This week I am starting a three-week sermon series called “The Signs of the End.” One of the things I am going to emphasize is that the Bible clearly teaches that there will be a time in the future when the world will experience horrific events. Our hearts were crushed when we witnessed the terrorism at the Boston Marathon and the catastrophic destruction of the Oklahoma tornadoes. It seems like these events happen on a regular basis in our lives now. But these events are only a microcosm of what is to come. In the Bible, the books called Daniel and Revelation depict a period of time called “The Great Tribulation” that lasts for seven years. Utterly unthinkable things happen during this seven-year period. We are told in Matthew 24 that God shortened this time to only seven years because if it would go on any longer no one would survive.
The words written about “The Great Tribulation” are to be a warning to us right now. These prophecies were written to place fear within our hearts so that we turn away from the evil that tries to entangle us and instead turn towards God. But, I also believe that the Bible will be just as useful to people during this tribulation as it is right now. People will be able to read the book of Revelation and then go outside and see these events unfold before their very eyes.
During this seven-year tribulation, horrible events will take place. You will not want to be living on this planet during this time period. To prove my point, allow me to give you eight of them.
The worst famine ever. This famine will inflate prices to astronomical levels. For example, someone would have to work an entire day to afford just a small amount of wheat. And this amount wouldn’t even be enough to feed your own family. Therefore, working hard for your food will be futile.
Wars, plagues and wild beasts will kill one-fourth of the world’s population. In Revelation 6:8, we are told that Death and Hades were given power to kill off a fourth of the world’s population. Today, we have over six billion people on this planet. For argument’s sake, lets say that one billion Christians are raptured and will not be a part of this tribulation. That means that in this one event, over one billion people will die. Millions of people will die because of war. Millions of people will die from disease. And millions of people will die by being attacked by lions, and tigers and bears.
One third of the land and water on earth will be destroyed. Trees and green grass will be burned up from falling hail (that is made up of fire mixed with blood). A large meteorite will fall into the sea and then a different one will fall into the freshwater lakes and rivers. This will cause part of the sea to turn into blood and kill off many sea creatures. One third of the lakes and rivers will be poisoned and many people will die because the water is undrinkable. Later on in the seven-year period, much of the ocean and freshwater lakes and rivers turn to blood.
Locusts torment the unsaved for five months. The description of scorpion-like locusts sounds like it is from a science fiction movie. These locusts will be able to sting like scorpions. The locusts were not allowed to kill anyone, but only torment people for five months. “And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them” (Revelation 9:6).
Two hundred million soldiers kill one-third of the world’s population. Years ago China claimed to have an army of two hundred million (Time, May 21, 1965, p. 35). Could this be a reference to China’s role in the end times? Possibly, but this army could be made up of several different nations, so it might not be one individual nation. While that is mere speculation, we can estimate that over one and a half billion people will be killed by this army. The destruction is unthinkable. The prophetic book of Joel describes the dread that will come over the people as they anticipate the approach of this army.
Boils. Everyone who will follow the Antichrist will develop loathsome and malignant sores on their body. During my freshman year of college, I developed a boil under my left armpit. It was so painful, I couldn’t let any clothing touch it. It was that painful. I had to sleep a certain way to make sure the boil didn’t touch anything. I can’t imagine having my body filled with boils. The pain will be unbearable.
One hundred pound hail will fall on people. We have all seen a hail storm at some point in our lives. But the hail we see is small compared to what is described in Revelation. We would be amazed if we saw dime sized hail. But during the seven-year tribulation, hundred pounders will fall from the sky. Gigantic hail will kill people. These large ice balls will make homes look like Swiss cheese.
Two hundred miles of blood. At the end of the seven-year tribulation, Jesus Christ will come down on a white horse and destroy every single evil human on the planet. The destruction of human life is so great that blood will be seen for almost two hundred miles and will be four to five feet high. What a horrible end to a tragic seven years.
So what do we do with all this info? We could ignore it. Most people do. Possibly until it is too late. Or we could allow it to motivate us to change. If all this stuff is true and will happen someday, you want to avoid it! But how can you avoid it? God makes a promise to us that if we are a follower of Jesus Christ, then He will keep us from the hour of trial (the Great Tribulation) that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth (Revelation 3:10).
How do you become a follower of Jesus Christ? You first have to believe. You believe in your heart that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. You believe in your heart that Jesus Christ is alive and has the power over sin and death and is able to forgive you of all your sins (past, present, future). But you can’t just believe in your heart. You need to confess that Jesus Christ is the leader of your life. That He is the one who is in control over you.