(Rev. 6) Are the seals before the tribulation or during it?

We agree with George Ladd who states, “They are not a part of the great tribulation itself, but are preparatory and preliminary to the great tribulation.”[1] It is a very Hebraic way of thinking to tell a story, and then retell it (cf. comments on Gen. 1-2).

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The Similarity Between the Tribulation Accounts

Revelation 6

Event

Matthew 24

(Rev. 6:4) And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.

1. War

(Mt. 24:6-7) You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars… 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom…

(Rev. 6:6) And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”

2. Famine

(Mt. 24:7) In various places there will be famines and earthquakes.

(Rev. 6:8) I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.

3. Death

(Mt. 24:7-9) Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.

(Rev. 6:9-11) When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.

4. Martyrdom

(Mt. 24:9, 16-22) Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name… 16 then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 17 Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. 18 Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 22 Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.

(Rev. 6:12) 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.

5. Sun and Moon Darkened

(Mt. 24:29) But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light…

(Rev. 6:12-14) I looked when He broke the sixth seal… 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.

6. Stars Falling

(Mt. 24:29) 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.

(Rev. 6:15-17) 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?”

7. Divine Judgment

(Mt. 24:32-33) Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 33 so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.


[1] Ladd, George Eldon. A Commentary on the Revelation of John. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972. “The Six Seals.”