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We live in one of the most remarkable ages in the history of the world. It is a notable time for many reasons, the first of which is the remarkable technological developments which make yesterday’s cutting-edge technology decidedly crude by today’s standards. The tide of progress continues to roll, bearing the promise of even more amazing developments for the days to come.
This is also a remarkable age because of the rise of iniquity in our time. By any standard in which wickedness can be statistically measured, the percentage of the increase of abominations is greater than ever before. It seems like every week someone invents a physical, moral, or spiritual absurdity that soon develops into a frightening cult. Add to this the staccato gunfire of drive-by shootings and the emergence of the drug culture and we have before us a complicated society. A great number of “answers” are being presented to solve the problems of our time. Unfortunately, none of them work, partly because God has made life deliberately precarious so that we should be forced to trust in Him. There will, therefore, never be a solution to the concerns of society short of the glorious return of Jesus Christ.
The third-and perhaps the greatest-reason that this is a remarkable age is because of divine forbearance. Many ask why God allows these things to happen, why He doesn’t just kill the devil or pull every shred of iniquity out of the world. But perceptive readers know that the answer to that question is that God has made man a free moral agent with the power to choose. God refuses to interrupt that power lest man be turned into a mindless automaton with no power of choice.
In the midst of this rise of iniquity, God continues to show His forbearance. Nevertheless, the Scripture announces that man is storing up wrath for himself against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will “render to each one according to his deeds” (Romans 2:5,6). So the fund of human iniquity and consequent divine judgment is building in a kind of cosmic bank. While this is the day of grace and God is not moving in devastating judgment, it is also the time that iniquity is being recorded in a book that will one day be opened. Do we see the opening of that book today? We think so and we certainly must allow for that possibility.
When we think about divine forbearance, we are stating in another way that this is the day of grace. It is not the day of judgment but rather a time in which this Scripture is being fulfilled: “God sent not His son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). So the day of divine condemnation is not upon us now. Be sure, however, that it is sure to come. Because of His moral universe, nothing that is an exception to the perfect will of God will go unrecognized and unpunished.
Is there a day, an era, a period in history that will be particularly characterized by divine judgment? The answer is yes. It’s called the Tribulation. Grace will end one day and after that will be the day of divine judgment.
The event that will punctuate that change is a remarkable time called “the rapture of the church,” the time in which the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, taking His own-members of the body of Christ-to be with Him. That is the time when this relatively calm and peaceful generation will be subject to the cyclone of the oncoming Tribulation. At that time, man, having sown the wind, will reap the whirlwind. This very picture is given to us in Scripture. To face a cyclone is not a pleasant experience. God also gives us another picture which presents the surprising, overwhelming nature of the oncoming of the Tribulation.
In the early pages of Revelation (chapters 5 and 6) we see the picture that should not be forgotten. First of all, we see a discussion in heaven concerning the question “who is worthy to judge the world?” The answer, found in the Word of God, is “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing” (Revelation 5:12). So Jesus Christ is accounted worthy to pass judgment upon the world.
The nature of the judgment becomes most pronounced with an account of the rise of four horsemen of the apocalypse: “And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on Him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him, and He went forth conquering, and to conquer” (Revelation 6:2).
Here we have a picture of the false Christ, the diminutive Christ. Here is presented to us the rise of Antichrist. Indeed, during the days of the great Tribulation, the Antichrist will organize world politics, world religion, and many other things to become master of the earth. His dreadful presence, empowered by Satan, will be felt strongly in the world. The Revelation picture continues, “And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given unto him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth and that they should kill one another” (Revelation 6:4).
So the rider on the red horse, denoting war and death, breaks upon the world as a frightening picture indeed. He steals peace from the earth and turns the world into a system of deadly anarchy.
And when He had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny (Revelation 6:5,6).
The rider of the black horse signifies the rise of economic manipulation, indicated by the balances carried in the hand of this deadly rider. This economic manipulation worsens to the point that, finally, it will take a day’s pay to buy a loaf of bread. What a picture! With this begins the Tribulation.
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat upon him was Death, and Hell followed with him.
And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth (verse 8).
This dreadful fourth rider has power over a quarter part of the earth to produce death and hell on earth. It is difficult to imagine a picture more grim than that set of judgments that will come upon the world, initiating the days of the Tribulation. Here we have a whirlwind with pain, suffering, and death inflicted on masses of people. When we think about the direction that our present world is taking, we can certainly learn why such a judgment will be brought upon us.
This dreadful picture is followed by the account in Scripture of this awful period of the Tribulation. If we want to know the direction in which the world is going, that direction is ahead of us. We are to anticipate not a utopia or a perfect world, but an era of devastating divine judgment.
The Tribulation Trilogy: The Tribulation Begins!
If someone were to suggest that we are living in an amazing age, would you agree? Certainly, all you have to do is compare the morning papers with what the Bible says to discover a remarkable consonance between the Word of God and what is happening.
But if these times are amazing, a time is coming that can only be called “awesome.” That day is so indescribable that we can hardly put into words what the Bible says it will be like. Listen to what Jesus said:
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore, if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wherever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together (Matthew 24:21-28).
With these few verses, Jesus began His stunning answer to a question pressed upon Him by His disciples. They wanted Him to tell them about the future, and in particular, about the world at the time of His return. In this passage alone, the Lord spends two whole chapters describing what will happen during the days of the Tribulation, and then the Great Tribulation.
When added to the many other revelations that the Bible offers about this awesome day, a breathtaking picture comes into focus. It will be the time of Jacob’s trouble. It will be the time of the worst carnage and the most despicable situations and the most overwhelming impact of the judgment of God that the world will ever see.
If you think that God doesn’t see, that He doesn’t notice, that He won’t judge the world one day, think again. The judgment of God during the Great Tribulation will be absolutely indescribable.
The Coming Tribulation
Notice what the Bible says about the beginning of the Tribulation, remembering that we live in the Day of Grace, not the Day of the Tribulation. The Day of the Tribulation will be a seven-year period that begins the Day of the Lord. The apostle Paul specifically wants the Church to understand that the Day of the Tribulation, the Day of the Lord, has not yet begun:
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of the Lord is present … for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).
Then the apostle Paul gives us some characteristics that the world will attain that will give fair warning to a future generation (perhaps this generation) that the Tribulation is about to begin.
The Bible does not teach that man is going to bring to pass a perfect society. It does not teach that utopia will be fashioned by clever human beings. Rather, it teaches that we live in a deteriorating world. One day, that deterioration will get so bad that it will turn, literally, into the judgment of God. So to think that the world is getting better and better is to have a false view, false optimism about life. To be realistic, we must remember that the Bible says there is coming a day called the Tribulation.
Do we have that settled? I hope so. And I hope that we each have seen through the flimsy theories of the spiritualizers who say, “Well, this is the Tribulation, because problems happen to us,” and all of that. Listen: The sum of all the problems people have endured from the beginning of time until now are almost nothing compared to what will happen during those days of the Tribulation!
Now, when we begin to think deeply and soberly about that, which we should, we start to ask, “How will we know that maybe we are getting close to it? If that day is indeed drawing near, what are the signs that could alert us?” That is exactly the question that was asked of Jesus by His disciples. Matthew 24 says:
And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, “Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3).
The disciples had the opportunity for a private conversation with the Lord Jesus. He responded to their inquiry by telling them several things. First of all, He said that when we think about moving into the future, there are at least two conditions that we will face at all times. One, we will face the possibility of spiritual subversion, spiritual warfare.
‘For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:5).
And the second perennial condition, He said, will be: “… ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled…” Matthew 24:6.
Now, do we have spiritual warfare and physical warfare moving strongly across the world? Of course. More than 40 physical wars in our world are currently being fought, in addition to a great deal of spiritual warfare, contending with principalities and powers, something even more than physical forces. Perhaps you’ve been involved in this kind of contention. Perhaps you’d be one who would say very quickly, “We have experienced this type of spiritual warfare.” It’s going to happen. Look for satanic opposition. Look for events that will show that the devil is frustrated by your spiritual production. Be involved in spiritual warfare. Those conditions have always been with us, and will increase as we come to the end of the Church Age.
The Beginning of Sorrows
Then, almost like a road that leads into the Tribulation, there will come a specific period of time which Christ called “the beginning of sorrows.” He said:
For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, see that ye be not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows (Matthew 24:5-8).
The period of time called the “beginning of sorrows” is best described as that bridge of events that takes us out of the Church Age and into the Tribulation. That Beginning of Sorrows, Christ said, will have five characteristics:
nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes…. (Matthew 24:7).
Do we see nation rising against nation (the word “ethnos” means racial animosity, racial warfare, among people)? Yes! At the root of almost every war going today, like those in Africa, and the Middle East, and Ireland, lies racial animosity.
And then kingdom (“archon,” rulers, political things) shall rise against kingdom. I’ve been mystified many times by the question, “Why do people fight with one another? What is the real reason someone packs a rifle or a knapsack and gets into an airplane and goes off to kill as many people as possible? To take over real estate? What is that? Why do people do this?” Well, James, of course, answered the question by saying:
From where come wars and fightings among you? Come they not here, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not; ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain; ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts (James 4:1-3).
People go to war because they don’t know how to get God’s provision for themselves and for their nation, so they decide to take it from somebody else. It is totally irrational. Usually, thousands or even millions die in the process. Millions died in World War 11, tens of thousands in recent wars. When it’s all over, what do you have? Perhaps a surrender, or a cease-fire, or economic sanctions, or a blockade. But before too long, you’re back to square one as if nothing happened. It is totally silly, but it is done. Such wars will increase, Jesus said, as we move toward the end of the age. Famine, pestilence, and earthquakes were three more things.
Famine: people without enough to eat. By the way, in a world like ours, if people are hungry, it isn’t generally because there is no food. It’s because the supply of food has been interdicted by some political intervention. Food is a weapon of warfare in today’s abrasion between nations.
Pestilence: pestilence is sickness that is out of control. Daily on television you hear of this: the AIDS epidemic, the Ebola virus, alcoholism out of control, and other forms of disease. What do we do about this? The world doesn’t know.
Earthquakes will also characterize this time called the Beginning of Sorrows.
Do we live in the Tribulation now? No we don’t. This is a different age. In this age, we have a set of principles that are really quite astonishing, operating between God and man. God deals with man by grace. The Bible says about the coming of Jesus Christ:
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:17).
Consequently, I’m sure you have shared the frustration of many who have wondered why wicked people do not immediately come under the judgment of God. It seems as if there is a strange, almost illogical forbearance. “God ought to have stricken them dead,” we think, but He has not.
Some who desire the vengeance of God, ask, “Why doesn’t God do something? How come He hasn’t come back and ended the terrible situation going on in the world today?” I think we must remind ourselves why we have such a terrible situation in the world at all! The Bible says about Adam and Eve:
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned (Romans 5:12).
The reasons for the problems of the world are not lack of education, lack of knowledge, lack of economics, or the lack of clever ideas. They’re not even crooked politicians. At the root of all the problems of the world is the fact that the world is corrupted by sin, and every person in it is a sinner. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
Sin not only exists, but it is progressive. The Bible says: sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:15). The implication is that sin grows and grows, like a terrible contagion, which it is. Finally, people drop into total dissipation, so that they cannot resist the dreadful force of sin.
When the world goes past that point of no return, then it’s time for the Tribulation. Until then, God speaks to the wickedest of people and says, “By grace are ye saved. Come unto Me. I will give you rest.” You have every right from God to talk to Godless sinners and tell them, “Okay, Jesus came not ‘to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance’ (Matthew 9:13). And God deals with you by grace. So if you will believe the gospel, the message that ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures'(1 Corinthians 15:3,4), you can be saved.”
You can tell that to the wickedest of people, and God will save them, because believing in Jesus Christ is the one single prerequisite for salvation.
But there is coming a time when that will no longer be true. The Bible says that man is treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, Who will render to every man according to his deeds (Romans 2:5,6).
So there is coming a day, subsequent to this, in which divine vengeance is the way that God will deal with a lost mankind. There’s a lot of difference, then, between this day, and the day of the coming Tribulation. What will be the line of demarcation? How will we know that we have moved from the Day of Grace to the Day of the Tribulation?
The Rapture of the Church
The answer is a tremendous event called the Rapture of the Church. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words (I Thessalonians 4:16-18).
You see, Jesus Christ is not simply coming at the end of the Tribulation, which He will do. But before the Tribulation, at the end of the Day of Grace, He is coming to take all believers out of this world.
Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51,52).
The Rapture ends the Day of Grace and begins the Day of the Tribulation. So the Tribulation does not just gradually come upon the world, as does the Beginning of Sorrows, but it will be marked by an instantaneous and cataclysmic event-the removal of the Church from Planet Earth. So remember, the Rapture is important for many things, but its chief importance is that it marks the end of the epoch of grace and the beginning of the dispensation of the
Tribulation. That fact is a source of comfort and help and solace for every Child of God.
The Fury Unleashed
When the Church is taken out of the world, the wrath of God will finally be unleashed. God will be perfectly free to work His judgment upon people. Why has God not sent His judgment upon the world already? Answer: the Church is here. We protect the world. Society is still around because we are still here. The presence of the Church in the world forestalls final judgment by God. God has spoken to every Christian, and reminded us:
For God hath not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:9). We are “justified freely by his grace” (Romans 3:24). There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus… (Romans 8: 1).
But watch for that moment when the Church is taken up, and the wrath of God falls upon a wicked world.
I have viewed the Tribulation as a sort of historic necessity, given the attitude of men today. People today, in their arrogance, say, “We don’t need God. We can run the world.” Atheism is prevalent in our world. Millions of people are atheists, and they say, “We are masters of our own destiny.” The average academician is an atheist, and he’s teaching our young people that there is no God, and they are autonomous, and they can manage their own destiny. There’s even a theory going in the world of academia that evolution has brought us to the place where we can control our own evolution. Name the future that you want, and you’ve got it. Well, God has a way of giving us the opportunity of having our own way, does He not? God, in the final analysis, has given men a free will. They can choose what they will believe in the life that they will live, but they’ve got to pay the consequences. Well, God speaks in a sense to the world that remains after the Rapture, and He says, “Now, you’ve been so smart, you’ve been so presumptuous, you say you can run the world, have it your way.” Man’s day then comes to pass, in which autonomous man is in charge of the world.
Will that be a good thing for the world? Will you be happy and overjoyed to see that scoundrel, who once served as your ward committeeman, now sitting on some throne somewhere as the master of Earth? Will you be ready to place your faith in the philosophy of your con-artist neighbor, who wrote a book on how to run the world under a religion of his own invention? How will it be, when the whole world is in violation of the statement of Scripture which says: There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death (Proverbs 16:25).
How will it be when the world is in violation of the statement of the Bible which says: For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 3:11).
How will it be, when there suddenly is only man to depend upon? I’ve listened to many a lecture on a university campus, and, of course, seen and heard many of the same things you have heard and seen on television, and I’ve been absolutely astonished at the arrogance of people who think they know it all. Their haughtiness approaches a strange insanity.
Take, for instance, one subject, among the dozens that we could refer to. About the matter of marriage, the Bible says: Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh (Genesis 2:24).
That shall be a new entity, a marriage, man and woman. Well, they are now passing laws excusing and even advocating same-sex marriages. Now look: that’s not just a clever sociological opinion. That’s insanity. That’s perversion. But a world that pretends to be sophisticated says, “Well, isn’t that a nice new idea about what marriage ought to be?”
Now everybody in his right mind, who has not been subverted by becoming an expert on the subject, and who still thinks straight, knows this is insanity. But he is disquieted by the fact that it’s these kind of people, with dislocated minds, who aspire to run the world in the days to come.
Are they going to master the world? The answer is no. They are going to bring to pass a day in the history of mankind so shameful, so frightening, so terrible, so fatal to masses of people that the Bible says:
Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved… (Matthew 24:22).
You see, man, having treasured up mounds of sin, will come under the fury of an offended God. You ought to read the classic early American sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Jonathan Edwards put it rather well. An angry God has planned a day of vengeance. It’s called the Tribulation. Please miss it, by being a part of the Rapture of the Church.
The Day of Wrath – The Wrath of the Antichrist
One of the characters that will play a telling role during the days of the Tribulation is this monster called the Antichrist. Listen for just a moment to what the Bible says about him. Paul writes to the people at Thessalonica:
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of the Lord is present (2 Thessalonians 2:1,2).
Remember, the Day of the Lord is that period of time that comes after the time of the Church Age, after the Day of Grace. Don’t let anyone tell you that the Day of the Lord is going on now.
Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come the falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
Do not let anyone tell you that this is the time of divine wrath. That day shall not come until there is a falling away first. The word is “apostasia,” meaning “to stand away from where you used to stand.” It is translated “apostasy.” The apostasy will first come, before the Day of the Lord comes.
Then, Paul says, will the “man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” Here Paul introduces a character that will be of consequence during the days of the Tribulation. And what does he call him? The great benefactor of mankind? No. The “man of sin” will be revealed, the man whose fundamental nature is sin. He is the embodiment of sin.
the son of perdition, Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God (2 Thessalonians 2:3,4).
This vast, presumptuous impostor will present himself to the world as “the man with a plan.” The revealing of that man will introduce the days of the Tribulation. I have an opinion. God tells Christians a lot of details about the man of sin that the world doesn’t know about. And I do believe the implication is that we, if we are perceptive, will be able to recognize the oncoming of the man of sin. While the world does not suspect that he is the Antichrist, he will be obvious enough to perceptive Christians so we will be able to say, “There he is,” and prepare for the almost immediate Rapture of the Church.
The wrath of the Antichrist, which contributes to the day of wrath, the Tribulation, is also described in many other locations in the Word of God. Revelation 6 gives us the picture of the horsemen of the Apocalypse. It says the rider of the first horse is on a white horse. He will present a great plan to the world. And this rider on the first horse goes forth “conquering, and to conquer” (Revelation 6:2).
This cruel monster of a person, the Antichrist, will make great gains until he becomes master of Earth. If you think that the Antichrist’s rise is possible now, you are thinking correctly. So one source of wrath, during the “day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,” will be the wrath of the Antichrist.
The Wrath of Nature
We want to suggest also that that will be a time in which nature itself turns against man. The rider of the fourth horse of the Apocalypse rides upon the pale horse, and the Bible says:
And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth (Revelation 6:8).
The suggestion is that the beasts of the field, maybe even domestic animals now, will be a part of that whole spirit of the devil that turns against humanity. The very animals of which we are familiar will be enrolled on the side of the devil.
Imagine a house cat that suddenly becomes very vicious, and exercises some kind of killer instincts. Nature itself will seem to rebel against mankind, engined by the power of Satan. There’s quite a chapter in the Book of Revelation that talks about one of the impacts of nature against man. One of the characteristics, the Bible says, of the final days, will be that nature joins this rebellion and comes down upon man. Actually, Revelation 6 gives us quite a description:
And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every slave, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens 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 that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; For the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand? (Revelation 6:14-17).
Earthquakes will characterize that time. But what I would have us notice is, the wrath of the Lamb is so terrible and strikes such fear in the lives of people that they consider an earthquake that actually covers them up to be preferable to the wrath of Jesus Christ.
Think of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” being what characterized the days of His earthly ministry, but also remember something else: In the day of His judgment, He is the one whose “eyes were like aflame of fire” (Revelation 19:12). He is the one whose countenance is as the sun which shines in its strength. Yes, He is the one who is going to be the ultimate Judge of mankind. So devastating will that judgment be, that even the rebellion of nature will seem comforting and sanguine by comparison to the wrath of Jesus Christ, and facing the days of His wrath during those hours of the Great Tribulation.
So the wrath of God is going to be poured upon the world. In fact, the Bible uses those very illustrations. There will be the series of trumpet judgments, and then the bowl judgments in which God’s judgment is poured upon the world in absolutely devastating fashion. One should tremble at this prospect of the wrath of God coming upon the world. But that’s the way it will be, during the days of the Great Tribulation. Therefore, once again, do not think of the future of man as being a sweet and sanguine thing, but the future of man is to fall under the wrath of God.
Once again, we should remind ourselves that there is one interdiction of that wrath, one way to avoid the wrath of God. What is that?
There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Romans 8:1).
If you are a Christian, having believed the gospel, you may have been ten times a sinner before that, but if you will believe in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, and trust Him as your personal Savior, you are not to fear the wrath to come. Why? Because you have a date with destiny. You’re going to be taken home to heaven, to be with the Lord Jesus. When thinking of divine wrath, remember, it is Calvary that saves us from that awful eventuality. In times like these, that should not only bring reassurance, but motivate us to become articulate witnesses for Christ, so that we may help others escape the coming wrath.
The Wrath of Satan
We are also told that there will be the wrath of Satan himself. Listen to what the Scripture says: For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time (Revelation 12:12).
We have the statement in Scripture that the clock will be ticking against the devil and his plans. He will realize this. He doesn’t have an omniscient or an omnipotent mind, but he’ll be smart enough to realize that that clock is ticking! He’ll come to the point where he realizes that if he’s going to make that big play for the world and ever hope to capture everything, he’d better get with it now. So he comes forth with “great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”
Now, because he is angry to the point of irrational fury against God, what does he do? Well, the Scripture indicates several things. First of all, he puts together and attempts to manage and run a world government. All of the nations of the world are enrolled in his cause. But I particularly am interested in the fact that he will have a set of sinews that he wants to hold that world government together, and that set of sinews is a world religion.
In fact, Revelation 13 tells about a religion that Satan organizes. That religion has several characteristics. It will be satanic. The Bible says it will cause people to worship the devil who is behind it all (Revelation 13:4). Secondly, it will be humanistic. They will worship the beast (Revelation 13:4). That’s the Antichrist. The Antichrist will offer himself, wearing a white robe, and present a great plan as the religious modulator of all mankind. They will worship a human being. Thirdly, it will be universal. The Antichrist will organize a religion as big as the whole world. The whole world will be called upon to worship him (Revelation 13:8). Fourthly, it will be ecumenical. It will be the kind of theology that everyone can believe.
We all should be concerned about bad theology. Bad theology may only seem silly when it is first heard, but if given the chance to carry the day, it can quickly become fatal! Bad theology will characterize the religion of the Antichrist and the attempt of Satan to organize a world religion, because it will produce a “lowest common denominator” type of religion. People are getting together today, saying, “Unity and understanding and love-that should be the whole story of religion. That should be the basis on which we put together a world religious movement.”
Any cooperative program must be characterized by good theology. That’s hard to come by in today’s world. But the world then will have a low common denominator, such as “God is love,” or “life has a lot of possibilities,” and all will be called upon to believe that and make it the sole basis of their worship.
Also, Revelation 13 says the religion of the Antichrist will be phenomenalistic. That means he will give you something that will satisfy the sight of your eyes. I’ve noticed something that concerns me, and that is, that so many religions, even Protestant religions, want to be so obvious, so phenomenalistic, and to have great visible and material things, such as vaulted buildings, for you to see.
Well, the Antichrist is going to use that big-time. He causes fire to come down from heaven in the sight of all the people who are worshiping him (Revelation 13:13). They look and say, “Wow. Look at that. He can control the forces of nature. He must be the man to believe in.” This fire from heaven will be impressive.
Chapter 13 tells us that the prophet of the Antichrist will be empowered to work miracles, in order to give credibility to the things he is saying to people (Revelation 13:14). So his phenomenalistic religion will be hugely successful. Also, the Bible says that religion will be idolatrous. He will make an image. That image will be able to speak like a man (Revelation 13:15). That image will say, “Worship me. I represent to you the great man who runs the world.” That idolatrous copy of the person and the personality of the Antichrist will be set up in the Temple. The setting up of that image gives us the last characteristic of that evil world religion, and that is, it will be terribly cruel. Whoever does not worship that image is put to death (Revelation 13:15).
The Wrath of God
Finally, the greatest wrath imaginable will be the very wrath of God. The Bible does not simply tell us that God is love. It also Tells us: It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). It tells us that it is not a sanguine activity to just get along with God on any basis. But you must be His friend, or else His fearful wrath will come upon you. The time of the Great Tribulation, particularly the last 31/2 years of it, is the time of divine wrath. Lesser forms of it impact upon the world during the first half of the Tribulation, but the last half of the Tribulation, that is the wrath of God! Those are the days of which Jesus was speaking when He said:
Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved…. (Matthew 24:22).
We’ve already read the passage from Revelation 6 where the kings of the Earth and the great rulers cry to the mountains and rocks, and say:
Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; For the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand? (Revelation 6:16,17).
When will we learn that there is no sin that is forgotten? When will we learn that everything is recorded before God?
All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:13).
When will we learn that? Well, mankind will certainly learn it in the days of the Tribulation. We will certainly learn that nothing is forgotten by an omnipotent God. And when the wrath of God is come, the Bible asks the question, “who shall be able to stand?”
It’s worth emphasizing at this point, that everything in the world that is not of God will be washed away one day. Every house, every car, every nation, every political system, every everything that is not centered in the Person of Jesus Christ, and does not admit that He is Lord-it all will be gone one day, and the wrath of God will be poured out on the world.
The Bible gives us the offer of being in the Lamb’s book of Life. That is a marvelous act of love. But do you know what else it says? That very verse says:
This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14,15).
I did not write that, but God did. There is not only a heaven to gain, but there is a hell to shun. And that hell is only shunned by believing in Jesus Christ, and trusting in Him as personal Savior. When the wrath of God comes upon the world, then it will be too late. Then, those who are lost will be lost forever. And those who are saved will be saved forever, when the great day of His wrath comes upon the world.
” When I recall that God is just,” said Abraham Lincoln, “I fear for my country.” The justice of God still reigns across the whole world. That justice will come upon the world in absolutely smashing fashion in that day of divine wrath.
So remember again. The Day of the Lord is not some happy circumstance for those who do not know the Lord. The Day of the Lord is blood and fire and vapor and smoke, and divine wrath poured upon every soul of man that doeth evil, the Bible says.
People used to talk about how they looked forward to the Day of the Lord, back in the Old Testament, because that would make life easy. It would be a time of deliverance. Many of the prophets had to remind the people of Israel, “Don’t you look forward to the Day of the Lord, because the Day of the Lord will overtake you as a thief in the night. The Day of the Lord will overtake you as judgment that you could not foresee, and the very things in which you have placed your affection will all be gone!”
Those same powerful words must be said to this generation. This generation must hear that there is coming a time of divine judgment upon the world that will embrace every man and every woman. It will cover everything done in the body. The Day of the Lord will be that exacting.
Therefore, what should we do? We should avoid the Day of the Lord and that great judgment by doing one primary thing: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus…. (Romans 8:1). One of the great stimulants to being a Christian, to having everlasting life, is to see the oncoming Day of the Lord. How do I avoid that day? I believe the gospel. I say that wonderful “Yes” to Jesus Christ. I trust Him as my personal Savior. When I do that, I am delivered from the wrath to come, and I have God’s gift of life everlasting. Be sure that you are in that great plan by knowing Jesus as your very own. Except Those Days Be Shortened…
Prophecy and the Promise
Remember again two verses that Christ tells us about the Tribulation: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened (Matthew 24:21,22).
Now, when we read of all that’s going to happen during the Tribulation, we get a little explanation as to why these days will have to be shortened. For instance, just before Christ said that, He said: When ye, therefore, shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whosoever readeth, let him understand), Then let them who are in Judea flee into the mountains; Let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house; Neither let him who is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto those who are with child, and to those who nurse children in those days! (Matthew 24:15-19).
This describes quite an eventful time in the history of the world which will be a terrible time of opposition to those who know the Lord. But in the midst of it, also, Jesus says:
And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold. But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved (Matthew 24:12,13).
This is a good time to drop a note that will be helpful in our thinking. Endure to the end. That’s the basis of salvation during the days of the Tribulation. Christ is not talking about the Church, and the Gospel of the Grace of God, and preaching salvation by endurance for Christians. Rather, He is speaking about resolute, intrepid people who endure the opposition of the devil and the Antichrist and society during this day approaching the Tribulation. Then, when the Tribulation is done, having endured, they will be the first to go into the Kingdom. Notice also that Jesus said:
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come (Matthew 24:14).
We should then remember that the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of the Grace of God are two different things. The Gospel of the Kingdom says, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). When one believes this, he becomes a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. He becomes a proselyte to the Jewish nation, the inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven. He will be a part of that group that inherits the Earth forever. That’s the result of believing the Gospel of the Kingdom.
But the Gospel of the Grace of God produces a different result: you become an inheritor of eternity.
Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours, And ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s (I Corinthians 3:22,23).
Think of the Scripture that says: “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
That is what is inherited by the believing Christian in the world today. I beg of you, please learn the difference between the Body of Christ (which is the Church) and Israel (God’s chosen people). The human destiny of Israel is to inherit the world, but the destiny of the Church is to inherit the universe. If we have that clear, we’ll understand these chapters. So first of all, consider the prophecy that the days of the Tribulation will be shortened, and the promise by Jesus Christ that they will be.
The Anti-God Conspiracy
As the effect of the Tribulation grows, a thought will come into the mind of the Antichrist. He says, “I’ve got control of the United States, except for a few little pockets of resistance. I’ve got control of Canada. I’ve got total control of Latin America. I’ve got great control of Europe. I’ve got other nations of the world that are in my retinue. I can say almost without fear of contradiction that I control the world. Except, the contradiction is those irascible people in Israel. Those Jews that will not be converted to my cause, those Jews that profess to believe in Jehovah God-what am I going to do about this?”
And so he conspires to produce a tremendous action to destroy the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. He raises a military contingent from all of the nations of the world. Then he calls that military contingent to the conquest of Israel, and particularly the siege of the city of Jerusalem. It’s quite a picture. If you want to know what the Bible says about this, consider Psalm 2 and Zechariah chapters 10-12. It is described in Scripture as being mounted by the Antichrist to destroy the remembrance of God in the world. Psalm 2 says:
Why do the nations rage, and the peoples imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He who sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision … Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: The Lord hath said unto me, Thou are my Son; this day have I begotten thee (Psalm 2:1-4,6,7).
The second Psalm is a great source of reassurance that God is in control of every situation at every time. But He particularly resists this great conspiracy against the people of Israel mounted by the Antichrist, whereby the Antichrist hopes to destroy the final remembrance of God in the world.
It’s an interesting thing to see, and it does, of course, give us insight into the heart of wicked men at all times. If a person does not know Christ as personal Savior, the chances are that he will move through successive periods of degeneration, until finally he becomes a reprobate.
By this time, the world has a reprobate on the throne, the Antichrist, the man of sin, the son of perdition. And it is this reprobate idea that says, “I can be the king of the world. I can be the lord of the universe, and nothing can stand in my way.” “Oh, no you won’t,” says the Bible. “It won’t happen.”
I thought of this one time when I was in Germany. I was out at Berchtesgarten, and looked up at what they called the “Eagle’s Nest” at the top of this great mountain. That was the small palace that Hitler built for himself. He went up there only a few times after he built that palace, and looked out. Because it’s the highest mountain in the area, you can see almost forever, 360 degrees. I’m sure that he looked out those windows, and said, “I control it all. The 1,000 year Reich, it will be mine. Nothing can stand in my way. Those idiot people that couldn’t resist, they have all been done away with. Now I will be the master of all I survey.”
Being a megalomaniac, he told himself how he could be the master of the universe. Did he become the master of the Earth, the world’s Antichrist of his day? He did not. God, who sits in the heavens, laughed at this posturing little moral and spiritual pygmy. And of course, the end of Hitler was not Berchtesgarten, and overcoming and overwhelming the world. The end of Hitler was a flaming corpse in the government building in Berlin, as Russian guns were going off in every direction, and the place was having the daylights burned out of it.
That was presumption. And there’s coming a day when the very same thing is going to happen to the Antichrist. He will be destroyed. He will be discomfited. The end of his mission will be in the gigantic defeat of his forces in the environs of the city of Jerusalem.
How will the Antichrist be destroyed? You may be very surprised at the answer to that question, because you, if you are a Christian, are personally involved. The destruction of the Antichrist and the deliverance of the people of Israel will take place because of a very particular group of people, who accompany the Lord in the accomplishment of that tremendous mission.
The Final Invasion
Did you know that there will be an invasion of this Earth from heaven, an invasion not just of Jesus coming alone, but with a mighty, mighty army with Him at its head? I can tell you now that nothing will be able to stand in the path of that invasion. Listen to where this is described in Scripture, lest you suspect that I’m inventing these things as we go along.
And I saw heaven opened and, behold, a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war (Revelation 19:11).
So, we have a white horse coming from heaven. The name of the rider is “Faithful and True,” and who is that? Jesus Christ the faithful Witness, the true Witness. “In righteousness he doth judge and make war.” Who is the final Judge of history? Christ is. Who has the responsibility of righting every wrong? Christ does. He judges and makes war.
His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood, and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies that were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God (Revelation 19:12-15).
Think of that description of the wrath of God, represented by the faithful and true Witness, who is Jesus Christ.
And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 19:16).
There’s no doubt that this is Jesus Christ. The picture that John sees is Jesus Christ coming back from heaven, riding on a white horse. Now, there’s an element in this return that has interested me for a long time:
And the armies that were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean (Revelation 19:14).
Since the beginning of the Tribulation, where will the Church have been? In heaven. The Church will have gone through an experience called the Judgment Seat of Christ, and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. At that time, it is “clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” But then the announcement is made to Christians, the Church in heaven with God, that there’s still a very serious piece of unfinished business that needs to be done in the world. That is to depose the Antichrist, and to pronounce the judgment of God upon the devil. They will be instruments in bringing that to pass.
So Jesus Christ comes back, not alone, but He brings the Church with Him. How do we know this? Well, Jude quotes Enoch as saying about Jesus: “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints” (Jude 14).
Now a saint is a Christian. There is no such thing as Saint Somebody, or Saint Somebody Else, as unique Christians who are awarded sainthood through the vote of some committee. Rather, all of us who have been saved by grace, given the gift of imputed righteousness, are “hagios” -the holy ones, by virtue of the holiness of Jesus Christ. We are saints. These are saints returning with the Lord Jesus, the saints of God, “ten thousands of his saints.”
By this time, the armies that surround the city of Jerusalem have every reason to expect that they will conquer the place. Yet, they look up, and see a massive military contingent coming back from heaven, sweeping down out of the skies, and taking them out of the way like nothing! They will be utterly destroyed. That army will be scattered all over the place. There will be millions who die. And there will be a special thing that is done with reference to the devil and the Antichrist. The Scripture says that the Antichrist will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20), and the devil will be thrown into the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:1-3). He is kept prisoner there for 1000 years.
You may say, “That’s a lot of arrogant presumption. Christians returning with Jesus Christ? Who do you think you are to say that?” Well, the Scripture says that. In fact, did you know that the Bible says that the saints, that is, Christians, shall judge the world? Did you know that the Bible says that the saints shall judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3)?
The devil, as you know, is an angel. Therefore, the devil will be a part of this group that is judged by you, and by me. There are people who have been done to death by the activity of Satan. But they will see him again, standing in judgment before them. We will be a part of that tribunal that makes right everything that is wrong in the world.
As a part of the army of Jesus Christ we will return to conquer. We will inherit the universe. The Bible says:
Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours, And ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s (1 Corinthians 3:22,23).
It’s no small thing to be a Christian. It is to be an inheritor of the universe. But I’m sure that you get the picture. A mighty invasion, the saints come back, and the saints do away with those armies that are in the process of conquering the nation of Israel. Israel is delivered by the Church, it is the Christians who will deliver the nation of Israel.
Then, of course, finally, we must mention that the Tribulation ends. Remember Jesus said, “And except those days be shortened, there should no flesh be saved… ” (Matthew 24:22).
Well, the days were ended. How? By this invasion from heaven, in which Christ comes again. We are the ones who shorten the dreadful days of the Great Tribulation. We are the ones who relieve the siege of the city of Jerusalem. And we are the ones who say to the world, “Here is the Lord; now you are free.”
During the Tribulation, there will have been many who have accepted the Lord, and believe the Gospel of the Kingdom. And what will happen as a result of that faith for them? When the Tribulation ends by the return of Christ, He will come, and not only deliver the nation of Israel, but He will set up His Kingdom. Where will the capital of that Kingdom be? Jerusalem, the Holy City, called the “city of the great King” (Psalm 48:2) in the Old Testament. He will establish His throne there, and He will reign over the world for 1000 amazing and remarkable years.
We call this the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ. During that Millennial Reign, there will be peace. No one will be able to make war. There will be prosperity. Everyone will have his own possessions. There will be the opportunity to confer with the great King. In fact, the people who do not come to do obeisance to the great King, will not receive rain where they are. And the world will know a marvelous array of riches for every person that will be beyond description.
Why do you suppose God does this? God does this because He wants the world to know the prosperity they could have known all of the time, had they elected to believe in, and to follow Jesus Christ. Why do we have problems in the world today? It’s because man chose to live in sin, rather than to pursue the righteousness of God.
Well, the righteousness of God will be imposed upon the world during those Millennial days, and people will see the blessings, the benefits, the peace, the prosperity that could have been theirs all of the time. People of the nation of Israel will say, “Look at what we missed when we would not let Jesus Christ reign over us.” And they said that, didn’t they? “We will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). Then Christ said, “All right, as a result of that, something will occur in your nation that will be terrible indeed.”
0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate (Matthew 23:37,38).
So the house of Israel has been desolate from then until now. But Israel will be restored. The hours of desolation will be gone. And Israel then will be the greatest nation in all of the world, with Christ her Messiah ruling her as King.
Now, the Millennial Reign will show to Israel the prosperity and blessing that it could have known for thousands of years preceding this. Israel, with a vengeance, will embrace her great King.
And then, of course, the coming of Christ to establish His Kingdom has tremendous implications for you and me, members of the Church which is His body. The universe will then belong to us! We will be thinking of plans and fantastic possibilities that reach out into the wideness of eternity. Where do you think you will serve? Will God send you to oversee operations on some distant planet? We can’t even begin to imagine: “…Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Out of the Tribulation will come fantastic results. One of those great results will be the Church arriving at the place of its true destiny, and becoming, with Jesus Christ, rulers of the universe. Look forward to that day. Don’t let the tiny things of this present moment mean that much, because God will wipe away all tears. God will do away with all these frustrating things that plague us today. And we shall live in the light of God’s glorified Son. It will be wonderful beyond description. Don’t miss it.
Where Will You Be, During the Tribulation and Beyond?
God tells us these things in the Bible, because He wants you and me to know how wonderful salvation is. Have you accepted this salvation? Do you know Christ as your very own? If not, you can know Him today. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” says the Word of God. In fact, right now you can accept Him. Wouldn’t you like to bow your head, and pray this prayer to ask God to make it real in your life?
“Heavenly Father, I know that I’m a sinner, and that Jesus died for my sins on the cross. And I want now to take Him as my personal Savior. Please come and live within my heart, and bring the assurance of salvation. I pray in Jesus’ dear Name, Amen.”
If you have meaningfully said that prayer, the events of the Tribulation which the Bible describes, and which we have discussed, will pose no great threat to you. You will be watching them from the battlements of heaven, until you return with Jesus Christ and with the rest of us to deal deserving defeat to the devil.