These are my notes for the teaching I gave at the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, December 16, 2018. This is part 2 of a series called The End.
TIMELINE OF THE END
The Bible is an accurate depiction of historical events. It is also an accurate prediction of future events. Here's a chart of the biblical predictions (as I understand them):
THE WORST IS YET TO COME
After the Rapture (see notes from December 9, 2018), devastating judgment will sweep over the whole world. We call this period the Tribulation or the Great Tribulation.
There are many passages that describe the Tribulation, but the main ones are Daniel 9, Matthew 24, and Revelation 6-19. There is so much biblical material on the Tribulation and we can only cover a tiny portion of it today. I recommend reading Mark Hitchcock's excellent survey in his book The End (available on the book table).
Today, we'll focus on Revelation chapter 6 because it provides a good summary of the awful events that are to come. Before we read chapter 6, let me answer a question you might be asking: what is the purpose of the Tribulation?
THE PURPOSE OF THE TRIBULATION
The purpose of the Tribulation is for God to unleash his judgment on Israel and the nations. Commenting on Revelation 16, theologian Dwight Pentecost summarizes why God will pour out his anger in such awful ways:
"... because of the world's rejection of Jesus Christ as the Savior ... The world will worship the beast, and divine judgment will come upon them because they have despised God, rejected his Son, and acknowledged a demon-possessed man as their only king and deity" (Will Man Survive? 1980).
The Tribulation theme is judgment on the earth for unbelief. Because of that, the Bible calls it:
The great and terrible day of the Lord.
The day of distress and desolation.
The day of vengeance.
The day of the Lord's wrath and the fire of his jealousy.
The wrath of the Lamb.
The tribulation and great tribulation.
The hour of judgment.
The Tribulation will be "the darkest hour in human history" (Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, 1964).
(Matthew 24:21) There will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.
(Daniel 12:1) There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then.
Now, let's read Revelation chapter 6 for a graphic description of the Tribulation:
THE PASSAGE OF THE TRIBULATION
In Revelation 6, the Lamb who was slain (the Lord Jesus Christ) opens six seals on a scroll. The scroll was introduced in chapter 5 and it represents God's plan for the future. Each seal represents an intensification of judgment.
Seal 1: The Antichrist - verses 1-2.
(Revelation 6:1-2) I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
The Antichrist will head up a global government, military, economy, and religion. He'll establish peace, then go to war against Israel, a conflict that will ignite global war.
Seal 2: War - verses 3-4.
(Revelation 6:3-4) When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.
Today, there are pockets of conflicts around the world, but in the Tribulation the whole world will be at war. It's an unimaginable scenario made worse by the fact that God is the one who "gives the sword" to the rider. Global war is global judgment.
Seal 3: Famine - verses 5-6.
(Revelation 6:5-6) When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. 6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day's wages, and six pounds of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”
War results in food shortages. Prices sky rocket and most people will barely survive.
Seal 4: Death - verses 7-8.
(Revelation 6:7-8) When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
Just in case we weren't getting the picture, the vision is relentlessly focused on global devastation. Again, God "gives power to kill." His awful judgment crashes down.
Seal 5: Martyrdom - verses 9-11.
(Revelation 6:9-11) When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.
During the Tribulation, the gospel will be preached, and many will be saved. But most, if not all, of them will be killed for their faith. God has a number; that is, even martyrdom is under his control.
Seal 6: Cosmic Signs and Global Terror - verses 12-15.
(Revelation 6:12-15) 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, 13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.
Summary: The wrath of God and of the Lamb - verses 16-17.
(Revelation 6:16-17) 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! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”
God is revealed in ways we're not fond of. This is a side of God we prefer to cover up, minimize, explain away. He is angry, he is vengeful, he is harsh. It brings to mind the theme song of COPS, "Bad boys, bad boys, what 'cha gonna do, what 'cha gonna do when they come for you? When God and the Lamb come for you? The worst is yet to come!
THE PERSON OF THE TRIBULATION
Apart from God, there is one person who plays the major role in the Tribulation period. We don't know his name, but we do know his various titles and descriptions. Here are some:
The antichrist - 1 John 2:18.
The man of destruction - 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
The lawless one - 2 Thessalonians 2:8.
The rider on the white horse - Revelation 6:2.
The beast out of the sea - Revelation 13:1-2.
"The origin, nature, and purpose of Christ and the Antichrist are diametrically opposed ... He will parody the true Christ. He will be a counterfeit Christ ..." (The End, Mark Hitchcock, p. 253).
Revelation 13 contains a detailed description of the Antichrist.
(Revelation 13:2-7) The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. 4 People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?” 5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 It was given power to wage war against God's holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.
He will be totally controlled and energized by Satan. He'll be a magnetic personality who'll set up a global government with a single economy and religion. He'll claim to be God and coerce everyone to worship himself and to accept his sign on their foreheads. He'll persecute true believers and kill them all. The Antichrist will wage war against Israel and Jerusalem and against Christ at his return. In spite of his demonic power, he won't be able to prevent Israel from turning to Jesus as their Messiah (Joel 2:28-29; Romans 11:25-27). His desperate efforts to dethrone God will fail, Israel will call on Jesus to deliver them (Zechariah 12:10). Jesus will return and cast the antichrist into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:19-20).
THE POINT OF THE TRIBULATION
Last week, I talked about the Rapture of the Church and my understanding that true followers of Jesus will be removed from the world prior to the Tribulation. But that raises the question: why should Jesus-followers care about the Tribulation? We won't be here for it. Good question. As I see it, there are at least two reasons to care:
The Tribulation shakes us out of "care-less" worship.
The revelation of God's terrible judgment in the Tribulation is given to create holy fear and awe of God in our hearts. Listen to this description of the Lord Jesus coming to judge the world:
(Revelation 19:11-16) I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.
This terrifying revelation of Jesus Christ was not manifest in the carpenter's son from Nazareth. This is warrior Jesus, the judge and executioner. He is fearsome. If those Roman soldiers had seen this King Jesus, no one would have dared put a nail into him.
Yes, King Jesus loves us so much. But he is also a nuclear bomb of awful destructive potential. We should tremble in godly fear before him (Psalm 114:7).
Awe is the missing ingredient in today's church and we need it back. Awe trains our hearts to surrender and bow down, to run from sin, to make all of life an act of worship. Awe takes our Sunday worship to a new level. Awe-filled love for Jesus is so much better than sentimental, sloppy, weak, feelings for him. Study the Tribulation and pray for awe.
The tribulation shakes us out of "care-less" evangelism.
Yes, we want people to know Jesus and experience his love. But we also want them to escape his furious judgment. One of the quotes on the Jefferson memorial is, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever." Jefferson was reflecting on the awful sin of slavery. He believed America would be judged for it. Sure enough, we plunged into the Civil War, a precursor to the Tribulation.
The Tribulation wrath of God should disturb us. It should cause tears for our lost family and friends, for our neighborhoods, and for people-groups who have no access to the gospel. We don't know how long it will be before the terrible days of the Tribulation begin. But soon it will be too late. Paul was urgent when he wrote to the people in Corinth: (2 Corinthians 6:2) "I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation."
Pray for opportunities to share. Ask him to give you the heart of an evangelist. Don't just share Jesus, urge people to turn to him as their Savior and God.
Ask the Lord to call out from this church missionaries to unreached peoples, and evangelists and church-planters to under-reached populations here at home.
The 5 Looks was developed by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association as a simple plan to follow:
Look Around and identify your friends, neighbors, co-workers, fellow students and family who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Look Up and pray every day for each person you have listed. I've set a reminder on my phone that buzzes every morning to remind me to pray for my list.
Look Out for opportunities to build your relationship with these people.
Look Forward to sharing Jesus with them. Invite them to the Cornerstone. Also, on our website, FamousGod.com/Jesus, there are three embedded videos you can use as well as other resources. We'll soon have our resource table back up where you can pick up booklets to help share Jesus.
Look After those who give their lives to Jesus Christ and help them grow in their faith.
For more information about the Tribulation, click here.