Scripture quotations taken from the NASB

Time of Tribulation

Seven-sealed Scroll

God, the Father, gave Jesus Christ information about "things which must soon take place" (Rev 1:1) which constitutes a revelation because it is not something which has been heretofor shared. They are "the words of the prophecy" (:3) "which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants" (:1). Since Christ told John, "'Write in a book what you see'" (:11) we are to "heed the things which are written in it" (:3). When Christ received the revelation "He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John" (:1) who said "I heard behind me a loud voice" (:10). When he looked behind him he saw "one like a son of man" (:13) and then "fell at His feet like a dead man" (:17). The personage replied, "'I am the first and the last, and the living One'" (:17-18). He had said, "'I am the Alpha and the Omega . . . who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty'" (:8). Since the voice John heard was the ascended and glorified Christ and it was spoken "by His angel" (:1) then it is his one-and-the-same supernatural, spiritual presence. That doesn't mean that an unbeliever can't read it, but does it mean that that person will understand that "every eye will see Him . . . and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him"? (:7).

The scene is around God's heavenly throne where the elders say, "'Worthy are You . . . for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created'" (Rev 4:11). Then John saw "in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written in the inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals" (5:1). After the Lamb took the book they said, "'Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals, for you were slain, and purchased [men] for God with Your blood'" (:9). It was "the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" (Ac 20:28). After Pentecost "the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved" (2:47). He "gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession (Titus 2:14). The starting point for all this is that "the earth is the Lord's, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it" (Ps 24:1). God explained to the Israelites that, "'The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me. Thus for every piece of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land'" (Lev 25:23-24). Boaz' close relative told him, "'You may have my right of redemption'" (Ruth 3:6) and therefore Boaz told the elders, "'You are witnesses today that I have bought'" the land (:9). "'Moreover, I have acquired Ruth the Moabitess'" (:10) who became part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Consequently Christ paid the ransom for us "having obtained eternal redemption" (Heb 9:12) making him "the mediator of a new covenant . . . since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions" (:15). "A covenant is valid only when men are dead" (:17).

The First Seal

In Israel when property was purchased it was recorded in a scroll. Jeremiah was told to, "'Buy for yourself my field . . . for you have the right of redemption to buy it'" (Jer 32:7). He said, "'I signed and sealed the deed, and called in witnesses'" (:10). Then if the originator of the covenant dies, the will/deed is opened and the instructions in it are executed to fulfill the inheritance. "In the right hand of Him who sat on the throne [was] a scroll" (Rev 5:1). But it was "like the words of a sealed book, which when they give it to the one who is literate, saying, 'Please read this,' he will say, 'I cannot, for it is sealed'" (Isa 29:11). Then a disconsolate John was told "'the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals'" (:5). There were sticks on both ends of the scroll, and as the scribe recorded the document, it would be rolled and sections would be sealed with a clay marker having an authentic mark put on it so that only a person with a matching signet ring would be permitted to open the seal. Then "He came and took the [seven-sealed] book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne" (:7). He received the title deed to the earth and would proceed with its redemption and to reposses all that is his.

John "saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals" (Rev 6:1). He was the center of attention as the kinsman-redeemer as he broke the seals, however, the title deed of the earth wasn't a description of his inheritance, but rather describing the process of events involved in reclaiming what was his through a series of judgments. Each step is announced by one of the living creatures for something to take place. Firstly, a white horse appeared and "he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer" (:2). "The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory belongs to the Lord" (Pr 21:31). "The day of the Lord is coming" (Joel 2:1) and "there is a great and mighty people" (:2). "Their appearance is like the appearance of horses; and like war horses, so they run" (:4). "The Lord opened the servant's eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha" (2Ki 6:17).

The White Horse

This horse was white. That color has an association with God and Christ was worthy "to receive glory and honor and power" (Rev 5:11) which originates from the "great white throne and Him who [sits] upon it" (20:11). "Thrones were set up, and the ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool" (Da 7:9). White is also associated with holiness and righteousness. "It was given to her [the bride] to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints" (Rev 19:8). Isaiah prophesied, "'Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow'" (Isa 1:18). David prayed, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow" (Ps 51:7). Daniel was told, "'Many will be purged, purified and refined" (Da 12:10). There was a multitude "standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes" (Rev 6:9) who "have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb" (:14).

There was a rider on the white horse who had "a bow, and a crown" (Rev 6:1) but it doesn't say that he was wearing white clothes. The crown in Greek is the word stephanos and its shape is that of the garland or wreath which is given as a victor's crown for a prize having won an athletic contest. It could also be a token of public honor as an emblem for a military victory. The rider "went out conquering and to conquer" (:2) which has to do with overcoming and prevailing over your enemies. But sitting on a white cloud "was one like a son of man having a golden crown on His head" (14:14). Even later John "saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war . . . and on His dead are many diadems" (19:11-12). However, the stephanos which the rider on the horse wore "was given to him" (6:2) as a reward for a worldly achievement and it was not a royal crown which bonifide kings wore. God controls what happens by giving certain authority but draws the line where "they were not permitted to kill anyone" (9:5). A key . . . was given to him" (:1) and "power was given them" (:3). "There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words" (13:5) and "to make war with the saints and to overcome them" (:7). There were "signs which it was given him to perform" (:14) and "it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast" (:15). Jesus warned, "'See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My Name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many'" (Mt 24:4-5). "'False Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect'" (:24).

Four Horses

The rider on the white horse already "had a bow" (Rev 6:2) and it didn't have to be given to him. The bow is an instrument of war but is more like artillery being shot from a distance as opposed to close quarters fighting as with using a "great sword" (:4) which the next rider on the red horse used. Habakkuk questioned God's tactics "that You rode on Your horses, on Your chariots of salvation?" (Hab 3:8). "Your bow was made bare, the rods of chastisement were sworn" (:9). "If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready. He has also prepared for Himself deadly weapons; He makes His arrows fiery shafts" (Ps 7:12-13). "Your arrows are sharp; the peoples fall under You" (45:5). Elisha prophesied, "'The Lord's arrow of victory'" (2Ki 2:17). "He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver" (Isa 49:2). But the rider of the white horse had no quiver of arrows so how could he go forth to conquer? It has been suggested that this is a bloodless conquest achieved through diplomacy. "He will make a firm covenant with the many for one week" (Da 9:27). The emphasis is on "conquering and to conquer" (Rev 6:2). It is a worldwide movement promoting peace because the next rider "was granted to take peace from the earth" (:4). But it is not just peace and prosperity because the white color mimics the scriptures of God's purposes in answer to their question, "'When will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and the end of the age?'" (Mt 24:3). Some refer to Jesus' Olivet Discourse as a rendition of a mini-apocalypse, and deception is a significant facet where he warns, "'Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many'" (:11) and others will fool you and "'will mislead many'" (:5) so, "'See to it that no one misleads you'" (:4). They "'will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possibe, even the elect'" (:24).

The breaking of the seals precipitates judgment. It is referred to as God's "day of wrath" (Ro 2:5) and "day of reckoning" (Isa 2:12). It is "the day of the Lord's anger" (2:3) and "the day of trouble" (Ps 27:5). It is the "day of the Lord" (Joel 2:1) and "the great day of God" (Rev 16:14). It is a "unique day" (14:7) which is "His day" (Lk 17:24). "It is the time of Jacob's distress" (Jer 30:7). The seven seals represent the entire tribulation period, however, the seventh is composed of seven trumpet judgments, and the seventh trumpet is composed of seven bowl judgments. The first four seals take place in the first half of the tribulation period. Horses with riders appear and they represent respectively conquest, war, famine and death. The riders are not personalities per se because they represent impersonal forces and major movements which are to be interpreted together. Prophetically there was a group of four colored horses "'whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth'" (Zec 1:10). "'These are the four spirits of heaven, going forth after standing before the Lord of all the earth'" (6:5). "With the first chariot were red horses, with the second chariot black horses, with the third chariot white horses, and with the fourth chariot strong dappled horses" (:2-3). Jesus described this period as "'merely the beginning of birth pangs'" (Mt 24:8). Then when all the seals will have been traversed the gospel will have been preached to the "'whole world . . . and then the end will come'" (:14).


Does the serious tribulation begin at a certain scheduled time? "'It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority'" (Ac 1:7). "'Of that day and hour no one knows'" (Mt 24:36). "You do not know which day your Lord is coming'" (:42). "'The Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will'" (:44). But there is a schedule, because in Jesus' situation, he recognized that "'the hour has come'" (Jn 17:1). Christ told the church in Philadelphia, "'I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world'" (Rev 3:10). He didn't say that to the other churches. When did they think that would be? There were "the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do" (1Ch 12:32). The churches had the Old Testament for reference, and by then, the gospels and Paul's letters had been circulated. Jesus said, "'I am coming quickly'" (Rev 3:11). Would they have interpreted that as coming within their lifetime, or did they have insights into prophetic leaps into the future? Daniel was told, "'Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time'" (Da 12:9). There is an announcement coming instructing to, "'Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come'" (Rev 14:7). "'Therefore be on the alert'" (Mt 24:42).

Tribulation was already present. Paul acknowledged that the Thessalonians had "received the word in much tribulation" (1Th 1:6). Jesus taught "'affliction or persecution arises because of the word'" (Mt 13:21). John said that he was a "partaker in the tribulation . . . because of the word of God" (Rev 1:9). Paul taught the word and cited "all of our affliction" (2Co 7:4) and asked them to "share with me in my affliction" (Php 4:14). He said "do not lose heart at my tribulation on your behalf" (Eph 3:13). They were "servants of God . . . in afflictions, in hardships, in distress" (2Co 6:4). He explained "our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life" (1:8). He acknowldeged the "great deal of affliction . . . and their deep poverty" (8:2). He cited the "persecutions and afflictions which you endure" (2Th 1:4). Nonetheless "near is the great day of the Lord" (Zep 1:14). "Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it" (Jer 30:7). "The day of the Lord is indeed great and very awesome, and who can endure it? (Joel 2:11). "'For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will'" (Mt 24:21). "'Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short'" (:22). John "saw under the altar the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held" (Rev 6:9). "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation" (7:14). Therefore you shouldn't generalize from what was said in Revelation about being kept from "the hour of testing" (3:10).

False Christs

Where does the antichrist fit into the tribulation? Jesus warned that "'false Christs and false prophets will arise'" (Mt 24:24). The Greek word is pseudochristos. Then there is another Greek word antichristos which John uses to say that "you heard that antichrist is coming" (1Jn 2:18). Anti here means against or opposed to Christ. It can also refer to that prophesied person in the future who appears in place of Christ as a counterfeit. Curiously in the same verse John says that "even now many antichrists (Greek plural antichristoi) have appeared" (:18). Even though the "abomination of desolation" (Mt 24:15) is predicted, a preview of antichrists is currently underway because "from this we know that it is the last hour" (1Jn 2:18). "The mystery of lawlessness is already at work" (2Th 2:7). It is "the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world" (1Jn 4:3). Man was created as body, soul and spirit. When you "test the spirits to see whether they are from God" (:1) you are measuring the spiritual truthfulness of a person using discernment. You can also question a person and "every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God" (:2). "False prophets" (1Jn 4:1) as well as "many deceivers have gone out into the world, [and] those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ . . . [are] the deceiver and the antichrist" (2Jn 7). These antichrist precursors embody the deceiving spirit and nature of that future representative. John cites that they were from the church saying "they went out from us" (1Jn 2:19) by deserting the congregation. What substantiates their position is that "if they had been of us, they would have remained with us" (:19). "It will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction" (2Th 2:3). John therefore advises, "Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished" (2Jn 8).

"Do not love the world nor the things in the world" (1Jn 2:15). "They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them" (4:5). "We are from God; he who knows God listens to us" (:6). "Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God" (2Jn 9). "Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son" (1Jn 2:22). Be "the one who abides in the teaching" (2Jn 9) and if anyone "does not bring this teaching, do not receive him" (:10). "Let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning" (1Jn 2:24). "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Ro 10:17). "You have been born again . . . through the living and abiding word of God" (1Pe 1:23). We "have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know" (1Jn 2:20) the truth. "By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error" (4:6). But "a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God . . . because they are spiritually appraised" (1Co 2:14). The coming of the lawless one is "with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved" (2Th 2:10). They "believe what is false" (:11) and will "be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness" (:12).

The Antichrist

Jesus said that at the end of the age there would be wars, famines, earthquakes, killing, betrayal, deception, hatred and lawlessness (Mt 24:3-12). However, "'It is not yet the end'" (:6) but "'merely the beginning of birth pangs'" (:8). One sign of that period when "'there will be great tribulation'" (:21) is "'when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place'" (:15). "'On the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate'" (Da 9:27). This causes horror, makes appalled, lays waste, ruins and destroys. "'He will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering'" (:27). A prophetic type points to this as when in 168 B.C. Antiochus Epiphanes set up an altar in the temple to the pagan god Zeus Olympius and sacrificed a pig on it.

Jesus warned, "'When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand'" (Lk 21:20). Gabriel told Daniel, "'The people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined'" (Da 9:27). Jesus had said, "'Not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down'" (Mt 24:2) and that "'your house is being left to you desolate!'" (23:38). Then in 70 A.D. Titus, the son of Roman Emporer Vespasian, attacked and destroyed Jerusalem. This is a prophetic fulfillment but there is also another future application concerning the one who "'will make a firm covenant with the many for one week'" (Da 9:27). It is prophetic of "a beast coming out of the sea" (Rev 13:1) who is called the Antichrist. "That lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming" (2Th 2:8). It is "'even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate'" (Da 9:27).

Some think that it is a picture of Christ who "'will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering'" (Da 9:27) because "He is the mediator of a new covenant . . . since a death has taken place for the redemption" (Heb 9:15). But this is not the ultimate fulfillment of the promise of "a covenant previously ratified by God" (Gal 3:17). Upon Jesus' sacrifice "the Sanhedrin repaired the veil and continued animal sacrifices. Isaiah prophesied God's response saying "'their soul delights in their abominations, so I will choose their punishments, and I will bring on them what they dread'" (Isa 66:3-4). Some see progressive states of the prophecy being fulfilled. Paul refers to "the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God" (2Th 2:4). He makes people "to worship the first beast" (Rev 13:12) and to "cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed" (:15). Nonetheless, "'the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world . . . and then the end shall come'" (Mt 24:14). "'The one who endures to the end, it is he who shall be saved'" (:13).