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Politics & Prophecy: A Lawyer’s View of the End Times
Part 2 – Judgment of the Nations
by Gerald R. Thompson
The kingdom is coming, the kingdom is coming.
Why will God judge the nations of the world? Before the kingdom of Christ can be established, all the forces of evil and participants in the kingdom of Satan which oppose Christ or the people He has chosen for Himself must be taken out of the way and in most cases destroyed. Jesus isn’t going to compete with anyone else for sovereignty – all other sovereigns must be eliminated.
The events of Rev. ch. 6-19 are not necessarily disclosed to us in chronological order, and should not be read as a continuous timeline. Many of the events described here overlap time-wise, and in some cases are the same event described from different perspectives.
Two quick examples (spoiler alert!): the great earthquake mentioned in Rev. 6 and Rev. 16 are the same event, not two events separated by all the stuff in chapters 7-15. Similarly, the four horsemen of the apocalypse (first four seals) are an overview of the activities of the Antichrist which are described in more detail elsewhere, not separate events at all – so they are not in chronological order.
There is ample precedent for this elsewhere in the Bible. For example, Gen. 1 gives an overview of the entire creation of the world, including man. But then Gen. 2 focuses only on day six of the creation week, expanding and amplifying the events in Gen. 1, primarily God’s interactions with Adam and Eve. There is no conflict between the two – they are not separate creation accounts merely juxtaposed. They complement and agree with each other, yet present different emphases.
What this tells us is that when God does things, especially really big things, He often does so for several different reasons. By giving us multiple accounts of the same events, He gives us a glimpse of His multiple purposes for doing things. It also tells us that when and in what order God will do things is not nearly as important as what He is doing and why.
This is why we have four gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John), not just one. We don’t read the gospels sequentially (as though the events in Mark followed the events in Matthew). Instead, the gospels give us many of the same events, as well as different events overlapping in time, but written from different perspectives or for different emphases. Again, in this there is no conflict.
Thus, when we get to Revelation, we will see many references to beasts, to earthquakes, to people dying, to war, to plagues, to 144,000, etc. These things will be referred to in separate chapters seemingly separated by a large number of events. They may be referred to separately in the 7 seals, the 7 trumpets, and the 7 bowls. The same term may be applied to more than one object in different contexts. It requires careful study. Don’t assume the same terms always refer to the same person, place or event, and don’t automatically assume they are always different usages, either.
Notwithstanding all of this, if you just look at the seven seals, seven trumpets and seven bowls in isolation, there does seem to be a progression of severity. The seven trumpets are worse that the seven seals as a group. The seven bowls would seem of necessity to come at the very end of the Tribulation because they are more severe than all the prior judgments, but this may merely be the seven bowls as a group. Whether the seven bowls actually will take place in temporal sequence is not necessary for us to resolve.
Rev. 6:1-17; 8:1-5
• 1st Seal – A rider on a white horse symbolizing conquest.
• 2nd Seal – A rider on a red horse symbolizing war.
• 3rd Seal – A rider on a black horse symbolizing famine.
• 4th Seal – A rider on a ashen (pale) horse symbolizing death.
Since most people consider these first four seals as a group, I will discuss them together. The first four seals are the “four horsemen of the apocalypse,” which are given authority to kill one-fourth of all mankind. That is, one-fourth of the world population will be lost to the sword, famine, pestilence and wild beasts as a form of divine judgment. Rev. 6:8. I do not view the horsemen as necessarily indicating a sequence, but merely that they will occur together during the Tribulation.
The first rider has a bow and is given a crown to conquer. This should not be confused with the rider on a white horse described in Rev. 19:11-16, which is Christ. Jesus will come to conquer evil and restore peace, whereas the first horseman will incite rebellion by starting wars. Peace will be the last thing on his mind. The fact that he is given a crown signifies he will be a king among men. That his horse is white merely means he will be victorious in his conquests (an allusion to the Roman practice of having a victorious general ride into Rome on a white horse).
The second rider will arrive on a red horse, be given a great sword, and will take peace from the earth so people will kill each other. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, but this rider is stirring up trouble and chaos. He is instigating war and wants people to kill each other. These first two riders emphasize different aspects of the conflict that will characterize the Tribulation. The first horse emphasizes victorious conquests, whereas the second horse, being red, emphasizes the intense level of bloodshed to be expected. One-fourth of the world population will die in what will be, historically speaking, a very brief period of time – perhaps as little as 1335 days.
The third rider has a pair of scales in his hand, and a voice says, “A quart of wheat for a denarius” (i.e., a full day’s wage), “three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!” Both the pair of scales and the various economic references signify severe economic distress and in particular, famine (because food will be scarce). Modernly the term Black Friday is used to signify a positive financial event (the busiest shopping day of the year), but historically Black Monday, Black Tuesday and Black Thursday all refer to severe financial crashes. So it should be no surprise the third horse is black.
The fourth rider’s name is Death, and he is followed by Hades (the grave). The fourth horse is pale in color, the color of ashes. They are given authority to kill one-fourth of all mankind by the sword, famine, pestilence and wild beasts. The word “they” might just mean Death and Hades, but since the second and third riders have already brought the sword and famine, I take the term to refer to all of the four horsemen collectively.
War and famine are easy to understand, since we have them both in our world today. Pestilence is used only this one time in the whole of the book of Revelation. Unlike the word plague, which we have already discussed (Parallel With Exodus), pestilence means a biological disease. Does this mean the Tribulation will see a worldwide pandemic leading to a (gasp!) zombie apocalypse? Hardly.
Yes, chemical or biological weapons may be used in the Tribulation, but pestilence is only one of four weapons of mass destruction identified, and all of them together account for a fourth of the world, not the elimination of the human race. Nonetheless, pestilence may account for the deaths of millions.
The curious element is the apparent use of weaponized wild beasts to kill people. I can’t quite wrap my head around that one. Are people really going to be killed by stampeding animals or ravenous predator cats? I am quite sure wild beasts does not refer to insects, or birds, or rodents, because such a meaning would be inconsistent with the rest of scripture. As for what is actually in view here, I cannot say.
But if we consider that the judgments pictured in these seals is really coming from God, and that the Antichrist is merely God’s instrument of choice to bring about those judgments, it makes more sense. In other words, the Antichrist isn’t weaponizing wild beasts, God is. This is consistent with other portions of scripture where the creation itself reflects the sin condition of mankind, as when the land of Canaan vomited out its inhabitants. Lev. 18:25. And I suppose one could easily view the ten plagues against Egypt as instances when God weaponized frogs, locusts, flies and gnats. If He could do those things, why can’t He turn wild beasts against people?
Here is the first clue as to the identity of the riders: they are referred to in a collective sense, as though their missions are all bound together (“they were given authority”). Rev. 6:8. Other clues we will discuss later under the topic of the Antichrist, but here is a preview. Of all the actors described in Revelation, only the Antichrist is identified as one who will conquer many nations, and whose aim is to conquer the world. The book of Daniel, in particular, identifies the Antichrist as someone who will worship a god of fortresses, i.e., a god of war and be a warmonger.
As we will see, various punishments visited on the earth by God during the reign of the Antichrist will destroy much of the world’s food supply – not necessarily because the Antichrist wants food supplies destroyed, but because his actions will provoke that response from God. And the Antichrist is continually depicted as someone who will bring death and destruction, leaving untold casualties in his wake. Thus, all four horsemen are described in terms closely aligned with the activities of the Antichrist – whether by cause, or merely by effect.
So it seems reasonable to me to conclude that all four horsemen of the apocalypse symbolically represent the same person, the Antichrist. I see the four horsemen as each portraying a different aspect of the same person, not as four different people, or four different events. When the Antichrist comes, he will do all the things attributed to the four horsemen. In other words, all these things will come about because of his actions, with the end result that he will bring a fourth of the world’s population to their deaths during the Tribulation.
Which leads me to a strange conclusion.
All of the seven seals, seven trumpets and seven bowls are judgments sent by God. If the Antichrist personally accounts for four of those judgments, it means he is also sent by God. Actually, it’s not that strange. I’ve already shown that the turmoil in the Mideast is all a direct result of the plan and intention of God going way back in history. So even though the Antichrist will be an agent of Satan, God is using him as a tool to bring about a victory by Jesus Christ to inaugurate God’s kingdom on earth. Clever.
• 5th Seal – Martyred saints crying for vengeance. As we will see, the Antichrist will wage war against God’s people, and many (more likely most) will be martyred. Here the saints that die early on are told to wait for the killing to be complete before God takes His vengeance. This is consistent with various scriptures to the effect that God waits to act until the fullness of time takes place. Or, that God waits to make sure sin reaches its apex, and the time is right, before He steps in. See Gal. 4:4, Eph. 1:10, Rom. 11:25.
• 6th Seal – Great earthquake, signs in the sky, stars falling to earth, the great day of the Lord. Here we are given a number of visible signs that the great day of the Lord (i.e., His judgment of the Antichrist and his hordes) is imminent. Many earthquakes are mentioned in connection with end times prophecies, but there is one that is the biggest of them all. See Ezek. 38:19 and Rev. 16:18.
In all likelihood, the earthquake of Rev. 6 is the same one described in Rev. 16. Rev. 6:14 says the earthquake of the 6th Seal will remove every mountain and island from its place. Rev. 16:20 says that as a result of the earthquake of the 7th Bowl, every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. Ezek. 38:20 is to the same effect: all the fish, birds, animals and people on the earth will quake at God’s presence, and “the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground.” The mountains and islands of the earth can only logically be removed once, which indicates these three scriptures all refer to the exact same earthquake.
The 6th Seal is accompanied by signs and wonders in the heavens (a blackened sun, blood mon, and falling stars). Mat. 24:29 indicates these exact signs will happen immediately before the Second Coming. Similarly, the 7th Bowl of Rev. 16 occurs right before the Second Coming. Again, the indication is that these texts all describe the same event.
Finally, the events described in the 6th Seal are called the great day of the wrath of the Lamb. The 7th Bowl says God will make Babylon drink the wine of the fury of His wrath. It is hard to see how the great day of the wrath of the Lamb could be different from “the great day of the Lord,” i.e., the Second Coming. These are likely just two names for the same event. In addition, the 7th Bowl follows the 6th Bowl – which describes Armageddon. In other words, both the 6th Seal and the 7th Bowl occur on God’s “great day,” and both come at the end of the Tribulation. So the two earthquakes must be the same event. All the clues point in the same direction.
It is also interesting that a fig tree is mentioned by analogy in Rev. 6:13, just as in Mat. 24:32-33, indicating a correlation between the two texts. Remember, the Mat. 24 text is specifically about the Second Coming. As for the stars falling from the sky, this is figurative language – numerous gaseous bodies the size of astronomical stars will not literally land on the earth. This is undoubtedly a reference – here and in Mat. 24 – to fallen angels being restricted or displaced from their previous positions or realms and being sent to earth for a destructive purpose. More on this later.
I take the language regarding the mountains being thrown down as possibly both literal and figurative. There is a literal sense in which the earthquake will alter the earth’s topography, and we also see people hiding among the rocks of the mountains, i.e., what’s left after literally being shaken to pieces. But the reference to kings, generals and “the great ones” seeking refuge also indicates that world governments will collapse. The symbolic meaning of a mountain as referring to a kingdom is too obvious to ignore. This is only natural – capital cities and government buildings will undoubtedly be destroyed in the great earthquake. Plus, when Jesus comes to establish His earthly kingdom, all of the other governments, many of which will be distinctly evil, need to be removed.
• 7th Seal – Silence for half an hour and the golden censer. The 7th seal starts with a half hour of silence, followed by an introduction of the seven trumpets, and then a picture of a golden censer representing the prayers of the saints, which is thrown down to earth with fire, thunder, lightning and an earthquake. The references to fire, thunder, lightning and an earthquake in Rev. 8:5 probably refer back to the 6th Seal as a literary device for adding emphasis to the text and do not signify separate events from those of the 6th Seal.
The golden censer would seem to be another word picture of the prayers of the Tribulation saints for God’s vengeance on the forces of evil. The half hour of silence probably indicates great anticipation – that whatever happens next is really significant. However, I take the half hour to refer solely to John’s experience in receiving the vision – not that in the future, when the seals are broken, there will be a half hour space between the seals and the trumpets. We already know the seals and trumpets are not given in chronological order, so it makes no sense to treat the half hour as part of a future sequence of events. But I could be wrong.
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Next: The Seven Trumpets & The Seven Bowls
* Ver. 8.0. Copyright © 2013-2020 Gerald R. Thompson. All rights reserved. Used by permission. All Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version.