The Tribulation Period



By Leland M. Haines

Let us now turn our attention to Revelation 63/419, which prophesies of the sorrow and tribulation referred to by both Jesus and Daniel. The second part of Revelation, which tells of “the things which shall be hereafter” (1:19), opens with a prologue (chaps. 4 and 5). In this section John is told, “Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter” (4:1). Beginning with chapter 4, the following things are revealed. The first thing John saw and described in heaven was the throne of God (Revelation 4). Then he saw a book “sealed with seven seals” (5:1). An angel called out, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” (v. 2). No one was found worthy to open it except the Root of David, the Lamb. A song was then sung to Him:

“Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (vv. 9, 10). And then the angels said, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength and honour, and glory, and blessing” (v. 12). The Lamb next took the book and opened the seals one after another, until all seven were broken. These seven seals revealed events closely following the chronological order of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24). They revealed a period of Great Tribulation coming to the earth, with divine judgment being poured out on an ungodly world (Revelation 6(8).

This period of Great Tribulation is the seventieth week of years, a seven-year period, spoken of by Daniel (Daniel 12:1; cf. 9:24-27) and other Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 24(28; Ezekiel 39:24; Zechariah 12ff.). These chapters contain symbolism. We can only understand this symbolism if the symbols are explained in the Scriptures. We should not try to guess the meaning of unexplained symbols, for we can never know if we are right. The first four seals concerned visions of horses and their riders. The first was a white horse with a rider who “went forth conquering, and to conquer” (Revelation 6:2).

The second was a red horse whose rider was given power “to take peace from the earth” (v. 4); he was given power to wage war (cf. Matthew 24:6, 7).

The third was a black horse carrying a rider with “a pair of balances in his hand” (v. 5). A voice “in the midst of the four beasts” (v. 6) told of the high price of wheat and barley, showing that famine followed the warfare. The fourth seal was a pale horse carrying a rider named “Death and Hell” (v. 8) who had power over a fourth of the earth, “to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth,” showing the presence of pestilence. Jesus spoke of famines and pestilence in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24:7b).

This tribulation period is not only a time of suffering, when war, famine, and great loss of human life occur among sinful men, but it is also a time when saints are killed. The fifth seal pictures “the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9, 10). These were told “that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled” (v. 11).

The sixth seal pictures great earthquakes and falling stars (i.e., meteors). These bring physical change to the earth and cause such fear among evil men that they wish they were dead when they realize that the “wrath of the Lamb” is coming (Revelation 6:16). Then John saw four angels holding “the four winds” and another angel saying to them, “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads” (Revelation 7:1, 3).

The number of those sealed from each tribe of the sons of Israel was twelve thousand, “an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel” (v. 4). After this John said, “I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands” (Revelation 7:9). Later John asked who these were. He was told, “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (v. 14). These are the many saints that the fifth seal revealed would be killed by ungodly men.

The seventh seal reveals seven angels and seven trumpets and more tribulation to follow as the judgment of God continues to fall on the ungodly. The first trumpet reveals that about a third of the world will be burnt up (Revelation 8:7); the second reveals that a third of the sea will become blood, a third of living creatures in the sea will die, and a third of the ships will be destroyed (vv. 8, 9).

The third trumpet reveals that a “great star” will fall on a third of the rivers and fountains, making their water bitter and fatal to all who drink it (vv. 10, 11).

The fourth trumpet reveals that a third of the light from the sun and the moon will be darkened (v. 12). The fifth trumpet reveals locusts will torture men for five months (9:1-11), and the sixth reveals that a third of mankind will be killed (vv. 13-19). With the death of this last third of mankind, a total of 50 percent of the world’s population will have been killed during the first half of the tribulation period (25 percent were killed earlier, Revelation 6:8). These judgments do not affect all men. Those who have “the seal of God in their foreheads” will escape (9:4).

But even after this terrible tribulation period, “the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols” (v. 20). After these events an angel will come down to earth with a little book and reveal seven thunders, but John was told not to write down what was said (Revelation 10:1-4). Since their messages were not recorded, we assume the Lord will reveal them again if needed.

John was then told by an angel “that there should be time no longer,” that is, there shall be no delay (Revelation 10:6). The mystery of God will now be completely revealed. John was then given a little book to eat. Although we are not told the meaning of this act, John was then told, “Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings” (v. 11).

Then John was given a measuring rod and told, “Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein” (Revelation 11:1). He was told not to measure the outside court since “it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months” (v. 2). This forty-two month period starts in the middle of the seven-year tribulation and was foretold by Daniel (9:27). The one who made the covenant with the Jewish people at the beginning of the tribulation period will break it and bring abomination and desolation to the temple and the land. As seen earlier, the Jews will rebuild the temple and will reinstitute sacrifices.

This must occur before the middle of the tribulation period. This temple will not be built at the command of God to show the way man can approach Him as were the Old Testament temples. It will be rebuilt because the Jews have rejected the Way, Jesus Christ (Revelation 11:1, 2; cf. Jo This is from Chapter 7 of the book, Redemption Realized Through Christ,

© copyright 1997 by Leland M. Haines, Northville, MI. We highly recommend you read this book. It may be ordered from Biblical Viewpoints publication (see below)

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