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Signs of the End


Chapter Five

Signs of the End, book by David W. Dyer

A "Grain Of Wheat" Ministries publication

Written by David W. Dyer






Chapter 5: SUDDEN DESTRUCTION (Current Chapter)


The Bible teaches us that before the second coming of Jesus, certain signs will occur. Among these signs are certain kinds of natural (or even supernatural) disasters, sociopolitical events, and even heavenly spectacles. Although this is true, there is still some confusion about this subject. It seems that there may be some misunderstanding about what Jesus taught.

Many are pointing to current events and natural disasters of our day and proclaiming that they are the signs of the end for which we are looking. Yet this is not exactly what the Bible teaches.

Let us begin our investigation by taking a careful look at what Jesus taught us in Matthew 24, verses 3-8. Please remember as we read that this is only a part of what He taught. It is only the beginning of His discourse.

“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?’ 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. 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.’ ”


As this chapter progresses, we will be discussing some spectacular events which will occur at the end of this age. However, here there seems to be an important point to make first. That is: the many seemingly astounding events which have happened in world history, are occurring today, and will yet happen in the future, are NOT signs of the end. Instead, they are “normal” natural disasters, including wars, earthquakes, tsunamis, plagues, etc. which happen periodically on this planet.

Many believers see these events as indications that the coming of Jesus is near. But He warns us saying: “See that you are not troubled.” By this He means to say, don’t get worried, upset, or even excited about it. These things will naturally happen. To your mind, they may seem especially spectacular. You might be misled to think they are signs of the end, yet they are not. Jesus clearly said: “...but the end is not yet.”

When earthquakes, volcanos, wars, and tidal waves happen today, many believers mistakenly announce these things as signs of the end. Yet this is not the case. Instead of stating that these things are signs of the end, Jesus warns that we should not be deceived by them. These things have happened and will happen naturally through the course of time, but we shouldn’t get too exhilarated or imagine that “this is it.” Jesus forewarns us by saying: “...the end is not yet.”

Many erroneously believe that the earth exists in a static state in which weather changes, volcanos, floods, wars, etc. are exceptions. But this is not true. Instead, the world is now and has been constantly changing, experiencing throughout its history an almost uninterrupted series of alterations, natural events, and disasters. In fact, the more recent ones which many have hailed as signs of the end, have not been very large compared to things which have happened in the past.

The natural disasters which have occurred in my lifetime have all been minor compared to things which have happened in recorded history. For example, a few years ago there was a tsunami in Asia which had a wave of about 30 feet in height. Yet, there are evidences of tidal waves in the past, in different parts of the world, which have been at least 100 feet high – more than three times larger.

Just recently a volcano erupted in Iceland, interrupting air travel. But there have been volcanos much more powerful than this which have erupted in recent history. The volcano Krakatoa, in the South Pacific, exploded with such violence in 1883 that the blast was heard at least 3,000 miles away. (Some say even further.) This explosion was equal to about 200 megatons of TNT, 13,000 times more powerful that the nuclear bomb which destroyed Hiroshima. Nothing like this has happened in our lifetime.

In Siberia, on June 30, 2008 a comet or asteroid exploded over the earth. The results I am quoting from Wikipedia. “You can get a sense of the magnitude of this event by comparing observations made at different distances. Seismic vibrations were recorded by sensitive instruments as much as 1000 km (600 mi) away. At 500 km (300 mi), observers reported ‘deafening bangs’ and a fiery cloud on the horizon.

About 170 km (110 mi) from the explosion, the object was seen in the cloudless, daytime sky as a brilliant, sun-like fireball; thunderous noises were heard. At distances around 60 km, people were thrown to the ground or even knocked unconscious; windows were broken and crockery knocked off shelves. Probably the closest observers were some reindeer herders asleep in their tents in several camps about 30 km (20 mi) from the site. They were blown into the air and knocked unconscious; one man was blown into a tree and later died.”

If something like this happened in the middle of New York City or somewhere similar today, everyone would think the end of the world had come, but, “...the end is not yet.”

Another example is the “Black death” which hit Europe around 1348. This would perhaps qualify as being a “pestilence” and fit into Jesus’ teaching. Although there are no exact statistics, in three years, this plague killed between 50% to, some estimate, 80% of the population in the affected countries – a large part of Europe.

Just imagine something like that today. Many preachers would have a heyday. Everyone would be proclaiming the end of the world. But it wasn’t.

These are just a few examples of the thousands of terrible disasters which have occurred before you and I were even born. The things which we have seen in our generation have been, if anything, somewhat minor compared to those of the past. It is no doubt the mercy of God that nothing so enormously serious has taken place recently in some heavily populated part of the world and therefore taken millions of lives.

This very short list does not even come close to including the thousands of other events of the past which far outstrip anything which has happened in our times in terms of magnitude and destruction.

My point is that many Christians are getting all excited about things which are not signs of the end. They are simply natural disasters. I repeat: nothing has happened in my lifetime in terms of wars or natural disasters, which has been nearly as large, impressive, powerful, or awful as things which have happened in the past, some of them hundreds or even thousands of years ago.

The only thing different today is that our communications systems are much, much better. When something happens, the world knows about it within minutes, whereas hundreds of years ago, probably most of the world would never know what went on. Today, the news commentators oohh and aahhh and say how terrible something is, yet we often forget that all these things have happened before and are “normal” periodic occurrences in our present world. They are not signs of the end. They are at best “...the beginning of sorrows” (Mt 24:8).

Some insist that these disasters which we see today are increasing in frequency or even in power. But it is possible that what appears to be an increase in frequency – especially concerning earthquakes – is simply a result of better testing equipment and reporting. Arguments supporting more or stronger hurricanes, volcanos or plagues cannot be supported. It is simply not true that the events we see today are more frequent or more powerful than in times past.


My conclusion is that the real “signs” of the end will be far more dramatic and powerful than anything we, or previous generations, have witnessed. What we have seen so far simply is not it.

The true signs will be so spectacular that they will dwarf the others things which have happened in the past. We read in Luke 21:25: “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, [like] the sea and the waves roaring [in a terrible storm].”

Of course, I cannot predict what these things will be, but one can imagine some pretty horrible possibilities. As mentioned in another chapter of this book, the “fourth seal” of Revelation chapter 6 could indicate some widespread, nuclear exchange or attack, impacting one fourth of the earth. The judgments of the seven trumpets and seven bowls are also astoundingly severe.

Revelation chapter 8:7-10 speaks about a huge fire which destroys one third of the earth, a possible meteor or underwater volcano which poisons one third of the sea; another meteor, comet or something similar which poisons one third of the fresh water. Chapter 9 mentions what seems to be a universal plague of stinging insects (although they could be something else).

Further in Revelation chapter 16, we read about malignant sores, the sea and the waters turning to “blood,” an out of control, scorching sun followed by darkness, huge earthquakes, etc.

It seems possible that the earth will even be knocked off its axis – possibly by a collision with a meteor – and, as a consequence of this: “The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall totter like a hut” (Is 24:20).

These are only a few of the events which the Bible predicts will happen in the near future. What is coming on this earth will make today’s disasters look very small and insignificant, even the most spectacular ones.


Here we come to a very important point. These genuine signs – the larger, more far reaching ones which truly signal the end – will begin suddenly. Instead of a steady increase in natural disasters which will warn the population, the true signs will commence very abruptly, without warning, at a certain point in time which only God knows. This suddenness of the “end,” including the events and plagues which will come, is very biblical. We read: “For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” (I Thess 5:3).

Please notice three important things about this passage. First, everyone is clamoring for “peace and safety” or even proclaiming that they have finally achieved it. This shows us that the world is going to be taken by surprise. They have no idea of what is coming and may even imagine that things are getting better.

Here is a real “sign” for us to look for. This is a clear indication that we are near the end. When the world thinks that it has its problems solved, when many presume things are coming under control, when the leaders imagine that they have finally sorted things out, it is then that these enormous, unprecedented catastrophes will begin. It is when they least expect it that these calamities will come.

Second, as already mentioned, this destruction will be “sudden.” It will come without warning. No one will be expecting it except those few who have an intimate communion with Jesus. This time is coming “...as a thief in the night” for which no one is looking (I Thess 5:2). It will take the inhabitants of the world “unawares” (Lk 21:34). It does not seem that there will be a gradual build up of natural calamities which will warn and prepare the world for what is coming. Instead, it will begin “suddenly” and without warning, except for those who have spiritual eyes.

Thirdly, there will be no escape. Once these events begin to unfold, there will be no turning back. There will be no stopping. There will be nowhere to run or hide. When God begins to pour out His judgment, it will be time for the inhabitants of this earth to make their peace with God.

Another verse which teaches us that the coming divine judgments and disasters will begin at a time of “normalcy” and peace are found in Matthew 24:38,39 where we read: “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

We also read: “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (Lk 17:26-30).

These passages do not convey the idea of a series of ever increasing catastrophes and natural disasters which warn the inhabitants of the earth of impending judgment. It seems these people are living normal lives. They are doing the things people always do in time of peace and prosperity.

Instead of being increasingly troubled by various “signs” warning them of the coming judgment, they seem to be oblivious to what is about to occur. This confirms that the coming judgment at the time of the end will be both sudden and completely unexpected.

Jesus Himself says: “Behold, I come as a thief” (Rev 16:15). Thieves do not announce their arrival. They come at the exact time when the fewest people are watching for them. It will be the same way with Jesus’ coming. God’s word will be fulfilled.


Before the catastrophes of the end times begin, the men and women of the earth, including especially those in government and authority, might imagine that they are ready for whatever might happen. They may believe that they can cope with whatever comes along, be it hurricane, flood, earthquake, famine, or war.

Due to today’s technology and resources, they may suppose that they can deal with almost anything. Of course they will acknowledge there might be some loss of life, but they may expect that they, along with the rest of the world, will be able to deal with anything which arises.

However, this will not be the case. The events which will signal the end of this age will be far larger than anyone will be able to cope with. They will be catastrophes which will outstrip anything which the world has seen since the second verse of Genesis. They will be so far out of human control, so much greater than anyone could imagine, that no one will know what to do. “And there will be...on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, [like] the sea and the waves roaring [in a terrible storm]” (Lk 21:25).

The leaders of the nations will not have a clue what to do. People will simply be freaking out. They will be totally at a loss for answers and in profound fear and perplexity. Jesus seems to describe this as what it would be like being caught in a tremendous storm at sea where a ship is beyond human control and is at the mercy of the wind and waves. It is possible that many will die of heart failure just because of the news of these catastrophes.

No doubt, in the beginning, many will have ideas and opinions, but when wave upon wave of disasters begin to strike, everyone will be powerless to do anything. The time of God’s judgment will have begun.


At this time, conditions will become perilous. In the resulting confusion, many will do things which under normal circumstances they would never think of doing. The pressure of their situations will push them to drastic, desperate actions as they try to save themselves from suffering and loss. Societal norms will break down. Law and order may disappear. In such stressful situations, the evil which is hidden in the hearts of men and women will come to the fore. Their flesh will bloom and become evident.

The pressure of what is coming will bring out the worst in mankind. The sudden presence of Satan and his hordes on the earth as they are cast out of heaven will exacerbate this situation (Rev 12:12). This state will reach such a point that people will think nothing of killing or betraying others if it means their own safety and/or security.

In Mark 13:12,13, we are warned: “Now brother will betray brother to death [this could be natural brother or Christian brother], and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all men for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”

Matthew echoes this sentiment saying: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake “ (Mt 24:9).

During such a time of trial, believers will need to modify their behavior and thinking. Those who suffered during many years of Soviet domination and persecution, or under the past Nazi occupation of Europe could teach us many lessons.

One thing we must quickly discover is how to depend on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When everything is in confusion, including a good part of the church, we must lean on Jesus. We must let Him govern every thought and action. He, and He alone, must become our guide so that we can walk though such times in His peace.

Another thing we must learn is not to trust others. That’s right. In such perilous times, you can’t talk too much. Information you share with others may be extracted from them by betrayal, loose talk or even torture. The Bible teaches us that in such extreme tribulation, even your spouse should not be trusted with everything. The prophet Micah warns us: “Do not trust in a friend; do not put your confidence in a companion; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your bosom” (Micah 7:5).

I would like to recommend that all believers read some books by others who have gone through such difficult times. Books such as The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and others give important insights as to what may happen in such extreme situations of persecution and war.


If, as this author is suggesting, the occurrences of earthquakes, famines, wars, plagues, etc. in various parts of the world are not the signs which we should expect, what signs should believers look for to be aware of where we are on God’s timetable?

A few of the true signs have already been mentioned such as everyone clamoring for “peace and safety.” This is a reliable sign. Also, earlier in this book we discussed what is known as the great “falling away” or apostasy. This too is a certain and clear sign of the end.

In another place, Paul describes what the people of the end times will be like. Here is another solid clue. He details the attitudes and actions of those who are alive just before the end. If, while reading this passage, we recognize ourselves and this present generation, then can have one more sure sign that we are near the end.

We read: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors [covenant breakers], headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts...” (II Tim 3:1-6).

Wow, what an evil bunch of people! Unfortunately, this describes accurately the very generation in which we live. Even worse, these attitudes and actions are very much like what we find in the church today.

In fact, it may be that Paul was not trying to describe the condition of worldly folks at the time of the end, since they are and always have been a fallen and sinful race. Instead, it seems that these people mentioned here have “a form of godliness.” They appear to be people who proclaim themselves to be Christians.

How then does this compare with what we find in the churches today? Is self-love (vs 1) not only practiced but even taught as being desirable and right?

Are there those in the ministry who not only are amassing money for themselves but also inducing others to chase after riches? Are any of today’s Christian leaders proud, arrogant, and boastful about what they have done or even about what “God has done through them?” Are any of them dripping with an air of self-importance?

How about finding some church members who are unholy, who are defiled with sin and yet justifying themselves? Or, can we identify some who are unloving? Could it be that members of the church today don’t forgive others when they are misused or offended?

Is it possible that we could find “traitors” or “covenant breakers?” (This means those who break their vows or don’t keep their word and could easily apply to the subject of divorce.)

How about backbiting and slander? Can it be found among those who claim to be God’s people? Are some headstrong or stubborn? Is it possible that some are pursuing their own entertainment and pleasure rather than the will and kingdom of God? Are the young people involved in extramarital sex with one another, disgracing the name of Jesus and their own testimony? Are many leaders luring married and/or single women in the congregations into their beds to satisfy their own lusts?

If all this and much more is rampant in the church of our day, then it is certain that we have arrived at the fulfillment of prophecy, both of the above verses and those which we discussed at length in the last chapter, concerning the great “falling away” or apostasy.

Paul admonished us to “turn away” from such “believers.” It is not that we should not love them or minister to them when time and chance permit, but it is unhealthy for our spiritual lives to become involved with them. It is not prudent for us to maintain relationships and have communion with them as if there were nothing wrong.

This is because such ungodly activity easily influences us. When we are constantly with others who do not live by God’s life, it is easy for our flesh to rise up and demand gratification also. When our companions are backslidden and living in sin, it undermines our commitment to Jesus and our desire to live only for Him. Paul admonishes us: “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’ ” (I Cor 15:33).

This is an inalterable spiritual truth. Don’t play around with it. Don’t fool yourself. If you choose the rebellious for your companions, you too will be influenced.

If you associate with those who have compromised their consciences by indulging in the things of the world and are playing around with sin, you will soon fall into it yourself. This is exactly what Jesus predicted will happen toward the end of the age. In Matthew 24:12, Jesus, prophesying about what conditions will be like in those days, says: “And because lawlessness [sin] will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” What love is this? It is our love for Jesus and our love for one another.

When others, who profess to be Christians, are allowing sin to dominate them, it is a contagious situation.

All of us still live in a fallen body and have carnal desires against which we war. So when we see others indulging in the things which our own flesh desires, this easily weakens our resolve. We readily begin to justify sins in ourselves when we see others practicing them.

Such activity destroys our fellowship with Jesus. It begins to trouble our conscience and make it hard for us to enter into and remain in the presence of God. Little by little, we fall away from the only relationship which can change us into Christ’s image.

In the above verse we learned that the last days will be “perilous times.” Why is it that they will be so perilous, especially for believers? One reason is just exactly the situations about which we have been speaking.

One danger or peril is that the backsliding of others will suck you too into darkness and sin. It will induce you also to do things which you know are wrong, but which your flesh is longing to do. It will rob you of your transformation and ongoing salvation by deviating your heart from God and damaging your relationship with Him. It will result in your being ashamed when He comes.


As we studied in the last chapter, two important signs precede the end of this age. The first was the great apostasy. The second was the revealing of the man of sin (II Thess 2:3). This means that the Antichrist will be seen and known for what he is before the day of Jesus’ return.

It is not clear from the word of God exactly when the Antichrist will be “revealed.” Some think it will be at the beginning of a seven year period known as the tribulation. Others speculate that it will be in the middle of this time, three and one half years before the end.

But there is no verse which demands either of these two interpretations. It is possible that the identity of the Beast will be clear to those who are intimate with God many years before the events which will mark the beginning of the tribulation. Those with spiritual eyes should be able to recognize him before he assumes power or begins his persecution of the saints.

It is extremely probable that the vast majority of Christians will not recognize the man of sin until it’s too late. Due to erroneous teaching and perhaps just plain indifference, many are not looking in the right direction for the rising up of this “beast” or are simply not looking at all. Therefore, the persecution and slaughter of millions of believers will take them by surprise.

I would like to urge the readers to read or review my previous book Antichrist for more information about this relevant and important subject.


Another important sign is the restoration of Jerusalem to the Jews after many years of Gentile domination. We will begin our investigation in Luke chapter 21. Here Jesus is teaching His disciples about the signs of the times and the end of the age. As part of this dissertation He says: “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things are fulfilled” (Lk 21:32).

This verse has been the subject of much debate. Just what Jesus meant by “this generation” is often disputed. However, it seems clear that this must include the generation which sees certain signs. Among these signs is that: “...Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles [remain in the possession of the Gentiles] until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Lk 21:24).

In 70 A.D. the Roman general, Titus, conquered and destroyed Jerusalem. Beginning at that time until recently, it has been under “Gentile,” rather than Jewish domination. But in 1967 the older, historic part of the city of Jerusalem fell into the hands of the Jews again, after almost 2,000 years had passed. This event is without a doubt the fulfillment of the above mentioned pronouncement of Jesus.

This then would tell us that the end will be within one generation of this event. (Some have mistakenly begun their calculations from the time when Israel became a nation, ie. 1948. But the verse here specifically says “Jerusalem,” not Israel.)

But just how long might this be? The exact words which we have read in Luke are “this generation will by no means pass away.” If we take the approximate world average, today a man lives about seventy years.

So we must be looking at a period of years which is less than this, let us say about 60 years. If we begin at the year 1967 and add 60 years, this leads to the date of 2027. Using this calculation, we would expect the fulfillment of all these things and the return of the Lord before that year.

Please remember, we are not trying to give an exact date here. We do not presume to know the day or the hour (Mt 24:36). These thoughts only give us some possibilities.

The only reliable source we have to confide in is Jesus Christ. He is the One who will be showing us what we need to know. It is only if we are walking in intimacy with Him, that that day will not “come on you unexpectedly” (Lk 21:34).


Another clear prediction which Jesus taught us is that in the last times, there will be false Christs and false prophets. Although we do not, at this moment, see great numbers of false Christs, we are witnessing a profusion of false prophets.

What then constitutes a false prophet and how are we to recognize such a person?

One of the clearest indications of a false prophet is that this individual is preaching things which people want to hear. He or she is not speaking anything which might convict of sin or cause the hearer discomfort. They are always saying smooth and convincing words to make those who hear them feel more positive, more hopeful, and better about themselves.

The false prophet is not necessarily saying anything which could be clearly demonstrated as anti-biblical. It is not that what they say is completely wrong. The problem is that they simply pick and choose texts and verses to prove what they want to say and what they hope to be true and leave out those things which might indicate something different or difficult.

You see, a false prophet is not speaking words which come from the heart of God. He has not been in intimate communion with Him, heard His word, and then transmitted it to His people. Instead he is speaking out of his own heart. He is saying things which he wants to be true and which he believes others will appreciate too.

God warns us about such prophets saying: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord’ ” (Jer 23:16).

We also read: “And the Lord said to me, ‘The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their [own] heart’ ” (Jer 14:14).

Many who are preaching or prophesying today are not speaking the word of the Lord. Their words do not reflect what is on His heart. Instead they speak what they and others want to hear and hope will happen. “They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord!’ But the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope that the word may be confirmed” (Ezek 13:6).

Every false prophet has a motive. He has strayed from the truth because, in his heart, he wants something. He desires to be seen and heard. He longs for fame. He is yearning for recognition, accolades, followers, and even money.

Therefore he modifies his words and tailors his messages to appeal to those who hear him. Such a person has left off hearing from God (if indeed he ever had heard from Him) and began using his or her prophetic gift for their own purposes, to gratify their own desires. This, dear friends, is the essence of a false prophet.

Unfortunately, today’s church is full of such prophets. They are pursuing their own ends and using the Bible and the church of God to achieve them. There are, among today’s popular preachers, some who carefully craft their messages to attract followers. They tout prosperity, healing, success, etc. to attract those who long for such things, often adding in some spurious “manifestations” and pseudo miracles.

Although these messages may contain some truth, they leave out the “whole counsel of God.” They omit suffering, the cross, perseverance, selfdenial, becoming a servant of others and not yourself, and many other essential ingredients of the true gospel. Thus, taking only a minor part of Jesus’ message and presenting it as the whole, they distort the truth and mislead others.

Incredibly, great numbers of believers will be taken in by these prophets. Jesus has already predicted that they shall “deceive many” (Mt 24:11). They often become popular, wealthy, and acquire large followings. Yet, you don’t need worry too much about this. It is bound to happen. It is simply another sign of the end.


The book of Revelation begins with the revelation of Jesus Christ in His glory. Next He dictates to John some letters to be sent to seven churches. Some have understood these letters to refer to the church’s spiritual condition down through the centuries since the death of Christ. They see a progression of seven stages or phases through which the church has passed.

Although this may be the case, it is also true that all of these letters apply to the condition of the church around the world right now. It is easy to find groups which display any and all of these conditions today.

Consequently, these letters, including their warnings, admonitions and promises are all for us in this generation. All of us would do well to read them carefully and receive what our Lord is speaking to us through them.

Next, we have described for us a series of events which are provoked by the breaking of seven seals. These seals are on a scroll which no one can open except Jesus Christ. It is my view that this scroll is full of judgments. No one can open the scroll because none of us is worthy to judge others. Since we are all sinners, we are not qualified to judge.

However, since Jesus lived a pure and righteous life – a life without even one sin – He is worthy to open the scroll and set in motion the judgments of God on this earth.

As the seals are opened, one by one, a series of events begins on the earth. However, here we encounter an interesting thing. The last, or seventh seal does not appear to be any specific event, but rather seems to precipitate another series of events. The final seal becomes, or gives rise to, seven trumpets. Here we understand that the seventh seal actually is the seven trumpets.

These trumpets in their turn each signal some judgment or catastrophe. Yet the seventh trumpet also has no specific event associated with it. Instead, it unfolds as being the beginning of another series of seven events, i.e. the seven bowls of God’s wrath. So we see that the seventh trumpet actually is the seven bowls.

The final three trumpets also have another name. The are called “woes.” Perhaps they are called “woes” because it is then that the judgments of God begin to become extremely severe.

I am including a little graphic here to help the reader understand this better.


diagram to help understand the seals bowls and trumpets of the book of Revelation in the Bible

These three series of events seem to accelerate as we progress from the seals to the trumpets and then to the bowls. That is to say, the times between the first few seals seems to be a question of years but getting shorter as the last seals are broken.

The timing of the trumpets is much faster. These events seem to be separated by months instead of many years.

Next the bowls are poured out in rapid succession. There is not time enough between these judgments for the population of the earth to recover from the last one before the next is on its way. The Bible compares this series of events to “birth pangs” (I Thess 5:3) which start slowly and then increase in frequency and intensity until the baby is finally born.

During the descriptions of the judgments and events precipitated by the seals, trumpets, and bowls, we occasionally encounter what could be thought of as “asides” or intervals. The ongoing series of seals, trumpets and bowls are periodically interrupted by the narration of other important revelations.

For example, some of our earlier chapters are examinations of these kind of visions. The revelation of two witnesses and the man-child are sort of sandwiched in between the series of judgments about which we have been speaking. Also included in these “intervals” are: the tribes sealed (ch 7), an angel with a scroll (ch 10), the beasts from the land and the sea (ch 13), the Lamb and the 144,000 (ch 14), the harvest of the earth (ch 14), the multitude on the sea of glass (ch 15) and Babylon (ch 17,18). Some of the most interesting and important revelations of John’s vision are transmitted to us by the things described in these “intervals.”

It does not seem that events included in these “intervals” are given in chronological order. That is to say that they do not seem to fit in time exactly with where they appear among the trumpets, bowls, etc. I don’t believe that we need to understand these events as occurring exactly at the time they are mentioned relative to the other judgments.


Many people wonder whether or not the church will go through the “great tribulation.” The answer is: “Of course it will.” The Bible plainly states this truth. We are taught that the rapture or “resurrection of believers” will occur at a specific time. This time is at the sounding of something called “the last trumpet.” We read: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (I Cor 15:51,52).

Here we have a clear and indisputable fact. The rapture will occur at the sounding of the last trumpet. But wait. There are seven trumpets which sound during the “tribulation.”

Therefore, without becoming totally illogical and willfully blind, we must understand that the “last” trumpet is either the same as the seventh trumpet of Revelation or a later eighth trumpet which is after the seventh. This would place the time of the rapture very near the end of the tribulation (the seventh trumpet) or at the very end (a later, eighth trumpet which is not mentioned).

To try and put the “last trumpet” before the seven in the book of Revelation is to violate all reason and proper use of language. If you put it before, it cannot be the “last.” Instead it would appear to be the first. In order to be the last, it has to indeed be the last. It cannot be before the others.

Although there are those who, using some desperate theological juggling, try to make this “last trumpet” part of another group of trumpets which do not relate to the end times, this is a vain attempt to try and make the Bible say something which they wish it said and not simply taking it at face value.

Another clear passage which tells us the exact time of the rapture is found in Matthew 24:29,31 where we are told: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days...He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

Please notice the trumpet sounding here. This must be the same as the “last” trumpet mentioned earlier. Consequently, this can only refer to the rapture of the church and the resurrection of the dead believers. Although some insist that the “elect” here must be only Jews, there is no scriptural basis for this. This word “elect” is used in the New Testament many times to refer to all believers including Gentiles, not specifically Jews.

The main argument which many seem to use to insist that the church will not go through the tribulation goes something like this: God would never pour out His wrath upon His children. Therefore, they can’t be on earth during this time.

This assertion has some biblical basis. We read: “For God did not appoint us to wrath...” (I Thess 5:9). See also I Thessalonians 1:10 and Romans 5:9. Of course the Bible does not contradict itself, so we must find in its pages solutions which harmonize all verses which relate to this topic. In order to do so, there are a few things we must take into account.

First, God does not pour out what is actually called His “wrath” until the very last part of the tribulation. This wrath is contained in the “bowls” (Rev 15:7; 16:1-21).

As we have seen before, these seven bowls of wrath are the same as the seventh trumpet. As we have mentioned, this trumpet could be, and very likely is, the “last trumpet” which signals the rapture. If this is so, then the church is caught up, not before the tribulation, but before the wrath of God is poured out.

Second, in Revelation 7:2 we told that the servants of God will receive a seal on their foreheads. This seems to occur just after the sixth seal is broken. The purpose of this sealing is to protect God’s servants from the coming judgments.

We learn this in Revelation 9:4 where we read: “They [the locusts] were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree; but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.”

Although it is stated that those who are sealed are from the tribes of Israel, this is not our point. What is clear here is that God seals some of His own for the express purpose of protecting them from His judgments. He does not remove them from the earth, but seals them and protects them through these trials.

It is beyond doubt that our Lord is able to protect His own, even in the midst of great judgments. The story of the children of Israel in Egypt is a good example of this. It seems that after the third plague, God did not allow His judgments to fall on His people. We read in Exodus 8:22: “And in that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there...” Here we have a clear example of how God can safeguard His own, even the middle of severe plagues.

Therefore, it is logical and biblical to assume that God has other ways of protecting His children from His wrath which will be poured out besides simply whisking them away beforehand.

Therefore we must conclude that the argument which insists the church must be gone before the tribulation begins, has two serious flaws. Firstly, it violates the two previous passages which tell us the exact time of the rapture. Secondly, the logic behind it does not take into account God’s great power and ability to shield His people, even in the middle of judgment.


Although we have established that God’s wrath will not be poured out on His children even in midst of the Great Tribulation, there is another side to this coin. It is abundantly clear that God has not in the past and does not today, protect His children from every kind of suffering. Countless believers have suffered in the past and are still suffering today every kind of pain, torture, deprivation, and temptation known to man.

Stephen, one of the early disciples was stoned. Since that time, men and women of God have experienced every imaginable kind abuse and suffering. Some have been burned to death. Others have been skinned alive. Some have been raped, beaten, starved, humiliated, decapitated, buried alive, and undergone every conceivable kind of torture and agony. If you have the courage to read it, in Fox’s Book of Martyrs you will find the details of many of these incidents.

God did not protect these people. Instead He allowed them to suffer. Yet no one should be surprised by this. The fact that God’s children can and do suffer is something which He has predicted. He says: “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” (Jn 16:33).

In another place He says: “Then [at the time of end] they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake” (Mt 24:9).

So we see that tribulation is something which Jesus warns us will come. Every believer should be prepared for this. We must not imagine that God will protect us from every kind of persecution, tribulation, and death. This is simply not so.

Nothing could be done to you before or during the coming great tribulation which has not already happened to many other believers who have gone before. Certainly God does not love us who live in this age any more than He loved those of the past whom He allowed to suffer such things. Consequently, the argument that the church will avoid the coming great tribulation because God would never allow His children to suffer tribulation or persecution is not valid. As previously stated, He will not pour out His wrath on them. But that does not mean that He will not allow them to suffer in the great tribulation or undergo extremely severe persecution.


It is perhaps beyond many believers’ conception, but the Bible teaches us that God will actually give special permission to the coming Man of Sin to persecute the church. It is written: “It was granted to him [the Beast] to make war with the saints and to overcome them” (Rev 13:7).

Who then “granted” him this power? It is God Himself. He is the only One in a position to grant such a thing. This is something that will occur during the coming great tribulation. The “saints” mentioned here must be believers since this very word is used no less than 60 times in the New Testament to refer to Christians.

Why would God do such a thing? Perhaps an illustration would help here. My wife loves to cook, so it’s not surprising that we often have people over for dinner. It is also not infrequent that, when the dinner hour is drawing near, the roast in the oven is not yet done. So what does she do? She goes over to the oven and turns up the heat.

It is clear that the hour of Jesus’ return is coming nearer. It is perhaps even more clear that the church is not ready for this event. She is not without spot or wrinkle (Eph 5:27). In fact, she is in a very poor spiritual state, lacking holiness and many other godly virtues. So what is God going to do? He is going to turn up the heat. He going to use the world and the coming Beast to help perfect His bride and get her ready.

We read: “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rm 5:3,4). And also: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (Js 1:2-4).

So you see that tribulation, suffering and testing produce rapid spiritual growth and the changes in our character which God is desiring to see. These are the means which our Father is going to use to help those who are today serving themselves and not getting ready for His coming. Persecution and tribulation will motivate them to seek Him desperately, which will accelerate their growth and preparedness.

Dear brothers, it is difficult for me to write these things, but we must be ready for what is coming. We must adjust our thinking to face the rapidly approaching events of the end times. We cannot just live in an imaginary world like a fairy tale where everyone lives happily ever after. Tribulation, suffering, and martyrdom is imminent. You can count on it. Therefore, seek the face of the Lord for His grace to prepare your heart to get ready for what is about to occur. Also, we must be willing to take any physical and practical steps which He might direct.

Peter admonishes us: “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin...” (I Pet 4:1). Oh dear believers! You must “arm” yourselves spiritually. We are admonished to prepare ourselves emotionally and mentally so that we are ready for what is coming upon the earth.

I would like to include in this section a story I heard about some of the believers in China. That is a part of the world where believers are today suffering tribulation and persecution. In one group, upon hearing that a fellow brother had been martyred for his faith, many of the brothers and sisters were found weeping.

A visitor tried to console them saying something like: “Don’t worry, you’ll see him again with the Lord, etc.” The weeping ones responded: “Look, you don’t understand. We aren’t crying for him. We are weeping because we were not thought worthy to have lost our lives for our Savior as this brother did.” How does this compare with the attitude of your heart today?


As we study the Bible, we are led to an astounding conclusion. Very few people, including both believers and unbelievers, will survive the coming end times. It is possible that as few as 2% or less will be left. If today the total number of people in the world is about 7 billion, this would leave only about 140 million, or fewer, alive on the whole earth after everything is finished. These survivors will probably be found in small scattered pockets here and there with perhaps some individuals also dispersed around the globe.

This is truly a shocking statement. How could a person arrive at such a drastic conclusion?

Let us look at some verses which appear to teach this. In Isaiah chapter 24, we find some startling clues. From the context of this passage, especially verses 1-6, it seems clear that this describes the earth at the time of the end after experiencing great judgments and destruction.

Verses 13 reads: “When it shall be thus in the midst of the land among the people, it shall be like the shaking of an olive tree, like the gleaning of grapes when the vintage is done.” Then verse 6: “...And few men are left.”

In the days when this passage was written, olive oil was an important staple, as was wine. The olives were harvested by sending boys or small men up into the branches of the trees to shake them as hard as they could. The ripe olives fell to the ground where they were collected. Very few olives were left hanging on the branches since these represented both survival and money for those harvesting. Only a few hidden and/or unripe ones remained.

The grape vines too were carefully searched for grape clusters which represented the coming year’s supply of wine for the region. Even so, there were always a few grapes which remained hidden behind a leaf or other obstruction. This is the analogy which God gives us to explain the magnitude of the coming loss of human life. Very, very few will remain.

It is clear that these harvesters would leave as few fruits as possible. They would collect all they could. If they missed ten percent of the harvest, it would be a lot. A more reasonable number is about two per cent. Remember God’s warning. He says: “And they shall not escape” (I Thess 5:3). We also read: “For by fire and by His sword the Lord will judge all flesh; and the slain of the Lord shall be many” (Is 66:16).

Another passage also speaks about this time. God says that so many will be slain that a human being will be as scarce as gold and a male human being even more rare. We read: “I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, a man more than the golden wedge of Ophir” (Is 13:12).

The reason that more women will survive than men is undoubtedly related to the fact that men more often serve in armies, many of which will be destroyed.

So dear brothers and sisters, with all this in mind, let me ask you: Where is your heart right now? Are you clinging desperately to this life here on earth and the things of this world? Are possessions, family, entertainments, and wealth more important to you than the kingdom of God? Is your mind “set on things above” (Col 3:2) or on things here below? What captivates you right now, the invisible things or the visible (II Cor 4:18)?

These are serious considerations. The time is at hand. There is no time left to play around with the things of God and our relationship with Him. I believe it is time, right now, in view of all these things, for believers to examine their hearts before God.

Let us allow Him to search us and try us. Then let us repent for anything and everything which He shows us that is not prepared for and longing for His coming. Only in this way will we be able to remain faithful during the coming perilous times and stand before Him clothed in white (Rev 7:14).

It is conceivable that during at least part of the coming tribulation, some believers will be protected by God. We read that the “woman” who gives birth to the manchild (discussed in chapter three of this book) has a “place prepared by God” (Rev 12:6). There she is fed and kept from the great “flood” of persecution with which the devil tries to destroy her.

However, this number cannot include all believers everywhere since we later read that the dragon “went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commands of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev 12:17). These can only be Christians.

Even in the case of the fleeing woman, it is obvious that her life will not be easy or comfortable. She has fled from all familiar surroundings and normal comfort. She is far from friends and family. She finds herself in the “wilderness” which is certainly not a five star hotel.

It is probable that this group of God’s fleeing people will also experience great hardship, difficulty, fear, and suffering, even if for a season they are spared from death.


From our study, it seems inevitable that a large number of believers will be martyred or die of other causes in the coming perilous times. There is just no way around this conclusion. Yet there remain some questions.

How will we face these things when our turn comes? What will our attitudes and actions be? Will we deny Jesus? Will we betray others? Will we scream and whine when things get scary and hard? Will all this pressure cause our carnal nature to bulge out in all directions?

Many believers who have gone before us have faced death and hardship with faith, peace, and Christ’s victory. They have overcome the devil and their own fleshly reactions, even when faced with death. Their actions have glorified their Savior who selflessly gave His life for them.

Of course such fearless acts are not natural. They do not belong to the flesh or this world. Only the life of Jesus in us can overcome in this way.

Some may think the suggestion that we need to face the possibility of death, persecution, or martyrdom is un-Christian or even just wrong. They may see it as harsh, frightening, and not normal. They may be offended and imagine that a loving God would never have such a future for us.

Yet what these folks overlook is that Jesus Himself warns us of just such persecution. He alerts us to the fact that our faith may well cost us our lives. He says: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and shall kill you...” (Mt 24:9). And also: “...yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service” (Jn 16:2). In fact, there are many places in the world today, where choosing to believe in Jesus is a question of life or death. There are those who, when they believe, must face this very choice. If and when they are baptized or otherwise declare their faith in Christ, they are subject to assassina

tion, even by members of their own family.
The fact is that for believers to face paying this kind of price for their faith may be more normal than the present state of affairs in much of the “western” world. It could be that the easy, comfortable, safe Christianity which so many take for granted is an anomaly and that facing persecution and death has been more the norm for believers for most of church history. Perhaps we are the ones who are wrong.

The time of the end is at hand. It will be a time of severe testing and trial of our faith. It will be a time of deep heart searching and important decision making for many who have been coasting along in their Christian life. It will be a time of looking death and suffering in the face.

Therefore brethren, it is time to seek Him with all of our hearts. It is time to put away every and all distractions. It is time to give ourselves to Him totally and without reserve so that He can transform us, filling us with all that He is. Only in this way will we be ready for what is coming.

Brethren, with all these things in mind, let us meditate together on the following passages which speak directly and clearly to us who live at the end of this age:

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night...Therefore... what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God...be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless...” (II Pet 3:9-12,14).

On one hand, the coming events of the end times are frightening. On the other hand, they are encouraging because we know that the consummation of God’s plans is soon to be accomplished. We will soon be glorified together with Him and reign with Him in His kingdom. Consequently: “...when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Lk 21:28).

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:1-2). 

End of Chapter 5

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