What is the chronology of Revelation? Do the seals trumpets and bowls overlap?

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Readers Question / Comment - What is the chronology of Revelation? Do the seals trumpets and bowls overlap?


in your study on 'I am the first and the last', you make reference to the 6th seal in Revelation 6:12-17 and state that you believe this is the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ when every eye will see Him. This is interesting. Do you think that the seal, trumpet and bowl judgments overlap or carry on sequentially, one after the other?

JPN Reply:

Hi, this is a good question and one that I have pondered a bit over the years and recently changed my opinion on. As a bit of background, the traditional view is to see the seals, trumpets and bowls as consecutive. That is, the seals play out and then open up the trumpets that play out, then lead to the final bowl judgments. And each of the judgments get closer together, like birth pains, as we approach the end. So, if we were to chart it (very simply) the traditional view would look something like:

That is how I used to read it (and to be fair, a normal reading of Revelation makes it look that way.) Let me say that I could be wrong on this as I don't take a traditional stance on it but I think there are some serious problems with thinking that the seals lead into the trumpets, which in turn lead into the bowls.

When you read the 6th seal of Revelation and compare it with what Jesus said about His coming in Matt 24, it is hard not to see that they are describing the same event. And note that Jesus said this is what happens right at the end, 'after the tribulation of those days'. Here are the passages:

Mat 24:29-30 "But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (30) "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.

Rev 6:12-17 I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; (13) and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. (14)  The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. (15) Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; (16) and they *said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; (17) for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"

Isaiah also spoke of this day, the 6th seal of Revelation, stating:

Isa 34:4 All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree.

He uses the exact same language about the stars like figs falling that the 6th seal quotes from. And what is the context of Isaiah's prophecy? It is the second coming of Jesus! It is when He fights the armies of the world (Isa 34:2), soaking the mountains with blood (Isa 34:3) and even mentioning Bozrah (Isa 34:6) where He comes to at the second coming to save the hidden remnant of Israel (Isa 63:1-6).

For me, Jesus, the 6th seal in Revelation, and the prophecy in Isaiah are all speaking of the same event and describing the events at the very end of the tribulation. Now the 6th seal is really full on. Far more so that most give credit to. There is a great earthquake and the stars of the sky fall to the earth. EVERY mountain and island are moved out of their places. All the lights in the Heavens are turned off... it's completely dark and then the sky is split apart like a scroll... revealing something. Well, someone! The unbelievers on earth see something that completely freaks them out. I believe, with the heavens split apart and rolled up like a scroll, they see the One who sits on the throne. And they are petrified! This ties up I believe with Jesus' description of what happens when He returns at the end of the tribulation. So this, the 6th seal is not a mid-trib event. This is an end of tribulation event.

What about the 7th trumpet? Does that indicate that it occurs at the end as well?

Rev 10:7 ...in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets.

Rev 11:15 Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever."

Two things are said to happen at the 7th trumpet -
1) The mystery of God is finished. That is, all will see Him and there will be no more atheists! The whole mystery surrounding God will be finished. What a day and revelation that will be! 'Every eye will see Him' as the heavens are split apart and the Son of Man, the Son of God, will come. As mentioned above, that will be the greatest of days for some but utter terror for the majority of humanity at that time.
2) His Kingdom is established: At the seventh trumpet the Kingdom of this Earth will finally be the Kingdom of our God. That is, Jesus will come and take possession of His property and setup His long awaited Kingdom on earth. So I hope you can see that along with the 6th seal, the 7th trumpet is at the very end. at Jesus return, as well.

The 7th bowl is also the end

Rev 15:1 Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished.

Rev 16:17-20 Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, "It is done." (18) And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. (19) The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. (20) And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.

I think everyone agrees that the 7th bowl presents the end as well. Note that the bowls are not said to contain exclusively the wrath of God (as some believe) but that in them the wrath of God is finished. And note that when the 7th bowl is poured out 'It is done' and there is again seen a great earthquake which causes every island and mountain to flee (very similar language to the 6th seal).

So I believe the seals, trumpets and bowls overlap bringing increasing labour pains and devastation as you progress through this final 7 year period known as Daniel's 70th week. I believe that a better chart of the timing of the seals, trumpets and bowls would be something like:

The Seventh Seal

The seventh seal itself has very little spoken about it. 

Rev 8:1 When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

Obviously this is very brief and doesn't give the whole game away, but most see this as the 'calm before the storm' Or better still this brief pause is because the world is right in the eye of the storm! I see the 6th and 7th seals being very close together. It could be after the chaos of the 6th seal, with the darkness, the sky rolling back, the vision of the One on the throne and great fear overtaking men as they hide in the rocks, that there is a brief period of eerie silence. Both heaven and earth will be still, awaiting what comes next. I believe Zephaniah spoke of this day saying:

Zep 1:7 Be silent before the Sovereign LORD, for the day of the LORD is near. The LORD has prepared a sacrifice; he has consecrated those he has invited.

The prophet Zephaniah tied it in with the day of the Lord and the great sacrifice that occurs at the coming of the Lord (Rev 19:17-18). So as heaven is silent and mankind inwardly trembles awaiting what comes next, this brief period of eerie silence will soon change as they see a sign in heaven pierce the darkness. It will be the sign of the Son of Man and they will see Him!

Further thoughts

We should also remember that the 7 sealed document which no one can open, except the Lamb in Revelation chapter 5, is the title deed to this earth. Once all the seals are broken the true owner and King of this planet is revealed. So it doesn't make sense that the seals would be broken and completed in the first half of Daniel's 70th week as some say. The seals must go right through to the very end as shown in the diagram above. 

It could be that the first three seals take place in the first 3 1/2 years, seals four and five (which speak of death and martyrdom for the saints) occur in the last 3 1/2 years leading up to the 6th seal revelation of Jesus Christ. We know from Daniel 7 and Matt 24 that it is the second half of the 7 year tribulation that brings persecution and death of both Israel and the saints of that day.