A Great Revival…?
When listening to a preacher speak of the Second Coming of the Lord to the earth, it is quite common to hear the same subjects brought up repeatedly. For example, the question of the Rapture, or the various plagues that will come on the sinful world, or as I have heard recently, a speaker over the radio spoke of a coming “great revival” that would be unlike anything the world had seen before. In this revival, there would be millions of people saved by the Gospel, and so many people brought to Christ that it would make the past revivals of the past look small by comparison. I have heard of this eschatological revival before from other sources, all seeming to reference two primary sources: a select list of verses which speak of the Gospel being preached to the world, and of course the assumption that Jesus coming would lead many people to repentance. As for the latter point, this is nothing more than assumption at best, but the former is quite a cloud of uncertainty in my mind. It is important to note that this “revival” they speak of is of Gentiles, as they are not often speaking of the salvation of Israel regarding this, although many of them believe Israel will too be saved. But in this case, they speak of a time where millions upon millions of non-Jewish individuals will be saved by the Gospel. But where does this come from, and more importantly, does it actually find its source in the prophesies of Scripture, or is there more to this “world-wide Gospel message”?
I have found that, although it is not directly stated, there are certain persons who believe there will be a great revival because they have a gaping hole in their prophesies that they need to fill up. These persons are those who believe that there will be a coming of Jesus in the clouds prior to the Tribulation, and He will rapture up the church before it all begins (thus the title, Pre-Tribulationist). However, among other issues, this creates a problem for them: where do the countless saints from the Tribulation come from, as mentioned in Revelation 7. If all of the church has been raptured up before the Great Tribulation, where do these saints come from? Thus, a new category has been created for them, giving them the title of “Tribulation Saints.” These are thus a new group of believers who have believed the Gospel of Jesus Christ after He already came for His church, and thus we are left with the “Left Behind” series. Although there could be much said about the holes in this idea, allow me to harp on just one: are these saints not a part of the church same church the other group was? If they are, why give them a separate title? This is only an issue when people make the claim that the “restrainer” mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2 is the church, or the Holy Spirit. If the church is the restrainer of the Man of Lawlessness, and they have all been raptured (thus unleashing him on the world), how are these new saints unable to restrain him as before? It’s a bit of an issue, although not a damning argument to the claim. However, the issues increase. If this is a “second” church that is now made after Christ has already (partially) come, we are thoroughly confusing the texts used by the Pre-Trib. defender found in 1 Thess. 5, 2 Thess. 2, and 1 Cor. 15, among others, because now we are forced to discern between two groups of churches (Pre-Tribulation saints and Tribulation saints), where the texts themselves make no such distinction. We must create two groups where the apostles do not. Because to make the claim, “Christ will come (partially, not all the way) to gather all of His elect from the four corners of the world, that is the church of Christ, the bride, and will then wait until after the 7 year Tribulation, and then come back (this time, all the way down to the Mount of Olives) and gather the Tribulation saints, which aren’t the same church as before, and cannot possibly be a part of the marriage supper of the Lamb which was already given to the Pre-Tribulation church…” I’ll stop there for the sake of sanity, because this conclusion suddenly has holes in it. But in order maintain a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, you are forced to create this new group called “Tribulation Saints” because those in Revelation must come from somewhere, right? But if they are Gentile Christians, how are they not apart of the church? And if they are a part of the church, why can’t they participate in the supper of the Lamb? And if the supper is actually extended for them, you are now really messing with the prophetic texts. It’s a mess.
But the issues with the “Pre-Tribulation” viewpoint can be dealt with separately. Because the issue at hand is here assuming the next and greatest “revival” the world has ever seen. This is due to the fact that I have consistently heard a certain man, who holds to a Post-Tribulation Rapture viewpoint (that is, that all of the church will go through the Great Tribulation and won’t be raptured until it is all over), and yet he too believes in this next revival. Where does he get this? Let’s start with one of the most popular texts, Revelation 14:6-7:
“And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, ‘Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.'”
See? I mean, how could that not result in a great revival? This is the same sort of reasoning I have found with others, including Pre-Trib. theologians, who assume that an angel giving the Gospel to the whole world must mean that lots of people are saved. But therein lies the issue: assumption. There is another text which speaks of something very similar, found in Luke 16:19-31. In this text, the Lord uses the example of a rich man and a poor man. The poor man (Lazarus) dies, and is carried off by Abraham. The rich man dies, and wakes up in Hades (Hell) where he is in agony. He looks up and sees Abraham and Lazarus, and so he asks them for relief. When it is denied, he makes one last request:
‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.” (vs. 27-28)
This seems like a reasonable request, right? After all, how many people (including us) think something like that. “If God would just do [insert miraculous event here], I would be certain He is real!” Surely a dead man telling them of Hell would change his brothers, right?
“But Abraham *said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” (vs. 29-31)
We find this point also in the example of Israel, who witnessed the countless miracles by God through Moses in the wilderness, and yet an entire generation died in the wilderness because they would not believe. They even heard from God Himself, and wanted nothing of it, thinking they would die. Stephen summarizes this in Acts 7:51-53:
“You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”
The point is this: just because an angel preaches the Gospel to the entire world, this does not mean the entire world will be saved. Because there are two functions of the preaching of the Gospel: the first is the salvation of men, that they might come to repentance through the preaching of the world. But the second purpose is that of condemnation. When the Gospel is preached, and it is refused, that person who has heard it is now without excuse, because they have heard the Gospel and rejected it. Although many try to excuse themselves by pointing to the random example of someone on an island who has never heard the Gospel before, they are doing nothing more than furthering their own condemnation, because unlike that person in their example, they have heard the Gospel, and are without excuse, no matter what happens to anyone else. And when someone has heard the Gospel, has seen what it does and has even tried it out themselves, and they reject it, this person is given a particular title: “Apostate.” And we read of this in Hebrews 10:26-31:
“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
It is with this knowledge that we read 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4
“Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.”
There is coming a particular event, and a great preaching of a gospel, but it is not the salvation of millions, it is the condemnation of millions. “The Apostasy” is referencing a very particular event in which the majority of the professing church will forsake Christ. But the method in which they do this is not found in abject immorality, homosexuality or athiesm. No, it is found in that revelation of the “Man of Lawlessness,” also known as the “Antichrist.” This man, who sits himself in the Temple of God and declares himself to be the God of the Bible, will make the claim that he is the Christ (Messiah) of the Jews. And the professing church will believe him. This, I believe, is the apostasy spoken of by Paul, and is mentioned throughout the Scripture. And it is of this day that the apostle warns his disciple, Timothy, in 1 Timothy 4, as well as 2 Timothy 3, as well as 1 John 4, and Jude. And judging by the response of the world to the coming Christ, it appears that we are not to be looking for millions of new Christians, but millions of new counterfeits…
“Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?'” – Revelation 6:15-17