By Dr. Roger Barrier, Crosswalk.com
What will happen to the people who miss the Rapture? Will they still be able to become Christians? Will the pain and suffering during the Great Tribulation cause people to turn to Christ or to continue rejecting Him? Does God have an evangelistic plan for reaching the lost people in the Great Tribulation? Please help me to sort all this out.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a love letter to the world. God’s love and plan for salvation from sin is best described in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him, might not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Jesus challenged us to share the gospel with those who do not know Jesús as their personal Lord and Savior. And those who have not responded personally to the gospel will spend eternity in hell, separated from God.
But after the Rapture, during the Great Tribulation, and right up to the end, God is still merciful. It’s not too late to turn to Jesus!
He never ever stops pleading with men and women to surrender their lives to Jesus. God never leaves Himself without a witness. The book of Revelation details four of these witnesses who will share the gospel until the end of time:
- 144,000 Jews who believe in Jesus (Revelation 7:3, 8)
- Two incredibly powerful evangelists or “witnesses” (Revelation 11:3)
- An angel shouting out the gospel while flying through the sky (Revelation 14:6-7)
- The tribulation saints (Revelation 12:11)
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Aaron Burden
The 144,000 Jews Who Believe in Jesus
Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun with the seal of the living God . . . Then I heard the number of those who were sealed, 144,000 sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel” (Revelation 7:3, 8)
Who are the 144,000?
So many have tried to apply this group to themselves that it is almost ludicrous.
The Jehovah Witnesses said that this number referred to them. Unfortunately, their numbers grew far beyond 144,000. They no longer teach that doctrine.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we see that God planned for Israel to bring the revelation of Christ to the world. The day is coming when the “scales” will fall from their eyes and the Jews will recognize Jesus as their Messiah. This occurs when they see the “nail prints in his hands” as described in Zechariah 12.
Then, in Revelation, the apostle John makes very clear that the 144,000 are Jewish evangelists who will spread the gospel all over the world during the time of Great Tribulation.
Notice that they are “sealed” by God. The seal refers to ownership and protection; “Then I looked and on Mount Zion stood the Lamb and with 144,000 who had his name and his father’s name written on their foreheads” (Revelation 14:1).
A seal is not unique. God often marks His people! For example, consider Abraham's circumcision, blood at the Passover, Rahab's scarlet thread, and Christians sealed by Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 3:1).
In this case, the seal protects these evangelists from the judgments that will come to the earth. Protected, they will be able to do their work for the Lord.
John is shown the results of their work. The evangelism success of the 144,000 is absolutely incredible!
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number … standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes … Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come? “I said to him, sir, you know. And he said to me, “these are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-14).
Those who were converted by the preaching of the 144,000 will come “out of the Great Tribulation.” They missed the rapture at the first coming of Christ, but they will still receive salvation.
Notice that all are eventually martyred. The cost of becoming a Christian in those Tribulation days will be our very lives. The time to come to Jesus is now!
The Two Powerful Witnesses
In Revelation 11, God brings two of the most unique evangelists who have ever lived.
And I will grant my two witnesses power to prophesy . . . And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouths and consumes their foes. (Revelation 11:3)
The witnesses have power to shut the sky so that no rain may fall. Who did this? Elijah. They have power to turn water into blood. Who did this? Moses.
Maybe God was saving them back for just a time as this. Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire. He is still alive and ready to take up that work. Michael the angel and Satan fought over Moses’ body. Michael won and God buried him in a secret place –perhaps reserving his body to be one of the two witnesses.
Perhaps they are simply two unknown preachers who minister in the Spirit and power of Moses and Elijah!
Note that the English word translated here as “witness” is the Greek word, “martyr.” To the early Christians, to “witness” meant to die. Persecution against Christians continues unabated to this day.
When their evangelistic ministry is concluded, the Beast comes out of the pit and kills them both. They lie in the street of Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified for three and a half days.
People from every tribe and tongue will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in the tomb. Those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, because these two prophets were a torment for those who dwell on the earth.
After three and half days (or the last half of the Great Tribulation), a breath of life from God will enter them and they will stand up, alive. Great fear will fall upon those who see them. Then, they will hear a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And the witnesses will arise to heaven in a cloud.
Their resurrection after three days is a testimonial reference to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus after three days in the tomb. The whole world which rejected a resurrected Christ will see not one but two resurrections before their very eyes!
Some will receive Christ (Revelation 11:13), but most won’t.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/AlexLinch
An Angel Shouting out the Gospel
In his Olivet discourse, Jesus taught that one of the signs which will precede the end is that the gospel of the kingdom would be preached in all the world.
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)
I’ve always wondered how the people throughout the whole world would hear the gospel in the end times. The task just seems too great.
Here is the fulfillment of that prophecy. An angel does it!
Then I saw another angel flying in midheaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said, with a loud voice,’ fear God and give him glory for the hour of his judgment has come.”’ (Revelation 14:6-7)
Of course, now we have worldwide media to cover everything.
During the Tribulation, a phenomenon will occur which never before has been seen in the history of the world. Angels will be preaching the gospel to people! God will proclaim one last, all-out offer of grace before He buries the world under an avalanche of final judgment.
It is astounding that an angel is commissioned to go forth preaching the everlasting Gospel, for the preaching of the Gospel has not been committed to angels but to men.
This astounding state of affairs could only be an indication of the severity of the circumstances. The devastation during the Great Tribulation is so horrendous that angels must be drafted to help spread the everlasting Gospel.
The people of the earth are given a final opportunity to accept or to reject Jesus Christ.
The Tribulation Saints
Finally, after the 144,000, the two witnesses, and the angels, a multitude of Christians who found Christ during the Tribulation time will be used by God to share the gospel.
Revelation 12:11 describes how our Tribulation brothers will defeat Satan—and how we daily can do the same:
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12:11)
“The blood of the Lamb” refers to Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross. This means we share the gospel of salvation with others.
“By the word of their testimony” reminds us that the testimony of a convicted Christian is powerful in leading someone to Christ as their Lord and Savior.
“Loved not their lives even unto death” means that they were willing to sacrifice their lives for Christ at any price.
Our God is full of grace and mercy, isn’t He? Up until the very last moment, He is giving all people the opportunity to turn to Him and accept the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. To God be the glory!
Well, I hope this helps answer your questions.
I’m sharing below one of my favorite stories which sums up everything that I’ve written to you.
John Payton was a young student in England when he felt the call to the mission field. Recently married, God began to lead him to the New Hebrides Islands which were inhabited by man-eating cannibals.
I’ve tried to make his experience personal. If I'd been in seminary and God said, "Roger, I want you to go to an island of man-eating cannibals," I might well have said "Now, God, I’m preparing for ministry just like you asked me to. Why should I be somebody's lunch? Listen, God, I know a seminary drop-out. Call him. Why, they'll eat him, and who'll know? Why me?"
That's what I might say, but not John Payton. He gathered up his new bride and went to the New Hebrides Islands. He didn’t know the language. He and his wife tried to make contact and show that they were friends.
Several months went by. His wife gave birth to a baby. Two weeks later, the baby contracted a tropical disease and died. Two days after that, his wife died.
He buried them side-by-side in front of a lean-to he'd built. He said in his biography, "I slept on their graves for three nights to keep the natives from digging up the bodies and eating them.”
"I said to God, just how far does obedience go? What do you want from me?"
Through the providence of God, he came across a native was an outcast from the tribe. They became friends. John Payton learned the language, and eventually he led his friend to Christ. That native brought another outcast. The biography reads like a jungle adventure as they hid from some of the natives who tried to kill them.
As God would have it, John Payton stayed on that island for 35 years. At the end of his time there, he said, "I do not know of one single native who has not made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ."
My prayer is that you will sense an overriding burden to lead your friends and family to Christ—and that you will do something about it.
It’s relatively easy for your loved ones to come to Christ now. It certainly will not be easy during the Tribulation. During those days, following Christ will cost them their lives.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Boonyachoat