THE BEGINNING OF THE TRIBULATION
Revelation (Chapter 6)
To teach the awfulness of the events of the Tribulation period and the folly of being on earth in that day.
POINT OF CONTACT
The last two lessons have taught us about what Christians will see, hear, and do shortly after the Rapture when they are in Heaven. What do you think will take place on earth? Well, today's lesson will teach us.
In our last lesson we studied about the seven-sealed book and learned that it was the Title Deed to the Earth. In our lesson today we will learn what will happen on earth when Jesus opens the first six of the seven seals. We will learn later that out of the seventh seal will come seven trumpets and out of the seventh trumpet will come seven bowls of wrath. So the judgment of God upon a wicked sin-cursed earth will come when the seven seals are open.
It would be well for us to see the similarity of our Lord's teaching about the Tribulation Period as recorded in Matthew and those things that occur when the first six seals are broken. The order is the same in Matthew and Revelation.
1. War------------------------------------Matthew 24:6,7..................Revelation 6:3,4
2. Famine---------------------------------Matthew 24:7.....................Revelation 6:5,6
3. Death----------------------------------Matthew 24:7-9..................Revelation 6:7,8
4. Martyrdom----------------------------Matthew 24:9,10,16-22.......Revelation 6:9-11
5. The Sun, Moon Darkened, etc.--------Matthew 24:29.....................Revelation 6:12-14
6. A Time of Divine Judgment------------Matthew 24:32;25:26...........Revelation 6:15-17
Remember also that the Tribulation Period and Daniel's seventieth week are the same period. It is well to note that during the Tribulation:
1. The Holy Spirit restrains evil no longer.
2. Christians as light and salt are removed.
3. Satan knows he has but a short time.
4. Evil men are free to carry out their wicked plans.
5. There is direct judgment from God.
The Tribulation is triggered from Heaven. Jesus directs the whole operation. The Tribulation does not break suddenly like a tornado. The opening of the seals is gradual, logical and chronological. They are opened one at a time. The first four which send forth the four horsemen represent four great cosmic events which penetrate and influence the entire social structure in every continent and race. These are revolutionary global movements.
I. The Rider on the White Horse (verses 1 and 2) -- The first seal opened
Verse 1 -- The living one is not speaking to John but to the rider on the white horse as if to say, "come or go, it is time to do what you are going to do."
Verse 2 -- This rider is the "little horn" of Daniel chapter seven, the one who makes a covenant with the Jews in Daniel 9:27, the Man of Sin, the ruler of the restored Roman Empire and the final world dictator, and the counterfeit Christ. He comes to power by ushering in a false peace. He comes imitating Jesus (riding on a white horse) (Revelation 19). The world will think it is entering the Millennium when it is actually entering the Tribulation (I Thessalonians 5:3).
II. The Rider on the Red Horse (verses 3 and 4) -- the opening of the Second Seal -- The peace which the rider on the white horse will bring to the earth will be temporary. Soon after the Tribulation begins war will come on the earth. What this will involve we are not told. It may be the events of Daniel, chapter 11:40-42.
The characteristic of the end-time age is "Wars and rumors of wars" (Matthew 24:6). Therefore, the hope of permanent peace by means of the United Nations is doomed to failure.
III. The Rider on a Black Horse (verses 5 and 6) -- The opening of the Third Seal
The color of the black horse speaks of mourning and famine (Jeremiah 4:28; Malachi 3:14; Lamentations 5:10). The balances indicate a scarcity of food. A measure of what is approximately on quart. A "penny" was the normal day's wage for a laborer. Imagine a day's wage only buying a quart of wheat. The depression of the 1930's was nothing compared to the one that is coming to the world during the Tribulation. A working man will be unable to support his family in that day.
The oil and wine symbolize luxury. There will be none in that day for folks will not have the means by which to purchase them.
IV. The Rider on the Pale Horse (verses 7 and 8)
Hell here is hades. The place of the dead is pictured here as a terrible monster about to seize people. This seems to indicate that the sword, famine, (death), pestilence and wild beasts will decimate by 1/4 the population of the earth. There are now about three billion people on the earth. If 1/4 are destroyed at this time then 750 million people will die.
The pale horse represents plague and pestilence that will stalk the earth. It also can involve germ warfare. Dr. Frank Holtman, head of the University of Tennessee, bacteriological department made this statement, "While the greater part of a city's population could be destroyed by an atomic bomb, the bacteria method might easily wipe out the entire population within a week. The virus causing psittacosis or parrot fever, one of the most deadly of human diseases, is appraised by the scientists as the most preferable for this purpose. While the cost of producing psittacosis bombs is comparatively cheap, its lethal potency is high. Less than one cubic centimeter of this virus is required to infect twenty million human beings when released in the air as infinitesimal spray."
The Bible does not tell us when the middle of the Tribulation begins. Some believe the "Great Tribulation, or the last three and one-half years will begin with the fourth horseman. Others believe it will begin with the opening of the sixth seal, for verse seventeen says "the great day of His wrath has come." Others believe it begins with the events of Chapter Eleven. Since the Bible does not definitely indicate, we think it wise not to be dogmatic. At any rate, the last three and one-half years will be more terrible than the first three and one-half years.
V. The Tribulation Martyrs (verses 9-11) -- The opening of the Fifth Seal
"Under the altar, the souls of them slain for the Word of God." They were seen under the altar because of the way in which they died, these Christian martyrs are like the Old Testament sacrifices whose blood was poured out at the bottom of the altar (Leviticus 4:25). These were slain after the Rapture because these were souls and they had not as yet their resurrection bodies. Those raptured have resurrected bodies. Note: Every time a person dies for Jesus they are giving the supreme sacrifice. Note: They were killed for their testimony. The time is rapidly coming when real believers will be killed for their testimony. Note: They were seen! The dead in Christ are still alive! The false idea that when men die they cease to be is answered here. These saints were with Jesus. White robes were given unto them. They are clothed in the Righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 61:10; Romans 3:22). Notice their cry: "How long?" They will be so anxious to gain their Glorified bodies and gain vengeance upon those who killed them. Even as they will be longing for their glorified bodies, even now do those who have gone on to Heaven long for their glorified bodies and the Rapture of the living saints. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
VI. The World's Greatest Prayer Meeting (verses 12-17) -- The opening of the Sixth Seal
"A Great Earthquake" -- The whole earth will shake, jolt, and toss. Every mountain and island will be moved out of its place.
"The Sun became black" -- People will panic when suddenly there is no light from the sun and the moon will be blood red.
"The Stars of Heaven" -- Meteors and objects from Heaven will fall to the earth (verse 13). On November 13, 1833, a night like this happened and the people were scared to death. On that night, for nearly three hours, fiery balls filled the sky and people were horrified.
"The Heaven Departed as a Scroll" -- A tremendous supernatural change in the sky will startle the people on earth into realizing God is on His throne watching them.
God is trying through His preachers and through His churches and through various other means to get people's attention today, but they will not listen. They will in this day. He will get their attention during the Tribulation, but then it will be too late.
THE EFFECT UPON EARTH DWELLERS (verses 15-17)
1. The Pray-ers (verse 15) -- Every strata of society:
Kings -- who thought they were too powerful for Jesus
Great Men -- who thought they were too great for Jesus
Rich Men -- who thought they were too wealthy for God
Soldiers -- who thought they were too strong for God
All Christ Rejectors
These are the ones who laugh at the prayer meeting crowd now. They will do lots of praying then, themselves.
2. The Hiding
3. The Object of Their Prayers -- Prayed to the rocks -- They would not pray to the Rock of Ages before the Rapture, so now they pray to the rocks to fall on them.
4. Their Prayer -- To die and be hidden from Jesus -- They could have prayed once and been hidden in Jesus. Your choice: Hide in Jesus or Hide from Jesus.
5. A Great Question They Ask -- Who shall be able to stand? None will be able to stand against his wrath. How foolish are those who reject Him. One day they will answer to Him. How foolish for one to be here during the Tribulation when they could be with Jesus.
God has planned some awful and terrifying events for the Tribulation Period. How much better it will be to be watching them from Heaven and not be awed and caught by them on the earth. If you are not saved, accept Christ today and assure yourself you will not be here when the awful day of His wrath shall come.