God Solves the Problem of Evil: Chronology Introduction
Revelation Chapters 4 thru 19
Throughout human history there is perhaps no other question that strikes at the heart of every person's experience than the question, How can God let this horrible suffering, this terrible event, this calamity occur? How can a thoroughly good and loving God have allowed this to happen to me? Philosophically this falls within the category of what is defined as the problem of evil. The way philosophers structure is to say, well if God is really a loving God then how can He allow such horrible things to happen in history? Horrible things from natural disaster to human evil. The idea is that if evil exists then God isn't truly loving, or God is somehow incapable of solving the problem.
We come to the Scriptures and we know that the Scriptures give answers. In fact, this is not a problem or a question that is left unanswered in the Scriptures. God recognises the seriousness of it. The very first book that was ever written in the Old Testament was written for the purpose of addressing this question and giving us an answer, and that is the book of Job. Job was a righteous man and yet in the course of his life there were natural disasters that took the life of all of his children, and wipe out all of his fortune, there was a series of diseases that come to his body physically, and he goes through incredible suffering. Ultimately Job appeals to God to give him and answer and God appears to him with a series of rhetorical questions in order to direct his attention to his own finite knowledge. God never directly answer the question as to why there is evil and suffering. When we read Job we know that there is something going on at a higher level, something that takes place above and beyond what is seen in the physical, empirical world, it has to do with this rebellion that has taken place by Satan and the angels, and so there is a spiritual dimension to all of this. What God is basically focusing Job's attention on is the fact that Job with all of his capabilities could never possibly comprehend, organise, assimilate and interpret all of the data that God knows. There is no way that Job could understand. The bottom line is that we have to trust God, that He has allowed evil, sin and suffering to continue in human history because ultimately He will stop it and there will be a resolution. But once that resolution occurs that is the end of history, and so God allows us to continue for the time being in order to extend His grace to mankind. Another reason he allows it to continue in history is because it teaches the lesson of what happens when there is the creature's rebellion against God.
When God ultimately resolves the sin problem, which is the cause of all undeserved suffering, all evil, all of the calamities that we think of on earth, this will involve a dealing with both creation and nature as we often think of it, there will be unbelievable disasters, cosmic crises, geophysical manifestations that take place during the future Tribulation period; all of which is what the Scripture calls the birth pangs that ultimately result in and end in that final judgment of God where he finally resolves the problem of sin, evil, and injustice. The Bible says that God has postponed that judgment to a time in the future but there is a time when there will be a rendering of justice and judgment. The psalmist raise the question: "How long, O Lord, will the righteous suffer and the ungodly prosper?" Even though it may not appear on our timetable or in our lifetime the Bible teaches that God in His wisdom has an ultimate and final resolution to this problem. We see this answered in the book of Revelation.
We have seen the scene in heaven where it was found that the Lamb of God was the one who was qualified to open the seal which brings about the end time judgments which culminate in the final judgment of sin and evil and the final resolution of all injustice. This is what is covered in the book of Revelation. The major theme in the book of Revelation is the execution of justice. When Jesus appears to John on the island of Patmos He appears as the one who is coming to judge. We see a thread that runs through chapters 6 to 19 in the Tribulation that is first articulated in the fifth seal judgment in 6:10 where there is the picture of an altar. Under the altar we see thousands upon thousands of martyrs, those who were killed for the sake of Christ, for their loyalty to Christ in the Tribulation period, and they cry out and say: "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" This is the same question that has been asked from time immemorial: "God, are you going to bring justice in the light of what has happened in history?" Again and again that has been postponed because of God's plan and because of God's purpose. The answer to this question is that they must wait yet a little while. In Revelation chapter fifteen that "little while" has arrived. These are the last plagues, the bowl judgments that come at the last part of the Tribulation period, because in them the wrath of God is finished. We must remember that the term "wrath of God" is not a term of anger or emotion, it is a term for the outworking of God's justice. Revelation 15:3 NASB "…"Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!" This is after the seventh seal judgment has been poured out, and seventh seal includes the seven trumpet judgments. Six of the seven trumpet judgments have been enacted, and the angels are saying that this is righteous and true.  "Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU, FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED." It is in these final judgments in history that evil is judged. Contrary to all other systems of thought, all other philosophies, it is only within biblical Christianity that sin and evil and injustice is ultimately dealt with, judged, restricted and its impact removed from creation.
Revelation 16:5 NASB "And I heard the angel of the waters saying, 'Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things;  for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.'" In other words, this is the answer to that prayer from the Tribulation martyrs in Revelation chapter six.  "And I heard the altar saying, 'Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments'."
In chapter one we see the glorified Christ as the priest-judge of human history. That is how He is pictured, as the priest-judge who will judge history and will come to rule and to reign in His kingdom in the future. Chapters 2 & 3 describe the various trends or cycles of the seven churches of the church age. The church age ends with the Rapture of the church, which is not specifically mentioned but is indicated in 4:1 where John hears a loud voice from heaven saying, "Come up here." Chapters 4-22 describe the future in three parts. The first part is on the Tribulation when God pours out His judgment on rebellious mankind, rebellious demons and angels. The Millennial kingdom is described in Revelation chapter 20 as the time when the Lord Jesus Christ rules and reigns from Jerusalem as the Davidic King. It is a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity on the planet and at the end of the Millennial kingdom Satan will be released to lead those who still reject the grace of God in a final revolt called the Gog and Magog revolt and they are destroyed by God with fire from heaven. At this time there is the great white throne judgment, the present heavens and earth are destroyed, God creates the new heavens and new earth and we enter into the eternal state, Revelation 21 & 22.
Another thing that we will notice as we go through our study in future study is that the scene shifts. In chapter four we don't start with events that are taking place on earth, we start with events that are taking place in heaven. We know that somewhere between the Rapture of the church and the events depicted in chapter four is that the church age believers have already been evaluated and rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ. During that time other things transpired in history as the human race tries to deal with the consequences and collateral damage which is the result of the Rapture. If the Rapture were to occur today it would wreak havoc in the economic world, in the military world, and in the nation as a whole as Christians are instantly removed from the earth and taken to heaven in the blink of an eye. These are leaders in business, leaders in industry, leaders of nations, and there will be a power vacuum. It is in this transition period between the Rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation that into that vacuum there will be seen this person who is identified as the Antichrist who will begin to pull his power base together to establish his universal one-world government. Part of the purpose for this is to restore order out of the chaos that occurs as a result of the Rapture. What we see in heaven is that the scroll is given to the Lamb, the scroll representing the title deed to the planet. Jesus Christ is the second Adam in His humanity, He is going to fulfil the destiny of the first Adam who was to rule over the planet. He is going to come as the perfect Son of God, who paid for sin, who is qualified to rule over the planet, and He is going to come to defeat the enemies of God and to judge them. The breaking of each of the seven seals represents a different stage in His reconquest of the planet, a different stage in His judgment of the evil doers of the planet.
In chapter six we see the judgment of the seals; in chapter seven we step back to see what God is doing, that in the midst of all the calamity, the destruction and the death there will take place God preserves His own people and protects them. He will initially save out 144,000 Jews because the focal point shifts back to His people and part of what occurs during the Tribulation is to bring Israel back to God, and when He does that He begins with the salvation of twelve thousand from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. He seals them, protects them, they cannot be harmed by these judgments, and they will be evangelists throughout the world during the Tribulation.
In Revelation chapters eight and nine we return back to the earth for the second series of judgments, the trumpet judgments. At the conclusion of the trumpet judgments there is a pause that takes place in heaven. In chapter ten we focus on the mighty angels who has a small book which is related to the various judgments that will be poured out upon the earth. In 11:1-14 there is a shift to what takes place in Jerusalem with the two witnesses, special witnesses that God sends to Israel. Many believe they are Moses and Elijah or Moses and Enoch. After three and a half years of ministry in Jerusalem they are going to be martyred—God protects them up to that point—when the Antichrist is going to have them killed; their bodies will be laid out for public display. This will be a time of great celebration because man will think that he has victory over God by destroying His witnesses. But three days after their death these two witnesses will be raised from the dead by God and taken bodily to heaven. All the earth will see this and at that time God will bring one of many massive earthquakes that occur during the Tribulation period into Jerusalem. The text says that seven thousand die and the rest give glory to God of heaven. It is at that time that large numbers of Jews are seen to be turning to Jesus Christ as their Saviour.
Then there is another shift that takes place starting at 11:15 and going down through chapter 12 where there is a step back to look at some of the key players and key events that are going on. Following the ascension of these witnesses and the earthquake in Israel there is a focus on what God is doing with Israel. In chapter twelve there is the image of the woman and child. The woman is Israel, the child is the Lord Jesus Christ, the dragon is Satan. Here we see the spiritual dimension related to the fallen angels. Satan and his fallen angels are cast out of heaven and they persecute the woman and her child Christ, or Christians, in the Tribulation period. The woman is persecuted and flees into the wilderness. These are Tribulation regenerate Jews who have listened to Jesus' warning in Matthew 24 when He said: "When you see this sign (the abomination of desolation) set forth by the prophet Daniel in Daniel 9, drop everything and flee into the wilderness." So there is the fleeing of the woman into the wilderness and God is going to protect her for the next three and a half years. Chapters 13 & 14 talk about the rise of the Antichrist, the false prophet, their kingdom on the earth, and the other things that are transpiring on the earth as a result of judgment.
Then we go back to heaven in chapter fifteen and there is a prelude to the bowl judgments. Once again as the seventh trumpet has been sounded and it is revealed that this actually contains the final seven bowl judgments. These begin to be enacted in chapter sixteen through eighteen. Chapters seventeen and eighteen describe the final destruction of the kingdom on man, the kingdom of Antichrist, and the destruction of Babylon. Then in the first part of chapter nineteen the scene goes back to heaven where we see our Lord preparing to descend to the earth with His army of church age believers accompanying Him. He defeats His enemies, defeats the Antichrist and the false prophet; they are cast into the lake of fire, Satan is bound for 1000 years, and Jesus Christ will establish His reign upon the earth.
To understand the chronology is important. It is not going to change our spiritual life or make us more secure in our salvation but we will understand what God is doing, and it is part of our responsibility as believers to know the whole counsel of God. Scripture says: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." So we have to study the Word and understand all these things so that other parts of the Word will begin to make sense. In doing this we need to re-examine one of the foundational prophecies in Daniel 9:23-27 which talks about the timetable God has for Israel in her history. The second thing we have to do as we approach this huge block of events that occur in Revelation 4-19 is to fit this within the general framework of Daniel 9 and the Olivet discourse. Jesus has three major sermons that are recorded in the Gospels: the Sermon on the Mount, His upper room discourse (recorded only in the Gospel of John), and the Olivet discourse where the disciples asked Jesus: "What are the signs of your coming?" The Olivet discourse is recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke. In that discourse is an explanation and we see a chronology, a chronology that fits and is built on the Daniel 9 prophecy.