Updated: Oct 10, 2022
Most Protestant Christians hold to a belief that there is a coming seven years of a Great Tribulation during the “end times”. Most have wondered what it might be like to live through such years. In my novel series “Cry for Jerusalem” we follow a set of friends through seven such years, only they are not in the future, they are in the first century. Most of the events described in these novels were actual events lived through and recorded by the historian Josephus. Could it be those seven years were the ones referred to in prophecy?
Many Christians imagine seven years of tribulation associated with a modern-day apocalypse.
It may surprise many to find out that no where in the bible is there a specific description of a seven-year tribulation period. An enormous amount has been written and discussed about it. But it’s been based on only a few bible verses, with the rest based on speculation and future sensationalism. The only hint at a seven-year period is when the prophet Daniel mentions that 62+7=69 “sevens” or “seven-year periods” with the inference that there is a remaining seven years to make it the full 70 sevens he previously mentioned. References are also made to three and a half year periods twice by Daniel and once in Revelation. By inference those shorter periods are put together to make seven years. Like most prophecies, there is just enough information here to tease us, but not enough to be sure about any details.
Daniel’s “sevens” are within the context of a discussion of the “Beast” which can be most easily be associated with the Rome Emperors and Nero (see my past blog from 9-19-2021) who reigned in the first century. The only mention in the Bible of a “Great Tribulation” is in what is known as the “Olivet Discourse” given by Jesus on the Mount of Olives. It is associated with an abomination set up in the Temple. According to Daniel that would involve a desecration and interference with the daily sacrifices. Daniel also predicted (chapt. 9, verse 26) that not long after the Messiah was cut off (die) leaving no issue (descendants) a prince (Titus, son of Vespasian?) would come with an army and destroy the holy city (Jerusalem).
The Olivet discourse includes a prediction that “this” generation will not pass away before these sorrows come to pass. Many discussions have surrounded this prediction because Jesus seems to be describing both the destruction of Jerusalem (soon to happen) and his return (still not happened). So, it is easy for many scholars to insist the “generation” that would still be alive he is referring to could not be his listeners because he has not returned yet.
I find there to be an easy explanation for this conundrum. The answer being he was answering his disciples who asked both “when will all these things take place? AND what will be the sign of your coming?” Their question was sparked by Jesus predicting the destruction of the Temple and that “not one stone would remain upon another”. The disciples thought this calamity and his return would occur at the same time, or nearly so. In response then Jesus was answering two questions at the same time, but about two events that would happen at two different times. Those two being the destruction of the Temple within 40 years, but the circumstances surrounding his return still much further off. "This generation" refers to the destruction of the Temple, not his return.
Interestingly, there were inarguably seven years of tribulation that ended in 70 AD/CE. Josephus described harsh treatments by Roman governors starting around 63 AD with Albinus. Albinus was described as an “evil tyrant” who, as an example, let all the thieves and bandits out of the prisons (whoever paid him a bribe). He was soon followed by Florus, who made Albinus “look like an angel in comparison”. Florus stormed Jerusalem and killed thousands of innocent civilians in an attempt to raid the Temple treasury. In response the Jews stopped all daily sacrifices made on behalf of the Roman leaders.
Then in the year 66 (halfway through the seven years) the First Jewish Revolt began in full and the Romans were kicked out of Judea altogether. But this did not lead to peace, as Jewish factions began vying for power in Jerusalem and fighting each other in the streets. It degraded into an all-out civil war in the city between two or three factions for two years. John of Gischala, one of the leaders, took over the temple and eliminated all priestly sacrifices and desecrated the altar. But instead of fleeing the city as Jesus warned them to do, Jews arrived by the hundreds of thousands, fleeing the Roman legions for the safety of Jerusalem’s walls.
It seems to me that the seven-year period leading up to the destruction of the Temple fulfills the description of the Great Tribulation, and even does so in two distinct three and a half year periods. Much was written down about the details of those years by the historian Josephus that very few people have read. But now those details have been brought to life in dramatized novel form.
Cry For Jerusalem is a series of historical fiction books covering the seven years leading up to the burning of Herod’s Temple and the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
Author Ward Sanford gives this period of history new depth in Cry For Jerusalem and showcasing the works of eyewitness historian Flavius Josephus in a new way with this fictional yet fact-based dramatization.
In the CFJ blog section Ward covers subjects to do with the vast amount of research that went into the CFJ novel series, including Ancient Jerusalem, the Roman Empire, and Biblical topics and the writings of Josephus.