How do I answer the following questions from one who takes a historical perspective on prophecy, does not believe in a literal 3.5 year Great Tribulation, and thinks it began at the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70AD?
1. He claims that Jesus says the Great Tribulation begins with the destruction of Jerusalem, citing Lk 21:20-24.
2. He says the NT makes no mention of 7 years, though it deals heavily with chronologies and times, and asks, “How could that omission be possible if it is as clear and important as you maintain? Were Jesus and the apostles not aware of this prophetic time structure that is key to your viewpoint?”
3. Jesus speaks of Jerusalem being trodden underfoot by the gentiles during this same period, commencing at the destruction of Jerusalem. Revelation marks this as one of the four 3-1/2 year periods. Preaching to the ends of the world is one of the 3-1/2 year periods of Revelation – did that not start with the apostles?
First of all, Luke 21:20-24 does not say that the Great Tribulation begins with the desolation of Jerusalem.
A careful reading of Luke’s version of the Olivet Discourse shows that he began with an overview of the church age just like Matthew and Mark did, but with the phrase “but before all this” in verse 12 he backed up to the first century to answer the disciples’ question from verse 7, “When will all these things happen? The question refers to the Lord’s comment in verse 6 that the Temple would soon be destroyed. From there through verse 24 the topic is the 1st century destruction of Jerusalem.
The Lord did say when the Great Tribulation will begin, but He did so in Matt 24:15-21 with the abomination of Desolation standing in the Holy Place. According to Daniel 9:27 and 2 Thes. 2:4 this is the anti-Christ standing in the Temple, something that hasn’t happened yet.
As far as discussing these things with people who don’t take the Bible literally, you might as well be trying to have a discussion with a person who’s speaking a foreign language. Creating a common understanding is almost impossible.
There’s a very good reason why the New Testament doesn’t make more specific reference to the 70th Week of Daniel. As Gabriel pointed out to Daniel, it’s for his people and his holy city. The church is not involved and won’t be here.
Even so, from chapter 6 on, the Book of Revelation is a detailed commentary on the 70th week. There are four references to a period of time 3 1/2 years in length in the Book of Revelation but at least 3 of them all point to the same time, the Great Tribulation. The 4th one is the ministry of the 2 witnesses that some scholars say may be different. The fact that they are variously described as 1260 days, or 42 months, or 3 1/2 years is meant to remove any doubt that they’re to be taken literally.