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The Structure of the Seven Years of Tribulation

(Updated October 2015)

By Clovis E. Miller

In this article, we will look at the steps involved in showing how the seven holy convocations (feast days) of the Lord, as found in Leviticus 23, may possibly represent the framework for the structuring of the 7 years of tribulation, which is to take place before the Revelation of Jesus Christ from heaven. There is no attempt made here to be dogmatic in the viewpoint presented. It is offered only, to give an outline of a possible interpretation of how these events may correspond prophetically to events of the last days.

The Feast days (holy convocations) of the Lord, found in Lev. 23:1-37 are:

1) Slaying the Passover lamb (14 Nissan - called the "Preparation Day" in the New Testament)
2) Feast of Unleavened Bread (15-21 Nissan - Begins and ends with a "sabbath" day)
3) Firstfruits (the first Sunday following the 14th of Nissan)

4) Feast of Weeks (50 days from Firstfruits) Also Scripturally referred to as "firstfruits" (Shavout)

5) Feast of Trumpets (Tishri 1 - Rosh Hashanna - Yom Teruah)
6) Day of Atonement (Tishri 10 - Yom Kippur)

7) Feast of Tabernacles (Tishri 15-21 - Sukkot)

Fulfilled in the past:

1) Jesus was crucified (as God's Passover Lamb) on the 14th day of the Jewish Month of Nissan (the day of preparation, preceeding the first sabbath of Unleavened Bread). {Ex. 12:5-6 ; John 1:29 ; I Cor. 5:7 ; Mark 15:42 ; Luke 23:54 ; John 19:31}

2) He was place in the tomb at the end of that day , and the tomb was sealed at dusk, as the evening of the first "sabbath" of the seven days of Unleavened Bread drew near. The "corn", or grain of wheat ( actually, barley) was sown and covered. {John 6:35 ; John 12:24}

3) He remained in the tomb for three days and three nights. {Matt. 12:40}

4) For the words of Jesus to be literally fulfilled in Matt. 12:40, and based on the fact that Jesus first appeared to the women on Sunday morning; a Wednesday crucifixion is indicated (Not the traditional Good Friday Day). Jesus would have been resurrected at dusk, on the 17th of Nissan (as the light of the weekly sabbath was diminishing); exactly 72 hours after His body was sealed in the tomb. The grain of wheat {John 12:24} which had been planted at the end of the Prepartion Day, now has risen, a new plant. "...the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. Therefore the Son of man is also Lord of the sabbath." {Mark 2:27-28}

5) He rose from the dead, as the weekly sabbath was ending in order to fulfill the next feast day (the Feast of Firstfruits), which began that evening. Lev. 23:10-11 was fulfilled as it was "the morrow after the sabbath" (the first Sunday following the killing of the Passover lamb).

There was an argument in those days between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, as to which sabbath Firstfruits should follow. The Pharisees held to the belief that it should be remembered on 16 Nissan (the day following the first "sabbath" of Unleavened Bread, which they called,the Passover). The Sadducees, on the other hand, believed firstfruits should be celebrated on the day following the weekly sabbath which would fall within the seven days unleavebed bread. In other words, firstfruits should be celebrated on the first day of the week (Sunday). It was however, the view of the Pharisees which ultimately prevailed (Click on the link at the bottom of the page for more on this). It is worth noting here, that Jesus was very critical of the Pharisees for replacing the commandments of God with their traditions and extra-Biblical law {Matt. 15:1-3}.

In Lev. 23:7, the word "sabbath" is not precisely stated as it is in Lev. 23:32. It rathers says," shall have a holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein.". We do find in verse 39 that the first day of the feast of tabernacles is called a "sabbath". According to Strong's Concordance, Feast day sabbaths such as this were called "shab-baw-thone'" (#7677 - meaning: "a sabbatism or special holiday:-rest, sabbath"). On the other hand, the word "sabbath" as used in reference to the feast of firstfruits {Lev. 23:10-11} is pronounced, "Shab-bawth'" (#7676 - meaning: "intermission, i,e, (spec.) the Sabbath- (every) sabbath."). The "sabbaths" which began and ended the week of unleavened bread were a little different than the weekly sabbath. On those two days, all work was prohibited. However, the cooking of food, prohihited on a weekly sabbath was permitted on these two days (Ex. 12:16}. This was permitted to allow the ceremonial rites of Passover (cooking the Passover Lamb and other food preparations) to be carried out, so as to keep the law. The Exodus passage, like the one in Leviticus, refrains from referring to the first and last days of unleavened bread as "sabbath" days.

History tells us that the sheaf of the firstfruits of the barley harvest was reaped by the priest of the temple, at the end of the Sabbath, at dusk.

"R. Hananiah, Prefect of the Priests, says, ‘On the Sabbath it [the barley] was reaped.' . . . On the Sabbath, he [the priest] says to them, ‘[Shall I reap on] this Sabbath?' They shall say, ‘Yes'" (Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah: A New Translation, "Menahoth," p. 753-754). So, at dusk at the end of the Sabbath, the priest "put the sickle to the grain".

Scripture also tells us, that after the death of Jesus, many graves of the saints were opened; and then after His resurrection, those saints also arose and went into the city, where they appeared to many {Matt. 27:52-53}. When Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, on that Sunday Morning, He told her,

"...Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father; but go to My brethern and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, and to My God and your God'." {John 20:17}

Jesus ascended to heaven two times after His resurrection: on that Sunday; and then forty days later {Acts 1:3,9}. It makes no real sense that the above verse is describing what happened in Acts Chapter 1; since Jesus was going to be with the disciples that same day, where He could have told them Himself that he would be ascending to heaven in the near future. There was an immediacy to His statement to Mary Magdalene, "...go and tell my brethern...I am ascending to my Father...". The sheaf of firstfruits was waved in the temple early on Sunday morning (at about 9AM). So, at the approximate time that the Priest was taking the sheaf of firstfruits of natural grain up in the temple, to be waved as an offering to God; Jesus, our High Priest, was ascending up to the heavenly temple, with another sheaf of firstfruits (the resurrected saints) to make a wave offering to the Father; thus fulfilling the feast of Firstfruits {Lev. 23: 10-11}. He then returned to earth and appeared to the diciples, at the end of that same day {John 20:19}.

We also read in Ephesians 4:8 and Psalm 68:18, that when Jesus :"ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." Those who had waited for Messiah in "Abraham's Bosom" (Paradise) {Luke 16: 20-23 ; Luke 23:43}; some of which, it appears, went into Jerusalem after the resurrection of Jesus (Matt. 27: 53}, and were later taken up to heaven to be presented as firstfruits unto the Father, by our High Priest, Jesus. The gifts unto men were given 50 days later, as the Holy Spirit came down on Pentecost (the Feast of Weeks) and empowered the church {Acts 1:8}.

6) He ascended a second time to heaven on the fortieth day after coming out of the tomb. {Acts 1:3, Acts 1:9-11}

7) Ten days later, on the feast of Weeks (50 days after Firstfruits), the Holy Spirit came down and the church was empowered to carry out the great commission (Pentecost). {Lev. 23:15-16 ; Acts 2:1-5, 41}

Feast Days yet to be fulfilled:

8) The next holy day in this series to be fulfilled will be Feast of Trumpets. The event associated with this day will be the rapture of the church, {Lev. 23: 24-25 ; I Thess. 4: 16-17 ; I Cor. 15:51-52}. While its yearly occurance falls on the first day of the seventh Jewish month, called Tishri (in the Fall season), we do not know the actual year in which the fulfillment of this feast day will occur. This is not date setting, and does not violate the words of the Lord concerning the time in which He will return for His church {Matt. 24:36}. We cannot know which year it will occur, but we can know the seasonal time of its fulfillement, and be sure that when the rapture of the church does occur, it will be a fulfillment of this feast day. It is reasonable to believe that if the first four feast days were fulfilled with such exact timing, that the remaining three feast days will also be fulfilled with the same accuracy. The rapture occuring on this day, fits perfectly in the timing structure of the seven years of tribulation, as we shall see. For a more in depth study of the Feast Days of the Lord, a link is found at the end of this article.

One important consideration to bear in mind with regard to the fulfillment of these events is that, while the timing of feast days themselves is based on the lunar cycle of 29 1/2 days (each month begins with the new moon); the prophecies concerning the tribulation period are based on a calendar of 30 days per month. This is attested to in both the Book of Daniel {Dan.7:25 ; Dan.12:7,11} and the Book of Revelation {Rev.12:6 ; Rev.13:5}. This further adds into the mix that no man knows the day or hour of His return for the church. It's easy to see that if the months were based solely on the lunar cycle of 29 1/2 days, it would not be long until the feast days would fall completely outside of the seasons in which they were intended to be remembered. Several of the feast days deal with offering grain which is harvested at the time of the specific feast. If the feast day fell outside the season of that harvest, keeping the feast according to Scripture would be impossible. Therefore, adjustments to the calendar have been, and still are, made periodically to compensate for this problem.

9) Using the pattern of the ascension of Jesus to heaven ten days before Pentecost as a type of the rapture; we may see a similiar occurance with the rapture of the church on the Feast of Trumpets. Ten days after Jesus ascended to heaven, great joy came down upon the people on the day of Pentecost.

In Judaism, the first ten days of the month of Tishri (beginning with the Feast of Trumpets) are called, "the days of awe". During this time each year, it is believed that God judges the sins of every person, from the previous year. Final judgment is decreed with the closing of the Day of Atonement (Tishri 10). If the individual has repented of his, or her past sins, they will be sealed in the Book (of Life) for another year. If not, an ill fate may be awaiting them in the coming year. It appears that during this time of judgment, in the year of the rapture, that the 144,000 chosen ones from the twelve tribes of Israel, spoken of in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 7:2-6, 7-8), will be accept Jesus as Messiah, and be annointed to pick up where the raptured church left off. It's a role that was first given to 120 Jewish believers at the original Pentecost.That is to say, it is by this group (the 144,000) that Israel's role to take the gospel to the ends of the earth will finally be fulfilled. Whereas, there were 120 believers (the former rain) at the original Pentecost; in the year of the rapture, there will be 1,200 believers (latter rain) who will take the place of each of those original "Jewish" believers

With the rapture of the church on some future Feast of Trumpets (Tishri 1), and counting ten days from that point, brings us to Tishri 11 (the day following the Day of Atonement - the sixth holy convocation in Leviticus 23). It appears that on that day, a period of great sorrow will commence as the people confirm the covenant with the Antichrist {Dan. 9:27}. This period, the first 42 months of the seven years of tribulation, is referred to in the Gospel accounts as the "beginning of sorrows" {Matt. 24:8 ; Mark 13:8}.

10) Using a thirty day per month calendar, at this point, and counting forward exactly 42 months (42 x 30 = 1260 days) from Tishri 11, brings us to Nissan 10, in the spring season. The ending of that day would close the period referred to in Scripture as "the beginning of sorrows". It was on Nissan 10, that the Jewish people were commanded to select, and inspect, the lamb for the Passover sacrifice {Ex. 12:3}.

It is likely that on this date, that the image of the beast (probably the image of the lamb of a goat) will be offered as a replacement for daily sacrifice, which will probably be taken away thirty days prior to this day (see Daniels 1,335 Days prophecy at the end of this article). Both the lambs of sheep and of goats were acceptable as Passover sacrifices {Ex. 12:5}. However, in both Scripture and Satanic worship, we find that the goat is also used as a symbol which denotes rebellion against God {Matt. 25: 33}.

11) It appears that exactly 3 1/2 years into the tribulation period, in the evening, as Nissan 10 is giving way to Nissan 11, the Antichrist will enter the temple at Jerusalem, proclaim himself to be God, and then dedicate the image of the beast. With the setting up of the image (the Abomination of Desolation) in the temple, the beginning of sorrows ends, and the 42 months of "great tribulation" will begin {Matt. 24:15-21}. Many Jewish people look for Messiah to come during the time of Passover. Unfortunately, it appears that the Messiah who will come at that time of the year, will be the false Messiah.

12) Counting exactly 42 months from Nissan 11, the first day of Antichrist's reign as "God", takes us forward to the ending of the Day of Atonement, on Tishri 10 in the fall season. That day is the most solemn of all of Israel's holy days. In it, every person is to afflict their souls and mourn, or be cut off from among the people {Lev. 23: 27-29 ; Zech. 12:10-14}. Just prior to the coming of Messiah, Zechariah 12:12 declares that,"...the land shall mourn, every family by itself..."; indicating that this will be not only a sabbath day {Ex. 16:29}, but a special sabbath day. The normal weekly sabbath is a day of rest and relaxation. This special day however, will be a day of intense mourning. The Day of Atonement is a sabbath day in the strictest sense of the word, and is exactly the kind of day portrayed by Zechariah. Not only is work forbidden, but the people are to abstain from eating as well. It would be, on this day, exactly 84 months (7 years) since starting, that the tribulation period would be brought to a close, with the Revelation of Jesus Christ and the destruction of the Antichrist and False Prophet {Zech. 14:3-4 ; Rev. 19:11,20}. Final atonement {Dan. 9:24} for the sins of a mourning Israel shall also be realized by the people on that day; and all Israel shall be saved (Isa. 59:20-21 ; Romans 11:26-27).

In Hosea 5:14-15 we read,, "...I, even I will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him. I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early." Here, we see a perfect picture of Israel's rejection of their Messiah, resulting in their dispersion. The Lord declares that He will not come back to them until they acknowledge their sin, and seek Him in their affliction. So it will be, on that great Day of Atonement, when all of Israel afflicts their souls, that Messiah will return and heal the nation.

It's interesting, that the prophet Zechariah tells us in chapter 14, that on the day when Messiah comes to Jerusalem, (when His feet touch the Mount of Olives {14:4}): " evening...", there will be a sort of darkness in the land, which is neither day, nor night {Zech. 14:6-7}. It will be a dim light which does not diminish with the normal passage of time; a light such as one sees at the dusk of a day (THE SIGN of Messiah's approach: Matt. 24:30). Why this darkness? Because Scripture states that when Jesus comes," every eye willl see Him" {Rev. 1:7}. There will be no distractions; all eyes will be upon the heavens. He will then burst upon the scene in dazzling fashion. It is also declared, that at the revelation of Jesus, He will destroy the Antichrist with, "... the brightness of His coming..." {II Thess. 2:8}. Here is the scenario: The day is dimly lit, then, in an instant, He shall appear, shining brighter than the sun, to fight against those who would destroy Israel; and to claim His rightful place, not only as the King of Israel, but as King of the whole earth, as well {Zech. 14:9}.

13) The Feast of Tabernacles is the seventh and last of the holy convocations. It will be fulfilled as the millenial reign of Christ and the saints, when God, will literally tabernacle (dwell with) men in a world, which will be redeemed from the curse brought upon it by the fall of Adam and Eve. Unfortunatley, after a thousand years of peace and prosperity, man's evil side will arise again, resulting in the destruction of this world, along with the wicked; and the creation of a new heaven and earth. The latter will endure forever and in it will never be found a trace of sin or a curse.

The Doctrine of Imminence, as taught by many, states that the Lord Jesus may return at any moment of any day, of any season, of any year. It is however, possible to believe in a Pre-Tribulation rapture, apart from following this understanding. The great commission, given by Jesus, stating that the church was to take the Gospel into all the world (Matt. 28:19), makes it clear that His return was not a matter of imminence for those believers, nor to those mentioned in Acts 1:8. Spreading the good news of the Word of God was a slow process in those days; and in fact, even with the technology we have, it is still going on until this very moment. At the same time, every believer is cautioned to be looking for His return (an act of obedience, intended to motivate us to stay on the right path). Matt. 24: 48-51 seems to be geared to those who abuse the longsuffering of the Lord with a dying world. While the departure of the church may not have been imminent to the earliest believers; the departure from this world by those professing Christians, who are abusive to others, or worldly in their outlook, should be reckoned by themselves as imminent. The Lord's warning is quite clear.

The writer of this article takes the position that we may know the season of His return (the Feast of Trumpets, in the Fall); but we cannot know which occurance of that feast day He will come on. As mentioned above, this understanding does not violate the Lord's words stating, that only the Father in heaven knows the day or hour He will come for His church {Matt. 24: 36}. We should be continuously looking forward to the season of His return. Even if it passes this year without fulfillment, we should be focused on the idea that it may be the next time. That, in itself, should be an incentive to work more for the Lord, if He gives us another year, rather that becoming slack in our duty, abusive to others, or worldly in our outlook.

The "surgical removal" by early church councils, of many teachings or insights which were handed down by the Jewish believers (i.e. the sabbath day, firstfruits, the holy convocations of God, etc.), has created a great void for the modern church to deal with. The removal of such links with the original church, which was fully Jewish, makes a proper understanding of many Biblical passages difficult, if not impossible. This is especially true for those who are not aware of the changes made by those councils, which were often, by their own admission, anit-Jewish in sentiment. It's a real instance of throwing the baby out with the bath water. The fulfillment of the first four feast days of Leviticus 23, is easily provable by New Testament Scripture. When it's all said and done, it will be shown that the final three will have been undeniably proved, as well.

This writer has a certain understanding concerning such matters. At the same time, I would not be so bold, as some are, to feel that my understanding is infallible. Whether you agree with it, or not, this simple article is presented for the edification of all Christians; and to say that we should be careful to confirm for ourselves what we accept as the truth, or as sound doctrine.

The Pharisees/Sadducees Controversy Click Here
For a more in depth study of the Feast Days of the Lord Click Here.
To Read about the 1,335 Days of Daniel Chapter 12 Click Here.

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