Summary: The Great Tribulation will result in severe testing for both followers of Christ and those who refuse to accept Him. Those who refuse will seek to hide in fear, while those whose lives witness to His authority will gather in worship at the throne.
We continue on in the book of Revelation. And let me review for us a little.
• Last week we were with John in heaven and he saw God on his throne and God had a scroll that contained the plan of God for the last days – how God would bring about justice and peace to this world. But it was sealed with seven seals, and no one could open the book.
• Then a figure appeared who was worthy to open the scroll by breaking the seals and it was the Lamb of God - -Jesus Christ – who is worthy because of the blood that he shed as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
This week we have the opening of the seven seals and it is in fact the beginning of what is known as the Great Tribulation. And this term is not just in the book of Revelation. Much of Revelation relies on the book of Daniel – another book that shares this apocalyptic genre of literature and although Daniel does not use the word “tribulation” he describes the same period in 12:1 when he says that there will be a “time of distress that has not happened since the beginning of nation.” Paul as well, warned the Thessalonians and Timothy about this time of distress. And Jesus also warned us of the great tribulation:
Matthew 24:21 (NIV84)
21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.
The word translated as tribulation means “narrow, compressed, and severe constriction.” Life is severely constricted. There are times of distress in everyday life, but this time known as the Great Tribulation is severe and extreme, and you don’t just go on with life and deal with this after work. This time changes everything and everyone. No one is exempt from the testing. And from the 6th chapter of Revelation through the 16th Chapter we have warnings and explanations about this Great Tribulation. And John puts everything in sevens, the perfect complete number, and we have seven seals, followed by seven trumpets, which are followed by seven bowls of wrath. And there is a progressing intensity of the judgments on people of the earth. And we will not read them all, but I do encourage you to read them and better yet – come to class on Wednesday evening.
End Times Causes Many to Ridicule
I told a few other pastors that we were doing this and they giggled under their breath. I sensed the ridicule. After all – we are so enlightened, so intellectual, that we don’t believe that stuff in the Bible about judgment and wrath. That is the attitude of so many. And I can see how they got there. The book of Revelation is a magnet for religious nuts. (These are metal nuts like go on a bolt. I am not mixing my metaphors.) In fact, when we say that we are studying the Revelation, it is assumed by most that we are out there in right field, stockpiling food, perhaps meeting with militia troops in the woods, preparing to make a last stand against the Anti-Christ. There has been so much error associated with this book that it makes it very difficult.
And many have overreacted to the Hell-fire and brimstone preaching, and they have over-reacted to the point that they think sin has no consequences. That is a serious mistake. We will each stand before the judgment seat of God to give an account for our lives. The Great Tribulation occurs before the return of Christ. And when some say that it is all just ancient myth and the creation of primitive superstitious people, they are saying that the world will never change. They are denying that God wants to put this world right.
That is what the book of Revelation is all about. We are told to get ready. And as I read this today, I cannot help but feel urgency for so many who scoff at Revelation and who say that the Bible is outdated and irrelevant because they think we are so advanced in our culture today.
2 Timothy 3:1–5 (NIV84)
1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
Is that not descriptive of this so-called intelligent, evolved culture in which we live? Lovers of themselves – lovers of money – boastful – proud- -- each description is true of our Western culture.