The Chronology of Revelation
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overview

One of the principal keys to understanding the Book of Revelation is the chronology which takes place in its amazing chapters.  Many outright misinterpretations of end-time events have resulted from not recognizing the proper sequencing of several passages in this remarkable and momentous prophetic book.

In some analyses of Revelation, “cutting” certain so-called “parenthetical” passages and inappropriately “pasting” them at other locations is a common practice.  Often, this is done in an attempt to “prop up” inconsistent viewpoints.  Therefore, I would like to present my interpretations of this great prophetic book by pointing out what I feel is a logical and rational chronology or time-sequencing of Revelation.

I am confident that every detail in the Book of Revelation will  come to pass, just as the disciple/apostle John foresaw.  I do not  believe that these events already have come to pass, in past centuries, as some suppose.  However, I do believe it is possible, even likely, that many events in the Bible (including some in Revelation) have dual or even multiple occurrences of fulfillment, both in the past and still in the future.

Although many of the depictions in the Book of Revelation are symbolic, most of the book describes literal  future events—as extraordinary and incredible as they might seem.  Discerning the difference between the symbolic and the literal is important and, at times, challenging.

Those who never have read through the Book of Revelation might want to do so, either before or after reading this rather lengthy commentary.  Revelation is the only book of the Bible to which a blessing is promised to those who read it and take to heart what is written in it (Revelation 1:3).

The reader also might wish to examine the Brief Chronology of Revelation to have in mind a general perception of the sequencing of this complex book, which I will explain in greater detail in Parts 1, 2, and 3 of this commentary.  Also, see the bottom of The Chronology of Revelation—Part 3 page to view a graphic table showing some of the passages in Revelation (as well as a few passages from Matthew and Daniel) and when I believe they will occur, during the “70th Week.”  The following table, also, might be helpful.

Brief Chronology of Revelation Chart

Chronology of Revelation Chart

Revelation | Matthew | Daniel


John, the writer

The full and correct name of the final book of the New Testament is The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which are the first five words of the book (Revelation 1:1a).  Another word for Revelation is Apocalypse, from late Latin apocalypsis, from Greek apokalypsis, from apokalyptein:  “to uncover.”

The writer of the Book of Revelation was the apostle John (not  the same as John the Baptist).  He also wrote the Gospel of John, as well as the Epistles of 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John.  Due to his testimony of Jesus, John was exiled from Ephesus to the Aegean island of Patmos, off the west coast of Asia Minor.  John probably wrote Revelation during 90–95 A.D., while the persecutions attributed to Emperor Domitian were taking place near the end of the emperor’s reign, 81–96 A.D.


Jesus, the messenger

In this book, John “testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:2).  Also, Jesus, who is the central figure of the book, states to John (who “fell at his feet as though dead” when he saw Jesus—1:17a),

Do not be afraid.  I am the First and the Last.  I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! (Revelation 1:17b,18ab).
Furthermore, in the book’s final chapter, Jesus reiterates,
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 22:13),
as well as,
I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches.  I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star (Revelation 22:16).
The living, glorified Jesus revealed Himself and unique future events, decades after His crucifixion and resurrection, to John.  Most of the events included in the Book of Revelation still are yet future to us now.  I adamantly disagree with those who believe that all of these prophetic occurrences already have taken place in the past—the principle of “preterism.”


repentance, endurance, and overcoming

The resurrected, exalted Jesus told John to write to seven churches of his day: to those in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea (Revelation 1:10,11).  Now, the Book of Revelation primarily is one of prophecy; thus, these seven letters most likely have some prophetic (as well as historic) significance.  So, although the messages were directed to the people in those early churches, I feel strongly that the information contained within also has direct application to segments of Christianity in the last days, especially those enduring the time of the Great Tribulation—the greatest time of distress and affliction the world will have ever known, up to that time (Matthew 24:21; Daniel 12:1b).

The points of advice to the Christians at this future time seem to revolve mainly around repentance, endurance, and overcoming.  There are similarities, but also differences, among the three.  The reader may wish to skip this section temporarily, continue on to heavenly vision, and return to this section when, I believe, it will be more applicable during the Great Tribulation: Fourth and Fifth Seals portion of the Book of Revelation.  (A link back to this section will be provided at that point.)

repentance

Repentance indicates the willingness to change one’s mind about doing things which one knows are not in the perfect Will of God and, likewise, to turn around from walking away from God and run back to Him.  Those in the Ephesus church were told,

Yet I hold this against you:  You have forsaken your first love.  Remember the height from which you have fallen!  Repent and do the things you did at first.  If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place (Revelation 2:4,5).
Many Christians during the 70th Week will lose the zeal and excitement for God that they previously possessed.  In fact, “many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other” (Matthew 24:10).  I suspect that a great many of these will be disillusioned with God, feeling He has abandoned the Church in this time of world sorrow and pain.  (In many cases, this very well may be because the so-called “Pre-Tribulation” Rapture will not have occurred, as they had expected that it would.  In fact, the Pre-Wrath Rapture will not take place until after the opening of the Sixth Seal.)

The exhortation by Jesus is for them to regain their initial love for God and to begin again to lead lives and to perform deeds worthy of Christians.  Otherwise, they will be in danger of being left unprotected and open to severe persecution, even unto death.

To many in the church of Pergamum, whose Christian faith previously was exemplary, the message involved a warning not to follow the teachings of false religions:

Nevertheless, I have a few things against you:  You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality [Numbers 25:1-3].  Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.  Repent therefore!  Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth (Revelation 2:14-16).
Similar indulgences were practiced by members of the church in Thyatira:
Nevertheless, I have this against you:  You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess.  By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.  I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.  So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways (Revelation 2:20-22).
The idea is that those after the midpoint of the 70th Week who have not “cleaned up their acts” (that is, repented of indulging in sexual immorality and of following the false religious doctrines of the (harlot) woman and the beast) will be exposed to intense suffering and even death.  They may be Christians, but they will not be leading exemplary lives.

A word of repentance also was given to the church at Sardis:

I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up!  Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.  Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent.  But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you (Revelation 3:1b-3).
The works and deeds of many Christians during the 70th Week will not reflect a true Christian faith (James 2:17).  Jesus has admonished them to repent from this hypocrisy; otherwise, the first phase of the Second Coming of Jesus (perhaps at a Mid-Tribulation Rapture for some, or a Pre-Wrath Rapture for others), will “come like a thief” to them because they will be spiritually asleep and unaware of its approach (1 Thessalonians 5:2see Rapture not unexpected).

Finally, the recommendation of repentance was given to the church of Laodicea:

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.”  But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.  Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.  So be earnest, and repent.  Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will go in and eat with him, and he with me (Revelation 3:15-20).
Depicted here are Christians who are not “on fire” for (filled with the Holy Spirit of) God.  These are those who will put more faith in their worldly possessions than in God, and they will be making themselves spiritually “poor, blind, and naked” by doing so.  Jesus’ appearance in the clouds of the air will be imminent at that point—even “at the door.”  Therefore, they are forewarned to repent and to become spiritually “rich, observant, and clothed” so they will be ready for His appearance in the clouds.  Being a fervent, ardent follower of God may be a necessary condition to make it through the Great Tribulation with minimal risk of danger, due to God’s protection.

endurance

Endurance has to do with the ability to persevere, patiently putting up with pain, hardship, and affliction for what will be a significant period of time (probably about 2½ years, from the midpoint of the 70th Week until the main Rapture event occurs).  The church at Ephesus was told,

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance.  I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.  You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary (Revelation 2:2,3).
Besides having to persevere under stress, there will be the necessity to test everyone claiming to know “the way” to safety, peace, and prosperity, since deceiving counterfeits and liars will abound (Matthew 24:24).

Those in the church of Smyrna were given the message,

I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are [spiritually] rich! ...  Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.  I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days.  Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life (Revelation 2:9a,10).
Persecution will become intense for many Christians (Matthew 24:9), but they are encouraged to maintain absolute faith and hope to get through.  Christians at that time should heed these words of inspiration and should anticipate the soon coming of Jesus:
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay.  But my righteous one [Christian] will live by faith.  And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him” (Hebrews 10:35-38).
The people in the Philadelphian church were encouraged with this promise:
Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth (Revelation 3:10).
It is interesting to note that no fault was found with this church as there was with the others.  This may represent Christians who faithfully and uncompromisingly will hold to the testimony of Jesus and to the Word of God during the first half (3½ years) of the 70th Week.  (Others may do so when it is convenient or when there seems to be no apparent risk involved.)

It may be that “Philadelphian-type” believers will be removed, via a Mid-Tribulation Rapture, before the “hour of trial” (the Great Tribulation) takes place.  It also could be that these Christians, somehow, may be sheltered completely by God, from temptation and persecution during that period, while they are still alive on the earth, in turn for their devoted allegiance to Him.  In that sense, they would be “removed,” as in being “hidden from view,” from the satanic forces that wish to assail and destroy them.

Furthermore, this church was told,

I know your deeds.  See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.  I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name (Revelation 3:8).
This could mean that the these believers will enter the “open door” of the “wedding banquet,” via a Mid-Tribulation Rapture, at which point that door will be shut (Matthew 25:10), to be opened again at the Pre-Wrath Rapture.  Or, perhaps, devoted and anointed Christians, if they are to live during the Great Tribulation, seemingly will have access, through prayer, into the gates in the heavenlies (see stronghold ‘doors’ and ‘gates’ in the heavenlies), which Jesus will open and evil angels and demons will not be able to close.

overcoming

Overcoming involves the decision to avoid the deceptive, tempting “secrets” and supposed “necessities” which the world has to offer.  For instance, as was described earlier, many 70th-Week Christians represented by the church of Thyatira will be tainted with sexual immorality and with adulterous religious beliefs, such as Islam and “New Age” doctrine (see ‘New Age’ folly), which are satanic counterfeits.  They will experience intense suffering (Revelation 2:22) if they do not turn away from these things.  Others in the church, though, will steer clear of false religious teachings:

Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to [Jezebel’s] teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets...:  Only hold on to what you have until I come (Revelation 2:24,25).
There will be great temptation to exchange the truths of God for the “New Age” lies of Satan, which will abound during much of the 70th Week.  But the encouragement is given to resist (overcome) this tempting deception until Jesus comes again at the Rapture.

There also will be other ways of overcoming during the 70th Week, especially after the midpoint.  The hardest way may be refusing the mark, without which one will not be able to buy or sell (Revelation 13:16,17see mark of the beast).  Humanistic logic will dictate that, to survive, the mark  must be taken.  Non-believers (and maybe many lukewarm believers) will accept the mark; but true, steadfast Christians will overcome the faulty rationale of the world and refuse it, knowing that this is a matter which “calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus” (14:12).  They will maintain a spiritual awareness that God will sustain and protect His children supernaturally during this time of great tribulation and affliction.  After all, God once used ravens to feed His loyal servant Elijah hiding in a ravine (1 Kings 17:2-6), and He used angels to release the apostles from jail (Acts 5:18,19, 12:6-10).

During this future time of trial and ordeal, the true, devoted Christians will overcome temptations, bad habits, spiritual counterfeits, and various things which the corrupt, humanistic world system will attempt to force upon the masses.  For those who do overcome, a host of rewards has been promised.  To every faithful overcomer, Jesus has said He (“I”) will

1. give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God (Revelation 2:7b);
2. provide protection from the “second death” (2:11b);
3. give some of the hidden manna...[and] will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it (2:17bc);
4. give authority over the nations...just as I have received authority from my Father (2:26,27b);
5. give him the morning star (2:28);
6. dress him ...in white...[and] never erase his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels (3:5);
7. make a pillar in the temple of my God,...write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God,...and...write on him my new name (3:12); and
8. give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne (3:21).
John asked, “Who is it that overcomes the world?” (1 John 5:5a).  The clear answer of just who will overcome is: “Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (5:5b).  (If you linked to this section from Great Tribulation: Fourth and Fifth Seals, return there now.)


heavenly vision

The remainder of the Book of Revelation (Chapters 4–22) is written by John from perspectives of both heaven and earth, after having been called up to heaven in the Spirit by a voice which sounded like a trumpet (Revelation 4:1,2)—the same voice of the “son of man,” Jesus, who had spoken to him about the seven churches (1:10-13).

Some adhere to the view that John’s being called up to heaven, at this point, is symbolic of the Pre-Tribulation or “Pre-Trib” Rapture event’s taking place here, prophetically, for the Church of believers.  (This theory seems to have been advanced primarily by annotations to the scriptures made by C. I. Scofield in the Scofield Reference Bible, first published in 1909.)  I disagree with this premise; rather, I am convinced that the (primary) Pre-Wrath Rapture event will take place soon after the opening of the Sixth Seal, to be discussed later.  (A detailed commentary about this can be read at The Rapture.)  For this and numerous other reasons, I do not believe that, in the proper chronology of Revelation, a Rapture event will occur at the beginning of Chapter 4 (that is, prior to the onset of the 70th Week).

In Chapters 4 and 5, John describes a future scene in heaven, just prior to the beginning of the final 7 years of this age on the earth (otherwise referred to as the 70th Week).  John observed the throne of God (Revelation 4:2,3), surrounded by various heavenly creatures praising and worshiping God (4:4-11).  Included are “twenty-four elders” (4:4a).

Many who embrace the “Pre-Tribulation” theory of the Rapture believe that the twenty-four elders are symbolic of the completed Church of believers who, it is supposed, already has been raptured into heaven by that point.  Yet, much later, one of these same elders asks John about the great multitude in heaven, wearing white robes and holding palm branches (Revelation 7:9).  This multitude of people, seen by John in heaven, clearly are newly-raptured believers.  The elder asks John, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” (7:13).  Since John does not know the answer, the elder tells him that they are those who have come out of the Great Tribulation (7:14ab).  Thus, the newly-raptured believers in heaven are separate and distinct  from the twenty-four elders.

One of the most significant things that John saw during his vision of heaven was “a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals” (Revelation 5:1; Isaiah 29:11,12).  Presumably, this was the same scroll that Daniel was told by an angel to seal up until the time of the end (Daniel 12:4).  This remarkable scroll is the centerpiece of most of the rest of the Book of Revelation.  As each of the seven seals is peeled away one by one, in sequential order, the scroll is opened a little further.  As more and more of the writing within is exposed, the scroll becomes smaller and smaller until it becomes only “a little scroll” (Revelation 10:2a,8-10).

John wept because there was no one anywhere who was worthy to open the scroll or to look inside of it (Revelation 5:2-4).  Perhaps he wept because if the scroll could not be opened, then end-time events could not take place, and Satan would “win” the biggest game of all the ages.  Then John was shown the only One worthy of opening the scroll: the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David (5:5a), who also is the Lamb of God (5:6a) who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29,36).  The Lamb initially was standing in the middle of the throne of God, having “seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God” (5:6)—a representation of the Trinity of God (see God: One, Two, and Three).  John then observed Jesus’ acceptance of the scroll and the hosts of heaven praising and worshiping Him because He, alone, was worthy to open the scroll (Revelation 5:7-14).


the 70th Week

There are numerous parallels between the prophetic books of Revelation and Daniel; each one complements the other in many ways.  In the chronology of Revelation, it commonly is believed (and I concur) that the following passage in the Book of Daniel prophesies a time near the very end of this age:

He will confirm a covenant with many for one “seven,” but in the middle of that “seven” he will put an end to sacrifice and offering.  And one who causes desolation will place abominations on a wing until the end that is decreed is poured out on him. (Daniel 9:27).
The person who generally is understood to confirm (and possibly even to orchestrate) a seven-year covenant, most likely involving Israel and some of its enemies, will be the Antichrist.  This man will be both a substitute for, and a spokesman against, the real Christ.

Those who embrace a Preterist view believe that the 70th Week already has taken place, having been chronologically continuous with the 69th Week.  They believe that many of the events of Revelation, from Chapter 6 onward, already have transpired in the past.  I absolutely disagree with this view.

With the prophesied confirmation of a covenant for seven years, the 70th Week—the final seven-year period prior to the physical return of Jesus back to earth—will commence.  It has been thought, by many, that the prophesied agreement would involve some type of endeavor to bring about “peace” between Israel and the Palestinians.


six seals

John saw, in the right hand of God on His throne, a written scroll with seven seals (Revelation 5:1).  A mighty angel asked if anyone was worthy to break the seals and open and scroll; however, no one in heaven or earth could be found to open the scroll (5:2,3)—until it was determined that the Lion of Judah (Jesus) was able to do so (5:5).

Some believe this indicates that John, when he initially saw the scroll, was looking into the past, rather than into the future.  The rationale is that if Jesus were in heaven at this point, the angel would not have questioned the worthiness of anyone to open the scroll.  Furthermore, this line of reasoning dictates that this is the moment that Jesus was taken up into heaven (Acts 1:9-11)—thus causing one of the elders suddenly to exclaim that the Lion of Judah was able to open the scroll—and that it was at this time in history, almost two millennia ago, that the First Seal of the heavenly scroll was opened.  I disagree.

Would anyone claim that God Himself would not be worthy to open the scroll?  Could it be that when heaven, earth, and under the earth were searched, God was not found?  Of course not.  Yet, Revelation 5:3,4 seems to indicate that “no one” was found who was able to open the scroll or to look inside of it.  Therefore, it must  mean that no one other than God  was able to open the scroll.  Was Jesus God?  Yes.  Therefore, He could not have been included in the universally unworthy group, outside of God, who could not be found.

Furthermore, what is not understood, by many, is that Jesus was in heaven during this dialogue:  Immediately after the Lion of Judah was deemed worthy to open the scroll, Jesus the Lamb was observed to be “standing in the middle of the throne” (Revelation 5:6).  This was a clear depiction of the coexistence of the Father and the Son.  In fact, this combination of the Father, Jesus, and “the seven spirits of God” (that is, the manifold Holy Spirit) is a picture of the Trinity, situated on God’s throne in heaven.  The Lamb could not be found (5:3,4) because He was “hidden away” within the Father, until it was time for Him to be revealed and presented as the only one worthy to accept the scroll.

At any time, Jesus the Lamb can “project” out from the Father (just as the Holy Spirit can and does) and can sit at the Father’s right hand.  Jesus was able to separate Himself, in location, from the Father and take the scroll “from the right hand of him [the Father] who sat on the throne” (Revelation 5:7).  Having seen the scroll with the seven seals (5:1), which was taken by Jesus the Lamb (5:6,7), John proceeded to watch Him open the first six of the scroll’s seven seals (6:1-17).  I feel that the opening of the First Seal signifies the commencement of the 70th Week: the “end of the age.”

In the “Pre-Tribulation” view of the Rapture event, a common assumption is that, beginning with the opening of the First Seal, the entire 70th Week (seven-year period, which often is referred to as the “Tribulation” period) will be marked by God’s wrath being discharged upon the earth.  Since Paul indicated that believers will not suffer God’s wrath but, instead, will live together with Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:9,10), then the assumption is that the Rapture must take place just prior to the beginning of the 70th Week.

Without question, the period encompassing the first six seals will prove to be sorrowful, painful, and distressing.  However, there is no explicit indication anywhere that God’s “wrath” will be being unleashed upon the earth during that time.  In fact, the word “wrath” does not even appear in the Book of Revelation until after the Sixth Seal has been opened (Revelation 6:16,17).

parallels with Olivet Discourse

A description of the six seals seems to parallel the prophecies made by Jesus during His Olivet Discourse (see also Chronology of the Olivet Discourse), as part of His response to His disciples’ inquiry about the end of the age (Matthew 24:3):

First Seal:  I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. ...  I looked, and there before me was a white horse!  Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest (Revelation 6:1,2).

Jesus:  Watch out that no one deceives you.  For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many (Matthew 24:4,5).


Second Seal:  When the Lamb opened the second seal,...another horse came out, a fiery red one.  Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other.  To him was given a large sword (Revelation 6:3,4).

Jesus:  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 (Matthew 24:6,7).


Third Seal:  When the Lamb opened the third seal,...there before me was a black horse!  Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand.  Then I heard...a voice...saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” (Revelation 6:5,6).

Jesus:  There will be great earthquakes, famines... (Luke 21:11).


Fourth Seal:  When the Lamb opened the fourth seal,...I looked and there before me was a pale horse!  Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him.  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 (Revelation 6:7,8).

Jesus:  [There will be]...famines and pestilences [plagues] in various places... (Luke 21:11).  All these are the beginning of birth pains [sorrows] (Matthew 24:8).


Fifth Seal:  When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained (Revelation 6:9).

Jesus:  Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. ...  For then there will be great distress [great tribulation], 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 (Matthew 24:9,21,22).


Sixth Seal (part 1):  I watched as he opened the sixth seal.  There was a great earthquake.  The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind.  The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place (Revelation 6:12-14).

Jesus:  Immediately after the distress [great tribulation] 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 [powers of the heavens] will be shaken (Matthew 24:29).


Sixth Seal (part 2):  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!  For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:15-17).

Jesus:  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 [shofar] call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other (Matthew 24:30,31).

Beginning of Birth Pains: First Three Seals

Some feel that each of the riders of the white, red, black, and pale horses of the first four seals are one person: the Antichrist.  Others feel that the riders are four fallen angelic or demonic entities.  Perhaps the horses which are described are equivalent or are similar to the ones described by the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 6:1-8).

Whoever the rider or riders is/are, I believe the following are likely to take place in Israel, in the Middle East, and/or in much of the world, as each of the first four seals is opened, which will be “the beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:8):

  1. First Seal: a false, deceptive peace, with a concealed desire to gain world domination.
  2. Second Seal: hostilities, war, and pervasive killing.
  3. Third Seal: extensive earthquakes and famines.
It it felt by many that the opening of these three seals will take place during the the first half of the 70th Week.  However, it is possible that all seven seals will opened after the onset of the Great Tribulation, during the the second half of the 70th Week.  It may be that the rider on the white horse—“a conqueror bent on conquest”—seen after the First Seal is opened (Revelation 6:1,2), is the revealing of the man of lawlessness described by Paul (1 Thessalonians 2:3-6).

Great Tribulation: Fourth and Fifth Seals

I feel it likely will be during the Great Tribulation period, encompassing the Fourth and Fifth Seals, that Jesus’ forewarnings to the seven churches will have their future fulfillment.  During the Fourth Seal segment, the world will be ravaged by widespread death from the sword, famines, plagues/pestilences, and wild beasts, with the opening of the Fifth seal revealing the multitudes of slain believers.

If you, the reader, have not yet read through the repentance, endurance, and overcoming section, you might want to go there and read it now, since I believe the admonitions contained therein will be applicable to those having to endure the distress and afflictions experienced following the opening of the Fourth and Fifth Seals.  (There will be a link at the end of that section to return here again.)

There will be great and numerous cataclysmic natural disasters during the Great Tribulation period, which will leave people reeling and staggering in astonishment and disbelief.  Beyond that, persecution of believers after the opening of the Fifth Seal, as described by both Jesus and John (Matthew 24:9; Revelation 6:9-11), will be a demonstration of man’s inhumanity to man, rather than of God’s wrath upon mankind.  (See also Chronology of the Olivet Discourse.)  The passionate plea to God by the “souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained” for Him to “avenge [their] blood” will be an appeal for God to “judge the inhabitants of the earth” (Revelation 6:9,10), not  a protest against God for having punished them with His wrath.

In the middle of the 70th Week, just prior to the onset of the Great Tribulation, it is quite possible that a Mid-Tribulation Rapture may take place.  If so, as many as half of believers could be caught up and away to be with Jesus, while the rest will be left behind to face Satan’s fury and wrath (Revelation 12:12), personified mainly in the Antichrist.  If so, Satan will go after and persecute those remaining “who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (12:17).

Cosmic Disturbances: Sixth Seal

Notably, it is Jesus the “Lamb”  who passively will be opening the seals of the scroll in His hand—allowing, rather than causing, the various disasters (wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, persecution, and tribulation) to come upon the earth.  It is not until after John describes the darkness, terror, and dread associated with the cosmic disturbances: Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12-15) that he even mentions the word “wrath” (6:16,17).

John’s phrase “great day of their wrath” (Revelation 6:17), which ominously will be forthcoming as the events of the Sixth Seal are unfolding, is equivalent to the “day of vengeance(Isaiah 34:8, 61:2, 63:4—see The Seventh Year).  It will be the first segment of the “Day of the Lord” period, described by many of the ancient Hebrew prophets, who also associated this future time in history with darkness and wrath (Isaiah 13:9-13; Ezekiel 30:1-3; Joel 2:1,2,10,11, 2:30,31; Amos 5:18,20; Zephaniah 1:14,15,18a).

On the other hand, Isaiah wrote that the time when the Messiah (Jesus), the “Root of Jesse,” will rule over the nations (Romans 15:12) will be “glorious” (Isaiah 11:10).  Peter described the Day of the Lord as being “great and glorious” (Acts 2:19-21).  This is because the second, much longer segment of the Day of the Lord will consist of the glorious 1,000 rule and reign of Jesus, during the Millennium.  Peter also noted, “With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8).

Pertaining to the time of the Sixth Seal, Jesus described one of the most terrifying sights that ever will be witnessed by mankind:

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’ (Matthew 24:29),
which parallels John’s description of the same cosmic disturbances:
The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind (Revelation 6:12c,13).
In effect, God will “clothe the sky with darkness and make sackcloth its covering” (Isaiah 50:3)—I believe as a stark expression to humankind that there will be one last chance to repent before God begins to pour out His wrath upon the world.  Some believe that the darkening of the sun and moon will be due to natural eclipses.  On the contrary, I feel that it more likely will be due to God’s direct, supernatural command.  I see direct correlations among Job 9:5-8,10, Luke 21:25, and Revelation 6:12-14.

I feel that the “stars” that will fall to earth after the opening of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:13; Matthew 24:29) will not  be literal stars, which would be impossible.  Rather, they might be something resembling falling stars, such as a meteor shower.

I have seen it suggested that these “stars” could be the angels who will gather the elect believers at the Pre-Wrath Rapture.  They also could be evil, fallen angels who will tumble from earth’s atmosphere, where they presently have free reign, and will be confined to earth from that point forward.  There are other places in Scripture where “stars” represent angels: Judges 5:20; Job 38:7; Isaiah 14:12,13; Daniel 8:10; Revelation 1:20, 9:1, 12:4.  (On the other hand, the stars in Revelation 8:12 evidently are real stars that will become darkened.)

Here is one of Isaiah’s images of the Sixth Seal chaos:

Men will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth (Isaiah 2:19),
which parallels John’s description:
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!” (Revelation 6:15,16).
The great earthquake at that time (Revelation 6:12b) will be a precursor of God’s imminent wrath, about to be dispensed upon the earth, as well as be a sign of the last opportunity to repent and be saved from His looming wrath, via the Rapture.  This tremendous shaking of the whole earth, during which “every mountain and island [will be] removed from its place” (6:14), also will herald in the initial segment of the period of time known as the Day of the Lord—which will commence with the opening of the Seventh Seal.


earthquakes

This section is placed here primarily to demonstrate the attention that must be given to the smallest details in Revelation to understand the proper chronological sequencing of the book.  For instance, the identification, in time, of the various earthquakes in Revelation is important, as they span virtually the entire 70th Week.

Here are significant world earthquakes, their locations, and their respective magnitudes, which took place during a random year’s time span: December, 2004, to November, 2005:

World Earthquakes 7.1+
Dec. 2004 to Nov. 2005

Dec. 26, 2004
Feb. 5, 2005
Mar. 2, 2005
Mar. 28, 2005
June 13, 2005
June 15, 2005
July 24, 2005
Aug. 16, 2005
Sep. 9, 2005
Sep. 26, 2005
Oct. 8, 2005
Nov. 14, 2005
  Indian Ocean
Celebes Sea
Banda Sea
Sumatra, Indonesia
Tarpaca, Chile
Off No. CA Coast
Nicobar Islands, India
Honshu, Japan
Papua, New Guinea
No. Peru
No. Pakistan
Honshu, Japan
  9.1
7.1
7.1
8.6
7.8
7.2
7.3
7.2
7.7
7.5
7.7
7.2

Of course, there have been other sizeable earthquakes in the world since then.  These include the following:

World Earthquakes 8.5+
Sep. 2007 to Apr. 2012

Sep. 12, 2007
Feb. 27, 2010
Mar. 11, 2011
Apr. 11, 2012
  Sumatra, Indonesia
Maule, Chile
Honshu, Japan
Sumatra, Indonesia
  8.5
8.8
9.0
8.6

Many of the above caused extremely devastating (and, in some cases, unprecedented) destruction, such as from the gigantic tsunamis generated by the quakes of December 26, 2004 and of March 11, 2011.  However, I feel that the earthquakes to take place during the 70th Week, especially during the second half, will be even larger, more frequent, and more numerous.  Moreover, I expect the quakes during the dreadful day of vengeance to be unfathomably strong and cataclysmic, with a few shaking even the entire earth.

birth pains

Jesus spoke of “famines and earthquakes in various places(Matthew 24:7b).  I think that large, frequent, and prevalent worldwide earthquakes and volcanic eruptions—probably in combination with great droughts, storms, floods, and economic failures at that time—may be significant in fostering the famines, shortages, and scarcity which seem to be depicted by the Third Seal (Revelation 6:5,6).  All of this, along with wars, plagues, and other afflictions, will cause the “beginning of birth pains,” about which Jesus warned (Matthew 24:8).

Near the end of a typical pregnancy, when the time is approaching for the birth to take place, mild contractions begin.  Generally, the initial contractions are few and far between, and the time between them can be many hours.  These are the early stages of labor and can be represented by the moderate to great quakes (and other painful afflictions and hardships) taking place during the first half of the 70th Week, partly responsible for the beginning of “birth pains” and sorrows.  These pains will be quite unpleasant but will be somewhat more bearable than those later on.

When the birth of the baby is imminent, however, hard labor pains set in and continue to occur throughout the actual birth process.  They often are called “pains of travail” because they typically are frequent, intense, severe, and even excruciating.  These can be represented by the cataclysmic and, literally, earth-shattering quakes (and other sources of great tribulation, distress, and supernatural wrath) occurring during the second half of the 70th Week, particularly during the dreaded beginning of the Day of the Lord period:

Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them; they will writhe like a woman in labor.  They will look aghast at each other, their faces aflame.  See, the day of the LORD is coming—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it (Isaiah 13:8,9).
Sometimes these pains, in a woman, are extreme enough to cause death.  In the case of the earth, though, they will result in
  1. the resurrection and Rapture of believers (prior to the Day of the Lord) and  in
  2. the spiritual rebirth of Israel (after the day of vengeance).
Figuratively speaking, this will be a set of “twins”:
  1. Gentile and Israeli believers in the Messiah, Jesus/Yeshua, and
  2. an unbelieving Israeli remnant, who will embrace their Messiah when He returns to save them from their enemies.
Both of these groups, together, will comprise God’s elect.  Next will be the restoration and regeneration of much of the earth at the beginning of the Millennium, following the return of Jesus to earth.

Seventh Seal, Seventh Trumpet, and Seventh Bowl

Great earthquakes will occur after the Seventh Seal is opened (Revelation 8:1,5b), after the Seventh Trumpet is blown (11:15,19b), and after the Seventh Bowl is poured out (16:17,18).  Some believe these are descriptive of the same earthquake; however, this view is flawed, since the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls are not  equivalent events (see comparisons of Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls).

Sixth Seal and Seventh Bowl

It has been noted, starting with Sixth Seal (part 1), that Jesus’ description of the “cosmic disturbances” (Matthew 24:29) is equivalent to John’s description of phenomena observed after the opening of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12,13).  Jesus’ account does not specifically mention an earthquake; however, John’s depiction,

...every mountain and island was removed from its place (6:14b),
indicates that an earth-shaking event will occur at that time.  In fact, he specifically notes that there will be “a great earthquake” (6:12b).  At first glance, this seems to parallel John’s report later of what happens after the most tremendous earthquake ever to rock the earth during human history (16:18):
Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found (16:20).
This similarity has caused some, especially many who embrace the “Pre-Tribulation” and “Post-Tribulation” views of the Rapture, to conclude (erroneously) that the Sixth Seal events will occur at the very end  of the 70th Week (or so-called “Tribulation” period).  Therefore, it wrongly is assumed that Jesus’ words in (Matthew 24:30,31) are a description of His Second Advent (bodily descent) to earth rather than of the Rapture event.

However, Matthew 24:29 will occur (after the Sixth Seal is opened) probably about a year prior to the end of the 70th Week (see The Seventh Year); whereas, Revelation 16:20 will take place (after the Seventh Bowl is poured out), at some point following Jesus’ return to earth at the end of the 70th Week.  The events of the Sixth Seal and the events of the Seventh Bowl are by no means the same, nor will they occur at the same time (see comparisons of Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls later).

Understandably, the entire earth will quake in the presence of Jesus, returning on the clouds to catch up His elect at the Rapture.  All of the islands and mountains will move and be displaced, though not  be destroyed.  But an even greater, more devastating earthquake will take place at some point (I believe 30 days) after Jesus has returned physically to earth (see extensions to the 70th Week and 30 days), causing islands to be covered with water (perhaps due to gigantic tsunamis) and the mountains worldwide to collapse—a picture of utter destruction and annihilation.

Jesus’ return to earth

At the time that the two witnesses are caught up to heaven, there will be a severe earthquake, where a tenth of the city of Jerusalem will collapse and seven thousand people will be killed (Revelation 11:11-13).  This will be at the end of the 70th Week, when Jesus will return to earth to rule and reign, immediately preceding the blowing of the Seventh Trumpet (11:15-17).

I believe this earthquake will be what causes the Mount of Olives to split in two when the Lord, Jesus, stands upon it (after having traveled to Jerusalem from Bozrah—Isaiah 63:1) on the day He returns to earth:

On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south (Zechariah 14:4).
Here also, I believe, is the same earthquake described in another prophecy:
In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel.  The fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence.  The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground (Ezekiel 38:19,20).
This is known to be at the end of the 70th Week, when Jesus is returning to earth, since Ezekiel adds:
And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations.  Then they will know that I am the LORD (38:23).
Evidently and not surprisingly, then, there will be three earthquakes in the latter part of the 70th Week, seemingly in heightening intensity, during which the entire earth  will shake—all in the presence of Jesus:
  1. after the opening of the Sixth Seal, when Jesus will appear in the clouds to gather His elect at the Rapture (Revelation 6:12-14),
  2. when Jesus will return physically to earth to rule and reign, just prior to the sounding of the Seventh Trumpet (11:13-15), and
  3. after the pouring out of the Seventh Bowl, when Jesus will destroy the attacking armies of the Antichrist, at the Battle of Armageddon (16:17-20).


comparisons of Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls

Some believe that the seven Seals of the heavenly scroll, the seven Trumpet Judgments, and the seven Bowl Judgments describe the same events, from various perspectives.  I absolutely disagree with this assertion and maintain that all of them will occur in chronological order:

  1. the seven Seals (in order), then
  2. the seven Trumpet Judgments (in order), then
  3. the seven Bowl Judgments (in order).
A comparison of the corresponding seven items in each of these three categories in the Book of Revelation will show a few similarities but, overall, marked differences:
1.  First Seal (6:1,2) First Trumpet (8:7) First Bowl (16:2)

2.  Second Seal (6:3,4) Second Trumpet (8:8,9) Second Bowl (16:3)

3.  Third Seal (6:5,6) Third Trumpet (8:10,11) Third Bowl (16:4-7)

4.  Fourth Seal (6:7.8) Fourth Trumpet (8:12) Fourth Bowl (16:8,9)

5.  Fifth Seal (6:9-11) Fifth Trumpet (9:1-11) Fifth Bowl (16:10,11)

6.  Sixth Seal (6:12-17) Sixth Trumpet (9:13-21) Sixth Bowl (16:12-16)

7.  Seventh Seal (8:1-5) Seventh Trumpet (11:15-19) Seventh Bowl (16:17-21)
Within the last (seventh) item in each category is included lightning, thunder, rumblings, and an earthquake.  Yet, careful examination will confirm that the Seventh Trumpet Judgment is more severe than the Seventh Seal events; and the Seventh Bowl Judgment, by far, is the most severe and cataclysmic of all three.

Go to Part 2 | Part 3

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