The Tribulation–part 1
The seven-year judgment coming to planet Earth
Let’s talk about disasters. In 1887, the Yellow River flooded in China and two million people died–that’s the entire state of Nebraska dead. In 1931, several places flooded in China killing four million–that’s the entire state of Oklahoma dead. 1n 1556, one earthquake hit China and 830,000 people died. Then in 1976, another one hit and killed 655,000–that’s more people than in this entire Inland Empire, all died.
In the 1930’s forward under Hitler, six million Jews were burned, gassed, experimented on, and all six million were killed within a ten-year period. In 1958 to 1961, famine killed around forty million in China–that is the entire state of California dead. Eleven million by famine in India in the 1780’s–all of Ohio dead. In 1970, a cyclone hit Pakistan and killed over 500,000 in a matter of days. In 2004, an Indian Ocean tsunami killed 228,000 people. In the 70’s within the period of a few years, over 300,000 people were literally butchered under the reign of Idi Amin in Uganda.
About sixty million people die each year (three million in the US)–650,000 of those people die every year from the flu. Black death killed 75 million in the 1300’s. Fifty million died from the great influenza in 1918 to 1920. Two and a half million died from Covid-19 complications. The eruption of Mount Tambora claimed the lives of 71,000 in one day on April 10, 1815.
Add to that list all of the greatest disasters, the harshest persecutions known to this planet, include every dictator and maniac ruler. Then add them all together, lump them into just one short, seven-year period of time–and that lump sum of crisis, all of them together, that most devastating accumulation of tragedy will not even come close to the horrors that await this planet during the time of the Tribulation.
Open your Bibles to the book of Zephaniah, chapter 1, and see what our Lord has to say about this incredible time that is yet to come. In that crispy portion of your Bible (between Habakkuk and Haggai), Zephaniah 1:14 to 18 says, “Near is the great day of the Lord, near and coming very quickly; listen, the day of the Lord! In it, the warrior cries out bitterly. 15A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, 16A day of trumpet and battle cry, against fortified cities, and the high corner towers, [the toughest will fall] 17And I will bring distress on men, so that they will walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the Lord; and their blood will be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. 18Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them on the day of the Lord’s wrath; and all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy, for He will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth.”
Jesus Himself says this incredible statement about the coming Tribulation period in Matthew 24:21, “There will be a great Tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.” You think you’ve had bad weeks–this prophetic week which lasts seven years, will result in such worldwide suffering that men will literally beg to die rather than live. There will be an international desire to die. These seven years are called Jacob’s trouble–the Day of the Lord, the wrath to come, the day of distress, alarm, desolation, vengeance, destruction, the Lord’s anger and the great Tribulation. But why?
Why would God do such a horrible thing to this planet and to all mankind? Answer—to judge sin. To judge the nation of Israel for her rejection of her Messiah and to fulfill the promises God made to His chosen nation. To punish mankind for their sinful rebellion against Christ. To expose Satan and his rebellious, sinful world system, to show all men what he is–the father of lies.
We are in the midst of a study of what is to come–a study of the Day of the Lord, the end times events, what the Bible teaches is coming in our future from the entire Scripture, with special emphasis on the book of Revelation. And as we do, I want to give you hints on what to look for. Look for God’s hatred for sin–if you follow Him, then you’ll hate sin too, and you will judge sin in your life (1 John 1:9–confess it. If not, then you’re not His.)
Look for God’s righteousness and justice in punishing sin. Our God is the Creator. He is the Savior who died for sin. You should not wonder why He pours out His wrath during the Tribulation, but why He doesn’t do it now. You should see worshiping Him as our highest privilege. It is what we will do for all eternity–if you are bored with worship now, you have lost Christ in your Christianity. Jesus is coming to rule the earth–His presence will radically change this planet. And if He rules you now, you will life different now as you expect Him to return. And you will radically change the way you talk to lost people around you to be more salt and light. Let’s pray.
Turn in your Bibles to Revelation chapter one. In Revelation 22:10, an Angel commands the apostle John saying, “Do not seal up the words of the prophesy of this book.” Why? “For the time is near.” God wants you to know the content of this book. In fact, it is the only book in the Bible that begins with a promise of blessing to the reader in 1:3, and ends with a promise of blessing for those who read the book in 22:7. That is great–not only does God want you to know this book, but He promises to bless you if you read it.
Why is this book so important to God? Look at 1:1–it is, “The revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is uncovering truth about Jesus Christ. It is telling you things you wouldn’t know about Christ unless you read this book. It’s a book about Jesus Christ and about the things (verse 2 and 3 tell us) are about to take place–events that are very near. Jesus is coming again soon and this book is written to get us ready. How does it start?
In 1:9 and following, John records the first of his visions. He shows us a picture of Christ, who is moving among and ministering in the local churches. As a result of the vision, we get the theme verse of the book of Revelation, which also shows us the outline to the whole book. Look at verse 1:19, “Write therefore, the things which you have seen [that is, the visions we just read about–the past], and the things which are [that is, the seven churches listed in chapters 2 and 3–the present], and the things which shall take place after these things [that is, chapters 4 to 22, all yet future to John and to us today–the future].”
So what’s happening now? In chapters 2 and 3, John records seven messages from God to seven different, literal churches in Asia Minor–real churches who also are representative of all churches in every age. All seven of these churches have always existed and always will in every age until Christ comes. Some feel they walk through the ages too–no textual evidence for that view. What kind of churches are there?
1 the cold orthodox church
2 the persecuted church
3 the church that’s married to the world
4 the church that tolerates sin
5 the dead church
6 the faithful church
7 the apostate church
Which one are we? Whatever quality is most dominant. The way to change our church is for you to be faithful. Now after chapter 3, what is amazing is the Church does not appear again until the Second Coming in chapter 19. You ask, “Where is the Rapture”? It is in the white spaces between chapters 3 and 4. What happened to the Church? We are in Heaven, worshipping God in chapter 4, which begins the third section of the book of Revelation.
ONE–chapter 1 things that were
TWO–chapters 2 and 3 things that are
THREE–chapters 4 to 22 things which shall take place after these
Who is in Heaven? We are–the Church. You see, the 24 elders are representative of the Church. All have white robes, all have crowns, all have thrones–and all three of those are only promised to the Church. In 5:9 it says they are redeemed people. So what we find in chapter 4 is the redeemed Church in Heaven taking part in the main event of Heaven. What is that? Worship—offering themselves to Christ. All are worshiping the Lord for all eternity–incredible worship.
Look at verses 8 and 11, “And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.’ 11‘Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created.’”
But in chapter 5, the worship is broken. Why? Laying next to God the Father is a scroll that is sealed with seven seals. Look at verse 5:2, “And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a strong voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the book and break its seals?’” What is this scroll, this book? It is the title deep to the earth. It’s God’s will and testament to give Jesus Christ the earth. It is, as Psalm 2 promised, that “the nations are Christs’ just inheritance and all the land His possession.” Christ will rule this planet–it is His to rule.
One of the elders knows that only Christ is worthy to open the scroll. And so now it is in Christ’s hand in verse 7, and He is about to open it–which causes a great response in verses 8 to 14. More worship, glory and praise, culminating in song—”Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” What is happening in Heaven? The citizens of Heaven are tired of the earth being in rebellion, so they are excited about this final, terrible judgment about to occur. The Tribulation begins.
But how can righteous, glorified saints and a just God bring about the most terrible destruction the world has ever seen? How can a God of love do this? Because according to 4:11, God is the Creator of a world in rebellion. In 5:9, God is our Redeemer–He suffered for our sin, He died, He bore God’s wrath for a world that does not care. Chapters 4 and 5 give us a clear picture of the worthiness of Christ, showing Him to be righteous, sacrificial, just, Creator and Redeemer–so we do not doubt Him after what He is about to describe to us in chapters 6 to 18. In chapter 6, we are thrown back to Earth for the beginning of the Tribulation, which starts with the four horsemen of the apocalypse–which are the first four of the seal judgments.
First SEAL Verse 2
Read 6:2, “And I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him; and he went out conquering, and to conquer.” A white horse and a bow, with no arrow, signifies peace. The crown is not a king’s crown, but a victor’s. This is the Anti-Christ, who comes with a false peace, maintained by a cold war. Daniel 9:27 tells us he will make covenants and promises in the first 3½ years, but then break his promise halfway through the Tribulation period, which leads us to the second seal . . .
Second SEAL Verses 3 to 4
The red horse of war–the second half of the Tribulation period, the last 3½ years, will be a time of slaughter and massacre. The first seal could be the first 3½ years, and the second seal and following goes through the second 3½. The Anti-Christ will set himself up to be God in the middle, then slaughter Israel and go to war against several nations.
Third SEAL Verses 5 to 6
The black horse symbolizes famine, where one full days wage buys barely enough food for one person to live on. The world will be in its worst famine ever. Think it’s bad now?
The pale horse, which is the seal of death–one fourth of all the earth’s population will die with this seal (almost two billion people will perish).
Fifth SEAL Verses 9 to 11
Those who’ve been slaughtered for their faith during the Tribulation are those who had not heard the Gospel until after the Rapture of the Church, gave their lives to Christ and were butchered by the Anti-Christ. In verse 10 they cry out, “How long, oh Lord, will you wait until you bring vengeance upon those who killed us?”
God’s response is incredible in verse 11. He says, Be patient (“here is your white robe, now just rest”) until all those who are going to be saved and martyred is complete. God still waits for the salvation of the lost. Aren’t you glad He waited for you? You may be the one He is waiting for before the Rapture comes. Would you hurry up and give your life to Christ so we can get out of here?
Sixth SEAL Verses 12 to 14
Read verses 12 to 14, “And I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 14And the sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.”
Imagine the sky like a window shade—blblblblblblblbl, rolling up! This is a scary time. So what do men do–repent? Confess their sins? No. They pray to the rocks to fall on them to hide them from the wrath of the Lamb, verses 15 to 17. They know it is God, and yet they still sin and there is no repentance.
Now note–those six seals took you all through the entire Tribulation period, through all seven years. At the end of the Tribulation, as everything falls apart and darkness sets in, men will scream and run for protection as Christ’s glory penetrates the darkness with blinding light. Wow! This takes us to the end of the Tribulation, which concludes with the return of Christ.
Since you can only take so much of judgment, there are rest spots or glory spots in the book. Instead of being totally depressed with what is happening on Earth, there are heavenly scenes that show us God is just, and earthly scenes showing us His mercy and grace in the midst of His wrath–for John and for us. Good journalism tells you the story in brief, then goes back to fill in the details. And that is exactly what Revelation does–high interest writing.
So the seals give you details, and then the trumpets give you more details. Then the bowls give you even more details about the judgment of God. In the midst of all this judgment, God lets you know in chapter 7 there is some protection, blessing, and people being spared. Not everyone dies–so who is spared? The 144,000 Jews from the twelve tribes of Israel. In the middle of the week, after 3½ years, there are 144,000 Jews who are saved (probably led to Christ by the two witnesses we meet later). The 144,000 preach the Gospel to billions of unsaved–are they effective?
Read chapter 7:9, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands.” Where did the multitude come from? They are the fruit of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists. They are those who had not heard the Gospel, but now (by God’s grace) not only have heard, but believe.
If you’re tempted to think God is unjust in judgment–think again. God chooses the 144,000–12,000 from each tribe, and also a multitude from every nation, tribe and tongue. Key–God is sovereign in salvation. Though we do not know who is in each tribe, since the records were destroyed in A.D. 70, God knows all who are in each tribe and chooses 12,000 from each. As a result, in verse 11 and following there is great worship.
Yet now, with six seals already unleashed on the world, we are prepared for the seventh seal in chapter 8. There are some who feel that chapter 8:1 is proof that there are no women in Heaven, since it says that, “There was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” I don’t hold to that view, since when it comes to talkin, I always have the last two words in any discussion in our family–you know what those two words are, don’t you? “Yes, dear.” The silence in 8:1 is that Heaven is actually in awe of the holocaust of divine wrath being poured out on the earth in preparation for Christ’s return.
At this point, the apostle John reviews a little. Not back to the beginning of the Tribulation, but most likely back to the fifth or sixth seal. And it is there you will find all the trumpet judgments. What I am saying is, the seals are not followed by the trumpet judgments and the trumpets are not followed by the bowls–but each set takes you to the end of the Tribulation, then goes back a little (not to the beginning) and carries you further along.
Like waves working towards high tide–the intensity of the Tribulation is like the shape of a long neck trumpet. It starts small, but explodes at the end. Most of the judgments fall at the end of the Tribulation. That is why there is silence toward the end. It is incredible what God pours out at the end. If Christ did not end it by His return, all would die. Look at the trumpet judgments.
First Trumpet Judgment upon all Vegetation Verse 7
One third of all plant life is destroyed–that means men will have less food, animals will have less food, and the whole earth will be choking with less oxygen.
Second Trumpet Judgment on Sea Life Verses 8 to 9
One third of all the marine life dies, leaving one floating, stinking mess. Because men will refuse to glorify God as their Creator, God takes His creation away. Evolutionary thinking is judged.
Third Trumpet Judgment on Fresh Water Verses 10 to 11
One third of all the fresh water will be gone. This will mean less for man, animals, and plant life.
Fourth Trumpet Judgment on Light Verses 12 and 13
The loss of one third of the light from the sun, moon and the stars at night, so that day and night are now confused. Mankind loses his calendar so he can no longer measure time–what day is it? What time is it?
And in verse 13, an angel says loudly, “Woe, woe, woe!” or curse, curse, curse! Can you Identify with that? What he is saying is, “If you think that is bad, wait till you hear the next three trumpets–you ain’t seen nothing yet.” In chapter 9, you have the . . .
Fifth Trumpet Judgment of Demons Verses 1 to 12
He says in the middle of verse 1, “and I saw a star fall from heaven“–that is Lucifer, the devil. With a key to unlock the bottomless pit and let out demons that have been locked up in that prison since before and during the flood. These are most likely the demons who cohabited with women. These are the worst-of-the-worst demons. Before the flood, these demons created giant offspring to attack and destroy the possibility that Christ could be born as a true man, who could then become mankind’s substitute on the cross.
If Satan, through His demons, could corrupt humanity, then Christ could not be born a man and bear our sin on the cross as a man destroying Satan’s slavery of mankind. Verse 2 tells us once released, these demons came out like a gas stove exploding. These demons, who’d been locked up for centuries, are now released in a gush of smoke, to torment men (not creation) for five months. The torment is so bad, it is like a scorpion bite and will cause men to desire death over life–which makes sense, since their king is, according to verse 11, the destroyer. Their king is Satan himself.
But if you think that’s bad, there are two more trumpets.
Sixth Trumpet Judgment by Demonic Army Verse 13
Released by an angel, this army comes from the east across the Euphrates. They number 200 million and they’re most likely demons or demon possessed men. It is interesting that the Bible says that they are from the east, since the Associated Press in 1964 released the fact that China martials an army of 200 million. As a result, they will kill one third (hundreds of millions) of the world’s people with some unique weaponry. Again, how will mankind respond to these plagues? Will they repent, turn toward God, and admit their sin? No. Verses 20 to 21 say the rest who were not killed did not repent of all their wickedness.
Look at chapter 10 to give us a rest from this destruction and picture of stubborn hopelessness. The Spirit through John gives us another vision of Christ. And when told by an angel to take and eat the title deed to the earth, John said that it was sweet and bitter. What does that mean? Sweet, because of the Second Coming of Christ, and bitter refers to the condemnation of lost men to eternal punishment in Hell. That’s the heart of a Christian–sweetly rejoicing over Christ’s coming victory, and bitter over the hard heart of those who reject Christ.
Then in chapter 11, we get another look at God’s grace with the two witnesses–one of my favorite parts. These two are the ones who lead the 144000 to Christ. Who are they? I hope you are looking at one of them, and that my dubious heritage means I am actually a Jew who can fill this role.
Chapter 12 describes Satan’s hatred for and war against God’s people, Israel
Chapter 13 gives us detail on the Anti-Christ
Chapter 14 describes the battles of Armageddon
Chapter 15 prepares us for chapter 16 and the machine gun bowl judgments at the end of the Tribulation
Chapter 17 is the religion followed in the Tribulation
Chapter 18 is the world economy during the Tribulation
Chapter 19 is the best event of the Tribulation
You say, “Chris, I want to know all of this! I want to understand all of what is to come.” Then you must come back next week.
A Let God’s MERCY drive your responses, not VENGEANCE
Romans 12:19, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Once you know what God is going to do to the unjust, the immoral, the wicked people of this world who deceive, manipulate, corrupt, pervert and mislead–when you know God will righteously judge, and it will be severe and forever . . . you can allow mercy and the need for the Gospel to drive your responses, even to those who are unjust to you. “Leave room for the wrath of God.”
B Let God’s PROVIDENCE guide your thinking on current events
God is very detailed about what He is going to do in the Tribulation. You already know from Romans 8:28 that, “God works all things together to accomplish His purposes.” You already know that God is provident. Each day is a miracle. God is so great, He can take all the millions of variables of your life to accomplish His perfect will.
You also know Proverbs 16:9, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” And Psalm 115:3, “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” Then start living every day, instead of upset over the news and grieved by the direction of politics and culture, 2 Timothy 3:1, “Realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.” Trust in God’s providence, knowing His plan is perfect. Yes, the world will have to decline before the end, but Christ will certainly judge evil and He will save His children.
C Let God’s GRACE move your heart to WORSHIP
The apostle John makes certain you recall just how fair and gracious Christ is in judgment. In the midst of the judgment, he continually points out Christ created you, and redeemed you at a great cost. As God pours out his wrath on Earth, we are reminded that Christ took an eternity of God’s wrath upon Himself on the cross for your sins. And because Jesus died for your sin and rose again, Christ deserves all our worship–our entire life, everything we have given to Him.
D Let God’s JUDGMENT drive your surrender to Christ
You don’t want to go through the Tribulation, because it is God pouring out his wrath. The Tribulation is the preview of eternal Hell–it’s the porch before you enter the door of Hell. And the only way to escape is to turn from your sin and put your faith in Christ and His work on the cross. Otherwise all the Tribulation and an eternity more await all who are not in Christ.