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End Times Chronology: Timing of the Seal Judgments
By Nathan Jones
In the chronology of end time events, when do the Seal Judgments happen?
For a fascinating discussion of this and other questions concerning end time chronology, we invited Dr. Ron Rhodes to our television program Christ in Prophecy. Dr. Rhodes is a prolific Bible prophecy author with over 80 books to his credit! He is a professor and also the founder and director of a ministry called Reasoning from the Scriptures which specializes in defending Christianity against atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the cults, world religions, and any group that teaches false doctrine. As an expert in the field of Bible prophecy, we’re going to focus on one of his books in particular titled, The End Times in Chronological Order.
Timing of the Seal Judgments
Dr. Reagan: Let me raise another question of chronology that focuses on the period between the Rapture and beginning of the Tribulation. The Rapture does not start the Tribulation, which I think we can agree. But, some are saying there’s going to be a period of time, maybe even several years, between the Rapture and the Tribulation. And, some would go further can claim there’s not going to be enough time during the seven-year Tribulation for all that Revelation describes is supposed to happen. So, they’ll take the Seal Judgments out of the seven years and place them into this supposed gap between the Rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation. What are the problems with doing this?
Dr. Rhodes: The big problem that I see with doing that is that the three sets of 21 judgments reserved for the Tribulation seem to belong together and they are cohesive. You’ve got the Seal Judgments, Trumpet Judgments, and Bowl Judgments. And, here’s the thing, in the Old Testament this day of Tribulation is typically called the “day of the wrath of the Lord.” For example, Zephaniah 1 contains, “The day of the wrath of the Lord.” So, that defines the period as a specific period during which God’s wrath will be poured out.
Now, wait a minute! We know that the Seal Judgments are an outpouring of God’s wrath. We know that because it’s the Lamb of God — Jesus Christ — who opens each of the seven seals that leads to the unleashing of a new judgment. The Seal Judgments are the wrath of God. There will be 1.8 billion people in today’s numbers who will die during just one of those judgments. How can you possibly say that that the Seal Judgments are not part of the Tribulation?
Furthermore, I think all of those judgments will take place rather quickly. You’ve got the emergence of the Antichrist, which is seal number one. And then, number two, war breaks out. And then, famine breaks out, which is a natural result of war. And then, death occurs on a planetary scale. Then you’ve got many, many martyrs and cosmic signs appearing such as the sun turning dark, the moon turning dark, and incredible signs such as that. There is no reason to say that the Seal Judgments cannot take place within the first half of the Tribulation period due to a lack of time.
Dr. Reagan: The Antichrist is going to launch a world war to take over the entire world. It seems to me from the description of the fallout of this great war that it starts to morphs into a nuclear war. One-third of the earth will be burned up.
Dr. Rhodes: I look at conventional wars such as World War I, which had about 15 million people die. World War II was closer to 60 million deaths. And, that is by conventional war! It is very hard to kill 1.8 billion people by a conventional war. Therefore, it seems to be there may be weapons of mass destruction utilized.
Dr. Reagan: Let me tell you another problem I have with this idea of moving the Seal Judgments into a gap, and that is doing so really violates the integrity of Daniel’s 70th Week prophecy. The Lord says He’s going to accomplish certain things among the Jewish people in a period of 70 weeks of years. We’ve got one last seven years to go. When you start moving God’s judgments out of that prophesied time of wrath that is supposed to be contained within the last seven years of Daniel’s prophecy you end up violating God’s prophetic timeline.
Dr. Rhodes: That’s right. Just in terms of chronology, that seven-year period spoken of in Daniel 9:27 ought to be compared to Revelation 11 and 12, because the seven-year period is confirmed there by several references to the length of half of the Tribulation, which is three-and-a-half years each. There’s also a reference to 42 months. There’s a reference to 1,160 days. There is the reference to “times, times, and half a time.” “Times” is two years and a “time” equals one year and “a half a time” equals half a year. Those various references to either the first or second half of the Tribulation confirm the seven-year period during which all of God’s judgments unfold.
From my perspective, when John was recording the book of Revelation, he says right there in chapter 4 verse 1, “After these things…” Keep in mind that in Revelation 1:19 the Lord had given John an outline of the book of Revelation. He indicated that starting in chapter 4 everything that followed was going to be prophetic in nature and all of these judgments to follow were to be in close concert with each other.
To me, it just makes great sense to take the Seal Judgments and the Trumpet Judgments and the Bowl Judgments as one cohesive unit. The judgments get worse as time goes on, but they all belong together as an unfolding of God’s wrath on earth within Daniel’s Seventieth Week.
Timing of the Bowl and Trumpet Judgments
Nathan Jones: Dr. Rhodes, do you see the three series of Revelation judgments as separate and distinct? Some people will claim the Trumpet Judgments are merely an echo of the Seal Judgments, and the Bowl Judgments are merely an echo of the Trumpet Judgments. Do you see these three series of judgments as 21 distinct judgment or do you see them as just a reiteration of each set?
Dr. Rhodes: I don’t think there’s a reiteration. We’ve got three sets of seven distinct judgments, and there are several reasons why I say that. First of all, if they were the same judgments, in each case you would expect them to be absolutely similar. Now, there are some similarities between the Trumpet Judgments and the Bowl Judgments, but not with the Seal Judgments. Even the similarities between the Bowl and the Trumpet Judgments are not similar enough to say that they are the same. Furthermore, in Revelation 15:1, we are told that the Bowl Judgments represent the last of God’s judgments on the earth. “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.” With these Bowl Judgments the wrath of God is finished.
So, there are some very clear indicators that the Bowl Judgments are distinct from the Trumpet Judgments and the Seal Judgments.
Dr. Reagan: Plus, Revelation says the Seal Judgments are going to affect one-fourth of the population, and the Trumpet Judgments say one-third, so they are not even affecting the same number of people.
Dr. Rhodes: That’s exactly right! The way that it actually works out in Scripture is that you’ve got the first six judgments of the Seal Judgments, and then the seventh Seal Judgment represents the seven Trumpet Judgments. Then, as the first six Trumpet judgments unfold, the Seventh Trumpet represents the Seven Bowl Judgments. They naturally lead into each other with the consecutive judgments becoming worse with each passing year.
Season of the Lord’s Return
Dr. Reagan: Ron, do you believe we are living in the season of the Lord’s return? And, if so, why?
Dr. Rhodes: I do believe that we are living in the season of the Lord’s return. I believe that because of what I call the Convergence Factor. It would be one thing if it was just one prophecy coming to pass in our day, like Israel being rebirthed as a nation. But, it would be another thing if two prophecies in our day were being fulfilled, which by the way, is happening.
But, to me, what’s significant is that we’ve got multiple prophecies converging today and pointing to a date in the not too distant future. Just to give you a few examples, we’ve got the preparations for the Ezekiel 38-39 invasion taking place right now. There are now alliances between Russia and Iran and between Russia and Libya. There are developing alliances between Russia and Turkey. These are the very nations that will be involved in the Gog-Magog invasion.
Scriptures indicates that the Temple will be rebuilt in the end times. Right now the Sanhedrin has raised the money for its construction and the architectural plans have been prepared. I can say so much more, but long story short is that we see a whole lot of prophecies coming to pass in our own day. That means that we are indeed living in the season of Jesus Christ’s return.
Dr. Reagan: What motivated you to write your book The End Times in Chronological Order?
Dr. Rhodes: It’s my opinion that a lot of Christians don’t pay too much attention to chronological clues in the biblical text, and that is why there is so much confusion about prophetic timing. It’s also my opinion that one of the reasons why the Early Church was excited about their Christianity was because they had a strong prophetic hope. But, today, it seems like there’s a lot of prophetic agnosticism by people so they are not sure about anything related to Bible prophecy anymore. I believe you can be rather sure about a lot of when prophetic events will happen. So, I wrote my book to show people how to watch out for those chronological clues that help you to understand the chronology of end time events.
Dr. Reagan: I highly recommend your book because I know that many people are confused about end times chronology. I also know that you are the type of writer who brings the material right down to the common person’s level. You have a wonderful gift of writing that is down-to-earth and easy to understand. When people read your book, they will come out understanding the end time chronological order.