THE WORLD TODAY SERIES #40

The Events of the Tribulation Years (continuation #1)

At the opening of the fifth seal, John is given a vision of the martyrs slain for the Word of God. They are told to wait for vengeance until the remaining martyrs of God have been killed as well. This delay is probably a reference to the souls to be killed during the Great Tribulation as described in Revelation 7:9-17:

“After this [the sealing of the 144,000 Jews, 12,000 from each tribe] I beheld and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all the nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands, and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshiped God, Saying, Amen! Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might be unto our God forever and ever. Amen.

“And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these who are arrayed in white robes? And from where did they come? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they who came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”

Of course, Christians have been martyred almost from day one, beginning with Stephen, as recounted in Acts Chapter 7. But it is possible that the martyrs seen with the opening of fifth seal included the many additional ones who were killed from the very beginning, starting with Abel. Certainly there were many killed before Jesus’ time, as He acknowledged in Matthew 5:10-12:

“Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad; for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you.”

Hebrews 11:32-40 makes plain that many people during the span of the Old Testament were persecuted unto death:

“And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets, who, through faith, subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

“Women received their dead raised to life again, and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment; they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented (of whom the world was not worthy); they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

“And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”

This last verse 40, one will note, answers those in Revelation 6 who cried out under the altar with the opening of the fifth seal.

The earth erupts in violence with the opening of the sixth seal:

“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 like blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?”

This passage appears to be a repetition of a number of the events Jesus predicted for the end of the age in His Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24. Verse 29 stands out in particular:

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give its light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.”

From the perspective of one who not yet clearly understands the interplay of events, the events of the sixth seal seem to be out of sequence from the seventh, as events of the seventh seal correspond to judgments that supposedly occur prior to or during the great tribulation. Perhaps the opening of the seals enables judgments that are put on hold for other events, some of which occur after a delay, or after some of the judgments of later seals have occurred.

At any rate, with the opening of the seventh seal in Chapter 8, there is silence in heaven for the space of half an hour. A variety of interpretations can be applied to this half hour. One would be that the half hour represents exactly that: a half hour in our time. Another would be that the half hour represents one forty-eighth of a thousand-year “day” of the Lord, which, in terms of a prophetic year of 360 days, amounts to 7500 days, which is equivalent to 20 ½ of our years. This hiatus is then followed by the opening of the seven trumpets, supposedly in succession.

The conventional thinking of eschatologists is that the trumpets have not yet sounded at this point in time in the year 2013. Correspondingly, they have little useful knowledge of how these judgments will play out. Irvin Baxter, on the other hand, thinks that the first several trumpets have already sounded, so he places specific interpretations on them as summarized below.

The first trumpet, in his view, was World War I. Indeed, the land where much of the war was fought was made desolate by the hail of lead that each side threw upon the other. The second trumpet was World War II. Interestingly, a third of the ships of the sea actually were destroyed during that conflict. The third trumpet was the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear facility in Russia which, according to Baxter, caused a deadly rain of radioactive material to fall onto much of Europe. An impressive aspect of this interpretation is the name “Wormwood” associated with this event in Revelation 8:11, as “Wormwood” in the Russian language is “Chernobyl”.

Baxter also believes that the fourth and fifth trumpets also have sounded. The fourth trumpet involves the darkening of a third of the sun, moon and stars, and the fifth trumpet of Revelation 9 (the first of the three “woes”) releases locust-like creatures with the sting of scorpions from the bottomless pit, who have the power to inflict pain but not death on people for five months. Information regarding his interpretation of these trumpets is available through his “End Times” Web site. As I think he’s stretching things regarding these two events, I simply refer the interested reader to him. Nevertheless, there is some disquieting resemblance of an Apache attack helicopter to the description of the creature of the fifth trumpet.

The sixth trumpet may be imminent. According to Revelation 9, four angels who are bound in the Euphrates River, which runs through Turkey, Syria and Iraq, are released to kill a third of mankind, through a 200 million-man strong army. According to articles on the Internet, the Euphrates region is in current distress. Because of persistent drought on the top of poor water-management policies, the Euphrates is drying up at an alarming rate, ruining farmland and displacing people. This judgment appears to be related to the sixth bowl judgment of Revelation 16:12, in which the Euphrates River dries up, leading into the battle of Armageddon.

After the sounding of the sixth trumpet and angel declares that there should be no more delay – that the affairs of man were being wrapped up. This may be the midpoint of the seven-year tribulation period, for the Jewish temple now exists and the courtyard is given to the Gentiles to trample for forty two months, or three and one half years. Two witnesses also prophecy, probably in Jerusalem, until they are killed. They are resurrected three and one half days later and ascend into heaven. This event causes great fear among unbelievers.

Voices in heaven declare the reign of Jesus Christ on earth as the seventh trumpet sounds in Revelation 11:15. God is worshiped in heaven for the arrival of this event. The nations of the earth are in turmoil and rage, and in the next chapter John is given a vision of a great wonder in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. She is experiencing labor pains. Another image appears to John, that of a red dragon, having seven heads with seven crowns, and ten horns. The dragon casts a third of the stars of heaven to earth and stands before the woman to devour the child to whom she is giving birth.

A male child is born to the woman, who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron. This Child, obviously Jesus, was caught up to God in Heaven. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared by God, where she is fed for 1260 days. There is war in heaven, following which the dragon, who is identified as satan, as cast down to earth along with his fallen angels. Being cast onto the earth, the angry satan persecutes the woman who also now appears to be on earth. The woman is given wings of an eagle to fly into the wilderness, where she remains for three and one half times. God, through the earth, saves the woman from a flood cast out of satan’s mouth, after which satan engages in spiritual warfare with Christians.

There are a number of different interpretations of who this woman is, as well as what the 1260 days mean. According to my Schofield Bible, the woman is assumed to represent Israel. Catholics say that she’s Mary. Many Protestant eschatologists claim that she’s the Church. The Church seems the most reasonable in a traditional sense, especially in the light of the eagle’s wings, which could represent the Church’s coming to America about three and a half centuries ago to escape persecution in England and Europe.

The 1260 days could refer to 1260 days, which would be equivalent to 3 and one half years. Or it could mean 1260 years, a year for a day. According to the book Petrus Romanus (page 255), that’s what famous preacher Jonathan Edwards thought as part of his notion that the true Church was being oppressed by what he considered to be antichrist papists. By his reckoning, the pope was given temporal power in 756 A.D.; 1260 years from that time brings us to the year 2016. The “time, times and half of time” could mean the same as 1260 days, representing 3 and one half years. Or it could mean three and one half of any period of time. If the Woman represented the Church as the Bride of Christ, I would favor a century for this unit of time. Three and a half centuries in America, less 1260 prophetic years, brings the Church to the fifth century A.D., about the time that the Roman Church began to be corrupted through wealth and political intrigue.

However, I prefer a nontraditional interpretation of Revelation 12 as describing the Woman as residing both in heaven and earth. In this context, the first part of Revelation 12 would apply to Her residence in heaven prior to the spiritual birth of Jesus, and second part of Revelation 12 would describe Her earthly presence during the dragon’s persecution. The 12 stars on Her head prior to Jesus’ birth would represent Israel’s development of Scripture, both in word and deed, which points the way to Christ. This development would be through the Holy Spirit’s influence on the people of the Old Testament. After Jesus’ resurrection and the Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, by indwelling Christians, would have a presence on earth. This unconventional view, then, coherently identifies the Woman of Revelation 12 as the Holy Spirit, the Third Member of the Holy Trinity. I justify the attribute of feminine functionality with the Holy Spirit at length in my Christian nonfiction book Family of God, and more fully yet in my Christian novel Buddy.

The seven-head, ten-horned beast of Revelation 12 is reminiscent of the ten-region final beast of Daniel 7, which is presided over by the antichrist. This beast is described in further detail in Revelation 13, and is discussed later under the heading “The End Time World Government”. Revelation 13 describes the end-time world system of man from three perspectives: political (verses 1-10); religious (verses 11-15); and economic (verses 16-18). The religious system is the end-time harlot described in Revelation 17. It is headed by the false prophet of Revelation 13:11-15, who forces the world to worship the antichrist. Eventually the political arm of the world government destroys the religious system.

[to be continued]

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