The Great Tribulation Begins.
What is about to take place is the first of 3 7 part judgments. There will be 7 seals, 7 trumpets and 7 bowls of wrath poured out.
Each seal as it is broken open by the Lord Jesus, who is described as the Lamb, will set in motion events that will eventually bring the end of human history as we know it.
In chapter 6, we will see six seals opened and then a pause in chapter 7. The lull in the storm of judgment is for a reason- the sealing of the 144,000 Jews by the Lord.
The seventh and final seal in the first series of judgments will be opened in chapter 8.
Here is what we will observe as we go forward in our study of these future events. We will see : mans depravity and Gods sovereignty.
We will see mans depravity as we have only glimpsed before in such times as WWII and the Holocaust and the Nazis extermination of the Jews.
But more importantly we will see the Sovereignty of God. For as we look upon this period of great tribulation and chaos, we will see that it is God who is in control. The events that occur during this period of great tribulation are triggered by the Lord. As the Lord Jesus told us , just as it was in the days of Noah and in the day of Sodom and Gomorrah it is the Lord who is pouring out His Wrath of Judgment on sinful earth. Be not deceived, God is not mocked, whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Direct judgment. The day of wrath is about to come.
The Holy Spirit is no longer a restrainer of evil. He will be present during the Tribulation, as people will be getting saved from every tribe, nation and tongue. But the Holy Spirit will no longer restrain evil and depraved, evil mankind will be free to carry out their evil schemes. The true church which has served as salt and light will no longer be present so the decay of sin and the darkness of evil will not be thwarted. I believe Satan knows his time is short and he will be busier than ever before during this time of great evil.
The opening of the seals will be gradual, logical and in order.
These are future events that will take place after the rapture in a seven year period.
The first four seals are referred to as the Four Horses of the Apocalypse. Let us look at the opening of the first seal.
The first seal is opened by the Lamb and John heard the four creatures we met in chapter 4 say in a voice like thunder, COME! This command is not to John, but is in fact to the rider of the first horse, as all of this is done under the authority of the Lord who is in control.
The colors correspond to the character of the rider and symbolize something about this judgment and this rider.
The first rider appears on a white horse, holding a bow and given a crown. Who is this? Could it be the Lord? No. For as we will see the peace this rider brings is not lasting. White speaks of victory and conquest, the bow speaks of a warrior and the crown speaks of victory and recognition as a ruler. Just as the winner of a race receives a crown.
This person is actually the Anti Christ. Energized and indwelt by Satan himself, the Anti Christ will appear on the scene suddenly and rise quickly to fame and popularity.
He will ride in to prominence on a platform of peace and world unity. He will be intelligent, thoughtful and charismatic. He will unite the political parties into a one world government, the countries of the world and religion will become one united world and one world religion that will combine all faiths and all beliefs. Remember the true church will be gone- raptured.
This Anti-Christ will usher in an era of peace and prosperity which the world will be desperately looking for. He will seemingly solve all the problems of the world and lead them into a peace that will last for 3.5 years. Even now, Israel is being offered membership into the European Common Market if they will sign a peace treaty with their enemies. This rider on the white horse, the Anti Christ will be acclaimed as the greatest leader of all times, the world will sing his praises and he will be the man of the year for the whole world. I believe it is very possible this person is alive on this earth today.
This 3.5 year period will be a lull before the 2nd seal is opened. The second seal is opened and another horse comes forth, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and he was given a large sword. The fiery red horse stands for the bloodshed that accompanies war. The false peace of the first 3.5 years will end as suddenly as it started.
Ezekiel 38 describes the war that will take place in Israel as an alliance of Israels enemies will attack them. The large sword speaks of a powerful weapon, capable of delivering great damage.
The third seal is opened with the same commandments to come and we see a black horse with a rider holding a pair of scales in his hand. The black horse and this rider with scales represent famine. Famine and economic catastrophe are almost always the result of a war of such devastation and destruction. One can imagine the destruction done in the Middle East in a war of this magnitude- fuel supplies will be cut off from damage to oil supplies, food shortages, and life supporting commodities will be scarce. So scarce they will be rationed, thus the scales to weigh the food one will receive. A days ration of food will cost a day of work. Only the rich will have access to oil and wine, or anything of luxury that the world used to take for granted. We will soon read of the conditions one must endure and the requirement of receiving the mark in order to do business. Black is the traditional color of mourning – No wonder when the market collapsed on that Friday in 1929, it became known as Black Friday, as people mourned their great wealth had disappeared.
The fourth seal reveals the next in the sequel of horror- the pale horse whose rider was named Death and Hades. Notice this rider and horse follow closely after war and famine. A fitting name for what will be taking place- Death which takes the body and Hades that takes the souls of the unsaved. (Reference Luke 16) One fourth 25% of the population will die- based on todays population of 6 billion people this will be 1.5 billion deaths. Notice the causes- the sword or war, famine, plagues/disease and by wild beasts. This is the worst nightmare you can imagine. A world gone mad- civilizations crumbled, no law but the law of survival. Wild beasts roam the cities and countryside looking for food, for their sources have been destroyed. Disease and pestilence will run rampant with hygiene, medicine and hospitals no longer readily available.
These scenes are the events the Lord Jesus described to his disciples in Matthew 24. He told them , nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. There will be great distress ( tribulation) unequaled from the beginning of the world until now- and never to be equaled again.
Jesus told his disciples, who were curious as to when he would come and when would be the end of the age. Jesus told them to watch out for false christs- this would be the one who would deceive many and rides in on a white horse. He also told them there would be wars and rumors of wars- rider on the red horse. He spoke of famines, the black horse. He said there would be pestilence in divers places- the pale horse of Death and Hades.
The 24th chapter of Matthew is a chapter to those Jews and others who will be saved during the Tribulation. In verse 14 of Matthew 24, Jesus says , and this gospel of the kingdom will be preached into all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. The 144,000 Jewish evangelists we will see sealed in Chapter 7 of Revelation will take the message to all nations, tribes and tongues. In verse 15, we see the words of Jesus will be instructions telling them what to do. So when you see standing in the Holy Place the abomination of desolation spoken of in Daniel, let the READER understand- then let those in Judea flee to the mountains.
This warning appears to be to people in Israel, thus the reference to Judea and fleeing to the mountains. Jesus speaks specifically to those who are reading his words during that time of the great tribulation.
The fifth seal is now opened and John reports what he sees- under the altar of sacrifice the souls of those sacrificed because of the word of God and their testimony they had maintained. These are the souls of believers martyred during the Tribulation. John heard them crying out to the Lord how long before you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood? These saints who have given their life for the testimony of Jesus want to know when the Lord is going to put an end to this nightmare. Remember, the Lord said, Vengeance is mine. God gives them white robes of righteousness, and tells them it will only be little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed is completed.
Grace will be over. Gods vengeance will be a fearful thing to behold.
In Revelation 20, we will read of the resurrection of the Tribulation Saints who were slain during the Great Tribulation. The OT Saints will be resurrected at this time also. This is referred to as the First Resurrection in chapter 20. The first resurrection is done in three parts. It began with Jesuss resurrection. He is described as the first fruits. From the time of His resurrection until the rapture, all those believers , referred to as the church, when they died, their soul went to be with the Lord- but not their bodies. ( Absent from the body, present with the Lord.) Their bodies would be resurrected in glorified bodies, bodies that are imperishable. Those who were alive would be raptured and changed from corruptible to incorruptible in a twinkling of the eye. This is the second phase of the first resurrection that takes place prior to the Great Tribulation, because the Lord Jesus will not allow His bride to go thru the tribulation.(IThess 1: 10- and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.He is our ark). And in Revelation 20, we will read of the last phase of the first resurrection when we read of the resurrection of those who had not worshipped the beast or taken his mark. At this time also, will be the resurrection of the OT saints. So here is the order: Jesus first, then the NT believers, the church, who had died, the saints alive at their resurrection, who are raptured prior to the Tribulation and finally the saints martyred during the Tribulation and the OT Saints who were not included in the church. The church is the bride of Christ.
Now comes the opening of the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turns black, the moon is blood red and stars fall from the sky. The whole earth is shaken and the sky recedes like a scroll being rolled up. Certainly a fearful sight and we can only speculate what is taking place but since there is a great war- this could describe a nuclear holocaust. Missiles streaking thru the sky could appear as stars falling to earth. The sky receding like a scroll could describe the atmosphere rolling back on itself creating a vacuum. In fact, the tremendous rush of air back causes much of the destruction in a nuclear explosion.
This will be felt, experienced and seen by the whole world- every mountain and island will be shaken and literally removed from its place. The reaction of those on earth from the rich and powerful to the poor, average man : absolute terror! Foolishly they call on the mountains and rocks in which they are hiding to fall on them to hide them from almighty God.
Verse 17 of Chapter 6 is as sobering a statement of the Bible as one will ever read: For the great day of their wrath has come and who can stand? They will now be held accountable God did not create hell for mankind it was created for the devil and those who followed him. He is not willing that any should perish but all come to repentance. He takes no joy in the death of the wicked. The Lord Jesus in one of his saddest moments as he entered Jerusalem stated: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who have killed the prophets, how I would have gathered you to myself as a mother hen gathers her chicks but you would not.
Chapter 7 represents a lull in the middle of the storm. There is a dead, eerie calm. The four angels who are standing at the four corners- North, South, East and West, are holding back the winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the earth. They are told by another angel to wait until God had sealed the 144,000 with a mark on their foreheads. There will from this time on in the Great Tribulation be two distinct groups or categories of people on earth:
Those with the seal of God.
Those with the mark of the beast.
Why are the 144,000 chosen evangelists only of the Jewish race? God is fulfilling his covenant promises with the nation of Israel.
Gods purposes for Israel what he chose them to do is as follows:
*Chosen to receive and write down Gods revelation to man.
*Chosen to protect and preserve the textual purity of scripture. (Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1940s- contained the scroll of Isaiah and was dated 200 BC, while the earliest manuscript we had at that time of Isaiah was 900 AD. Though 1100 years separated the two manuscripts, they were identical.)
*Jews were chosen to be the human family thru whom the Messiah would be born. There were over 300 specific prophecies in the OT concerning the coming of the Messiah hundreds of years before He came.
*Last but not least, the Jewish people were chosen to witness to a pagan world that there is only one true and living God and the way of salvation is thru His Son the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus.
For years they have not always done this- but they will get it right in the end times. They will accomplish in the tribulation years what the church had not been able to do in over 2000 years as they will preach the gospel in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, as Jesus described in Matthew 24.
Remember, Paul tells us in Romans 11:25 : For I do not want you, brothers, to be ignorant concerning this mystery, lest you become wise in your own eyes, that a partial blindness has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has been brought in. The fullness of the Gentiles is that point in time when the Church is removed from the earth by the Rapture.
Then Gods focus and blessing will shift back again to His Beloved People, the Jews. God will then fulfill His covenant with the Jewish people.
Notice the winds are held back. This could result in global weather changes.
Then comes the sealing of the 144,000 Jews. God has never allowed Himself to be without a witness on earth to proclaim His way to receive forgiveness and eternal life.( at one time there were only 8 souls Noah and his family) The spiritual vacuum that has been left by the rapture of the true church will be quickly filled with these 144,000 Jewish Evangelist. 12,000 are selected from each tribe. Dan and Ephraim are left out because of their idolatry. In their place are Joseph and Levi.
They are sealed by God. This is the work of the Holy Spirit who is even referred to as the seal. The Seal of God empowers them to perform their awesome mission in spite of the danger of having this mark and not the mark of the beast. I believe it will be a visible mark easily identifying them as Christians. They will be easily identified as Christians. The question is : Are you that easily identified as a Christian?
Look at their effectiveness- the results of their preaching, teaching and witnessing in these last perilous days: a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language get saved record numbers of true conversions.
Look at verse 17..For the Lord will be their shepherd.
Now turn with me to Matthew 25 and we will see what occurs when the Lord returns to earth. Some of the population will have survived the tribulation- both unsaved and saved.