Lesson 13 - Evangelism in the Tribulation

Lesson 13 - Evangelism in the Tribulation

(Revelation 7:1-17)

Revelation 7 is parenthetical in that it occurs sometime during the Tribulation period, but not necessarily chronologically after the events described in chapter 6.  We see 144,000 Jewish believers as witnesses for Christ and a multitude of believers who are saved during the Tribulation in chapter 7.

In verse 1, the phrase “after this” means that this was a new vision and does not refer to a chronological order of events.  In other words, after the previous vision, John saw another vision about a different subject.  In this vision, John saw four angels stationed at the four corners of the earth, holding back the “four winds” of the earth.  This is obviously figurative language indicating that these angels are controlling the destructive forces of God’s wrath against the evil forces on earth at this time.  “The four corners of the earth” is a way of referring to the entire world.  However, at this time God is restraining the use of these forces, as indicated by the fact that the angels are holding back the winds so they will not blow.  This is confirmed in verse 3 where an angel tells the four angels of destruction not to harm the earth, the sea or the trees until the servants of God have been sealed on their foreheads. 

The “seal of the living God” in verse 2 is not described, but seems to be a seal of protection for those who have it.  It is a seal of ownership and authentication.  (Ezekiel 9:4; II Corinthians 1:22; John 6:27)  The number who will be sealed is 144,000, all of whom are Jewish.  There are going to be 12,000 sealed believers from each of the twelve tribes of Israel.  These 144,000 are called the servants of God, which is an indication that they will serve God during this period as His witnesses to the world.  (Revelation 12:17; 14:1-5)

John then related a new vision.  John saw a multitude of people from all nations (Jews and Gentiles) in Heaven before the throne of God.  These people were believers as indicated by the white robes that they are wearing, which is further explained in verse 14.  The palms that were in the hands of these believers are symbolic of victory and celebration.  They are celebrating because they are in Heaven before God’s throne worshipping Him.  This worship of God is obvious from reading verses 10-12, where the ruling angels participate with the believers in the worship of God.  Verses 13 and 14 give the explanation of these people who are before God’s throne.  They are believers from the Tribulation period who have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior (“washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb”).

Because these people have believed in Christ, they have the privilege of being in the presence of God in His throne room and serving Him day and night.  This service is said to be done in the temple of God, which refers to Heaven as a place of sanctuary or a temple in and of itself.  It is not a reference to an earthly temple since this scene is in Heaven nor is it a reference to the Temple in Revelation 21:22, which refers to the Temple in the eternal state.

This group of believers who are in Heaven before the throne of God shall never hunger or thirst, which is a reference to both physical and spiritual hunger and thirst.  This is confirmed in verse 17.  Remember that these believers have just come from the Tribulation where many of them probably experienced physical hunger and thirst.  They will no longer experience either physical or spiritual hunger or thirst.  Furthermore, they will not need sunlight or heat because the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ will be “the light” and “the heat.”  The Lamb will also feed them and provide water according to verse 17, which obviously refers to spiritual hunger and thirst. (John 4:14, 6:35, 7:37)

Verse 17 reverses the role of Jesus Christ from the Lamb to the Shepherd.  As our Shepherd, Jesus Christ is the One Who leads His sheep to the “springs of the water of life.”  Jesus Christ is our Shepherd because He gives His life for “the sheep” (John 10:9-11), Jesus Christ is the Great Shepherd, Who was raised from the dead (Hebrews 13:20-21).  And, Jesus Christ is the Chief Shepherd, Who will come in glory (I Peter 5:4).

Christ is our Shepherd and we are His sheep.  As sheep we have certain needs that must be provided for us by the Shepherd.  For example, sheep cannot properly guide themselves (John. 16:13), sheep cannot clean themselves (I John. 1:9), sheep are helpless when injured (Psalms 9:9; 46:1), sheep are defenseless (John. 14:27), sheep cannot easily find food or water (John 14:26), sheep are easily frightened (John 14:16), sheep produce wool that belongs to the shepherd. (John 15:4-5) Our Shepherd provides guidance, cleansing, help, protection, spiritual food and drink, freedom from fear, and all that we have belongs to Him.

Witnessing for Christ

The question of the need to witness for Christ should be obvious to any Christian.  There are people without Christ that we can introduce to the Gospel.  It is true that God is not limited by our lack of faithfulness to share the Gospel.  However, in order for us to be obedient, we need to witness for Christ and our love for Him should be the motivating factor.  It is always a great joy to see a person trust Christ as Savior as a result of our witness.   (Luke 16:23-26; John 3:18; II Corinthians 5:11)

The most important reason to share the Gospel is that God has commanded us to do so.  We are ambassadors for Christ and, as His representatives, we have been entrusted with the Gospel message, much like Israel was under the Law.  We do not want to fail as Israel did in our responsibility to the unsaved.  (Mark 16:15; II Timothy 4:1-2; I Corinthians 9:16)

The final reason for witnessing is that it is our privilege as believers.  God could have chosen angels to carry the message of salvation during the Church Age, but He didn’t.  God gave us that privilege.  If God loved us so much to send Christ as our substitute, it only makes sense that we would want to share God’s plan of salvation with others. (I Thessalonians 2:4,19; II Corinthians 5:19; Acts 1:8; Romans 1:16; John 15:8)

God’s plan of salvation was designed in eternity past.  Jesus Christ always knew the plan and joyfully executed it.  This plan called for Jesus Christ to become a man, live a sinless life and go to the Cross as our substitute.  He did exactly this and while still on the Cross, having been judged by God the Father for the sins of the world, He said, “It is finished.”  Because Christ did all the salvation work, salvation is a matter of God’s grace.  This means that we cannot work for it and we do not deserve it.  Salvation is appropriated by faith alone in Christ alone.  Some people call this “easy believism.”  There was nothing easy about what Christ did for us, but the fact is that God did make the plan of salvation easy, so that anyone can be saved by a simple act of faith.  There are over 150 verses in the New Testament alone that tell us that eternal life (salvation) is by faith and faith alone.  (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5)  One of the results of our faith in Christ for salvation is eternal life.  Doctrinally speaking, the reason we receive eternal life is that we are sharing Christ’s life.  (John 3:18, John 6:47, 10:28; I John 5:13)

If we are going to be a witness for Jesus Christ, it is important that we maintain a good testimony before the world.  People often judge Christianity by how believers live.  Therefore, if we desire to obey God’s command to witness, we must be credible when we speak of Christ.  We never want to be a “stumblingblock” to an unbeliever because we are exercising our liberty under grace.  (Romans 14:13; I Peter 3:15-16)

A clear Gospel message is important when we share the salvation message with others.  Repentance, for example, is often erroneously used to refer to a feeling of sorrow for sinful acts.  The Greek word for repentance is “metanoia” and means to change one’s mind.  Repentance does not mean to feel sorrow, to regret or to turn from sin, as it has come to mean in our English language.  However, changing your mind is a part of salvation.  For example, stop thinking that your goodness, church attendance, giving money, etc. will get you to heaven and accept God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Feeling sorrow or regret has nothing to do with salvation and unbelievers do not have the power to turn from their sins.  As noted, salvation is a matter of faith.  (Acts 20:20-21)

There is a popular teaching in many churches today that states that a person must make Jesus Christ “Lord” in order to be saved.  First of all, Jesus Christ is already Lord (God).  Secondly, if what is meant by this phrase is that a person must make Christ the Lord of his life in order to be saved, they are wrong.  The unbeliever has no power to make Christ the “Lord of his life.”  It is only after salvation under the filling (control) of the Holy Spirit, after a person has grown spiritually through the intake and application of Bible doctrine (“epignosis” doctrine – doctrine that has been metabolized in the soul), that he has the power to make Christ the Lord of his life.  Furthermore, it is power of God the Holy Spirit using that Bible doctrine residing in the soul that enables the believer to make Christ the Lord of his life. (Romans 10:9-13, 12:1-3; I Corinthians 2:9-16; Galatians 5:17-22; Ephesians 4:12-16; II Peter 3:18)

There is a school of thought that says that a person is not saved by faith alone.  They normally quote the book of James for the proof of their teaching.  However, James is not teaching salvation, he is teaching the Christian Way of Life.  The verse that says, “Faith without works is dead,” is speaking of the temporal death of the believer’s Christian life.  The word death in the passage from the book of James actually means “vain or useless.”  It has absolutely nothing to do with salvation.  (James 2:14-24)

There are certain denominations that teach that water baptism is necessary for salvation.  Let’s simply consider the thief on the cross next to Jesus; he wasn’t water baptized and yet Jesus said to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”  We really don’t need to go any further, but we will.  There are at least six different types of baptism in the Bible.  Water baptism is only one type.  The word baptism can mean to be dipped, to be covered or to be cleansed or washed. Sometimes the submersion is in water, sometimes in fire and sometimes in dye.  It is always a means of identification.  Water baptism was a means of identification with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection illustrating the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which places the believer in union with Jesus Christ.  If water baptism was necessary for salvation, it would nullify the grace of God by adding human works to what Christ accomplished on the Cross.  This, of course, is unthinkable and blasphemous.  (Acts 2:38; John 3:5)