The Great Distress
Both Jesus and Daniel talk about a future time of great distress. They describe it like this:
And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time. Daniel 12:1b NASB
For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Matthew 24:21 NASB
Given that the scope of the great flood affected all of humanity, it’s reasonable to assume that this time of great distress will be worldwide as well. And also like the great flood, it will affect people differently based on their faith. When we read further into Daniel 12, we learn that the duration of the great distress lasts for three and one-half years (Daniel 12:7). Both of the above verses link its beginning to the abomination of desolation.
Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. Matthew 24:15-16 NASB
From the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. Daniel 12:11 NASB
The abomination being spoken of is when the man of sin declares himself to be God. This will take place at the end of the fourth seal whenever he performs amazing signs and wonders to end the wars and deceive the masses. The desolation that follows is described in Revelation 12:
And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. Revelation 12:13,17 NASB
Initially, the desolation affects the people of Israel (the woman). If you read verses 14-16 of that passage, you’ll see that those who are in Judea, and heed the words of Jesus to flee to the mountains, are divinely protected. After that, the focus of the desolation shifts toward those who believe in Jesus and the war against the saints as described in Daniel 7 begins. This is the time of martyrdom described in the fifth seal that is brought about by the mark and the image. Those who don’t worship the image are to be killed.
During its beginning, the time of distress only affects Israel and those who hold to the testimony of Jesus. But then, after a period of time when everyone chooses whether to worship the image or not, the sixth seal is opened. At that point, the time of distress also begins to affect those who chose to worship the image. The two witnesses from God begin to bring judgment against them in an effort to convince them of their error and that they should repent. The judgments, or plagues, increasingly become more severe until all who are going to repent have done so. Then, God allows the two witnesses to be killed which brings an end to the time of great distress. That also marks the end of the sixth plague which is the second woe.
After the two witnesses are killed, the effects of the plagues subside and people rejoice and give each other gifts (Revelation 11:7-10). Their celebration is cut short, however, when the two witnesses come back to life after three and a half days and are caught up to heaven. The man of sin convinces the armies of the world to gather together for the war of the great day of the Lord, probably as a countermeasure to a possible retaliation. It is during this time in which the armies are gathering that Jesus says:
“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.” Revelation 16:15
During this time when the previous plagues are no longer in effect, those who repented of the mark and the image are having the sincerity of their repentance tested. After days turn into weeks and there is no retaliation, people start to declare peace and safety. Forty-five days after the death of the two witnesses, the seventh plague begins with the sounding of the seventh trumpet. This begins the day of the Lord when Jesus appears in the clouds and sounds the trumpet of God. Those who belong to Christ are made immortal and gathered to Him. He then destroys Satan’s kingdom as He returns to earth. Those who repented and stayed that way until His return are blessed as the above and following verses state:
How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1,335 days! Daniel 12:12 NASB
Blessed are the humble, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5 CSB