The seventh chapter of the Book of Revelation describes the people who will be saved during the time of the Great Tribulation. First of all this chapter describes the sealing of the servants of God:
‘And I heard the number of those sealed. 144,000 of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed.’ Revelation 7.4
Then it describes the great multitude who are saved as a result of their witness:
‘After these things I looked and behold a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.’ Revelation 7.9-10
The identity of these believers is clearly given in this chapter:
‘Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from? And I said to him, Sir, you know. So he said to me, These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ Revelation 7.13-14
The great tribulation is a seven year period which brings this age to an end:
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And if those days had not been shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elects sake those days will be shortened. – Jesus speaking in Matthew 24.21-22.
Revelation chapters 6-19 is a detailed prophecy of the time of the great tribulation. While many attempt to explain away the significance of this book, this magazine takes a literal view of the prophecy. Therefore according to Revelation 7, God is going to reveal supernaturally the identity of the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) to 144,000 Jewish men, as he did to Saul of Tarsus (St Paul), who will then evangelise the world with tremendous effectiveness in the final period of this age. As a result of their witness a vast multitude from all races will be saved. The fate of most of these believers will be martyrdom as the antichrist rises to power:
‘When he opened the fifth seal I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.’ Revelation 6.9
Halfway through the great tribulation (i.e. after 3 ½ years) the antichrist achieves world dominion and brings in the mark of the beast system:
‘And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty two months (3½ years). Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, his tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. And it was granted him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And he was given authority over every tribe, tongue and nation. … And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast or the number of his name.’ Revelation 13.5-7,16-17
Accepting the mark of the beast is essential for economic and social survival, however it brings with it eternal damnation. As a result the remnant of believers in this second half of the tribulation face martyrdom for their faith (Revelation 14.9-13). After the return of the Lord Jesus those who have died for their faith during the tribulation period are resurrected:
‘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 on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.’ Revelation 20.4
This raises an intriguing question. Why are these believers resurrected in the millennial period, after Jesus has returned to the earth? They are not the only martyrs in the Christian era, so it cannot be because of their willingness to give their lives for their faith. Why are they held under the altar (6.9) until the end of the tribulation period? Are they different from believing Christians at the present time? Is so where are the present believers (i.e. you and I) during the tribulation period?
In Chapter 19 of Revelation we read about the marriage of the Lamb
‘Let us be glad and rejoice and give him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and his wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen represents the righteousness of the saints.’ Revelation 19:7-8
The bride with her fine linen clearly speaks of the saints (i.e. believing Christians throughout the present Christian era). These same people come back with the Lord Jesus as he returns to the earth to bring the wicked system of antichrist to an end:
‘He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed him on white horses.’ Revelation 19.14
So we have one group of believers who come back with Jesus as he returns in Revelation 19 (see also Zechariah 14.5, Jude 14). We have a second group of believers in Jesus who are resurrected after his return in Revelation 20. How is it possible to explain this? The only possible explanation is that the first group of believers have been taken out of the world before the great tribulation begins, in the event known as the Rapture, which is described in Matthew 24.36-44, Luke 17.22-37, 1 Thessalonians 4.13-5.11.
‘For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.’
This event happens unexpectedly, as a thief in the night, at a time when life is going on as normal and people are saying peace and safety. It causes believers to meet the Lord as he comes in the air. The coming of the Lord to the earth in Revelation 19 is at a time when everything in the world is abnormal following the time of the great tribulation. This will be a unique time of wars and catastrophes reaching their climax in the final conflict, Armageddon, a time when no one will be saying peace and safety.
Following the removal of the believers at the Rapture, people left behind will be perplexed about why all these people have disappeared. Satan already has his explanation prepared: The people hindering the progress of humanity towards a New Age of enlightenment have been removed to other worlds (by UFOs?) to rethink their attitudes.
However many people will recognise that this event is connected with the second coming of Jesus and turn to him in repentance and faith, even if it means losing their lives for him. They will be comforted in the knowledge that the period of tribulation will be brief and will soon be followed by the glorious reign of Messiah Jesus, bringing real peace and safety to the world. A number of Jewish people in particular will wake up to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah and lead the way in proclaiming his soon return. These are the people who will make up the second group of people who will be resurrected during the millennial reign of Christ. They missed out on the Rapture because they were not believers at that time.
In the light of all this we need to redeem the time and warn our friends and relatives of the events of the tribulation to come, praying that they will put their trust in Jesus now and escape the wrath to come. The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Gospel. Mark 1.15