God’s Tribulation Witness



John Hoole – February 10, 2013





A week prior to His crucifixion, Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, in what is sometimes called “The Triumphal Entry of Christ.”  There was a large group of people who were following Christ, and as He came over the Mount of Olives and began to descend into Jerusalem, the people with Him began to joyfully praise God.  We read about it in Luke 19.


Luke 19:37-40 NIV


37     When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38     "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"  "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

39     Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"

40     "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."


“The stones will cry out.”  It is easy to take the statement that the stones will cry out as simple hyperbole, but we are talking about someone who walks on water, goes through walls, and rises from the dead.  What if he really meant it?  What does that tell us about God’s reality?  And why would the stones cry out?


We are talking about praise to Jesus.  Given the fact that God’s word cannot fall to the ground void, if God ordained praise for Jesus, then praise is what he will get.  God’s people will respond to his will, but if they can’t, or don’t respond for some reason, that does not change what God has ordained.  There will be praise for Jesus, and if the people don’t do it, the stones will.


Given that backdrop, let’s consider what the apostle Paul says in Acts 14.


Acts 14:15-17 NASU


15     We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM.

16     "In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways;

17     and yet He did not leave Himself without witness,…


Paul tells us here that God did not leave Himself without a witness.  The question for us today is:  Is it you and I or is it the stones who will be that witness?  Are we going to be a witness and bring Jesus praise, or will God cause the stones to cry out?


With regard to the series of lessons on the End Times, one might ask what do people or rocks praising Jesus have to do with it.  We have spent considerable time looking at the details given to the apostle John, about the dozens of cataclysmic event on earth, about the prince of darkness, the Antichrist, and the Mark of the Beast.  But is there anything godly and righteous on earth during those seven years?




One might ponder the question that with the Church gone, who is going to tell those on earth about God and their need of a Savior?  Those on earth during this time of deciding which way to choose, whether it be the one true God, or Satan and his allies are given ample information with which to make their decision.


Another aspect of the passage we read in Acts is that it implies God promises that He will never leave this world without a witness to His truth.  That tells me that after the Rapture  the Church the Lord will still raise up a witness on earth.  And in the book of Revelation alone, God raise up and send three groups to witness and preach repentance during the Great Tribulation.




Revelation tells us that these messengers include:


         •  A group of 144,000, mentioned in Revelation 7.


         •  The Two Witnesses of Revelation 11.


         •  Three angels in Revelation 14.


These are not the only witnesses to the eternal truth of God and his salvation.  There are the many supernatural acts of God that testify of God and His existence and power.  And certainly all who are born again during the Tribulation become witnesses of God.  But today, I want to focus on these three groups.


1.     144,000 Evangelists


We find this group first mentioned in Revelation 7:1-8.  They are Jewish evangelists, comprised of 12,000 from each tribe of Israel.  We are not told how these 144,000 come to know Christ as their savior.  Some have speculated that each of them will have some experience like Paul on the road to Damascus.  Revelation 14:4 tells us they are unmarried virgins.


Back in Chapter 7, we are told they are given God’s seal in their foreheads.  In verse 3, they are called the servants of our God.”  Although Satan and the Antichrist and their followers hate them, they are unable to extinguish them.  With the seal of God upon them, the 144,000 are shielded from death during the first 3½ years.  They are sealed and protected from any coming judgments of God upon the earth and sea.


In Numbers 31, we read about a similar example God’s divine protection of Israel.  God chose one thousand Israelites from each of the twelve tribes to fight against the fierce army of the Midianites (Num. 31:5).  These 12.000 Jewish soldiers won an astonishing victory due to God’s supernatural protection.  At the end of the battle the officers counted Israelite survivors and discovered that every single warrior had returned alive. (Num. 31:49).


After the Church is gone, God will call twelve thousand from each of the twelve tribes of Israel to witness to the nations about their coming King.


God had originally given His Chosen People the command to be a “light to the Gentiles” (Isa. 42:6).  Israel did not succeed in this task, but many rabbis did try to fulfill it.  We also see this in the New Testament in the Words of Christ, where He says to the Pharisees: “for you travel land and sea to win one proselyte” (Matthew 23:15).  The New Testament record refers to numerous Gentiles who abandoned paganism and, like Cornelius, joined the Jewish Synagogue.  There was a Court of the Gentiles in the Jewish Temple because God had commanded Israel to be a “light to the Gentiles.”  Unfortunately Israel became spiritually isolationist and generally failed in that great mission.  A large number of converts to Christianity in its early years came from this Gentile group in the synagogues.  After Israel’s rejection of Jesus as their Messiah, the Lord created a Gentile and Jewish Christian Church to reach the world with the “good news,” the gospel of Jesus Christ.


These 144,000 evangelists will take the message of the gospel of the kingdom .throughout the whole earth during the first 3½ years of the 7-year Tribulation.


Matthew 24:14 (NKJV), says


14     And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.


I believe the fulfillment of this prophecy will occur in part during the ministry of the 144,000. The description and ministry of the 144,000 is mentioned first in Revelation 7:1-8.  The following verse says this:


Revelation 7:9 NIV


9       After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.


God has never given up on His plan for the nation of Israel.  Israel, during the Tribulation, will be given a final opportunity to become “a light to the Gentiles.”  They will be a faithful witness to the Messiah and soon-coming King.


The verse we just read in Revelation 7:9, and through the rest of the Chapter 7 describes a multitude of people who have accepted Christ during the Tribulation.  This has led some commentators to conclude that since the description of this group follows on the heals of the 144,000, that this countless group are the converts of the 144,000.


Others have speculated that since John later describes an army of 200,000,000 (Rev. 9:16), then this “great multitude that no man could number,” must be greater is size than the 200 million.


So, the first way in which God has provided the people of earth a chance to accept Christ, will be through the ministry of the 144,000 evangelists.


The Two Witnesses


In the New Testament, Jesus often is quoted as warning the disciples about being deceived in the last days concerning the identity of the Messiah.  This oft repeated warning speaks how some will masquerade as the Messiah.


2 Corinthians 11:14-15 NKJV


14     And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.

15     Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.


Notice that the Antichrist will have one witness to his credentials. The False Prophet, who will testify that the Antichrist is the real messiah.  Do you immediately see a problem there.  Moses established the principle that it is two witness, not one, that is required the most important matters in judgment.


Deuteronomy 19:15 (NKJV) declares:


15     One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.


                   This declaration is repeated seven times in the Bible.


In 2 Corinthians 13:1, Paul confirms this principle:  By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.  This principle is so fundamental that during the Tribulation, God will send two witnesses to warn mankind of the coming true Messiah, Jesus the Christ.


These are two of the most colorful characters in the End Times.  In Revelation, they arrive on the scene very quietly.  But their ministry will be anything but quiet.  When John receives his revelation, they are just describe as “My two witness.”  Through the apostle John, God tells us He will send His message of repentance to mankind through the words of His two witness.


Revelation 11:3 NIV


3       And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth."


These witnesses will wear clothing made of goat or camel hair, garments that symbolically express mourning and grief over the wretched condition and lack of repentance in the world.  One Bible expositor suggests that these two witnesses “will serve as the conscience of the world and will be hated by most people.”


These two, dressed in sackcloth, have a powerful prophetic ministry.  They are able to dispense astonishing miracles.


Revelation 11:5-6 NIV


5       If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die.

6       These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.


The miracles will serve to authenticate these witnesses.  In both the Old and New Testaments, God often used miracles to authenticate His messengers.  As one expositor puts it:


“In the Tribulation time when the world is overrun by supernatural demonic activity, false religion, murder, sexual perversion, and rampant wickedness, the supernatural signs performed by the two witnesses will mark them as true prophets of God.”


One would not want to harm these witnesses.  God supernaturally protects them by giving them awesome powers.  Death will come to anyone who even tries to harm them.


The Antichrist and his follower can do nothing to these two witnesses until their ministry is completed.  Their ministry will last 1,260 days, or 3½ years.  The Antichrist will be powerless against them until the 3½ years of their prophetic witness is finished, just as the antagonists of Jesus were powerless against his prophetic witness during the 3½ years of His ministry on earth.  When the ministry of Jesus was finished, only then could His enemies take Him.  But not before.  When the witness of the two witnesses is done, then and only then will they be killed.  However, just as with the Lord Jesus Christ, they too will rise again and ascend into heaven.


At the completion of their ministry, we are told:


Revelation 11:7-13 NIV


7       Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them.

8       Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.

9       For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial.

10     The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.

11     But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them.

12     Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.

13     At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.


As I stated earlier, only when the two witnesses have finished their ministry will God sovereignly permit the beast to kill them.  They will not die prematurely.  All goes according to the divine plan of God.  When it does occur, the bodies of the witnesses will lie lifeless in Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is figuratively called “Sodom and Egypt” because of the people’s apostasy and rejection of God.


In biblical times, the refusal to bury a corpse was a way of showing utmost contempt (see Acts 14:19 and Deut. 21:22-23).  By leaving the dead bodies in the street, the people of the world render the greatest possible insult to God’s spokesmen.  It is equivalent to the people of the world collectively spitting upon the corpses.


The event of the death of these two witnesses will be televised to the whole world.  People will dance in the streets.  They will even send gifts to each other because of the death of these troublemakers.


This is the only instance of rejoicing during the Tribulation recorded in the book of Revelation.  It reflects the widespread wickedness of that day.  Earth-dwellers will celebrate because they do not have to listen to messages from God any longer.  This will be the world’s last great Mardi Gras type celebration.


But they celebrate too quickly.  After 3½ days, the “breath of life from God enters them, and they stood up on their feet.”  They will be resurrected in the sight of all who are watching, and they will be taken up to heaven, while their enemies watch.  Undoubtedly, this too will be televised to the whole world.  And the Christmas celebration quickly gives way to fear as people witness the mighty acts of God.


Did you notice the last phrase we just read in Revelation 11.  Survivors of the great earthquake will give glory to God.  Among other things, this will be a loving gesture by God Almighty, not only to resurrect and take to heaven these two prophets, but also to make known His existence and power around the world.


How wonderful that despite the horrific efforts of the Antichrist and the False Prophet to promote false religion, God will give a powerful testimony of Himself during the tribulation.  Let’s never forget that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:32; 33:11).  But, rather, He desires that all people be saved (2 Peter 3:9).  Despite the hardness of heart of many people during those days, many will nevertheless turn to the Lord and be saved.


So, the second way that God will try to get people to follow him, will be through the ministry of the 2 witnesses.


The Three Angels


In addition to the two witness and the 144,000 Jewish witnesses, Revelation declares that God will send three angels during the Great Tribulation to warn men to repent and turn from their sinful reellion.


In Revelation 14, we see God’s grace once again extended to all the people of the earth.  God send three angels, each with a message for the people of earth.  It says, beginning with verse 6, that the first angel, flying in mid-air:


6.      …... had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth - to every nation, tribe, language and people.

7       He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water."


                   The first angel preaches the everlasting gospel to all people.


The second angel announces the fall of Babylon, the false church, showing that to put their trust in it is futile.

Revelation 14:8 NIV


8       A second angel followed and said, "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries."


The third angel brings a message of warning.  He warns people not to worship the beast and accept the mark of the beast.


Revelation 14:9-10 NIV


  9     A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand,

10     he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.


This is quite possibly the strongest, most severe warning God gives anywhere in the Bible.  Those who receive the mark of the beast will suffer the wrath of God, which is poured out without measure.  The phrase without measure” indicates that there will be no mercy mixed with this judgment.  Previous to this time, God’s judgments have always been tempered with mercy.  Men and women living at this time will have an enormous decision to make.


Look closely at these angels.


Notice firstly, that these angels are flying in mid-air – where all can see and hear their message. 


Secondly, they are said to speak with a loud voice.  Again, this indicates they want everyone to hear their message.


Thirdly, their message is to everyone who lives on the earth, to every nation, tribe, language and people.


Fourthly, their message is very clear.  There is absolutely no doubt to what they are saying.  You don’t have to read into their words any hidden message.  Their message is very clear.


The earthly rewards for a person taking the Mark of the Beast are:


1.      The person can buy and sell during the second part of the Tribulation.


2.      The person will not be persecuted, ridiculed, beaten, or put in prison for following Jesus.


3.      The person will not have to flee to keep from being beheaded.


But, according to the messages of these 3 angels, they will experience:


1.      Judgment which is coming to all those who refuse the “everlasting gospel.”


2.      They will be let down by the false world church, because it will fall.


3.      They will drink of the wine of God’s fury, a fury that is at full strength – that is, the undiluted wrath of God.


4.      They will be forever tormented with the fire and brimstone of the Lake of Fire.


So we see that God gives every person on earth several chances during the Tribulation to accept Christ as their Lord.  God really is not willing that any should perish, but come to repentance.


To accept the Mark of the Beast is a spiritual decision.  To receive the Mark of the Beast, one must reject the message of the “everlasting gospel.”  It will be a conscious decision to follow the Antichrist instead of Christ.  Spiritual allegiance will be demanded by the Antichrist, before one will be allowed to receive the Mark.


What I see here very much reminds me of what we read in Romans 1.


Romans 1:21-24 NIV


21     For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

22     Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools

23     and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man ……

24     Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts……


In verse 28, it adds:


28     Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved (reprobate) mind, ……


Those who accept the Mark of the Beast will do so, having been told that accepting it will establish forever their eternal destination in the Lake of Fire.




To close our lesson today, I want to go back to the two witnesses and make a few comments.  There are things we can learn from them that can impact our lives right now.


To review, Revelation 11:10 told us that the death of the two witnesses is the occasion for great rejoicing.  Apparently the celebration is worldwide.  By means of television and the internet, pictures of their dead bodies will be transmitted throughout the world.  Their dead bodies are a symbol of victory for the Antichrist.  They will have merry feasts and send gifts one to another.  These two will no longer torment those who now celebrate.


Here is my first point in closing this lesson.  A righteous prophet is always a torment to a wicked generation.  That was not only true of prophets like Elijah and Daniel, but true of real Christians today.  The Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5 – 7 – we are called to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth.  As long as the Church is on earth, we hinder what Satan desires to do.


The two witnesses were an obstacle to wickedness, unbelief, and the satanic power prevalent in that time.  They were a thorn in the side of the world rulers of that day.  That ought to be no less true of the Church today.


The death of the two witness symbolizes the silencing of the prophets who announced the doom of those who will not believe in God.  This was also true of many of the Old Testament prophets.  This is just as true about the Church.  When the Rapture occurs, Satan will be much less restrained.


Here is my second point.  The Word of God makes it clear that it is often possible to silence a witness of the truth by death.  But such action does not destroy the truth that has been announced.  Truth will forever remain the truth, even if its messenger is gone.  We need to be about proclaiming the truth.  It will live on even if we do not.