It is written:
“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.” (Matthew 24:21-22)
Since Jesus taught that all of the signs in Matthew 24:4-34 were fulfilled in the first century, what shall we make of this passage dealing with “great tribulation?”
First, we need to observe that when the Bible speaks of tribulation such as ‘since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be,” it is borrowing from Old Testament terminology which had reference to the downfall of nations.
Ezekiel 10:14-And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt and rested on all the territory of Egypt. They were very severe; previously there had been no such locusts as they, nor shall there be such after them.
Exodus 11:6-Then there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as was not like it before, nor shall be like it again.
Ezekiel 5:9-And I will do among you what I have never done, and the like of which I will never do again, because of all your abominations.
This last passage is especially interesting, since it had reference to the destruction of the FIRST Jewish temple.
In other words, Jesus used language in the Olivet Discourse that paralleled the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple; and anyone familiar with the Old Testament would have recognized this!
Furthermore, notice that the language Jesus uses would have been familiar to the Jewish people as language which indicated the downfall and destruction of a nation, and not necessarily as the end of the world.
Second, it is helpful to realize that the Apostle John himself said he was living during the “great tribulation” in the first century.
Revelation 1:9-I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
The great tribulation began before the destruction of Jerusalem, and continued down through the first century when John wrote; and indeed, has continued all through the church age (just as Jesus and His Apostles promised and prophesied-Luke 9:23-25; cf. 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:16).
The signs of Matthew 24:4-34 were all fulfilled in the lifetime of the people in the first century.