Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tribulation: The God of Second... and Third, and Fourth Chances

*If you're new to the blog or have missed the previous posts, you can find the other Tribulation and prophecy posts here.

In the last two posts, we have seen the devastating effects of the tribulation, in the reign of the Antichrist and in the wrath of God poured out on an unrepentant world. Soon, we're going to see the final outpouring of wrath before Jesus returns to reign. But first, let's take a look at the incredible ways in which God is going to proclaim his message of salvation to literally every single person on this earth. By the time Christ returns, there will not be a single human being living on this earth who has not heard the message and had the opportunity to either receive or reject Jesus Christ.

The 144,000 Jewish Witnesses:
  • Inserted between the sixth and seventh seals opened in chapters 6-8 of Revelation, we read about a group of Jews who will be preserved and supernaturally protected throughout the many judgments of the tribulation.
  • Rev. 7:3 shows us an angel proclaiming, "Wait! Don't harm the land or the sea or the trees until we have placed the seal of God on the foreheads of his servants."
  • Throughout the book of Revelation, there is a lot of talk about the mark of the beast and the seal of God. It is interesting to note that the mark of the beast can be received on either the forehead or the hand, while the seal of God is only placed on the forehead. Following Satan, or in this case, the Antichrist, and the ways of the world can either be an act of dedicated commitment, one that requires a full surrender of heart and mind (the forehead), or an act of lazy compliance, simply going with the flow and casually following the herd (the hand). Following God, however, requires nothing less than complete mental and spiritual surrender; there is no room for compromise. You are either all in or all out with God.
  • These Jews are not preserved and sealed simply because they are Jewish. They must come to a realization and acceptance of Jesus Christ, their messiah, no differently than those who have accepted him before the rapture.
  • These individuals are going to be the new evangelists on the earth, now that the church is gone. They will be able to reach people all over the world with the message of salvation, probably through internet devices, as well as word of mouth. The Antichrist will continually seek to destroy them, but he will not be able to lay a finger on them. They will be protected by God for the duration of the tribulation.
The Two Witnesses:
  • Chapter 11 describes two men who will stand in front of the temple in Jerusalem, at what some call "The Wailing Wall" and proclaim God's message.
  • "And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will be clothed in burlap and will prophesy during those 1,260 days." v.3
  • There are several speculations as to who these two men will be, though they are nothing more than speculation, since the Bible does not tell us for certain who they are. Some believe them to be Moses and Elijah.
  • They will have the ability to supernaturally protect themselves: "If anyone tries to harm them, fire flashes from their mouths and consumes their enemies." v.5
  • They will perform certain signs as part of their witness: "They have power to shut the sky so that no rain will fall for as long as they prophesy. And they have the power to turn the rivers and oceans into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they wish." v.6
  • When their prescribed three and a half years are up, the Antichrist will kill them (v.7), and their bodies will be left to lie in the street (v.8). The world is going to be so thrilled that they are dead that they will gloat over the dead bodies and actually make it into a "holiday" of sorts, exchanging gifts with one another in celebration (v.9-10)
  • It is interesting to note here that verse 9 tells us that "all peoples, tribes, languages, and nations will stare at their bodies." Never before in history has this been a possibility. Not until the use of satellite technology became a reality would it have been possible for the entire world to witness these events with their own eyes as it is happening. You can just imagine the daily, probably 24-hour CNN coverage of these two men as they fulfill their ministry and finally as they are killed. 
  • This barbarism goes on for three and a half days, until... "God breathed life into them, and they stood up!" (v.11) These men are going to come back from the dead! And not only that, but God is going to then confirm their ministry: "Then a loud voice from heaven called to the two prophets, 'Come up here!' And they rose to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched." (v.12) As this is happening, there is going to be a massive earthquake in Jerusalem which will destroy a tenth of the city and kill 7,000 people. (v.13)
The Three Angels:
  • Just in case the 144,000 Jews who are evangelizing the earth and the two witnesses who have performed unimaginable signs and wonders, culminating in their death, resurrection, and visible ascent into heaven are not enough, God is going to send three angels to fly through the air and shout God's message to everyone who is still alive. (Revelation 14:6-13)
  • Verses 6-7 tell us, "And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world --to every nation, tribe, language, and people. 'Fear God,' he shouted. 'Give glory to him. For the time has come when he will sit as judge. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all the springs of water.' This first angel proclaims God as the Creator. Never before in history has there been such blatant, world-wide ignorance as to the true nature of God as the Creator, and such a whole-hearted acceptance of evolution and any number of other anti-God scientific theories, even within the church.
  • Verse 8 shows us the second angel proclaiming that Babylon is fallen. The great city is about to come to an end.
  • Verses 9-11 reveals the third angel, who is adamantly declaring that anyone who takes the mark of the beast is going to endure God's wrath here on earth and then spend eternity in hell, a very real and atrociously painful place. This angel is far from seeker-sensitive. Hell is real. God's wrath is real. And time has seriously run out.
When men thought that they could climb their way up to God and decided to build the tower of Babel, God confused their language so that no one could understand one another. On the day of Pentecost, when the disciples were first filled with the Holy Spirit, God unified the languages of the world, allowing the disciples to speak in one language while those listening heard their words in each of their own native tongues. This will happen again with the two witnesses. The entire world is going to hear the gospel, and there will be no need of translators.

God is already opening hearts and minds around the world, providing the nations with no excuse to continue in their rejection of him. Millions of people are going to disappear in the rapture. But what will people believe? Probably one of the lies that the Antichrist will perpetuate, perhaps that our world has made some sort of evolutionary leap and those who were not evolved enough (the narrow-minded Christians) were eliminated. After the church is gone and the tribulation begins, the world is going to witness signs and wonders of biblical proportion, but rather than recognize God's hand behind all of it and repent, the world will continue to attribute "natural" scientific explanations to the phenomena, believing it all to be a coincidence. God is going to go to unimaginable lengths to make himself known, yet the world will still reject him.

Our God IS a god of second, and third, and fourth, and fifth chances. For those who believe and call on the name of Jesus Christ, our "chances" to obey and to "get it right" never expire. God will continually pardon all sin over and over again, stand us back up on our feet when we fall and help us to walk rightly. But the rejection of Jesus Christ is the one sin that God says is UNforgivable, and we only have so many chances to turn from it. Some people get more chances than others. You never know how many more chances you, a loved one, or the guy sitting next to you on the bus might have before your or their time is up. 
Change your life. God's kingdom is here. Matthew 3:2 (The Message)

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