What will the coming Tribulation look like? (1)


Various opinions exist in the church about how the last days scenario will unfold, but most of us agree that a Tribulation period of seven years will be part of it. Scripture is very clear on this matter, and already we can see the world preparing the road for it to happen. Also known as the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7) and Daniel’s Seventieth Week (Daniel 9:27), Jesus Himself spoke about it:

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. Matthew 24:21

Some people argue that there has always been tribulation on the earth, and that is true. God’s people have always been persecuted and martyred for their faith. Horrible atrocities happen even in our day where believers are subjected to the most cruel treatment, and many are being beheaded. We have lost one of our students to Boko Haram in Nigeria where Christians have been experiencing genocide for decades. Jesus Himself warned us that following Him would be an invitation for trouble:

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Having said that, however, none of the horrors that humanity endured since the beginning of time can compare with The Seven Year Tribulation that is around the corner. It is a distinct period of time during which God will release His anger on those who rejected the One whom He sent to save us from His wrath.

The Bible gives us very detailed information about those terrible years. There will be increasingly tight control over our lives until the Tribulation finally begins. Escalating erosion of freedom of movement and speech, economic hardship, food scarcity, wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, ethnic unrest, deception (rampant fake news), and pestilences mark the “beginning of sorrows.” (Matthew 24:4-8)

How will the coming Tribulation be different from the persecutions that have become synonymous with the Christian faith? The book of Revelation tells us. Three sets of woes will be released upon the earth, announced by the opening of the seals on a scroll, trumpet sounds, and bowls (vials) that are poured out. Read about this in Revelation 5-16. We provide a short summary of the first half of the Tribulation period in this article. In the first set of woes, Jesus is handed a scroll that is sealed with seven seals.

  • When He opens the first seal, (Revelation 6:1-17) a rider on a white horse appears. This seems to be the anti-Christ who comes to take up his rule in a one-world government that will initially be peaceful, with many welcoming him as one who brings peace to a troubled world. He will be an eloquent speaker, economic and military genius, and charismatic personality.
  • When the second seal is opened, a red horse begins to ride. It’s rider has permission to take peace from the earth, “and that people should kill one another.” The hatred that we already see in the world will continue to escalate to mass violence everywhere.
  • The opening of the third seal releases a black horse with a rider holding a pair of scales in his hand. This event introduces high inflation resulting in a worldwide famine.
  • The opening of the fourth seal sees a pale (Greek: chlorōs = green) horse depart. It’s rider’s name is Death, and Hades (Hell) follows with him. Power is given to them over a fourth of the earth to kill with the sword, with hunger, with death, and by animals.
  • As Jesus opens the fifth seal, the martyrs that are under the altar in heaven come into view. These are saints who who were killed for the Word of God and their testimony. They were crying out for revenge, but were told to have a little more patience until the number of those, who will still be martyred, is complete. Many who repent during the Tribulation will be martyred for their faith in the Lord. They will not be part of the church though, because the church will be in heaven at that time.
  • When the sixth seal is opened, there will be a great earthquake, the sun will turn black, and the moon red like blood. Stars will fall from heaven, and the sky recede like a scroll that is rolled up. Every mountain and island will be removed out of its place. The kings, the important, the rich, and the mighty people of the earth will cry out for the rocks and mountains to hide them as they see the face of God, sitting on His throne. What a terrifying scene this will be!
  • Following the opening of the seventh seal, a time of silence in heaven occurs for half an hour. Seven angels receive a trumpet each. Another angel with a censer in his hand takes fire from the altar, and throws it to the earth, causing noises, thunderings, lightnings and an earthquake. The seven angels prepare to sound their trumpets to introduce seven more woes.
  • With the first trumpet sound, hail and fire will fall from heaven, mingled with blood, causing a third of the trees and the grass on the earth to burn up.
  • With the second trumpet sound, something like a great mountain, burning with fire, is thrown into the sea, resulting in its water turning into blood. A third of its living creatures die, and a third of the ships are destroyed.
  • The third trumpet’s sound sees a great star fall from heaven, burning like a torch, and falling on a third of the rivers and springs. The name of the star is Wormwood, and it makes the waters bitter; many people who drink it, will die.
  • When the fourth angel sounds his trumpet, a third of the sun, a third of the moon and a third of the stars are struck, resulting in darkness over a third of the day. Then another angel flies across heaven, saying, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth because of the remaining trumpets that are about to be sounded.
  • When the fifth angel sounds his trumpet, a star falls from heaven, and the key to the bottomless pit is given to it. Smoke rises up from the bottomless pit when he opens it. Out of the smoke come locusts with tails like scorpions, and they are commanded not to harm the grass or anything green, but only people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They also have authority to kill and torment them for five months.
  • After that, the sixth angel sounds his trumpet and four (fallen) angels, who had been bound, are released. Two hundred million horsemen kill a third of mankind by fire and sulphur that come out of their mouths, and yet the rest of the people on the earth still refuse to repent of their sins. Even at this late hour, God gives them an opportunity to turn away from eternal damnation.
  • When the seventh angel takes up his trumpet, loud voices in heaven are heard saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.” Then the temple of God will be opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant will be seen in it. This trumpet also introduces the vial (or bowl) judgments.

This brings us to the half mark of the Tribulation years. At this point the anti-Christ will be revealed for who he really is; he also demands to be worshipped and he will control all economic activity on earth through the mark of his name (totalling 666) on people’s foreheads or right hands. We know from passages such as Daniel 9:27 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 that this is the midpoint of the Tribulation years.

During the first half of the Tribulation, God will still reach out to those on the earth in an attempt to bring them to repentance. One of the ways God will do this, is through the witness of 144,000 Jewish men, who are sealed on their foreheads for their protection. Twelve thousand men per tribe out of Israel participate in this effort. A great multitude of people of all nations and tongues will be brought to repentance through their work:

Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:13-17

God will also raise up two powerful witnesses to testify during the first half of the Tribulation. These two men will have astounding power to even shut the heavens so that no rain will fall on the earth at their command.

And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire. Revelation 11:5,6

After they finished their testimony, the beast that comes out of the bottomless pit will kill them, and leave their bodies in the street for three days. The whole world will celebrate their deaths, and even give gifts to one another. However, God will raise them up:

Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. Revelation 11:11,12

The coming Tribulation will be no joke. Jesus said that it would be the worst of times the world has ever seen:

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. Matthew 24:21

While many will be saved during those years, they will face persecution like never before. The best decision that anyone can make, is to repent before all of this happens.

How do we escape the horrors of the Tribulation? Let the Word speak for itself:

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:1-3

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. 1 Thessalonians 5:9,10

 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. Romans 5:9

For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. 1 Thessalonians 1:9,10

Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:36

For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:3

There is no reason to believe that God will take those who surrendered their lives to the Lordship of Jesus, through the horrors of the Tribulation. Those who believe that we need to go through the Tribulation to be purified, base their salvation on works, instead of the finished work of Christ. How about the undeniable fact that our salvation is a gift from God, based on faith alone, and not of works?

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8,9

 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. Hebrews 9:27,28

When Jesus comes back after the Tribulation period, He comes to reign— the rapture is the last step of our salvation when our bodies will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53)

Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 2 Thessalonians 2:1,2

It is hard to accept that God, who gave us salvation as a gift, would test our stand with Him through the unspeakable horrors of the Tribulation, for that would eliminate the power of faith, on which our entire relationship with God is based. This is what Jesus had to say about the faithful church, pictured by the church of Philadelphia:

Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Revelation 3:10

Since we do not know the hour of His coming, let us live prepared to meet Him at any time. It is not only required of us to live holy lives that are pleasing to Him, but to be busy in His vineyard. We truly live in the last hour, and time to reach out to those who need salvation, is running out.

It is time to seek the Kingdom first above all else!

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