Welcome to The Conclusion of a 5 Part Series!
In part 1 of this series (Intro) we looked at the various views of the Rapture, and introduced The Day of the Lord as our focal point to determine the pertinence of the church in the last days. In part 2 (The Day of the Lord) we took a somewhat in-depth look at what the Bible has to say about the Day of the Lord. In part 3 (The Olivet Discourse) we looked at Matthew 24 to see what Jesus (the world’s foremost Expert on the end-times) had to say about these things. And in part 4 (The Seven Seals) we focused on Revelation, Chapter 6; the opening of the Seven Sealed Scroll.
Today, we will review Matthew 24 and Revelation Chapters 6 & 7. I will also offer what I believe to be valid answers to the remaining question posed in Part 1 of this series (does the Bible give any clues as to when the day of the Lord will take place and what, if any, significance does it have in the life of the believer?). Finally, I will tie all these things together to reach not only a logical series of events, but also what I believe to be a compelling conclusion to our original question: Should Christians Prepare for The Tribulation?
Most Christians admit to finding end-time events somewhat confusing. Many even believe that they are unknowable and were never meant for us to understand. But this is not what the Bible teaches. In Revelation 1:1-3, we are told just the opposite:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. Revelation 1:1-3
I propose that, with a proper understanding of the scriptures, we can know and understand what will befall the Church in the last days. What this requires first though, is to let go of our preconceived ideas and varied end-time doctrine that we’ve been taught over the years; and prayerfully look at the scripture with fresh eyes as the Holy Spirit leads.
And Then the End Will Come
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come”. Matthew 24:14
Upon reading this scripture, it’s easy to conclude that Jesus is speaking of the actual end of days. But I suggest that He is not referring to the end of days; rather, to the end of the age. To gain a better perspective, let’s look back at Matthew 24:1-3:
Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us: when will these things happen [the temple razed to the ground] and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” Matthew 24:1-3
In their asking, it appears the disciples were under the impression that not only was the end of the age near, but that the soon destruction of the temple would occur immediately prior to the end of the age. Jesus perceived their error and went about answering the more pressing questions about His coming and the end of the age first. Then He quickly touches on the destruction of the Temple, recorded in Luke 21:20-24.
It’s important to recognize that Jesus’ goal in this discourse was not to be all-inclusive concerning the scope of end-time events; but to answer His disciple’s questions relating specifically to the time of His Coming and the End of the Age. Understanding this is key to understanding Matthew 24 and by extension, Revelation 6-7; as this can be a point of confusion for many attempting to piece together a timeline of events. So this begs the question, what is the end of the age?
The Greek word for Age, Aion (165), refers to an age or period of time. It denotes duration or continuance of time. Aion is to be distinguished from kosmos (2889), world; which refers to people. Aion also is to be distinguished from oikoumene (3625), the inhabited earth. Simply put, the word Age is used in this passage to refer to a period of time; not the end of time, or the end of the world, or people at large. I believe there is a good scriptural basis to identify this period as the age of grace, or the church age as it is commonly called. With this in mind, let’s revisit our original timeline based on Matthew 24 and a condensed, updated comparison of Matthew 24 and Revelation 6.
Original Timeline (Matthew 24:4-31)
- False Christs, Religious deception (vs. 4)
- Wars, Civil unrest (vs. 7)
- Famine (vs. 7)
- Earthquakes (natural disasters) (vs. 7)
- Pestilence (Mark 13)
- Abomination of Desolation – 3-1/2 year point (vs. 15)
- Great Tribulation and Martyrdom (vss. 7 & 21)
- Gospel preached in all the world – likely during, and due to the mass martyrdom (vs 14)
- Supernatural cosmic disturbances (vs. 29)
- Gathering of the Elect (vs. 30-31)
Comparison (Matthew 24 & Revelation 6)
In this format we can easily see the similarities between these two passages.
Matthew 24:5-7 (Birth Pangs) False Christs, Religious Deception, War, Civil & Ethnic Unrest, Famine
Revelation 6:1-6 (1st-3rd Seals) The Antichrist enters the Scene, Wars, Famines, Earthquakes
Matthew 24:9 (3-1/2 Year Point) Abomination of Desolation Great Tribulation/Death
Revelation 6:7-9 (4th & 5th Seals) Death Martyrs in Heaven
Matthew 24:29-31 (End of the Age) Cosmic Disturbances Son of Man Comes on the Clouds Angels Gather the Elect
Revelation 6:12-17 (6th Seal) Cosmic Disturbances Presence of God Seen by Men “Great Day of His wrath Has Come”
The End of the Age
Now let’s take a quick look at Matthew 24:29-31, Joel 2:30-31, and Revelation 6:12-17; then Revelation 7, to see how all of these passages tie together with Jesus’ teaching concerning the End of the Age.
“But 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 the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” Matthew 24:29-31
“I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth; blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into into blood before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.” Joel 2:30-31
” 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; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” Revelation 6:12-17
Do you see the common denominators in these passages? If not, feel free to read them again. It’s fascinating to me that these verses from different authors blend so well together. Further evidence of the ultimate Author.
Revelation, Chapter 7
After this [the sixth seal events] I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel. Revelation 7:1-4
Here we are told that these angels have been given authority to harm the earth and the sea; however their activity has been temporarily delayed while the 144,000 servants of God are sealed, in apparent preparation of what is about to come upon the earth. [Note: Contrary to popular belief, the scriptures do not say or even allude that these 144,000 are evangelists.]
Following this, John sees 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; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’. Revelation 7:9-10
Then one of the elders asked John, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:13-17
Based on the tense used in the introduction to Revelation 7, after this; indicating a sequential event; we can safely assume we are not gaining information about future events that John will see (esp. since John is the writer). Clearly, John is adding more detailed information concerning either recently past events that he has already seen, or current events that he is presently witnessing.
A Logical Series of Events
The sheer quantity of scripture related to this subject is primarily the reason for disagreements among those who study eschatology. For every person with an opinion, there seems to be a scripture to support it. However, we know that God’s timeline and sequence of events is set and will not vary. Therefore, it becomes our duty and responsibility as students of the Bible, to seek out that which is most likely to harmonize and accommodate all of the relevant scripture passages. This is what I have set out to do.
Based upon the whole of scripture presented throughout this study, as well as many other related passages from the Bible, I believe the position I am presenting is the most likely scenario leading up to and including the End of the Age. I realize some will disagree with me and that’s okay; I respect differing opinions and hope for the same from you. None of us will ever get this 100% right. All I ask is that you set aside any pre-conceived ideas that you bring to the table, and consider the following outline with an open mind. And please, feel free to politely share your thoughts with me!
Birth Pangs (Beginning of Sorrows)
(Possibly an extended period of time and not part of the 70 weeks of Daniel)
- First Seal – Antichrist enters the scene. Likely not yet known/recognized for who he is or will be.
- Second Seal – War. Ethnic, civil, worldwide conflict and unrest.
- Third Seal – Famine/Food rationing. Economic depression/crisis.
[I think it’s likely, even probable, that there is an indeterminate period of time between the 3rd and 4th Seals, where the Antichrist comes to power; then seemingly begins to solve the world’s crises and initiates a peace deal with Israel. This action brings about the commencement of Daniels 70th week. If correct, this interim period will consist of 3-1/2 years after the covenant is initiated and before the next seal is opened.]
The Great Tribulation
(Mid-point of Daniels 70th week; 3-1/2 years)
- Fourth Seal – Abomination of Desolation. Antichrist given authority over a fourth of the earth to kill by various means.
- Fifth Seal – Martyrs under the altar in heaven ask for judgment and vengeance for their murders; they are told to wait until their brothers and sisters who are to be killed would be fulfilled.
- Sixth Seal – The cutting short of time for the sake of the elect, as promised by Jesus in Matthew 24:22. The first resurrection and rapture of the church in the midst of the great tribulation (as evidenced by the great multitude). The sealing of the 144,000 (who I believe are not Christians at the time of their sealing. I will expand more on this in a separate post). The End of the Age.
The Day of the Lord
(God’s day of wrath begins with the sounding of the first trumpet)
- Seventh Seal – Silence in heaven for about half an hour. An angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake. And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
I have heard some say, if God allows His church to go through the great tribulation, it would be tantamount to child/spousal abuse. This statement is not only prideful and unwarranted, but disrespectful to him who suffered greatly for us. Throughout the centuries, much more godly men and women than we see today have suffered for the name of Christ. Jesus is coming back for a pure and spotless bride. Look around you, is that what you see in the church today? Have we become so numb that we would actually think Jesus is coming back for the church in its present state?
Suffering isn’t child abuse. It’s a gift of mercy; a purifying fire that burns away the dross and sin in our hearts and lives. No one wants to suffer; but we should rejoice in our tribulations, because we know that God loves us enough to allow it, in order that we may be found holy and able to stand against the deception of this age. And we should not be surprised by this, because Jesus promised we would experience tribulation in this world. But in trusting Him, we can have peace. And we know that we will not experience God’s wrath; which will be poured out in great measure upon the departure of his saints.
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. ~1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
1. Greek lexicon based on Thayer’s and Smith’s Bible Dictionary plus others; this is keyed to the large Kittel and the “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.” These files are public domain.
2. The Complete WordStudy Dictionary New Testament. Edited by Spiros Zodhiates Th.D. 1992.
3. The Sign. Robert Van Kampen. 1992. Preface, pg xix
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