Scripture Reading: Revelation 6 - 7 ...
Those who believe that Revelation is an allegory, not to be taken literally, believe that the "seals," the "trumpet judgments," and the "bowls of wrath" are three series of events all talking about the same thing, rather than a progression of judgment upon the earth. Such an understanding, however, does not fit with what is revealed by each of these separate series of events. We begin in Chapter 6, with the opening of the seals ... the "prelude" to God's judgment, which begins in Chapter 8. While some say the wrath of God begins with the opening of the seals, it is vitally important to see the difference between the “trumpet judgments” of Chapters 8-9, along with the "bowls of God's wrath" in Chapters 15-16, and the six seals of Chapter 6. These seals are NOT the "day of the Lord wrath" predicted by the prophets. Rather, they are the work of the Antichrist.
While God is still in control and the Lamb, Jesus, opens the seals, it is the Antichrist who is the "rider on the white horse" (6:2). The first four seals describe events during the first three-and-one-half years of Daniel's "70th week" (Daniel 9:25-27). It is impossible to understand Revelation unless the events of Chapter 6 are seen as leading up to the Rapture of believers and the beginning of God's judgment, some time during the last three-and-one-half years prior to Jesus' coming. The idea that the Rapture is the next thing on the prophetic calendar leaves many vulnerable to the idea that we who believe will not go through the time of great tribulation that will come upon the earth just prior to the return of Jesus.
The opening of the fifth seal (6:9-11) reveals those who have been martyred during the Great Tribulation asking God, "How long?" God answers, "Until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed" (6:11). Then comes the opening of the sixth seal, just prior to the beginning of the "day of the Lord" - GOD's wrath on the rest of mankind. The opening of the sixth seal is parallel to Jesus' description of the events following the Great Tribulation and just prior to the Rapture, Matthew 24:29. Isaiah describes the same events in Isaiah 13:10 and Joel describes the same events in Joel 2:30-31. There will be significant and unmistakable signs in the sky just prior to the Rapture of true believers, and the Rapture will be followed by ... GOD's wrath!!
"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?'" (6:15-17). God's judgment will come upon the earth and all who are not washed by the blood of Jesus, who have not believed in Him, will face His judgment.
As Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 4 and 5, the order of events at the end is the RAPTURE (the gathering together of those who are in Christ), and THEN the pouring out of God's wrath. "For God did not appoint US (believers) to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thessalonians 5:9). Since Jesus endured God's wrath in our place on the cross, God's justice is satisfied for all who believe and only those who have not believed will face His coming judgment.
As Chapter 6 revealed the events leading up to the Rapture, a brief overview helps to put things in place. Believing that there will be a seven-year period just prior to Jesus' return to defeat the Antichrist and to establish His kingdom on the earth prior to the Millennium (the 1,000-year reign of Jesus on the earth) according to Daniel 9:25-27, the opening of the seals of the scroll containing God's judgment begins this period.
The first four seals take place during the first three and one-half years of the seven-year period described by Daniel. Then, in "the middle of the seven" the Antichrist shows his true colors and attempts to destroy the Jews (Satan has been trying to do that for thousands of years!), and when that doesn't work (more about that in Chapter 13), he turns his attention to believers. The mistake many make is in understanding the entire seven years to be the Great Tribulation and the time of God's wrath - the "Day of the Lord.” Believers will still be present during the first three and one-half years of Daniel’s final seven-year period. This is not God's "day of the Lord” wrath. Though the Antichrist consolidates his power through force during this time, he offers peace to Israel and others, attempting to deceive mankind into believing he wants what is best for all mankind. Things change midway through the period!
Jesus describes this in Matthew 24:15-28 and Paul describes it in II Thessalonians 2:9-12. It is important to understand that the sequence of time goes from Chapters 6 - 11 … followed by an "Interlude" (Chapters 11-14), and then picks up in Chapters 15 - 22. As for the timing of the seven-year period, the "middle" of the period comes somewhere between the fourth and fifth seals, as the fifth seal (6:9-11) describes "the Great Tribulation," which includes the martyrdom of many believers, followed by the Rapture. John describes the opening of the sixth seal (6:12-17) as occurring just before the wrath of God (the “day of the Lord”) begins (8:1).
The Antichrist makes a covenant with Israel and others and begins his reign, then breaks his covenant and attacks Jerusalem and Israel (God protects "the woman" for the next 1260 days or 3 1/2 years - 12:1-6), and then persecutes believers - the Church (12:17; 13:10) until the Rapture. Chapter 7 describes the "sealing" of 144,000 from the tribes of Israel, and THEN the Rapture of the Church, "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb" (7:9). One of the elders asked John where this great multitude came from and the answer came, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (7:14).
The confirmation of a treaty, the opening of the first four seals, the breaking of the treaty (covenant), the Great Tribulation, the Rapture and the Day of the Lord, then God’s wrath. It will all happen just as God has said!
“Almighty, everlasting God, my Father in heaven, thank You for the assurance of eternal life through Your Son, Jesus Christ! I praise You for revealing Your plan in Your Word and that no matter what happens, through faith in Jesus it is well with my soul! In Jesus’ name, Amen!”