The Apocalyptic Sequence of Events
The second coming of Christ, and what is often called the "end of the world" as we know it, will be preceded by a series of events of enormous worldwide impact. These events I call the Apocalyptic Sequence of Events. These events result either directly or indirectly from the working of supernatural power, either that of the Almighty God, or of His opponent, Satan, as God permits him to work. Apocalyptic because they pertain to the end of the world. Sequence of Events because the events are clearly delineated in Scripture as following a given sequence. For example, the 5th of the seven last plagues cannot precede the 4th of the last plagues. Given the context of the Scripture, the events in this sequence can be summarized as follows:
This order will become clearer as we look what the Bible has to say. In general, the texts chosen for assembling this part of the puzzle follow the order as given in the book of Revelation. However, several intervening scenes casting light on related subjects have been moved to other sections for a more in-depth analysis. Words that have been underlined will help show why these events must occur in the order given.
It is helpful to recognize that this part of Revelation is a primarily literal vision, that is, the vision is mostly literal with some minor symbolism. No interpretation is given to John by the angel in order to explain any portion of this sequence! Nor should we attempt to spiritualize or symbolize away these phenomenal events! We may expect and be well assured that these events will literally occur.
Some knowledge of Greek may help here. The words that the translators of the NIV have translated as "earth" and "land" in Rev. 7 and 8 come from the same Greek words, ???, or gen, (pronounced ghayn) and ??? or ges (pronounced ghays) and thus are interchangeable. In Strong's Greek Dictionary, ge, (number 1093) has been translated in the KJV as: country, earth, earthly, ground, land and world.
Rev. 7:1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land [or earth] or on the sea or on any tree. 2Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: 3"Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God." 4Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
. . . Rev. 8:2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.
3Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. 4The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel's hand. 5Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.
Rev. 8:6Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.
7The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth [or land]. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
8The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, 9a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
10The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water-- 11the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.
12The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.
13As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: "Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!"
Rev. 9:1 The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. 2When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. 3And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. 4They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. 6During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.
7The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. 8Their hair was like women's hair, and their teeth were like lions' teeth. 9They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. 10They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. 11They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon [meaning Destroyer].
12The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.
13The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. 14It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates." 15And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. 16The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number.
17The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. 18A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. 19The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.
20The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshipping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood --idols that cannot see or hear or walk. 21Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.
. . . Rev. 11:14 The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.
15The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:
16And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshipped God, 17saying:
19Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm.
Rev. 15:1 I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues --last, because with them God's wrath is completed. . . .
5After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened. 6Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests. 7Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever. 8And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.
Rev. 16:1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, "Go, pour out the seven bowls of God's wrath on the earth."
2The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshipped his image.
3The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died.
4The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. 5Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say:
7And I heard the altar respond:
8The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. 9They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.
10The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony 11and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.
12The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. 13Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came
out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.
16Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
17The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, "It is done!" 18Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. 19The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. 20Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. 21From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.
Figure 2. The Apocalyptic Sequence of Events
(For showing the order of events, not their duration
Quite startling aren't they? The events bringing about the end of the world! Before we move on to an explanation of these events, an important question must be answered. How do we know that these events fall in this order?
There are several phrases in these texts that provide the matching elements to place these events in this order. Any other order would be a distortion of what God was trying to convey. Let's look at these key phrases and the evidence behind placing these events in this order.
1) The angels in Chapter 7, verses 1-4 were holding back the four winds to prevent damage to the earth, sea or trees. They were to protect the earth until the servants of God were sealed in their foreheads.
Once the sealing was completed, we find that the very items that were protected, are being destroyed. Trumpet one has hail, fire and blood being hurled upon the earth or land, burning up the trees and greenery. When the second trumpet sounds, we find the sea being hit, part of it turns to blood and part of the sea creatures die. The sea's protection is gone.
In the seven last plagues, plague one has a bowl being poured out on the land. The second bowl is poured out on the sea, which turns to blood and all the sea creatures in it die. In order to be consistent in our interpretation that the seven last plagues are literal, then by direct consequence, the seven trumpets must be literal as well, at least in these events.
Therefore the sealing process, at the end of which God's protection over the sea and earth is removed, must precede both the seven trumpets and the seven last plagues.
2) In the fifth trumpet, direct reference is made to the sealing.
Note that the sealing is referred to in the past tense. The locusts torment those who "did not have the seal of God". There is a differentiation here between those who have the seal and who do not have the seal. Therefore, again, the sealing must precede the seven trumpets.
3) The seven trumpets must precede the seven last plagues. Evidence for this is not only found in the nomenclature, but the events themselves. First let's look at the nomenclature. John refers to the last plagues as follows:
It is difficult to complete something that has not already been started. In this case, God's wrath. John calls these "the seven last plagues." It thus makes good sense to view the seven trumpets as the "seven first plagues", and there is strong evidence for this plague nomenclature in the trumpet sequence as well. In the sixth trumpet, we find the following quote:
By comparing the 14 plagues or destructive events of Revelation, with the plagues of Egypt and the Day of the Lord events foretold in Joel, we see that indeed, there is a great similarity between these. We will study these in a later chapter.
4) The event that is associated with the closing of the seventh trumpet, is the same event as that opening the seven last plagues. Note the open temple scene in the following verses:
God's temple is opened at the seventh trumpet and remains open to view at the beginning of the first of the seven last plagues.
This again, provides solid evidence that the seven trumpets must precede the seven last plagues.
Thus it must be concluded that the events as shown in the previous figure are in the correct order.
What are these events and how can we as God's professed people be assured that we will be sealed? Let's find out in the next chapter!
The following table compares the plagues on Egypt vs. other plagues sequences in scripture:
Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Many thanks go to Zondervan.
Scripture compilations, and commentaries copyright © 1992-2003 by BiblePlus/The Bible Research Company. All rights reserved. The Bible Research Company/BiblePlus is a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ, and to disseminating the marvelous truths of the Bible.