David Jeremiah - Salvation in the Tribulation
When you study prophecy, you know there's a certain kind of a major outline that holds it all together. If you've been around here very long, you kind of know the next thing that happens is the Rapture. After the Rapture, there's seven years of Tribulation. That's what the Bible calls it. And then there's the Second Coming of the Lord, and then there's the Millennium, and then there's eternity. And we talk a lot about most of that, but the one part that we hardly every talk about is what happens during the seven years on this earth after we go to heaven. What happens?
For more than a month, Nadia endured the fury of the Russian Army. So did 300,000 other residents in the southeast region of Ukraine. Rockets, tanks, drones, artillery fire, infantry with guns and grenades. The entire city was trapped in a little war zone. No access to water, no access to electricity, or communication with the outside world. When Nadia finally managed to escape, she began posting on Facebook so she could inform the rest of the world about the horrors that she had seen and felt and lived. "The dead lie in the entrances, on the balconies, and in yards," she wrote. "The biggest fear is night shelling. Do you know what night shelling looks like? It looks like death".
In another post, she tried to describe the experience of waiting through missile attacks in the early hours of the morning: "A huge hammer is pounding on the iron roof and then a terrible rattle as if the ground was cut with a huge knife or a huge iron giant walks in forged boots on your land and steps on your houses and your trees and your people". She ended her report with this expression: "My city is dying a painful death". I'm sure you've thought of it as you've watched television and seen the scene that are being sent back to us from Ukraine: the awful, brutal nature of that war and the uncaring concern of those who are prosecuting it. Perhaps you've even had thoughts like I've had.
When I read the Bible and I read about the Tribulation, it's like that only ten times worse. What's going to happen on this planet after we go to heaven is so awful it takes from Revelation 4 to Revelation 18 to tell the whole story. The picture of Tribulation, according to God's Word, will be a period filled with unprecedented horror, upheaval, persecution, natural disasters, massive slaughter, political turmoil. You name it, it will be there. All who accept the authority of the Bible believe the Tribulation will happen and the spiring chaos today's world is presenting to us makes us believe it even more. Because the Rapture will happen, and then the Tribulation will start, and future events cast their shadows before them. Could we be even experiencing some of the early shocks of a Tribulation period?
The word "tribulation" is rarely used in our ordinary conversation today. It's translated from a Greek word that describes what happens when grain is crushed. It is a crushing thought. Paul was saying in his writing to those who would read Thessalonians what this would be like, and the term calls to mind these giant weights that you see on the screen behind me. So the idea behind Tribulation is utterly crushing and pulverizing and grinding substance into powder, and it is a picture of what will happen during those seven years. I don't want to discourage you by giving you a lengthy description of this, but for you to understand this, I want to tell you what's going to happen, and I won't stay there long 'cause there's good news at the end, but for you to understand this, you need to hear what the scripture says.
The next question of Paul's readers would have been: "When is this going to happen"? And Paul answers in 1 Thessalonians 5: "But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night". What that means is these things that are gonna happen in the Tribulation will happen suddenly. No thief sends you a letter to tell you they're coming at 2 o'clock the next morning. A thief comes unexpectedly. The Rapture comes unexpectedly, but with the Rapture comes the Tribulation immediately following. We should expect to see some birth pangs of that period of time as we live our lives today.
Paul was saying that you cannot know when this will happen. It will be a surprise to the world, but for those of us who know the Bible, maybe not so much. And it will be seven years of severity. Nowhere in all of the Bible will you find one single word or description that says anything good about the Tribulation period except that it only lasts seven years and it will be over someday. Moses called it the day of their calamity. Zephaniah called it the day of the Lord's anger. Paul referred to it as the wrath to come. John called it the hour of trial and the hour of his judgment. Daniel described it as a time of trouble such as never was nor ever will be.
And Jesus in Matthew 24 described it. These are the words of Jesus: "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened". Now the chapters in Revelation give us a vivid description of what's going to take place here on planet Earth.
"All peace will end, rampant slaughter will bloody the earth. Hail and fire will burn up the planet's grass and destroy a third of all the trees. Intense famine will dry up food supplies. Rivers and seas will become too polluted to sustain life. Many rivers will dry up completely. The sun will scorch the earth and its inhabitants like fire. A quarter of the world's population will die from war, starvation, and beastly predators. Giant earthquakes accompanied by thunder and lightning will destroy cities. Mountains will crash into the sea, killing a third of the fish. Tidal waves from the cataclysm will sink a third of all the world's ships. A massive meteor shower will strike the earth. Ashes and smoke will rise from devastation and hide the sun and the moon from view. Swarms of demonic insects will darken and inflict painful stings. Rampant epidemic plagues will kill one-third of all mankind, and everyone, from national leaders to servants and slaves, will flee from the cities to hide in caves and under the rocks".
I didn't make that up. I just read sections from the book of Revelation that describe the seven years known as the Tribulation. It is not an overstatement to say that the Tribulation period will be hell on earth. No passage can be found to alleviate any degree whatsoever the severity of this time. The picture of the Tribulation. Now, the question is "Why"? What is the purpose of all this? Why must there be a Tribulation? And I'd like to give you several reasons that the scripture give for this period of Tribulation. Of course, God will not be absent during this time. He is at work, first of all, purifying Israel. The Jewish nation exists as a result of God's promise to Abraham that he would bless Abraham with a lineage greater than the sand of the sea and the stars of the sky. And the Jewish nation blessed by God has tested God's patience from its very beginning, turning away from him time and time again. But despite her persistent rebellion, God has not forgotten his promise.
One of the last phases of his promise to Israel was that they would regather in their land. In 1948, that happened. I was a young boy when it happened. Our nation was the first nation to recognize Israel in its national existence. Yet after all God's care to preserve the scattered Jews through the centuries, enabling them to remain intact so they could inherit their land, they still rebel against him. The first purpose of the Tribulation, according to the Bible, is to purge out the rebels among the Jewish people and bring about the final conversion of the nation of Israel. You know, the Bible was written, first of all, to Jewish people. We're the add-ons, those of us who are Gentiles. We're grafted in. And God cares about the Jewish people, and he will bring that nation to himself, and in order to accomplish it, the Tribulation is necessary.
The apostle Paul left no ambiguity as to whether this purging would be effective. He wrote: "And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sin". One of these days, God is going to bring Israel back to himself, and in order to do that he will have to deal with the rebellion in the nation. Purpose number one: to purify Israel. Purpose number two: to punish sinners.
Before I tell you what I wanna tell you about that, let me suggest to you that all of us have a sense that this needs to be done. I don't know about you, but when you watch what's happening today and the cruelty not just in our nation but around the world, and the slavery and the killing, the murders, even here in our own city, murders, and you have to say to yourself, "Where's God? Why doesn't God do something"? Do you ever have that feeling? I've had it. "God, where are you? Why don't you do something"? I wanna tell you, one of these days, God's gonna do something. He's going to bring about the righteous punishment on this rebellious people who have neglected to recognize the sovereignty of God in their life and in the world. Romans 1:18 says: "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men". We like to think and speak about the love of God.
Nothing I love to preach about more than the love of God. I've written a whole book, and the title of the book is "God Loves You: He Always Has, and He Always Will", one of my favorite writings. But wrath goes hand in hand with love. One who is infinitely good, as God is, rightly abhors evil because evil is the enemy of goodness. Evil is, in fact, like a parasite, a blight, a cancer on goodness. It feeds on and destroys good; therefore, God rightly directs his wrath at evil. The prophet Nahum explained the nature of God's wrath in this way. He said: "The Lord avenges and is furious. The Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He will reserve wrath for His enemies; the Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked".
One of these days, those who have been so evil... think of trafficking, think of enslaving children into prostitution, think of the things that are happening on our border, think of things that are happening in all of our nation and all the evil that is manifesting itself in your day and in mine. One of these days, and it can't be far into the future, God will step forward and he will make things right, because he's a good God and he cannot do otherwise. God cannot stand by, for instance, and say out of one side of his mouth how much he loves life and loves children, and ignore the killing of children. A good God cannot do that. No good God could do that. He must be just. He must be fair. He must be righteous. And righteous he will be, and his righteousness will flame up during the Tribulation period.
But here's the third thing about the Tribulation that catches everybody by surprise. Over the years, as I've preached about prophecy, sometimes people come to me and say, "Pastor Jeremiah, when do you think the revival's gonna start"? And I say to them, "What revival is that"? "Well, the revival that has to happen before Jesus is to come back". Well, it's possible that that will happen, but the Bible doesn't say that. The Bible doesn't predict that before Jesus comes back in the Rapture, that there will be an incredibly evangelistic thrust around the world. In fact, it pretty much tells you differently. Let me tell you one thing, though. The Rapture does not demand a revelation of revival before it happens, but after it happens, the greatest revival in the history of the world is gonna take place on planet Earth. Did you know that?
During the Tribulation period, he's holding out his hands to invite people to himself so they can escape the wrath to come. Everywhere in the Bible where you see God at work in judgment you see God at work in mercy. It is inevitable that those two things go together. Yes, God will judge evil, but he will never stop inviting people through his grace and his mercy. Let me show you what I mean. First of all, there will be at least four streams of gospel. The first one is the preaching of the 144,000.
Now, let me show you where that is in the Bible, and then you can look at it for yourself at a later date. In the frontlines of God's effort to bring Tribulation survivors to himself will be 144,000 specially chosen Jewish evangelists who will flame out over this earth with the message of salvation. Here is where you will find that in the Bible: Revelation chapter 7. "And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, 'Do not harm the earth, do not harm the sea, do not harm the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.' And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed".
God will ordain 144,000 Jews for a very special mission during the Tribulation. Now, think about it. He only had 12 Jews, and he turned the first century upside down. Can you imagine what will happen when 12,000 times 12 are set loose on this earth? How many souls will be saved by the message of these evangelists? How many people will come to Christ? I don't know the number, but I can tell you from reading the Bible how many it will be. This is what the Bible says: "After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands. Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, 'Who are these arrayed in white, and where did they come from?' So he said to me, 'These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'"
What does it say about that number? It says it's such a great number you can't even number it. The people that get saved in the Tribulation, just from the witness of the 144,000 evangelists is amazing. But that's only part of the picture. Along with the preaching of the 144,000, God is going to send back to this earth two personalities from the Bible. They call them the two witnesses. In Revelation 11:3, we read these words: "I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth".
Now, we don't have time to argue about the identity of these two witnesses. Just let me tell you, if you read the careful scripture, you will discover they are Moses and Elijah. No two men in Israel's history would receive greater respect than Moses and Elijah. Moses was God's great deliverer, and so highly did the Jews think about Elijah that when they saw Jesus's miracles, they thought maybe he was Elijah. They will come back to this earth. Now they will have a dynamic ministry, I believe, that will be produced so that everybody on earth will see it through television and the internet and all of the rest. And they will preach a hard gospel. They will confront human wickedness. They will tell to the teeth of horrid godlessness what it means to worship the devil and what is going to happen to them because of it.
And as you can well imagine, they will not be loved. Halfway through the Tribulation, the two witnesses will be killed for their testimony and their miracles. And their bodies, according to the scripture, will be displayed in the city of Jerusalem in the main city and will be there for people to see, and, of course, the devil and his cohorts and the Antichrist, they'll party and rejoice, "We've finally got these two witnesses out of our way". Everybody will be watching this on television, probably on CNN. They will be seeing this and they will be watching and they will see these two witnesses lying in state.
Now, watch this, I'm making some of this up. There'll be a commercial, and when the commercial is over, they'll come back, and all of a sudden, these two witnesses are resurrected. They get up out of their coffins and stand in front of the cameras, alive and well and certainly preaching the gospel again. Now, friends, if you're not saved, and you don't get saved then, there's probably no hope for you. What will happen when that takes place around the world? When the two witnesses come back from the dead and as stunned people watch the two men, once alive and unleashed, we'll hear a voice from heaven, and this is what the voice will say: "Come up here," and a cloud will envelop them and they will be raptured to heaven, as people watch on television in total astonishment. I'm not making this up. This is in the Bible.
And you know what I thought about this week? I never thought about this before. Did you know Elijah's going to get raptured twice? He gets raptured in the Old Testament in the chariot, and he gets raptured here in the Tribulation. How do you get to get raptured twice? I mean, raptured once is amazing. This dude gets raptured twice. And then, if the 144,000 witnesses are not enough, if the incredible miracle-working witnesses are not enough, God has a third way. The Bible tells us that he's going to dispatch an angel from heaven who will fly all over the earth, preaching the gospel. Here's where you find that in Revelation 14: "And I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth, to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, 'Fear God and give glory to Jesus, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.'" Are you getting the picture?
I painted the dark backdrop of the Tribulation period, how awful it will be. But in the midst of it all, 144,000 witnesses, two dynamic miracle-working prophets, now an angel circulating the globe and preaching the gospel, filling in the empty places, the safety net, if you will, and there's one more. I have to say, I owe this one to a friend of mine who's now in heaven, whose name is Henry Morris. Henry Morris wrote a lot of books, and he wrote a book on Revelation, and he said this: "Millions upon millions of copies of the Bible and Bible portions have been published in all major languages and distributed throughout the world. Removal of believers from the world at the Rapture will not remove the scriptures, and multitudes will no doubt be constrained to read the Bible. Thus, multitudes will turn to their Creator and Savior in those days and will be willing to give their testimony for the Word of God and even their lives as they seek to persuade the world that the calamities it is suffering are judgments from God".
So I think that in the Tribulation I might be on the YouTube. I think, I mean, I'm all over the YouTube now. I think I'll be on YouTube and I'll be preaching. I won't be here, but I'll be preaching in the Tribulation. As you know, we did a study Bible back in 2013. I'm really excited about that 'cause that Bible's gonna be here during the Tribulation. I've written a bunch of books. I think there'll be a lot of people during the Tribulation period who never cared anything about the Bible who will be trying to find a Bible so they can read up and find out what in the world is going on. I remember one time I was talking to J. Vernon McGee before he went to heaven, and he said to me in his raspy, old voice: "I'm gonna have the greatest time of preaching I ever had during the Tribulation". I said, "How's that"? He said, "I have cassettes everywhere". He said, "And I'm praying that they're gonna be available," and of course, they're gonna not be cassettes anymore.
But anyway, what this is all saying is that during this seven-year period, while everything on the earth is bleak and black, God is gonna raise up people to himself in numbers so great you can't even put a number on it, and heaven will be populated with men and women who have come to Christ during the Tribulation period. Now, it's important to understand that people who are saved during the Tribulation, it's never too late to receive God's grace. You could get saved in the Tribulation. But you also must understand that following Jesus during the Tribulation will exact an incredibly high price, because as you remember, when the Antichrist takes over in the Tribulation period, he will require that everyone get a mark called the mark of the beast on their forehead or on their hands.
Well, what is that? It's an ingrained credit card, really. It makes it impossible for you to buy any food or drugs, go to the hospital, do any business, unless you can show in your body the mark of the beast. And Christians will not take the mark of the beast, because that is a mark that says we give allegiance to Satan. And so, if Christians don't take the mark of the beast, they won't be able to buy food, they won't be able to get drugs, they won't be able to go to the hospital, they won't be able to do business, and many, many Christians will starve to death during the Tribulation. They will be martyred for their faith. Some will be killed. Some will be beheaded.
The book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of the souls of believers who are martyred. When they die, when they're martyred, their souls go to heaven. Their bodies stay here on the earth in some sort of a mass grave probably. But listen to these words from Revelation, reflecting upon what I've just said. "When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, 'How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?' And a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed".
And when Jesus returns to the earth at the end of the Tribulation, the bodies of these believers who died during those seven years will be resurrected. They will have a new heavenly body, and they will merge right into the Millennium to serve with Jesus for 1,000 years on this earth. One thing is crystal clear about salvation, men and women. Listen to me carefully. If a person leaves this world without receiving Christ as Savior from sin, it is absolutely too late for that person ever to be saved. The soul of that person will go to hell forever. And that's the plain and simple truth. There is no second chance for salvation after death. As the old saying goes: "As death finds you, eternity keeps you".
If you're not a Christian when you die, you can never be a Christian. I know some people teach that there's a place called Purgatory, but that is not true. And there is no parole. There is no second chance. There's no do-over. There's no "I'm sorry. Let me try again". The boundaries of destiny are forever fixed in the afterlife. Death removes any opportunity to change your mind about where you're going to spend eternity. Death closes the door on salvation forever. And someone has said, "Is there ever a time in this life when it's too late to be saved"?
Let me tell you, there's no unpardonable sin that cannot be overcome, except the sin of unbelief. The unpardonable sin is the refusal of someone to believe in Jesus. The only sin that will keep you from going to heaven is your failure to believe that Jesus died for you and wants to take you there to be with him. But there is a time in the Tribulation when you could do something that would keep you from ever becoming a Christian. The Bible contains a warning against all who rejects this.
Listen to this passage of scripture from Revelation 14. Listen carefully. "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name".
If you are in the Tribulation and you haven't been saved yet and you get under pressure, I could imagine it, like this: You realize that your family could be killed if you don't take the mark. You realize that your family might starve if you can't find some way to get food, and so you decide, "Well, I might as well take the mark or I'm gonna die". If you take the mark of the beast, you will go to hell, and there's nothing anybody can do for you. So somewhere, somewhere along the way, somebody's gonna say, "Am I gonna starve to death and go to heaven, or am I gonna take the mark and spend eternity in hell apart from God"?
Pretty serious stuff. Arthur Compton was one of a committee of six scientists appointed by President Roosevelt to create the first atomic bomb. In a subsequent magazine article, he recalled the day in 1942 when he and other scientists conducted their first experiment in Chicago. He described the different reactions. He said there was relief and concern and excitement. They realized the power had been unleashed that would change the course of history, and it has. Compton knew that life on earth would never be the same, and he concluded his article like this. He said: "Man must now go the way of Jesus or perish".
I wanna say that to you today in love and in kindness. You must go the way of Jesus or perish. There is no other way. There's no second chance. There's no option. You can say, "Well, I don't believe, and I'm gonna try something else". I can't say this loud enough: What you believe about something has nothing to do whether it's true or not. You cannot make something untrue because you decide not to believe it. What I am telling you is from the truth of the Word of God. Whether you accept it or believe it or not, it remains true, and it will do what it says it will do. The Lord tells us when it comes to salvation, men and women, that now is the accepted time. Now is the day of salvation. Every page of the Bible says "today". Every tick of the clock says "today". Every beat of your heart says "today". Every obituary column in the newspaper says "today". And all of Creation cries out, "Behold, today is the day of salvation".
Why did you come to church today? Why have you listened to this message, some of it, kind of dark. In the midst of the darkness, there is light, and that light is the Lord Jesus. And just as he went out of his way to show his mercy and love during the Tribulation period, he is reaching down to you today here in this place. And the question is will you receive him? Will you accept him as your Savior? When you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, the Bible says, immediately, you get the gift of eternal life so that you can live with God forever. If you do not do that, that won't work. If you wanna go to heaven, the Bible says: "Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and there's no other way except through him". So with all of the passion of my heart and the desire within me, I want to invite you to receive him today.