THE END TIMES: THE TRIBULATION
1. We have been focusing on the pretrib rapture — the idea that Jesus is going to take the Church off the earth just prior to the seven year tribulation.
2. In this lesson, we want to continue our brief look at what will happen once the Church is gone –during the tribulation.
3. We want to give you a basic understanding of the major events and players of the tribulation, and take the fear and mystery out of it.
4. We find the most detailed description of the tribulation in Revelation.
a. We aren’t going to look at Revelation in detail. We’re going to give some guidelines to help you read it and see how it fits with the rest of the Bible.
b. Revelation is not some freaky book stuck on the end of the Bible. It describes the consummation of what God began in Genesis and has been working to accomplish throughout the centuries.
1. This book was given to the Apostle John in 95 or 96 A.D. while he was exiled on the Isle of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. Rev 1:9,10
a. Jesus appeared, spoke to him, and showed him some things. Rev 1:11-18
b. Jesus told John to write down what he was seeing and hearing.
2. Rev 1:1–This book is the revelation of Jesus Christ — not of John, not of the Antichrist, etc. Jesus is the theme of the book.
a. The Bible, including Revelation, was given to reveal Jesus. Rev 19:10b
b. The purpose of all prophecy and of all I have shown you is to tell about Jesus. (lit–the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.) (Living)
3. Revelation deals with the return of Jesus Christ to earth as a conquering king.
a. Jesus showed John the events which will lead up to His enthronement as King over the kingdom promised to Abraham and David.
b. It is an eyewitness account — as shown to John — of the seven year period which will occur just before Jesus returns to earth.
4. Revelation is not a mystery book that nobody can figure out. Revelation means unveiling.
a. Rev 1:1–It is written to God’s servants. Would God give us a message we cannot possibly understand?
b. Rev 1:3–A blessing is promised to those who read, hear, and keep the words of the book. That’s impossible to do if it can’t be understood.
5. There are some challenges in Revelation, but they are not insurmountable.
a. Much of Revelation is written in symbols. There are at least 300 symbols.
1. But 9/10s of them are defined either by the context in Revelation or somewhere in the OT.
2. Rev 13:2–dragon=satan–Rev 12:9; Rev 12:1–the woman=Israel–Gen 37:9,10–sun, moon, stars are symbols of Jacob, Rachel, and Jacob’s twelve sons.
b. John is describing 21st century life and technology in 1st century terms.
c. Reading parts of Revelation is like reading Isaiah 53 when it was written, 700 years before Christ was crucified. After the fact, it’s clear what Isa 53 means. Before hand, it wasn’t. It’s the same with Revelation.
1. The things which you have seen: Rev 1:1-20–Jesus Christ in all His glory.
2. The things which are: Rev 2:1-3:22–John is given messages for seven churches in existence at the time John had the vision.
3. The things which will take place: Rev 4:1
a. Rev 4:1-5:14–John sees the activities in heaven just prior to the tribulation.
b. Rev 6:1-19:6–John sees the tribulation.
c. Rev 19:7-19:21–John sees the Second Coming of Jesus.
d. Rev 20:1-15–John sees the Millennium.
e. Rev 21:1-22:21–John sees the eternal state, the new heaven and new earth.
1. The tribulation begins as Jesus opens seals on a scroll in heaven. Rev 5:1-5; 6:1
a. It is fitting that Jesus initiates the judgments. The opening of the scroll releases the wrath of the Lamb. Rev 6:16,17
b. Jesus has authority to judge those who have rejected Him and His sacrifice for their sins. John 5:22;27
2. Rev 6:2–The breaking of the first seal releases the Antichrist. As Jesus opens the remaining seals, each one triggers an event on earth.
3. Rev 8:1,2; 6,7–When Jesus opens the seventh seal it triggers a second set of judgments, the trumpet judgments. Seven angels, one at a time, blow seven trumpets. Each trumpet blast triggers something on earth.
4. Rev 16:1,2–When the seventh trumpet is blown, it introduces the third set of judgments, the vials (bowls) judgments. Seven angels go forth and pour out seven bowls of wrath. Each bowl triggers an event on the earth. (See chart)
5. In much of Revelation, the scene switches back and forth between what is going on in heaven and what is happening on earth.
a. And, as the action and events of the tribulation are being described, informational chapters are inserted at various points.
b. These chapters are not necessarily in chronological order. For example, the Antichrist comes on the scene in Rev 6:2, but he is not described in detail until chapter 13.
c. These chapters are informational, but not necessarily chronological — 7, 10-11:13; 12, 13, 14, 17, 18-19:6
6. There are a number of unanswered questions about these judgments.
a. We have a first century man describing warfare and technology of the 21st century, so exactly what the judgments will consist of is unclear — nuclear warfare, chemical and biological warfare, etc.?!
b. It is not clear at what point in the tribulation each judgment occurs.
c. One thing we know for certain. These events will happen when and as they are supposed to happen.
7. The seven year tribulation will be a time of unprecedented suffering. Joel 2:1,2
a. The last three and one half years will be the worst part of it. Matt 24:15-21
b. By the time of the 6th trumpet half the population of the world will be dead. Isa 24:6; Isa 13:12,13
c. Matt 24:22–If Jesus did not intervene, every human would die.
1. The bottom line of those questions is the belief that nobody deserves to go through something like the tribulation, and the fear that if God could do that to those people, what might He do to me?
2. But, we feel that way because we lack some basic knowledge from God’s word.
a. All human beings deserve hell. We have sinned against a holy God.
b. All human beings deserve judgment and God’s wrath.
3. However, God, because of His great love for us and His desire for a family, has chosen to deal with us, not as we deserve (through wrath and judgment), but through His grace (undeserved favor).
a. God poured out His wrath against our sins on Jesus. He punished every sin we have ever committed or ever will commit.
b. God judged us by judging our substitute, Jesus. Jesus went to the Cross for us as us.
4. The only way any human will face the wrath of God is if they reject Jesus as their savior. John 3:36–God’s displeasure remains on him; His indignation hangs over him continually. (Amp)
a. God, in His goodness, restrains that wrath. His mercy holds it back, keeps people from suffering the consequences of His wrath in this life.
b. He is kind to all, saved and unsaved, He gives them a witness of His goodness. Matt 5:45; Luke 6:35, Acts 14:17
c. God gives people a lifetime to repent. Time is space to repent.
5. When God judges people, He does not send down lightning bolts. He withdraws the restraint, removes His hand of protection, and allows people to reap the consequences of their actions. Rom 1:18-32; Num 14:28,29; Ps 81:8-12; Isa 3:9,10 (they have doomed themselves–Living Bible); Jer 2:17,19; 4:18
1. When Jesus breaks the first seal it will allow the Antichrist to come forth.
a. Because people have rejected Jesus, He will allow them to believe the lie that the Antichrist is God, and reap all the consequences. II Thess 2:8-12
b. Notice, these people do not love the truth, but love unrighteousness. God says: you want it, you’ve got it.
2. Always remember, God is a reluctant Judge. It does not please Him to allow people to reap the fruit of their rebellion. But, as a righteous God, He must be true to His nature. Rev 16:7
a. Isaiah 28:21–The prophet Isaiah is warning Israel there will be severe consequences if they don’t turn back to God. Assyria will overrun them.
1. God will allow it; it will be judgment for their rebellion. But, in v21, Isaiah calls it God’s strange work = alien; foreign.
2. God did not create man for judgment. He didn’t set Israel apart to punish them, so to have to do it is a foreign work.
b. Lam 3:33–Spoken after the ultimate destruction. Jerusalem was overrun by Babylon, the temple destroyed, and the people carried away captive.
3. As we look at the series of judgments in Revelation we see that they are progressive (mild to severe) and there is a space in between each series to give men an opportunity to repent. God is a reluctant judge.
1. God will withdraw His hand of protection and allow men to reap the consequences of their sin as never before.
2. satan’s wickedness and the wickedness in human hearts will be demonstrated as never before — war, lust, greed, murder, treachery, etc.
a. Rev 12:12–satan’s fury will be unrestrained; he is a destroyer. John 10:10
b. In the face of God, people will acknowledge satan and worship the Antichrist as God and refuse to repent. Rev 6:15,16; 9:20,21; 16:9,11
c. They will blaspheme God and kill His saints. Rev 11:7; 12:17; 13:4-7; 16:9,11,21; 17:3
d. When Jesus actually returns to earth, they will fight Him. Rev 17:14, 19:19
3. Despite all the rampant evil in the tribulation, God’s grace will be demonstrated in a mighty way.
a. Before there is any serious destruction of the earth, God will set apart 144,000 Jewish men who will preach the gospel and multitudes will be saved through their ministry. Rev 7:2-9; Matt 24:14
b. God will give supernatural power to two witnesses who will resist the Antichrist and draw men to the Lord. Rev 11:3-13; Mal 4:5,6
c. An angel will preach the gospel to the whole earth. Rev 14:6,7; John 1:29; Matt 3:2
1. God will wrap up His dealings with man in time.
a. He will fulfill all of His promises (prophecies) to the Jews.
b. He will allow sin and satan to show their true character in a horrific way.
c. The final people living on earth just before the return of Jesus will have to choose between God and satan. God will give witness and opportunity even in the midst of the worst suffering the world has ever seen.
2. The Book of Revelation is not some freaky book stuck on the end of the Bible. Just like all the other books, it reveals God’s character and His master plan.
3. Why has it been so long since Jesus was last here? To give as many people as possible time to be saved and spend eternity with the Lord. II Pet 3:7-9
4. Always remember, even as God allows sin and satan to show themselves like never before in the tribulation, God will show His mercy and grace in an even mightier way.
1st Seal–Releases the Antichrist. Rev 6:2
2nd Seal–War breaks out. Rev 6:3,4
3rd Seal–Famine and scarcity. Rev 6:5,6
4th Seal–One fourth of the population is killed. Rev 6:7,8
5th Seal–Those saved since the tribulation began are martyred. Rev 6:9-11
6th Seal–Disasters in the heavens and the earth. Rev 6:12-14
7th Seal–Introduces the trumpet judgments. Rev 8:1-6
1st Trumpet–One third of all trees and grass are destroyed by hail, fire, and blood.
2nd Trumpet–One third of the sea and all creatures in it and one third of all ships
are destroyed. Rev 8:8,9
3rd Trumpet–A great meteor falls and causes a third of the drinking water to
become bitter (poison) and many die. Rev 8:10,11
4th Trumpet–One third less sun, moonlight, and stars, making the darkness of
night longer. Rev 8:12
5th Trumpet–Creatures like locusts and scorpions come out of a bottomless pit.
They sting, but don’t kill. Men beg for death. Rev 9:1-12
6th Trumpet–Two hundred million horsemen kill another one third of people on
earth. Rev 9:13-19
7th Trumpet–Transfer of this world’s kingdoms to Christ. Rev 11:14,15
1st Vial–Giant sores on those who took the mark of the beast. Rev 16:2
2nd Vial–Every living creature in the sea dies. Rev 16:3
3rd Vial–All water sources are turned to blood. Rev 16:4-6
4th Vial–Sun’s heat is intensified, scorching men. Rev 16:8,9
5th Vial–Darkness covers the Antichrist’s kingdom. Rev 16:10,11
6th Vial–Releases lying demon spirits which go out and draw the whole world to
the Battle of Armageddon. Rev 16:12-16
7th Vial–The entire world system is destroyed. Earthquake belts split
simultaneously. Topographical changes occur. Great hail weighing
100-125 lbs. falls to earth. Rev 16:17-21