by John R Ecob DD
How do we understand the words of Jesus when He said,
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 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 24:21-22).
Does this mean the 7 years will be reduced in duration?
Daniel said the Tribulation would last for the 70th “week” or 7 years in chapter 9 of his prophecy. In Daniel chapter 7 he wrote that Antichrist would
think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time (1) and times (2) and the dividing of time (1/2) (Daniel 7:25).
Antichrist will not take up his power until the midpoint of the 7 years so his reign will be for 1+2+1/2= 3 1/2 years. This is repeated in Daniel chapter 12:7 which describes the second half of the Tribulation when redeemed Israel is being afflicted by the Beast (Antichrist)
The Book of Revelation specifically states that the first half of the Tribulation will last 1,260 days (Revelation 11:3) and the second half 1,260 days (Revelation 12:6), 3 1/2 years (Revelation 12:14), and 42 months (Revelation 13:5).
Seven times the Scripture indicates that the Tribulation will last for seven years comprised of two periods of 3 1/2 years and if the duration of that period is reduced (shortened) all of those prophecies must change. Yet Jesus said that “those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:22). How can they be shortened when seven prophecies must be exactly fulfilled?
The answer is in the first two words; “those days”. In the preceding verses of Jesus’ statement in the Olivet Discourse, He described the first half of the Tribulation (Matthew 24:7-14) and the mid-point of the Tribulation (Matthew 24:15). Then from Matthew 24:16 to 28, Jesus described the second half of the Tribulation that will be the reign of the Beast and He called it “great tribulation”
“Those days” are the days of the judgments of the second half of the Tribulation. At the end of the first half of the Tribulation, Seven Seals and seven Trumpet judgments will have desolated the world. The second half of the Tribulation was to have seven Thunder Judgments and seven Vial Judgments. But when seven Thunder Judgments are announced (Revelation 10:3-4) at the beginning of the second half of “great tribulation” they are canceled. John is told to “write them not”. That is the shortening or reduction, of the judgments of the Tribulation. If these were poured out “no flesh” would survive including Israel. But Israel, and Gentiles saved through the testimony of Israel, must be here when Christ returns!
It is not a reduction of the length of the Tribulation but a reduction in the number of judgments of “those days”.
When the prophet Habakkuk faced an imminent invasion of Judah by the Babylonians he feared that his nation would be totally wiped out. He likened the Babylonians to fishermen with nets and prayed:
They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag: therefore they rejoice and are glad. Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous. Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations? (Habakkuk 1:15-17).
Habakkuk reminded God that “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). It was in God’s plan to establish a kingdom on earth where righteousness reigned. So how could God allow His people to be totally destroyed in the net of the Babylonians? He prayed:
O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy (Habakkuk 3:2).
That is precisely why the Judgments of the Tribulation will be shortened. Jesus said, “For the elect’s sake, those days shall be shortened.” The Thunder Judgments would have destroyed ALL LIFE on the earth, and there would have been nobody left to inherit the millennial kingdom, therefore they will be canceled. In wrath, God will show mercy! The earth must be filled with the glory of the Lord after Christ returns and His people must be spared to enter that kingdom