When we discuss the Revelation judgments, it may be that the 7 Seals are the most “popular,” if we can use that term for such a time as this. It is the coming forth of the Antichrist, of course, which is what captures people’s attention. He’s the one who dominates the dark side in these most horrible of years. It is his revealing that starts the Tribulation ball rolling. Daniel 9 describes how he confirms a covenant with Israel and another party, known as the many. It is this agreement that starts the official seven years. Paul in 2 Thessalonians tells us that only when the Restrainer, i.e. the Holy Spirit, steps aside does the lawless one come out of the shadows. There is definitely a process in play that must occur for all the prophecies to be fulfilled in their time.
One of the most intriguing theories about the timing for when the Tribulation begins has been postulated by Bill Salus as an Alternative View. I like the idea a lot and incorporated his idea into a novella I wrote and published on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. The format emphasizes a serialized format with each part being an episode in the whole. You can find the story: Tribulation Rising: Seal Judgments – The Coming Apocalypse here:
The thinking behind this is that there is nothing textually that says the Seal judgments actually begin when Antichrist confirms the covenant. The 7-year clock starts with the covenant confirmation, but not necessarily the opening of the Seals. This opens up some interesting possibilities. The chronology changes completely, and in many respects makes the logistics of the many judgments work better because there is time for them to occur. They effectively aren’t as rushed and crammed into the seven years.
I’ve said for a long time that based on the text in Ezekiel 38-39 that the War of Gog and Magog must begin at least 3 1/2 years prior to the official beginning of the Tribulation. This is because of the seven-year clean-up of the land that is foretold in Ezekiel 39:9. This timing is necessary because of the Antichrist’s actions at the Trib’s midpoint. He desecrates the Tribulation Temple and immediately begins persecuting the Jews. At this point, they flee to Petra or are killed. The restoring of the land that Israel has been undertaking ends right there. Thus, for this 7-year effort to fit the prophecy, it must by definition begin 3 1/2 years before Antichrist’s covenant confirmation.
There is a good likelihood that the Rapture of the church occurs before the beginning of Ezekiel’s War and prior to the covenant agreement. This creates a gap between the Rapture and the official start of the Tribulation. How long is the gap and what happens during this time besides (probably) the start of this war outlined in Ezekiel?
If we’re not confined by the text and need to begin the Seal Judgments within the Tribulation’s seven years, then that means they could begin prior in this gap period. In considering this Alternative View, which of the Seals might be opened?
Salus has suggested that the first five Seals make the most sense to be opened at this time. In the 1st Seal we see the Antichrist coming onto the world scene. A lot happens following this in the opening of Seals 2-5. Antichrist brings false peace, but world war breaks out in Seal 2. This leads to great famine in the opening of Seal 3. In war and famine come death, which is what Seal 4 depicts. Worse, because believers in Christ have been removed from the earth, the death that claims men’s bodies has a companion. The second rider on the black horse of this Seal is Hades. The people suffering at this time are unbelievers, and Hades claims their souls for hell.
Throughout all this, somehow Antichrist gains the favor of Israel. Again, I’m with Bill Salus in thinking that it’s because of what the Catholic church may be doing at this time, as it strives to become the One World Religion. In that – perhaps violent – ecumenical effort, Israel feels extremely threatened, and Antichrist comes to the rescue. He saves the day – so Israel thinks – by bringing the hostile parties to the negotiating table for the fatal covenant signing.
What of the 5th Seal? After the Rapture there are many who will come to their senses and realize they blew it. Their faith was deficient and their loyalties divided between heaven and the earth. In effect, they weren’t worthy in what they believed to warrant the Lord removing them from the world. Their affections were centered too much on life in this alien place that was never supposed to be their home. As a result , they were left behind. There will be others, of course, but these remorseful ones, because of their split allegiance, may comprise the bulk of those who turn to Christ immediately after the Rapture. And we know there will be many.
In this time of chaos during these initial Seal Judgments, these people in becoming believers will stand out. The narrative of the day will be anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-church. The story that circulates as to why so many people disappeared may revolve around aliens snatching them away or Mother Gaia – the sentient earth – having been unhappy with the negative vibrations or harmonics that those awful Christ-followers emitted. However it plays out, anyone who subsequently identifies with the ones who were Raptured will be targeted. If the Catholic church is the entity promoting the ecumenical gathering of all compliant religions, and those who become Christians won’t go along, the Vatican may begin another great Inquisition against them. These actions against those who follow Christ at this time will result in many, many deaths.
This is where the 5th Seal comes in. These newly minted Christians become the martyrs we see in heaven gathered at the throne as Revelation 6:9 depicts:
When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.
Another argument for the first five Seals occurring before the official start of the Tribulation is what these martyrs cry out to God. It tells us in Revelation 6:10:
And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
If they had been slain during the 7-year Tribulation itself, wouldn’t they know how long? This is a key to the Alternative View. Milestones in the Tribulation are well known. We know the covenant confirmation starts the 7-year clock. We know that at the exact midpoint of 3 1/2 years, Antichrist desecrates the temple. We know that at the very final day Jesus returns with the Raptured saints for Armageddon, and the Tribulation ends immediately. Why don’t these martyrs know the timing? Anywhere along the way, if their deaths occurred within the Tribulation, they would know how long until the end. But they don’t.
If, on the other hand, they’re killed in the gap after the Rapture and before the Tribulation begins, they have no idea how long these events will go on in this unspecified period. The length of time could be the 3 1/2 years associated with Ezekiel’s War, or it could be much longer. The gap could be a five to ten year period for all we know as the events of the first five Seals play out.
If we’re not told something specifically in Biblical text, that means there is room for speculation. What I’ve outlined here certainly fits that description. It’s an interesting exercise to consider the what-ifs of those things that we don’t directly know. And I think God wants us to exercise our minds in this way. He gives us Bible prophecy so that we can know what is to come, but He doesn’t give us every detail. If we’re to study His Word to understand the times, surely we’re to consider all facets of the prophecies and what might occur in those areas where He doesn’t articulate certain aspects.
The one assurance we do have is that the Lord will return for His beloved Bride. When all these things occur, we won’t be here to endure them. They are for the unbelieving world which also, unfortunately, includes reluctant Israel. For us who believe and trust in Christ, we have a wedding to attend!