Not only is it easier than I thought, it is also very vital. End-time events are coming to pass everyday. We know the time is short, but we don't know how short. It is very likely that each of us knows someone who will be involved in the judgments of the tribulation period. The following is a summary of the judgments that will occur during the tribulation, as described in Revelation. Please be aware that there are many things that happen on the earth during the tribulation that won't be discussed here simply because they are beyond the scope of this article. For example, the two witnesses will come and be killed; the 144,000 witnesses will be raised up, the antichrist will be killed and brought back to life, gog and magog (Russia) will invade Israel. While these events are important, I want to focus on God's wrath on the earth during this horrible time.
Revelation starts with the letters to the seven churches. Although the letters are written to actual first century churches, they are also directed to the seven churches throughout the Christian age. We would be living in the Philadelphian/Laodicean era. (Philadelphia being the Loving Church, and Laodicea being the apostate church.) Jesus promises to save the Philadelphian church from the wrath to come, but says that the Laodiceans are poor, wretched, and blind. They are the lukewarm church.
After the letters to the seven churches, John is given the call to "come up hither." This would signify the rapture - the church being removed from the earth. Note that after this point the church is not mentioned anymore in Revelation. (Please note that this is not the only reason, or even the best reason, to believe in a pre-trib rapture, but that topic is also beyond our scope here.)
Although we don't know when the rapture will be, Jesus did give us some pretty good indicators for the beginning of the tribulation. We can see those indicators falling into place all around us everyday. Since we know that the rapture must precede the tribulation, we know that the rapture is very near. You see, the antichrist cannot be revealed until the force holding him back is removed from the earth. (See 1 Thessalonians.) After the church is removed from the earth, the antichrist will be able to begin his reign of terror.
One of the first things the antichrist will do is sign a seven year peace treaty with Israel. This is the beginning of the judgments that God will visit on the earth during the Tribulation. There are three sets of judgments in Revelations: 7 seals, 7 trumpets, and 7 bowls. The unleashing of the antichrist is the first seal judgment. The Bible says that when Jesus breaks the first seal, a rider on a white horse will come forth wearing a crown and holding a bow with no arrows. (Why white? He is Satan's counterfeit, and Jesus will later come to earth riding on a white horse.) The crown indicates rulership, and the bow with no arrows indicates that he will gain his position without any warfare. (Are you looking for a vicious monster to be revealed as antichrist? Nope. The antichrist at first will appear to be the smoothest, kindest, most trustworthy individual you could imagine. Jesus said that the deception will be so strong that if it were possible, even the elect would be deceived.)
For the first eighteen months, the antichrist's reign will at first seem peaceful and utopian. He will accomplish what no world leader has been able to so far: a seven year peace treaty with Israel, and this will be the official beginning of the tribulation. Israel will hail him as their Messiah. (Remember, he is Satan's counterfeit, so he will appear to fulfill the requirements for Messiah.) However, it won't be long before some world leaders will likely begin to grow weary of his ordering them about, and war will break out. This is the second seal, the rider on the red horse: war. (The red, of course, signifies blood.)
The natural companion of war is famine, and the next rider (the third seal) is the rider on the black horse, famine. He is told to cause the price of grain to be equal to a day's wage, but not to raise the prices of the oil and the wine (traditionally rich people's foods). This probably signifies rampant inflation.
After that, the fourth rider is released with the breaking of the fourth seal. The fourth rider is the one on the pale horse (pale signifying death). When he comes to the earth, twenty-five percent of the earth's population will die. But hang on tight - this is still the easy part!
With the opening of the fifth seal, John sees the souls of the martyred tribulation saints under the altar. After the antichrist has the world in his grip, Christians (and Jews) will be martyred at an alarming rate. It is these martyred Christians who are crying out to God to avenge their deaths. They are each given a white robe and told to wait a little longer until their number is complete.
After the sixth seal is opened, there will be a great earthquake on the earth; the sun will turn black and the moon will turn to blood. This will be a judgment brought on the earth by God because of the persecution of His saints that was seen with the fifth seal.
The seventh seal ushers in the seven trumpet judgments. When the seventh seal is broken, there will be complete silence in Heaven for about half an hour. The silence will probably be brought on by a state of complete awe as the inhabitants of Heaven grasp the reality of what is about to take place on earth. What will follow with the trumpet judgments and the bowl judgments is so horrific that we cannot comprehend such chaos. The end of the seal judgments brings us to the end of the first twenty-one months of the tribulation.
When the first trumpet sounds, there will be hail and fire mixed with blood cast upon the earth. This plague will burn up a third of all the trees and all of the grass. Can you fathom living in a world without trees and grass? We can only imagine what this will do to the ecosystem. It is bound to have a huge effect on air quality and also soil conditions as erosion eats away where grass once grew.
The second trumpet heralds "a great mountain burning with fire" (probably a meteorite) that falls into the sea ("The sea" in Scripture usually alludes to the Mediterranean Sea.) This meteorite will destroy a third of all the living creatures in the sea and a third of all the boats on the sea.
The third trumpet introduces a "great star" falling from heaven, probably another meteorite. The name of the meteorite is Wormwood, and it will destroy a third of the rivers, making the water very bitter and killing many people.
As for the fourth trumpet, Revelation 8:12 says "And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars, so that the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise. So the first four trumpet judgments saw a reduction by one third of everything that is vital to life on earth: vegetation, salt water, fresh water, and sunlight. This is the end of the "easy part."
After the plague of the fourth trumpet, an angel will fly through the midst of Heaven calling out "Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!" If the first seven seals and the first four trumpets weren't enough to shake the remaining humans from their apathy and disbelief, these next three should really get some people's attention.
With the trumpet blast sounded by the fifth angel, an angel is given the key to the Abyss. The smoke rising from the Abyss will darken the sun and the sky. Out of the smoke, locusts that have the power to sting like scorpions will come down onto the earth. The Bible says the locusts will look like horses prepared for battle, that on their heads they will wear something akin to gold crowns, and that they will have faces that look human, with hair like a woman's and teeth like a lion's, and breastplates like iron. They will not be allowed to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. But this will be no ordinary scorpion sting! No one will die from the stings, but the Bible says the locusts will be given power to torture man for five months. It also says that men will long for death, but it will elude them.
The sixth trumpet finds a voice saying, "Loose the four angels who are bound in the great river Euphrates." These angels (demons) will be given permission to kill one third of mankind. Then, the seventh trumpet simply initiates the seven bowl judgments (or vial judgments) and the beginning of the second half of the tribulation, also known as the Great Tribulation. With these judgments, the wrath of God will be completed. (Rev. 15:1)
When the first angel pours out his bowl, ugly and painful sores will break out on the people who have the mark of the beast and worship his image. The pouring out of the second angel's bowl will turn the sea into blood like that of a dead man, and everything in the sea will die. Then the third angel will pour out his bowl, and all of the water in all of the springs and rivers will turn to blood. When the fourth angel pours out his bowl, the sun will be given power to scorch people with fire. At this point, the people whom these plagues affect will curse God rather than repent and praise Him. How hardened their hearts will be!
When the fifth angel pours out his bowl, the antichrist's throne and kingdom will be plunged into complete darkness. Then, the sixth angel will pour his bowl out on the river Euphrates, and it will be completely dried up, making way for the kings from the East (the Orient) to come preparing to fight the battle of Armageddon. Then the last angel will pour our his bowl on the earth, and a loud voice will come from the throne saying "It is done!" Then there will be an earthquake so great, according to the Bible, that no earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on the earth. Every island and mountain will pass away. Hailstones weighing over one hundred pounds each will fall upon men, and again, they will curse God.
After this judgment, the destruction of the Harlot (the one world-religion) and of Babylon follow, and then the battle of Armegeddon will take place. It is during this battle that Jesus returns to the earth with His church to conquer the earth, and He will reign here as King for a thousand years.
The pouring out of the seventh angel's bowl concludes the wrath of God on the earth. It is hard to believe that there are probably people alive today who will live through this horrible, unthinkable time in the earth's history. It truly is not unrealistic to think that ten to fifteen years from now, the tribulation might be drawing to a close! There is no prophetic event that needs to be fulfilled in order for Jesus to return for His church, and the stage is being set everyday for fulfillment of the events that will occur during the tribulation.
The realization of the carnage the earth will see during the tribulation caused me to put some things in perspective. I'm no longer so worried about having enough for retirement as I am doing my part to show God's love to a lost world. I'm no longer so concerned about being embarrassed that I can't talk about my Savior to people who don't know Him. Our time is so short!
Briefly, let's look at some of the factors that tell us the time is short:
Read Revelation for yourself and become acquainted with the judgments the inhabitants of the earth will suffer during the tribulation. Then, next time you are visiting with a lost friend or relative, ask yourself if it seems OK to risk waiting another day before you share the Lord's love with them. Begin praying now that God will make their hearts receptive to His Word and that He will open the door for you to share His story at just the right time.