The beginning of sorrows includes the first four seals.  Afterwards begins the time of great tribulation.  The first four seals:

‘And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals [the first], and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse [that was] red: and [power] was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.

And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and [see] thou hurt not the oil and the wine.

And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.’

Compare with Jesus’ words:

‘And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all [these things] must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:

and there shall be famines,

and pestilences,

and earthquakes, in divers places.

All these [are] the beginning of sorrows.’

(Jesus, Matthew 24:4-8)

We are already having the earthquakes, and hearing of wars and rumors of wars.  The white horse appears to have gone forth.  Revolutions are happening, and nations are preparing for war against one another.  The red horse appears to have gone forth.  We are experiencing a serious drought, and grain prices have gone up.  Soon the price of many foods will rise.  Because of shortages of food and/or the inability to afford food, famine will spread further.  We can see the third horse now.

The fourth horse will bring pestilence and death.  According to Jesus’ words, and John’s vision (in Revelation), it will be coming next. After it will come great tribulation . . . severe persecution.

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.  And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.  And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.  But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.‘  (Jesus, Matthew 24:9-13)

‘But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten. . . Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against [their] parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.  And ye shall be hated of all [men] for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.‘  (Jesus, Mark 13:9-10, 12-13)

‘And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:  And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they [were], should be fulfilled.’  (Revelation 6:9-11)

For most of us, this comes as terrible news.  We worry and wonder how we will be able to endure.  But we need to understand that God has a purpose for this persecution.

‘ . . . and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. And the gospel must first be published among all nations.’  (Mark 13:9)

God will give us power, for what He calls us to do:

‘But when they shall lead [you], and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.’  (Mark 13:11)

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.‘  (Acts 1:8)

We have to trust, that as well as giving us the words to speak, the empowerment by the Holy Spirit will enable us to endure to the end, through whatever we may suffer at that time.  And indeed, MANY are called to be His witnesses, and will endure to the end:

‘After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.

And all the angels stood round about the throne, and [about] the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,  Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, [be] unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.

And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?  And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.  They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.  For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.‘  (Revelation 7:9-17)

Trust in Him.  He will not abandon you in your darkest hour.

‘ . . . and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.’  (Matthew 28:20)

‘ . . . Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called [thee] by thy name; thou [art] mine. When thou passest through the waters, I [will be] with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.  For I [am] the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour . . . ‘  (Isaiah 43:1-3)

‘ . . . Thou [art] my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. Fear thou not; for I [am] with thee: be not dismayed; for I [am] thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.’  (Isaiah 41:9-10)

If you look at where this verse is placed . . .

‘And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.’  (Matthew 24:14)

. . . in the midst of Jesus answering His disciples about the end of the world, you will see that this verse is referring to the witness that Christian martyrs will give to the world, at the end of the age.   ‘ . . . And then shall the end come’, Jesus explained.  And, sure enough, following the fifth seal are the signs in the heavens, and on the Earth, that Jesus said would precede His return:

‘And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;  And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.  And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.’  (Revelation 6:12-14)

‘And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.  And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.‘  (Jesus, Luke 21:25-28)

This has been God’s plan from the beginning.  This is not a mistake, or a sign that the enemy is prevailing.  It is God’s plan.  As much as it was a mystery that the Messiah should come to die on a cross, it is a mystery that multitudes of His people should suffer and die to overcome Satan.

‘I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment [was] white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne [was like] the fiery flame, [and] his wheels [as] burning fire.  A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened . . . and, behold, [one] like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.   And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion [is] an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom [that] which shall not be destroyed . . . I beheld, and the same horn* made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.‘  (Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14, 21-22)

‘And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.  And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.‘  (Revelation 12:10-11)

*  the horn = ‘The Antichrist’:

‘And he shall speak [great] words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.’  (Daniel 7:25)

‘And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty [and] two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.  And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.  And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.’  (Revelation 13:5-8)

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