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The Date of the Tribulation's Commencement

How certain a date is 2026?

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Question:   Dear Bob, I found your Satanic Rebellion to be fascinating reading, but I am a little concerned about the charts. According to Jesus, no one knows the day or the hour of his coming. I don't think that meant day or hour literally, but that it meant the time of his coming, period. Now there will be certain signs which are detailed in Matthew 24, but the year of His coming is left for the Father to know and not for us. Throughout history people have tried to predict his coming and have been wrong. Recently, the Reverend Camping from Family Radio, made a prediction for the return of Christ to be in the Fall of 1994, I think. Miller had a group of followers during the 1840s who actually sold all they had and waited for Christ to return (among the followers was Edith White, founder of the 7th Day Adventists). I respectfully urge that you, at least, show this as only a possibility, but not certain, because no one can know the day or hour of the Lord's return.

Response:   I welcome your prudent skepticism in this matter. Please let me assure you that this is not a prediction. What I have done in Part 5 of the Satanic Rebellion series (the time-line chart which gives 2026 as the date for the commencement of the Tribulation merely reflects the information contained in that study) is to document and project the seven millennial day plan of God for human history. What you say is absolutely correct: no date is mentioned in the Bible, and the passage you cite (Matt.24:36), gave me some pause. Furthermore, God is not bound by any system He may have set up (even if He has in fact followed it and revealed in scripture His following of it thus far). All that said, the seven millennial day interpretation I believe to be correct based upon analysis presented in S.R. #5. So, despite the fact that naming this date opens me up for the very reasonable sort of questions your e-mail contains, I felt that it would be wrong of me to believe something so strongly and yet withhold it, simply because I was concerned about the consequences. Were it a question of personal doubt, that would be another matter. Where that is not an issue, I have always felt constrained to do as Paul has indicated we should and give the whole counsel of God without reserve (Acts 20:20 and 20:27). In short, I am sympathetic to your concerns, and this has not been an easy choice. S.R. #5 lays out in detail why I believe as I do so that you and other readers can decide for themselves whether the scripture supports this position adequately. S.R. #5 also includes the following caveat that makes some of these very issues clear as I have attempted to address them above (and I am reproducing part of that section here):

"The most potentially controversial piece of information developed below, that is, the projected date for the commencement of the Tribulation, is based upon the following suppositions (all of which are treated within the context of this study):

  1. The seven millennial day interpretation is taught in scripture and meant to be understood and applied.  
  2. The Church Age will last for two millennial days or 2000 years.  
  3. The Church Age commences following the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
  4. These events took place in 33 A.D.  
  5. The Tribulation belongs to both the Church and Jewish Ages and is therefore to be subtracted from the 2000 year total when calculating the start of the Tribulation.  
  6. The half hour of silence in heaven at the breaking of the seventh seal (Rev.8:1) signifies a half year grace period that shifts the start point from spring to fall.  
  7. Scripture gives no indication of either shortening or lengthening of this time-line, and therefore no such change of schedule is anticipated.

The above points are all presented here as true, and the analysis upon which they are based is set forth below. Clearly, deviation from any of the above will alter the entire scheme. It is also true, as we have already said, that alteration of the schema presented below is certainly within the power and authority of the Almighty. The very end of the Tribulation, for example, will be shortened by some undisclosed amount of time (Mk.13:20). Rather than undermining the theory advanced in this study, however, Mark 13:20 in actuality supports the importance of paying heed to the Bible's chronological information. For if "the days are shortened", then surely this means that there was a definite heavenly timetable in the first place. Secondly, Mark 13:20 indicates that the shortening mentioned is a matter of days, weeks at the most (i.e., not enough to change the general time-line given below). This is certainly in line with the very specific tally of days and months given in Daniel and Revelation (Dan.7:25; 8:14; 12:7; 12:11-12; Rev.11:2-3; 12:6; 12:14; 13:5)."

In terms of some of the specific passages you and I mentioned, this is what I say in footnote #60 of the same study:

The "unknown day and hour" of Matt.24:36 and Mark 13:32 merely indicates that we may know an event is imminent without knowing the precise day of the year and hour of the day in which it will occur. After all, this comment occurs immediately following the parable of the fig tree where we are told by our Lord in no uncertain terms precisely to pay attention to scripturally significant events and not to ignore what the Bible has to say on these matters (cf. Matt.24:32-35; Mk.13:28-31). Acts 1:7 is often mistranslated "It is not for you to know", but should be rendered "It is not for you to decide the times and the seasons". The Greek verb gignosko commonly has this meaning of "decide" especially when it is in the aorist as it is here. The context strongly supports this revised translation since our Lord immediately adds "which the Father has ordained by His authority". That is to say, Jesus' point is that it is the Father who has decided these matters; they are not to be decided by your wishes. For our Lord's disciples had just very clearly expressed the wish through their question in the preceding verse six for Him to establish the Kingdom immediately. Therefore our Lord's reproof in verse seven is not a commendation of complete ignorance about the Father's timetable, but rather a reminder to them that it is His will in these matters that counts, not theirs; they would have to remain patient, even though from their perspective the time seemed ripe for the commencement of the Messiah's kingdom. We must also take into consideration the fact that this statement was given to the apostles prior to the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost. The Spirit is the agent of inspiration, chronology included, who, as Jesus had already made clear, would be the One to relate to them "the things to come" (Jn.16:13; cf. 2Pet.1:16-21). Since they will later come to understand the "things to come", verse seven must also be understood in conjunction with verse eight: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you . . .", a statement that clearly includes the previously promised further revelation of the Spirit (not excluding information about the end times). This is why, a few short years later, Paul can tell the Thessalonians the exact opposite of Acts 1:7 (that is, as it is generally misconstrued): "concerning the times and the seasons, you have no need that anyone write you, for you know very well . . ." (1Thes.5:1-2).

Again, I very much appreciate your careful and insightful questioning, and I appreciate the supportive and concerned tone with which it was delivered.

Please also see: 

The Chronology of the End Times

When will the Tribulation Begin?

Is the world about to come to an end?

The Tribulational Overlap and the Date of the Tribulation's Commencement (in SR 5)

End Times Interpretation

Interpretation of the Book of Revelation: Bible Questions.

The Trinity, the Date of the Tribulation and Calvinism

History's Seven Millennial Days: The Seven Thousand Years of Human History

Eschatology Issues III: Over-focusing on Revelation, the Seven Churches

The Tribulation itself is covered in the extensive series Coming Tribulation.

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Bob Luginbill


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