The Tribulation–part 2
The seven-year judgment coming to planet Earth
Mark Hitchcock shares this true story. Oklahoma is primarily known for two things–football and tornadoes. A few years ago, there was a popular movie titled Twister. The climax of the movie focused on a group of Oklahoma storm chasers pursuing an F5 tornado (a tornado with winds from 261-316 mph).
A few years after this movie came out, Oklahoma experienced a true, terrible twister. The news on May 3, 1999 captured people’s attention for four hours. Storm chasers had located a fairly strong and large tornado in southwest Oklahoma. Unlike most twisters, however, this tornado did not break up, weaken, or recede back into the clouds. Over the next four hours, this routine tornado metastasized into a monster without equal. It was a meteorologist’s worst nightmare–an F5 tornado one-half mile wide that held together for an extended period of time and hit the major population center of Oklahoma City.
This cyclone effortlessly cut a devastating sixty-mile swath through town after town, neighborhood after neighborhood. When the steamroller finally ran out of energy, it had totally destroyed 1,500 homes, damaged 8,000 others and killed 44 people. After the storm, meteorologists determined that the wind speed generated by the tornado peaked at 318 mph, the strongest winds ever recorded on Earth. The storm was in a category all its own. It may have even created a new F6 rating.
The day after the tornado, the local news stations showed aerial views of the damaged areas. The scenes were indescribable. Looking at where the twister touched down looked like a nuclear weapon had been detonated. The twisted trees with all the bark stripped off defied the imagination. The ground was completely bare, because the twister had literally sucked away all the grass. Yet, as stunning as this F5 tornado was, the Bible says that someday God will unleash His own twister on this earth—an F10 tornado of God’s wrathful judgment.
God’s Word declares that a time of unparalleled devastation is coming on all the earth in the future–a time the Bible calls the Tribulation. The Word of God tells us man will always have trouble in life. But the Bible also teaches there will be a concentrated time of tribulation coming on this world unlike anything that has ever come before, nor will ever come again. This 2,520 day event, Daniel’s 70th week, Jacob’s trouble, is the day of distress . . . alarm . . . desolation . . . vengeance . . . destruction, in order to judge Israel and all of mankind.
The Bible uses words like wrath, judgment, indignation, trial, trouble, destruction, darkness, desolation, overturning and punishment to describe this 7-year future judgment. And Jesus Himself made certain we knew it is an unparalleled time. Matthew 24:21, “There will be a great Tribulation, such as not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.” It is all throughout the Old and New Testament, but the book of Revelation describes it best as a time of judgment.
Last week we studied the seal and trumpet judgments. Like the waves of an incoming tide, the seals take you from the beginning to the end of the Tribulation. Then the trumpets continue around 3½ years into the end. And as we pick up where we left off last week in Revelation 11, the final judgment of the bowls is about to begin, signifying the darkest chapter in human history.
Turn to the book of Revelation, chapter 11–God’s Word clearly describes this coming judgment. The Tribulation teaches you about the nature of man, the unmasking of Satan and the incredible character of God. Learning about the Tribulation will help you see how God is orchestrating our current day to bring His plan about. Our passion to share the Gospel with lost sinners will intensify, knowing they will face this and Hell, unless they repent of their sin and put dependent faith in Christ.
Christ will use the Tribulation to purge Israel and bring the Jewish nation to saving faith as their one true Messiah. Christ will punish the Gentile nations and all unbelievers for their increasing, sinful rebellion and wickedness. During the Tribulation, Christ will prove His power and vindicate His reputation through the course of judgment. And Christ will use this time to save untold millions.
In the midst of judgment, which the book of Revelation describes being outpoured on Earth, there are also moments of pause, windows of grace, and pictures of Christ’s worthiness to remind you and me that Christ is just in pouring out His wrath against sin upon the earth, because it was Christ who willingly took God’s wrath for sin upon Himself for your sin on the cross.
So in the midst of judgment, there is also grace and salvation. In chapter 11, we get another look at God’s grace with the two witnesses–one of my favorite parts. Some say they’re Enoch and Elijah, since they didn’t physically die yet. Others say Moses and Elijah, since the ministry of these two witnesses is most like them. But we don’t know. I’m hoping my mysterious lineage allows me to be considered, for two reasons. 1) I would love to be in the Bible, and 2) I would love to toast (fire comes out of my mouth) all those who disagree with me about Christ–HA!
Remember the 144,000 who preach the Gospel from the midpoint of the Tribulation all the way to the end? Who converted them? The two witnesses! How do you get saved? Faith in Christ, turn from sin, follow Jesus. But how do you hear? A preacher. Who were the preachers? The two witnesses. Verse 11:3 tells us they are given 3-1/2 years to minister during the first half of the Tribulation. You see, when the Church is taken out, who’s left to share? Nobody? God leaves this planet without a witness? Hardly. God uses the two witnesses to reach the 144,000.
And the world will hate these two. Now with the Church out of the way–with a new age upon the planet, these two are just reminders of an unpleasant past. But if leaders or others try to harm these two? Read verse 11:5, “And if anyone desires to harm them, fire proceeds out of their mouth and devours their enemies; and if anyone would desire to harm them, in this manner he must be killed.” “HA”–and you’re roasted. I could get used to that. Your antagonistic neighbor, your Christ-hating fellow employee, or your Bible-bashing teacher is wailing on Christians and promoting evolution–you politely stand for the truth, which he responds by mocking you and your faith and you just give him a “HA” and he’s toast!
Verse 6 tells us they have the power to control the weather, and produce plagues–can you imagine the news each night? “Those tyrannical two witnesses are at it again. In San Francisco today, they caused the rain to stop, lifted the evening fog and caused the Bay to turn to blood. Authorities tried to stop these two again, but every time they step in, they just go up in smoke.”
Finally in verse 7, the Beast himself will kill them in Jerusalem, and authorities will leave their dead bodies in the street for 3½ days. These are modern times. The whole world sees them–how? It must be internet, and in verse 10, the world is so excited about their deaths that they rejoice and give presents. “Happy Dead Witnesses Day–here is your gift.”
You can hear the reporter, “Well, they’ve been dead for 3½ days. Thankfully we were able to rid ourselves of these two.” When suddenly verse 11 says they’ll stand to their feet (I’d like to see that on instant replay), and a voice from heaven will say, “Come up here.” Twilight zone—oh yeah! And terror will grip the whole world. God will never be without a witness.
After that interlude, the 7th trumpet will blow—and when it does, it signals the finale. Read 11:15, “And the seventh angel sounded; and there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.’” Loud voices in Heaven will shout, “The Kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord. Christ will reign forever and ever.” It’s over, it’s finished. The title deed is fully Christ’s.
The seven trumpets take you to the end of the Tribulation. So we get another interlude in chapter 12, which picks up more details. This chapter is a review to tell you why Satan is doing much of what he is doing. You see, Satan has consistently persecuted Israel, the Messiah and the people of God. Chapter 12 tells you Satan has always warred against God’s people in any way he can.
The Woman is Israel
The Child is Christ
The Dragon is Satan, who is always attacking the Child born of the Woman
Verse 7 tells us there is a war in Heaven—the angels versus the demons. Guess who wins? The holy angels win and they cast Satan and all his followers, the demons, out of Heaven to the earth. Now picture this–all the demons who were locked up are out of the pit. All those who were normally functioning on this planet are still here, and now all those who were causing conflict in Heaven are now cast to the earth. When Satan fell, one third of the angels fell with him, and they will all attack this planet during the Tribulation–especially the last half. If you think that is bad . . .
Chapter 13 gives more detail on the antichrist. This is the one who is called the Beast, the man of sin, the vile one, the wicked one. What is he like? He is a man of high intelligence, with incredible speaking ability, has some crafty political talents, a strong physical appearance, military genius, morally corrupt, materialistic, a blasphemer, is motivated by selfish ambition, functions against all law, tries to change prophesy and history, and substitutes himself for God.
Read verse 13:4 to 8, “And they worshiped the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?’ 5And there was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies; and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. 6And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7And it was given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them; and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. 8And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.”
But to complete this demonic trinity—Satan being the father, the antichrist/Beast being the son, and Satan, the great imitator also has a false prophet, a cohort (like a holy spirit) described in 13:11 to the end.
“And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. 12And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. 13And he performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. 14And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. 15And there was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast might even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed. 16And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand, or on their forehead, 17and he provides that no one should be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. 18Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.”
His job is to get everyone to worship the antichrist. So he performs deceptive signs and wonders. He builds a statue to the Beast and makes it come alive–demonically or electronically. As a result, under the influence of demons, the world population will worship the antichrist and it will be so bad that every individual on the planet could potentially be a raving, demon-possessed maniac–cutting their bodies, foaming at the mouth. And Satan will have what he always wanted–total control over everyone.
So with demons everywhere and demon-possessed people everywhere, there is no place to hide. You become a Christian and you will be discovered–they know. And verses 16 and 17, in order to survive, everyone must receive an external mark in order to buy and sell. What is the number? 666—which means man, and he can never get to seven, which is the number of God’s perfection. He can only reach 6-6-6. Don’t try to make 666 spell out a name. Levis, Farrell and especially Shailer work well.
If you have a bank card, you’ve already got your number. And if we lived in a cashless society, to keep you from buying or selling just remove your number and you starve. The problem is, you can lose a credit card–so you laser tattoo it to your wrist or forehead, which in a cold climate are easily accessible/scannable and you no longer run into problems. Unless you love Christ, then you can’t. As a result, the antichrist will control the whole world.
Chapter 14 gives you various pictures from Heaven and Earth–but the most graphic is the Tribulation holocaust concluding with the wars of Armageddon in verse 14. Not merely one battle, but a series of wars. The sharp sickle is used to picture a slaughter. Think of the first century mind and what that meant–mowed down. Giving us a look at the 6th trumpet, these wars are summarized in verse 20 when it says, “And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles [5-ft high–huge effect], for a distance of two hundred miles [felt the entire length of the nation].”
God is going to trample out His judgment. If a believer dies in martyrdom, it is actually better than remaining alive–they’ve missed the worse of two choices. Chapter 15 prepares us for chapter 16, which lists the last seven bowl judgments like a rapid-fire machine gun in succession. These bowl or vile judgments are all at the very end of the Tribulation, and according to verse 1, finish or fill out the wrath of God.
1st BOWL Verses 1 to 2 Cancerous sores
Loss of health for all mankind
2nd BOWL Verse 3 Death of all marine life
You will not see the water because the surface will be covered with dead corpses
3rd BOWL Verses 4 to 7 Loss of all fresh water
4th BOWL Verses 8 to 9 Sun scorching all mankind
Men will burn with fire, yet they continue to curse God and still will not repent
5th BOWL Verses 10 to 11 Complete darkness
So dark, people will trip and suffer injury
6th BOWL Verses 12 to 16 Conquest
Demon-possessed army from the east
7th BOWL Armageddon wars–the final battles
I’ve been there—it’s a huge valley that Napoleon said was the greatest battlefield in the world. Israel’s biggest military airport is underground, right in the middle of this valley. Read 16:13 to 14, “And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; 14for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty.”
John is describing the unholy trinity moving all the great empires to gather together for the final battles against one another. Armageddon is a series of battles, a war at the end of 7 years. And the kings of the south, east and north will all fight, and in the midst of the end of the war, Jesus Christ will return to end it all and to claim His Kingdom. What is happening in Heaven? What are you and I doing while God pours out his 7-year Tribulation wrath on Earth? Two major events . . .
First The Judgment Seat of Christ for REWARD
All your sin was punished on Christ on your behalf, but you will still give an account to God for your deeds. Romans 14:10 and 12, “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 12Each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” What will that be like? Second Corinthians 5:10 tells you,
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” Look carefully at this verse . . .
We must–not an option
All appear–literally be exposed internally
Each one–will stand for reward, evaluation before Christ
Deeds–not intensions or wishes, but what you actually did
In the body–in this life, right now matters for eternity
Whether bad or good–useless or useful
I worry for believers who don’t serve, or give, or disciple, or teach, or shepherd, or do anything–because you are evaluated for what you do in this life. You and I will stand before Christ, and He will evaluate our lives to see what we did that was rewardable. What makes it a useful or useless, good or bad deed? First Corinthians 4:5 says, “Wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”
Motive is everything–it’s not what you do, but who you did it for, and in whose strength you did it. Those deeds done for the glory of God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, are useful, rewardable. But deeds, like service, giving, helps, teaching, preaching and more–deeds done for our glory and done in our strength, the flesh, are useless, no reward. During the Tribulation, the saints in Heaven will face the judgement seat of Christ. And we will enjoy . . .
Second The Marriage SUPPER of the Lamb
After the Judgment Seat of Christ in Heaven, the Church, the bride of Christ is seen–“’Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.’ 8It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9Then he said to me, ‘Write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’” (Revelation 19:7 to 9).
The text describes a celebration. The event is what our hearts have been longing for right now. Dressed in Christ’s perfect righteousness, and decorated in deeds of service which were done for God’s glory and by His Spirit at this massive celebration, all genuine born again saints enjoy oneness with Christ now and forever. Now back to Earth. You may ask at this point what life is like during the Tribulation? Will there be religion practiced during the Tribulation? Yes!
Chapter 17 describes what the religion will be like. Now if you call the Church a bride, what do you call the false church? A harlot. The harlot rides the antichrist to power, but then the antichrist overthrows religion halfway through the Tribulation and sets himself up as the only god, because he is consumed with power and pride. It could be a form of Islam or Catholicism. It’s at this point the false prophet sets up the image and makes it come to life, doing various miracles so that after he sets himself up as god, no other religion is tolerated.
So what’s happening in the secular Tribulation world. What is the economy like during the Tribulation? Chapter 18 answers the question of business and commerce. When everything starts to collapse, verse 2 tells us as demons have taken over the world, all the nations are saddened–why? Because all the banks, economies, governments, all collapse and nobody cares about buying any products—why? The only thing people are interested in is surviving. No one goes to the mall any more.
Verse 11 says the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more. No more buying, selling and every national economy fails. How does this prophetic week (the Tribulation) flow chronologically? The Tribulation begins with the Rapture–that means when it starts, there are no believers on Earth. The antichrist signs a peace treaty with Israel (Daniel 9:27), “And he [the antichrist] will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week [3½ years] he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction [antichrist will set himself up as god].”
Then the seal judgements, the ministry of the two witnesses, the harlot religion. Then in the middle of the Tribulation, the antichrist sets himself up as god, overthrows the harlot religion and God casts Satan and demons out of the heavens. The second 3½ years–the trumpet judgments, the sealing of the 144,000, intense persecution of the Jews, and finally the bowl judgments. And when that wraps up, the wars of Armageddon intensify. Then Heaven gets really joyful. Something great is going on in Heaven.
Look at 18:20–you will see Heaven is rejoicing–why? Because even though the party is over on Earth, it is just starting in Heaven. Look at 19:1, “Hallelujah”–plus verses 3, 4, and 6. All include hallelujahs. See verse 6, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.” What are they so happy about? Our God reigns, and He is about to establish His rule. He is in charge, He is Lord and sovereign over all. What will that look like? For the exciting answer, you’ll have to come back next week.
1 Celebrate the heart of God by PROCLAIMING the Gospel
Our merciful Lord makes such incredible efforts to proclaim the Gospel in the midst of His judging the world! Even during the Tribulation, there are two witnesses who reach 144,000 evangelists, who lead a multitude so great, Revelation 7:9 says, “I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes.”
Right now, we learned in our study of 2 Peter 3, God is delaying his judgment in order for His chosen to respond in repentance and faith. God saves sinners like you–share the message friends. Better the lost struggle with you now, than to agonize in the Tribulation or in Hell.
2 Prepare for the Bema judgment by SERVING now
You and I will face the evaluation of our loving Savior, who knows every motive behind every action. Get yourself in a place where you are serving Him faithfully and regularly. Then ask the Lord that you might serve Him for His glory and in His Spirit so you don’t end up like the loser in 1 Corinthians 3:15. “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” Don’t find yourself evaluated with nothing to show for it.
3 Fight spiritual warfare daily with your ARMY
You have a hateful enemy who oversees a vast army, and for you to stand strong against this enemy army you must put on the armor of God together! You fight as an army against another army–the Church versus a satanic army. Most believers don’t realize your battle is not you against his army, but you and God’s army against the enemy’s army. Ephesians 6:10 to 12, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. [you plural] 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
The text says you plural/together–put the armor on together, in order to fight the enemy’s army. You need inter-connectedness, one another intimate relationships, standing firm on truth and praying together in a local church to actually be prepared for spiritual battle. Are you close enough to your fellow soldiers in the local church to be able to stand strong against an increasingly manifested enemy? You fight together!
4 Be certain of your ASSURANCE of salvation
Make certain you are a part of the bride of Christ, dressed in the white righteousness of Christ’s perfection and not with your own stained religious works and clothes. Pass the test–is Christ in you and through you? Second Corinthians 13:5, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?”
Are you certain of His calling? Does it show in your character, your willingness, your obedience, and in your desire? Second Peter 1:10, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.” Let’s pray.