DURING THIS PAST WEEK, IS THERE ANY OF YOU HERE THAT DID NOT HAVE A SINGLE PROBLEM THAT HAD TO BE DEALT WITH?
Job 5:7 NIV
7 Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.
Then later, when he was discouraged and troubled, Job exclaimed…..
Job 14:1-2 NIV
1 Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.
2 He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure.
This is really quite a sad commentary of human life.
In Ecclesiastes 2:22-23, (NIV) Solomon says:
22 What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun?
23 All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.
Ever since the curse was meted out by God in the Garden of Eden to a disobedient mankind, catastrophes and calamities have been a way of life….and death. According to Romans 8:22, even the physical creation groans and travails as a result of sin entering this world. Throughout his tortured and sinful history, mankind has been subjected to calamities and disasters and plagues.
Here is a brief survey of some of the more tragic disasters which have occurred in history.
1340-1350, over 25 million people in Asia and Europe died of the Black Death.
1545, Typhus killed 250,000 in Cuba alone
1560, over 3 million died of smallpox in Brazil
1680, Diphtheria killed 8,000 in Naples, Italy
1792, nearly one million perished in Egypt of Black Plague
1802, Yellow Fever killed 30,0000
1827, Europe lost 900,000 due to Cholera
1851, Tuberculosis killed 51,000 in England
1863, 30,000 died of Scarlet Fever in England
1918, 30 million perished during the worldwide epidemic of Influenza
Volcanic Action: 1902, Mount Pelee, in the West Indies, erupted, killing 30,000
Earthquakes: Jan. 24, 1556, some 830,000 died in China
Fires: Dec. 30, 1903, the most tragic fire in US history killed 600 people who Packed the Iroquois Theater in Chicago, Illinois.
Tornadoes: March 18, 1925, nearly 700 in Illinois, Indiana & Missouri
Famines: 1877, nearly one million starved to death in northern China.
Floods: IN 1887, China lost 900,000 due to one flood.
Landslides: Dec. 16, 1891, 200,000 died in China.
In the face of such calamities, God's word brings us comfort.
Isa. 41:10 NKJV
10 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'
This is a great promise, especially while going through extreme difficulties.
Speaking of promises, someone has said that there are 30,000 of them in the Bible. Having never counted them, I cannot vouch for the truth of such a statement, but I do know that there are enough for all the many needs of all of us.
Have you ever picked a promise out of God's Word, and claimed its statement as God's promise for you that day? I think most of us have done that. Have you ever gone through a difficulty and you go to God as your only help, and in looking into His Word, a promise verily leaps off the pages? It is exactly what you needed and you hang onto it, as if your life depended upon it. And maybe it actually did.
Generally speaking, we are rather particular as to which promises we claim. We pick them out to suit ourselves, and finding one that specifically pleases us, we hold God to the very letter of it. In prayer, we often remind our heavenly Father of what He has said in His Word, and tell Him "Lord, I claim your promises!" And rightly so, for His Word is the basis of all our expectations.
But there is one promise that Jesus gave, that I dare say none of you has ever claimed. It is not particularly to our liking. It does not appeal to our natural person. There is absolutely nothing attractive about it.
HERE IT IS! "In the world you shall have tribulation." (John 16:33)
I would guess none of you have ever claimed that verse as your "promise of the day." It is one of my least favorite promises. But it is a promise of God none-the-less.
Matthew 5:11-12 NKJV
11 "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
When was the last time you leaped for joy while you were being persecuted? We all go through very difficult times now and then. 1 Peter 4:12 tells us:
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trials which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.
2 Timothy 3:12 adds:
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
And yet, a day is coming on this earth when the worst traumas of history will be eclipsed by a period of time that will be far more terrifying and horrific than anything man can imagine.
If you have a fascination about how the world, as we know it, is going to end, you are in good company. So did the disciples. They could hardly contain their curiosity on one occasion, so on one day, they came to Jesus privately, and simply asked Him:
"Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" (Matt 24:3) NIV
If you are looking for clues, it would do you well to see how Jesus responded to their curiosity. Here is a short list of what He told His disciples. He said these would be the signs that the end is at hand.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SIGNS CHRIST GAVE CONCERNING HIS COMING AND THE END OF THE AGE?
1. International wars (Matthew 24:6)
2. Revolutions (vs. 6)
3. Famines (vs. 7)
4. Earthquakes (vs. 7)
5. Epidemics (pestilences) (vs. 7)
6. Strange natural disasters (vs. 29; Luke 21:11)
7. Unpredictable oceanic events (Luke 21:25)
8. Worldwide dissemination of the message of Jesus Christ (Matthew 24:14)
9. Persecution of Christians (Matthew 24:9, 21-22)
Jesus summed up the effect of all these calamities in Matthew 24:21.
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
To emphasize its appalling nature, Jesus goes on to predict that the calamities and terrifying days would have to be curtailed, or else no flesh would remain alive. Christ was speaking about a time of Tribulation (with a capital "T") which was yet future. It is still future from where we sit in history today. He said the Tribulation will be of greater intensity than anything this world has every see. He also added that it will be worse that anything that would follow it as well.
Many prophets, in both the Old and New Testaments, speak about this period of time. No other event is the Bible, except perhaps the Second Comings itself, is mentioned more frequently than the Tribulation. There is seemingly no end to the astonishing events that will characterize this awful period. We will take note of some of them later.
There are four other passages that are very similar to the one we read a moment ago in Matthew 24. They also speak of a time of extreme tribulation and calamity that will be far more severe than any other period in history. It will become such a terrible holocaust because it combines:
o the wrath of God,
o the fury of Satan,
o the evil nature of man run wild.
Let's look at these other 4 passages.
Mark 13:19 (NIV) records Marks account of the same statement by Christ recorded in Matthew.
19 because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now-and never to be equaled again.
Jesus wasn't the only one to predict that cataclysmic events would occur at the end of the world as we know it. The other three passages are found in the Old Testament.
Back in the Old Testament, around 538 B.C., the prophet Daniel had visions concerning how the world was going to end.
Dan 12:1 NIV
1 At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then.
Daniel's prophecies include some of the same sort of disasters which Jesus spoke about.
o The earth will be severely damaged by natural and man-made disasters.
o There will be earthquakes, disease, and warfare.
o Humanity will be on the verse of extinction.
Daniel's prophecies, along with the statements of Jesus and the Book of Revelation, form the foundation of what we know about the tribulation. And it is Daniel who reveals to us that the Tribulation is going to last 7 years. Let's look at the other two Old Testament Passages which spells out, like Christ and Daniel, a time of great and frequent catastrophes, that no other is like it in the history of the world.
Joel 2:1-2 NIV
1 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand-
2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come.
Jeremiah 30:1-7 NIV
1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
2 "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: `Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you.
3 The days are coming,' declares the LORD, `when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess,' says the LORD."
Jeremiah speaks of a time when the Jews will be back in their land. He goes on in verses 4 & 5 to tell of a time when the people would be trembling with fear and where there would be no peace. This time of trouble will be so intense that it is likened to a mother experiencing travail in childbirth. Then, in verse 7, it says:
7 How awful that day will be! None will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it.
This passage in Jeremiah definitely places this Tribulation AFTER the return of the Jews to their land. None of these verses could have been speaking about 70 AD, or Hitler's holocaust, or any prior Jewish persecution. That is because the Jews had not yet been restored and in control of their own land.
I have read each of these five Passages to make this point: There cannot be two events in human history which are more terrible than any before or after it. For that reason, each of these verses must be speaking about the same event. The Tribulation is going to be the worst time in the history of the earth.
WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES THIS FUTURE TRIBULATION PERIOD DIFFERENT FROM THE TRIBULATIONS AND TRIALS WE ALL EXPERIENCE FROM TIME TO TIME AND FROM THE TESTING THE CHURCH HAS SUFFERED IN THE PAST?
1. Its intensity level.
2. The future Tribulation will be world-wide.
1. Intensity of the Tribulation holocaust
Don't confuse the coming Tribulation with the many kinds of hardships suffered by people in their day-to-day lives. We all have those times that really try our Christianity. This coming Tribulation is something altogether different.
Near the beginning of the lesson today, I quoted a promise given by Jesus. I said that it probably would not be your promise of the day. Let me mention it again.
When Christ was speaking to the disciples in the upper room, He said, "In the world you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
Christ was using the word "tribulation" in the sense of persecution and trials that come to every Christian because they belong to Christ.
In Matthew 24:21 and Mark 13:19, He is speaking of a specific time of testing. And He warns us that this coming tribulation is far worse than any before or after it. Its intensity and severity is unmatched and unparalleled in all of human history.
2. The future Tribulation will be world-wide.
Revelation 3:10 NKJV
10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test all those who dwell on the earth.
In our last several lessons, we discussed the subject of the Rapture, that amazing event when Christians are going to be lifted off the earth to join Jesus in the sky. But end-times events described in the Bible are not restricted to people who believe and follow Jesus. According to the verse we just read, everyone everywhere will be a participant in these events, whether they want to or not.
None of our tribulations and trials today affect the entire world. This prophesied testing, called the Tribulation, is no isolated skirmish between feuding tribes or countries. Its description in the Book of Revelation insists it be accepted as world-wide in scope.
Of the many dozens of events of the Tribulation, that are detailed throughout the Bible, two of them will result in the death of one-half of the worlds population. Today there are 6.25 Billion people living on planet earth. Let's assume 250 million of those living will rise to meet Christ in the air. It may be more than that, but that makes our calculating these two events quick and easy. That leaves 6.0 Billion non-Christians on earth.
Notice what Revelation 6:7-8 (NKJV) tells us...
7 When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, "Come and see."
8 So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.
One fourth of the world's 6.0 billion people will be killed. That's 1.5 billion.
Revelation 9:14-18 NIV
14 It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates."
15 And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind.
18 A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths.
One third of the remaining population will be killed. That amounts to another 1.5 billion people.
These are but two of the many judgments to occur during the Tribulation. As mankind is left alone to his own devices, and without restraint, conditions on this earth will continually and quickly degenerate.
Take the horror of every war since time began. Then throw in every natural disaster recorded in history, and cast off all restraint so that unspeakable cruelty and hatred and injustice of man toward his fellow men can fully mature, then compress it into a period of just 7 years. Even if you could imagine such a thing, it wouldn't approach the mind-boggling terror and turmoil of the Tribulation.
2 Timothy 3:13 NKJV
13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
The rate of this deterioration is now at a frightening pace, and men from all disciplines of science, economics and politics are becoming increasingly alarmed and some are sounding a warning. Some are saying that if things continue as they are today, mankind will not live another 30 years. Some call it the end of the world as we know it.
While there are some that say this world may not last another century, I am glad to tell you that I do not agree. The Bible tells me that this world will continue, with people living on it, for at least another one thousand years (See Rev. 20:6).
But the Bible also says things will get a whole lot worse before they get any better. it will quite literally be hell on earth. Man will continue to try to save himself without any help from God. And in so doing, will only continue his downward path farther and farther away from God. Some will try to save himself and humanity through a world-wide political body. Call it the New World Order, or anything else.
Others, in their own blinding pride, will think they can properly rule the world with their anti-God philosophies, and proceed to take military action to obtain control, only to bring terrible judgment upon themselves.
But, God tells us He will not allow this destruction to go on forever!! God limits the length of this period to be no more than 7 years. Let's look at some of the details of this terrible time. We have been calling it the Tribulation. But this period is also known by other names.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER NAMES GIVEN FOR THIS PERIOD OF TIME.
1. The Day of the Lord
This title is used more frequently than any other. (See for example: Isaiah 2:12; 13:6, 9; Ezekiel 13:5, 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14. Amos 5:18, 10; Obadiah 15; Zephaniah 1:7, 14; Zech. 14:1; Malachi 4:5; Acts 2:20; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10)
2. The day of God's vengeance (Isaiah 34:8; 63:1-6)
3. The Time of Jacob's Troubles (Jeremiah 30:7)
4. The 70th week of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27)
5. The day of Israel's calamity (Deut. 32:35; Obadiah 12-14)
6. The time of the end. (Daniel 12:9)
7. The great day of His wrath (Revelation 6:17)
8. The Day of Wrath (Zephaniah 1:15)
9. The hour of his judgment (Revelation 14:7)
10. The end of this world (Matthew 23:40, 49)
11. The hour of Trial (Revelation 3:10)
12. The indignation (Isaiah 26:20-21; 34:2; Daniel 11:36)
13. The overspreading of abomination (Daniel 9:27)
14. The time of trouble such that never was (Daniel 12:1)
15. The Tribulation (Matthew 24:21, 29)
It appears to me that the last title - the tribulation - very adequately describes the entirety of this period of time under discussion today. Therefore, it will most often be referred to as the Tribulation.
Let's look at a few verses which speak of the conditions on the earth during the Tribulation. Where possible, I will relate both Old and New Testament Passages which seem to address very similar conditions.
Isaiah 13:6-7, 10-11 NIV
6 Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.
7 Because of this, all hands will go limp, every man's heart will melt.
10 The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.
11 I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.
Compare this with Revelation 6:12. NIV
12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red
Isaiah 2:19 NIV
19 Men will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the LORD ……when he rises to shake the earth.
Compare this with Revelation 6:15-16. NIV
15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.
16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
Isaiah 34:2-4 NIV
2 The LORD is angry with all nations; his wrath is upon all their armies. He will totally destroy them, he will give them over to slaughter.
3 Their slain will be thrown out, their dead bodies will send up a stench; the mountains will be soaked with their blood.
4 All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll……
Compare this with two Passages in the New Testament.
2 Peter 3:10 NKJV
10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
Revelation 6:14 NKJV
14 Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.
Let me now give you a few more verses from the Old Testament which speak about the condition during the Tribulation.
Isaiah 24:1 NIV
1 See, the LORD is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants--
19 The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is thoroughly shaken.
20 The earth reels like a drunkard……
Jeremiah 25:32-33 NIV
32 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Look! Disaster is spreading from nation to nation; a mighty storm is rising from the ends of the earth."
33 At that time those slain by the LORD will be everywhere--from one end of the earth to the other. They will not be mourned or gathered up or buried, but will be like refuse lying on the ground.
Zephaniah 1:12-15 NIV
12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, `The LORD will do nothing, either good or bad.'
13 Their wealth will be plundered, their houses demolished. They will build houses but not live in them; they will plant vineyards but not drink the wine.
14 "The great day of the LORD is near- near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there.
15 That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness.
These are but some of the conditions of the Tribulation time. The Bible has a great deal to say about this period of time in both the Old and New Testament. But much of the details about the Tribulation is found in Revelation. In this Book, John recounts the vision which God gave him about the end of the world. Chapters 4 - 19 contain very detailed and specific predictions of the Tribulation.
WHO ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS OR GROUPS OF PEOPLE ACTIVE DURING THE TRIBULATION PERIOD?
3. False Prophet
4. 144,000 Jewish evangelists
5. The 2 Witnesses in Jerusalem
6. The Nation of Israel
7. The Revived Roman Empire (EC)
8. 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse
9. Martyred Christians.
For a moment I want to focus on three of these characters -- Satan, the Antichrist and the False Prophet. Satan is a master at imitating the things of God. Way back before his prideful fall, He said "I will be like the Most High."
What we have, embodied in these three - Satan, the Antichrist and the False Prophet - is a clever counterfeit of the Holy Trinity. I will say more about these impersonations, and other Satanic counterfeits, in our next lesson.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE EVENTS WHICH WILL OCCUR ON EARTH DURING THE 7-YEARS OF THE TRIBULATION?
1. Setting up of the super, false, apostate church
2. The appearance of the Antichrist and the False Prophet (Revelation 13)
3. Revival of the Roman Empire - 10 nations united by Antichrist (Daniel 2 & 7)
4. Treaty between the Antichrist and Israel (Daniel 9:27)
5. Opening of the 7 Seals of judgment (Revelation 6)
6. Conversion of the 144,000 Jews (Revelation 7:1-4)
>7. Rebuilding of the Jewish Temple (Ezek 40, Matt. 24:15)
8. Ministry of the two witnesses and their death (Revelation 11:3-13)
9. Russia's invasion of Israel and their defeat (Ezekiel 38 & 39)
10. The alignment of nations (Ezekiel 38)
11. Satan is cast out of heaven (Revelation 12)
12. Persecution of the Jews and their flight into the wilderness (Revelation 12:6, 13, 14; Matthew 24:15-21)
13. The institution of the Mark of the Beast (Revelation 13:16-18)
14. The blowing of the 7 trumpets (Revelation 8:7 - 11:15)
15. Special messages by 3 angels (Revelation 14:6-12)
16. Pouring out of the 7 Vials (Bowls) of judgment (Revelation 15 & 16)
17. World's worst earthquake (Revelation 16:18-21)
18. The fall of Babylon (Revelation 17 & 18)
19. The Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:16, 19:11-21)
No wonder that Jesus said the tribulation will be totally unique from anything that has ever happened or would happen again.