John J. Blanchard
May 2, 2015 (listen to audio)
This sermon is the truth about the tribulation and Armageddon. With this half we will be focusing primarily on the tribulation.
There are probably no two more fearful words than tribulation and Armageddon. Those two words bring up tremendous anxiety in people and dread and fear of the future. A lot of it has to do with the images that are surrounding these two words. You could go all the way back to Dante and his Inferno, or you could look at the modern movies, television programs, and articles. The images that surround these two words are horrible. They are just horrible! No wonder people feel a sense of doom and gloom when they hear the words tribulation and Armageddon.
It is as if the entire world is doomed to some catastrophe here at the end which will involve war, famine, earthquakes, and pestilence. Of course, there are theologians, ministers, and imams—when it comes to Islam—who describe these events and point to what’s taking place in the world as fulfillments. You see earthquakes around the world, tsunamis, cyclones, and hurricanes. We had a recent cyclone in Vanuatu that did tremendous damage to people we care about. We also have seen now in Nepal a tremendous earthquake. It seems like there is always something. In a month or so there is always another disaster somewhere on the planet. When people are told that these are signs of the end, no wonder they are upset.
There have been so many books and so many authors who claim to be authorities on the subject of the end. I am going to just mention a few. When I was a young man Hal Lindsey wrote The Late Great Planet Earth, which started the whole genre of the end of the world. I remember David Wilkerson had one in 1975 called The Vision. I remember reading that one when I was in high school. People were being admonished to buy a good car and stick with it. It’s the last car you will ever need! That definitely was wrong. That was forty years ago!
People have been fearful all the time. I remember Y2K. Do you remember Y2K? That was 15 years ago. We were supposed to be living in barbarous times by now with no energy on the planet. It did not come true! Yet, no one seems to learn, because currently we have The Left Behind Series by Tim LaHaye. It is probably the most widely read book on the planet right now about the end time. You have The Blood Moon Prophecy by Mr. Hagee. You have The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn. All these are supposedly books written about the end time by people who claim to be authorities on the subject.
If you go to the Islamic world, there are constant streams of sermons and writings by imams calling for jihad to assist God in bringing about the end of the world. Unfortunately as scary as that is, you always have people see that there is a way to make a buck. Hollywood, TV producers, and of course the publishers of these books say when people are scared, they open their wallets. Ministers know that, too. If we keep the people fearful and they feel they have to follow so and so or thus and thus or this group to be safe during all these terrible events, there is money to be made.
Right now Hollywood has a whole string of movies and so does television with supposedly visionary depictions of terrible things at the end of the age. There are even subjects related to that like vampires, werewolves, and demons taking over things. I watch none of that garbage, because it is garbage. I don’t want any of my hard-earned money going to support people who produce that stuff. All they are doing is engendering fear in our populace, and as far as I am concerned, demoralizing our young people, so they get none of my money. They seem to think they have accurate portrayals. They are based on fact or based on what these theologians are saying or based on long-held doctrines in various churches. But are they really accurate?
An accurate scenario of a future event requires true vision of that subject and true understanding. I call it spiritual vision. If you don’t have good spiritual vision, you will have a faulty result and a poor outcome that is basically self-fulfilled. You can’t self-fulfill an earthquake, but you can sure start wars over false doctrines. You can sure demoralize young people with false doctrines. You can sure scare people out of their retirement with false doctrines, so it is important to have true vision—a good premise of what’s about to happen.
Let’s turn to our first Scripture Proverbs 29:18. I am reading in the New King James Version, and here we are told: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint…”
In the King James Version instead of the word “revelation” they use “vision.” It says the people perish. In other words, they do stupid things that actually lead to poor health and even death. The Bible tells us, if you have a faulty vision and if you have no revelation and you believe it, you can cast off common sense. People who behead others in the name of God have cast off common sense. People who start wars in the name God, cast off common sense. People who drain their bank account to build a bunker in the backyard, cast off common sense. People who don’t go to college because the world is going to end soon, cast off common sense. People who don’t take care of their teeth or their health because the world is about to end, cast off common sense. This Scripture is being fulfilled in spades today because people have a faulty vision and cast off common sense. We need to restore some common sense.
I am going to do something I have never done before, but the horrible events that are taking place around the world I think demand this because Christianity has an end-time view of the end of the world and so does the next big religion, or the second largest (and some say the largest religion) Islam. I want to quote from the Quran. I bought a Quran a couple of years ago because of all the upheaval. I wanted to know what was really in there because you hear it is a peaceful religion. You hear people are running off with false doctrines based on a good book. I thought people really need to just look at it, and learn for themselves, so I bought one. I am not going to say I read every page, but I read enough.
NO ARMAGEDDON IN THE QURAN
I want to quote to you from chapter 18, verses 99-102. This is the 2002 edition of the Quran. There is a commentary I am going to quote from right in this book to help you understand it supposedly. It is by Maulana Muhammed Ali. We are turning to the eighteenth chapter. If I’m not mistaken, the Islamic people call it the Surah. We are going to start in verse 99.
“And on that day we shall let some of them surge against others and the trumpet will be blown, then we shall gather them all together. We shall bring forth hell, exposed to view, on that day before the disbelievers, whose eyes were under a cover from My Reminder, and they could not bear to hear. Do those who disbelieve think that they can take My servants to be friends besides Me? Surely, we have prepared hell as an entertainment for disbelievers.”
That says a lot right there. I don’t think of anything coming near hell as being entertaining. But here is the commentary about this. You heard what I just read. There is no specific mention here of Armageddon. As a matter of fact, from what I can find, there is no mention of the word Armageddon in the entire Quran. Yet, wars are being fought right now to assist God in bringing about Armageddon. I want to see where they get that from.
Here is the commentary on verse 99. “A mighty conflict of the nations is clearly spoken of here.” He feels that’s because the word “trumpet” is used. A trumpet will be blown and we shall bring forth hell (in verse 100). That means a great conflict among nations. “And the words no doubt refer to some catastrophe like that which is predicted in the gospels in the words: ‘for nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in diverse places. All of these are the beginning of sorrows.’”
This gentleman is quoting Matthew 24:7-8 as being mentioned within chapter 18, verse 99 of the Quran. Yet, I saw nothing in there about earthquakes and famines and wars. I saw a man-made hell coming together in verse 100 and an entertainment with death and destruction, so how did they make this leap? It is because Islam accepts the words of Jesus Christ as a Prophet. Therefore, if they feel they have a correct understanding of Matthew 24, they will look in the Quran with the paradigm in mind to find verses that seem to indicate a fulfillment of Matthew 24. If you have a misunderstanding of Matthew 24, you’re lost!
Continuing: “The Quran makes it clear that the reference in nation rising against nation is to the great European conflicts, which we are witnessing nowadays.” That is another huge leap! It is a huge leap. It goes on to talk about Gog and Magog and European nations who have tried to subdue or having subdued the whole world “could not agree on a division of the spoils, and they are rushing at one another’s throats. The whole world being subject to them, their struggles assume the form of world conflict, when one world war ends only to be followed by another.”
You see how a false premise got you going down way off in a direction of the Europeans having conquered the world? I would assume they are thinking because they are the most dominant nations on earth, and because you could say nations like the United States are descended from European countries.
Skipping a few sentences here: “Will this great world conflict bring the world to an end? Human efforts to restore the balance of the world are a failure. But the Quran tells us that a mighty revolution will come about. That is what is meant by the blowing of the trumpet.”
Dropping down to the bottom of this paragraph: “There is a broad enough hint here at the nation of Islam.” So the revolution will be brought about by Islam, you see. “For there is but one faith, the faith of Islam, which has been able to weld diverse people into one whole. The day of peace for this world will dawn with the dawning of the idea on the mind of man that there is only a single nation, the human nation, that lives on this earth: Mankind is a single nation,” from Surah 2, verse 213. “And actually Islam is the only religion in the world that has been successful in uniting different nations into one whole and in obliterating distinctions of race and color.”
That is interesting.
Commentary on verse 101A: “The reason is given in these words why these disasters will be brought about on man: These are people whose eyes are under a cover from My Reminder. Nay, they are so estranged from God that they cannot even bear to hear His Reminder. So thoroughly have lust and greed engrossed the civilized world [meaning the European nations and their descendants]. The Christians are meant here, because there is the most prominent example of having taken a servant of Allah, a prophet, for God. In fact, Jesus Christ is the only person whom the Quran recognizes as a righteous servant of God and who has been taken for God by nearly half the world. This is a clear description of the present attitude of the civilized nation to their moral and spiritual needs.”
That’s why they need to be destroyed in a hell that is designed by the followers of Allah to be an entertainment.
To some people they may feel that sounds like a peaceful religion! It didn’t to me! I saw a whole lot of presumptions there and assumptions based on premises that I can’t find. When I understand what Matthew 24 is really talking about where Jesus Christ said, do not be concerned about wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, and pestilences, I see a false premise that has led practically one-third of humanity in a wrong direction!
Am I picking on the Islamic world? No. We haven’t done any better as Christians. Armageddon is mentioned only once in the Bible, so both of these religions have based their scenarios off one reference, and we will talk about Armageddon in detail in the next sermon. We will focus on the tribulation today.
Christians have their own scenarios, as we saw with all the books and authors that I mentioned about what’s going to happen at the end of the age. Christianity is replete with Christian episodes based on faulty vision and wrong assumptions. There were the Crusades. No one can probably guess how many people died in them and how cruel the deaths were. There was the Inquisition. We know that was incredibly cruel for people who disagreed with one branch of Christianity. Martin Luther’s holy wars against both Catholic and Jews have estimates ranging in the tens of thousands that he was responsible for killing.
More recently in the last century there is Hitler’s attempt to exterminate the Jews. Hitler was Catholic, and he felt he was a prophet. I didn’t know until recently he actually had published a German version of the Bible in which he removed all positive references to the Jews. He thought he was doing God’s will, but we know he wasn’t.
There is guilt on both sides here. Faulty vision has probably led to hundreds of millions if not billions of people’s deaths in the last 2,000 years. Matthew 24 is often quoted by Christians as their set of Scriptures pointing to the end of the age. Let’s turn to Matthew 24. We focused on that the last time, so we won’t go into too much detail this time.
Let’s re-read Matthew 24, starting in verse 3: “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’”
They asked this after Christ told them that the stones of the temple would be thrown down.
SIGNS OF THE END DO NOT INCLUDE WAR
Continuing in Matthew 24, verse 4: “And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many.’”
Here is what they will deceive you with.
Verse 6: “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
We have had them for 2,000 years. Religious leaders have been pointing to them as signs of the imminent end for 2,000 years. They were wrong every time. They are still wrong! Christ plainly says don’t be deceived, yet probably two-thirds of the world is deceived by these things right now! They are scaring the wits out of the other people who aren’t because the poor pagans who don’t believe in God see what Christians and Islamic people are getting ready to do, or looks like, in the name of God. Both are expecting the world to be destroyed. If I was a person of a non-Christian or non-Islamic faith and I looked at what Christians are saying and what Islamic people are saying, I would be scared, too, because they are armed with nuclear weapons. The have huge armies, and they can be fanatical. They can be very fanatical. In the past, they both have.
We have to wake up here at the time of the end because the end is a bright future for us. The end of one age is the end of Satan’s tyranny and the bright future that God has in store for mankind. That’s the true vision. That’s what would relieve people of anxiety and fear and give them hope. That is the true vision of how God is going to reverse what Satan has done to destroy and harm mankind, but we have an awesome struggle here at the end of the age to get rid of these deceptions. It is really hard to explain to someone who fervently believes that they believe that they have been deceived, because they are sure you have been deceived!
The Islamic world thinks there is only one nation to recognize, and that is the nation that is under a caliphate. That makes it very hard for other nations to deal with them if they think you are not a legitimate person to bargain with or that you are a legitimate nation. It is very tricky, and these are things that are believed on both sides very sincerely by people who really want to worship God.
TRIBULATION IS PRESSURE, NOT WAR
That’s why we have written enough articles and published enough CDs if people are interested. If you remember, The Times and Seasons Digest No. 7 Battleground Earth and The Times and Seasons Digest No. 9 What Do You Mean Tribulation? clearly use Scripture to show what Jesus Christ was talking about, and we are going to uncover that today.
Let’s go back to Proverbs before we get started on looking at tribulation. Proverbs 24, verse 10: “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?”
You can see why we take this mission so seriously. We understand that Jesus Christ is not about to destroy the world. We see perhaps millions of people stumbling toward the slaughter and billions of people deceived, so we have the responsibility to tell them and to show them. Then they have the responsibility to discover the truth for themselves.
Somebody should have the courage to look up Christ’s words about tribulation and Armageddon, compare them with the Quran or any other writings, any novels, any movies, or anything out there and judge. That’s why years ago I said to myself, I am not going to watch any of that garbage. I am not going to contribute my hard-earned money to the people who produce it because it is evil. I am not saying they are evil. I am saying they are deceived. Enough of us who understand the truth have to send the message that you are deceived, and I am not going to accept what you believe because of that.
It is up to us to uncover the truth about the tribulation and Armageddon and get true revelation and true spiritual vision. The tribulation is not just an end-time event. Yet, my guess is that 99% of Christians would tell you it is. Let’s turn to the gospel of John chapter 16 where Christ is speaking to His disciples.
John 16, verse 33: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”
He told His disciples standing before Him 2,000 years ago they would have tribulation, and that is the same word from the Book of Revelation. We will see that in a moment. Christ warned His disciples of tribulation. Do you think Christ would know what the tribulation is since the Book of Revelation is His words? Of course, He knows exactly what the tribulation is.
Let’s look at the definition of the tribulation. In the New Testament it is used 22 times. Tribulation comes from the word thlipsis (#2347, Strong’s Concordance, 1995) which is derived from thlibo (#2346, Strong’s Concordance, 1995). It means pressure, literally or figuratively to crowd. Thlipsis and thlibo come from the word tribos (#5147, Strong’s Concordance, 1995) which means to rub as if along a rut or a worn track.
In the Old Testament tribulation is used four times, so in the entire Bible the word tribulation is used 26 times. Yet, everybody focuses on the Book of Revelation. In the old Testament the words for tribulation come from the Hebrew tsar (#6862, Strong’s Concordance, 1995) and tsarah (#6869, Strong’s Concordance, 1995) which means a narrow, tight place, usually figuratively, also a pebble or stone as pressed hard by an opponent as if crowding.
Neither the Old Testament or the New Testament definitions are synonymous with worldwide death and destruction. What it means is pressure, to squeeze a pebble or stone until it cracks, to get pushed off a narrow path. We are on the narrow path. If you are a converted Christian, we are supposed to be walking the straight and narrow. Satan uses tribulation, trials, and tests all through our life to push us off the path, to get us to crack, and to get us to give up, because human beings are living stones. To be a living stone, you must be converted, so to be in the tribulation you need to be converted.
People in the world have wars and sufferings. We could say they are in tribulation, but they are not in this spiritual tribulation that Jesus Christ is talking about. One has to be called of God and given the Holy Spirit. Then one can enter the definition of tribulation as Christ uses it.
Matthew chapter 7, verse 13: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
There you go! We are on the narrow path. The wide way is what the world is on because they are under the total influence of Satan with only themselves to fight back with. We have the Holy Spirit if we are begotten of Jesus Christ. We can do spiritual battle with Satan, and he comes at us with tribulation to push us off the narrow path. Satan wants us to fail at our calling. He wants us to give up. He wants us to crack. I Peter chapter 2 gives us more information on this subject of being a stone and on a narrow path.
I Peter chapter 2, verse 4: “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Once we have accepted Christ and receive the Holy Spirit we are to be living stones, being built into a spiritual house.
Continuing in verse 6 of I Peter 2: “Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’ Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.’ They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.”
You were appointed. You accepted your calling if you were offered that calling and received the Holy Spirit. Then you are a living stone. Satan wants to crush that stone. Satan wants to push us off the straight and narrow path. He uses all types of tribulation to do it. It doesn’t have to be nuclear war. The apostles never faced nuclear war. They saw earthquakes. They saw persecution, and they suffered. We know what Paul went through. It was a tremendous amount of suffering. Revelation chapter 1 tells us something of John’s experience.
TRIBULATION 2,000 YEARS AGO
Let’s go to Revelation chapter 1, verse 1: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.”
Christ showed John what was going to happen quickly in his own life, and look what John says in verse 9.
Verse 9: “I, John both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
John was going through the tribulation as a prisoner in the mines on the island of Patmos. He suffered tribulation. That was 2,000 years ago. He knew Christ told him back in the gospel of John that he recorded himself that he would have tribulation. He said, Christ warned me about this.
Revelation 2, verse 8: “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”’”
Smyrna, which was the next church era after John’s, saw tribulation. We see tribulation has been going on for a long time. Satan clearly here was bringing tribulation on Smyrna. It says the synagogue of Satan. People had snuck into the church and were persecuting them from the inside.
The first thing we need to note from all this that we have said so far is the spiritual warfare is what the tribulation is. You must be converted and have the Holy Spirit and be on the path to salvation to be in the tribulation as Christ describes it. He did not change His mind about the tribulation in the Book of Revelation. It is the same as what we read in the gospels.
TRIBULATION WILL BE GREAT BECAUSE MANY WILL REPENT
What does occur at the end of the age? The biggest tribulation ever occurs. Why? Because this is a different time than the previous 2,000 years. This is the time when the world really is going to be offered salvation. It is a time when the world will have their minds open to the truth, so that they can be converted.
Turn to Revelation chapter 7. This takes away a lot of the fear and anxiety when you know the truth.
John says this in Revelation 7, verse 9: “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!’ All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.’”
You are looking at the largest mass of converted people in the history of the planet!
Verse 13 of Revelation 7: “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.’”
They came out of the great tribulation. They had their robes washed white, accepting the blood of Christ.
Verse 15: “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. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
It is an amazing set of Scriptures! It is the opposite of what people are getting out of this set of Scriptures. These are converted people. You cannot be converted if you are dead. Nuclear war ends all chance at conversion. This is an innumerable multitude who were able to make a conscious decision to accept the blood of Christ and have their robes washed, so they could praise God. They will be led to fountains of living waters.
Turn to John chapter 7, verse 37 where Christ is speaking of the Holy Spirit. “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
Revelation chapter 7 is talking about an innumerable multitude who are led to people who are considered the firstfruits, because they have the Holy Spirit first and have become fountains of living waters that the world can imbibe of. It is beautiful! Instead of terrifying, it’s beautiful. It is false doctrine and false premises that have gotten people off on the wrong track and have scared the wits out of them.
We need to understand what is spoken of in Revelation chapter 7:14—the great tribulation and great multitude. The word “great” in great tribulation comes from the word megas in the Greek (#3173, Strong’s Concordance, 1995) which means big in a wide variety of applications, comparable to the word in Greek meizon (#3187, Strong’s Concordance, 1995) which means larger or greater. We see a larger or greater tribulation. Larger and greater than what? It is larger than the number who were the firstfruits—the few who were called, as Christ said, before this time.
What is the definition of great multitude? The word “great” comes from the Greek word polus (#4183, Strong’s Concordance, 1995), so it’s a different word that is translated great. This word polus means much in any respect, plural, many and abundant. You see an abundant group of people that go through the tribulation, and Satan is going to try to push them off the straight and narrow. He will succeed miserably. He will not succeed because once the world understands how they have been deceived, they won’t be tricked. They are not going to kill each other in the name of God. They are not going to behead other people in the name of God. They are not going to hear “nuke ‘em” because they disagree with us. They are not going to answer the calls to new crusades because they will say, that’s not of God.
An innumerable multitude will wash their sins away in the blood of Christ’s sacrifice. It’s an innumerable multitude that is so large Satan will not be able to keep up with it himself. His demons will not keep up with it. There is nothing more powerful than truth, as Jesus Christ showed us at His temptation in Matthew 4. He fought Satan the devil with the word of God and not with nuclear bombs or any type of physical warfare. The truth will make us free, and the truth will defang the devil. The truth will help an innumerable multitude come to the knowledge of God and resist the devil.
The next time we are going to focus on Armageddon, and we will nail down exactly what Armageddon is and what it is not.
If you are hearing this for the first time and it seems to be different and you want more information, all you have to do is contact us. We have booklets, CD’s, and Bible studies that will help you understand and help you have the peace that Christ spoke of. You will have tribulation. Count it all joy, Paul said, because when you have tribulation, it means you are on to something. God has blessed you with some tremendous knowledge. He has given you the gift of getting your sins washed away, and you can receive the Holy Spirit of God and not be deceived by Satan.
It is not people who are deceiving other people, because they don’t know they are deceived. It is Satan. As it says in Revelation 12:9, Satan deceives the whole world. He is our enemy, and he is about to lose big time. We can be part of the solution by telling people the truth. Then they need to go study for themselves and answer the question: is God a God of love and peace, or a God of war and vengeance? Make your own decision. I know where I stand, because the Bible shows me that Jesus Christ is for peace. He has a marvelous plan to save this planet. Very soon His knowledge will cover this earth as the seas do now!