Part One – A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 1-3
Part Two – A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 4-5
Brief recap: we began with a message from Jesus Christ to His churches (ch 1-3). Last time we heard the church called to heaven (“Come up here”) and we saw that God on His sovereign throne is in command. And we saw all attention turn to God the Son, Jesus Christ, in the center of God’s throne (Rev 5:6). And we saw that in all of heaven, only Christ alone was worthy to open the seals that would begin the divine judgment that God would use to begin to finally deal with the problem of evil once and for all. We find that there will be three waves of divine judgment on earth: the seven seal judgments (Rev 6-7), the seven trumpet judgments (Rev 8-15), and the seven bowl judgments (Rev 16). As we begin Revelation chapter six we see Christ open the first of the seven seals.
There are a couple of ways of looking at these three waves of judgment that make sense. One has the virtue of being the easiest to describe: that the opening of the seventh seal releases the seven trumpet judgments, and the seventh trumpet releases the seven bowl judgments. That is the view significantly held by Robert Thomas as well as Tim LaHaye. The other view is to see these three septets of judgment as coming in cycles, with all three final judgments occurring at the threshold of the parousia (return of Christ). The argument against the first view would be that it would entail nuclear-war-like phenomena occurring very early in the Tribulation. But let me simply put it this way: when these events happen, we will see that the book of Revelation makes sense; it will be the world that is crazy.
The first four seals of the seven seal judgments are the four horsemen of the Apocalypse (Antichrist-white horse; war-red horse; economic collapse-black horse; mass death-pale horse). The Antichrist is the very first divine judgment of the tribulation. It will be a case where God gives the people the leader they deserve. I might have told you prior to our election that Antichrist was listed first on the basis that the list was given in terms of priority – and Antichrist is the most prominent and most important of the four horsemen. And I may then have pointed out that the whole world was going to worship the beast (e.g., Rev 13:4), and why would they worship the beast if he had just destroyed their economy? That said, the results from our election may put the kibosh on that theory: because people turned out to support the president regardless of how bad the economy is, didn’t they? Somehow, between the Antichrist’s incredible charisma and the people’s depravity and amorality, the world will largely continue to follow and worship the beast no matter how terribly he ruins the planet around him. It’s really quite an amazing thing. And I think we’re seeing hints of that incredible blindness that will characterize the world right now today.
Antichrist carries a bow, symbolizing he will be a master of the art of war; but he will be able to rise to power winning bloodless victories by political conquests. The white horse he rides is symbolic of the righteousness he will falsely present to the world. Beth Moore pointed out something really insightful in her study on Daniel: namely, that both Daniel and the Antichrist to come were given “wisdom.” Daniel used his gift to untie or untangle the visions so that the truth could be clearly understood. Antichrist will use his wisdom in exactly the opposite way: to so tangle the truth in so many knots with his words that no one will be able to understand the truth from his lies and what is right from his deceitful framing of the narrative.
I go back to the Ten Plagues to understand how these future judgments will unfold. Many have found “natural explanations” to “explain” the Plagues; such as a toxic algal bloom causing the first plague of the water turning to blood, which then set up the conditions for the subsequent plagues to occur in a natural cascade. Give me all the “natural explanations” you want, but the God who created nature did it. Many of the events of the Tribulation will likely be the results of man trying to solve one crisis and creating unintended consequences that fly out of control; but God sovereignly knew that that would happen without His direct intervention 3,000 years ago. What I am looking at right now is man setting up many of the events that the Book of Revelation describes – including the mark of the beast. And we all understand how good man is at imposing a dictatorship, ruining an economy, starting a terrible war, or creating famines and diseases that we see riding into town in the form of the four horsemen.
I often ask myself the question, “How do we get from the current state of world affairs to the Antichrist and his fellow horsemen? I very much believe that history is on the verge of what Rev 6 describes, and that it won’t take a great deal to “nudge” us over the cliff and into the arms of Antichrist. Right now, the three primary economies on earth – the United States, Europe and China – are all facing serious challenges. In America our true debt isn’t the $16 trillion that many worry about; it is now well over $222 trillion and it grew by $11 trillion last year. If we have a true catastrophic financial collapse, what will the world look like? And my answer would be, “Like the Book of Revelation describes.” The same is true of a terrifying war in the Middle East that either goes nuclear or almost does. As the terrified world tries to come to grips with a crisis that could drag Russia and the US into World War III, you can easily see the Antichrist beginning to emerge as “the man with all the answers.” So many of the events described in Revelation are already in place, just waiting for the “trigger,” and all it will take is one final jolt for all the gears to start turning exactly as Revelation said they would. Interestingly, with all the computers that (e.g.) allow governments to simply add zeroes to artificially increase the size of their money supplies, we are more vulnerable to catastrophic chaos than we have ever been in the entire history of the world.
As an example of the above, and an example of the nexus between finance and war, look up a UK Telegraph article entitled, “How the Fed triggered the Arab Spring uprisings in two easy graphs.” We have now seen the Arab/Muslim world in turmoil for two years; here’s why: all oil is sold only in US dollars, and so most oil-producing states are backed by the dollar. When we devalued our currency through QE1, QE2, Operation Twist, and recently “QE Forever,” our devalued dollar forced sky-high commodity (food!) prices on the Arab world that these economies couldn’t compensate for merely by raising the price of their oil because the imbalance was too great in terms of all the other commodities they needed. There’s a strong case to be made that the “Arab Spring” which is continuing to this day is essentially a series of food riots triggered by US monetary policies. Here’s another example of the collapse waiting to happen: a top derivatives expert in May estimated the size of the global derivatives market at $1,200 TRILLION ($1.2 quadrillion), which is twenty times the size of the entire global economy. These clever financial gimmicks are way past insane.
It’s not “if” the economy will catastrophically implode, it’s WHEN. And in my gut I feel it coming.
The fifth seal (Rev 6:9-11) is the mass martyrdom of those who come to Christ AFTER the Rapture during the Tribulation. And the sixth seal (Rev 6:12-17) appears to be a massive nuclear exchange. Hal Lindsey pointed out that in a nuclear blast, the atmosphere rolls back in on itself (“like a scroll when it is rolled together”) as the blast creates a massive vacuum. On the LaHaye view, this would happen within the first 21 months of the Tribulation (the Seal judgments occur during the 1st 21 months, the Trumpet judgments occur during the 2nd 21 months, and the Bowl judgments occur during the 2nd half (42 months) of the Tribulation. 42 divided by 12 months = 3.5 years. On the cyclic view presented by Grant Osborne, that 6th seal “nuke” would occur just before Christ returned to earth as King of kings. And I submit that the “massive nuclear exhange” could be something like a super volcano eruption. There are five super volncanoes located around the world – and the eruption of any one of them would be so catastrophic that it would literally amount to a crisis that could threaten human civilization.
Chapter six ends with the question being asked, “who is able to stand?” Chapter seven answers that!
Revelation chapter 7 presents an interlude between the sixth and seventh seal judgments. What is happening here? 144,000 literal Jews from each of the 12 Tribes of Israel are gathered and commissioned by God as Christ’s witnesses during the Tribulation. It’s an amazing thing that with DNA today we can actually know stuff like this; BUT GOD KNEW ALL ALONG who His people were.
There are two incredibly important truths that need to be understood: the first is that God never leaves Himself without a witness. I believe that the Rapture of the Church will be the event that God uses to raise up His 144,000 messianic Jews, who will finally realize that the crazy Christians were right all along. And this is because of the second important truth: that God is not done with His people the Jews or with national Israel. We don’t have time to delve into it, but Daniel 9 presents a divine timetable for Israel of “seventy sevens” or 490 years to fulfill their divine mission. Interestingly, seven years are “missing” and the divine clock is paused at 483 years with seven years yet to come. God is going to give the Jews their final seven years, and the Jews will make up for every failure by evangelizing the whole world in that time. And we find in Rev 7 that God is merciful and loving even in the midst of judgment, isn’t He?
Consider Romans chapters 9-11. In Romans 9 Paul describes the ELECTION of Israel as God’s chosen people; in Romans 10 Paul describes the REJECTION of Israel due to her unbelief in her Messiah. And in Romans 11 the complete RESTORATION of Israel. The complete restoration of Israel will come to pass in the book of Revelation. In Romans 11:25, Paul refers to “the fullness of the Gentiles.” That time will be marked by the Rapture of the Church, and then it will be God’s divine timing for the Jews to shine as they have never shined before. God NEVER abandons His people and God NEVER forgets His promises. God will use the Tribulation to sovereignly deliver Israel to that point where she finally “looks on Me whom they pierced” (Zech 12:10). Israel will be prepared to experience every single blessing that God promised Israel would have in the Old Testament with their Messiah personally ruling and reigning from the throne of David in Jerusalem.
In Rev 7:2, you see four angels holding the four winds with the power to harm the land and the sea. What is amazing to me today is that it used to be “religious crazies” who would warn us that the world is about to end. Now it’s “scientific crazies” who tell us that global warming will be our doomsday. We find that MANY prophecies of the Tribulation involve freak weather conditions and storms of unimaginable intensity. Jesus described “global warming” on steroids 2,000 years ago (Luke 21:25-26). And what the world has done is something the world will ALWAYS do: taken a divine fulfillment of the Bible (freakish weather screaming that earth is in the last days) and transform it into some kind of evidence of secular humanism necessitating still more human government control. God is giving mankind divine warning after divine warning, but sinful man will NEVER correctly interpret any of it and perverts those warnings to his agenda.
Part Four: A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 8-9
Part Seven: A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 14-15
Part Eight: A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 16-18