Matthew 24:29-31 (ESV)
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Immediately, after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened. So the question at hand is, which are “those days” and what do they entail? Are we still talking of the days associated with the destruction of the temple, and the great tribulation that were associated with that? Or are we talking of the days following in which imposters come claiming to be the Christ?
I think there is rather a lot of confusion caused by collapsing these days together. The thing is we are in “those days” and have been in them for some 2000 years. The disciples understood correctly that they were in the end times. This is one of those things that boggles me about millenialists. Here you have these people who say they believe the Bible to be inerrant, and inspired, but in the same breath they laugh at Paul for thinking he was in the end times. Really? How can it be inerrant if Paul was wrong on something so crucial?
Peter begins His most famous, and excellent sermon of Acts Chapter 2, the most ignored portion of Acts ever, but the portion that probably ought to have the most attention paid to it, for his sermon is not anecdotal “this is what happened” but actually in it he is preaching doctrine that applies to the whole church of all ages and is not time bound to the customs of the day, or relating only what happened but not actually giving instruction as to what should be done and going on, and in fact in that sermon you find Peter telling parents to baptize their children, so it matters not if there was not a record of an infant actually being baptized, you have Peter’s instruction to do so, but that is another story. Peter starts this sermon by quoting the same verses Jesus alludes to in the 24th chapter of Matthew. He quotes them in such a way as to say, these are those days Joel was talking about, we are in them now. Coincidently, they are inaugurated even before the destruction of the temple. So the temple destruction is just one of the things associated with those days, that happens early on, towards the beginning. In fact Paul writes most of his letter’s and knows the end times are here long before the temple is destroyed.
Now we are in the end days. But this doesn’t seem to be enough for so many people. We are too comfortable to be living in the end days and suffering from any tribulation seems to be the thought. They fear that tribulation is coming, rather than seeing that they are already living in it. Tribulation is a word that covers a great many evils, and it doesn’t have to be a medieval torture chamber during the Spanish Inquisition, though that certainly plays a part in the tribulation the church has suffered during “these days”. Other aspects of the tribulation is the deception and leading astray of even God’s elect where possible. And the great irony in that is they do so with this pre-millenialist dispensational dogma, which is set up to be nothing but a deception and fear mongering to lead God’s people astray, by twisting, among others, this very chapter! That is the tribulation, or at least the part of it, we are enduring now. For my part it makes me want to vomit seeing the “Left Behind” series in church libraries. Disgusting.
But there are other aspects to this tribulation. There are our brothers and sisters all over the world being persecuted for their faith in horrendous ways in places like the Sudan where not long ago Islamic militants would rape and pillage villages, selling children into slavery and cutting the breasts off of nursing mothers. They endure tribulations like those the Christians suffered at the hands of Nero who burned them as candles in his courtyard. And yet, blowhard evangelists will prey on American Christians telling them that we are not in the tribulation? I don’t doubt that as long as this world is, there will be tribulation coming and going, strengthening and waning in intensity and ferocity. But it is completely naïve to look back on the last century, if not the last 2000 years of church history and say there has been no tribulation, or that the tribulation has not been great enough for Christ to come back.
So it is we endure tribulation, and so it is that we with the early church look forward to the sun turning dark, and the moon blood red, because then we know it is the world’s turn to endure tribulation, but he who overcame this world in which he promised to us tribulation and trials comes to rescue us from it! We look forward to that day, even as we loath what it means for our fellow man. It is the paradox of Christian eschatology. For the sake of our fellow man, all those people for whom God died that they may have eternal life as we do, we are thankful to have woken up in another day of Grace in which we can share the gospel with them, and yet we look forward to that day when our tribulation ends, and we finally get to know the full glory of our salvation. We know the day must come, we know it will, and it might be tomorrow, it could be yet today, and it could be a thousand years from now or longer. But when that day comes our tribulation is over.