Question: If the Bible predicts a 3 1/2 year tribulation then how can Jesus say the days will be shortened? Wouldn't that mean less than 3 1/2 years, thus nullifying the prophecy?
This is a great question, and it helps us dive deeper into God’s revealed Word concerning His timetable for the Lord’s Return. We will see how prophecy is not only fulfilled but also brought into sharper focus. Let’s take a look at the key events concluding The Last Days:
The Last Days conclude with a 7-year period known as Daniel’s 70th Week (See Dan. 11:36-45; 12:1-2, 11-12). This 7-year period is then divided into three major segments.
Jesus described the first 31/2 years of this 7-year period as “the beginning of birth pains”—or “beginning of sorrows” (KJV)—(Matt. 24:5-8; Rev. 6:1-8). Following this comes “The Great Tribulation” (Matth 24:21). Concluding the third segment of this 7-year period is “the Day of the Lord,” also called the Day of God’s Wrath (Joel 1:15).
Let’s break this down a little more for clarity.
The term “the Day of the Lord” in Scripture always refers to God’s judgment and wrath upon rebellious, unrepentant mankind (Rev. 6:16-17; Is. 2:19). It is never used as a synonym for the Tribulation. It is described in the book of Revelation with the opening of the 7th seal (Rev. 6:17). The Bible also teaches that a great cosmic upheaval will take place immediately before the Day of the Lord (Joel 2:11, 30-3), at the opening of the 6th seal (Rev. 6:12-14).
Jesus taught that the Day of the Lord takes place at “the end of the age” (Matt. 24:14)—i.e., with the opening of the 7th seal—and that the Rapture of the church also takes place at “the end of the age” (Matt. 13:39-40; 28:20). In fact, Jesus taught that the Day of the Lord begins the “same day” the rapture of the Church takes place (Lk. 17:26-30). That places these events in the final days of the 7-year period of Daniel’s 70th Week.
This is why Paul writes that believers will not experience God’s wrath on the Day of the Lord:
1Thess. 5:2 …for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. …9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s clear then that the onset of the Day of the Lord takes place somewhere in the final days of the last 31/2 years of Daniel’s 70th Week. The only thing “shortened,” according to Jesus, is the Great Tribulation itself, not the final 31/2 years of Daniel’s prophecy.