Satan Evicted: The Seven Seals

The Lamb with the Book with Seven Seals

The Seven Seals

Revised Version in PDF (2MB)

The Scroll with Seven Seals
The Four Seals
      Definitions First
      The Olivet Discourse
      Days and Seasons
      SIDEBAR: Time of the Gentiles
      The Restrainer
      The Seals ≠ The Day of the Lord
      The Four Sore Judgments

The Scroll with Seven Seals

There are many conjectures as to the exact nature of the scroll with the seven seals. A search through the Bible reveals similar scrolls in Daniel 12, Zachariah 5, and Ezekiel 2 that may provide additional insight. However, in its simplest form, the scroll is the title deed to planet earth:

from “The Scroll of Seven Seals”1

The scroll of Rev 5 is a deed of redemption, and as such becomes effectively a will of inheritance. It is the legal document proving that a qualified Kinsman has paid the price to redeem the land once forfeited by His family.

See “Satan-Evicted: The Foundation” section of this study.

Commentary, Annotations, & Notes:

Revelation 5:1: Then I saw in the right hand [place of authority] of him who sat on the throne [God the Father] a scroll [a papyrus roll, a book, a document] with writing on both sides [opistograph] and sealed with seven [number of completion/perfection] seals [a. mark of authenticity, b. fasten or close securely].

The Seven Seals: There seems to be a controversy over how the scroll is sealed. Hal Lindsey, author of the Late Great Planet Earth, claims that the scroll is internally sealed:

from There’s A New World Coming2

a scribe would procure a long roll of parchment and begin writing. After a period of writing he would stop, roll the parchment enough to cover his words and seal the scroll at that point with wax. Then he would resume writing, stop again, roll the scroll, and add another seal. By the time he was finished, he would have sealed the scroll seven times.

Craig S. Keener, citing Robert Van Kampen, believes that all seals are on the outside:

from “Scroll,” Philologos3

He writes in his book, "The Sign," that of the many scrolls in his possession not one has a seal on the inside. When sealed, the scrolls are all done so from the outside…. When more than one seal is present it indicates a series or set of conditions that must be met before the scroll can actually be opened. He also cites that the Shrine of the Book located on the grounds of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem has many scrolls that have multiple seals placed on them, yet not one scroll has a seal on the inside.

Still others describe the scroll as a book with seven sealed sections.
”Monceau,” flickriver4 Images of the book of Revelation5 “Manuscripts,” Historic Connections6

Does it make a difference whether the scroll is sealed on the inside or the outside? Perhaps. If the scroll is internally sealed, then the actions associated with the breaking of the first six seals are a part of the document. If the scroll is externally sealed, then the content of the document is not revealed until the 7th Seal is broken.

Some scholars assert the next verse, Revelation 5:2, illustrates that the portions of the book can be opened without breaking all of the seals, “to open the scroll and break its seals.” However, word order in Greek is more variable that in English and word order is probably not indicative of time order in this instance.

I tend to believe that the term biblion is contextually best defined as a scroll primarily because of the description “with writing on both sides” (NIV) – “written within and on the back” (YLT). I also believe that the seven seals are on the outside primarily because the Apostle John can readily see all seven seals. Additionally, there is a distinct difference between the events of the first six seals (the prelude, the final warning) and those that follow the breaking of the 7th Seal (the Wrath of God).

Jeremiah 32: Law For Redemption of Land: If a person was forced to sell land due to poverty, he or his nearest relative could redeem that land by repaying its discounted price. All land reverted back to the original owner during the Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:23-28). Jeremiah 32 describes the redemption process that Jeremiah used to redeem land for his cousin Hanamel:

  1. Pay the redemption price. (v. 9)
  2. In front of witnesses, sign two copies of the deed of purchase which contains the terms and conditions of the purchase. Seal one copy. (v. 10-11)
  3. In the presence of witnesses, Jeremiah handed both copies of the deed – the sealed and unsealed – to Baruch, his student scribe, who stored them in pottery jar to preserve them for a long time. (v. 12-15)

Jeremiah 32 served as a prophecy for the future redemption of Israel following the Babylonian Captivity:

Jeremiah 32:15: For this is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘Someday people will again own property here in this land and will buy and sell houses and vineyards and fields.’” (NIV)

Why are there two copies? Just as today, there are at least two copies of a land deed. The official copy, the sealed copy, is retained by the legal authority to ensure authenticity and to prevent alteration. The unofficial copy is retained by the land owner for general reference.

Why were both copies sealed in a clay jar? Jeremiah was following God’s instructions – the Jews would soon be carried off by the Babylonians and it would be decades before the Jews returned to the land and the documents executed.

How does this passage help us to understand the scroll with the seven seals? Jeremiah 32 foreshadows Christ’s redemption of planet earth (see also Ruth 4). Jesus paid the redemption price during His earthly ministry and sacrifice on the cross. However, there would be an extended time delay between the purchase and the taking possession – nearly 2,000 years so far. Taking this analogy one step further, the unsealed copy represents John’s Revelation (possibly the entire Bible; unfortunately, the unsealed copy is subject to alteration – misinterpretation. The sealed copy is retained by the Father in heaven. When the time is ripe, the Father will hand the sealed copy to the Son, and the Son will take possession of planet earth.

Some commentators assert that land deeds were sealed with seven seals with each seal representing a condition requiring fulfillment before the owner could take possession. One version claims that it was Jeremiah’s cousin who was in prison, that the contracts for redemption were drawn up when the cousin sold the land, and that the sealed contract was stored in the temple. Other versions assert that the redeemer took the sealed contract to the temple where the priest would break the seals before the redeemer could take possession of the land.

I could find no authoritative evidence indicating land deals were sealed with seven seals or the seals represented conditions. The commentary placing Jeremiah’s cousin in prison is clearly in error – Jeremiah was the one imprisoned, Jeremiah drew up the contracts of redemption, and both copies were sealed in a clay jar, not placed in the temple. Certainly, the seals of a contract would only be broken when the authenticity or alterations were question.

At the end of this age, Satan, through his agents, will question Christ’s legal authority to redeem the planet earth. At that time, God the Father will hand the sealed contract to his nearest kinsmen, Jesus Christ, who will break the contract’s seven seals revealing the terms and conditions of the redemption. Only after all seven seals have been broken will the process of taking possession begin:

It is not possible to break a seal and open part of the scroll, and then break another seal and open more of the scroll. It is all or nothing. All seven seals must be broken before any of the scroll can be opened. And only as the scroll is opened can the trumpets be sounded.7

Zechariah 5:1-4: A two sided scroll: one side seems represent sins against mankind – thievery, the other side seems to represent sins against God – false oaths:

Zechariah 5:1-4: I looked again—and there before me was a flying scroll! He asked me, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a flying scroll, thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide.” And he said to me, “This is the curse that is going out over the whole land; for according to what it says on one side, every thief will be banished, and according to what it says on the other, everyone who swears falsely will be banished. The Lord Almighty declares, ‘I will send it out, and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of him who swears falsely by my name. It will remain in his house and destroy it, both its timbers and its stones.’” (NIV)

Daniel 12:4: A sealed document: This verse seems to indicate that the events of the “time of the end” will not be understood until the latter days – this sealing follows and precedes the infamous prophecies many scholars believe pertain to the Great Tribulation:

Daniel 12:4:But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.”

Ezekiel 2:9-10: A two sided scroll sent to a rebellious, stubborn, and hard-hearted Israel:

Ezekiel 2:9-10: Then I looked and saw a hand reaching out to me. It held a scroll, which he unrolled. And I saw that both sides were covered with funeral songs, words of sorrow, and pronouncements of doom. (NIV)

Revelation 5:2-4: And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it. Then I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and read it.

For those in heaven, the question “Who is worthy?” seems to reflect a rhetorical question (a question asked to make a point rather than elicit an answer) and the statement that no one was found worthy seems to be a dramatic pause (provides a period of silence to accentuate the tremendous sacrifice that was necessary in order to purchase earth’s redemption). John did not comprehend the dramatic elements of the previous verse and he began to weep. The bitter weeping seems to indicate that John clearly understood the contents of the scroll and what was at stake if no one was worthy to open the scroll.

Revelation 5:5: But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah [Jesus Christ], the heir to David’s throne [Jesus Christ], has won the victory [sacrifice during the crucifixion]. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals [paid the redemption fee].”

Here John’s failure to recognize the previous verse’s dramatic elements is corrected as he is told that Jesus Christ is worthy to open the scroll. Jesus was from the tribe of Judah (the lion being the tribe’s emblem) and the genealogies in Matthew, Mark, and Luke illustrate that he was a descendent of King David. Perhaps more importantly, the titles clearly emphasize the Jewish nature to the scroll – these Jewish titles foreshadow the removal of Christians prior to the breaking of the 7th Seal and revelation of the scrolls content.

Revelation 5:6-7: Then I saw a Lamb [Jesus Christ] that looked as if it had been slaughtered [Mosaic sacrificial lamb], but it [pronoun “it” used instead of “He” to emphasize that His sacrifice made Him worthy, not His position as Son of God] was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders [Christ’s role]. He had seven [inifinite] horns [symbol of power and authority] and seven [infinite] eyes [symbol of knowledge/wisdom], which represent the sevenfold [fullness] Spirit of God [God’s wholeness/completion] that is sent out into every part of the earth [complete inundation of the entire world]. He [Jesus Christ] came and took [accepts His new role] the scroll from the right hand [full authority] of him who sat on the throne [God the Father].

In this verse we see a shift in Jesus Christ’s role and position. Prior to this verse, Jesus Christ sat at the right hand of God serving as mankind’s priestly intermediary in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:6, Hebrews 6:20, Hebrews 7:11).

Hebrews 8:1: The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, (NIV)

In Revelation 5:6-7, Jesus Christ is being called away from that role and into the role of redeemer of the earth and ultimately the conquering and ruling King.

The attributes of the seven horns and seven eyes convey Christ will go forth fully and completely empowered with God’s infinite power, authority, and wisdom – God’s essence of being.

Jesus Christ accepts His new role – the commission given by God the Father.

Revelation 5:8: And when he [Jesus Christ] had taken it [scroll], the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb [profound worship]. Each one had a harp [instrument of worship] and they were holding golden bowls full of incense [spiritual presence], which are the prayers of the saints.

The acceptance of the scroll by Jesus Christ is a form of anointing of Christ as the King.

Within the Jewish Temple, the golden alter of incense stood in front of the veil that separated the Holy place from the Holy of Holies. Incense was burnt twice daily with the aroma permeating the entire temple including the Holy of Holies. Similarly, the prayers of the saints permeate worship of the Lamb. In this case, the prayers are more witness, Revelation 5:9-14, than intercessory, Revelation 6:10.

Revelation 5:9-14: And they [the 24 elders and 4 creatures] sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain [crucifixion], and with your blood you purchased men [us] for God from every tribe and language and people and nation [the Church]. You have made them to be a kingdom [kings] and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on [over] the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand [myriads, uncountable in number]. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, [all of creation] singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

The new song is the sung by the 24 elders and four creatures on behalf of the Christian Church, the bride of Christ, who are not yet assembled in heaven. Where verses 5-7 have a definite Jewish tenor, the new song has a Christian tenor – note the use of the term “slain” instead of the term “slaughter.” Whereas the scroll represents the redemption of the earth, the new song emphasizes the redemption of individuals.

The addition of myriad of angels and all creatures indicates that all of creation celebrates the steps that are about to be taken:

Romans 8:22: We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (NIV)

Summary: The scroll with the seven seals represents the title deed to planet earth. That deed was surrendered to Satan upon Adam’s, the father of mankind, obedience to Satan and disobedience to God. Jesus Christ – through His obedience to the Father, earthly ministry and sacrificial acts – paid the redemption fee for planet earth in accordance with the Law of Redemption for Land. Both the sealed and unsealed deed, written during Christ’s earthly ministry, were placed in pottery jars for safe keeping during Christ’s extended absence. Although sealed during Daniel’s time and throughout much of the Church age, the unsealed copy, biblical prophecy, will be made known to mankind during the latter days. The sealed copy, currently held in the right hand of God the Father, will be handed to Jesus Christ, the Son, at the beginning of the Great Tribulation. The breaking of the initial six seals serves as a warning to mankind, Satan, and Satan’s dominions that Jesus Christ intends to take possession, upon the breaking of the 7th Seal, the redeemed planet earth.

The Four Seals

The breaking of the first four seals of the scroll with seven seals initiates the Great Tribulation period. Many scholars assert that these first four seals are “judgment” seals with some claiming they initiate God’s wrath; I disagree. The tribulation experienced during these first seals result primarily from human actions, not God. Certainly, Satan and his dominions influence these actions and such actions are essential elements of God’s eternal plan; however, the mayhem will be by human hands.

Definitions First

Proponents of a pretribulation rapture generally define the Great Tribulation as a seven year period beginning with the breaking of the 1st Seal of the scroll with seven seals and ending with the physical return of Jesus Christ with His armies for the battle of Armageddon. This, in my opinion, is misleading… the Great Tribulation DOES NOT encompass the entire seven years of Daniel’s 70th Week.

The Great Tribulation is that period described in the Olivet Discourse from the coming of the many false messiahs until the gathering of Christ’s elect from the four winds. In the book of Revelation, the Great Tribulation begins with the breaking the 1st Seal of the scroll with seven seals and ends immediately prior to the breaking of the seventh seal. The Church will be present on the earth during this time period. The Church will be raptured from the earth at the breaking of the sixth seal.

The first four seals of the scroll with seven seals DO NOT involve God’s wrath although they do represent judgment on the wicked inhabitants of the earth. The Wrath of God DOES NOT begin until the breaking of the seventh seal.

Daniel’s 70th Week DOES NOT directly correlate with the Great Tribulation, but rather it spans a portion of the Great Tribulation and the entire Wrath of God. Daniel’s 70th Week begins when the Antichrist makes a covenant with many nations including Israel and ends with the physical return of Jesus Christ with His armies for the battle of Armageddon. The breaking of the 1st Seal occurs before the Antichrist makes the covenant – he must gain prominence, esteem, and power prior to rising to a position with the authority necessary to execute the covenant. Prophetic scriptures do not provide clues concerning how much time will transpire from the breaking of the 1st Seal until the signing of the covenant.

While reading this study, DO NOT confuse pretribulation rapture terminology with the terms within this study – they are not interchangeable. There is a clear distinction between the Great Tribulation, the Wrath of God, and Daniel’s 70th Week.

The Olivet Discourse

Understanding the events of the first four seals requires us to return to the Olivet Discourse – a description of the events prior to the breaking of the 7th Seal and the onslaught of God’s wrath:

Matthew 24:4-9, 22: Jesus answered: [Seal 1] “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. [Seal 2] You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. [Seal 3] There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains… [Seal 4] If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. (NIV)

Luke 21:12, 16-17: [Seal 5] But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name… You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me. (NIV)

Matthew 24:29: [Seal 6] Immediately after the distress of those days, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.

The Olivet Discourse is a beautiful example of God’s living and breathing Word. Within these passages, the Lord provides a glimpse into three distinct events:

  1. The Destruction of the Second Temple: Amillennialism and Preterism assert that the entire Olivet Discourse describes the destruction of the second Temple by Titus in 70 AD. They have good cause for such belief; clearly, Luke’s version predicts the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish Diaspora – dispersion among the many nations:
  2. Luke 21:20-24: “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (NIV)

    The prophecy also describes the persecution of early Christians by the Jewish and Roman communities:

    Luke 21:12: “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. (NIV)

    However, the events of the 1st Century simply do not fulfill the prophecy in its entirety:

    Luke 21:25-27: “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. (NIV)

    Amillennialism and Preterism tend to “spiritualize” scriptures that don’t readily fit into their belief systems. For example, some scholars assert the requirement that the “gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world” (Matthew 24:14) was fulfilled because Jerusalem and Rome were centers of world commerce and learning. Unfortunately, they were the center of the Western World, not the East, Africa, or the Americas. Such spiritualization, I’m afraid, stretches the scripture and should be rejected.

    Rather than spiritualizing scripture, we need to understand that the Word of God is a living, breathing document not limited by mankind’s diminutive mental capacity. For example, the Jewish learning community believes that Daniel’s prophecy of the “abomination that causes desolation” (Daniel 9:27) was fulfilled by the erection of a Zeus statue in its sacred precincts by Antiochus Epiphanes in the 2nd Century BC.8 However, we know Antiochus did not fulfill Daniel’s prophecy because Jesus Christ, some two centuries later, referred to it as a yet future event (Matthew 24:15).

    Clearly, the Jews in Judea during the 1st Century could take warning from the Olivet Discourse, and the prophecies within the discourse have implications still yet future. It would be an error to point to any single, specific prophecy and declare “this means this, and only this.” God’s Word is infinite; man’s mind is finite.

  3. The Regathering of Israel: Pretribulationists assert that the Olivet Discourse applies to the “end times” but applies to the Church in a very limited way. For example, many Pretribulationists assert that the gathering of the elect refers to the Jews, not the Christians:
  4. Matthew 24:30-31: “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (NIV)

    This assertion frequently claims that the Church is raptured out of the world prior to the Time of Jacob’s Trouble and that the elect, therefore, must represent the regathering of the Jews from the Diaspora to Jerusalem. In partial support of this assertion, a scholar may claim (a) the target audience was Jewish and (b) God cannot have two chosen peoples on the earth at the same time.

    Obviously, a partial regathering of ethnic Jews to Israel has been occurring since the early 20th Century with Jerusalem being reclaimed from the “gentiles” in 1967. This occurrence, however, does not exclude an additional regathering of a spiritual nature. In fact, Revelation 7:1-8 describes four angels, standing on the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds until the servants of God, 144,000 – 12,000 from each tribe of Israel, are sealed. This sealing looks very similar to the gathering of the elect from the “four winds” within Matthew 24:30-31.

    Were the listeners of the Olivet Discourse Jews? Yes, absolutely. Matthew 24:3 specifically indicates that the audience consisted of Christ’s disciples. Like Jesus, His disciples were Jews and would understand His message as Jews. However, by the time of the Olivet Discourse, the disciples were beginning to understand that Jesus was the promised Messiah:

    Matthew 16:13-16: When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (NIV)

    Certainly, Christ’s disciples did not possess a full understanding of the Church Age until after the Day of Pentecost; however, this limited understanding does not restrict the meaning of Christ’s word to Israel. Christ’s knowledge and prophecy was not limited to the disciple’s understanding.

    Can God have two chosen peoples on the earth at the same time? In response, I ask a simple question, “Why not?” Obviously, during Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, there were no Christians as that would not be possible until after Pentecost; however, from Pentecost until the destruction of the second Temple in 70 AD, both Christians and Jews coexisted on the same planet. Prior to the Great Flood, the righteous Noah and his family coexisted with the wicked and damned – it took Noah some hundred years to build the ark. An overlapping of “dispensations” appears normal and should be expected.

    Some scholars assert that the Daniel’s last week – the entire seven years of Jacob’s Trouble – involves God’s dealing with Israel, not the Church. And, I agree to a certain extent. However, there is a period of transition where the Church is winding down while Israel is winding up. I doubt this transition will take 40 years, but a transition period should be expected.

    In the purest sense, the true Church and true Israel will not occupy God’s focus at the same time. At the breaking of the sixth seal, the Church is raptured and the 144,000 Jews are sealed – the true Church is removed to heaven and true Israel is set apart on earth. However, prior to this moment, national (ethnic) Israel has already begun to take world center stage. Thus,

  5. The Rapture of Faithful Christians: Most Pretribulationists are rather rigid in their beliefs that (a) Christians will not face the Wrath of God and (b) we should expect the imminent Return of Jesus Christ. Rejection of the Olivet Discourse as the Rapture of the Church seems rooted in these two beliefs. (See also “Apologetics: Pretribulation Rapture Rebuttal” within this study.)
  6. GOD’S WRATH: Certainly, true Christians will never face the Wrath of God; this is the absolute, unalterable truth:

    1 Thessalonians 5:9: For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)

    However, there is a clear distinction between God’s wrath and tribulation. Christians are instructed to expect and endure tribulation:

    2 Corinthians 6:4-5: Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger. (NIV)

    A plain reading of the Olivet Discourse reveals great tribulation: false messiahs, false prophets, deception, war, rumors of war, strife between nations, famines, earthquakes, pestilence, persecution, hatred, imprisonment, torture, wickedness, and betrayal. But God’s people, from multiple generations, have long endured such things; it should not be unexpected for the last generation of Christians to suffer such things…. Such tribulation does not constitute the Wrath of God.

    Perhaps some Christians find it untenable that the coming Antichrist will have the authority to make war on and conquer the true believer?

    Daniel 7:25: He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time. (NIV)

    Revelation 13:7: He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them… (NIV)

    Yet, we know from history, that many, many Christians met their death because of their belief in Jesus Christ. The martyrdom of Stephen is described in Acts 7:54-60 and James in Acts 12:1-2. The apostles Peter was allegedly crucified upside down and Paul was allegedly beheaded during the reign of Nero. Early Christians faced persecution and martyrdom at the hands of both Jews and Romans. Even today, missionaries in non-Christian nations face persecution and possible death. Persecution and martyrdom should be considered a normal and expected Christian experience:

    Luke 6:22: Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. (NIV)

    Matthew 10:28: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (NIV)

    The events within the Olivet Discourse and the first six seals do not constitute God’s wrath and provide no impediments for the Church’s presence during this time.

    IMMINENT RETURN: The term “imminent return” is best defined as the belief that Jesus Christ could return at anytime, any second, to gather His Church. Ironically, the primary passages many proponents of an imminence return use to support their belief, they also deny:

    Matthew 24:36: No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (NIV)

    Matthew 24:44: So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (NIV)

    These passages, and the parables that follow, specifically reference the coming of the Son of Man on the clouds to gather His elect (Matthew 24:30-31). Yet, proponents of the imminent return theory assert that this gathering does not reference the Church but rather (a) the Jewish remnant during the tribulation period,9 (b) the Jews from around the world,10 (c) the post-tribulation second coming of Jesus Christ,11 or (d) the scattered resurrected saints from all over heaven.12 While each provides support for their claim, their explanation more rationalization than reasoning… We must be very, very careful in pulling individual scripture out of their context. If Matthew 24:30-31 does not reference the Church, then it is unlikely that any scriptures in Chapter 24 or Chapter 25 reference the Church.

    Certainly, Christians should eagerly await the Rapture; however, this eagerness is expectancy not imminence:

    1 Corinthians 1:7: Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.

    Titus 2:13: while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. (NIV)

    Philippians 3:20: But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)

    Certainly, scripture teaches that Christ is coming soon:

    Revelation 22:20: He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (NIV)

    Hebrews 10:37: For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. (NIV)

    Certainly, Christians do not know the exact day or the exact hour of Christ’s return:

    Mark 13:35: Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back--whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. (NIV)

    Acts 1:7: He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. (NIV)

    However, ample scriptural evidence indicates Christians should know when that time is near:

    Matthew 24:32-33: Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. NIV (Mark 13:29-29; Luke 21:29-31) [Emphasis added.]

    Luke 21:34: Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. (NIV) [Emphasis added.]

    1 Thessalonians 5:4: But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. (NIV) [Emphasis added.]

    2 Thessalonians 2:1-3: Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him… Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for [that day will not come] until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. (NIV) [Emphasis added.]

    Rather than hoping the Lord will remove us from the tribulation, we should seek preparedness so that day will not overtake us:

    John 17:15: My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. (NIV)

Summary: The Olivet Discourse provides a glimpse into three distinct events: (a) the destruction of the second Temple in 70 AD, (b) the gathering of the 144,000 Jewish remnant prior to their sealing in Revelation 7:1-8, and (c) the rapture of Christ’s Church prior to the assembly in Revelation 7:9-17. Although many believe that the Church will be raptured prior to the tribulation, such belief is at best speculative. The Olivet Discourse provides the foundation, an outline, for our understanding of the breaking the first seals of the scroll with seven seals…

Days and Seasons

God has an eternal plan, and that eternal plan has a timetable attached. All of creation groans under the burden of mankind’s wickedness; all of creation strains against its bondage eagerly awaiting redemption… like a race horse impatiently awaiting the start but held back by the gate:

Romans 8:19-21: The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (NIV)

In like manner, redeemed Christians eagerly await the Lord’s return so we may join our imperishable bodies and reside always with our Lord:

Philippians 3:20: But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (NIV)

However, the Lord’s timetable advances according to His own purpose, not ours and not creations. While the redemption lingers, prophetic events will not unfold until appointed time:

Habakkuk 2:2-3: Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” (NIV)

Why the seemingly delay? Apparently, the Lord has predestined13 a specific number of individuals to accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah, their Lord, and the Son of God. When this number has been redeemed, then the full number from the nations (gentiles) will have been achieved:

Romans 11:25: I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles [nations] has come in. (NIV)

Alternatively, the Lord is patiently waiting for the full harvest of souls… When all souls who will accept Jesus Christ as their Savior have done so, then the harvest time will arrive and earth reaped:

2 Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (NIV)

James 5:7: Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. (NIV)

When will the appointed time arrive? According to the Lord’s own words, the apostles were not destined to know the time or seasons of the Christ’s return:

Acts 1:7: He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” (NIV)

Thus, New Testament scripture contains no hints as to the year the Great Tribulation will begin. Does the Old Testament contain hints? Some scholars assert that it does…

Hosea 6:1-2: “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. (NIV)

If we assume that a day equals a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8) and God turned His back on the Jews (Hosea5:14-15) after they rejected Jesus as the Messiah in 33 AD, then God will revive the Jews after two days (Hosea 6:2) or 2033 AD (2 days = 2,000 years), and Jesus Christ will sit on David’s throne in the Millennial Kingdom in 2037 AD (1 generation or 70 years after the recapture of Jerusalem in 1967)… 1335 days after the Antichrist stops the daily sacrifices and offerings. NOTICE: This calculation is sarcastic mocking complex formulas of biblical dates and numbers to calculate Christ’s Second Return. The Bible does NOT provide sufficient information to calculate the date.

SIDEBAR: Times of the Gentiles

Many biblical scholars assert that the “Time of the Gentiles” began in 586 BC with the conquest of Judah by the Babylonians and the destruction of the first Temple. Some scholars assert that this period ended seventy years later in c. 516 BC with building of the second Temple. Others claim that the Time of Gentiles has been continuous since 586 BC as the Jews have never been fully independent from foreign dominance. Both positions seem to have merit; the first reflects a spiritual captivity and the second reflects a political captivity.

The New Testament, however, projects a new, distinct Time of the Gentiles with Luke 24 prophesying a second Diaspora… a scattering of Jews among the nations a second time:

Luke 21:24: They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (NIV)

This second scattering occurred after the rejection of Jesus Christ as the Messiah in 33 AD, the destruction of the second temple in 70 AD, and the expulsion from Jerusalem in 135 AD following the second Jewish revolt. During this time, Israel had no national or political identity and no communication with God through a temple. According to the Apostle Paul, God placed the Jews into a partial trance until the end of the current age:

Romans 11:11: God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day. (NIV)

Romans 11:25: I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. (NIV)

Some scholars assert that the Time of the Gentiles came to an end. In 1948, the nation of Israel was reestablished in Palestine, and Jerusalem was wrestled from the Arabs during the 1967 war. Israel, however, does not enjoy full recognition as thirty-two members of the United Nations do not consider it a legitimate state and most nations do not recognize Jerusalem at Israel’s capital. Until construction of the third Jewish Temple, Israel continues in spiritual exile.

The Old Testament contains numerous prophecies concerning the regathering and restoration of Israel during the last days, e.g. The Valley of Dry Bones, Ezekiel 37:1-14. Some of these prophecies have application to the Church, some are unique to Israel, and some apply to both.

Interestingly, the Jews continue to eagerly await the coming of their messiah – their Moshiach. Their vision of the messiah, however, differs significantly from the Christian’s view. Their Moshiach mirrors the Christian Messiah as he will be a descendant of King David, a preeminent Biblical scholar, righteous, charismatic, and inspirational. However, he will differ in that he will be a human being, not a deity.14 The Moshiach is expected to rebuild the Jewish Temple, secure national Israel, and usher in a era of world peace.

According to the Daniel, the Antichrist will break the covenant with many in the middle of the week (after three and one-half years) by putting a stop to the daily sacrifices and offerings. Jesus, within the Olivet Discourse, prophesized that the Antichrist setup an “abomination that causes desolation” in the holy place. These prophecies indicate that Israel will build a new Temple – or at minimum a new Tabernacle – prior to the beginning of the Great Tribulation.

The Restrainer

The Apostle Paul, in 2 Thessalonians, outlines two events that must occur prior the Lord’s return for His church: (a) the great apostasy and (b) the Antichrist’s revealing. That revealing will not occur until the “he who now restrains” is taken out of the way:

2 Thessalonians 2:1-7: Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him… Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed… And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. (NASB) [Emphasis added]

Who is the he who now restrains? Scholars advocate a variety of theories as to the restrainer’s identity: the Church, the Holy Spirit, both the Holy Spirit and the Church, Christian prayer, civil governments, or Michael the Archangel. Some argue that it is not the man of lawlessness that is being held back, but rather Christ’s coming. While interesting, these distract from the purity of Paul’s message:

You do not need to worry that you have been left behind because the Rapture will not occur until after the great apostasy and the identity of the Antichrist is revealed. Also remember that the Antichrist is bad, bad, bad…

Certainly, there is a restraining force that prevents the Antichrist’s rise to authority prior to God’s appointed time. Only God the Father knows the day and hour of Christ’s return… Satan does not know… not even Christ knows… Satan must always have an agent prepared to assume the role of the Antichrist; there is no telling how many potential Antichrists have been primed throughout the past two millennia – one must be ready to go on a moment’s notice…

I suppose that each theory supports a particular end time perspective. For example, some proponents of a pretribulation Rapture claim that the “he who now restrains” is the Church and the “taken out of the way” is the Rapture. The Church, they claim, must be removed before the Antichrist will have free reign. Of course, this theory denies the primary purpose of the passage: The Thessalonians need not be concerned that Christ has already gathered His saints because that event will only occur AFTER the apostasy and AFTER the revealing of the Antichrist.

I prefer a much simpler explanation. First, the failure to clearly identify the restrainer indicates (a) the identity is unimportant or (b) God has no desire for us to know the identity. Second, as in all cases, nothing happens unless God permits it to happen; thus, the “he who now restrains” is, in its simplest form, the Hand of God. When God decides to remove his Hand, the events and characters of the tribulation will be released.

The Seals ≠ The Day of the Lord

Some scholars assert that by breaking the first four seals, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, sends forth the four horsemen to wreak their havoc upon the earth; it is, they conclude, judgment (wrath) upon mankind for his wickedness. They claim that the seals are a part of “The Day of the Lord” (The Wrath of God). This representation, however, is somewhat misleading.

Certainly, all events within the Great Tribulation are contained in God’s eternal plan and nothing occurs without God’s expressed permission. The four horsemen of the apocalypse are “given” a crown, “given” the power to take peace, and “given” the authority to kill one-fourth of the earth’s population. The four horsemen of the apocalypse are called into action by a voice of “thunder” – the voice of divine authority spoken thru the four living creatures. But, unlike the seven trumpets and the seven bowls of wrath, the tribulation during the first four seals is initiated by riders – human agents. It is man’s wickedness that causes the tribulation, not the wrath of God… God permits it, but God does not cause it.

  1. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
  2. Why is it important to understand the nature of the tribulation? For the same reason we study all scripture – because the Word of God is spiritual nourishment for our souls just as food is nourishment for our bodies:

    2 Timothy 2:15: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (NIV)

    Matthew 4:4: Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (NIV)

    Revelation 1:3: Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. (NIV)

    Additionally, I am concerned for those dear Christian brothers and sisters who believe that they will be removed from this world prior to these difficult days…

    1 Thessalonians 5:4: But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. (NIV)

    While it is difficult, if not impossible, for many Christians to envision the Antichrist successfully overcome the saints of God, the scripture clearly indicates that the Antichrist will be empowered to persecute, lead astray, prevail, conquer, and subdue the elect:

    Matthew 24:24: For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. (NASB)

    Matthew 24:10: At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. (NASB)

    Revelation 13:7: It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them… (NASB)

    Daniel 7:21: I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them. (NASB)

    Many proponents of a pretribulation Rapture insist that the “elect” during this period are either Christians who have missed the Rapture or orthodox Jews; however, this, I believe, is an error. It is imperative that we put on the full armor of God so that when tribulation comes in any form we can stand firm against the wiles of the devil, his dominions, and his schemes:

    Ephesians 6:11-13: Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (NIV)

  3. HOW DO WE KNOW THAT THIS TRIBULATION IS NOT THE WRATH OF GOD?
  4. First, and perhaps most importantly, the martyred saints under God’s alter in heaven ask how long it will be before He judges and avenges (wrath) the inhabitants of the earth. This occurs after the breaking of the fifth seal… it occurs after the four horsemen have been released:

    Revelation 6:10: They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" (NIV)

    Second, and perhaps just as important, the scriptures are clear that the Day of the Lord – the pouring out of God’s wrath upon the earth – follows the “distress of those days,” the gathering of Christ’s elect, and the breaking of the sixth seal:

    Joel 2:30-31: I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood BEFORE the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. (NIV) [Emphasis added]

    Matthew 24:29: Immediately after the distress of those days 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' (NIV) [Emphasis added]

    Revelation 6:12, 16-17: I watched as he opened the sixth seal…They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face 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 can stand?” (NIV) [Emphasis added]

    Third, if we examine the individual events of the tribulation, we should notice that they do not consist of fire being sent from heaven but rather turmoil of a human nature:

    Matthew 24:4-12: …For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars… Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes* in various places… Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. (NIV)

    *Yes, I realize that mankind cannot generate earthquakes; earthquakes originate from forces within the earth and by the Hand of God. However, we also know that all of creation, including the physical earth, groans under the stress of human wickedness. No doubt that the earth will quake under the increased wickedness of man just as labor contractions increase in frequency and strength as the delivery grows near:

    Romans 8:22: We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (NIV)

    Matthew 24:7-8: …There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. (NIV)

    Fourth, of the two prerequisites of the Lord’s coming for the Rapture, one is the apostasy – defection, revolt, rebellion, departure, falling away – a seemingly human affair with horrible results:

    Matthew 24:10-12: At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. (NASB)

    2 Timothy 3:1-5: But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power… (NASB)

    2 Thessalonians 2:1, 3: Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him… Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. (NASB)

    Fifth, rather than falling directly from heaven, the tribulation is attributed to four riders on horseback. Horses, within scripture, are often viewed as accessories to human rebellion:

    Horses are used in the main to represent a carnal strength, a trusting in flesh; relied on by the enemies of God to their peril.15

    In Israel, the horse became symbolic of God's people turning away from Him, assuming pagan customs, and placing their hope in their own strength or that of their allies.16

    Finally, the contents of the scroll cannot be revealed until all seven seals are broken. The breaking of the seals serves as a countdown for God’s wayward children providing last opportunity to repent… similar to a parent counts down until they release their wrath on a wayward child. When the 7th Seal is broken, then God’s wrath will fall upon those that remain.

    See also “The Four Sore Judgments” within this section.

  5. AREN’T THE EVENTS IN MATTHEW 24 JUST PRELUDES TO THE TRIBULATION?
  6. Many commentators on end day prophecy discuss current world events in order to convince their audience, “We are in the end times!” Yet, the content of these sermons are unreliable; such sermons have been delivered from the pulpit for over one-hundred years. For an interesting read, read the 34th chapter of Clarence Larkin’s Book, Dispensational Truth, published in 1918.17 Certainly, a Christian can’t help but see the deteriorating conditions of our world and wonder, “How much longer can this go on?” But today’s conditions pale in comparison to those of the first four seals when one-fourth of the global population dies from war, famine, plague, and wild beasts. The breaking of the first four seals will be remarkable… Christians, who have studied their scripture, will need no preacher to proclaim the time has come… they will know.

    Like the first labor contractions, the initial signs of the Olivet Discourse may be slight and infrequently... they may be barely noticeable. However, just like childbirth, they will increase in uniform frequency and intensity. A new mother may question the first contractions; however, the labor is unmistakable before long. When the tribulation begins, a true Christian may question the first signs; but before long, there will be no doubt that it has begun:

    Matthew 24:8: All these are the beginning of birth pains. (NIV)

    Matthew 24:25: See, I have told you ahead of time. (NIV)

    Revelation 6:12,15-16: I watched as he opened the sixth seal…Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!

  7. HOW LONG WILL THIS PERIOD OF TRIBULATION LAST?
  8. Some scholars limit Revelation’s seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls of wrath to seven years based on Daniel’s 70th Week or seven years; however, the first four seals do not necessarily fall within that Daniel’s timeframe.

    The beginning of Daniel’s week begins with the signing of a covenant between the Antichrist and “the many” including Israel (Daniel 9:27). The Antichrist will require time to gain in stature, power, and authority… sufficient prominence as to assume the global spotlight. He cannot acquire such prominence until the restrainer is removed:

    2 Thessalonians 2:7: For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. (NIV)

    The breaking of the 1st Seal and the removal of the restraining force, I believe, occur at the same time. Therefore, the earth will begin feeling the effects of the first four seals prior to Antichrist’s rise to power and the signing of the covenant. There is no identifiable timeline for this period – we will know that the tribulation has begun but we will not know when the covenant will be signed.

    Will the redeemed Christian be capable of calculating the day and hour? No, not likely. The signing of the Antichrist’s covenant marks the beginning of Daniel’s week, and Daniel 9:27 indicates that in the middle of that week (3 ½ years) he will end Jewish sacrifices and setup the abomination of desolation. Matthew 24:15 indicates that this act demonstrates the time is near, right at the door. However, we do not know how long after these acts that the Rapture will occur – even then we will not know the day or hour:

    Matthew 24:29: Immediately after the distress of those days… (NIV)

    2 Thessalonians 2:3: Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for [that day will not come] until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. (NIV)

    Matthew 24:33: Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. (NIV)

The Four Sore Judgments

In the previous section, I asserted that the tribulation was rooted in the wickedness of mankind, not the wrath of God, and that the first four seals are not components of “The Day of the Lord” or “The Wrath of God.” The first four seals do, however, involve judgment and punishment of the wicked. Proponents of a pretribulation rapture might assert that I am “splitting hairs.” They may be correct, but I don’t think so…

Wrath: Greek: orgé: anger, wrath, passion; punishment, vengeance.18

          Hebrew: chemah: heat, rage19

Judgment: Greek: krisis: judging, judgment, decision, sentence; generally: divine judgment; accusation.20

          Hebrew: din: judgment, cause21

This difference is illustrated in the breaking of the sixth seal:

Revelation 6:10: They cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" (NASB) [Emphasis added]

Revelation 6:10: They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" (NIV) [Emphasis added]

The wrath of God following the breaking of the 7th Seal involves both verdict and vengeance… The first four seals, however, reflect a verdict and punishment of the wicked, not of the saints.

Why is this difference important? Proponents of a pretribulation rapture assert that Christians will not suffer the wrath of God, which is true. They claim that the first four seals are judgment seals and, therefore, components of God’s wrath, which is not true. They then use this claim in partial support of a pretribulation rapture, which is also not true. This theory, I believe, is an error and misleads believers into thinking that they will escape the tribulation – a potentially serious error.

Will there be judgment upon the inhabitants of the earth during the first four seals? Yes, absolutely, beyond any shadow of a doubt. Revelation 6:8 clearly sates, “They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth” (NIV). If God gives an entity (Death and Hades) power to kill one-fourth of the earth’s inhabitants, then certainly God is passing judgment – this fact is irrefutable. This type of judgment is illustrated in the Four Sore Judgments within Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 14:13-22: “Son of man, if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its men and their animals, even if these three men—Noah, Daniel and Job—were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign Lord.

“Or if I send wild beasts through that country and they leave it childless and it becomes desolate so that no one can pass through it because of the beasts, as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, even if these three men were in it, they could not save their own sons or daughters. They alone would be saved, but the land would be desolate.

“Or if I bring a sword against that country and say, ‘Let the sword pass throughout the land,’ and I kill its men and their animals, as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, even if these three men were in it, they could not save their own sons or daughters. They alone would be saved.

“Or if I send a plague into that land and pour out my wrath upon it through bloodshed, killing its men and their animals, as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, even if Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they could save neither son nor daughter. They would save only themselves by their righteousness. (NIV) [Emphasis added]

Ah, verse 19 specifically uses the word “wrath” and we must, therefore, conclude that these judgments are also representative of God’s wrath, correct? Yes, perhaps, but TAKE SPECIAL NOTE THAT IF NOAH, DANIEL AND JOB WERE IN THESE COUNTRIES, THEY WOULD BE SAVED BY THEIR RIGHTEOUSNESS. In the case of a redeemed believer, it would be Jesus Christ’s righteousness.

What about collateral damage? Many proponents of a pretribulation rapture assert that Christian believers would be caught in the cross-fire… the natural result of extensive modern warfare includes civilian casualties, economic distress, famine, etc. Therefore, they claim, believing Christians would suffer God’s judgment something, they assert, that clearly violates 1 Thessalonians 5:9. While a logical argument, Ezekiel 14:13-22 contradicts that claim. Ezekiel 14:16 declares, the righteous “would be saved, but the land would be desolate.” Sometimes true Christians forget that God is not forced to adhere to the laws of the natural world; He can place a protective shield around His children if He so chooses.

Do not damage the oil and the wine! It is my firm belief that the time of the first four seals will be perilous times for the mankind, especially the believer. While true Christians are guaranteed in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 that they will not suffer God’s wrath, they will suffer the tribulation of their fellow humans. I envision a time very much like what the Jews experienced in Europe during World War II only with exponentially greater distress:

Matthew 24:9: Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. (NIV)

Proponents of a pretribulation rapture assert that persecution of the Church is redundant – persecution supposedly tests, strengthens, and purifies. That was accomplished, they claim, on the cross by Jesus Christ. In a manner, they are correct. But I never understood how someone could claim that Christians will never face persecution despite the fact that scripture teaches otherwise, countless early Christians were martyred, and numerous Christians in non-Christian countries suffer persecution today. Why should we expect a different fate?

Romans 8:35-37: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (NIV)

I often wonder how many “true” Christians exist. Certainly, there are millions if not billions of self-professed Christians; but of these, how many would willingly give their life in the name of Jesus? Perhaps, the Church does need to be purified? Perhaps, the Church has become too lukewarm?

Within the first four seals, the Lord does verify that He will protect those who stand in His name:

Revelation 6:5: …do not damage the oil and the wine! (NIV)

The four horsemen of the apocalypse are given authority: given a crown, given power to take peace, given power to kill. But that authority was limited: do not damage the oil and the wine! Do not damage the oil – the oil from the olive tree, the symbol of Israel. Do not damage the wine – the wine from the communion cup, the symbol of the Church.

God will not pour out His wrath upon the true believer. In times of distress, God will give us the words to speak… we will be hated but not a hair on our head will perish (Luke 21:17-18).

Luke 9:24: For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. (NIV)

Make No Mistake: The elect, the true believer, those who confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Messiah, and their Lord will be present on this earth during the breaking of the first four seals of Revelation 6. The times will be perilous, but greater is He that is in you, then he that is in the world:

Matthew 24:21-22: For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. (NIV)


1“The Scroll of Seven Seals,” The Revelation of Jesus Christ, February 26, 2005. <http://revjc.blogspot.com/2005/02/scroll-of-seven-seals.html> August 8, 2012.

2Quoted in “Scroll,” Philologos: Bible Prophecy Research, October 3, 1998. <http://philologos.org/bpr/files/s006.htm> August 9, 2012.

3Quoted in “Scroll,” Philologos: Bible Prophecy Research, October 3, 1998. <http://philologos.org/bpr/files/s006.htm> August 9, 2012.

4"Monceau,” flickriver, June 24, 2009. <http://www.flickriver.com/ photos/monceau/3700002007/>

5“Seven Seals,” Images of the book of Revelation: Make the Way Straight, Dec 20, 2009. <http://bodyofyahshuakeptinyahvehsname.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoid=63017837> August 9, 2012.

6“Manuscripts,” HISTORIC CONNECTIONS: Bringing the Past Alive.... ND. <http://historicconnections.webs.com/manuscripts.htm> August 9, 2012.

7Marvin J Rosenthal, Zion's Fire, March-April 1999. Quoted in “THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST: Chapters 6 & 7.” <http://webspace.webring.com/people/kp/phulax/Revelation/rev6.html> August 9, 2012.

8“ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION,” Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/353-abomination-of-desolation> August 11, 2012.

9Thomas Ice, “MATTHEW 24:31: RAPTURE OR SECOND COMING?” Liberty University, May 8, 2009. <http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice-Matthew2431RaptureOrS.pdf> August 12, 2012.

10John Hoole, “The Rapture is not in Matthew 24,” John’s Notes, July 15, 2012. <http://johnsnotes.com/Raptureisnotin Matthew24.htm> August 12, 2012.

11John F. Hart, “A Defense of the Pretribulational Rapture in Matthew 24:36–44,” Pre-Trib Research Center, ND. < http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Hart-ADefenseoftheRapture.pdf> August 12, 2012.

12“The Rapture In Matthew 24?” Grace Thru Faith, ND. < http://gracethrufaith.com/ask-a-bible-teacher/the-rapture-in-matthew-24/> August 12, 2012.

13For additional information on Predestination and Free Will see the “Kingdom of God: SIDE BAR: FREE WILL VS. PREDESTINATION” section of this study. Also refer to Ephesians 1:5, Romans 8:30, Romans 8:29, and Ephesians 1:11.

14“What does Moshiach mean? Is it a concept or a person?” Moshiach.com. ND. <http://www.moshiach.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=99&Itemid=37> August 14, 2012.

15“Horses in Scripture,” Acts 17:11 Bible Studies, ND. <http://www.acts17-11.com/dialogs_horses.html> August 12, 2012.

16Suzetta Tucker, "ChristStory Horse Page," ChristStory: Christian Bestiary. 1997. <http://ww2.netnitco.net/users/legend01/horse.htm> August 12, 2012.

17Clarence Larkin, “Chapter 34 - The Signs of the Times,” Dispensational Truth, 1918, quoted in Rapture Forums, ND. <http://www.raptureforums.com/ClarenceLarkin/chap34.cfm> August 16, 2012.

18“orgé,” 3709. Strong’s Concordance: Bible Study Tools, ND. <http://concordances.org/greek/3709.htm> August 16, 2012.

19“chemah,” 2534. Strong’s Concordance: Bible Study Tools, ND. <http://concordances.org/greek/2534.htm> August 16, 2012.

20“krisis,” 2920. Strong’s Concordance: Bible Study Tools, ND. <http://concordances.org/greek/2920.htm> August 16, 2012.

21“din,” 1799. Strong’s Concordance: Bible Study Tools, ND. <http://concordances.org/greek/1799.htm> August 16, 2012.
 


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