Summary: The Tribulation will be a time unique in all of human history. It consists of a seven-year reign of terror that will be inflicted upon all of mankind.
After this the fourth seal is opened and John sees a pale horse whose rider is named Death. He is followed closely by Hell (hades). Death claims the body while Hades devours the soul and spirit. This lethal judgment will claim only unbelievers who are killed through God’s "four sore judgments" of war, famine, plague, and wild beasts. Twenty-five percent of the world’s population will perish from this one calamity alone!
The fifth seal reveals the martyred saints of the first three and one-half years. They are now under the heavenly altar after being murdered for their faith in Jesus Christ. They are given white robes symbolizing the righeousness of God. Their souls cry out for vengeance, but they’re told they must be patient and wait for others who will be killed during the remainder of the Great Tribulation.
A catastrophic earthquake that will usher in the wrath of God and the last half of the Tribulation period announces the sixth seal. The sun, moon, and stars are effected (notice the word "as") and every mountain and island on earth shaken. I believe these will be literal judgments poured out on a Christ-rejecting world. Men will realize during this time that the end is near, but they would rather escape through death than call on God in repentance.
The 144,000 and Blood-Washed Multitude (7:1-17)
Between the sixth and seventh seal is an interval concerning two groups of people who will be on earth during this time. The first company is the 144,000 Jewish "evangelists" who will preach the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 24:14) to the whole world. Many believe that the church must preach the gospel to every nation on earth before the Lord can return, but when Jesus spoke of "the end" in the Gospel of Matthew, He was speaking of the end of the age or Second Coming, not the Rapture that could occur at any moment.
God will seal twelve thousand of these saved Israelites from each of the twelve tribes. Just as Noah and his family were preserved safely through the flood; these 144,000 Jewish believers will also be protected through the Tribulation hour.
John then sees a second group that is standing before the heavenly throne. They are the great blood-washed multitude of Gentile believers who’ve been martyred for their faith. They have come out of the Great Tribulation and have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. Their white robes symbolize righteousness and the palms are significant of the victory they’ve won over the Beast and the false prophet.
They attribute their salvation to God and the Lamb and are a direct result of the ministry of the 144,000 Jewish missionaries who’ve risked their lives to proclaim Christ to all the nations of the world. Their sufferings and trials being over, these believers now serve God forever in continual bliss.
I would like to bring to your attention that there are a great many Bible teachers who strongly believe that only those who have not willfully rejected the Savior in this present age will have an opportunity to be saved during the Tribulation period. Therefore, it’s important that we examine ourselves to see if our faith is truly genuine!