The “great tribulation”, referred to by Jesus in Matthew chapter 24, occurs during the same time period as antichrist’s reign discussed in Revelation chapter 13. I know that most Bible teachers will tell you that this “great tribulation”, mentioned in Matthew 24, is the tribulation surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. However, a close study of the context of Matthew 24:15-30, reveals that the “great tribulation” spoken of here by Jesus, unquestionably is primarily referring to the time period just before His return at the end of the world. To begin with, most theologians agree that the prophecies in Matthew 24 can refer to either the destruction of Jerusalem or the “last days” before Christ’s return; moreover, that in some cases they have dual applications. In fact, in Matthew 24:1-3, Jesus Himself stated that the signs that He was about to give applied to both the destruction of Jerusalem and His return at the end of the world. However, the great tribulation referred to in Matthew 24:21, certainly finds its primary fulfillment during the “last days” before Christ’s return, because of all of the following indisputable biblical and historical reasons.
During this time period, when followers of Jesus will be fleeing for their lives, Matthew 24:15 states that an “abomination of desolation” will be standing in the holy place in Jerusalem. It’s both interesting and significant that, just before Jesus returns, 2nd Thessalonians 2:3-9 says that the “son of perdition” (antichrist) will be sitting as God in the temple of God. That is certainly a striking and specific fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy of an abomination sitting in the holy place in Matthew 24:15.
It is also significant that Jesus referred to this great tribulation, following the abomination sitting in the holy place, as being a tribulation “such as has not been, nor ever will be”, in Matthew 24:21-22; furthermore, that unless the days of this tribulation were shortened, “no flesh would be saved”. This can’t be referring to the tribulation the Jews suffered from Rome in 70 AD, because they had suffered similar tribulation before when Babylon burned Jerusalem to the ground and murdered and enslaved their people. And, they certainly suffered even greater tribulation in the future when six-million Jews were slaughtered by Hitler. Also, the Jews’ specific tribulation and suffering in 70 AD would not have caused “no flesh” to be saved, but only Jews who were living in Jerusalem. Christ’s disciples throughout the rest of the world were not threatened by the Romans’ destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. However, the great tribulation at the end of the world caused by the antichrist will indeed surpass all previous tribulations, because it is worldwide with an internationally enforced “mark of the beast” and worldwide death decree for all who don’t worship the beast, according to Revelation 13. Moreover, there obviously will be no tribulations coming in the future to compare with the one caused by antichrist because it occurs at the end of the world. And, the tribulation brought by antichrist also fulfills Christ’s statement that “no flesh would be saved” from destruction if God did not shorten the days, because it is a “worldwide” death decree. To any previously “unbrainwashed” and unbiased reader it is obvious that the antichrist’s tribulation in the “last days” is the fulfillment of Jesus’ “great tribulation” prophecy in Matthew 24:21-22, and not the tribulation surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD.
Furthermore, Matthew 24:23-24 speaks of false christs and false prophets doing great signs and wonders during the time of the tribulation period mentioned by Jesus, but there are no early historical or church records of such dramatic and supernatural phenomenon happening around 70 AD. However, regarding the great tribulation caused by the antichrist in the last days, 2nd Thessalonians 2:8-9 and Revelation 13:13-14 speak of signs, miracles and great and lying wonders being done, including fire falling from heaven. Once again, Jesus’ words find their fulfillment during the tribulation of the last days, not in the Jews’ tribulation in 70 AD.
Then, in Matthew 24:29, Jesus said that the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken immediately after the tribulation that He had mentioned in Matthew 24:21. Does secular or church history record any such cataclysmic phenomenon having occurred around 70 AD? No! So, once again, this has to be referring to the great tribulation caused by antichrist in the last days just before the return of Jesus. And, in fact, that is exactly what it says in Matthew 24:30; the Son of Man appears in the heavens right after these cataclysmic heavenly signs. It also states that “all the tribes of the earth” shall see Jesus and mourn at His appearance at this time. Did Jesus appear in the heavens with the entire world seeing Him in 70 AD? No! But, we know that this will happen at the end of the world.
Therefore, from all of the evidence, signs and context presented by Jesus in Matthew 24:15-30, it is indisputable that the “great tribulation” mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24:21, is during the reign of antichrist at the end of the world, not the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. In other words, Matthew 24:21 correlates to the same time period discussed in Revelation 13:4-17.