What will happen during the first 3 ½ years of the tribulation?
Revelation 5:1“And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book (or scroll is a better word. It was rolled up and sealed) written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.”
Just picture a scroll rolled up and then sealed with seven seals. On the outside are written details. This is alluded to in the Old Testament economy, going back to Israel. They had every right to mortgage their property. Some may think mortgages are strictly twentieth century, but mortgages are not something new. Even at the time of Ruth and Boaz, they could mortgage their property. If they got in a bind and the mortgage was due, and they couldn’t pay, they would either lose their property, or could go to a next of kin for help. If the next of kin had the funds, and wanted to, then the mortgage could be paid off. There you have the three requirements for paying off a mortgage. Next of Kin, Able, and Willing.
This was the whole idea in Israel, that the families would keep their inheritance. Now we have the same picture here of a mortgage. It says it was written inside as well as on the outside. The private details that were not for public scrutiny were written on the inside. But the things that needed to be made public were written on the outside – for example, who the property belonged to. We still do that at the court house today, so it’s not that much different. The lesson here is, there is a mortgage involved, sealed with seven seals, but only One can open the scroll and pay it off.
“And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, `Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.’ And the four beasts (creatures) said, `Amen (so be it).’ And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.”
The stage is set. God the Son has taken the mortgage with the seven seals on it. And now He is going to open it and begin the process of paying it off. Now we come to Chapter 6, and the first thing we are introduced to is the four horsemen of the apocalypse; most have heard of it. They are very interesting. Verse 1:
“And I saw when the Lamb (God the Son) opened one of the seals,…”
He will take them off one at a time. And these seven seals are going to take us up to the mid-point of the Tribulation. Now the best way to understand the Book of Revelation is to realize that there are a whole series of sevens throughout the Book. The part we skipped was the seven letters to the seven churches. Now we will see the seven seals; the seven seal judgments. They will introduce the seven trumpet judgments. The seventh trumpet judgments will introduce the final seven bold judgments. Interspersed between, there are seven distinct persons, and seven woes.
The whole Book of Revelation is a breakdown of sevens. And seven is God’s perfect number. The whole Book is not a book of myths and legends; it is a perfectly tuned Book that is definitely a part of the Word of God. What we have is the beginning of this final seven years. Several lessons ago from the Book of Daniel, we showed that this seven-year period of time, which we call Daniel’s seventieth week, or the time of wrath and vexation, or primarily the Tribulation, will be opening when the Anti-christ signs that seven-year treaty with the Nation of Israel. That’s back in Daniel Chapter 9. And when he signs that seven-year treaty, this is the beginning of the opening of the seals we see here in Revelation Chapter 6.
The first 3 1/2 years are not so much the wrath and vexation, although they will be bad enough. The last 3 1/2 years are going to be terrible for those who must go through it. Remember, as you study Revelation, that all through Scripture these seven years are divided 3 1/2 and 3 1/2; 42 months and 42 months; 1260 days and 1260 days
PROPHECY: THE WHITE HORSE OF REVELATION 6
Let’s continue in Revelation Chapter 6. We left off in verse 2. Christ has taken the scroll from God the Father. And that scroll includes the mortgage that Satan is holding over the planet as a result of the curse. And the curse is going to be lifted by the time all of this is over. As we see the first seal of this mortgage removed, it’s the appearance of a white horse. There are many who feel that, because it is a white horse, it has to be Christ. But I’m convinced it is the false christ, because from Genesis Chapter 3, just as soon as man entered the scene, Satan came in as the master counterfeiter.
“…and he that sat on him had a bow;…”
“Bow” is hard to track down since it can be pronounced and mean different things. You can’t really define this word from the Greek as to what is implied, so I’ll have to follow in the tracks of men I’ve read, that most agree it’s the bow that would shoot arrows. But, from our study of the Anti-christ out of Daniel, I trust I made it clear that Anti-christ is not coming in using power of military might or by fighting wars. How is he going to come in? Peaceably and with flattery. He is going to be a political maneuverer – a charismatic type individual. He doesn’t have to use his ammunition, but may come with the threat of power behind him which he will have. Even Western Europe still has NATO. But he doesn’t actually have the military power yet. He hasn’t come that far along.
“…and a crown was given unto him:…”
The world is going to recognize him as their leader. Remember, he will come up out of the Common Market of Europe. The European Community (EC). There will be 10 nations in all and he will come up and usurp the power. Look at Matthew 24. It’s the perfect parallel of Revelation Chapter 6. So always compare the two. Note that Matthew 24 is all prophecy about the Tribulation. There is no Church Age doctrine in here whatsoever. This is strictly Tribulation ground.
“And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, `See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, `There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.'”
Jesus was looking toward the siege of the Roman armies under Titus. And that is just what the armies did. Once they got inside the city wall they devastated the city. Josephus recorded (and it’s not Scripture), that the Roman soldiers had heard it rumored that between the very building stones of Herod’s Temple, there was a lot of gold and other kinds of wealth. And soldiers being soldiers, tore it down stone by stone looking for that supposedly hidden wealth. But whatever the reason, we know that the Temple was destroyed just as Jesus said it would be. This Temple could not be destroyed by fire like King Nebuchadnezzar did to Solomon’s Temple, but remember Solomon’s Temple was built from the beautiful cedars of Lebanon. So it burned to a crisp. But Herod’s Temple was predominately of stone and of course the precious gold and silver, etc. But anyway it was all destroyed except that little segment of the wall that is now known as the Wailing Wall.
“And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately (just the Twelve), saying, `Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming (remember in I Corinthians 1:22, the Jew requires a sign. They wanted to know when His Kingdom would be set up), and of the end of the world?'”
Jesus now begins to lay out the events of the seven years. It begins from the appearance of the white horse in Revelation 6 – the Man of Sin, the counterfeit christ, the Anti-christ.
“And Jesus answered and said unto them, `Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, `I am Christ;…'”
Do you see that? That’s the white horse. He’s will come on the scene and practically convince the world that he is Christ. He’s what the world is looking for. And we are already seeing people like that. Sigma Moon from Korea, about 15 years ago, tried to tell the world that he was the Christ. And we’ve had others, and we will have still more. But it’s going to be culminated by the real counterfeiter, the real Anti-christ, and he’s going to convince the world that he is the Christ and he shall deceive many. Going back to Revelation, stop at I John, Chapter 2 for a moment. This is the same writer who wrote the Book of Revelation. Now let’s drop down to verse 18. And here again, as I have stressed before, is the one place where this Man of Sin is actually called the Anti-christ.
I John 2:18
“Little children, it is the last time (these writers of Scriptures had no idea there was going to be 1900 + years before this would happen. They thought it would be coming in a relatively short time): and as ye have heard that antichrist (here John is speaking of the real Anti-christ) shall come, even now are there many antichrists;…”
Of course there are. But they can’t hold a candle to the one that is coming. Now let’s go back to Revelation Chapter 6. So we see this Man of Sin comes on the scene and he begins to conquer and overtake nations. He is setting up his power base.
“… and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. And when he had opened the second seal,…”
Remember these seals are on that mortgage, that scroll. He signs the seven-year treaty with the Nation of Israel as we saw back in Daniel. The next event which may be within the first month or so after the seven years have begun, is another horse. This one is red.
“And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon (the red horse) to take peace from the earth (when you have the absence of peace, what do you have? War. I mean a real one. So this power entity, this rider of the red horse is going to bring war on the earth), and that they should kill one another:” I want you to underline those last three words, because I think this indicates what I’m going to show is the rider of the red horse. We won’t have time to take it all the way through during this lesson. But here we have the rider of the red horse, and his battle ground is going to be epitomized by not killing the enemy, but what are they going to do? They are going to kill each other. To whet your appetite, and as you are turning to Ezekiel, I want you to be thinking what great power on earth is associated with the color red? Russia. For over twenty years I’ve been teaching that I think the rider of the red horse will be the Russian invasion of Israel. Just as in Ezekiel 38 and 39. So in Chapter 38, and again, Ezekiel begins as he does so many times:
“And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, `Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him,”
Most Bible scholars are convinced that Gog and Magog, Meshech and Tubal are Russia and her satellite nations. I have told my classes for quite some time not to believe for a minute that the Russian bear is dead. The Russian bear is alive and well. They may be crimped a little economically, and be a little cold and hungry, but the Russian army is sitting there east of the Ural Mountains just as intact as it has ever been. I read again in one of the major news magazines recently, that Russia has not cut one person from their staff of espionage. They are just as busy with their spying activity as they have always been. They have not slowed down the production of any of their war materials. They recently sent another rocket into space. How are they doing all of this if they are destitute and broke? Listen, they are just as alive as can be. And we know they have their problems, but one day soon the Communist will come back in and take over and Russia will be right back on track.
Editor’s Note: The events of Revelation 6:4-8 and Ezekiel 39:1-9, which will also take place in the first 3 1/2 years of the tribulation, are covered under a separate question “What will happen to America during the tribulation?” a few pages ahead. Keep that in mind as we now move down a few verses from Revelation 6:4 to verse 9.
REVELATION 6, CONTINUED
Let’s go back to the horsemen of the Apocalypse in Revelation Chapter 6 for a quick review. First we have the appearance of the Anti-christ. He signs the seven-year treaty with Israel which gives them relative peace and safety. Then I feel you will have that great invasion of the red horde from the north, which in turn will precipitate a great demise in the food supply. That will trigger the famine (or the black horse in verses 5 and 6), as well as the pestilences. And remember that we showed you in Matthew 24 that Jesus foretold that these things were just the beginning of sorrow or travail. These are the beginning days of the Tribulation. It’s going to be the most awful seven-year period in human history. We will be seeing that, as Jesus spoke of it in Matthew 24. But now, turn to Revelation Chapter 6. Remember, these horsemen were also seals, and we have four of the seals off (there were seven seals on the scroll to begin with). Now He opens the fifth seal. And John, in his visionary experience, of course:
“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:”
I have to feel he was making reference to the Tribulation martyrs. Later we’re going to show that, yes indeed, there will be multitudes of non-Jews who will have a salvation experience during this turmoil. But they will not live very long to tell about it, because it’s going to be a period of time where they are going to be martyred immediately. These are the ones I feel that John sees in a prophetic light, and these who have been martyred for their faith will cry:
“And they cried with a loud voice, saying, `How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?'” And, of course, we know that He’s going to.
“And white robes were given unto every one of them (that is, these that had been martyred for their faith); and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”
That’s all part of the fifth seal. Now we come to the sixth seal. Remember there’s only seven that are holding this scroll together, and Christ is the One that is opening it in order to be able to read that mortgage and pay it off. Okay, we’re coming back to that scroll that was in Revelation Chapter 5:
“And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and , lo, there was a great earthquake;…”
In Matthew 24, that was one of the things that Jesus had mentioned, that there would be famine and pestilence and earthquakes in divers places. We’re already seeing a tremendous increase in earthquake activity; thousands of percent in the last twenty or thirty years. There’s so many earthquakes taking place every day that the media doesn’t even bother to report them. I read recently in one of the daily papers there where three or four earthquakes; not huge, but 4.6 or 5 on the Richter scale. There was one in China, one in Southern Russia and one in Iran. They’re taking place every day. This is contrary to history; it hasn’t always been that way. In verse 12 we’re approaching the mid-point of this seven years. We’re about at the end of 3 1/2 years as we get to the sixth seal.
“…and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;”
All you have to do is know the circumstances. When there’s tremendous earthquakes, there’s more than likely volcanic eruptions as well. As we know from the past, volcanoes can spew out so much dust that the sun can almost be blocked out. I think that’s what we have here. It isn’t that God all of a sudden is going to blacken the sun, per se. But as a result of all these activities on the planet, the sun will almost become like we’ve seen it at times, like a little red glow. And the moon became as blood, again because of all the pollution that has been blown into the atmosphere. Then verse 13. This is God dealing primarily with the Nation of Israel. Jeremiah said it was the time of Jacob’s trouble. I’ve pointed out over the years, for those of you who have been following from Genesis on, that whenever God was dealing with Israel in the land, the supernatural was commonplace. Beginning when Moses went into Egypt, the plagues were supernatural events that were under God’s control. The opening of the Red Sea was supernatural. The life and escapades of Samson were supernatural. And the appearance of the Angelic hosts at Christ’s birth was supernatural. The opening of the prison, when Peter was in captivity, by the use of a earthquake – what was it? Supernatural. So this is what I’m talking about. When God is dealing with that Nation of Israel, as He will be in these seven years, we’re dealing with the supernatural every day – things that are beyond the ordinary. In verse 13, we even have cosmic disturbances.
“And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.”
In other words, tremendous earthquake activity. And this is only in the first half. The second half is going to be far worse. Even rulers and men in high places are getting shook up:
“And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains (and they actually plead for death): And said to the mountains and rocks, `Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:'”
Do you see for the last 1900 plus years, mankind has not seen the wrath of God. Now we know there has been a lot of calamity. We know that there has already been a lot of earthquake activity, and wars and famine and so forth. But that has not been the wrath of God. I’ve always maintained that the things that come upon the human race, that plague us, are not acts of God’s wrath. They are God permitting Satan to bring suffering and turmoil to God’s creation. God is not in the business tonight of pouring out His wrath. He’s a God of Grace, tonight. Paul says in Romans Chapter 5, that where sin abounded, what’s always greater? His grace abounds even more. But, grace has ended here with the out-calling of the Body of Christ just before the Tribulation begins. We are seeing the wrath of the Lamb being poured out. Verse 17, and it’s repeated twice in two verses:
“For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”
Do you remember Psalms Chapter 2? We’ve used it so often coming up through the Old Testament. After mankind, Jew and Gentile, have rejected the King, they’re going to go into a period of perplexity and derision – and that’s where the world is tonight. They don’t know where to turn. And then what does the next verse say in Psalms Chapter 2?
“Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.”
It’s no longer the Age of Grace. All these events take us up to the mid-point of this seven years. We’ve had the appearance of the Anti-christ. We’ve had the permission (if I may use that word) for Israel to go back into Temple worship. She’s going to go back under the Law you might say. She’s getting closer to that all the time. Now back again to Revelation 6. As we come to the end of the Chapter, let me repeat verse 17:
“For the great day of his wrath is come: and who shall be able to stand?”
The Bible does not actually refer to the Tribulation as being the wrath of God until the last 3 1/2 years. The first 3 1/2 are going to be bad enough, but the last 3 1/2 years will be beyond human comprehension. Let’s go to Matthew 24 once again. I’ve said before, you can’t study Revelation without studying Matthew 24. Here Jesus is speaking of this very thing. Starting at verse 8, what does Jesus call all of these things that are taking place (the tremendous loss of life in that 1/4 of world has died – and all the pestilences and famine)?