How Is the Great Tribulation Shortened?

How is the Great Tribulation Shortened? The GT is said to last 42 months, 1260 days or time, times and half a time. The perspective below is premillennial and futuristic.

Encountering a New Rapture View

When I first encountered the prewrath rapture view (PW), what struck me was its claim that the “Great Tribulation” would last less than 3.5 years. This was the initial reason why I didn’t buy into the system. The phrase “after the tribulation has been cut short” is pivotal. Other tenets hinge on this unique interpretation of Matt 24:22.

Neither Rosenthal nor Van Kampen really defended this concept. Coverts simply took it on board. But is this interpretation of Matt 24:22 valid? Proponents affirm it must be so because everything else allegedly ties in, “comparing Scripture with Scripture.”

Church gone: Israel in “protective custody”

At some point I came across Charles Cooper’s “The Meaning and Significance of Koloboo in Matthew 24:22” in a 1997 Parousia Magazine article. I cannot currently find it online, although I have a copy. Cooper threw out a number of suggestions in defense, perhaps the oddest being that God can change His mind. In another article he wrote,

The Word of God teaches that Satan/Antichrist’s persecution will be cut short in Matthew 24:22. How? By removing the object of the evil one’s persecution—the Church—to heaven and putting the remnant of Israel in protective custody.

Yet as I’ve noted elsewhere, if the rapture is located at Matt 24:31, it occurs after the tribulation. As I understand it, the “remnant of Israel” is already in “protective custody” before the GT is “shortened.”

It really is about Israel

BTW, I recommend Mike Vlach’s book “The Old in the New.” He correctly identifies Israel as the focus of the Olivet Discourse. It’s odd to take OT verses addressing Israel (Daniel’s people etc) and apply them to a future predominantly gentile church.

Another PW position is that Dan 7:25 refers to the nation Israel, not the church (which is correct). It states that “Israel and not the church will be persecuted for 42 months.” So, in this case, the GT is cut short only for the church. Note the expression “time, times, and half a time” in the verse.

Is Israel persecuted while in “protective custody”? Or, is part of Israel in custody while another part isn’t (around the world)? Why cut the tribulation short for the church and not Israel? Don’t some posttrib folk assert that God can work with both the church and Israel simultaneously?

And remember that the GT must be shortened in order to spare all life.

What do we do with the Rev 20:4 martyrs? Is the passage a recap providing the missing resurrection element to Rev 7’s Great Multitude? Or do the Rev 20:4 martyrs comprise those who come to faith during the 42 month Antichrist Great Tribulation, who aren’t in “protective custody”?

A few more thoughts

Speaking of resurrection: One of the “proofs” that Matt 24:31 is the rapture (cutting short the GT) is allegedly found in Dan 12:2. The argument is that Jesus, in the Olivet Discourse, cites Daniel. And apparently one can find the missing Olivet resurrection there.

One problem is that the same chapter (Dan 12:7) speaks of time, times and half a time which elsewhere is stated to be 42 months. We’re not even considering issues relating to Dan 12:1, 13. So does Dan 12 address the future church or Israel, or both? What presuppositions might one employ to parse it?

In my opinion, defenses for a shorter length GT are contradictory and convoluted. I agree with this simple comment at Precept Austin,

“Cut short” does not mean the Great Tribulation will be less than 3.5 years, but only that it will be abruptly terminated by the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In other words, unless Christ stops the process it would continue until no life is spared (which is what the text plainly states). There are three main problems with the shortened GT interpretation of Matt 24:22. I discussed them here (citing Larry Pettegrew).

A Beast

Finally, Rev 13: 5 states that the Beast is given authority for forty-two months. If we assume this is the Man of Lawlessness, then the reason for his existence is located in 2 Thess 2:8-12. Clearly his function isn’t restricted to persecuting Israel and GT believers.


Further reading: Tony Garland: Jacob’s Trouble and the Great Tribulation.

Alf Cengia bio

Alf Cengia has a keen interest in politics (especially the Middle East), is a collector of books and dabbles in weight training. He is stepfather to Michelle, Sammy’s chief walker and his wife’s favorite coffee maker. He blogs at Zeteo316 and Thoughts on Eschatology.

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There are 4 Comments

Ed Vasicek's picture

Thanks, Alf, for the thoughtful article.

I don't know if you are familiar with a simpler, "within Revelation" interpretation?  This interpretation suggests that Revelation 8:12a refers to the shortening of the days -- not number of days, but length.  In other words, days become 16 hour days.

The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars,

"The Midrash Detective"

pvawter's picture

Now that's fascinating, Ed. I have never heard that particular idea anymore. Is it espoused by any particular writer or developed anywhere?

Ed Vasicek's picture


I came across this interpretation perhaps 40 years ago, but I cannot remember the source.  It is not original with me, but I cannot document the source, sorry.  It resonated with me then, however, and still does.

"The Midrash Detective"

MissionaryA.Berry's picture

Isa 24:20  The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.

You change the orbit of the earth, it will change how we keep time.  


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