INDUCTIVE STUDIES ON REVELATION
The Three Cycles of God's Wrath
THE SCRIPTURES (6:1-17)
1 And I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, "Come." 2 And I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.
3 And when He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, "Come." 4 And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men should slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.
5 And when He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, "Come." And I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. 6 And I heard as it were a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine."
7 And when He broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, "Come." 8 And I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. And authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.
9 And when He broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" 11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, should be completed also.
12 And I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 14 And the sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 15 And the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"
So much of Revelation is a development of Daniel 9:24-27 and an application of the Daniel 9 passage to John's situation at the end of the first century. According to Daniel 9:24-27 a certain period of seven years will be crucial at the end of the history of the world. What triggers those 7 years is the treaty (firm covenant) that the Antichrist makes with the many (????). During the middle of those 7 years (3 1/2 years into the tribulation), this Antichrist will break that treaty and commit an act so abominable that God will pour out great desolation upon him and his followers. (Both John in Revelation in chapter 11 and Paul in 2 Thess. 2 indicate that this abominable deed is none other than the Antichrist declaring himself to be God.) During those final 3 1/2 years Antichrist is unleashed upon the people of God (see Rev. 13:5-7). Only at the end of the full 7 years (the second 3 1/2 years) does Christ return and conquer the Antichrist.
Now why do we look to Daniel 9 and now just stick with Revelation? When studying the teachings of Jesus, we discovered that nearly all (if not all) the rest of the NT is flowing out of the teachings of Christ. I really don't know of any teaching of Paul, John, Peter, etc., which doesn't have its roots in the teachings of Christ. The same applies to the teachings on the end times. Jesus deals with just this very topic in Matt. 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. In His teaching, Jesus actually points us to the Daniel passage on the abomination of desolation (Matt. 24:15; Dan. 9:27). Now if Jesus directs us there, then we should go there.
If we have understood both Daniel 9 and Revelation correctly (that is a BIG, HUGE "if"), then the events we are about to look begin to occur halfway during the tribulation, at the midpoint, 3 1/2 years into the tribulation. The "treaty" has been made and broken, Antichrist has declared himself to be God, God is now about to pour out wrath upon him, and he in turn in going to persecute mercilessly God's people who have rejected his claims. From John's standpoint the persecution of God's people has already begun. They, from John's perspective, have already entered into the second half of the Great
Tribulation, the period of God pouring out His wrath upon the Antichrist and his followers and of Antichrist destroying Christ's followers on earth.
COMMON FEATURES AMONG THE SEALS, THE TRUMPETS, AND THE BOWLS OF WRATH
In a little bit we are going to look at each individual seal of wrath and then each individual trumpet and bowl of wrath. Before we do though, let's look at some similarities between the 3 sequences of wrath being poured out upon the earth. The chart below will give a brief summary of the different plagues being poured out upon the enemies of God's people.
|NUMBER OF PLAGUE||SEALS (Rev. 7)||TRUMPETS (Rev. 8-9)||BOWLS (Rev. 16)|
|One||The White Horse and the Conqueror||Hail and Fire upon the Earth||Loathsome Sore upon Followers of the Beast|
|Two||The Red Horse and the Warrior||Fiery Mountain Thrown into the Sea||The Sea Turns into Blood|
|Three||The Black Horse and Its Rider
|The Fresh Waters Turn Bitter||All the Fresh Waters Turn into Blood|
|Four||The Ashen (Green) Horse with Death and Hades
|A Third of the Heavenly Bodies
|The Sun Scorches All People
Who Worship the Beast
|Five||The Martyrs Beneath the Altar
Which is Before God
|Plague of "Locusts"||The Kingdom of the Beast
|Six||Sun Turned Black
Moon Blood Red
|Eastern Army of 200 million Men||Armageddon|
|Seven||Opening of the Seven Trumpets||Opening of the Seven Bowls of Wrath||All is Destroyed|
PATTERN AMONG THE DIFFERENT SERIES OF PLAGUES
Just a cursory glance at the plagues reveals a limited pattern which runs through the trumpets, and bowls. For example, the first plague in the trumpets and bowls affects the earth itself. The second plague in the trumpets and bowls affects the oceans (salt water bodies), while the third plague in these 2 sequences affect the fresh waters. The fourth plague affects the heavenly bodies, and the sixth plague in both the trumpets and bowls brings forth great armies from the east (200,000,000 men in the 6th trumpet and the armies gathering together at Armageddon in the 6th bowl of wrath).
The fact that some of the plagues in the bowls duplicates some of the plagues in the trumpets has led some NT interpreters to claim that the seals/trumpets/bowls are basically all the same plagues being poured out at the same time. According to these NT interpreters John just divides them into 3 sequences for a more dramatic effect.
That interpretation may be correct. We can't PROVE it is wrong; however, further analysis probably indicates that the bowls are not duplicating the trumpets but instead follow after the trumpets. The reason this second analysis seems more accurate is that the wrath poured out by the bowls is more intense and complete than the wrath brought forth by the trumpets. The trumpets lead to 1/3 of the world being destroyed, whereas the bowls of wrath bring out complete destruction. These 2 sequences may be referring to the same events; however, if they are, then John has done a pretty pitiful job in communicating that to us.
P.S. The interpreters who claim that these plagues are basically one and the same don't really take the plagues all that seriously.
UNIQUENESS OF THE 3 SEQUENCES
Although there are numerous similarities among the 3 series of plagues, one noticeable element distinguishes the seals from the trumpets and the trumpets from the seals. According to John how much of the earth, etc., will the seals impact (Rev. 6:8)?
How much of the earth, etc., will the trumpets impact (Rev. 8:7)?
How much of the earth, etc., will the bowls of wrath affect (Rev. 16:3)?
What we are seeing here is a growing intensity on the part of the plagues.
It just keeps getting worse and worse and worse and worse. Even though the plagues get worse, how do unbelievers respond to God (Rev. 16: 11)?
ALLUSIONS TO ANOTHER MAJOR EVENT IN THE PAST
As you study Revelation, you are going to see some similarities between the events in Revelation with another event which occurred in the lives of God's people. According to Rev. 16:9 what does John call the terrible punishment God pours out upon the enemies of His people?
Does that word remind you of another event which occurred in the Bible? If so, which event?
Do the 4th trumpet and the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th bowls of wrath remind you of any other event which occurred in the past? If so, which one?
According to Rev. 15:3 God's people during the Great Tribulation sing the song of __________________ the bond-servant of God and the song of the Lamb.
What is John trying to communicate to us? What God has done in the past gives us an idea of what He is going to do in the future. (This actually is a theme of another of one of John's books, The Fourth Gospel). John is telling us in Revelation that a greater Moses has come to save His people, that the Exodus under the first Moses pales in comparison to the final Exodus of God's people; that the salvation Moses gave his people is a tiny preview of the even greater salvation Christ will give His people at the end of time. There is continuity between the past and the future. The past story of God's dealings with His people points us to an even greater future God has for His people.