THE WORLD TODAY SERIES #39

The Events of the Tribulation Years

The events of the Tribulation years are foreordained within the Word of God written on seven scrolls that are sealed until the time of the end. As in documents of that era, the scrolls contain the writings of the events to come on the inside and the conditions for opening the seals on the outside. One Person in the entire universe is found to be worthy to open them, Jesus Christ. As the sacrificial Lamb of God who suffered and died on behalf of fallen mankind, Jesus is given that singular honor and presented with the seven sealed scrolls.

The tribulation events play out in three sequences of seven, beginning with the opening of the seven seals and continuing on through seven trumpets and then seven bowls or vials. There are multiple viewpoints as to how these three sequences relate to each other. One viewpoint appears to be the most consistent with the Scriptural text. According to that preferred viewpoint, these three groups of seven judgments overlap at the end. The trumpet judgments are encapsulated within the seventh seal, and the bowl judgments are encapsulated within the seventh trumpet. This arrangement has led to the conclusion by some eschatologists that the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments end at roughly within the same time frame, the seventh bowl judgment representing the final judgmental event. In this view, the seal judgments take place over an extended period of time. The trumpet judgments would also occupy a rather large interval, but shorter than the seal judgments. The bowl judgments of the seventh trumpet would then occupy the shortest period of time, possibly either the seven tribulation years or its final three and one half years, known as the Great Tribulation. A very brief outline of the events is presented below:

Seals 1-4: the four horsemen; fourth seal: death of fourth of people
Seal 5: the martyrdom of Christians for the Word of God
Seal 6: widespread natural violence and heavens shaken
Seal 7: Trumpet judgments
Trumpet 1: natural disasters, grass and third of trees burned
Trumpet 2: mountain of fire cast into sea, third of sea life, died, third of ships destroyed
Trumpet 3: burning star named Wormwood fell upon third of rivers, and fountains of waters, poisoning them
Trumpet 4: third of sun, moon and stars darkened
Trumpets 5-7: three woes; trumpet 5: locusts ascend from bottomless pit, hurt for 5 months but not kill men without seal of God; trumpet 6: four angels in Euphrates River loosened, 200 million person army from east kill a third of men; mid-tribulation, two witnesses begin to prophecy, earthquake in Jerusalem; trumpet 7: Reign of Jesus Christ anticipated; satan cast down to earth; worship of antichrist; world religious, economic, political system; temptation of the mark of the beast; sealing of 144 thousand Jews; the seven Bowl judgments
Bowl 1: those who took the mark of the beast and worshiped the image of the beast are afflicted with grievous sores
Bowl 2: sea becomes like blood, all sea creatures die
Bowl 3: fresh water becomes like blood
Bowl 4: sun scorches people
Bowl 5: painful darkness
Bowl 6: Euphrates River dried up for coming of army from East
Bowl 7: great earthquake; apostate religion destroyed, new world order destroyed, battle of Armageddon, marriage of Christ and Church, return of Christ with Church for millennium rule.

Chapter 6 of Revelation begins with Jesus opening the first six seals in succession. The first four seals bring to life the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The first horse is white and has a rider with a bow but no arrows. He rides to conquer. The second horse is red, and its rider is given a great sword and goes forth to make war. The third horse is black. A measuring balance is given to the rider, and a voice speaks over him, saying”

“A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny, and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.”

The fourth horse is of a color that in the Greek language is termed chloros, meaning green. The King James translators, knowing that no actual horse has a green color, inserted the word “pale” for green, thinking that their word made more sense than the original Greek. The rider of this horse went forth to visit death upon a fourth part of the earth by means of war, famine, death probably by disease, and by the beasts of the earth.

For centuries the standard interpretation of these four horses and their riders has remained unchanged, but with some nagging doubts. The white horse has been associated with the antichrist coming in disguise as a person of light. However, there has been a persistent question about this association, because light almost invariably pertains to Jesus, while satan is usually viewed in terms of darkness. But the text attaches a negative connotation to the four horsemen, which presents a major difficulty for a view of the first horseman as representing Jesus. Also, there is some Scriptural justification for the usual association of satan with the first rider, specifically Paul’s commentary in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15:

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works.”

The rider of this white horse is seen possessing a bow but no arrows. This is commonly interpreted as the rider conquering through a deceptive promise of peace, with the threat of war always in the background.

There also is some question about the fourth horse, the green horse mislabeled as pale, because, unlike the others, it indicates death from a multiplicity of causes. Power was given to its rider to kill not only with pestilence, but with sword, famine and, generally, death. The “beasts of the earth” could represent disease, but could also represent the more usual interpretation of attack by vicious wild or disease-maddened creatures.

Within the past decade or so, another interpretation of the four horsemen and their riders has been presented by eschatologists such as Irvin Baxter. This newer interpretation enjoys the advantage of eliminating the doubts associated with the earlier interpretation. It also fits in quite readily with the surrounding Scriptural text.

In this version of the four horsemen, they represent the various “isms” that have enslaved and killed vast numbers of people over the past several centuries.

The first, or white, horse and its rider are associated with medieval and perhaps end-time Catholicism, which, while giving the world an outward show of Christianity, visited upon it the terrible inquisition. It denied Scripture to the layperson as well. It also acquired enormous wealth and conquered kingdoms and land, but without overt force of arms.

The red horse and its rider represent communism. Communist regimes are marked by the enslavement of their peoples. They also are swimming in the shed blood of vast numbers of people. Somewhere in the range of 34 to 49 million Russian deaths are attributed to Stalin alone, and Mao Zedong is responsible for up to 78 million Chinese deaths. Atrocities and deaths follow communism everywhere it crops up, from Indochina to Cuba.

The black horse represents capitalism. Westerners think of this economic system as rather benign. However, its tenets, untempered by Christian principles and compassion, can be brutal. As the text associated with the black horse indicate, unchecked capitalism can lead to massive inequities, resulting in the starvation of many and the acquisition of vast riches by a few. There is some reason to think that the concentration of power into the hands of a tiny group of would-be world leaders was brought about by means of the capitalist structure, which includes the stock market, international banking system, and multinational corporations.

In this view, the green horse represents Islam. Islam indeed favors the green color, as may be seen in its flags and the liberal use of green paint in its buildings. As the text in Revelation suggests, Muslim extremism has been associated with a variety of visiting death upon its enemies, including weapons of mass destruction – disease-carrying biological weapons and nuclear weapons – and human beasts fixated on suicidal murder. At the present time, Islam is in the process of taking over large portions of formerly-great European cities and is casting its eye on America. In these rapidly-expanding pockets of takeover, the harsh, anti-woman sharia law is commonly exercised. The ultimate Islamic objective, of course, is the takeover of the entire world.

[to be continued]

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