8. Mid Tribulation Events
A. The Seven Thunders (10:1–7)
Chapter 10 chronicles the appearance of the mighty angel, the sounding of seven peals of thunder, the beginning of the end and an encounter of John with the angel bearing the little scroll.
A mighty angel comes down from heaven. His appearance suggests that he is a high ranking angel. “ Robed” is as a perfect passive participle showing that he is permanently thus arrayed. However, he is not Jesus who is described differently elsewhere.
The angel has a little scroll.
The seven peals of thunder are discernable and indicate sequence. Each peal of thunder must have had a specific message just like the other seven judgments of seals, trumpets, and bowls.
John heard it and understood it, but was commanded to seal it up and not write about what he heard.
Lives forever and ever – The present active participle of living shows the continuous uninterrupted life of God, contrasted with his creation, the work of his hands. This eternal, timeless God proclaims that there will be no more delay. The “delay” from a human perspective had a specific reason. 2 Peter 3:9
When the seventh angel sounds his trumpet, the mystery of God will be completed. This mystery has to do with the judgement of God and was revealed through the prophets and apostles.
B. The Bittersweet Scroll (10:8–11)
The background for this unique experience is in Ezek 2:10–3:3. There the contents of the scroll are mentioned and is only sweet.
The purpose of consuming it is probably to show the assimilation of its message prior to preaching it.
C. The Two Witnesses Rev 11:1–14
John is to use a common reed used at that time to measure the temple. This reed was 15-20 feet and was calibrated to known measurements.
Measuring something could be to determine the size, but in Scripture, it was a device to show divine action. Sometimes it included judgment. Amos 7:7. In this passage, it included god’s providence.
John was to mark off the temple, the altar, and the people. He was not to measure the outer court, which was going to be trampled by the Gentiles and would not get God’s protection. The 42 months = 3.5 years = the time of the Great Tribulation, the second half of the 7 years.
Which temple is this? It cannot be the first temple that was built by Solomon in 958 BC because it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon in 586 BC.
It cannot be the second temple of Zerubabbel, (i.e., the temple of Herod), built from 520 to 515 BC, since it was destroyed by Titus in AD 70.
It could be a heavenly temple. Rev 11:19, but there is a contrast between the temples in verse 1 and 19.
Or it could be a millennial temple described in detail in Ezekiel 40–48. But it doesn’t answer how the outer court is given to the Gentiles for the 3.5years.
Currently, there is no temple in Jerusalem since Muslims control the temple mount.
Most likely, a tribulation temple will be built either immediately prior to the beginning of the tribulation period or else in the first half of the seven years.119
Measuring, in this case, is not about size, but about the protection of God. And so the worshippers were also “measured” and assured of their survival. Chapter 12 details the survival of this remnant. (Romans 9-11)
In chapter 12, the land of Israel is taken away from them again.
In this time period, Israel no longer controls its destiny but is being ruled by Gentiles. (possibly from the Revived Roman Federation). Yet, worship is permitted in the temple at this time.
There will be two witnesses who will prophesy for 1260 days.
Being clothed in sackcloth was a traditional sign for mourning in the ancient Near East and this shows the nature of their message and ministry.
They are described as “two olive trees” and “two lampstands”. Thus they are like Zerubbabel and Joshua and their work is specially anointed by God, and empowered by the spirit. (Zech 4:6).
Who are these witnesses?
There are 7 theories of who these witnesses could be. The most default position is to say that it could be two completely new people, without being someone from the past. But, the most plausible of these opinions is that they are Moses and Elijah.
Several reasons why this could be true:
Both of them represent the law and the prophets – one of the ways that the Old Testament scriptures are divided.
The law and the prophets have borne witness to Christ throughout the BC era. Moses and Elijah, being representatives would finish up the task of witnessing.
The transfiguration (Matt 17:1-8) gives a previous supernatural appearance of their witnessing.
Additionally, the two of them represent the two kinds of states that believers will be at the rapture. Moses represents those who die in the Lord. Elijah represents those who will be taken up without dying.
They have unique powers probably reflective of their prior ministry on earth. Like Elijah, they shut up the sky so that it does not rain; like Moses, they turn the waters into blood and strike the earth with other kinds of plagues as often as they wish
Unlike what we think of Christian witnesses, these two witnesses are different. No longer will they be turning the other cheek and walking the extra mile. The time for grace is winding down and the window is about to be closed. The door for judgment is slowly opening and will shortly be flung completely open.
Instead, when they are attacked, retribution is instant – fire from their mouths destroy the attackers.
The signs that they bring serve to show that the time of grace is fading away and that judgment will come soon, as they plead for non-believers to flee from the wrath of God. This is the final chance that the Lord is giving for anyone who will listen to turn to Him.
The two witnessed have a fixed agenda with a time limit.
Once their task is finished, they now come face to face with the beast from the Abyss.
The word testimony (marturian) is a derivative of martus, from where English derives the word martyr.
The beast from the Abyss will attack and kill them. At the fifth trumpet, hordes of demons from the abyss were involved, now the head of the abyss is involved.
The word for “beast” is Thērion which means a beast of prey with a ravenous appetite, a carnivore like a lion. This is different than zōon, a common word for animals.
This beast is not to be identified with Satan since Satan seems to be identified with the dragon, later. Thus, this beast is likely to be the antichrist, the opponent of the Jews and of Christ.
The antichrist, angered by the work of the witnesses, and allowed by God to do so, kill the two witnesses. (overcomes – Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21.)
After their death, they suffer the ignominy of not being afforded a burial. An unburied body was a disgrace for the Jews. And yet, the bodies lie for the whole world to see. John writing in the 1st century, would not have known how every tribe and language and people would be able to see something that happened in one city. Today, with instant videos and communication, we know how that could be possible.
Their bodies lie in Jerusalem as the antichrist makes a public statement using the bodies of Moses and Elijah. Meanwhile, evil rejoices with gloating and gift-giving.
John equates the Holy City of Jerusalem as being spiritually equivalent to Sodom and Egypt. Jerusalem could have been compared spiritually to many places, but that John chose oppressive Egypt and promiscuous Sodom shows the heights from which Jerusalem had fallen. This was where the Messiah was rejected and killed like a common criminal, and now, it was being trampled by the Gentiles.
Why were these two witnesses hated, killed and disrespected? They were witnesses yes, but since their time was short and the message needed to be broadcast one last time, they pushed through any opposition that they faced. They tormented those who resisted them. In scenes reminiscent of ancient Egypt, as the waters turned to blood and other plagues infiltrated regular life, people started to detest the witnesses more and more. It is possible that the message that was being preached, the warning of coming judgment, the issue of righteousness in a completely degenerating world, all resulted in the anger directed against them.
But the story is not over yet. The celebrations could not continue endlessly. Like their Messiah in the same city a few millennia before, life came into the two witnesses and in full view of a watching world, they stood up to their feet. And “great terror” came upon those two saw them. If the witnesses tormented the world prior to their death and even death could not tie them down, what then? What torments now lie in wait for the people of the earth? But they did not need to worry, because, the witnesses were soon raptured to heaven with the simple command “Come up here.”. Just as the disciples witnessed the ascension of their Lord, so the enemies of these two prophets gaze in wonder as they disappear into the clouds.
Their work was finished. To mark the event and as a harbinger of what is to come, an earthquake collapses a tenth of the city and causes the death of 7000 people. The Greek New Testament uses the phrase “the names of men” to suggest that the people that died in the earthquake were known and probably famous people. The subsequent reaction of the people is unexpected when compared to previous reactions to judgments. (Rev 9:20–21; 16:10; 16:21). Like the heathen sailors who sailed with Jonah and saw the miracles unfold, these people gave glory to God. Though it can mean that they simply acknowledged God as being behind this, it could also mean that they truly repented and seek after God, validating the importance of the work of Moses and Elijah.
D. The Seventh Trumpet
E. The Woman and the Dragon – Rev 12
Signs. A great sign with three individuals.
a. First Sign. The woman clothed with the sun. Her description is reminiscent of the dream of Joseph in Genesis 37:9. The 12 stars on her head represent the 12 tribes of Israel. She represents Israel.
b. Second sign. Her male child – he will rule all nations with an iron scepter. He represents Jesus, the child of Israel. He will be a Jewish Messiah
c. Third sign. A red dragon waiting to devour her child. The dragon represents Satan. He has seven heads and 10 horns and seven kingly crowns. This is related to the beast from the sea. A third of the stars fell with the Dragon. This is thought to be the pre-cosmic fall of Satan from heaven. 2 Pet 2:4; Jude 6; and perhaps Rev 12:7–10. Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 also talk about this fall.
His plan was to thwart the redemptive plan of God.
The child is snatched up to heaven. The same word used for the rapture. 1 Thess 4:17. The ascension is into heaven itself. (the aorist passive indicative)
Since the devil could not undo the redemptive plan of God, he turns his ire to the woman, the Jewish people. She escapes and is preserved by God during the period of the Great tribulation (1260 days/42 months (Rev 11:2; 13:5), or as “a time, times and half a time” (Rev 12:14), and sometimes as three and one-half years (Dan 9:27).
Even though the anti-Christ entered into a peace treaty with Israel to set of the tribulation period, the revived Roman empire involving the antichrist and Satan is more anti-semitic than anyone else. The peace treaty is broken after 3 ½ years and now Satan directly tries to attack the Jewish people. But a remnant is being protected by God.
Michael and the angels fight against the dragon and his angels (demons). The dragon is hurled down and identified as Devil – accuser and Satan – adversary. He is responsible for deception and leading the world astray.
Two opinions – Satan’s final assault on heaven and this takes place during the mid-point of the tribulation. There is rejoicing in heaven after that. Satan’s fury is increased (12) and he recognizes his time is short. The context favors it.
It could be a description of a pre-cosmic event.
It could be a precosmic event that is now completed.
The celebration in heaven shows the significance of the throwdown. The work on the cross provided the basis for salvation, but salvation is not complete until Satan is destroyed, purity is the norm again and God is fully glorified. That moment is inching closer. In faith, however, we are freed from the power of Satan and the only effect we have from him are those permitted by a gracious and good God. 2 Cor 12:7; 1 Cor 5:5; 1 Tim 1:20
The power of God shows the irresistibility of his omnipotence, and the authority of Christ shows his upcoming reign. The power and the kingdom belong to the father, but the authority to rule that kingdom is given to the Messiah. Jesus will take over the rule of the kingdom during the millennial. And at the end of that, he will return it back to the father. 1 Corinthians 15:24
They overcame. Romans 10:9
Satan is angry since he knows that his time is short. The word for time in this context is kairos rather than chronos, which implies that particular time has been set for his judgment.
The dragon tries to kill Jesus, but when he can’t he pursues the woman. This explains the inordinate hatred that is directed against the Jewish people. Israel is very small with no natural resources. There are only 13 million estimated Jewish people in the world with around 5 million in Israel, and yet they face significant opposition everywhere.
Thus, hatred towards the Jews is not from God but from Satan.
God chose Israel as the object of his love and the vehicle of his salvation. Consequently, Satan, unable to launch a successful assault on God, chose Israel as the object of his wrath.
Israel will be preserved during the great tribulation. How and where this will take place, we are not told.
Satan’s inability to attack Jesus or Israel will result in him turning his attention to the followers of Jesus and the descendants of Israel, namely the church – those who keep God’s commands and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And so the church becomes the final object of Satan’s wrath.
F. The Satanic Trinity and 666 – Rev 13
In Rev 12:9 – Satan is mentioned as the first person in the Unholy Trinity. Chapter 13 identifies the remaining two members of this group.
The Beast Out of the Sea
The beast from the sea is closely connected to the dragon and is being summoned to him.
The seas are often representative of Gentiles while the land is a reference to Israel.
It is possible that the first beast is of Gentile origin and the second beast of Jewish origin.
The beast has 10 horns, seven heads and 10 crowns on his horns. Each head has a blasphemous name. the beast resembles Daniel’s first 3 beasts. Daniel 7 helps to identify the 10 horns. They represent 10 kingdoms and are part of the final human Empire – the revived Roman Empire. Daniel gives additional information about a little horn uprooting 3 of these kingdoms.
The purpose of this beast is to blaspheme God. They will publicly denounce and oppose God.
The seven heads representing 7 kingdoms could be 7 great kingdoms of world history. Rev 17:9–11. The scarlet woman rides on this beast from the sea and the seven heads are specifically stated to be seven kings ruling over seven kingdoms. These kingdoms could be: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and the final empire of the last days.
The power of the beast is from the dragon.
Why is the Roman empire the one to be revived and eventually destroyed? Maybe because of the persecution that the Roman empire inflicted on the early church.
The fatal wound and miraculous life seem to be a deliberate imitation of Jesus.
People worship the beast because they recognize the authority that he has. They recognize that the power is not natural and worships the dragon behind the power of the beast. He will exercise that power for 42 months.
Blasphemy against God marks his reign.
Those who don’t worship him are those whose names are in the Book of Life. They will be captured or die or both.
This blasphemy goes on for 42 months – during the great tribulation period. He blasphemes everyone in heaven and persecutes those on earth.
Who gave the beast the authority?
The small answer is the dragon. The big answer is God. Eg. 2 Sam 24:1 and 1 Chr 21:1
All the people of the earth will worship the beast except the believers.
All believers’ names are written in the Book of Life. It is the Lamb’s book of life. He was slain before the creation of the universe.
These believers whose names are in the book of Life may be taken captive or killed or both. Patient endurance is encouraged.
The Beast Out of the Land
John sees the second beast come out of the earth.
In appearance, he is more mellow than the beast from the sea. He looks like a lamb but sounds like a dragon. He is a mediator to the first beast and performs many miracles and signs. Matt 24:24
Three words are used to describe miracles. John uses the word sign – semeia. This word indicates the purpose behind the miracle.
Fire from the sky shows God’s judgment. Gen 19:24; Lev 10:2; Num 11:1; 1 Kgs 18:38; Rev 20:9.
The beast gives a mark to all people on the right hand or forehead and makes it for economic purposes. Mark is a rare word: Acts 17:29. It can mean anything from a snake’s bite to a branding. The purpose of the mark is to restrict economic transactions.
The second beast is also a human being.
Six is one less than the perfect number of 7 and false prophet deceives the earth with what is not perfect. The repetition of imperfection shows the imperfection to a superlative degree and may represent the Satanity trinity of imperfection involving the dragon, the political beast, and the false prophet.
G. Interlude #3
1. the 144000 in heaven – Rev 14
In chapter 7, we learned that 12000 came from 12 tribes and they received the seal of God on their foreheads.
This seal which is usually for protection could be also for judgment. But in this case, it seems to be for protection. The 144,000 were sealed for protection, and there are others from every tribe and language who are not protected and are martyred instead.
In this chapter, we are given more detail and specific roles of the 144,000. They have the seal of God on their forehead and were specifically chosen for their task.
They are standing in heaven after being redeemed from the earth and they are singing a new song that only they can sing.
As revealed in chap. 7, their Father’s name is written on their foreheads, indicating that they are especially chosen of God for their task. Furthermore, in v. 1, they are standing on Mount Zion.
Some of their features:
(1) they have not defiled themselves with women; they were celibate. Paul wishes celibacy for the purpose of pleasing God and for the sake of ministry. 1 Cor 7:8. Jesus commended eunuchs by choice who made sacrifices for the kingdom of God. Matt 19:12
They are probably men who were celibate for a specific purpose during the tribulation period.
(2) they were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb;
(3) they are notable for their truthfulness and for their general blamelessness. The 144,000 are characterized by their faithfulness in following Christ.
2. Announcement of Babylon’s Demise – 14
Another angel is now announcing the eternal gospel to all people. Every person now supernaturally gets a chance to listen to the gospel. Even as the judgments are going on, God is giving chance after chance for anyone who will listen.
The gospel is eternal, and we will be eternally grateful for the good news that took us from death to life.
The identification of Babylon the Great, then, becomes the key to understanding chaps. 17–19 and to some degree the entire book of the Revelation.
There are many ideas of what Babylon could be. It is probably not talking about current day Babylon, which is a small city in Iraq. Rather, it is probably symbolic of evil and referencing Rome to show the Revived Roman Empire.
Christians during the first century sometimes referred to the Roman Empire as Babylon. This was because of its godlessness, immorality, and persecution of Christians.
This Babylonian faith is an amalgamation of general religious opinion and includes anything other than the faith in the one true God.
Those who worship the beast and his image and receive his mark on the forehead or hand appear at first to be the ones who are safe and secure during the tribulation on earth. In the end, however, the opposite is the case. The 144,000 are sealed and protected, but those who have followed the beast end up drinking the wine of God’s fury that is poured forth full strength into the cup of his wrath.
Their torment is forever and ever. Greek – unceasing perpetuity. There is no relief and no rest for those who follow the beast. Fire is a common instrument of divine punishment in Jewish and other writings.
Rest for the righteous is not being asleep. When God rested on the seventh day, he wasn’t relaxing and doing nothing. He took on a new task of sustaining the created universe. When we rest in heaven, we will rest from our toiling on earth, but we will be involved in new and exciting tasks and we will enjoy.
3. A vision of Armageddon – 14
There is a scene of harvesting on the earth.
The “one like the son of man” with the victors crown of gold probably is Jesus. The other angel announcing what is about to happen and he comes out of the heavenly temple.
This is a vision of what is about to happen at the end of the tribulation. The remaining population on earth that is still rebellious will be cast into judgment.
We see the results of the final harvest. The harvest of vv. 14–16 is depicted in terms of the harvesting of wheat. The harvest of vv. 17–20 is from a vineyard, and the sickle is used to gather the clusters of ripe grapes. The grapes are harvested and trampled outside the city of Jerusalem.
Did blood flow for 1,600 stadia at a height of 5 feet?
The distance of approximately 184 miles is the length of the land of Israel from the Wadi el-Arish in the south to the northernmost extremities of Israel. It is unlikely to be length and depth description. Rather it is possible that due to the violence in this Battle of Armageddon, blood splatters throughout Israel up to a height of 5 feet. Even though the epicenter is Megiddo, which is 50 miles north of Jerusalem, the area of battle is widespread.
L. Thomas, Revelation 1–7: An Exegetical Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 1992
Patterson, Paige, Revelation, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 39, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2012)
W. Foerster, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 2:79–81.
J. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ: A Commentary (Chicago: Moody, 1966)