The Heavenly Signs in the Sequence of End-Time Events
Christ said, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (Matthew 24:29).
Notice, in the concluding description of the sixth seal, what is to follow the heavenly signs: "And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?'" (Revelation 6:15-17; compare Zephaniah 1:14-17).
Note the order of these three separate events: First comes the tribulation, as described in the fifth seal. Next the heavenly signs, described in the sixth seal, occur. After the heavenly signs is the Day of the Lord, the day of God's wrath.
The heavenly signs occur after the time of tribulation has begun but before the Day of the Lord begins. The prophet Joel confirms this: "And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord" (Joel 2:30-31).
Why is this so significant?
Satan's vindictive rampage of terror will be launched against the descendants of the tribes of Israel and the people who live among them, as well as the converted servants of Christ before the heavenly signs announce the Day of the Lord.
This means that Satan's wrath—the time when great tribulation will fall on God's people—will have been underway for some time before the beginning of God's wrath. Even after the time of God's wrath—the Day of the Lord—Satan's destructive war on God's people apparently will not cease until he is bound at Jesus' return (Revelation 20:1-2).
Notice that the woman of chapter 12 will be "nourished for a time and times and half a time [a year, years and half a year], from the presence of the serpent" (verse 14). Even though God will nourish, strengthen and protect some of His people during that terrible time, many others will be killed.
Revelation 11:2 tells us that Jerusalem is to be trampled underfoot by gentiles for 42 months (Revelation 11:2). God also promises to raise up two prophets to be His witnesses for 1,260 days (verse 3).
That each of these periods equals 3 1/2 years appears to be significant. These references indicate that a total of 3 1/2 years elapses from the beginning of Satan's attack on the people of God until his political and religious systems are destroyed and he is locked away at Christ's return.
Source: The Book of Revelation Unveiled, our booklet index.