What is the difference between Great Tribulation and the Tribulation?


The 'Tribulation' is a theological invention of John Nelson Darby, founder of the Plymouth Brethren, in the nineteenth century. The Great Tribulation is the last half of Darby's seven-year Tribulation period, three and one-half years in length. Although few people belong the the Plymouth Brethren Church, many Protestants do believe in its founder's most enduring theological creation, the Rapture. This has helped popularise the fictional book series, Left Behind. .

Barbara R. Rossing (The Rapture Exposed) says that according to one critic, the Rapture and the Tribulation had their origins with a young girl's vision. In 1830, fifteen-year-old Margaret MacDonald attended a healing service, where she was said to have seen a vision of a two-stage return of Jesus Christ. The story of her vision was adopted and amplified by Darby. .

The belief that Jesus will come again was not new, and Catholics have always taught that Jesus will return to earth and that believers should live in anticipation of his second coming. Darby's new teaching was that Christ would return twice, first in secret to "Rapture" his church out of the world and up to heaven, then a second time after seven years of global tribulation for non-believers, to establish a Jerusalem-based kingdom on earth. .

It is one thing to predict the Rapture, it is an entirely different thing to demonstrate that it will ever happen. The Tribulation has no genuine biblical support, so there is no good reason to believe there will ever be the Tribulation taught by Darby, or a Great Tribulation. They make good reading in a fiction series, but should otherwise enjoy the same obscurity that John Nelson Darby now does.