What is the tribulation and what happens during it? I think the best way to describe it is to look and expound on the scriptures in Revelation. There are three stages of the tribulation, with each stage having seven different occurrences or plagues. As each progresses, the intensity increases. First, are the seven seals, second the seven trumpets, and finally seven bowls (or vials) of judgment. Why so many sevens? The number seven means completeness in the Bible.
The progression of the tribulation begins in the fifth chapter of Revelation. Here there are seven seals that need to be opened. It is my belief that the seals being opened, the trumpets being blown, and the bowls being poured will be in the spiritual realm, not something we will be aware of as they are happening. John, the writer of Revelation, wept in the fourth verse because there was no one who was worthy to open the seals. But then it was told to him that there was somebody that was worthy, and that was Jesus. Chapter six begins with the Lamb opening the first of the seven seals. This is how things progress:
1st Seal: The antichrist appears. He comes riding a white horse just like Jesus will when He comes back for the final battle (Revelation 19:11). The man of sin imitates our Lord in other ways also. He is given a crown, which makes him able to rule over others. He also has a bow without an arrow mentioned and is set on conquering. Having no arrows signifies that he will be conquering by peaceful methods.
2nd Seal: Wars will happen between nations. Peace will be taken from the earth.
3rd Seal: There will be worldwide famine and starvation. Food will be scarce making prices of provisions very high.
4th Seal: ¼ of the earth will die either by the sword, famine, plague or by a wild beast.
5th Seal: There will be people being martyred for proclaiming the word of God.
6th Seal: There will be a great earthquake. The sun will turn black and there will be a blood moon. The sky is going to “recede like a scroll” (Revelation 6:14). Mountains and islands will be found in different locations than where they originally inhabited. People, from the richest to the poorest, will cry out in terror while hiding in caves and praying to die. The day of the wrath of the Lamb has come!
After the sixth seal, four angels will be given the power to harm the land and sea (Revelation 7:2), but they are told to wait until 144,000 Jews have received the seal of the living God on their foreheads. These are twelve tribes of Israel, dating back to Jacob’s sons. Each tribe will have 12,000 people sealed but there is one tribe missing, the tribe of Dan. It is speculated by some that this was because of their sin, but no one knows for sure. To replace Dan, Joseph’s son, Manasseh, is listed. Also, at this time there will already be saints in heaven that have come out of the tribulation (Revelation 7:14).
7th Seal: After the seal is opened in chapter eight of Revelation, there is silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then seven trumpets are given to seven angels. There will be a storm and earthquake during this period.
Then comes the trumpets that will be blown by angels. Trumpets one through six are in chapters eight and nine.
1st trumpet: It brings hail and fire mixed with blood. 1/3 of the earth will be burned up which includes the trees and grass.
2nd trumpet: Something like a large mountain is thrown into the sea. This turns the 1/3 of the sea into blood, 1/3 of all sea life dies, and 1/3 of the ships are destroyed. Can you imagine the stench with the death of so much sea life?
3rd trumpet: A star named Wormwood falls from the sky and turns 1/3 of the river and springs bitter. When John was inspired to write this text, there was no conception among humanity that anything could fall from heaven and produce bitter waters. But today, according to the following website, Nasa has acknowledged that there are many nearby asteroids and comets that could do this. To read about this go to:
4th trumpet: 1/3 of the sun, moon, and stars are darkened. 1/3 of the day will be without light and 1/3 of the night also. Then a warning is sounded to the inhabitants of the earth about the next three trumpet blasts to be sounded. These will be three “woes”.
5th trumpet: This is the 1st “woe” (Revelation 9:12) A demonic invasion of locusts will be on the earth after they are released from the abyss, which is another word for hell (Revelation 9:2-3). They are given power like scorpions, including a horrible sting coming from the tail but are not allowed to harm the grass, plants, or trees, having power to only attack the ones that do not have the seal of God on their forehead. They won’t be able to kill anyone, but they will have the power to torture people for five months. During this time people will want to die, but there will be no death. The locusts are going to look like horses, but their faces are going to resemble humans, and they will be able to fly.
6th trumpet: 2nd woe- 1/3 of mankind will be killed by three plagues of fire, smoke, and sulfur, but even after all this, mankind does not repent. They continue to worship demons, money, and idols that cannot see or walk. They continue in their sexual immorality and the magic arts.
Between the sixth and seventh trumpets, two witnesses are mentioned (Revelation 11:1-14). Also, the “mystery” that I discussed under the pre-wrath theory in a previous post happens here. Refer to that post if you would like more information.
7th trumpet: After this trumpet, there will be a celebration in heaven. The angels and all other heavenly beings will be aware that the end is very near and that justice is near.
Then comes the seven bowls that are filled with the wrath of God (Revelation 15:7)
1st bowl: At one point during the great tribulation (Matthew 24:21) period, the beast will require all to take the number 666 on their forehead to be able to buy food and also require all to worship the image of the antichrist. For all those that did take the 666 mark, the first bowl of God’s wrath contains ugly, painful sores that will be poured out on them.
2nd bowl: Whereas during the trumpets being blown only 1/3 of the seas turned to blood and 1/3 of the living things within it died, now the whole sea will turn into blood and everything will die.
3rd bowl: Same concept with this bowl as with bowl number two except this time it happens to the rivers and springs. They’ll become blood. This is the judgment for those who killed God’s saints and prophets. They are now given blood to drink. (Revelation 16:6). In all probability, this will happen in the last week before Christ returns. It’s a known fact that people cannot live more than a week without water and that’s when the weather is cool. A more typical estimate is three to four days. And the time is cut even shorter when intense heat that is about to follow in the fourth bowl is involved. 65% of the human body is made up of water and it will be lost very quickly under the conditions to come.
4th bowl: The sun will become much hotter. So hot that it will be scorching people. People will realize that God has control over these things but will STILL refuse to repent and glorify Him. I wonder if they’ll be thinking, like I’ve heard people say today, “If God is like that, I don’t want to have anything to do with Him.” It’s really sad if that is the case because they do not realize that life here on this earth is just a vapor compared to eternity. And if they have any knowledge of the Bible, and realize that things have happened in the direct progression as the Bible states, then they should surely realize that hell is real and that is where they will spend eternity….eternity, burning with no water to drink…what a nightmare! It’s heartbreaking, the hard headiness of people and the blinders that Satan can instill in someone. It is just too mind-boggling to even try to comprehend! (And as a reminder, the alternative: accept Christ, live for Him, then live eternally where there is no crying or pain)
5th bowl: The beast’s kingdom will be thrown into total darkness. Men will continue to curse God because they will be in a lot of pain from the sores on their bodies. They will still refuse to repent.
6th: The great Euphrates River will dry up to prepare the way for the armies coming from the east. This river has always been a hindrance to any type of military movement. It seems to be the dividing line between two different types of people. Three evil spirits of demons will appear that will resemble frogs. They perform miracles and they gather kings of the world to do battle at a place called Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-14). Jesus states that He will be coming “like a thief” (Revelation 16:15) and informs those that are left to keep their clothes on.
7th bowl: A loud voice comes out of the temple saying, “It is done!”(Revelation 16:17). There will be lightning, thunder and the worst earthquake that there ever was. Cities will totally collapse. Even islands and mountains disappear and will not be able to be found. Hail weighing 100 pounds falls from the sky. This makes people curse God. And again, it still amazes me that with each of these curses, the people DO realize who is in control but STILL refuses to repent and turn to Him! They are just caught up in their own selves, not wanting to admit that they are weak while He is strong. They are going to hold to this stance to the end.
The heavens will open and the most magnificent sight that ever was seen will appear coming out of the sky on a white horse. I get chills when I think of this. The man who was scorn, beaten, humiliated and crucified will now come in all His strength and power that has always been a part of Him, even during His time on earth. The armies of heaven follow Him and are dressed in white linen. His robe will have been dipped in blood. When He opens His mouth a sharp sword will come out and strike down the ones against Him. Zechariah 14: 1-9 tells us that He will stand on Mt. Olives and it will be split and form a great valley. There will be no daytime or night time. On this day there will only be one LORD. He will be victorious! He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! The beast and the false prophet will be captured and thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.
So this ends the great tribulation period with our Lord being victorious over all the nations! Hallelujah!
(As always, feel free to comment or ask questions below).