What are the seven seals, trumpets, and bowls in Revelation?
Revelation speaks of three unfolding series of seven judgments during the tribulation period—seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls. What are these?
The seven seals refer to seals on a scroll. The first four seals include the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. These include the Antichrist (Revelation 6:1-2), intense war (Revelation 6:3-4), famine (Revelation 6:5-6), and further plague, famine, and war (Revelation 6:7-8). The fifth seal speaks of the deaths of the saints (Revelation 6:9-11). The sixth seal includes a massive earthquake (Revelation 6:12-14). The seventh seal contains the seven trumpets (Revelation 8:1-5).
The seven trumpets include 1) hailstorms and fire that destroy plants (Revelation 8:7), 2) destruction of sea life (Revelation 8:8-9), 3) destruction within lakes and rivers (Revelation 8:10-11), 4) darkened sun and moon (Revelation 8:12), 5) "locusts" that torture people (Revelation 9:1-11), 6) a demonic army that kills a third of all people (Revelation 9:12-21), and 7) seven angels that have the seven bowls of God's wrath (Revelation 11:15-19; 15:1-8).
The seven bowls include 1) painful sores on humans (Revelation 16:2), 2) the death of everything in the sea (Revelation 16:3), 3) rivers turning into blood (Revelation 16:4), 4) the sun causing great pain (Revelation 16:8-9), 5) great darkness and worsened sores from the first bowl (Revelation 16:10-11), 6) the Euphrates River drying up and the Antichrist's armies gathering for Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-16), and 7) a great earthquake and giant hailstones (Revelation 16:17-21).
These harsh judgments will all take place during the seven years of the tribulation prior to Christ's second coming and defeat of Antichrist and Satan at Armageddon. This second coming is distinct from the rapture of believers in Jesus that will take place at any moment and is prior to the tribulation period (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58). Those who believe in Jesus now will escape these judgments and enjoy the presence of God rather than endure the fearful judgments that will take place during this difficult period.
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