Robert Jeffress - When All Hell Breaks Loose
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Most people tend live in survival mode just trying to make it from one day to the next. And from that vantage point Bible prophecy seems irrelevant. Why worry about events over which we have no control? Well, the Bible describes a seven-year period of intense chaos when the antichrist will have free reign to unleash his evil power. And I believe the groundwork for this future time is already being laid today. We're talking about the day when all hell breaks loose on today's edition of Pathway to Victory!
For 4.000 years in the Middle East that area has been a cauldron that has been boiling all because of a piece of real estate in Israel that God promised to Abraham and his descendants 4.000 years ago. Suicide bombings, terrorist threats, threats of nuclear warfare, all emanating from that area remind us that any peace that is brokered right now in the Middle East is only a temporary peace. There will be no lasting peace in the Middle East until the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ returns.
And that's the focus of our series we've been in: perfect ending: why your eternal future matters today. We're examining what God's word says about the events that will precede and follow history's most important event - the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The Bible says before Christ returns, however, to earth he has some final business to wrap up here on planet earth. And that period of time in which God finishes his dealings with Israel and the world as a whole is a period of time we're going to look at today. It's that period of time we commonly call the Great Tribulation. And it's going to be in that Great Tribulation that the world is immersed in political chaos, and natural catastrophes, but most of all the world will be the recipient of God's condemnation.
Now the place to begin understanding the tribulation is not in the Book of Revelation where the tribulation is realized, but in the book of Daniel where it is prophesied. So I want you to take your Bibles today and turn to Daniel 9. To me this is the most amazing prophecy in all the Bible. If you ever doubt that the Bible is really the Word of God, I want you to stay with me for about the next five minutes as we look at this prophecy. Daniel had been praying: Gabriel the angel came, and brought God's answer to Daniel. Look at Daniel 9:22, "O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding. At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and now I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed: so give heed to the message and gain the understanding of the vision".
Now here's the vision, verse 24, "Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people", that is Israel, "and for your holy city", that is Jerusalem, "to finish the transgression, to make an end to sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place".
What was Gabriel saying? He said, Daniel God has ordained 70 weeks. He was talking about how many years Israel would be in Babylon. The context is years. God is saying: 490 years has been decreed by God to finish up all of the things he's promised for Israel. Within these 490 years he says specifically six things will have happened. And he names those six things beginning in verse 24.
First of all, to finish the transgression. That is, within these 490 years Israel's unbelief and rebellion will be completed.
Secondly, to make an end to sin. This is probably a reference to the end of the sacrificial system. Within these 490 years, there'll be an end to all sacrifices.
Number three, to make an atonement for iniquity. I believe this is a phrase that refers to the sacrificial death of Messiah which will provide the ultimate covering for our sin, rendering the sacrificial system unimportant. Now remember, this is all coming to Daniel in the 6th century B.C. - 550 years before the time of Christ. God said these things are going to happen.
Number four, within these 490 years God will bring in everlasting righteousness. This is a reference to the kingdom of Christ, which Christ will bring with him when he returns - a kingdom prophesied in Isaiah 11, and other passages.
Fifth, during this 490 years God will seal up vision and prophecy. Once Messiah comes and establishes his kingdom there'll be no longer need for any more visions, any more prophecies, any more need for sermons on prophecy - it'll all be over by that time within those 490 years.
And number six, during that 490 years God will anoint the most holy place. Where is the most holy place? And not Dallas Texas, okay? Some of you think that. But to a Jew the most holy place is the temple. Now heres the point. God said to Daniel in 550 or so BC: within a 490-year period God's going to finish his promise to Israel. All of these things will be accomplished. Now let's fast forward 2.500 years later to the time we're living in today. As we look back, what do we see? We see some of these things have happened partially, but none of these promises have been fulfilled completely: and yet 2.500 years have elapsed. God said it would happen within a 490-year period. Was God not able to keep his promise?
The key to understanding this vision is understanding okay, when does the 490 years begin in which God is going to fulfill this time? And God answers that question beginning in verse 25. But I want you to imagine God has a stop watch, and at the top of the stop watch is 490 years, okay? And what God said to Daniel is: once I start this stop watch, there are 490 years in which God is going to fulfill all six of these plans for Israel.
So the question is: when is God going to hit the begin, the start button on the stop watch? Well he tells us in verse 25, "So you are to know and to discern that from the beginning of the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks of years plus sixty-two weeks of years, or 69 weeks of years". 483 years is what that figures out to be. Now when does the stop watch begin? It begins when the decree is issued to go and rebuild Jerusalem. We know Artaxerxes Longimanus, the Persian king issued the decree to go back and rebuild Jerusalem on March 14, 445 B.C. God said to Daniel: that's when the 490 years starts ticking away. And he said from that time that the decree is issued until the time of Messiah the prince will be 483 years.
Now what is the time of Messiah the prince? This is a very clear reference to the prophecy of Zachariah 9:9 that said the Messiah would be presented to Israel riding on the back of a donkey. We know when that happened. It was when Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding a donkey and the people cried: Hosanna! Hosanna! That was the day that was the presentation of Jesus as the Messiah. It's recorded in Matthew 21:1-11. And we know again, we can date that to April 2, 32 A. D.: which is the tenth of Nissan - not the car Nissan - but Nissan, okay.
Now, Dr. Jade white Pentecost has done some fascinating calculations: and taking into account the 360 days in the Jewish calendar, and also figuring in some of the irregularities of the Jewish calendar - guess how much time there is between March 14, 445 B.C. And April 2, 32 A.D.? It is exactly 483 years. Isn't that amazing that 500 years before the fact, God would prophesy not just to the decade, the year, but the exact date, the time that would elapse between when Israel was told to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, and Messiah the Prince would come?
Now notice on the clock that we have for you, I've shown that 483 of these 490 years have already passed. But then when Messiah was rejected by the people, it's like God hit the stop button: the pause button on that stop watch. There is a gap between the first 483 years, and the final 7 years. Where do you see this gap? I see it in the very next verse. Notice if you will Daniel 9:26, "Then after the sixty-two weeks", plus the 7 weeks before that mentioned in verse 25, "The Messiah will be cut off and have nothing". That's a reference to the crucifixion of Jesus. And not only that, "The people of the prince who was to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary".
The Romans under Titus did that in 70 A.D., "And its end will come with a flood: even to the end there will be war: desolations are determined". God said to Daniel after these first 483 years when Messiah is presented and rejected, there's going to be a gap of time. He mentioned several of the things that are going to happen during that gap: Messiah will be crucified: Jerusalem will be destroyed by the Romans. But there's one thing he doesn't mention that you and I know about, the apostle Paul understood would happen during this gap, and that is the church age - the time of the church. God is giving us the opportunity to be saved, but when the last gentile has been saved, who will have been saved we're going to be snatched away to meet the Lord in the air, and God hits that time stop watch for the final seven years of earth's history to complete his program for Israel.
Look at Daniel 9:27, "And he", talking about who is he? It's a reference of the prince who is to come, the antichrist, "And he will make a firm covenant with the many", that is Israel, "For one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering: and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate".
The final seven year countdown, Daniel is told, begins when this world figure known as the antichrist initiates a peace covenant with Israel. I'll talk about that more in a moment. That's when the final seven year countdown begins. But then Gabriel said: halfway through, after the first three and a half years antichrist is going to turn his back on Israel. He's going to double-cross them. He's going to break that peace covenant, and through the final three and a half years there will be a time of unprecedented persecution against Israel and against those who become Christians during the Great Tribulation. In fact Jesus said in Matthew 24:21, this is such a horrendous period of time that had the days not been cut short, everyone would have perished.
Now, this time, this final seven years on God's stop watch goes by several different names in scripture. But the most common reference to this period of time in both the old and the New Testament is the phrase "The day of the Lord". The day of the Lord is a day not of bright sunlight of the return of Christ - it is a day of God's judgment upon the earth. Paul reveals three very important things we as Christians need to know about the day of the Lord.
First of all, Paul reminds us that the day of the Lord follows the rapture of the church. The day of the Lord is not a part of the rapture. Paul has already explained the rapture. Christians are gone. And now he's going to talk about the day of the Lord. And what does he say about the day of the Lord? Look at 1 Thessalonians 5:2, "For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night". It's the time of judgment. He's saying to the world after the Christians have gone, the day of the Lord is going to come like a thief in the night.
Number two: the day of the Lord is a time of judgment upon unbelievers. Look at verse 3, "While they are saying, 'peace and safety!' then destruction will come upon them and suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, they shall not escape".
And thirdly, and most importantly for you and for me today, Christians do not need to fear the day of the Lord. We have no reason to fear the day of the Lord. Paul says in verse 4, "But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief". I mean could that be any more clear, folks? We are not going to be in the darkness. We're not going to be here for the day of the Lord. We don't have to fear the wrath of God because Christ has experienced the wrath of God on our behalf. "There is no condemnation", Romans 8:1 says, "awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus". Now that's the day of the Lord.
Now, what I want you to see is that this entire seven year period - the day of the Lord, the tribulation - can be outlined like a three act drama. Act one is the beginning. Daniel 9:27 says there are really three acts to this thing. There's what happens at the beginning of the seven year period of time: then there's something dramatic that happens in the middle after the first three and a half years: and then, finally, there is a conclusion to it - the last three and a half years. Now this morning we only have time to look at part of act one - the beginning of the tribulation. And the Bible says three things are going to happen at the beginning, at the outset of these final seven years of earth's history. What are they?
First of all, it will be during this time that there will be the rise of the antichrist. The Bible says that the mark for this seven years' beginning will be a peace treaty that is made with Israel. Now how will that give rise to the antichrist? This is a little bit of speculation, but I think it's sanctified speculation. I think the rapture will coincide with some worldwide catastrophe. That will explain or try to explain the disappearance of millions of Christians. And that will cause the antichrist to rise to power. He will be able to broker a peace settlement that nobody else has been able broker in the Middle East, and because of that people will follow him. They will worship him.
Now, the Bible gives us four insights, four major insights about this figure, this world leader, known as the antichrist. Write these down. First of all, he will come to power after Christians are removed from the earth. The Bible says he will come to power after Christians are removed from the earth. Turn over one book to 2 Thessalonians 2:6-9. Paul is writing about this figure, the man of lawlessness, the antichrist. Now look at what he says beginning in verse 6, "And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work: only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way".
That is, the work of antichrist is going on in the world right now, of rejecting God, of persecuting God's people - it's already at work. But it's being restrained. Evil in the world today is being restrained. Do you know what's restraining the evil in the world today? It's the Holy Spirit of God. That is what's restraining evil, but can you imagine as bad as this world is, what it's going to be like when all of the Christians are removed at the rapture? Can you imagine the evil that is going to be unleashed?
Look at verse 8, "Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of his mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of his coming: that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and wonders". Right now the real antichrist is being restrained. Right now evil is being restrained, but once Christians are gone, the Holy Spirit is removed, that restraint will be over. The antichrist does not rise to power until after the rapture, but he very well could be alive right now.
Number two, the antichrist, the Bible says, will most likely be a gentile. Revelation 13:1 says that he comes out of the sea. That doesn't mean out of the water. It's talking about the sea. John uses that to refer to the world of turmoil, the political world. He comes out of the sea.
Thirdly, he will rule over a revived Roman Empire that will apparently be in the form of a 10-nation confederacy. Daniel 9:26-27. Remember how Daniel refers to the destruction of Jerusalem? He talks about Jerusalem will be destroyed by the people of the prince who is to come. Now who destroyed Jerusalem? It was the Romans. So, if the Romans are the people who destroyed Jerusalem, and they are simply the people of the prince, the antichrist who's yet to come, this is telling us that the future antichrist, his kingdom will have something to do with the Roman Empire. And as we saw in our book of Daniel, the Bible says that there will be a 10-nation confederacy that will rule over the world during these final seven years, but those 10 nations will ultimately give their leadership, their reign to antichrist. It is a revived Roman Empire. Resurrected in a new form. And this will be the kingdom that antichrist will rule over.
Number four, buckle your seatbelts, he will oppose the people of God and attempt to change the laws of God without opposition. Daniel 7:25 says, talking about antichrist, "He will speak out against the Most High and he will wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law: and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time". That's a year, plus two years, plus a half year - three and a half year. The last severe time of the antichrist's rule.
What is he saying here about antichrist? This world dictator will be one, first of all, who attempts to change the laws of God. Not only that, he will begin a time of persecution against God's people. He will seek to "Wear down the saints". Not only that, this future world leader will be able to usurp the most basic rights of people: the freedom of worship, the freedom of religion, the freedom of commerce as we'll see next time. And there's no opposition to it.
And I ask myself how does that happen? How do people just give into the usurpation of our most basic freedoms? I believe that before the antichrist comes people will be so conditioned to giving up their rights. They will have given up so many rights that it'll be very easy for the antichrist to come in and take over with no opposition. Not only that, the Bible says that this future dictator will wear down the saints of God, he will persecute Israel and the people of God, and again no opposition - how do you explain that?
Because the fact is the world will have been conditioned by that time to be not just apathetic about the persecution of Christians, but even sympathetic to the persecution of Christians who are now labeled as extremists. People will follow the government line: "yeah, these people are not helping us, they're hurting us. They need to be diminished. They need to be marginalized. They need to be prohibited from saying what they're saying".
That's something that we're seeing right now. There's already began a persecution of Christians in our country by our own government, and people are silent about it. Absolutely silent. The fact is as tax payers we give our military hundreds of billions of dollars every year to protect our freedom, not to abuse our freedom. And I believe it's time for our government to put an end to this and to put an end to it now.
The reason I say that is what we're talking about in the future is already happening right now. We're seeing the beginning, the laying of the groundwork for this future time in which antichrist will rule without any opposition. And what will he do with all of this power that he acquires relatively easy? As we're going to see next week, he will unleash an unprecedented time of attack against Israel and those who become Christians during this time we call the Great Tribulation.
In his book, "Till Armageddon" Billy Graham wrote, "The whole world is sighing and suffering on a scale perhaps not known in human history: the refugees, the starving, the psychological woes, the emotional turmoils, the broken marriages, the terrorism, the hostages, the wars, and a thousand other troubles which beset every country in the world. There are no people anywhere that are immune. The rich and the famous suffer as well as the obscure. It seems that the human race may well be heading toward the climax of the tears, hurts, and wounds of all of the centuries".
That climax that Dr. Graham is writing about is that seven-year period, those seven final years of earth's history that are the focus of our study this morning. It is a time that we often call the Great Tribulation. It will be a time of natural catastrophes, political chaos, but most of all the distinguishing characteristic of this period of time will be God's unrelenting judgment against unbelievers.
Now last time we began looking at this seven-year period known as the Great Tribulation. This seven-year period of time is in many ways like a three-act drama. We looked at the beginning of act one last time, the beginning of the tribulation. And I want you to notice there are three things that are going to happen at the beginning of the tribulation.
First of all, the rise of this world leader we call the antichrist. We learned last time four things about antichrist. He will come to power after Christians are removed from the earth, according to 2 Thessalonians 2. Secondly, he will most likely be a gentile. He comes out of the sea, the world of the gentiles. Number three, we saw that he will rule over a revived Roman Empire that will come in the form of a 10-nation confederacy. And number four, and most importantly, he will oppose the people of God and he will attempt to change the laws of God, and he will be able to do so with little opposition.
The second thing that happens at the beginning of this seven-year period is the rise of someone we call, the scripture calls, the false prophet. He is best understood as antichrist's lieutenant. He helps him in his rise to power. Now, during the first three and a half years of the tribulation, this false prophet is seen as a religious leader, and he is a religious leader who oversees a world church that is described: now the nice term is harlot in Revelation 17. The King James version is the whore of Babylon is what this apostate church is called. And it will be something that will be appealing to everyone. People will want to be a part of it.
But something interesting happens. After the first three and a half years of the tribulation in which the church has assisted the antichrist in his rise to power, the antichrist will turn against the church. He will destroy the church. Halfway through this time that the government uses the church - notice what happens in Revelation 17:16. "And the ten horns", that is that 10-nation confederacy, "And the beast, these will hate the harlot", that is the church, "And will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire".
The antichrist will see no need for the church, will turn against the church, and this false prophet who was in the religious world will then move to political world. And he will assist the antichrist these last three and a half years by demanding from people complete allegiance to the antichrist, especially if they want to buy or sell goods. If anyone wants to buy or sell goods during these last three and a half years, they have to take what is called the "Mark of the Beast".
Now what is this Mark? Some have speculated perhaps it's a piece of technology. Or maybe it's actually going to be a literal mark, a barcode on the forehead, or on the hand. You know that's not implausible. Is it really a stretch to imagine that at some point in the future the government is going to say: for efficiency, to make sure everybody pays their taxes, for national security (which is a catch-all for whatever the government wants to do) because of all of these reasons you have to have a code, you have to have a mark if you want to buy clothes, food, or health care.
Is that beyond the realm of possibility? Of course not. We're already seeing the harbinger of that take place right now. But notice what will happen. The Bible says the only way you get this mark is if you pledge allegiance to the world dictator known as antichrist. Without it you don't receive the mark. And the Bible says people, in order to buy, and sell food, and clothing, and medical care for themselves will take the mark of the beast: the only ones who refuse it are genuine believers.
The third thing that happens during this time is the sealing of the 144,000. Look at Revelation 7:3-4, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads. And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel". We don't have time to look at it in detail, but the Bible indicates that at the beginning of the tribulation 144,000 people will be selected, they will be saved, and they will be selected to be evangelists during this final seven-year period of time.
Who are these 144,000? The Bible tells us very clearly in Revelation 7 that these are from the tribes of Israel - 12,000 from each of the tribes. These are Jews who are saved and selected to be Christ's emissaries. And when you get down to Revelation 7:9, 14, you see the result of the witness of these 144,000. John says, "After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues were standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes".
He is talking about millions of people who will come to faith in Christ during the tribulation because of these 144,000. Most of them, many of them will be martyred, and John saw the picture of these tribulation saints standing before the throne of God. These events: the rise of the antichrist, the rise of the false prophet, the sealing of the 144,000 are the beginning points of the tribulation. Interestingly, the first three and a half years of the tribulation will be relatively peaceful. People will celebrate the antichrist and his ability to bring peace in the world. In fact in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 it says, "While they are saying, 'peace and safety!', then destruction will come upon them suddenly like the birth pangs upon a woman: and they shall not escape".
What will happen? The Bible says halfway through this first seven-year period of time, at the three and a half-year mark, at the midpoint of the tribulation is act two of the tribulation. It occurs after the first three and a half years. It doesn't matter if it was Daniel, or the apostle John, or Jesus himself, all three testified of the fact that after the first three and a half years there's going to be a major occurrence that is going to change the world forever. And that is antichrist is going to break that peace covenant with Israel, and turn against Israel and those who become Christians during that period of time.
These final three and a half years will be a time of persecution. And that leads to act three: Earth's Final Hours. Jesus himself said the same thing about these last three and one half years. Remember his words in Matthew 24? "Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place let the reader understand, then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains".
What is Jesus talking about? The abomination of desolation? Which Daniel 500 years before Christ had prophesied. When Daniel lived in the 6th century B.C., Gabriel told him of a time that a newly rebuilt temple, the temple, would be desecrated by a world leader. Now stay with me on this when you look at prophecies in the Bible, many times there is an immediate fulfillment and there is an ultimate fulfillment. And when Jesus spoke about the abomination of desolation, he wasn't just talking about something that had already happened it was a forward look, not a backward look. And Jesus was saying Antiochus Epiphanes, who 167 years ago desecrated the temple, why he is just a forerunner of that great world leader that will one day stand in the rebuilt temple, and desecrate it.
And that leads to these final hours of earth's life. Look at Matthew 24:21, "And the Great Tribulation, such has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall". Now these final three and a half years are summarized in the Book of Revelation 6-19. And these judgments against the earth come in the form of three judgments, three series of judgments. First of all, there are the seal judgments, described in Revelation 6.
Now I don't want to confuse anybody here, but when we get to these early judgments it's hard to know which of the first ones have occurred in the first three and a half years, and which occur in the final three and a half years. For example, in Revelation 6:1-2, John sees the rise of the antichrist. It begins with the rise of the antichrist. Well we know that's at the first part of the tribulation. In verses 3 and 4 we see war described. Verses 5 to 6, famine. In verses 7 to 8, death from the famine that will destroy one fourth of the world's population. And then we see in verses 9-11, martyrdom of those who are converted after the rapture of the church. These are the tribulation saints we just talked about.
In verses 12-17, tremendous cosmological disturbances which will occur. I believe it's evident when you get to these final judgments, the martyrdom, the tremendous cosmological disturbances we are well into the final three and a half years. And that's true in this second series of judgments called the trumpet judgments. These judgments in many ways are like the plagues that God directed against Egypt in the days of Moses. The first four of these trumpet judgments are judgments against the natural world.
Look at Revelation 8:7, the first trumpet judgment. God will use a mixture of hail and fire to destroy one third of the earth's vegetation. The second trumpet judgment is found in verses 8 and 9. John says he saw, "Something like a great mountain burning with fire, and falling into the sea". And he says in verse 9, "A third of the creatures which were in the sea had life and they died: and the third of the ships were destroyed".
What is he talking about here when he says "Something like a great mountain fell to earth"? Could it be that he's talking about a giant asteroid? We know asteroids are really chunks of rock that are flying through space, some of them are a few feet in diameter, some are a few miles in diameter as well. And we look at the surface of the moon: the moon, those craters: the scarring of the moon is caused by asteroids that have hit the moon. We know in the past that asteroids have struck our planet as well. Whatever the cause of this great mountain is, notice the result - one third of the marine life, and one third of all the ships are destroyed resulting in ecological and economic disaster.
The third trumpet judgment is found in verses 10-11, a falling star that destroys one third of the earth's fresh water. That's the third trumpet judgment.
The fourth trumpet judgment involves a disruption of the rotation pattern of both the earth and the moon, causing these wild fluctuations in temperatures. You can only imagine what that will do to the food supply and the ecological system.
The fifth trumpet judgment, look at this in Revelation 9:1-12. It describes Satan, the star from heaven as unleashing demonic tormenters to persecute mankind except those who had been sealed by God. These torturers are described as having the sting of a locust. And look at Revelation 9:6, "And in those days men will seek death and will not find it and they will long to die, but death will flee from them".
Imagine for just a moment the worst pain you have ever felt. I know exactly what it was for me - a kidney stone. Those of you who are in the fellowship of the stone you know what I'm talking about. I mean those are painful, they really are. But as painful as they are, ultimately there's some relief that comes. Just imagine the worst pain you've ever felt - and no relief comes. That's what's going to happen during the tribulation. People are going to be stung with the sting of these demonic-inspired creatures, and they are going to writhe in pain for a period of five months wishing, begging for death but being unable to do so.
The sixth trumpet judgment, the assembling of a massive army of 200 million people who are later described as coming from the East. Look at Revelation 9:16, "The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million: I heard the number of them". And then when you turn over to chapter 16, verse 12, it says, "And the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates: and its water was dried up, that the way would be prepared for the kings of the East".
There is going to be a 200 million massive army that comes from the East, and marches toward where? Verse 16 says "They will gather them together to the place which in Hebrew is called har-magedon". The plain of Megiddo, what we call Armageddon. Revelation 9:18 says, "A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths".
Now, people ask: well, in Revelation 9 you see these armies coming and yet Armageddon - what we call the Battle of Armageddon - doesn't happen till Revelation 19. I think the best way to understand this, and we're going to talk about this in depth next time, is it's not a single battle, it's really more like the War of Armageddon. It is a war that begins during the last three and a half years and continues with the climactic battle occurring at this plain of Megiddo.
Now think about this, when you combine the number you find in verse 18 - a third of mankind being killed by these three plagues, along with the fourth of mankind being killed during the seal judgment, you have one half of the world's population already killed by this time. Which makes it clear why Jesus said in Matthew 24:22, "Unless these days had been cut short, everyone would have perished". The third series of judgments occur very rapidly, perhaps in just a matter of a few days. They are called the bowl judgments. In many ways they mirror the trumpet judgments, except for this - the trumpet judgments are against only portions of the earth, the bowl judgments are against the entire earth.
And the last judgment is the most severe. Look at Revelation 16:17-19, "And the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple and from the throne, saying, 'it is done.' And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder: and there was a great earthquake, such as there has not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of his fierce wrath".
What I want you to notice about this final judgment according to verse 17 is, it is poured out upon the air, and it's accompanied by flashes of lightning, and peels of thunder, and by a great earthquake. Notice the result: the destructions of the cities of the world including Babylon. Now where is Babylon? In the Book of Revelation it's portrayed as the seat of the antichrist's power. These final events of these last three and a half years point toward the great climax, the conclusion of the seven half years, the Battle of Armageddon that will precede the return of Jesus Christ.
Now some of you may be asking: "Well, why do we need to know all of this stuff"? Well, first of all, if you're not yet a Christian it's good to look at what is in store for unbelievers in the day to come. This is a powerful motivation, I believe, for people to trust in Christ so that they can escape not only the seven years of tribulation, but the eternal torment that comes for those who are separated from Christ. But even for those of us who are believers, I think there is some value in looking at this seven-year period of time that the Bible devotes so much attention to. Because, in fact, this time of tribulation reveals two of God's most important attributes.
In this final seven years of the tribulation we see the holiness of God displayed through his judgment of sin. But listen to me, that's not all we see. I mean, if God's purpose was simply to punish unbelievers - he could annihilate them in an instant. But you see God is not just a God of judgment: he's a God of love. If God only wanted to punish unbelievers, why did he go to the trouble of sealing 144,000 missionaries, and dispatching them throughout the earth? He did it to give man one last chance to be saved.
God desires more than anything a relationship with fallen man. As he said through the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 33:11, "'as I live', declares the Lord God, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather I desire that the wicked turn from his evil way and live. Turn back! Turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die oh house of Israel?'"
Now hear me this morning, what God desires for Israel in those final seven years that they turn back to him is what God desires for your life right now. He loves you, he doesn't hate you. More than anything God desires to have a relationship with you. The great theologian Karl Barth wrote thousands of pages on church dogmatics, and he came to the definition of God. You know how he described God? It wasn't in some flowery theological definition. He described God as "The One who loves". That's a great definition of God: the One who loves.
God loves you. He desires more than anything for a reconciliation with you. Think about this: if God simply hated you, and he wanted to punish you for sin he could destroy you right now with a single word or even a single thought. But the Bible tells us that God loves you and me so much that he will use whatever tools necessary: he'll send whatever tribulation necessary into our daily life not to punish us, not because he hates us: he sends those tribulations in our life to drive us back into the arms of the One who loves you most.