The chronology of Revelation- a modified pre-wrath view

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The chronology of Revelation- a modified pre-wrath view

Postby studying on Sun Nov 16, 2008 11:29 am

Seals, trumpets and bowls

Most Bible scholars assume that the seals, trumpets and bowls follow each other in chronological order. However in my attempted to honestly compare Scripture with Scripture and take each Scripture at it’s most natural meaning, the evidence lead me elsewhere. The following discussion assumes a pre-wrath rapture view.

Start by reading Matt. 24:29-31, Luke 21:25-28 and Rev. 6:12-14. We already know that all three of these passages describe events just prior to the rapture. Yet there is something that still doesn’t quite make sense. Rev. 6:14 describes an earthquake of such magnitude the earth as we know it is destroyed. Some may contend that all the islands and mountains are only moved not destroyed in the sixth seal. However the most natural reading of the text is that they are destroyed. The picture being described here is not of mountains that shift over a little like a chair that is bumped, but remains in its general place at the table. The wording indicates the mountains are removed from their place as in a chair taken from it’s place beside the table and taken to another room. In actuality the passage says that the islands and mountains are no longer where they used to be. It does not say that they were taken someplace else, thus the picture is of the maintains collapsing. The fact that only things which stick up are said to be removed (mountains and islands) is further evidence that a collapsing is in view. Why was such a catastrophic element left out of the descriptions found in Matthew and Luke? I think the most obvious answer is, the earthquake does not occur until after the rapture.

This leads us to an objection that some in the pre-wrath camp give to placing the sealing of the 144,000 and the rapture near the beginning of the 6th seal instead of after. The objection is based on the fact that the descriptions of the 144,000 and the rapture is not included in, but immediately follows the description of the 6th seal. However it is natural and common in prophetic writing (and everyday usage) to finish talking about one topic before talking about a different topic that occurs chronologically during the event being described. For example a football announcer will report the events on the field and then go back and talk about the reaction in the stands which began during the play on the field. It is natural for the rapture to be described after the 6th seal because it occurs during the 6th seal but is not part of the seal itself. We must realize that the 6th seal is a long event. We know this because 6:15-17 describes everyone on earth understanding that God’s wrath is beginning and having had time to flee to the mountains. The natural normal meaning of people hiding from God’s wrath is that the wrath has already begun. All this occurred before the great earthquake because the mountains are still standing. The most natural interpretation is not to say that the wrath will begin after the next seal, but rather that it begins sometime during this seal.

This interpretation is further supported by a chronological backtrack given in 7:2-3. Notice that the angel was told not to harm the land, trees or the sea until sealing the 144,000. Most say that 7:2-3 is not a backtrack but refers only to the trumpet and bowl judgements yet to be described. The first trumpet (Rev. 8:7) specifically mentions trees being burned, but the description of falling stars and a great earthquake (6th seal) does not specifically mention damage to trees. Thus the prohibition to hurting the trees is thought to apply to the first trumpet (Rev. 8:7) not yet described rather than the earthquake and hail just described. However an earthquake that makes all the mountains and islands collapse and a massive meteorite storm would without a doubt greatly damage the land, the sea and also the trees.
Saints before the throne

Next read Rev. 15. Notice that the saints pictured here sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. Now Moses is the center piece of the Old Testament covenant and the Lamb (Christ) is the center piece of the New Testament covenant. Thus when the saints sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb, we have a clear picture of Old and New Testament saints. These saints are further described as people who were victorious over the mark of the beast and his image. This indicates that at least some of them had been on earth during the time of the mark of the beast, but had not taken it. It would seem that these saints now have glorified bodies (which they receive at the rapture) because they are no longer described as souls as in 6:9 and they were holding harps. We also see that these saints are in heaven during the bowl judgements because their description is bound in between 15:1 (an introduction to the bowl judgements) and 15:5-16:20 (a full description of the bowl judgements). In other words the vision of the saints in heaven is clearly a part of the vision regarding the bowls not a separate vision. So we place this event just before the bowl judgements. Are there any clues about what this event is?

The 144,000 sealed

First, let’s look at the song that the saints sang in Rev. 15. Notice that the content of the song is recorded for us and that it is not the same as the song sometimes referred to as the song of Moses. Rather this is a new song. A song that combines Moses and the Lamb. Read Rev. 14:1-5. Here we have the 144,000 on earth, on the Mount of Olives listening to a new song being sung in heaven. The songs in 15:2-4 and 14:2-3 seem compatible as do the singers and the location. Could they be the same event from different perspectives? If so, the 144,000 Jews are sealed on the mount of olives (7:4-8; 14:1) at the time of the rapture (7:9-17). Then they learn the new song that the newly raptured Christians are singing in heaven (14:2-3; 15:2-4). Remember Rev. 14:2-3 does not say the 144,000 go to heaven. It says they were on the Mount of Olives and John heard singers singing a song in heaven which the 144,000 learned. The singers are in heaven (the raptured Christians) and the learners are on earth (the 144,000 Jews). Now read Rev. 7:1-17. This passage starts with the sealing of the 144,000 (vss. 3-4) and is immediately followed by the saints in heaven from every tribe and language, a clear reference to the rapture. So we see the sealing of the 144,000 occurring immediately before or simultaneously with the rapture just like the songs in 15:2-4 and 14:2-3 seemed to indicate. We see therefore a strong correlation between 7:1-17; 14:2-3 and 15:2-4. This leads us to believe that the rapture occurs just prior to the first bowl judgement.

The time of wrath

These observations seem to rule out the idea that all the trumpet judgements occur between the rapture and the 7 bowl judgements. This also seems to conflict with the idea that all trumpet judgements are the “wrath of God” unless they run simultaneously with the bowl judgements. Remember that only the last trumpet mentions the wrath of God (11:15-19). At this point we need to re-read all the passages which mention the wrath of God so that we know what is unquestionably part of the wrath and what we need to re-evaluate based on our latest observations. The passages are: Rev. 6:17 (the 6th seal), 11:18 (the 7th trumpet), 14:10 (describing the fate of those who worship the beast) and 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19 (all 7 bowls collectively). It will be necessary to look for more clues as to the chronological placement of the trumpets. What we can see so far is that the 7th trumpet and all 7 bowl judgements are included within the sixth seal.

Let’s look at Rev. 11:18 (7th trumpet). Again the time of wrath is seen as already having started, but no starting point is mentioned. Some would say that all the trumpets are the time of wrath. This could be supported by the fact that they are judgments. However, it is still merely an educated guess as it lacks specific Scriptural support. Not all judgements are part of God’s wrath (first four seals for example). There is no verse that specifically associates the first 6 trumpets with the time of wrath. Interestingly, three of the trumpets are singled out as distinct. The 5th, 6th and 7th trumpets are described as the three woes (or terrors). Although it is not conclusive, this gives us reason to suspect that the time of wrath is the 5th, 6th, and 7th trumpets. This also fits beautifully in our time line of the rapture. The 4th trumpet is 1/3 of the day and night becoming dark. This would correlate with the beginning of signs in the sun, moon and stars seen in the 6th seal and which immediately precede the rapture. Thus, if our assumption is correct, the rapture would occur between the 4th and 5th trumpets. I will be the first to admit that identifying woes with wrath is circumstantial evidence, but it is no less circumstantial that the traditional view.

The 7th trumpet (11:15-19) mentions an earthquake and hail which could correlate with the 7th bowls. However most of what is described is not compatible with the bowl judgements especially not the 1st 6 bowls. The 7th trumpet includes such things as; the kingdom of the world becoming the kingdom of Christ, judging the dead, rewarding the prophets, rewarding those who revere Christ. These things seem to be a clear reference to the millennium and the Great White Throne judgement. This forces us to conclude that although there might be a small overlap, the 7th trumpet is mostly after the 7 bowl judgements.

Total devastation, twice?

Now read Rev. 16:20. Notice the similar severity of the earthquakes described in 6:14 and 16:20. It seems difficult to have two distinct earthquakes which both wipe out all the mountains and islands. Some may contend that all the islands and mountains are only moved not destroyed in the sixth seal. However the most natural reading of the text is that they are destroyed. It does not say that they were taken someplace else, thus the picture is of the maintains collapsing. The fact that only things which stick up are said to be removed (mountains and islands) is further evidence that a collapsing is in view. The earthquake in 16:20 is similar. Here the islands flee away (presumably down into the water). To “flee” is the active way of saying the passive idea of “be removed.” In 16:20 the mountains “could not be found” presumably because they had been “moved from their place” in the skyline, i.e. collapsed. Thus we have a strong correlation between the 7th bowl and the last event of the 6th seal. As we have continued to carefully examine more and more Scriptures, they seem to all point in the same direction. We have compared Scripture with Scripture, and they all point to the same conclusion.

The chronology of Revelation

At this point it is necessary to look at the chronology of Revelation. Is there good reason to believe that Rev. 1:19 is an outline for the book of Revelation? Is Revelation written chronologically? If we conclude that it is chronological then we will be forced to question our conclusions.

First let’s consider Rev. 1:19. The passage does not claim to be an outline of the book. It only claims to be a list of the different things John is supposed to write about, a list of the content of the book. There is nothing in the text to imply that this is an outline. It seems clear that some call it an outline only because it could serve as an outline if you have already decided that Revelation is chronological. Rev. 1:19 cannot be used as evidence for the chronology of Revelation.

Another reason people believe that the seals, trumpets and bowls are sequential is the chronological markers in the book of Revelation. However this point is easily refuted by the fact that many of the chronological markers relate to the sequence in which John saw things happen. Most of the book of Revelation is a series of visions John saw regarding the future. The sequence words indicate the order in which John saw these visions, but don’t in any way rule out the possibility that two visions relate to the same time period. When two events happen simultaneously, one of the events must still be reported or revealed first. For John to see a single event from two different perspectives, he must see and report the same event twice. There is a big difference between saying that “there will be 7 seal judgments and then 7 trumpet judgments” and saying “I saw 7 seals and then I saw 7 trumpets.” The first statement clearly sets the order of future events, but is not found in the book of Revelation. The second statement only sets the order of a past event, the order in which the visions were seen.

Most scholars admit that Revelation is not fully chronological. They see parenthetical sections which depart from the Chronological order beginning at 10:1 (or 11:1 depending on your view) and 12:1. The fact that these portions are parenthetical is obvious because of the content of these portions. However there is no difference in the way these parenthetical portions are introduced. In other words, there is no statement that say, “but before this happened something else happened.” John just keeps on talking about what he sees next without telling us the order of their fulfillment. Compare 10:1 and 12:1 (the passages generally considered parenthetical) and 8:2 and 15:1 (the passages generally considered to continue chronological). Is there anything in the way these sections are introduced that justifies our seeing the first two as stepping backwards chronologically and the second two as going forward chronologically? I certainly don’t see any. The reason scholars see 10:1 and 12:1 as stepping back in time is only because the events described have clearly already happened. Why can’t the same principle apply to the sequencing of the seals, trumpets and bowls? Remember that we found strong evidence to show that the 7 bowls are the same series of events as the 6th not 7th seal. We also demonstrated that the 7th trumpet is not compatible with the first 6 bowls. Therefore, using the same type of evidence as most scholars use for the parenthetical passages, we can deduce that the seals, trumpets and bowls are not sequential.

It is important to note that several visions had sequential elements within them; for example, 7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 bowls and 3 angels. These numbered events are clearly sequential. However the fact that there are multiple sets of numbered events each starting with one, implies that the sets are not sequential, but rather occur simultaneously. If you were to give instructions for assembling a model airplane, you would number the steps that need to be sequential relative to each other. If however you number the steps 1-10 for assembling the wings and then you number steps 1-10 for assembling the fuselage, the builder would assume that his friend could assemble the fuselage while he assembles the wings. If however, the fuselage must be assembled after the wing is assembled, then you would number the steps for assembling the fuselage as steps 11-20 rather than starting over with another step one.

I am not proposing that Revelation is written in random order. Rather I am saying that some events are described several times from various perspectives. As such the book of Revelation has chronological sections, but different sections are not necessarily in series. Certain clues are given that help us determine which sections overlap with other sections. However the book of Revelation does not claim to be a time line of end time events. It is first and foremost a description of end time events. Those who wish to determine the sequence must study it carefully. Even with careful study some uncertainties will remain.

Thus we have a time line of seals, trumpets and bowls based on the natural normal interpretation of Scripture which appears consistent with all other Scriptures. Although we cannot be dogmatic about all aspects of our time line, we can be confident about the general structure.
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Re: The chronology of Revelation- a modified pre-wrath view

Postby Keeping Alert on Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:12 am

Excellent post! In fact, I have been trying to piece the chronology of Revelation these few weeks too and I am so grateful for this post. To me the seals, trumpets and bowls are something like a jig-saw puzzle with pieces revealing slightly different aspects of the same thing in order to reveal the final picture. 7 being the number of completion - the end-time puzzle is completed by the 7 seals but the full picture is complemented by the 7 trumpets which is further complemented by the 7 bowls.

Do you have a timeline that could help us to understand what you are trying to convey a little more?

Where do you think we are at now with regards to the seals/trumpets?

Thanks!
Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.

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Father, glorify thy name.

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Re: The chronology of Revelation- a modified pre-wrath view

Postby studying on Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:54 pm

Hi Keeping Alert.
Yes I do have a graphic time line but I don't know how to post it here. I am in the process of making my own small website where I can post the time line. I hope to make this available in the next few days. I will post a link once I get the bugs worked out.
Regarding where we are now. I see us as in the 4th seal, between the 3rd and 4th trumpets and before all of the bowls. It will be much easier to explain once you can refer to the chart, so I will leave it at that for now.
It is very incouraging to me to see others who are serious about understanding prophecy. I know you are serious because you never would have read my entire post otherwise.
Blessings
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Re: The chronology of Revelation- a modified pre-wrath view

Postby studying on Tue Nov 18, 2008 2:24 pm

Here is the link I promised. http://70thweekstudy.com
When you get to the web page click on "Seals, trumpets & bowls" or "Time line." Sorry I am not sure how to link directly to the time line from this web site.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. II Timothy 2:15
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Re: The chronology of Revelation- a modified pre-wrath view

Postby Abiding in His Word on Thu Nov 20, 2008 5:06 am

studying wrote:Here is the link I promised. http://70thweekstudy.com
When you get to the web page click on "Seals, trumpets & bowls" or "Time line." Sorry I am not sure how to link directly to the time line from this web site.


Thanks for the link, studying! Here's the link directly to the timeline, which is, btw a pdf document:

http://70thweekstudy.com/timeline_full.pdf
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Re: The chronology of Revelation- a modified pre-wrath view

Postby Keeping Alert on Fri Nov 21, 2008 9:17 am

Thanks for the link! There is so much good stuff there... I will sure be studying Good work! Thanks for sharing! :blessyou:
Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.

πατερ δοξασον σου το ονομα
Father, glorify thy name.

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
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Re: The chronology of Revelation- a modified pre-wrath view

Postby kirthril on Wed Apr 08, 2009 1:20 pm

Forgive me if i misread, but you seem to imply the three woes are part of Gods wrath?

do you consider Gods wrath to fall on the day of the lord or elsewhere? Reason i ask is because the 1st of the three woes brings the locusts and they run amok for 5 months. 5 months is a long time for God to pour his wrath on earth during the day of the lord.

other than that i agree on almost everything else. The 144,000 i am not so sure on the exact time of their sealing but yeah, i think it would be before the 1st trumpet.
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Re: The chronology of Revelation- a modified pre-wrath view

Postby studying on Fri Apr 24, 2009 4:24 am

Greetings Kirthril,
Yes, you understood me correctly. I believe that the three woes fit best within the time of Wrath. I admit that five months is a long time for God to be pouring out His wrath on earth as He could wipe out the entire earth in an instant. However, the lake of fire is for eternity. God doesn't have the same "get it done in a hurry" mentality that most of us human have.
I also beleive that the Wrath of God is the first part of the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord also includes the events immediately leading up to the new heaven and new earth as we see in II Peter 3:10-13.
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