“Then shall be great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no nor ever shall be" (Matt. 24: 21).


There will be tribulation suffering.


Christ still holds in His hand the scroll containing the events necessary to take place before He can assume full control over His rightful possessions and set up His reign on the earth, or the title deed to man's lost inheritance - and now He breaks the fifth seal.  At once there is suggested, rather than described, what is taking place on the earth at that time.  It is a time of persecution and of consequent suffering.


A. When is this suffering?


“When he had opened the fifth seal” (Rev. 6: 9).  It does not occur, however, after the breaking of this seal; it had occurred before.  When this seal is opened it is finished.  We conclude, then, that the suffering has occurred all through the time of the four horsemen.  Even though at the beginning, the world will not know Antichrist, but merely a world dictator, apparently he will be persecuting the Christians on the earth.  Dictatorship and atheism practically always go hand in hand.


B. Who will suffer?


Christians will suffer.  But, you ask, were not all the Christians taken up at the Rapture?  Some would say “Yes” and others would say “No.”  Some believer that all Christians will be taken at Christ's return, while others believe only the Spirit-filled ones will go.  But in any event, after the Church is gone, it is safe to assume that there will be a revival.  Doubtless, the message of John the Baptist will be revived - “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand If worldly Christians have been left behind, they will soon be out and out for the Lord.*  If all Christians have been taken, then those who were formerly only professors will now become possessors.


The knowledge that Christ has already taken His Bride will cause the message now to go forth with no uncertain sound.  Doubtless churches will be jammed, and revival fires will burn high; thousands will be converted.  And these Christians will suffer!*


[* The language of the Apostle proves that it is un-rapt Christians on whom mainly, though not exclusively, the storm falls:- “they which hold the testimony ot Jesus” (Rev. 12: 17).  Not only is this an obvious definition of what we call ‘the Christian Faith,’ but it is John’s description of his own (Rev. 1: 2) - therefore no mere Jewish belief during the Great Tribulation

- D. M. Panton.]


C. Why this suffering?  There are two reasons.


1. Because of their allegiance to the Word of God.  The Bible as in the days of the Reformation will become the guide of their lives, rather than the edicts of the dictator.  (Read Acts 5: 27-29.)


2. Because of their testimony to Jesus Christ.  While the world will be singing the praises of its dictator, the Christians will be singing the praises of their Saviour.


What will the persecutions be like?  We may not know for certainty but we do know some things that have already occurred in days past, and Matthew 24: 21 assures us that the tribulation persecutions will be far worse.


Have you ever read Foxe's Book of Martyrs?  In it we have a survey of persecutions and consequent martyrdom from the beginning of the Church, up to the time of the Reformation.  From this book we have culled some of the torments of those days, and we here list them:


Half strangling, and recovering the person again repeatedly.  Rolling sharp wheels over the fingers and toes.


Pinching the thumbs in a vice.


Forcing the most filthy things down the throat, by which many choked to death.


Tying cords around the head so tightly that the blood gushed out of eyes, ears and mouth.


Fastening burning matches to fingers, toes, ears, arms, legs, and even the tongue.


Putting, powder in mouth and setting fire to it, by which the head is shattered to pieces.


Tying bags of powder to parts of body to blow up the person.  Drawing cords back and forth through the fleshly parts.


Making incisions with knives in the skin.


Running wires through nose, ears, lips, etc.


Gouging out eyes.


Hanging by legs with heads over fire, by which they were smoke dried.


Hanging up by one arm until dislocated.


Hanging upon hooks by ribs.


Forcing people to drink until they burst.


Tightening cords around heads until eyes popped out.


Placing papers dipped with oil between toes and fingers and setting them on fire.


Baking many in hot ovens.


Fixing weights to feet and then drawing them up by pulleys.  Hanging, stifling, stabbing, frying, ravishing and ripping open.


Breaking bones, rasping off flesh, tearing apart with horses.  Drowning, strangling, crucifying, poisoning, cutting off tongues, noses, ears, etc.


Burning at stake, sawing off limbs and in two.


Dragging through streets by horses.


Burning in hot oil, hacking to pieces.


Throwing on horns of wild bulls, burying alive.


Why will people once again be tormented?  Because of their allegiance to God’s Word and to God’s Son.  Perhaps the distress caused by the four horsemen will all be blamed upon the innocent Christians; at least it was so in the early Church.  The Roman officials for years blamed the Christians for every calamity - every earthquake, famine, pestilence, and misfortune.  And in this coming time of suffering thousands will die rather than renounce their faith in Jesus Christ.  So John “saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain


These souls were praying.  It is not the prayer of Stephen, “Lay not this sin to their charge,” nor is it the prayer of Christ, “Forgive them, they know not what they do It is a prayer for vengeance!  The day of grace is ended; it is now an hour of judgment.  Verse 11 tells us that this prayer is heard and shall be presently answered - but others must first die.


So much then for tribulation suffering.


2. There will be tribulation signs (verses 12-14).


Ordinarily, we think of signs which are to indicate the coming of Christ in the air for His saints; here are some signs which point to the near fulfilment of His actual coming back to earth.  (Read Matt. 24: 29-30, and Joel 2: 30, 30.  We sum them up and say that it is a time of collapse.


A. It is a collapse of nature.


1. Earthquake.  There was an earthquake when the law was given (Ex. 19: 18), now there is an earthquake when God's broken law is judged.  The earth will reel “to and fro like a drunkard” (Isa. 24: 20).  Mountains will be lowered; valleys will be raised.  Great gapping canyons will appear as well as chasms.  Skyscrapers as well as cottages will topple to the ground  Hills will sink and plains will be elevated.  Lakes will dry up in one place and appear in another.


2. Sun. (Read Ex. 10: 21, 22)  The sun will become black as sackcloth.  This was a coarse black cloth made of hair, and used as a garment of mourning.  So now the sun is in mourning. (Note Matt. 27: 45)


3. Moon.  The moon gets its light from the sun, and now that the sun is darkened, the moon is consequently darkened.  It has the appearance of blood.


4. Stars.  Perhaps we have never seen figs fall, but we have seen apples or pears fall from trees.  On November 13, 1833, for three hours there was an unusual display of falling stars, and terrified people thought the end had come.  It had not come then, but now it has!


5. Heavens. They roll back like a scroll, or like the curtains on a stage, and there on the throne can be seen the Lord.  Every mountain and island is moved out of place.  This may be a new earthquake or simply the effect of the first - for all these things may happen simultaneously.


6. It is a collapse of society.  Most Bible teachers agree that back of these physical phenomena in nature, there is an even worse calamity - the breakdown and overthrow of society.  Everything goes to smash; fear and consternation seize every class and order of society; lawlessness begins to sweep over the earth unrestrained; governmental structures topple and fall.  Thus at the signs of the approach of the coming of Christ back to the earth, society collapses in fear and consternation.


3. There will be tribulation supplications (verse 16).


Because of these physical signs and social signs and because of the glimpse of the Lord on His throne looking down upon them in judgment - the people pray, and pour out supplications.


A. It is a universal supplication (verse 15).  Seven classes of society are here praying; class distinctions are forgotten and they flee into dens to hide, and they seek refuge in the rocks of the mountains. (Read Isa. 2: 19.)


B. It is a useless supplication (verse 16).  They do not pray to God, but to the rocks.  What good could they be to them?  Just as useless as is the praying of heathen men and women today to idols of wood or stone!  It is useless, but they all pray.  Men will not pray now; they will then.  We pray now to see His face; they will pray then to be hid from His face.