The Tribulation People
11. The Masses
God is going to take some drastic action at the close of this age. It reminds us of the past in the action He took against the sinfulness of man prior to the flood. Genesis states that He was sorry that He even created man to begin with1.
At that time He gave the world some advance warning of His coming wrath on mankind. Noah announced that God was giving man 120 years to get his house in order. As the years went by, His ‘announcing’ (preaching) would have one changing component. “Repent! You only have 10 years left!” And with each passing year the call would contain more urgency.
So will it be at the end of the age. God initiates a ‘count-down’ sequence. And with each successive number, the consequences of refusing to repent get greater and are much more persuasive.
Once this count-down is initiated, Satan, realizing his time is very short, begins his own wicked plan of destruction.
Who will be impacted in this count-down? Jews, Gentiles and Christians.
By far the largest single group of the tribulation people will be the masses of non-believers. As you can imagine, they will be a mix of worst to best. Some will be those who have refused to include God in their thinking at all.
The Apostle Paul really spells it out in Romans 1:18-32
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, and 23 changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.
27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being 29 filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;
32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. God’s Righteous Judgment
These are the worst of society. The wrath of God is justly awaiting them.
Paul sums up this evil group this way,
… to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil. Roman 2:8,9
But we do not get to see into their souls. Until the time that God ‘gives them over’ (verse 28) there is hope for the gospel to penetrate the darkness.
But not all of society fits this description. Paul goes on to mention those on the complete opposite end of the scale.
Romans 2:12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law
14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves,
15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)
16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
So the masses are made up of extremely Godless people and some pretty nice people, and everything in between. These are the masses who need saving.
These people are going to experience some very difficult times.
According to the 'seals' they will witness or experience;
Death through war Rev 6.3
Death by Famine Rev 6.6
Death by animals Rev 6.8
Death by Pestilence Rev 6.8
Again death through Famine 6.8 ( 25% of the population dies. Without Christ as savior? Possibly)
The masses will be hearing the gospel through the voice of Christians.
And then we come to THE HALF-WAY POINT
They will continue to hear the gospel from Christians, but also now from two witnesses, and from the 144,000
They will be hearing the voice of the False Prophet/antichrist and be deciding whether to take the mark or not.
They will be experiencing incentives from God to bring them to repentance (the trumpet judgments), but first, they will be prayed for in earnest by tribulation believers.
Revelation 8:2 And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.
3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.
5 And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.
6 And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
The prayers of the saints do not refer to any believers in heaven, but clearly refer to the saints2 on earth … the tribulation believers know what is coming next and they are praying in earnest.
And then the people on earth experience the following.
7 ¶ The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
This is not ‘the wrath of God’. Believers will have a tough time with this also. This event will likely be used in ‘soul-winning’, when it is pointed out to them that all this was predicted.
8 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;
9 And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
I have a very difficult time envisioning this. One third of the oceans turned into blood3? This is immense!
The people of the world will have to cope with this. Can you imagine what they will think when a Christian points out the predictions, first, that all the green grass would be burning up and then this? Many will be asking, "Does your Bible say what happens next? Is this the end? What must I do to be saved?"
Dead sea creatures will be washed up on coastlines around the world. One third of the oceans will be un-navigable. The trade economy of the world will be seriously affected. One third of all ships are actually destroyed by whatever it was that was cast into the sea.
The questions need to be asked, “Is it possible that this is of man’s doing? Could it be something similar to an object of warfare landing in the ocean and polluting it to the point of its becoming blood?” I would say that is not likely for two reasons. One, the trumpets are sounded by angels and appear to be God’s judgments on the earth. And Two, the two Witnesses will be granted to turn the waters of earth into blood. So I do not believe this is an act of human behavior or misbehavior.
The after-effects of these two ‘trumpet judgments’ could result in a separation between sin hardened people and those who respond to what is shown to them in scripture.
The masses of humanity will experience further ‘persuasion’ from God. The third angel sounds his trumpet.
10 And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;
11 And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.
At this point some time has passed. Perhaps many have believed the message that believers have been sharing. But also at this point many more are becoming hardened and angry. Anger toward the two witnesses. Anger toward Christians. Anger at God.
One third of the fresh waters have become poisonous. That sounds like a particular region of the globe. We remember Chernobyl. I heard that the name means Wormwood. The poison from Chernobyl was radiation. We don't know what poison this future event will be, but there will be death.
The masses in the area will have to endure this. Will they repent? I suspect by this point not many are being saved.
The next thing that the people experience will be impossible for them to explain. The fourth angel sounds his trumpet and a massive change takes place on this planet, but other than that, there is no mention of death and suffering. This change is done for the benefit of the ‘elect’, the believers.
12 And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.
A normal day at present, is a complete rotation of the earth that takes 24 hours. In verse 12 we are told that the available daylight will be 3 hours less. One might assume that 3 hours of darkness must be added to the night. But I disagree with that thought. John noted, regarding the night, simply the word, ‘likewise’. What I firmly believe is that the darkness of the night is also 3 hours less. I am saying that this miracle will increase the rotation of the planet from 24 hours to only 18 hours.
What would be the purpose in God’s doing that? Perhaps we need to first ask, Could God really do that? The answer is, God has already done things to affect the rotation of the planet. On one occasion He ‘caused the sun to stand still4’ so that Israel had time to finish a battle before sundown. On another occasion He caused the sundial to go backward 10 degrees5. Scientifically this is impossible. But God is above science and all the laws of science and nature. He can modify and break any of the laws He so chooses to do. He is God. He made the laws to begin with.
Again, why would God speed up the rotation of the planet? For this answer we go to Matthew 24.
22 “And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.
God shortens the days for the elect’s sake, for the sake of all of His children who are on earth at the time. We have been told by John that the last half of the seven year period is called the great tribulation. He tells us that it is to be 1260 days. For Jesus to reduce the days by any particular number of days, would make John’s number meaningless. By speeding up the earth’s rotation He is able to shorten the days and at the same time leave the number at 1260.
The masses of people on the earth will experience this. And they will have no answer as to how this happened or for what reason. The people experience the effects of judgment via three more trumpet blasts. John has this to say about the next three.
13 And I looked, and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”
When I read about the lengths to which God will go to bring people to repentance, I simply think of the words of an old hymn, “I stand amazed at the presence of Jesus the Nazarene!
How marvelous! How wonderful is my Saviour's love for me!”
We are going to have to cut this session off here and continue this next time.
1 Genesis 6.6
2 All born again believers are saints.
3 The Chemistry of seawater and the chemistry of blood is fairly close. God would not have to do much to change it instantly. We have no real idea of how God will this, by a bonafide miracle or by the chemistry of the object that (mountain) that gets dropped into the sea.