The First Half of the Tribulation: The Lamb and His Witnesses

by  Ron Rhodes


The Lamb and the Seven-Sealed Scroll  

The 144,000 Jewish Evangelists  

Gods Two Prophetic Witnesses  

The Lamb and the Seven-Sealed Scroll

In Revelation 5, we witness an awe-inspiring, Christ-exalting scene that takes place in heaven early in the tribulation period: Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, receives the seven-sealed scroll.

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe ofJudah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had Deen slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

"Worthy are you to take the scroll

and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!" And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped.

The references to Christ as a Lamb and Lion refer to Christ's first coming and second coming respectively........

(AND  YES  CORRECT  -  Keith Hunt)

The 144,000 Jewish Evangelists

In Revelation 7A (niv), the aposde John writes, "Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel." Who are these 144,000?


Some Christians have taken this as metaphorically referring to the church. However, the context indicates the verse is referring to 144,000 Jewish men—12,000 from each tribe—who live during the future tribulation period (see Revelation 14:4). The very fact that specific tribes are mentioned in this context, along with specific numbers for those tribes, removes all possibility that this is a figure of speech. Nowhere else in the Bible does a reference to 12 tribes of Israel mean anything but 12 tribes of Israel. Indeed, the word tribe is never used of anything but a literal ethnic group in Scripture.


The backdrop to a proper understanding of the 144,000 during the tribulation is that God had originally chosen the Jews to be His witnesses. He appointed them to share the good news of God with all other people around the world (see Isaiah 42:6; 43:10). The Jews were to be Gods representatives to the Gentile peoples. Biblical history reveals that the Jews failed at this task, especially when they didn't recognize Jesus as the divine Messiah. During the future tribulation, these 144,000 Jews—who become believers in Jesus the divine Messiah sometime following the rapture—will finally fulfill this mandate from God and be His witnesses all around the world. Their work will yield a mighty harvest of souls (see Revelation 7:9-14).

These witnesses will be "sealed" (divinely protected) by God as they carry out their service for Him during the tribulation (Revelation 14:1-4; see also 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30).


Some have wondered why the Old Testament tribes of Dan and Ephraim are omitted from this list of Jewish tribes. The Old Testament has some 20 variant lists of tribes, so no two lists of the 12 tribes of Israel must be identical. Most scholars today agree that Dans tribe was omitted because that tribe was guilty of idolatry on many occasions and, as a result, was largely obliterated (Leviticus 24:11; Judges 18:1,30; see also 1 Kings 12:28-29). To engage in unrepentant idolatry is to be  cut off from Gods blessing. The tribe of Ephraim was also involved in idolatry and paganized worship (Judges 17; Hosea 4:17). This is probably why both tribes were omitted from Revelation 7.


Others have wondered why the tribe of Levi was included in this list of Jewish tribes rather than rnamtaining its special status as a priestly tribe under the Mosaic law. Levi is probably included here because the priestly functions of the tribe of Levi ceased with the coming of Christ, the ultimate high priest. Indeed, the Levitical priesthood was fulfilled in the person of Christ (Hebrews 7—10). With no further need for the services of the tribe of Levi as priests, God had no further reason for keeping this tribe distinct and separate from the others. This is probably why they were properly included in the tribal listing in the book of Revelation.

As for the chronology of when these 144,000 Jewish evangelists emerge on the scene, I personally believe this event occurs in the early part of the tribulation period, sometime after the rapture. Some Bible expositors suggest that the 144,000 must engage in their work of evangelism early in the tribulation, for the believers who are martyred in the fifth seal judgment (Revelation 6:9-11) are among the fruit of their labors, and the seal judgments are definitely in the first half of the tribulation period.


These Jews will probably become believers in Jesus in a way similar to that of the aposde Paul, himself a Jew, who had a Damascus-road encounter with the risen Christ (see Acts 9:1-9). Interestingly, in 1 Corinthians 15:8, the apostle Paul refers to himself in his conversion to Christ as "one untimely born." Some Bible expositors, such as J. Dwight Pentecost, believe Paul may have been alluding to his 144,000 Jewish tribulation brethren, who would be spiritually "born" in a way similar to him—only Paul was spiritually born far before them.



God's Two Prophetic Witnesses

During the tribulation period, God will raise up two mighty witnesses who will testify to the true God with astounding power. In fact, the power of these witnesses bring to mind Elijah (1 Kings 17; Mal-achi 4:5) and Moses (Exodus 7—11). In the Old Testament, two witnesses were required to confirm testimony (see Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16; John 8:17; Hebrews 10:28).

I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.

These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire (Revelation 11:3-6).

These witnesses will wear clothing made of goat or camel hair, garments that symbolically express mourning over the wretched condition and lack of repentance in the world. The reference to olive trees and lampstands is intended to symbolize the light of spiritual revival. Those who stand against these two witnesses will encounter a fiery response!

Many expositors believe the two witnesses will actually be Moses and Elijah. Here are three of the reasons for this view.

The tribulation is a period in which God deals with the Jews—just as He did in the first 69 weeks (that is, weeks of years) of Daniel. Moses and Elijah are two of the most influential figures in Jewish history.

Moses and Elijah appeared on the mount of transfiguration with Jesus. This shows their centrality.

The miracles portrayed in Revelation 11 are very similar to those previously performed by Moses and Elijah in Old Testament times.


These reasons are valid, but one cannot be dogmatic. The two witnesses maybe two entirely new prophets of God.

(THEY  WILL  INDEED  BE  -  Keith Hunt)

Scholars debate whether the ministry of the two witnesses belongs in the first half or the second half of the tribulation. Their ministry will last 1260 days, which measures out to precisely three and a half years.

Obviously, this is equivalent to half of the tribulation period. However, the context of Revelation 11 does not reveal whether this is the first or second half of the tribulation.

Most prophecy scholars conclude that the two witnesses do their miraculous work during the first three and a half years. The reason is that the antichrists execution of them seems to fit best with other events that will transpire in the middle of the tribulation—such as the antichrist's exaltation of himself to godhood in defiance of the true God and His witnesses.


Moreover, the resurrection of the two witnesses—after being dead for three days—would make a much bigger impact on the world in the middle of the tribulation than at the end, when Armageddon is in full swing, just prior to the second coming of Christ.


In any event, the martyrdom of the two witnesses—apparently at the midpoint of the tribulation—is described in detail in Revelation 11:7-12:


When they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here!" And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them.


This resurrection will serve as a mighty testimony to the power of God during the tribulation. How awesome a day this will be. (I will address these two witnesses again in chapter 11, which deals with events at the midpoint of the tribulation.)