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Revelation: Tribulation Saints Timelines

It is instructive to briefly elaborate on the following charts.  In scripture, there are three basic groups of people, Israelite, gentiles, and believing Christians.  The first chart illustrates the contemporary nature of the church, Israel, and the gentile ages in juxtaposition to one another.  At the bottom is a segregation of the saints of God throughout the ages, to aid the reader in understanding the group of saints exist across the timelines.  

The top half of the timeline below shows the church age, which begins at Pentecost and ends with its rapture.  The church, then in the presence of the Lord, appears before the judgment seat of Christ where each individual’s works are tested, 2Corinthians 5:6-10, when we are judged for the words we speak, Matthew 12:33-37, and give an account before God, Romans 14:7-12.  The rapture is not the beginning of the tribulation on earth, but it precedes it.  The church is represented before the throne of God by the 24 elders who first appear in Revelation 4:4.  The church remains with the Lord in heaven when the marriage of the Lamb to His bride, the church occurs, Ephesians 5:29-31.  Afterward, He and His saints return will return to earth; the Lord will fight His enemies, establish His kingdom on earth, and we will rule and reign with Him, Revelation 19:11-19, for the first 1,000 years of His eternal reign, Revelation 20.  We then enter into eternity future when there will be a permanent separation between the unrighteous, who are in the Lake of Fire for eternity, and the righteous who enjoy the all the blessings God had promised and intended since before creation.

In the middle of the timeline is a multi-colored bar representing the gentile age.  It actually begins during the days of King Nebuchadnezzar, and described in the dream given by God in Daniel 2.  The dream showed the changes in the nations who ruled over Israel and Jerusalem until Christ’s return at the end of the seven years of tribulation.  The rule of the gentiles will come to an abrupt and catastrophic end, as represented by the stone cut from a mountain by the God in heaven, Daniel 2:44-45.  The gentile kingdoms will be remembered no more but the Lord’s kingdom will be forever.  This is represented by the gentile timeline bar being replaced with the blue millennium bar, followed by the teal colored arrow representing eternity future.

The era of the nation of Israel is depicted by a series of green arrows to show the fulfillment of prophecies delivered by Ezekiel during the days of King Nebuchadnezzar.  There are many other prophetic passages concerning Israel’s future in the Old and New Testaments, but Ezekiel 37 gives an outstanding view of their history that is easily broken into four groups that can be mapped to the timeline constructed below.  In Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of bones, the nation is viewed as dead and having no life.  When Ezekiel is told by God to prophesy over the bones, they come together and have flesh, Ezekiel 37:7-8.  This represents the time Israel became a nation once again after their worldwide dispersion of almost two thousand years.  However, there was no life, which is their spiritual condition until they call upon the Lord Jesus Christ as their messiah, Ezekiel 37:9-10 and Matthew 24:15-22.  Israel will finally receive all of the promises and blessings of the fulfilled covenants God made with them during His millennial reign, Ezekiel 37:22-28, where they will be the center of all the world’s activities, grow in abundance and enjoy the land of Israel that will be transformed by the Lord to be like Eden.  

The bottom of the chart provides a view of the groupings of God’s saints, beginning with the Old Testament saints who existed before Pentecost, then the New Testament Saints, which is the church, followed by the tribulation saints who become believers in Christ after the rapture of the church.  The final group is the millennial saints who are born in this world during the millennial reign of Christ.

The second chart that follows, relates to the information presented in Revelation 4 through Revelation 7, which is the timeline for the tribulation saints.  The purpose of the chart is to illustrate several significant events described in scripture that will occur in both heaven and earth, and the possible sequence of those events.  There are four main areas depicted and divided by events following the rapture of the church and those events initiating the tribulation.  The yellow areas depict events before the throne of God, and those in blue and phased rose to blue color depict activities yet to occur on earth.  The reason for the transition in color from rose color to blue is to indicate that these events could occur before the rapture of the church.  Also, there is no breadth of agreement as to the sequencing of events on earth.  Therefore, the events that have been prophesied and yet to occur are arranged in an order that is thought to occur by this author.  Along the vertical are events that are contemporary events, whereas along the horizontal are events that occur in sequence, with time increasing from left to right.  Again, there is no wholesale agreement among commentators of the scripture concerning when or if these events will occur before the tribulation occurs (with the signing of the seven year covenant between the Antichrist and Israel), as outlined below.  What is presented demonstrates how the sequence of these future events, relative to the rapture of the church, may occur.  The chart illustrates seven groupings of events.

  • The rapture of the church
  • The gentile timeline
  • The beginning of the tribulation saints
  • The order of events in heaven before the beginning of the tribulation
  • Events on earth prior to the beginning of the tribulation
  • The event in heaven that initiates the tribulation
  • The event on earth that initiates the tribulation

The rapture of the church

The rapture of the church, though a minority of the world’s population will be taken up to be with Christ, will have a profound impact on the world’s remaining population.  This is the first judgment on the world in that there will be immediate calamity and distress to those left behind.  This judgment is the separation of the righteous from the unrighteous.  This separates those who were cleansed by the blood of Jesus and now dawn on them the righteousness of the Lord and will not go through the time of His worldwide indignation and judgment from those who will.  Those left behind will either try to understand and accept what has happened and repent or create false scenarios to appease their greatest fears to explain the disappearance of so many people at once who were known to be followers of Christ.  There are many parts of this site that already discuss the rapture including a short description at the top of this page.  You are encouraged to do a search on the rapture using the search tool at the top of this page.

The gentile timeline

The gentile age, which began in the days King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem the first time and will persist until the Lord returns at the battle of Armageddon, is depicted as a multi-colored horizontal line, from gold to a muddy bronze.  The topic is also discussed in the top of this page as well as other pages on this site.  Again, you are encouraged to do a search on the gentile age using the search tool at the top of this page.

The beginning of the tribulation saints

The tribulation saints will not exist until after the rapture of the church.  These are individuals who respond believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as their savior, and live in accordance to His commandments after the church has been taken to be with the Lord, or raptured.  This is portrayed at the bottom of the graphic with the solid red arrow, beginning with the rapture, and though not shown, ending with the return of Jesus Christ as described in Revelation 19.  These are the followers of Christ whom the Lord said would suffer through the worst times the world would have ever known or will ever experience again, Matthew 24:21-22.  These judgments are shown in Revelation 7 through Revelation 19, as well as many other scriptural passages in the Old Testament and New Testament in the Bible.

The order of events in heaven before the beginning of the tribulation

In heaven, there are three main events that will occur after the rapture:

  • The appearance of the body of Christ, the saints during the church age, before the judgment seat of Christ, 2Corinthians 5:7-10
  • The revealing of the throne of God with all the saints of God and heavenly hosts about the throne glorifying God, Revelation 4
    • The thrones are set in place to judge the beast (the Antichrist and false prophet) so that when Christ returns these two will be the first to be thrown into the lake of fire, Revelation 19:19-20, Daniel 7:9-11
  • The Lamb will be given the dominion, Daniel 7:13-15
    • The Lamb will be found the only one to be worthy to receive the seven sealed scroll from the Father on the throne, Revelation 5

All of these events will occur prior to the initiation of the seven years of tribulation on earth.

Events on earth prior to the beginning of the tribulation

 The rose-to-blue color portion of the chart presents a number of events described in scripture that have yet to be fulfilled.  These events may occur after or before the rapture of the church and is why there is a color transition from rose to blue due to the uncertainty as to when any one or more of these events will occur in this part of the chart.  What is clear is that they will occur, it is just a question of when they will occur and in what order.  The information as presented is not to be taken dogmatically, as there is a wide array of opinions in the sequence of events as presented here, nor does scripture explicitly detail when one event listed occurs before another.  This is particularly true of the events in Ezekiel 38 and Ezekiel 39 that describe the invasion of Israel by Russia and its Muslim allies.  Some would place this with Armageddon, others with Daniel 11.  The view proposed in this site is that the invasion of Israel will occur soon after the rapture of the church but before the beginning of the seven years of tribulation.  Details are provided in Ezekiel 38 and Ezekiel 39 and the Ezekiel 38 timeline and Ezekiel 39 timeline  in this site.

The event in heaven that initiates the tribulation

Above all things, God rules over the times and seasons.  By His own authority He has set the times and dates, Acts 1:7, and He changes times and seasons, setting up kings and deposing them, Daniel 2:21.  Satan does not initiate the tribulation or anything else without the Lord allowing him to.  This is the case with the beginning of the seven years of tribulation begins in Revelation 6:1.  At that time the Lord opens the first seal to reveal the rider on a white horse with a bow but no arrows.  This is the Antichrist, 2Thessalonians 2:5-12.  As soon as this revelation is revealed, Satan’s man, the Antichrist, enters the world scene and confirms the seven year covenant between the revived Roman Empire and Israel, Daniel 9:26-27.  

The event on earth that initiates the tribulation

Following the opening of the 1st seal, then “THE” Antichrist is revealed, and allowed to initiate the seven years of tribulation.  The Apostle John wrote that there was an Antichrist coming, but added that there were already many antichrists in the world, 1John 2:18.  The distinction concerning “THE” Antichrist is that only one will arise to confirm the seven year covenant, and then ascend to worldwide power, but only when God allows, which is when the 1st seal is opened and the Holy Spirit allows that to occur, 2Thessalonians 2:5-7.  Satan and the Antichrist will even have the audacity to attempt to change the times and seasons, but they will not succeed, Daniel 7:23-25.  God set the duration of the reign of the Antichrist, which was 42 months, Revelation 13:1-5, then he and the false prophet would be thrown into the Lake of Fire for all eternity, Revelation 19:19-20.  These will be the first two occupants of that dreadful place.

Copyright (c) 2001, 2005, 2008, 2014, J.E. Huntley.  All rights reserved.
last edited August 2014