Jesus said that in Matthew 24:36 “But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” Although this is true, we can however, know the times and the seasons leading to the return of Jesus. Jesus said in Matthew 16:3, “Can you not discern the signs of the times?” We can discern the signs of the times although we cannot know the exact day or the hour! In this study we will look at a brief time line of possible events that will lead up to the return of Jesus.
The seven year tribulation:
There are a number of scriptures that speak about the final seven year tribulation period before the end of this age. In Daniel 9:24 it says, that there will be seventy weeks, “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins.” Then in verse 29 it says, “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”
The week here, speaks about a week of years, or a period of seven years. In verse 27 it says of the final week, or final seven years, “until the consummation (or until the end of the age).” We also read that In the middle of this week the Antichrist will cause the Jewish sacrifices to cease in the temple in Jerusalem and set up an abominable idol in this temple. Jesus also speaks about this in Matthew 24:15 ”When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place…” In Revelations 13:5 we read that the Antichrist “was given unto him to continue forty and two months, which is three and a half years.”
So, from these scriptures and other scriptures, it is clear that there will be a seven year Tribulation period before the end of this age, which is called the Tribulation. This period will begin with a covenant that the Antichrist makes with the nation of Israel. In the middle of this seven year period, this covenant will be broken by the Antichrist. After this event, we will have exactly forty two months before Jesus returns to the earth to set up His 1000 year reign on Earth.
The Tribulation period can be compared to a woman giving birth to a baby. Just before the baby is born, the pain intensifies. However, there are two types of birth pains, the preliminary pain, which is a sign that the baby will soon come, and the real birth pains which is a sign that the baby is on its way. The same is true of the Great Tribulation: Firstly, there will be the beginning of sorrows, which is not so severe, and then at a certain point, the real tribulation will begin. We read about this in Matthew 24:7-8 where it says, “For nation shall rise against nation … All these are the beginning of sorrows (or birth pains).”
In the Book of Revelations we read about three types of judgments: The seals, the trumpets and the bowls of wrath. All these judgments will fit into the seven year Tribulation period. Some of these will occur during the first three and a half year period, which is the “beginning of sorrows, and the rest of these judgments will take place during the final three and a half year period. As we look at these judgments in the Book of Revelations, we notice that there is some correlation between the book of Revelations and Matthew chapter 24.
The seven seals:
The first seal – The white horse – This speaks about the coming of the Antichrist at the beginning of the Tribulation: Revelations 6:2. “And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.” Now let us read Matthew 24:5 “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” The Antichrist will deceive many saying he is the Christ.
The second seal – The red horse: This speaks about many wars and conflicts. Revelations 6:3. “And when he had opened the second seal,… And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.” We read in Matthew 24:6-7, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”
The third seal – The black horse: This speaks about a world wide famine: Revelations 6:5-6, “And when he had opened the third seal,… And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand and I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny.” We read in Matthew 24:7 we read, “And there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.”
In Matthew 24:8 it says that these are the beginning of sorrows, or the initial birth-pains. So the judgments mentioned in first three horses, are the beginning of sorrows, or the initial birth-pains of the Great Tribulation, which will fall into the first three and a half year period.
The fourth seal – The pale or green horse: This speaks about plagues, death and destruction. Revelations 6:7. “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” The pale horse can also be translated as the green horse. Green is the color of Islam. So it is possible that the suffering, death and destruction mentioned here, will be caused by the spread of radical Islam! The suffering mentioned here is no longer just a preliminary birth pain, but the real pains of the Great Tribulation. This judgment will fall into the second three and a half year period of the Great Tribulation.
The fifth seal – Persecution and martyrdom: Revelations 6:9. “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held…” In Matthew 24:9 “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.” All the believers who are alive at this time will face severe persecution and even martyrdom. This will probably be as a result of them refusing to take the mark of the beast and worship the Antichrist.
In Revelations 6:11 we read, “And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” This persecution will continue until a certain number of Christians are martyred and killed. To those who will have to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom, there is a wonderful promise in Revelations 2:10, “Be faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life.”
The sixth seal: Great destruction, leading to the outpouring of God’s wrath: Revelations 6:12 -17: “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; … (verse 15) 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; … (verse 17) For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
There are a number of important events that take place between the sixth and the seventh seal:
– Revelations 7:4-8 speaks about the144 000 who are sealed from the tribes of Israel. In this study we will not speculate who these are.
– Revelations 7:8-17 speaks about a huge company of people, standing before the throne. This is speaking about the great harvest of souls that will take place just before the return of Jesus. In Matthew 24:14 we read, “That the gospel of the kingdom must be preached as a witness to all nations and then the end shall come.”
The seventh seal: Silence in heaven: Revelations 8:1-2. “And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.”
The seven trumpets:
- The first trumpet: Hail and fire fall on the earth: Revelations 8:7 “The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.”
- The second trumpet: A great burning mountain falls on to the earth: Revelations 8:8 “And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;”
- The third trumpet: A great star or asteroid called Wormwood falls on the earth: Revelations 8:9-10. “And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: …”
- The fourth trumpet: The sun, moon and stars are darkened: Revelations 8:12 “And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened,…”
Before we go on to the fifth trumpet, it is more than likely that these four trumpets speak about the same event. The star mentioned here is the same word, for the word asteroid. A giant asteroid, which looks like a mountain, will strike the earth. It will break up into various pieces. Some of these pieces will fall into the sea and some on to the land. This will cause a huge explosion and dust will be released into the atmosphere that will partially block of the sun, moon and stars. It will cause immediate cooling resulting in a huge hailstorm. Many of the fish in the sea will die due to the impact of this asteroid in the sea. Volcanic activity will release poisonous dust into the atmosphere, which will poison the rivers and lakes.
In 2004, astrologers observed a huge asteroid called Apophis and that will strike the earth on Friday, April 13, 2029. Since this has been revealed, there has been a cover up by NASA and the media, saying that this asteroid will just miss the earth. However, top scientists agree that there will be a direct hit near the Gulf of Mexico and California. The explosion from the impact of this asteroid is estimated to be 30 000 times greater than the explosion from the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. This explosion will cause a dust cloud that will cover the earth, partially blocking out the light from the sun, moon and stars. If this happens, a large portion of the earth’s population will die. Therefore, there is a strong possibility that the asteroid Apophis, and the asteroid Wormwood, mentioned in Revelations 8:11-12, is the same asteroid.
- The fifth trumpet: The bottomless pit is opened and locusts torment people: Revelations 9:1-2. “And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit … And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.” These locusts are probably demonic spirits that will be released to torment those who take the mark of the Beast and who do not know Jesus, for they will have no protection from these demonic spirits!
- The sixth trumpet: An army of 200 million destroys on third of the world’s population: Revelations 9:13-21. “And the sixth angel sounded, … And the four angels were loosed, … to slay the third part of men. … And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.” This army will probably come out of China and some of the Muslim countries.
- The seventh trumpet: The Rapture and the coming of God’s kingdom. Revelations 11:15,17. “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever”. … And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.”
Let us look at some other scriptures, linking the rapture, to the sounding of the seventh trumpet:
1 Corinthians 15:52, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” Notice, the Rapture takes place at the sounding of the last trumpet, which is the seventh trumpet! 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” Matthew 24:29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days … powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven … And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet,…”
The final judgments – the bowls of wrath:
These final judgments are called the wrath of God. We read about this in Revelations 15:1, “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.” The Bible makes it clear that we as the church will not experience the wrath of God. We read in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to salvation.” It also says in 1 Thessalonians 1:10, “…even Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.” Therefore, the church will not be on earth during these final judgments, called, “the wrath of God.”
If the church will not be on earth at this time, where will she be? We find the answer in Revelations 15:2-3, “And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.” The church will be in heaven, celebrating with Jesus. This celebration will conclude with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, mentioned in Revelations chapter 19.
A summary of the final seven bowl judgments on the earth:
- The first bowl – People are tormented with sores – Revelations 16:2, “And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshiped his image.”
- The second bowl – The sea becomes blood – Revelations 16:3. “And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.”
- The third bowl – The rivers and fountains becomes blood – Revelations 16:4. “And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood.”
- The fourth bowl – People are tormented with a great heat – Revelations 16:9. “And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.”
- The fifth bowl – Darkness and great pain – Revelations 16:10. “And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain.”
- The sixth bowl – The battle of Armageddon – Revelations 16:12-14 and 16. “And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; … that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared … to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”
- The seventh bowl – A great earthquake leading to the return of Jesus to the earth – Revelations 16:17. “And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air… and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.
During this final judgment, a number of events take place:
– The fall of Babylon. We read about this in Chapters 17 and 18.
– The Marriage Supper of the Lamb takes place in heaven. (Revelations 19.6-10)
– Jesus returns on a white horse and destroys the armies of the Antichrist at the battle of Armageddon. (Revelations 19:11-21)
The 1000 year reign of Christ on the earth:
After the battle of Armageddon, Jesus will judge the nations and destroy His enemies and bring in justice to the nations of the earth. (Revelations 19:21). Jude speaks about this in Jude 1:14-15, “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all …” Jesus then begins His 1000 year reign of peace on the Earth from Jerusalem. (There are many scriptures throughout the Bible that describe the millennial reign of Christ. We will not cover these details in this study.)
At the end of the millennial reign of Christ:
– At the end of the thousand years, Satan is loosed for a short while. He then deceives many nations and gathers an army to attack Jerusalem and the saints of God. His armies are destroyed and the devil is finally cast in the Lake of fire. All the dead are raised and are judged before the Great White Throne. Those whose names are not found in the Book of life, will be thrown into the Lake of fire, together with the devil and his angels. God brings in a New heaven and a New Earth. The New Jerusalem descends onto the earth as the Bride of Jesus. Eternity begins and the redeemed will live with God forever in the New Jerusalem and on the New Earth.
To those who hold on to the belief that the Rapture takes place before the Tribulation, we would say, that if this is so, then it is a win, win situation for everyone. However, it would still be wise to prepare for the worse and be ready to go through the Great Tribulation. In the final analysis, God wins and we will spend eternity with Jesus forever. Amen