More than 37 million people died during World War I. Another 62 million died in World War II. Despite the horror of those numbers, they are miniscule compared to the billions who will perish during Earth’s most traumatic days (Mt. 24:21). This future holocaust occurs during the final seven years of Daniel’s 70-weeks prophecy (Dan. 9:24–27), or what could be called the dark portion of the Day of the Lord (Amos 5:18).
This period is often referred to as the Tribulation. Scripture calls the last three and one-half years the “time of Jacob’s trouble” and the “great tribulation” (Jer. 30:7; cf. Dan. 12:1; Rev. 7:14).
The Tribulation probably does not immediately follow the Rapture. The last seven years of Daniel’s prophecy will officially begin when “the prince who is to come” (the Antichrist) makes a covenant with many from the nation of Israel (Dan. 9:27). The Tribulation ends immediately prior to the Second Coming of Christ (Mt. 24:29–30).
Between the Rapture and the making of the covenant is an interlude of unknown duration during which the apostate church remains on Earth, the Holy Spirit as restrainer is removed, and the Antichrist is revealed and begins rising to power by overthrowing three kings and making a temporary alliance with the apostasy (Dan. 7:24; 2 Th. 2:7; Rev. 17:1–6).
The purpose of the Tribulation is to glorify God through His righteous judgments for mankind’s failure in the dispensation of grace. These judgments, worldwide in scope, will be disseminated in the form of seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls (Rev. 6:1; 8:2; 15:7).
They will reveal the true, depraved nature of fallen man. Although multitudes will believe the gospel during this time, the vast majority will refuse to receive God’s justice with brokenness and repentance (9:20-21). Instead, most people will become more obstinate and rebellious, demonstrating that God is righteous in punishing them (16:5–7, 9).
The Tribulation has other purposes, as well. Regarding Israel, it completes the 70-weeks prophecy that pertains only to Israel and the city of Jerusalem (Dan. 9:24). The “time of Jacob’s trouble” will bring Israel to a point of repentance (Dt. 4:30), leading to the nation’s salvation and restoration in the Kingdom (Ezek. 36). It will also manifest and destroy the world’s final Gentile empire. The “times of the Gentiles,” which began with Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon, will be consummated (Dan. 2:40-41; Lk. 21:24). God will use the final attack on Israel and Jerusalem as an opportunity to bring judgment and destruction on the godless nations of the world (Zech. 12:3, 9).
Finally, the Tribulation will end the Church Age, or Age of Grace; and God will use the Antichrist and his 10 cohorts to destroy the apostate church (Rev. 17:16–17).