s governments. 

However, their supremacy will be short lived as Christ the conquering King of kings and Lord of lords exhausts his judgement on the earth and ends the Tribulation period to set up his long awaited Kingdom on earth – The Millennial Kingdom.

In light of these terrifying and imminent events, I invite you to consider with me the following questions:

1. Is the church asleep regarding these imminent events?

2. What am I doing with my life to alert people to this danger?

3. What do my family, friends and neighbours know about these events?

Personal appeal

Dear reader, I urge you to take time and consider how this will affect you and your eternal destiny. You have an opportunity right now to put things right with God.

If you are a born again believer in the Lord Jesus, you will not witness these dreadful events on earth because you will take part in the Rapture and escape to the safety of heaven.

If you are not saved, you will be left behind at the Rapture. You will witness these events and the probability is that you will die in your sins as a result of rejecting Christ. You may never have another opportunity to get saved.

Jesus Christ died to save you, why not stop right where you are, and ask him to forgive you. Repent of your sin and invite the Lord Jesus to come into your life as your Lord and Saviour.

Seek out a Christian who you know, then share what you have done and get involved in a local church. Your future will be transformed.

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