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Great Tribulation Plagues Part 1

 

When the World Ends: (Part III)

by Rev. Jerry Lepasana

 

Isaiah 26:20-21 (NIV)
20 Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by.
21 See, the Lord is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her; she will conceal her slain no longer.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus plainly declared that all the people who believe in Him are the salt and light of this world.

Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Having been designated as the salt and light of this world, Jesus was emphasizing the special functions of Christians. As salt, we help in bringing preservation. While as light, we bring illumination into this dark world. What do you think would happen if you removed Christians from the world?

Evidently, decay will set in and darkness will cover the Earth. If you think life in this world is difficult today, it is absolutely nothing compared to what will happen in this world after believers are taken away through rapture to be with Jesus Christ. Following the rapture, the Bible speaks of a specific period that will take place on earth. It is called the “Great Tribulation” or as translated in the New International version, the “Great Distress.”

Matthew 24:21 (NIV)
21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again.

When Jesus had the opportunity to describe this Great Tribulation time, He simply stated that nothing will be compared to the troubles or distresses that will take place during this period. I’m sure by now, many of us have already seen or experienced many calamities or disasters, but the seven years tribulation will have unequaled troubles, nothing that man has ever experienced ever before.

As we continue with our series this morning, I would like to spend more time focusing on this Great Tribulation period. Last Sunday, we specifically talked about the reign of the Antichrist, which will occur simultaneously with these seven years. This morning, I would like us begin to discover additional revelations about this time. We want to make sure to mention this on the front end: our intention for this sermon is not to scare you about the things to come. I am hoping that more than anything, I can lead all of us to a greater appreciation of our salvation in Christ Jesus. For this reason, I want to begin the truth of salvation.

I           THE WORK OF SALVATION:

Speaking about the Rapture of the church, there are Bible interpreters who see this happening not before the Great Tribulation, but in the middle or after the tribulation period. However, when you examine some specific passages in the Bible, I believe that the best position is not mid-tribulation or post-tribulation, but rather still pre-tribulation rapture. Let me give you two basic reasons:

  1. A. The Purpose of the Great Tribulation

In the passage we read in Isaiah 26:20-21, we find the Lord highlighting two important revelations. First, God’s people are instructed to hide for a little until His wrath has passed by (v. 20). Second, the outpouring of God’s wrath is coming because He will punish humanity’s sins on earth.

Today, we often wonder why sinful people are the ones thriving, while the righteous are the ones suffering. This is only true because God is exercising His grace. He is giving human beings sufficient time to repent and turn to Jesus Christ. However, in God’s appointed time, He will display His wrath towards man’s sinfulness. Verse 20 states that during that time, God’s people will be hidden. There’s no need for the church to suffer because Jesus has already suffered for their sins. Without a doubt, Christ’s work of salvation provides us the protection from God’s wrath. The apostle Paul reinforces this truth in the New Testament.

1 Thessalonians 1:10

10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

Indeed, we are waiting for the Rapture because it is the means of Jesus Christ to deliver us from the coming wrath.

  1. B. The Description of Christ’s Coming as “Blessed Hope”

Titus 2:13 (NIV)
13 while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ

When you consider how the apostle Paul referred to the rapture of the church as “blessed hope,” it can only fit the idea that it will happen prior to tribulation period. Obviously, if you are familiar with all the terrible suffering that people will go through during the tribulation time, it will not be as blessed if Christians have to go through them. I’m sure we will all appreciate the fact that our salvation in Christ has really delivered us from all the horrors of the Great Tribulation.  For this reason, we are blessed indeed!

II         THE “WEEK” OF SUFFERINGS:

Daniel 9:24-27 (NIV)
24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.
25 “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.
26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.
27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him”.

In order to establish the length of the tribulation period, we need to understand the prophecy of Daniel concerning the “70 Sevens” or “70 Weeks.”

  1. A. To whom does this prophecy refer?

While in captivity, God revealed to Daniel his program for Israel which will be consummated in “70 Sevens.”

  1. B. What is meant by the term “70 Sevens”?

First of all, we need to clarify that Israel had its calendar, not only as a week of seven days (Ex. 23:12), but also a week of seven years (Gen. 29:27-29; Lev. 25:3-4, 8-10).

Leviticus 25:3-4 (NIV)
3 For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops.
4 But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.

The word Sabbath is usually understood as the 7th day of the week. But in these verses in Leviticus 25, Sabbath is also used for the 7th year. So for Israel, the word “week” can also refer to seven years instead of just seven days. Using the week of seven years, God in this passage is telling Daniel that He would continue to deal with Israel for another “70 Sevens” or seventy times seven years, which is 490 years, before He brings everlasting righteousness. This everlasting righteousness will begin during the Millennium.

  1. C. When did it begin? (v. 25)

According to verse 25, the counting should begin with the command to rebuild Jerusalem walls. Examining the first two chapters of the book of Nehemiah, we get the information that this decree was issued during the twentieth year of accession. The Encyclopedia Britannica sets this date on March 14, 445 B.C.

  1. D. What are the three distinct time periods? (vs. 25-27)

1. The first 7 weeks (49 years) – From 445 B.C. to 396 B.C.

The key event during this time was the re-building of the streets and walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah chapters 2-6, record the fulfillment of this prophecy.

2. The next 62 weeks (434 years) – From 396 B.C. to April 6, A.D. 32.

At the end of the second period, the Messiah was crucified. Its first “69 weeks” may be calculated as exactly 483 years which literally was fulfilled as the total number of years from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem in 445 B.C. to Jesus’ triumphant entry in Jerusalem.

3. The last week (7 years) – ?

This is the basis of the seven years tribulation. At the beginning of this period the Antichrist will make a peace treaty with Israel. During the middle of the week, the Antichrist will break his peace contract with Israel and begin His terrible bloodbath. At the end of this week the true Messiah will come and establish His perfect kingdom for 1000 years.

Within the “70 Weeks” ordained for the nation of Israel, there is an obvious gap between the 69th week and the 70th week. This gap is clearly the church age. God did not reveal how long the church age will last because He wanted the rapture to be like a “Thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2). In other words, God has designed it so that Christ’s second coming will be totally unexpected.

III        THE “WOES” OF SINNERS:

The Bible specifically talks about a coming judgment for sinners who reject the offer of salvation in Christ Jesus. Aside from hell, which is identified as the second death (Revelation 21:8), there are also seven years of tribulation here on earth. The book of Revelations summarizes the “Woes” or the plagues for sinners in three sets of seven judgments – 7 Seals, 7 Trumpets, and 7 Bowls. Let’s begin to examine these judgments.

  1. A. 7 Seals
    1. 1. 1st Seal – The Antichrist

Revelation 6:1-2

1) 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.

As John watched the events after the opening of the first seal by the Lamb, who is Jesus, he saw a white horse with a rider holding a bow, wearing a victor’s crown, and going forth to conquer. Could this be the Lord Jesus Christ? Absolutely not! Jesus Christ is shown in Revelation 19 as coming on a white horse to rule and reign. Then who is this? This is Antichrist, the one who imitates the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the same person as the ruler of the people mentioned in Daniel 9:26-27. This ruler has a bow without an arrow, indicating that the world government which he establishes is accomplished without warfare. When the Antichrist begins to conquer, everyone will proclaim the savior has come to bring world peace. His government will begin in peace but will soon be followed by destruction.

1 Thessalonians 5:3

3) While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

  1. 2. 2nd Seal – Wars, threats, and terrorism

Revelation 6:3-4

3) 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 men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.

John saw a rider on a red horse. He is empowered to take peace from the earth. This is a symbol of the murderous and bloody conquests of the Antichrist. There will be worldwide havoc and destruction as was prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 24:6.

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”

The Bible never prophesies that the world will get better, but to the contrary – the world will grow worse and worse.

  1. 3. 3rd Seal – Famine and economic ruin

Revelation 6:5-6

5) 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, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”

The next rider is on the black horse and is carrying old-fashioned scales and balances in his hands. With this rider comes the announcement of famine, which is the inevitable aftermath of war. Can you imagine – “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wage?”  So this passage is saying that in that food shortage, an entire day’s work would be required to buy either a quart of wheat or three quarts of barley. If one bought wheat, it would be enough for one good meal. If he bought barley, it would be enough for three good meals but nothing would be left for buying oil or wine.

  1. 4. 4th Seal – Death, Hades,  and world population reduced by ¼

Revelation 6:7-8

7) 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.

John saw two personages: Death is riding a pale horse and Hades (the realm of the dead) following him. Here is the aftermath of war and famine. Both produce death, and after death comes hell.

There is also the mention in verse 8 of people falling prey to wild beasts. What kind of beasts do you think would this be? Here is the comment of Dr. David Jeremiah.

“I have another theory about these beasts since they accompany famine and plagues. The most destructive creature on the earth is the rat. He is a menace to human health and food supplies, and the nasty creature comes in more than one hundred species. Rats are extremely prolific, producing five or more litters of eight to ten each year. It has been estimated that rats are responsible for the loss of more than a billion dollars’ worth of food each year in the United States alone. Typhus killed an estimated 200 million in four centuries. The disease was transmitted by rat fleas.”

5. 5th Seal – Martyred Christians and more persecutions Revelation 6:9-11

9) 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 number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.

During the tribulation there are many people who would come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. But in doing so, they will pay a great price. They will refuse the mark of the beast and will not bow down and worship his image. Because of this, they will become the object of Satan’s wrath and be persecuted to the extent of being killed.

The Greek word Martus, which gives us our English word martyr, simply means a witness (Rev. 2:13). These saints will be killed by the enemy because of their witness to the truth of God and the message of Jesus Christ.  Do you know how they will be killed? They will be beheaded. Yet they will make the stand for Christ.

Revelation 20:4

4) I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

  1. 6. 6th Seal – Physical Disturbances and earthquakes

Revelation 6:12-17

12) I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red,

13) and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind.

14) The sky receded like a scroll, rolling 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 every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.

16) They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!

17) For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

The opening of the sixth seal will produce worldwide convulsions and catastrophes, including the first of three great earthquakes (Rev. 6:12; 11:13; 16:18-19).  Even though John used symbolic language, these verses describe a scene that would frighten even the most courageous people.

  1. 6. 7th Seal – Silence, the worst is yet to come

Revelation 8:1-2

1) When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

2) And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.

When the seventh seal was opened, there was silence in heaven for thirty minutes. This silence will allow the preparation for the pouring of the seven trumpets.

The seven seals are just the first part of God’s coming judgments. I hope we all can see that the most sensible thing is not to be here when all this happens. We all should plan to meet the Lord before the great tribulation.