By Merrill Olson
What is unique about the Book of Revelation is to see how the different parts fit together in a chronological order. What is also distinctive is that Jesus gave the divine outline for the book in its very beginning. He said, “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things that will take place after this” (Rev. 1:19).
First, “the things that you have seen” is the vision that John has just experienced and recorded (Rev. 1:9-18). Next, “the things which are” has to do with the letters to the seven churches as Jesus addresses each one in chapters 2 and 3. Thirdly, John was to write “the things that will take place after this,” and this involves the prophetic events that unfold in chapters 4-22. These recorded revelations are still future and will begin at the beginning of the seven year Tribulation period.
During this horrific time there will be three devastating and intensifying judgments: seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls. The first two will take place in the first half followed by the third occurring in the last three and a half years.
Before the breaking of the seal judgments, chapters 4 and 5 describe the praise that first takes place in heaven to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Then as recorded in chapter 6, the Lamb begins to break the seven seals one at a time. Each of these seven seals represents a divine judgment that is sequentially poured out on the earth. When the seventh is opened (Rev. 8:1-5), there is first “silence in heaven” (v. 1). It is like experiencing calm before a storm. At this time it is a quiet preparation for God’s wrath in unleashing His seven trumpets.
All of the seven trumpet judgments are literal and not symbolic as they point to real events. They are by God’s supernatural judgments upon a wicked world. Each of them unleashes a specific judgment of greater intensity than the first six seals.
The first four destroy the earth’s ecology (8:6-12). The devastation will be of a great magnitude by a direct act of God. In the sounding of the fifth trumpet hordes of demonic forces from the abyss will swarm the earth like locusts from hell and torment humanity (9:1-12). Their tails will be like the “sting” of “scorpions” (9:10) as they torment people with pain. God will only allow it for “five months” (v. 10) and will limit the demonic forces to torment but not kill. The sixth trumpet will signal a second wave of demonic invaders, a massive cavalry to assault the earth (9:13-19). The results are beyond imagination.
When the seventh trumpet sounds (11:15-19), heaven rejoices that the long rebellion of the earth against the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are about to end.
Therefore, the seven bowl judgments (Rev. 16) will soon after be poured out on a godless world and will be relentless and devastating. The sixth bowl will bring in the War of Armageddon as the armies of the world converge on the Middle East (16:12-16).
Tragically, in spite of these judgments, people will refuse to repent and will instead “blaspheme the name of God” (16:9, 11, 21). What a wretched picture of the unsaved!
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