The Tribulation is a future prophesied time of distress on the earth that will be unequalled in affliction, so Jesus said. (Matthew 24:21). This is because He will pour out all His stored-up wrath onto the unbelieving world, and He will punish the nation Israel for their rebellion against Him.
A series of judgments in sets of 7 are unleashed from heaven to earth in proceedings that become progressively worse as each set is executed. The angels are mainly the agents who deliver the wrath.
The judgments go in this order-
The 7 Seals. The seal judgments open the events with a dramatic moment in heaven where John of Patmos had been given the vision which recorded that Jesus is the only One who is worthy to open them. Revelation 5:1-5 records this scene:
Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
The detail that the document was sealed on both sides has meaning. It indicates that it is a legal document. Bible Study Tools explains,
Concerning this practice, Weemse wrote, “For the manner of writing the contract, he who was to buy the ground wrote two instruments; the one to be sealed with his own signet, the other he showed unclosed to the witnesses, that they might subscribe and bear witness of that which was written. This, the witnesses did subscribe UPON THE BACK of the enclosed instrument” . . . Gaston Maspero gave an example of an enclosed document being used as evidence. “Contracts stamped upon clay tablets have been found in Babylonia, enclosed in an envelope of clay, on the outside of which an exact duplicate of the contract is impressed: if in the course of time any disagreement arose and it was suspected that the outside text had been tampered with, the envelope was broken in the presence of witnesses to see if the inside text agreed with it or not.” The fact that the sealed scroll of Revelation Rev. 5:1+ had writing on both the inside and the outside (Rev. Rev. 5:1+), in the same manner as Jeremiah’s and other deeds of purchase in Israel’s land redemption system, indicates that it is a deed of purchase.
The document with the seals upon it is in fact the title deed to the earth.
The revelation then turns to the actual opening of the seals. Jesus has triumphed – on the cross – and the document is opened by Him who is triumph itself. The judgments begin. The 7th seal unlocks the next series of judgments, which are the Trumpet Judgments. (Revelation 8). These are worse. The ultimate purpose of the judgments are to render wrath for His glory onto the peoples, so they will repent under the knowledge of His active anger. Revelation 8 has the first half of the Trumpet Judgments and the angel announces woe to those on the earth as the worsening of the second half of the trumpet judgments begin. (Revelation 9).
Revelation 10 announces the beginning of the next series of judgments, the Seven Thunders. However in an unusual move, the voice from heaven called out for John to seal up this series of judgments and not to write them down. We do now know why the Seven Thunders are sealed nor do we know what they contain, if they are judgments at all.
The last set of judgments are the Bowls. These are truly the worst of the worst. By now the world has either repented and given Jesus glory, or has confirmed their permanent state of rebellion by accepting the devil’s mark of the beast. The mark is a mark of worship of the antichrist and displays allegiance to him (and the devil). (Revelation 13:15-16).
The scene shifts from the throne as seen in previous judgments, to the sanctuary. The door to the sanctuary is opened and it is an incredible view. Revelation 15:5-8 concludes this chapter and the introduction to the last judgments.
After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.
No one was allowed to enter. Not the other angels, not glorified humans, no one. Is the reason so that no man or angel may intercede? Is it because God’s glory is so powerful, even for a holy angel or a glorified man? Nevertheless, the angels, those mighty and holy angels, are given the task of delivering the last 7 judgments on the earth.
This is the God of power and judgment. His mercy seat has become a judgment seat. All the millennia of patience, the times of overlooking man’s ignorance (Acts 17:30) are over. He is no longer reasoning with man. (Isaiah 1:18). His might is come to the fore and the sanctuary is filled with smoke. No one is allowed entry. God commands the 7 powerful angels to dispense His final wrath.
It reminds me of the verse in Isaiah 63:3.
I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel.
He does indeed tread the wine-press, but it is the great wine-press of the wrath of God (Rev. 14:19, M. Henry). Our precious Lord had taken on all of God’s wrath, had drunk the cup on the cross. He “treads the wine-press” here not as a sufferer, but as an inflicter of vengeance.
It’s good to dwell on God’s love. It”s also good to remember His other attributes- power, wrath, sole arbiter of justice. It is good to remember that these scenes in heaven are future, perhaps to occur in our own generation. Be clear-eyed about who our God is. He isn’t a romantic Jesus skipping among the daisies to wrap us in His manly arms. He is not a cash machine dispensing wealth from heaven. His attributes include love and mercy, to be sure, but also power, wrath, and justice from the very sanctuary in heaven. He is mighty.
For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:19)