The Seal Of The Living God
What Happens To Christians Page 4
The Great Tribulation Part I
From the Main Message of
Bread Upon The Waters Ministry
In the last few pages, we have presented a case for believing that the entire Church will go into the Great Tribulation. If that is indeed what will happen, we can expect that the Christians who are alive during the Tribulation are going to suffer terribly. In fact, they will be the people who suffer the worst, especially during the reign of the Two Beasts. They will be subject to both the chastening of God and the wrath of Satan via the Beasts. This is, of course, the opposite of what many Christians expect. But the idea is supported by a number of passages of Scripture, particularly Luke 12:47 & 48,
47. "And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
48. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving stripes, shall be beaten with few."
You may not like this way of looking at this verse, but study the context. Beginning with verse 35, Jesus is talking about something that happens in connection with the Second Coming.
As stated, most Christians will not be ready. That's why Jesus will vomit the Church of Laodicea out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16). Again, the Great Tribulation will be as much as great chastening, a great purification, of the lukewarm Church as it will be a great judgment of the unsaved world.
Those Who Are Ready
But what about those who are ready? In Revelation 3:21, Jesus does imply that there will be overcomers in the Church of Laodicea. Again, these are Christians who rise above the prevailing spiritual conditions of the Church in their time, and live lives of real, victorious obedient faith. Surely these Christians will not be deserving of chastening. It seems to make sense that they are rather entitled to evacuation, as in the Pre Tribulation Rapture doctrine, or at least protection from God. There is a passage in the Book of Revelation that shows, if understood in the light of other relevant passages, that protection is what they will get. It is shown in Revelation 7:1 - 8. The protection comes in the form of the "seal of the living God".
Their Finest Hour
Before we discuss just what the "seal" is all about, there is something that should be said about the overcomers: In thinking about them, this writer is reminded of what Sir Winston Churchill said about the British people during the Second World War. He called it "their finest hour". He was referring to the courageous way in which they worked and fought in the face of merciless bombing and severe shortages of even the most common necessities. Well, for the overcomers, and even for some of the Christians who won't be ready, the Great Tribulation will be their finest hour. During the Tribulation, and especially during the reign of the Beasts, the testimony of the true Christians will outshine even that of the overcomers of the Church of Smyrna. We find testimony to this in Revelation 12:11,
"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives unto death".
This is talking about real Christian heroism, and during the Tribulation we will see a lot of it. Many "overcomers" will be true martyrs during that time. But they won't have to suffer (at least not directly) from God's wrath. (Note that they will suffer from persecution, but that is to be expected. See I Peter 4:12. Any Christian who does not expect persecution does not know the Scriptures. See II Timothy 2:11 & 12.) How they will be protected is something that this writer has discovered from his own study of the Word. If anyone else has ever taught what follows, this writer has never heard it.
Note that this writer has had a number of experiences in which he discovered something in the Bible by his own study of it, and then later heard other people teaching it. The idea, expressed in these pages, that the Prophecies of the Second Coming can't be understood until they are about to be fulfilled is an example. He has also had a number of experiences in which he had radical and sometimes unpopular ideas about subjects outside the Bible, and has been proven right by history. So he has reason to have confidence in his original ideas. He wouldn't be doing this ministry if he did not.
In Revelation 7: 1 - 8, we find a story that has been a given a number of interpretations for which there is no Scriptural basis. In this passage, we see 144,000 people, identified as 12,000 of each of the tribes of the children of Israel, being given something in their foreheads called the "seal of the living God". We know from verse 3 that this happens just before the Tribulation starts. The Bible gives us no clue as to what the "seal" is substantively. One thing we can be sure of, though, is that it is not the "seal of the Holy Spirit" as in Ephesians 1:13. That is clearly something that is given to all who are truly Born Again. It is part of salvation. This is something that goes beyond salvation. It is, again, given to only 144,000 people. But the Bible does show us what the seal does: It protects those who receive it from God's wrath during the Tribulation. We find this clearly shown in Revelation 9:4, where the mysterious locusts are commanded to sting only those who do not have the "seal".
There is Biblical precedent for this idea in Ezekiel 9. In the vision in that chapter, the "ax" - literally - of God's wrath is about to fall on the people of Jerusalem. Six men armed with battle-axes are about to go out and slaughter the entire population of the city. But before they go out, a seventh man goes out, with a pen and an inkhorn. He puts a mark on the forehead of every person who "sighs and cries" over all the abominations done in Jerusalem. The ones who have the mark are the only people that the six men don't kill. So here we have a clear-cut example of Divine protection instead of evacuation.
This, by the way, gives us a clue to a requirement for being ready. To be ready, you must really be concerned about all the sin in the world around you. This is a manifestation of true righteousness. Beyond what directly causes them problems, most Christians today are not really concerned about the sin around them. Instead, many are indulging in it. For many, this happens every time they turn on their televisions.
Who Gets The "Seal"?
This brings us to the question of who gets the "seal". One thing is certain: The people who get the "seal" are Christians. We know that from the term, "the servants of our God" in verse 3. In our time, a servant of God is a Christian. See Isaiah 65:15 and compare with Acts 11:26. Since the 144,000 are "out of the twelve tribes of Israel", most students of Prophecy have understood these people to be Jewish converts to Christianity. But there is reason to believe otherwise.
If you look closely at the list of tribes in verses 5 - 8, you may notice something wrong with it. The tribe of Dan is missing. The half tribe of Manassah is used in verse 6 to make 12 tribes. We might ask "Why?".
Why No Dan?
First, remember, as is well known to most Christians, the Church represents a spiritual nation of Israel. Some years ago, for reasons that had nothing to do with Second Coming Prophecy, this writer came to the conclusion that, just as there are twelve tribes in material Israel, there are twelve tribes in spiritual Israel. These tribes, this writer has concluded, represents 12 different kind of calling, or we might say, destiny, in the Christian life. Every Christian belongs to one of the tribes. (This writer has believed for years that he is of the spiritual tribe of Issachar, again, for reasons that have nothing to do with Second Coming Prophecy. This may also be true now of all those who really expect the Second Coming. See I Chronicles 12:32.) So why no Dan?
In Genesis 49, Jacob, on his deathbed, gives final blessings to his twelve sons and their descendants. But in verse 1, he says something that most people who read the passage overlook: "....that I may tell you what shall befall you IN THE LAST DAYS....". (Emphasis mine: Author.) Jacob was not making a prophecy about the material nation of Israel. We are the ones living "IN THE LAST DAYS"! Not the ancient Israelites! Jacob was making a prophecy about the Church!
Now look at what he says about the tribe of Dan:
"Dan is a serpent by the way, a viper by the path...."
Notice also that Jacob ends his "blessing" of Dan with the exclamation,
"I have waited for your salvation, O Lord!"
What Jacob had just said about Dan was not a blessing; it was a curse. And even though it was a divinely inspired prophecy, Jacob knew that is was a curse, and it hurt him. The concluding exclamation is a cry of pain.
From what Jacob says in verse 16, we can understand that God uses Dan Christians to chastise other Christians. But as for what they are as people, Dan Christians are "snakes in the grass" (this writer thinks he has known a few). For that reason, either Dan Christians lose their salvation, or at best, none are ready for the Tribulation. They will not have met the basic conditions of Luke 12:42, John 13:34 & 35, and Matthew 24:45 & 46 that a Christian must meet to be ready. See: "The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats".
You can also see the idea of there being twelve tribes in spiritual Israel in the Epistle of James. In verse 1:1, James addressed his Epistle "To the twelve tribes who are scattered abroad". Understand that other references in the Epistle, such as Vss. 2:1 and 5:14, make it quite clear that it is addressed to the Church. James was obviously thinking of the Church as being made up of twelve tribes.
There is a question as to how God will choose who to give the seal to if the 144,000 are actually Jews. If you know anything about modern Judaism, or Israel, then you know that tribal identity has very little to do with either. The fact is that many modern Jews have lost their tribal identity, and some never had one. This has to include many Jewish converts to Christianity. A significant percentage of the people who are considered ethnically Jewish today are in fact descendants of Gentile converts. There was a big wave of conversion of Gentiles to Judaism in Eastern Europe during the Middle Ages. Although the Bible says they would be considered true Israelites after four generations, they would not have a tribal identity.
More than that, ten of the original tribes have lost their identity as distinct ethnic groups. This happened as a result of the permanent captivity of the Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 721 BC. Although some of the descendants of those tribes eventually returned to the Holy Land, the tribes as ethnic units never did. They vanished from history. Today, some Jews can tell you with certainty that they are of the tribe of Judah, or Levi or Benjamin, but that is all that remains of true Jewish tribal identity. So, if the ones who get the seal are Jews, who gets the seal, and why?
The New Jerusalem
There is further support for the idea that there are twelve tribes in spiritual Israel in the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:12. There are twelve gates into the city, and each is named for one of the twelve tribes. The gates with the names of the tribes can be considered a metaphor for the idea of the spiritual tribes representing different kinds of calling or destiny, i.e. 12 different ways into the Kingdom of Heaven. It seems from this that the tribes will retain their identity in eternity. Yet we know that all who go into the city are Christians or Old Testament saints, who are spiritually equivalent to Christians (see Hebrews 11:39 & 40). In fact, in Hebrews 12:22, the writer of the Epistle discusses the New Jerusalem as if it were a metaphor for the Church. (It may be both literal and figurative.) It also appears from Scripture that after the Second Coming, spiritual and material Israel will be merged into one body (Ephesians 2:11-16). If these things are true, and the tribes do retain their identity in eternity, then there have to be spiritual tribes now. Eternity is not just future, it is also past and present.
So Who Gets "The Seal"?
Since we conclude that the Twelve Tribes are those of spiritual, not material Israel, then we must ask who these Christians are. The only answer that is consistent with the rest of the Book of Revelation is that these are the "overcomers" of the Church of Laodicea who are still living when the Tribulation begins. They are the relatively few Christians who are truly ready. They will receive divine protection from the plagues of God's wrath during the Tribulation, and even some help against the Beasts.
There is considerable Biblical precedent for the idea of divine protection as opposed to evacuation: Consider, in Daniel, the story of the three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, and Daniel himself in the lions den. In both cases, the heroes took a stand of faith in obedience to God, and survived what appeared to be certain death unscathed. This may be repeated during the Tribulation by those who have the "seal." They may experience literal fulfillment of the promise of Psalm 91: 7 & 8:
"A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it (the wrath of God) will not come near you.
Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked."
The Bad News
The unfortunate thing about this is how few, relatively speaking, those who have the "seal" will be in number. Only 144,000. By some estimates, there may be as many as 300,000,000 people living in the world today who can be considered true Christians. As noted in the "Church of Laodicea" page, the estimated total of all who are called Christians, worldwide is 1:7 billion [thousand million to the British]. If this is true, and only 144,000 get the "seal", that means that less than one in two thousand Christians will be considered ready by God when the seal is given. This is why the question of whether or not there is a Pre-Tribulation Rapture will be academic for most Christians. As even a Pre-Tribber will admit, if you aren't ready, you are going through the Tribulation (if you live that long), Rapture or no Rapture.
The Good News
The good news is that the 144,000 probably isn't an exact number. Large numbers in the Bible are almost always approximations. See, for example, the census in Numbers 1, in which the numbers of the tribes appear to be rounded off to the nearest hundred. This means that the exact number of Christians who will be ready is flexible. Therefore, if you realize you aren't ready, remember that there is probably still time in which to get ready, or you probably wouldn't be reading this. So, as stated elsewhere:
And by the way, never assume you are ready.
St. Paul didn't!
Compare I Corinthians 9:24 - 27 with Philippians 3:12 - 17.
Neither should you!
What About Those Who Don't Get "The Seal"?
As stated, the Great Tribulation will be as much a great chastening of the lukewarm Laodicean Christians as it will be a great judgment of the unsaved world. We get our first clue to what happens to them in Revelation 7:9;
"....behold, a great multitude which no man could number,
of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues,
standing before the throne and before the Lamb...."
This verse is usually understood to mean that most, and perhaps all, true Christians will in fact make it to heaven. This interpretation of this verse has probably given hope and encouragement to many a struggling Christian. But there is another interpretation to it that is more consistent with the context of the chapter. We find the key to this interpretation in verses 13 -15. The angel asks John who these people are. John doesn't know, and politely throws the question back to the angel. The angel's response is:
"These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation...."
Note one thing here: You can't come out of what you were never in! These Christians were in the Great Tribulation.
"....and washed their robes
and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
During the Tribulation, these Christians will realize how badly they have failed, and they repent. Therefore:
"....they are before the throne of God,
and serve Him day and night in His temple.
And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them."
This then is the conclusion we draw from the Book of Revelation: The lukewarm Christians - by far the majority - of the Church of Laodicea will go into the Tribulation. But during the Tribulation, those who survive the beginning will wake up to their sinfulness and they will repent en masse. This will be the great purification. See Zechariah 13:9. This will probably happen during the Second Woe. Relatively few of those who are truly Born Again will fall into temptation and take the Mark of the Beast. Some probably will, or we wouldn't have the warnings about it in Revelation 13:16-18 and 14:9-11. But most of the true Christians will make it, spiritually if not physically. Even if two thirds of the Christians are killed during the beginning Tribulation, along with that portion of the whole human race, (Zechariah 13:8) there could still be about 100,000,000 Christians who stay faithful to Christ. This is still a far greater number of people than anyone could ever actually count directly in a normal lifetime.
But even they will be in for a very rough time. They will get no protection from God, until at least the Third Woe. (This is allowing God the freedom to make exceptions - He does do that.) And even then they will suffer. In verses 16 the angel makes some promises to the Christians who repent that are an offhand reference to what they will suffer during the Tribulation. They will hunger and thirst. The sun and heat will strike them. They will do a lot of crying. The reference that Jesus makes in Matthew 24:51 to "weeping and gnashing of teeth" is not necessarily about damnation. In the context of Second Coming Prophecy, it is about the Christians who aren't ready suffering during the Great Tribulation.
A Final Warning
So the reader, as a Christian, should expect to go into the Great Tribulation. In fact, you are warned that you may die right at the start, in the asteroid or comet collision that begins it. Even if you are ready, you will probably suffer from the overall stress of the time and you are likely to experience deadly persecution. Persecution is something that true Christians should expect. In fact, if you can't identify any way at all in which you are being persecuted for your faith, even now, it is probably a sign that you aren't ready.
"All who will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution",
II Timothy 3:12.
It must be noted that there is a little known prophecy that suggests that some exceptionally worthy overcomers who go through it won't suffer during the Tribulation at all. See Zephaniah 2:3. But even if this is true, there won't be many of them.
It is the position of this writer that one of the biggest lies of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, and other similar doctrines, is that we won't have to suffer for our faith. This idea is very dear to the hearts of Laodicean Christians. But the true word of Scripture is;
"You must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ"
"For if we died with Him,
We shall also live with Him.
If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him...."
II Timothy 2:3 and 11 & 12.
As the old saying goes, "If you don't bear the Cross, you won't wear the Crown". Believe this: if you are truly a Christian, even if you aren't carrying the Cross now, after the Tribulation begins, if you survive, you will have to. Or you will go to hell. It would be far, far better to start doing it now.
"Suffering - The Lost Paradigm"
"One In A Thousand"
So exactly what is really going to happen? A full exposition of this is presented in the next set of pages, "The Three Great Woes". It begins with the following page;
Understanding the Book of Revelation
Contact Author, William D. Brehm