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The Hour of Darkness 10. A Biblical Strategy for Spiritual Survival
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In a book of this nature it is necessary to offer a Biblical strategy for spiritual survival in the tribulation period to those who will not be ready to meet the heavenly Bridegroom, and will consequently be left behind. In the light of what has already been said in the book, supplementary information and advice will be given in this chapter. The main purpose with the strategy is to indicate to people how they can spiritually survive and ensure that they get to heaven despite the most gruesome tribulation and deception that they will have to face during the Antichrist's reign of terror.
The promise of escape from the tribulation is only for those who are spiritually ready and worthy (Mk. 13:33-37; Lk. 21:34-36). The fulfilling of this promise will be a tremendous shock to the backslidden, compromising and worldly-minded church of the 20th century. Utterly panic-stricken, they will have to face the fact of their spiritual bankruptcy. The question on everybody's lips will be: "What will happen now, and what are we to do?"
The Bible has clear answers to these and other questions. It will guide those who have been left behind to work out a proper plan of action. If Biblical instructions are carefully followed, people can still be saved during the tribulation period and ensure that they inherit the kingdom of heaven.
However, it won't be easy to find the way to eternal life through the narrow gate during this time. Apart from the basic requirement of faith in the Lord Jesus as Saviour, a very high price of self-denial, economic impoverishment and public scorn and rejection will have to be paid. Counting the cost to become a Christian will also include the willingness to die as a martyr for your faith.
Although many people will accept the challenge to obtain eternal life the majority will, to their everlasting ruin, choose the easier way out of the dilemma. The mass deception of the false church will be so strong that millions of people will be swept away by it.
On the following page is a basic exposition of events in the two halves of the tribulation period. In the rest of the discussion the distinctive nature of the two periods, i.e. the false peace of 3½ years and the great tribulation of 3½ years, will be quite obvious.
|THE TRIBULATION OF SEVEN YEARS
(THE 70th YEAR-WEEK OF DANIEL)
RULE OF THE ANTICHRIST
The Hour of Darkness
The moment when the rapture occurs, the light of the world will be gone. Great spiritual darkness will prevail after those who have witnessed for the true light, Jesus Christ, have left planet earth and are nowhere to be found. Panic will suddenly erupt, particularly in the traditional Christian world.
The backsliders, those who only had a form of godliness, the agnostics, and all the people who practised non-Christian religions will be perplexed and confused by this dramatic event. However, soon the most absurd and far-fetched explanations will be offered for the rapture in an effort to calm their feelings and allay their fears. More treacherous lies will soon follow in an attempt to deceive humanity into believing Satan's account of the events.
War in the Middle East
Around the time of the rapture, a surprise attack will be launched on Israel by a Russo/Arab alliance (Ezek 38-39). Nuclear missiles will in all probability be deployed against Israel, thereby creating the possibility of a full-scale world war. A crisis of global proportions will suddenly be caused. The political and economic stability ofthe world will be seriously threatened, stock markets will collapse, and military mobilisation will occur in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and in the USA. Then events will take a quite unexpected turn...
The enemy forces deployed in Israel to annihilate the nation will in a highly surprising and dramatic way be destroyed by God (Ezek. 39:1-5). The besieged Israeli's will recognise the divine intervention and give glory to God. But then they will make the fatal mistake of accepting the wrong Messiah.
A man with astounding supernatural powers will appear on the scene (2 Thes. 2:9; Rev. 13:11-13). He will claim the credit for the victory and allege that he was sent by God to avert a third world war and thereby save humanity from a terrible catastrophe. He will conclude covenants with all nations and religious groups, and soon rise to a position of world leadership.
People everywhere will follow him in amazement. They will be highly impressed by his peace initiatives and his ability to reconcile even the most hostile groups. They will refuse to see anything bad and deceptive in his actions, and openly worship and adore him as the long awaited Prince of Peace on earth. They will even be prepared to reject and persecute the evangelical Christians who brand their leader as the Antichrist.
A Marriage Between Religion and Politics
One of the most conspicuous aspects of the Antichrist's reign will be the close association between religion and politics. He will right from the onset combine these two offices and concurrently be the head of a world government and universal messiah. His co-ruler will be the false prophet who will be heading the alliance of world religions. He will seduce the members of all religions to honour the beast and worship him as their messiah (Rev. 13:12).
Mass Seduction as Never Before
The religious cloak of the Antichrist will render him a deceiver of the masses such as this world has never known before. He will transform himself into an angel of light a messenger of God who has come to bring real peace, unity and reconciliation to mankind. Jesus strongly warned against this kind of deception that will be perpetrated in His name: "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many" (Mt. 24:4-5; see also verse 11).
Dispensation of the Church Ends Here
Therapture will formally end the dispensation of the church of Christ on earth. Up to this point the guarantee was effective that Jesus will protect His Church against the attacks and wiles of the Evil One: "I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Mt. 16:18). In the great tribulation, the Antichrist will "make war with the saints and overcome them" (Rev. 13:7). He will defeat them physically but not spiritually if they remain true to the Lord Jesus Christ and their testimony of salvation (Rev. 12:11).
Many years before the rapture most churches have already become victims of a lifeless form of godliness, false revivals, dogmatic deception and religious compromise through involvement with the Ecumenical Movement. In all these cases the clear condition of rebirth is not insisted upon for members to become Christians (Jn. 3:3).
All backslidden Christians (Mt. 24:12) as well as those who are saved during the tribulation will have to dissociate themselves from churches. Because the Antichrist will gain control over all governments, churches and monetary systems, the only churches that will be allowed to exist during his reign will be the false churches who recognise him as their spiritual leader.
More shocking forms of spiritual compromise and apostasy will occur in the churches and religious groups that are seeking public recognition as well as the right to remain 'in business'. The small evangelical churches that were almost emptied by the rapture will not be allowed to exist during this time if they refuse to worship the Antichrist as Universal Messiah. If they do compromise for the sake of continued existence they, too, will become false.
Redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb
Much more than the resisting of the Antichrist and his ideologies will be needed to survive spiritually during the time of the tribulation. The blood of the Lamb of God that was shed for the atoning of the sins of a lost world will still be the only basis for salvation (Eph. 1:7; 1 Jn. 1:8-9; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). You will have to confess your sins to the Lord and also forsake them(Prov. 28:13). Accept His forgiveness in faith, become spiritually renewed (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 5:17) and experience deliverance from the power of sin (Jn. 8:36). Witness to other people about your salvation (Rom. 10:9-10) and your unconditional commitment to the Lord Jesus. Have fellowship with other Christians and encourage one another to persevere.
144 000 Saved Jews
A great outpouring of the Holy Spirit will occur among Jews: "And I will pour on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced" (Zech. 12:10).
Right in the beginning of the tribulation a group of 144 000 Jews will be saved. Endued with the power of the Holy Spirit, they will boldly proclaim that Jesus Christ (Yeshua Ha Mashiach) is the only true Messiah of Israel and the whole world. Their testimony will immediately bring them in conflict with the followers of the false messiah, whose deceit will be exposed by the Messianic Jews. Persecution of the followers of the true Messiah will commence in all fury, but the Lord will protect and keep them (Rev. 7:1-8).
Christians who are newly saved, must associate with the Messianic Jews and support them despite the risk of persecution. Regard it as the very last chance to do something for the extension of the Lord's kingdom on earth. Don't be drawn into the structures of the false church of that time and in that way give credibility to the false messiah who was sent by the 'angel of light' (2 Cor.11:13-15).
Persecution of Christians
The nature of the persecution of Christians will take different forms in the two halves of the tribulation period. The first 3½ years will be characterised by a false peace and unity, while the last 3½ years are aptly described as a great tribulation. During the first half the Antichrist will rule in association with other leaders, and also handle religious affairs in consultation with the leaders of the alliance of world religions. Force will be used, but not excessively so and only with the consent of his co-rulers. Softer methods of intimidation, bribery, deception and brainwashing will be employed to gain wider support. When the use of force is necessitated, an international 'Peace Force' will be commissioned to discipline the opponents of the New World Order. They will be branded as rebels whose actions and beliefs constitute a major threat to world peace and unity.
An extensive propaganda campaign and psychological war will be waged against the fundamental Christians who only worship the true Messiah, Jesus Christ, and explicitly dissociate themselves from the alliance of world religions. They will be hated and condemned by all nations as well as the powerful religious alliance of the false messiah.
The following scenario of the persecution of Christians will progressively manifest during the tribulation period. Initially, the fundamental Christians will experience hatred, rejection and intimidation. With the passing of time, pressure against them will mount and culminate in a campaign of extermination:
"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another... But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Mt. 24:9-14). "...yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me" (Jn. 16:2-3).
The Christians of the tribulation must refrain from compromising in any way whatsoever. Be among those who refute the kingdom of the beast, and instead proclaim the gospel of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Be prepared to die as a martyr for your faith and never shrink from the implications of your decision: "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Mt. 10:28).
Guidelines for a Strategy
In order to achieve the maximum advantage for the kingdom of God, it is important to follow the right approach from the very beginning of the tribulation. Guard against the tendency to live a life of self-interest in which you only pursue the economic survival of your family and yourself. Not one Christian will physically survive the tribulation, and should never regard the challenge of economic and physical survival, as well as hiding, as major objectives. The following are guidelines for a sensible strategy:
The Great Tribulation
A very shocking event will occur after 3½ years in the middle of the tribulation period. The Antichrist, who is depicted as a beast with seven heads in the book of Revelation, will be assassinated but revive again after a few days (Rev. 13:3). To the amazement of all people he will miraculously arise from the dead. People will fear him as a divine ruler with the most astounding supernatural powers. They will worship him, as well as Lucifer through whose power he was revived from the dead: "And all the world marvelled and followed the beast. So they worshipped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?" (Rev. 13:3-4).
The satanic triumvirate of the Devil, the Antichrist and the False Prophet will move swiftly to usurp all power on earth. Satanism will be the only officially recognised religion in the world, and those who refuse to subject themselves to it will be executed in public (Rev. 13:15). All adversaries of their rule will be mercilessly killed.
Of these terrible evils the Lord Jesus said: "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved" (Mt. 24:21-22).
In order to obtain absolute control over all people the Antichrist will institute a centrally controlled, cashless economic system for the world. 666 related personal identity numbers will be issued to all economic active people, without which it will be impossible to gain accessto the cashless monetary system. The 666 qualifies this number explicitly as the number of the beast; consequently it associates the bearer with the satanic rulers of the New World Order.
An oath of allegiance will have to be made to the Antichrist and his world government before a number will be issued. The oath will also imply allegiance to the beast as the god of this world, and for that reason the taking of the oath will be a covenant with death (Rev. 14:9-11). This absolute form of control will extend much further than buying and selling, as people will subject themselves body, soul and spirit to the control of this evil dictator. Don't follow the example of Esau by selling your soul to the Devil for financial gain (Heb. 12:16-17).
The refusing of the Antichrist's number will have such severe implications that only strongly committed Christians will be able to face it. Among these are the following:
It is evident that economic control will be a mighty weapon in the hands of the Antichrist to force people to accept his New World Order, and to worship him as their god. In this way he will enslave the entire world population by depriving them of all the political, economic and religious liberties they previously had.
Those who refuse the number will become unemployed, robbed and impoverished fugitives. Because of high treason against the Antichrist and his governance structures they will face a certain death penalty when they are arrested. Special task forces will hunt them down and drag them to the guillotines. Some will be shot while fleeing, and many others will die of starvation, polluted water, diseases and exposure to harsh climatic conditions.
Murderer of Jews and Christians
When the Antichrist declares himself as God, the Israeli nation will reject him and break their covenant with him. He will then become their biggest enemy on earth and try to annihilate all of them. For a remnant of Jews to survive, they will have to flee from Israel to a place in the wilderness (probably Petra south of the Dead Sea) where the Lord will sustain them for the 3½ years of the great tribulation. It is to this hasty flight that Matthew 24:15-21 refers.
Christians will likewise be pursued and executed for refusing to worship the Antichrist as God (Rev. 6:9-11; 13:15). Despite their own suffering and hardships they should help the fugitive Jews and inform them about the true Messiah and His coming on the Mount of Olives at the end of the false messiah's 3½ year reign of terror (Dan. 12:11-12; Zech. 14:4-5). Concerning the Jews, the Lord said: "I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you" (Gen. 12:3).
Victory in the Struggle
Although the Antichrist will muster awesome political, military, economic and religious power during his reign on earth, he will never be able to force true Christians into subservience to him. He will succeed in killing the saints, but he won't gain their worship if they prefer to remain true to Jesus. During this dark hour the Lord will empower His witnesses to resist the Antichrist and remain faithful until death: "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death" (Rev. 12:11).
In the quoted verse, three powerful weapons are mentioned that are to be used by Christians in the struggle:
Destiny of the Antichrist
The Antichrist and his followers are heading for everlasting punishment away from God and His glory in the lake of fire: "Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Rev. 19:19-21; see also Rev. 14:9-11).
Destiny of the Christians
Despite the fact that Christians stand to lose all material possessions, rights and privileges they have during the great tribulation, their final destiny will be glorious (see Rev. 7:9-17 and 21:4-5). Will you be among the multitude of redeemed ones from all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues? There is also room for you!
In the light of these wonderful promises of ultimate victory, the martyrs can take courage to persevere on their arduous course. If they remain faithful until death, they will inherit the kingdom of God and soon rule with Jesus Christ on earth:
"And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgement was committed to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark in their foreheads or in their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years" (Rev. 20:4).
Maranata! The Lord is Coming!