Are the Sixth Seal events at the very end of the 70th Week?


Email Received:

I understand your comparison of the "cosmic disturbances" described by Jesus in Matt. 24:29 (and Mark 13:24,25) and by John in Rev. 6:12,13. They are extremely similar passages, and it makes sense to me that they are "parallel" in that they describe the same period of time (i.e., events to take place soon after the opening of the Sixth Seal).

Immediately after that, in Matt. 24:30,31 (and Mark 13:26,27), Jesus describes how He will come on the clouds. Isn't this at the very end of the 70th Week, thereby placing the Sixth Seal events also at the end? I have adopted the Post-tribulation view of the Rapture, and it seems to me that all of God's wrath will take place during the bowl/vial judgments at the end of the seven years, as depicted by the announcement by the twenty-four heavenly elders at the sounding of the seventh trumpet (Rev. 11:18).


Ted’s Response:

There are those (such as many who embrace the "Pre-tribulation" and "Post-tribulation" Rapture views) who believe that the cosmic disturbances, and other events of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12-17), will occur at the very end of the 70th Week. Thus, those of the "Pre-trib" persuasion believe that Matthew 24:30,31 and Mark 13:26,27 must be a picture of Jesus’ return to earth, while those of the "Post-trib" persuasion believe that these same passages are a picture of both the Rapture and Jesus’ return to earth, concurrently.

Some also believe that the Sixth Seal, Sixth Trumpet, and Sixth Bowl are the same things and describe the same events. I agree with none of these views because, in fact:

  1. Matthew 24:30,31 and Mark 13:26,27 say nothing about Jesus’ returning to earth—only about His appearance on the clouds of the sky, at which time He will send His angels to gather His elect (at the Rapture).
  2. The Sixth Seal events will not occur at the very end of the 70th Week and are not the same as the Sixth Bowl events (see Sixth Seal and Seventh Bowl).
  3. After the Sixth Seal, the events of the Seventh Seal—the "day of vengeance" (which will be the initial portion of the "Day of the Lord")—will still have yet to take place, probably for one year. For instance, the events of the Fifth Trumpet Judgment, alone, will take five months to transpire (Revelation 9:5,10).
  4. Jesus will descend all the way to earth, at the blowing of the Seventh Trumpet, which will be at the end of the 70th Week.

Here are all the pertinent passages to be discussed:

For then there will be great distress [tribulation], unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. ... Immediately after the distress [tribulation] of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Matthew 24:21,22,29-31)

[T]hose will be days of distress [tribulation] unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again. If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. ... But in those days, following that distress [tribulation], the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. (Mark 13:19,20,24-27)

I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" (Revelation 6:12-17)

Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! (Revelation 1:7)

There is one big reason why many think that the appearance of the Son of Man, coming on clouds, will take place at the end of the 70th Week. Jesus indicated that the signs in the sun, moon, and stars would take place after the "distress" (or, in most Bible versions, "tribulation") of those days. This is a reference to the period of "great distress" or "great tribulation" (Matthew 24:21), beginning in the middle of the 70th Week. Here are the assumptions:
  1. The time of "great tribulation" will last for the entire last half of the 70th Week.
  2. Therefore, the signs in the heavenly bodies (sun, moon, and stars) will occur at the very end of the 70th Week, followed immediately by Jesus' second advent (bodily descent) to earth.
There is one little "hitch" in this assumption. Jesus said that those days, of the great tribulation, will be "cut short" or "shortened" for the sake of the elect (Matthew 24:22; Mark 13:20). What will cut short those days? It will be the opening of the Sixth Seal (Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24,25; Revelation 6:12,13). Immediately thereafter, the elect believers in Jesus will be changed and then caught up to be with Him in the clouds (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). John was even told, after the frightful events of the Sixth Seal, that the great multitude he foresaw saw in heaven (Revelation 7:9) had come out of the "great tribulation" (7:14).

Incidentally, lest I be misunderstood, I believe that the last half of the 70th Week will be 1,260 days in length. However, the Great Tribulation period will not last the entire 1,260 days. That period will end with the opening of the Sixth Seal, at which time multitudes of believers will be removed, via the Pre-wrath Rapture, and will be translated to heaven (Revelation 7:9,10,14). This will be before the opening of the Seventh Seal, at which time God's "day of vengeance" will begin.

In essence, the Great Tribulation will be a time of Satan's wrath upon mankind (12:12); whereas, the "day of vengeance" will be a time of God's wrath upon mankind (6:17). The Great Tribulation period plus the "day" (year) of God's wrath will be 1,260 days in length.

Now, let me comment on your reference to the word "wrath" in Revelation 11:18. Firstly, the usage of "wrath," in that verse, is not the first occurrence of this word in Revelation. Secondly, a subsequent usage of "wrath" refers to the seven last plagues (bowl judgments), which will complete God's wrath (Revelation 15:1). The trumpet judgments, however, will be the initial phase of His wrath.

The first usage of the word "wrath" is in Revelation 6:16,17, at which time the onset of God's wrath will be clearly imminent to those on the earth. This fact will be known to them soon after the opening of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12,13), which directly parallels Jesus' description in His Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24,25).

Jesus described the (unbelieving) nations of the earth as mourning (Matthew 24:30), which I feel will be characterized by intense regret that they are about to be left behind to face the wrath of God (Revelation 6:16). Even John spoke of this mourning in Revelation 1:7, which is another depiction of the Pre-wrath Rapture. This is not the same as the mourning of those in Jerusalem, for having pierced their Messiah (Zechariah 12:10), which will take place after Jesus' second advent back to earth.

After writing about the Sixth Seal events, John described, briefly and chronologically, how the 144,000 Israelites will be sealed for protection. This was followed immediately, in sequence, by his observation of the "great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:9). Here is a picture of the raptured saints in front of the Lamb (Jesus), seated on His throne, and this will be prior to the opening of the Seventh Seal (8:1).

Similarly, after Jesus' depiction of Sixth Seal events, He described how He (the Son of Man) will appear in the clouds, and His angels will gather (rapture) the elect (saints) to be with Him. There is no indication here that Jesus will have come to earth at that point but, merely, that He will be seen on His throne (Revelation 6:16) in the clouds (Matthew 24:30; Mark 13:26).

Therefore, this will be the sequence of events:

  1. The Sixth Seal will be opened, and the disturbances in the sun, moon, and stars will be observed by all the people of the earth (Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24,25; Revelation 6:12,13).
  2. Jesus will be seen on His throne (Revelation 6:16) as He appears in the clouds of the sky (Matthew 24:30; Mark 13:26).
  3. The Pre-wrath Rapture will take place (Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:27).
  4. Seeing Jesus in the clouds, unbelievers and scoffers around the world will realize that God's wrath and vengeance is imminent (Revelation 6:16,17). They will mourn (1:7), with intense regret, that they have been left behind to face this wrath. (This mourning, across the entire earth, will not be the same as the mourning and grieving of the "house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem" in Zechariah 12:10. The latter Israelites will mourn, soon after the second advent of their Messiah to walk on the earth, for having pierced Him on the cross, long ago.)
  5. The 144,000 literal Israelites (not gentile Christians) will be sealed for God's protection and service in the world.
  6. The great multitude of raptured saints will be seen in front of Jesus on His throne, in heaven, praising God along with the angels, elders, and other creatures there (Revelation 7:9-11).
After this, the next major event to happen will be the opening of the Seventh Seal, initiating the "day of vengeance," which will encompass the seven trumpet judgments (Revelation 8:1,2). The "day of vengeance" will be the initial segment of the Day of the Lord period. Believing saints will have been protected from this initial phase of God's wrath, via the Rapture. Incidentally, I do believe that a secondary Post-tribulation Rapture event will take place (Revelation 14:14-16), on the day that Jesus returns to earth; but I do not believe that this will be the primary or main catching-up of believers. More about secondary Rapture events can be found in another email response: Is it possible that there will be multiple Rapture events?.

Unless it is understood that Revelation 6:1 through 10:7 (the complete chain of events from Seal #1 through Seal #7) is a chronological, uninterrupted sequence of events, errors will be made in the timing of the primary (that is, the main) rapture event: the Pre-wrath Rapture. The latter will encompass the resurrection of the dead believers in Jesus throughout the ages, as well as the transformation of believers in Him who are alive at that time (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).

As Jesus described, His appearance in the clouds and at the Rapture (Matthew 24:30,31; Mark 13:26,27) will occur soon after the "cosmic disturbances" of the Sixth Seal (Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24,25) have begun. These "disturbances" in the sky will be the sign to everyone on earth that Jesus' materialization in the clouds (and of God's wrath to follow) are imminent. They will not be indicative that Jesus' second advent to earth is about to happen, which will not take place until the sounding of the Seventh Trumpet.

Thus, Jesus ended that portion of His Olivet Discourse with what will happen after the Sixth Seal is opened. His disciples had asked Him what would be the sign of His coming, and He told them about the end of the age up through the signs of the Sixth Seal, and the Rapture to follow, since that is the next appearance or "coming" of Jesus in which they, as believers exempt from God's wrath, would have been the most interested. In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus described nothing about the Seventh Seal, which will entail the first wave of God's wrath, via the trumpet judgments (followed by the second wave of His wrath, the bowl judgments). This "day of vengeance" will commence soon after the Pre-wrath Rapture has taken place, and it most likely will transpire for about a year: the seventh year of the 70th Week.

Read The Chronology of Revelation (or a synopsis of it in Brief Chronology of Revelation) for more details regarding the chronology of the events about which John wrote in the Book of Revelation.


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