Of the ten deadliest tornadoes in the United States, nine of them took place before advanced warning technologies like we have today. Yet, those of us who grew up or have lived a long time in parts of the country that often see severe weather sometimes grow numb to the warnings of the National Weather Service or to the ominous clouds forming on the horizon. But complacency to warnings can be deadly if ignored.
Almost all of us, no matter where you live, have grown numb to the warning signs in Scripture to the storm that will break on the whole world at the end times. The truth is, most of us are more consumed with the here-and-now than we are with the then-and-there. But we need to listen to the early warnings from the Bible—not because believers in Jesus will experience these storms—but because family and friends who haven’t placed their trust in Christ will have to weather these storms that are a prelude to the return of Jesus Christ.
Before Christ establishes His millennial kingdom there is a time of great suffering, known as the tribulation. This doomsday clock will start as soon as Christ raptures His church. The rapture will be a catastrophic event on earth.
There will be worldwide chaos and confusion. That’s when the Antichrist will emerge on the world stage. According to Daniel, “he will make a firm covenant” with Israel “for one week”—the seven years of the tribulation (Daniel 9:27). In the middle of these seven years—three and one half (3½ years)—the Antichrist will break the treaty, which will bring a greater outpouring of God’s wrath, known as “the great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21).
There seems to be two purposes for the tribulation.
- Salvation of the elect (Jeremiah 30:5-7)
The primary purpose of the tribulation is redemption. It is humanity’s final chance to repent of their sin and accept Jesus as Savior and Lord. Though Gentiles will be saved during the tribulation (Revelation 7:9), the primary purpose of this time is the salvation of Israel.
- Condemnation of the lost (Isaiah 26:21)
God’s great desire is that no one would receive His wrath, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance—to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4). Unfortunately, many will continue in their rebellion against God and will refuse His grace, giving God no other choice than to pour out His wrath on them.
The seven years of tribulation is a time of judgment and heartache (Jeremiah 30:7). It is the outpouring of God’s wrath, which is described in the book of Revelation as a series of seven threes:
- Seven Seals (Revelation 6:1–17; 8:1)
- Seven Trumpets (Revelation 8:2–11:19)
- Seven Bowls (Revelation 16:1-21)
The last of which will result in Armageddon and the second coming of Christ.
The severity of these judgments increases with each one. If we were to rate them like weather forecasters rate thunderstorms:
- The seven seals would be a TS3—Darkness descends with occasional lightning strikes, moderate rain and wind, and pea-sized hail.
- The seven trumpets would be a TS4—Very dark, increased lightning, heavy rains, damaging winds, and golf ball to baseball-sized hail.
- The seven bowl judgments would be a TS5—Pitch black, continuous lightning strikes, flooding rains, tornadic activity, and grapefruit sized hail.
The seventh seal introduces the first trumpet judgment, and the seventh trumpet introduces the first bowl judgment.
However, as John Walvoord noted and as we will see as we study more of Revelation: “The seven seals contain the whole revelation, since all the trumpets and bowls are comprehended in the seventh seal. The seven-sealed book therefore is the comprehensive program of God culminating in the second coming of Christ.”