Though it seems unlikely at this moment, the above is a true statement. The greatest time of fruitful evangelism is ahead for this world. And, for the many who will be saved, that time is inseparably linked to that period commonly referred to as the Tribulation. In various ways, people have wondered: “will there be many or any come to faith in Jesus in the coming Tribulation?” Happily, the answer is “yes.”
Will This Tribulation Time Really Be All That Bad?
The Scriptures are not at all vague when they inform us that this time of tribulation will bring an unprecedented era of trouble for the whole world. (Note particularly Matthew 24:21; Daniel 12:1; Joel 2:2). There never has been, nor will there ever again, be a time like it.
God’s wrath will be poured out in a most powerful way during those seven years. In giving us the basics of the judgments of God’s wrath, the Apostle John records, in Revelation, that there will be 19 specific judgments, which will devastate the world. Body counts are given for 2 of the 19 judgments (the 4th Seal and the 6th Trumpet). In these two judgments alone, 50% of the population of the earth dies. And then, when we look closely at the other 17 judgments, it is quite clear that the death toll will far exceed 50%. We are probably not too far off by saying that 80-85% living during this time period will perish. So, for example, if the Tribulation begins with the population of the earth being 8 billion, then those that die under the wrath of God will be around 6-7 billion. All that in 7 years. That is not something that most of us can really comprehend.
But death to people will also come at the hand of Satan. Satan will use the Great Harlot (Rev. 17) and the Antichrist (Rev. 13) to shed the blood of millions of God’s people. This incredible loss of human life coupled with unprecedented earthquakes (two of them that move the entire crust of the earth), burning of earth, destruction of the oceans and fresh water sources will make this the worst period in all of human history. It is no wonder that Jesus observed that unless God had limited this time to just 7 years no human being would be left standing (Matt. 24:22).
What In The World Is God Wanting To Accomplish?
Some might think that God’s actions are irrational and out of control. But, contrary to popular belief, God’s greatest purpose in the Tribulation is not judgment. (He doesn’t need 7 years to judge, as He could easily judge in 7 minutes). The greatest purpose of God in the period of Tribulation is to save people. When we think about it, we probably all would acknowledge that we are more sensitive to God and spiritual matters when facing trouble and trials. These challenge what we believe in and/or depend on. The Tribulation period is going to effectively strip away things that people generally trust in and rely on. Money and material things will evaporate away. Living comfortably will disappear. Those philosophies that people have depended on will prove to be just mirages, having no real substance. Institutions and organizations (including government) will be unsafe and untrustworthy. Life, as experienced today by most people, will no longer exist. With no hiding place and no sure foundation, multitudes will be listening to spiritual matters as they never have before. There are not many options left. Some of these will listen to the voice of the Evil One, but multitudes will hear the voice of the Savior, through His people, and turn to Him for eternal life.
Will Millions of People Really Be Saved In The Tribulation?
Very recently I was asked this question, and the answer is “yes”. Salvation of people is God’s great purpose and that does take some time. The gospel must be proclaimed and men hear it and then chose to respond to Jesus Christ or not.
(1) Saving Israel. In His covenant promises to Abraham (and Abraham’s descendants) God declared that He would bring Israel into the New Covenant, which is the covenant dealing with salvation and the forgiveness of sins. In all the centuries since Jesus came the first time and died on the cross, the nation of Israel, as a nation, has never turned to Him. And yet Jesus was very clear when He stated that He would not return to the earth again (the 2nd Coming) until Israel turned to Him in faith (Matt. 23:39). Saving Israel is God’s first and primary order of business in the Tribulation. And He will accomplish this great goal as the Scriptures state with clarity. Numerous times in Jeremiah 31:31-34, God said “I will” fulfill My covenant commitment to the House of Israel. Two millennia have gone by with no national turning to Jesus. But wait! It will happen in the coming time of Tribulation. These scriptures tell us that God will indeed fulfill His covenant commitment to the descendants of Abraham.
“For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in: and thus, ALL ISRAEL will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.’ ‘And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’” Romans 11:25-27
“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people (Israel) and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place.” Daniel 9:24
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you…I will put My spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes and you will be careful to observe my ordinances.” Ezekiel 36:25
Israel begins the Tribulation as an unbelieving nation, but that rapidly begins to change, probably as the 144,000 Jewish evangelists begin to make an impact. Jesus said that about half way through the Tribulation, Israel would begin to be persecuted “on account of My name” (Matt. 24:9). Now Israel has been and continues to be persecuted by the gentile nations, but not because she has identified with the Lord Jesus Christ! The 144,000 (Rev. 7) along with the “two witnesses” (Rev. 11) apparently have a huge impact on the nation of Israel, so that by the end of the Tribulation “all” Israel has come to faith in Christ. With the salvation of Israel, the Great King Jesus can now return. But before He does, there are many more that need saving. This will be the ultimate fulfillment of Genesis 12:3—“in you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”
(2) Saving gentiles. In the Old Testament, it was always God’s plan to reach the gentile nations through Israel. The Israelites were to be a light to the gentiles. Unfortunately, they behaved badly and never really were that light bringing the knowledge of the Lord Jehovah to the nations. But that changes dramatically in the Tribulation. They will be a beacon light in that terribly dark period of time. According to Revelation 7:9-14, millions upon millions from every nation will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. It is important to observe that these people (of Rev. 7) were saved during the Tribulation period and not during the ages of the church or some other time. And while they died for their faith, the number of them runs in the millions. And it must also be noted that these saved ones are just those saved early in the Tribulation period; apparently not including all people saved during the entire period of time.
Some Concluding Thoughts
This short study should remind us that the Lord delights in saving people and is committed to doing that. Judgment is not what He delights in, but rather the regeneration of lost people. The Tribulation, while having terrible judgments, is primarily a time for salvation. God will fulfill His commitment to save Israel, and Israel in turn will be the ones who spread the truth of God which results in so many gentiles coming to know Jesus. (It is likely that with all of the outpouring of the supernatural that there will be no atheists or agnostics during the Tribulation. The issue is whether you will believe in Jesus or Satan/Antichrist).
Today God wants us to share the Good News about Jesus. And perhaps our obedience in this matter, will cause some in the Tribulation to come to Christ. Imagine if you shared the gospel with a person on Wednesday (and there is no response) and then the Rapture takes place on Thursday. The seed we planted could still bear fruit in those days of the Tribulation. God loves to save people. God simply is not going to allow Satan to “win”, but will powerfully redeem millions, releasing them from the grip of the Evil One. This clear truth ought to encourage us to be more proactive in telling those around us about the Savior.