Many people have gotten confused by this and if you ask, the answer a lot of people give is that is a seven or more years at some time in the future. But the early Church was persecuted from the very beginning, first by the Jews first, then the pagan Romans, then the Papal Romans. So the Church was going through tribulation since it’s inception, first through the persecution and crucifixion of Christ Himself, then through the same in relation to His Apostles, and followers thereafter. Now we find that the dragon or Satan was persecuting the church as soon as as it was founded by Christ and the Apostles.
1And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
The man child is Christ, and the woman was the Church, during it’s transition from the old to the new covenant, is a logical conclusion when the facts of the prophecy are examined closely.
1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, 3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. 5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. 6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. 8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. 9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. 10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; 3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: 4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. 5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
The above scriptures are all in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is He who is, and will rule the nations with a rod of iron. The prophecy does not say that the man-child is immediately caught up to heaven, just that he is caught up to heaven. Prophecies condense a lot, into a little. Unless clearly specified, we should not consider the time of prophecies by the form in which they are written, but rather by the fulfillment of the details specified in the prophecy.
The child is said to be caught up to God, and His throne. Christ is the only one that the scriptures refer to in this manner.
5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? 6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. 7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. 8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.
1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; 2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. 22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
1 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:
The details of the prophecy of the man-child of Revelation 12, can only apply to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Himself. Now concerning the woman being Israel and the Church-
14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
Isaiah 62: 4-5
4 Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. 5 For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.
2 Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest. 3 The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. 4 Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry.
13 What thing shall I take to witness for thee? what thing shall I liken to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? what shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion? for thy breach is great like the sea: who can heal thee?
1 Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation, O house of Israel.2 The virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise: she is forsaken upon her land; there is none to raise her up.
1Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
2 Corinthians 11:1-2
1 Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. 2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Christ left His Father in heaven, and became one flesh with humanity. He brought humanity and divinity together. This is the gospel. Those who accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal savior, enter into a relationship with the Lord that is symbolized by marriage. The two become one. This is salvation. For this reason, the church is referred to as a woman, that has been married, or betrothed to the Lord.
Now Christ does say that there will be tribulation that shall rise to an intensity that has not been " since the beginning of the world to this time".
Matthew 24:21, 22
"21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved."
As Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, He was referring to a similar prophecy made by the prophet Daniel.
"1 At that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book."
The good news is that God's people will survive the coming tribulation which is a "time of trouble" that culminates with the Second Coming. When discussing the great tribulation to take place just before Jesus returns, you have to understand that there has been many "times of trouble" for God's people in the past. For example, the children of Israel endured 400 years of tribulation just before the Exodus.
"6 And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years."
The early Christians also passed through a time of trouble immediately after the stoning of Stephen.
"1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles."
From A.D. 303-313, during the era represented in the book of Revelation by the Smyrna church, God's people suffered a 10-year period of tribulation.
"10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."
But perhaps the most notable time of trouble was the "thousand two hundred and threescore days." which is prophetic years, or 1,260 years of intense persecution waged against true Christians during the Dark Ages.
Revelation 12:6, 13.
6 "And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and threescore days." 13 "And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman."
As bad as these times were for God's people, none can compare with the final, great tribulation that is yet to take place. The great tribulation corresponds with the time during which the seven last plagues of Revelation referred to in chapter 15 and 16 when they will fall.
"1 And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God."
"1 And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth."
God's wrath will be directed against the ones who disobey His law, distort His truth, and oppress His people.
"18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness."
The great tribulation will be right before the Battle of Armageddon. Both take place immediately before Christ's second coming right after the seven last plagues.
"16 And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. 17 And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.".
This great time of trouble but God has promised it will be done quickly or as we read, no one would survive.
"22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened."
"20 And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days."
Here are a few Scriptures that show it will be a short period of time.
Revelation 18:8 tells us, "Therefore shall her plagues come in one day."
The key to unlocking the time prophecies in the Bible is to first understand the day-year principle of interpretation. A "day" in Bible prophecy represents one literal year (see Ezekiel 4:6, Numbers 14:34, Luke 13:32). So when Revelation says that "her plagues come in one day," it means within one year's time. The very nature of the seven last plagues with rivers and seas turning to blood and the planet being scorched with great heat, would render it impossible for the human race to survive. This is why Jesus said that unless those days were shortened "no flesh should be saved".
The experience of the children of Israel just before the plagues fell on Egypt is a type, or symbol, of what will happen to God's people before the seven last plagues described in Revelation 16.
After 400 years of slavery, the Israelites had become influenced by the religion of Egypt and had lost sight of God's law. So before they left and after, Moses came before the people and encourage a revival of commitment to God's law including the Sabbath of creation. The people responded wholeheartedly.
"5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him.
8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord."
Before the onset of the great tribulation, worship and the Sabbath commandment will come to the forefront. In Revelation 14:7, an angel calls God's people to "worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." Revelation 14:7. The angel is clearly quoting from the Sabbath commandment, which says, "For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day." Exodus 20:11.
A return to the law of God, including the Sabbath truth, will stir the dragon of Revelation to intense action. The devil hates the Sabbath and .if he can destroy the day that was set apart for God's people to spend with their Creator, he can destroy the relationship. The time of trouble began with the wrath of the devil against God's obedient children.
"17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."
Before the great tribulation begins, God's people will experience rising persecution and the saints will have to share their faith in the face of stiff social, political, and religious opposition.
"17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."
This small time of trouble will resemble the period of time just before the plagues fell on Egypt. The angry Pharaoh tried to turn the hearts of his Israelite slaves against their God by forcing them to produce the usual quota of bricks without providing the necessary straw. In the same way, before the tribulation the government will use political and economic sanctions to pressure God's end-time people into receiving the mark of the beast. When this fails to deter the people of God from obedience, there will be a final death decree. "And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed." Revelation 13:15. At this time, the great tribulation begins and the seven last plagues start to fall.
The main reason this time will be so intense is because it will come after probation closes for the lost. "At that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book." Daniel 12:1. Notice that when the tribulation begins, the cases of all people have been forever decided.
For the first time in the world's history, God's Spirit will be completely withdrawn from the lost. The unsaved wicked will be given wholly over to demonic control. The saved will be sealed and the unjust forever lost as their fate is sealed.
Many Christians believe that the righteous will all be raptured out of the world just before the time of trouble and that the wicked will be left behind to endure seven years of tribulation. Because it sounds appealing, this doctrine has gained widespread acceptance. But the fact remains that the Bible clearly teaches otherwise.
Here are but a few of the many Scriptures which teach that God's end-time people will go through the tribulation:
The Bible describes the 144,000 as "they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Revelation 7:14.
In His great prophetic discourse on the mount of Olives, Jesus made the following statement immediately after mentioning the tribulation: "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." Matthew 24:22. If the elect were not in the world during the great tribulation, they would not need the days to be shortened!
All throughout Scripture we see examples of the Lord saving His people through tribulation, not from it. Noah was not saved from the Flood, but through it. Daniel was not saved from the lions' den, but through it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were not saved from the fiery furnace, but through it. In fact, Jesus went through it with them, and He will go through the great tribulation with us as well!
The children of Israel were not saved from Egypt before the plagues fell, but afterward. God demonstrated His love and power by preserving them in Egypt through the ten plagues. In the same way, the righteous will be in the world when the seven last plagues fall (Revelation 16), but God will preserve them.
God never promises that our lives will always be easy. Paul states, "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."2 Timothy 3:11
Paul also told a group of disciples that "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." Acts 14:22.
Although God does not always provide an escape from tribulation, He does promise to give us the power and strength to get through it.
"13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." .
The SOP tells us the following: "The Great Time of Trouble Begins After Probation's Close
When Christ shall cease His work as mediator in man's behalf, then this time of trouble will begin. Then the case of every soul will have been decided, and there will be no atoning blood to cleanse from sin. When Jesus leaves His position as man's intercessor before God the solemn announcement is made, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still” (Revelation 22:11). Then the restraining Spirit of God is withdrawn from the earth.—Patriarchs and Prophets, 201 (1890). LDE 253.1
Satan's Goal: Destroy All Sabbathkeepers
Says the great deceiver: ... “Our principal concern is to silence this sect of Sabbathkeepers.... We will finally have a law to exterminate all who will not submit to our authority.”—Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 472, 473 (1884). LDE 255.4
It is the purpose of Satan to cause them to be blotted from the earth in order that his supremacy of the world may not be disputed.—Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 37 (1893). LDE 255.5
The remnant church will be brought into great trial and distress. Those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus will feel the ire of the dragon and his hosts. Satan numbers the world as his subjects. He has gained control of the apostate churches; but here is a little company that are resisting his supremacy. If he could blot them from the earth, his triumph would be complete. As he influenced the heathen nations to destroy Israel, so in the near future he will stir up the wicked powers of earth to destroy the people of God.—Testimonies for the Church 9:231 (1909). LDE 256.1
God's People Flee the Cities; Many Imprisoned
As the decree issued by the various rulers of Christendom against commandment keepers shall withdraw the protection of government, and abandon them to those who desire their destruction, the people of God will flee from the cities and villages and associate together in companies, dwelling in the most desolate and solitary places. Many will find refuge in the strongholds of the mountains.... But many of all nations and of all classes, high and low, rich and poor, black and white, will be cast into the most unjust and cruel bondage. The beloved of God pass weary days bound in chains, shut in by prison bars, sentenced to be slain, some apparently left to die of starvation in dark and loathsome dungeons.—The Great Controversy, 626 (1911). LDE 259.4
Though a general decree has fixed the time when commandment keepers may be put to death, their enemies will in some cases anticipate the decree, and before the time specified, will endeavor to take their lives. But none can pass the mighty guardians stationed about every faithful soul. Some are assailed in their flight from the cities and villages; but the swords raised against them break and fall powerless as a straw. Others are defended by angels in the form of men of war.—The Great Controversy, 631 (1911). LDE 260.1
The people of God are not at this time all in one place. They are in different companies and in all parts of the earth; and they will be tried singly, not in groups. Every one must stand the test for himself.—The S.D.A. Bible Commentary 4:1143 (1908). LDE 260.2
Houses and Lands of No Use
Houses and lands will be of no use to the saints in the time of trouble, for they will then have to flee before infuriated mobs, and at that time their possessions cannot be disposed of to advance the cause of present truth.... LDE 261.1
I saw that if any held on to their property, and did not inquire of the Lord as to their duty, He would not make duty known, and they would be permitted to keep their property, and in the time of trouble it would come up before them like a mountain to crush them, and they would try to dispose of it, but would not be able.... But if they desired to be taught, He would teach them, in a time of need, when to sell and how much to sell.—Early Writings, 56, 57 (1851). LDE 261.2
It is too late now to cling to worldly treasures. Soon unnecessary houses and lands will be of no benefit to anyone, for the curse of God will rest more and more heavily upon the earth. The call comes, “Sell that ye have, and give alms” [Luke 12:33]. This message should be faithfully borne—urged home to the hearts of the people—that God's own property may be returned to Him in offerings to advance His work in the world.—Manuscript Releases 16:348 (1901). LDE 261.3
It's when Jesus leave the sanctuary, we will get the great tribulation, according to Daniel 12:1.