The phrase, “the beginning of sorrows”, comes from Matthew 24:8 and describes the first 3 1/2 years of the tribulation. In this section, I will use the description of this time given in Matthew 24 and then show other verses of scripture that help to give more information about this time. There are verses from both Revelation and Daniel that match these first few verses of Matthew 24. The first 4 seals, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, of the seven seals of Revelation match the description given in Matthew 24 of the beginning of sorrows.
Matthew 24:4,5 match the description of the rider of the white horse in Revelation 6:1,2. The rider of the white horse is the AntiChrist who is a deceiver. Daniel 11:21 says he is a vile person who shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries. Daniel 11:24 again talks about him entering peaceably. Daniel 9:27 says the AntiChrist shall confirm the covenant with many for one week. He makes a seven year peace treaty and then breaks the covenant after 3 1/2 years. In Revelation 6:2, it says that he had a bow. This bow matches him with Nimrod who was the leader of the Babel rebellion. Nimrod is often pictured with a bow in pagan mythology. Nimrod’s name means panther. He was the original black panther and a type of the AntiChrist to come.
Matthew 24:6 and the beginning of verse 7 match the description of the rider of the red horse in Revelation 6:3,4 which is the second of the seven seals and stands for war. It is probable that a portion of Daniel 11 describes some of the wars of this time. I place Daniel 11:5-29 in the first half of the tribulation (see the paragraph divisions) describing some of the wars and rumors of wars.
Matthew 24:7 contains the phrase, “and there shall be famines”. This phrase matches the description of the rider of the black horse in Revelation 6:5,6 which is the third seal. Revelation 6:6 describes a situation where a day’s wage would buy just enough grain to sustain a person.
Matthew 24:7 next contains the phrase, “and pestilences”. This phrase matches the rider of the pale horse whose name is Death in Revelation 6:7,8. This rider has power over a fourth part of the earth to kill. The pattern of war is followed in Revelation 6:8. War happens first and then famine. Finally, disease or pestilence happens after famine and usually is caused by a certain beast of the earth, the rat.
Matthew 24:8 says that this is just the beginning part of the tribulation. The seals which are opened in Revelation seem to be opened about one per year at the beginning of each year. Daniel 11:24 seems to support this view.
A passage of scripture that also seems to fit into this discussion is Zechariah 6:1-8 (notice that Matthew, Revelation, and Zechariah all match in verses 1-8). The colors of the horses are the same as Revelation but the order that they are mentioned is different. One possibility is that while Revelation is chronological, Zechariah is more geographic in nature. Please notice the discussion in Daniel 11 of the king of the north and the king of the south and the mention of the north country and the south country in Zechariah. A final thing to consider from this passage in Zechariah is verse 7. If you compare verse 7 and the bay horse with Revelation 6:7 and the pale horse which Death rides upon and Hell follows with one more passage of scripture, Job 1:7, you can see the same phrase, “going to and fro”, and understand how Job with its 42 chapters is a type of the Great Tribulation which is the second half of the tribulation. The persecution that Job received from Satan is a type of the persecution that the Jews will receive starting at the midpoint of the tribulation when the abomination of desolation is set up in the temple.
This is a good place to end our discussion of the beginning of sorrows or the first 3 1/2 years of the tribulation.