If we are to distinguish between the Second Coming and the Last Judgment (which can only occur after the consummation of history), this leaves us with a period of time between the end-time Parousia of Christ and the end of the world. It would after all be inconceivable that the world would immediately come to an end at the Parousia of Christ, as this would deprive the event of any earthly significance. Rather, as well as ushering in God's judgment upon the earth, the Second Coming will be a further mercy, drawing more people to the faith before the destruction of the world.
The idea of a time period after the Second Coming during which the Antichrist will reign is an old one. The concept of a seven year period of tribulation is one of the central components of dispensationalism, but it may be traced back much further than that.
According to dispensationalism, the tribulation period will last for a total of seven years, during which time the Antichrist will rise to power before meeting his final destruction in the final coming of Christ. When the seven years of tribulation were completed, Jesus would return to earth with the resurrected saints, defeat the Antichrist, and establish the millennial reign on earth. This portrait of the end-time was included in the footnotes in the Schofield Reference Bible, which in turn were based on John Nelson Darby’s dispensationalist teachings, and soon found wide circulation in American Evangelical Christianity. The popularity of dispensationalism reached new heights in the second half of the twentieth century, due to the writings of John F. Walvoord and Hal Lindsey, followed by the Left Behind fiction series by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye.
According to the teachings of classical dispensationalism, a seven year tribulation period will follow the Rapture, in order to punish the unbelievers left on Earth. This seven year period for the Great Tribulation derives its origins from the prophecy of the seventieth week in the Book of Daniel. Dispensationalists believe there is an indeterminate break between the conclusion of the 69 weeks of Daniel, in which the Messiah is “cut off”, and the seventieth week. In the teachings of Dispensationalism, the seventieth week relates specifically to the seven year period of the Great Tribulation at the end-time.
And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator. (Dan 9:26-27)
Interpreted in this fashion, the seventieth week is to be distinguished from the previous sixty nine weeks. Dispensationalists argue that there is a hiatus between the 69th and 70th weeks, which spans the age of the Church. The prophecy of the seventieth week will only be fulfilled at the eschaton, when the Antichrist establishes a covenant with the Jews during the seven year tribulation period. The Antichrist will then go on to break this treaty in the midst of the week and abolish the sacrifices in the newly built Third Temple, before commencing his three and a half year tyrannical reign. So in the dispensationalist interpretation of this passage Daniel’s seventieth week is typically divided into two parts and relates to the coming of the Antichrist.
Yet there are a number of serious problems with the dispensationalist view of Daniel’s seventy weeks. There is absolutely no indication given in the text that there is a massive gap between the 69th and 70th weeks such as the one construed by dispensationalists. Nor is the prophecy of the abomination of desolation to be associated with the hypothetical construction of a “Third Temple”.
It is inconceivable that a third Jewish Temple would even be entertained in today’s political climate. Even if the Dome of the Rock was ultimately destroyed by Jewish extremists, as has been attempted in the past, or as a result of the eschatological earthquake centred on Jerusalem; a proposal to convert the site into a Jewish sanctuary would be highly inflammatory to Muslims throughout the world. It would not be, nor ever should be, permitted. And, as we have already shown, there is no need to posit the existence of a Third Temple in order for the prophecy of the abomination of desolation to retain a degree of significance for the eschatological age (see the earlier post The Abomination of Desolation).
Another weakness of the dispensationalist interpretation of the prophecy of Daniel’s seventy weeks is that the most logical understanding of the reference to the one who “makes a strong covenant with many” is that it actually relates to Christ, rather than the Antichrist. The abolition of the sacrifices can be explained by the nullification of this particular requirement of the Mosaic Law in the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. An act which was symbolized by the tearing of the Temple curtains at the moment of Christ’s death, which is interpreted by Christians as the departure of the Shekinah, or divine presence from the inner sanctum. Any sacrifices performed in the Temple after the flight of the divine presence would have been worthless, and completely unnecessary in the light of Jesus’ eternal sacrifice on the Cross.
So it seems that the dispensationalists were mistaken in basing their beliefs of a seven year tribulation period on the “gap theory” of Daniel’s seventieth week. And the concept of the Rapture is a fallacious doctrine based on a late theological construct. But it seems that despite its errors in other areas, dispensationalism may have touched upon an element of truth by making a distinction between the Second Coming and Last Judgment, and in hypothesizing a seven year tribulation period - although for reasons quite different from our own. Also the idea of the tribulation period lasting for seven years can also be found in the prophecy of St. Patrick, that Ireland would be inundated by the ocean seven years before the last day to spare the Irish from the reign of the Antichrist (see the earlier post St. Patrick and the End-Time Flood of Ireland). And the three and a half year period during which the Antichrist will reign also implies a seven year period (three and a half is one half of seven, and symbolises incompleteness and imperfection).Therefore according to the prophecy of St. Patrick, the mega-tsunami that will be generated by the collapse of the volcano Cumbre Vieja in the Canary Islands (the "great mountain, burning with fire" being thrown into the sea as described in Rev 8:8 - see the earlier post Mega-tsunami) will take place seven years before the end of the world. It appears that it will be this event (which I argue in the book is intimately related to the Second Coming of Christ and the eschatological earthquake) that will bring about the tribulation period on earth. This will be a period of unparalleled economic turmoil, which as history shows leads to massive civil unrest - the seedbed of revolution. I believe that the Antichrist will use this tumultous time period to seize world power and establish a regime that will utterly opposed to the Church and seek either to supplant or destroy it (or both). This will be the final tribulation that the Church will face before the end of world, as foretold in the Gospels and in the Third Secret:
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake." (Matt 24:9)
And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it' a Bishop dressed in White ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father'. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.