Jack Graham - Terrorism and the Tribulation
Terrorism as we're seeing it in the world today is a major sign of the times in which we live, and link to prophecy. Recently New York Times columnist Roger Cohen wrote an article entitled "The Great Unraveling", describing the current state of affairs in America and in the world. He says it is a time of disorientation and that no one can connect the dots; the dots regarding the crisis and continuing crisis that we're seeing in the world. No one can connect the dots. Well, Revelation enables us to connect the dots. It gives us a Last Days scenario truth regarding the future.
We all realize, don't we, that something is desperately wrong in the world? We're cheering the fact that good things are happening, that the Gospel is going forward, that lives are being changed. We celebrate that. As a matter of fact in the Last Days there will be a great revival of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But connecting the dots, coinciding with that, we know that there's something desperately wrong with the world. We wonder what's going to happen next. Will there be another attack on America? Will Iran make a nuclear weapon and use it against Israel and the world? Will another super-virus like Ebola spread throughout the earth.
Christians! How many more Christians are going to die for their faith? And then what about the increasing immorality and the breakdown of the family in our own nation and the re-definition so-called of marriage? And then we wonder when will we lose our freedom of speech, our religious expression and our freedom of religion. We're seeing a blow-back even greater than ever here in our country regarding our freedoms as Christians. One of the reasons that we're studying the Revelation is that the Bible, the Revelation warns us of things to come. The book of Revelation is not an obscure, ancient document out of touch with what's happening today! The future is here! The future is now!
And what we read in the Revelation is happening before our eyes. It's like a storm warning. There is a storm warning given to us in Scripture. Twenty-one separate, unique, distinct judgments are described in the Revelation. Seven seals that are opened, the scroll that is unleashed and peeled open, then seven trumpet judgments that are to come, and then seven bowls or vials that are opened up upon the earth. In the midst of all of this is the Great Tribulation. Revelation 6 to 19 describes this terrible tribulation that comes upon the earth when hell will be unleashed and judgment will fall. And we see in the passage that we're about to read those who die, those who seek the Lord and ultimately die, but we also see those who hide and run from the wrath of God.
So really it's a hide and seek game, but it's no game. Those who seek and find, and those who run and hide. So beginning in verse 9 of chapter 6 we read: "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 witness", or testimony, "that they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, 'O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?'" Who are these believers who are underneath the throne of God in a place of safety and security? They are described as robed, they're described as resting and rewarding beneath the throne of God. These are none other than tribulation believers. Now remember, the church has made its exit. Jesus comes for us, we are raptured into His presence, we are taken into the presence of Jesus. And so while believers are in heaven and this tribulation is unleashed upon the earth, there will be people who come to believe and confess in Christ in the Great Tribulation. Yes, people will be saved after the Rapture.
Now I know what some of you may be thinking. You may be thinking, "Well, I'll just wait and check that out at the time then. I don't know if all this Jesus stuff is true or not. I don't know if this Rapture and all this prophecy is just fantasy or whether it is fact. I'm thinking, I'll get a second chance, and decide for Jesus then". That is a very bad plan! It's a terrible plan, it's a bad idea! First of all, because no second chances are promised to any of us. This may be the last message you ever hear. This may be the last day you ever live. And we're not promised another day, much less another chance. 2 Corinthians 6:2, "Today is the day of salvation". Hebrews 3:15, "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart".
There comes a time in which the Scripture says God's Spirit will no longer strive with us, wrestle with us, and God will give us up! God gives them up who ultimately reject Him. And if you get very good at rejecting Christ, it's like a callous on your hand, but the callous is on your heart and your heart gets harder and harder and harder, and your resistance is stronger and stronger and stronger. And before you know it, you have no need, desire to believe in Jesus in your own mind. So it's a bad idea to reject Jesus to begin with, but there's something else to remember that's very important regarding this Tribulation period, because during the Tribulation the antichrist will be revealed and he will be a powerful, compelling, charming world leader who promises peace, and many, most in fact, will believe the lies of the antichrist.
In fact there's a scripture on this in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2. I would encourage you to turn there. 2 Thessalonians chapter 2. If you don't have a Bible, we'll put it on the screen for you, but this is description of the work of the man of lawlessness which is a reference to the one who is to come, not the Christ, but the false messiah, the antichrist who will reign and rule in this world of terror. And it says in verse 9, "The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders (In other words, he's going to be a miracle worker) and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused (notice, past tense) they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false (they will believe the lies of the enemy) in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness".
So don't count on the fact that you will have another chance, another day in the Tribulation to receive Christ. People will be demonized in that day. When I was in South Asia, I was sharing the story of Zacchaeus in the village of Jericho and how Jesus came in and He saw him, He loved him and invited Himself home with Zacchaeus. A great story! This little small village, we're preaching and when we get down to preaching Christ and how to know Christ and receiving Christ into your life and that Zacchaeus confessed Jesus as his Lord and welcomed Him into his home, I began to share the Gospel.
And as soon as I began to proclaim the name of Jesus in that way there was demon manifestation in that room. I've seen it only a few times in my life, but a young woman began to sheik. She was terrorized, demonized. She was writhing on the ground, foaming at the mouth, shouting and wailing! We began to pray over her and asked the Spirit of God to calm her and proclaimed the name of Jesus. And then those in the church began to sing and ultimately she calmed down. Actually she just passed out. And so I continued. And I hadn't been in another thirty seconds when it hit again. An Hindu woman, both of these women had Hindu markings on their forehead, and you know the Hindus have many gods and idols and deities in their homes. There's a darkness in that religion and there's an openness to spiritual activity of all kinds including this demonic activity.
So the second one hit. It seemed to go on and on and on and on and on. We prayed. The church began to sing again. There was weeping, there was shrieking, there was groaning and moaning and foaming at the mouth! It was all there! You say, "Well, that was just mental illness". Look, I've seen mental illness. This was not mental illness. This was manifestation of darkness. And where Jesus is proclaimed the lies of Satan seek to overpower the works of Christ in peoples' lives. We're thankful that we were able to proclaim the Gospel there. I use that as an illustration to say, when you reject Jesus you begin to believe lies! And that's what's going to happen in the world. It will be a demonized culture!
Now in verse 9 we are told there are two reasons why these believers who are now in heaven are murdered and martyred, "for the Word of God and the witness or the testimony that they held". In other words these under the throne of God, under the altar of God are there because they were martyred as followers of Jesus. They stood up for their faith! They're there because of their testimony! Now we know that all over the world Christians are being persecuted. We're seeing it in our news headlines but we're not doing enough in the face of these radical extremists, whether it be in Iran or Iraq or in Syria, whether it is in Africa or in Asia. I was just in Asia.
In fact I'm being very cautious not to name the place that I was in because it could put at risk the people who are there and the ministries that are there. That's why I'm being a little ambiguous exactly as to where I was, because every day, according to our leader K. P. Yohannan who is the leader of the Gospel for Asia that every week about 10 or 12 of their pastors are brutally beaten. Just last week one of the churches was burned to the ground. Persecution is happening everywhere! And ninety percent of the persecution, while other religious groups are persecuted, ninety percent of persecution around the world is towards Christians! Where Christians are actually outlawed and it's open season on believers! Terrorists like Hamas and ISIS and others, the radical Islamic extremists who believe the words of Mohammed and the Quran to kill the infidel, to crush and conquer by the sword! These are the opponents.
And while not every Muslim is a terrorist for sure, we know Muslim people who pray for peace. Not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is a fact that all of these terrorists are radical extremist Muslims. They believe in the caliphate. They believe in an Armageddon that is to come that will bring about their next messiah, the twelfth imam. We'll talk more about that later. But it's real! And we need to pray that our own government will stand up to those who are killing Christians and killing others around the world, the church and the people of God. And this country needs to wake up to the reality of persecutions around the world!
The pages of Christian history are stained with the blood of martyrs and faithful Christians who are willing to die for Jesus. When it says in this passage they are slain, it is a word which means butchered like an animal! Even beheaded! Did you know that the antichrist, his tool of torture for the Last Days will be beheadings? We thought that was left to the Middle Ages! We thought beheadings were in the past, but now once again we're seeing the rise of this extreme kind of terrorism and crucifying even of children. The antichrist, a terrorist regime will exterminate Christians at all cost, and that includes you and me. Now, having said that, the spirit of the antichrist is already in the world.
First John 4:3 tells us that this spirit of antichrist is presently in the world. The spirit of the antichrist is anti-God, anti-Christ. And if you stand up for God's Word and the testimony of Jesus you will be persecuted. You will be opposed. You may not be put in prison or beheaded for your faith, but according to 2 Timothy chapter 3 and verse 12, "All who live godly lives in Jesus Christ will suffer persecution"! In some sense, in some way if you stand for your faith, if you share the testimony of Jesus, you will suffer for your faith! In fact, the word martyr actually is translated from the word witness. If you are a witness of the Lord Jesus Christ, you will suffer opposition and perhaps even extreme persecution.
So the question is, are you standing up for Jesus? The question is, is your witness for Jesus Christ clear and compelling? Does your family and your friends, do they know that you love and follow Jesus? Do you openly and courageously share your faith? Has anyone heard your testimony about how Jesus has changed your life? The truth is if you are known as a Christian you may be bullied, you may be mocked, you may be ostracized, even punished and imprisoned and martyred. But if you say to me something to me like "Well, you know, not much is happening in my life. I'm not all that harassed. I'm not all that hassled. You know everybody seems to like me. I can get along with pretty much anybody".
Then either one of two things is true: either you're not a believer because the Scripture says all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution, or if you are a believer, you're compromised as a Christian. In some way you're compromised to the degree that your witness means nothing. I like the way The Message renders this verse that I've been quoting. 2 Timothy 3:12, "Anyone who wants to live all out for Christ is in for a lot of trouble. There is no getting around it". What did Jesus say in the Beatitudes? Matthew 5:10, "Blessed are you who suffer for righteousness sake when you're persecuted for My name, for great is your reward in heaven. Of such is the kingdom of God". When you take your stand for Christ you will face the flack.
Now when you stand for Jesus let me remind you, we do this lovingly, faithfully, consistently. Don't be a jerk for Jesus! You know what I mean? A lot of people are just jerks and they think they're being persecuted for their faith. No! Don't be mean-spirited, don't be fringe, don't be weird, don't be obnoxious, don't be hyper-judgmental and then wonder why people don't like you! No, you graciously take your stand for Christ, for the Word of God. You tell people in love of His love for you and for them. Take your stand in grace and truth. But the fact is Jesus said, "Count the cost. Take up your cross and follow Me".
Well, back to these martyrs in heaven. They cry out in verse 10: "Lord, how long"? And they scream, and that's the word that is used here. They cry out, they scream to be avenged. "We want to know have we died in vain or have we died in victory"? "Lord, how long will it be before our blood is avenged? How long before you settle the score and you put an end to evil"? Sometimes we wonder why God doesn't stop this whole thing right now, don't we? The Bible calls it the mystery of iniquity. The very fact that evil exists, that evildoers are allowed to be alive. So we wonder like these martyrs under the altar of God, "Look, how much longer before You settle it and judge the world"? God says here, just a little while longer. Just a little more time.
2 Peter 3:9, "God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentence". There is now a space for grace. This is the era of grace. This is the opportunity for people to know Christ. But don't you ever doubt it. God will have the last word! Jesus taught us to love and pray for our enemies, and to wait on God because God says in Romans chapter 12, "'Vengeance is Mine', says the Lord". Vengeance is Mine. These martyrs are crying out, "Avenge us, O God".
Is it right for us to pray that God would ultimately destroy the terrorists? To cry out for justice and mercy in the midst of this terror? Yes, yes! God will one day judge all the earth and the evildoers and the terrorists and the nations who forget God. And remember, God's wrath, the wrath of the Lamb that is described here. You would expect to see the wrath of the lion, but instead it is the wrath of the Lamb. One of the great terrors of the Tribulation, the terrors of eternity without God will be to know that the Lamb of God who loved you and poured out His blood for you on the cross, that you rejected, will then become your Judge. Jesus who died to save will one day be the judge of all who rejected Him. God is loving, God is merciful, God is gracious, but He is a God who takes vengeance upon the wicked.
Micah 5:15 says, "In anger and wrath I will execute vengeance on the nations that did not obey Me". So you're thinking, "Okay, God, go get 'em. Go, get all those wicked nations. Go judge all the wicked people in Iran and ISIS and all the rest"! But if God is going to judge the nations, what about our own nation? What about America? God will judge America unless America repents, and other western nations that have turned their back on Him. Someone years ago said, that we're sliding toward Sodom and Gomorrah. And we're sliding faster and faster. Depravity and immorality is now endorsed by the culture. And politicians and preachers alike who now want to compromise with sin. God judges the nations that reject Him! How can we expect any less? Vengeance, wrath!
Let me close by saying that if all of this is frightening to you, as a Christian I'm not frightened at all because I know a Savior who has promised to come and to receive me for Himself, and to every believer there's a way of escape. There's a way out, and Jesus is coming to take us to be with Him before all of this hell and terror is unleashed upon the earth. That's why we're bringing these messages in order to warn you of the wrath to come. But more than that, to point you to Jesus who died on the cross for your sins, and rose again so that you could have eternal life.