by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
“For your Maker is your husband — the Lord Almighty is his name — the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit — a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God. “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer. “To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
We have emphasized that the sanctuary is God’s master model of his plan of salvation. How will the plan of salvation end? What will take place before Christ comes to take us home? The Bible tells us that there will be a showdown. The Old Testament calls it the great tribulation. The New Testament calls it the war of Armageddon.
I know that there is a lot of confusion about the war of Armageddon, so I recommend that you read a very important book on this subject. It is a book that makes plain the Biblical teaching of Armageddon. It’s called Chariots of Salvation and it is written by Dr. Hans K. LaRondelle. It is an excellent book because we have a clear picture of the final showdown between God’s people and Satan. It is the conclusion of the great controversy between Christ and Satan.
Now to understand this, and to see what the issues are, we need to remind ourselves what the gospel is which we have been studying in this book. Paul tells us in Romans 1:16 that the gospel is the power of God; not the power of men but the power of God unto salvation:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
Matthew 1:21 tells us that that salvation is from sin:
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
Now sin is a big thing. If I look at sin in a legal sense, it is the transgression of the law. The law says that the soul that sins shall die. Ezekiel 18:4b:
The one who sins is the one who will die.
If I look at sin as a principle, it is a force that dwells in human nature, and Romans 7 deals with that aspect of sin. Paul calls it, “the law of sin in my members” or “sin dwelling in me.” We call it sometimes “indwelling sin.” It is a force that draws each human being. From the time you are born until the time you die, this force dwells in you. And this force, of course, is the principle of self. We are born, by nature, egocentric. The gospel must deliver us from this. Except for a few exceptions, every one of us, when we accepted Christ, we did it for a selfish reason.
When the devil comes to you with the power of self when you first accept the gospel of Jesus Christ, most of us accept the gospel for a selfish reason. It is either because we are afraid of the punishment or because we want the reward. Every one of the disciples accepted Christ for selfish reasons. Look at the gospel writings and you find that it is full of this. They were always arguing as to who would be the greatest. Peter said in Matthew 19:27:
Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
“We have forsaken all. What is our reward? What is in it for me?” That’s basically because of our human nature.
The gospel must deliver us from that egocentric motivation. As long as the disciples remained that way, God could not use them mightily. They were babes in Christ. The cross changed that. Once they saw the love of God manifested in Jesus Christ and they saw that Jesus was willing to say “good-bye” to life for their sake at the cross, they were transformed and, from then onward, they no longer served Christ with an egocentric motivation — either fear of punishment or reward. They served Him out of a heart of appreciation and love that transformed the church. We must serve God, not because we are afraid of the judgment or because we want to go to heaven but because the love of God constrains us.
This is what God is going to do at the end of time. He is going to produce a people who have been liberated from that principle of self. Not by the eradication of our nature. That’s false. But by giving us victory over self. That is why our last two studies have laid the foundation showing that there are two things that God requires from His people before the end comes, two things that prepare His people for the time of trouble [which we have covered in the last two studies]:
They must deny themselves. That must be in every area, not only in the bad things but also in the good things. In other words, the formula of the gospel is “Not I, but Christ.” They must totally become God-dependent. When the fourth angel, as shown in Revelation 18, comes and, with great power, lightens the earth with His glory, God will have a people that He will proclaim as given in Revelation 14:12 after the everlasting gospel has done it’s job; after God has delivered us from Babylon:
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.
Babylon stands for self. Remember what Nebuchadnezzar said in Daniel 4:30:
He said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
“Is this not great Babylon?” Who built it? “I!” With whose power? “I” For whose glory? “Mine.” And the voice came from heaven, “Your kingdom has been removed from you.” Daniel 4:31-32:
Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”
A few years later, Belshazzar did the same thing [see Daniel 5]. And this time, God said, “Babylon is fallen.” Wherever self is exalted, Babylon falls. The word “Babylon” comes from two semitic words: “Bab,” which is “gate,” and “el,” which is the semitic word for “God.” Babel, from which we have Babylon, means, “Men who are seeking to be like God by their own efforts.”
The tower of Babel is a good example. “We will save ourselves by building a tower that reaches to heaven.” Genesis 11:1-9:
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel — because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
The gospel is God coming down and saving man from his helpless and sinful condition. That salvation comes through the Lord Jesus Christ to each believer who says, “Not I, but Christ.” What will God declare when He has produced such a people who have no confidence in themselves and who are totally dependent on Christ? Here it is in Revelation 14:12:
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.
“Here is the patience of the saints.” Here are men and women who are able to endure all the fiery darts the devil can offer them.
The text goes on to give a second characteristic of God’s people: “Here are they who keep the commandments of God.” That has been a problem to us and I need to explain what the text is saying. The Bible speaks of commandment-keeping in two ways and we need to be clear. One is of the letter and the other one is of the spirit. Now what does the Bible mean by keeping the commandments in the letter? It means obeying rules. Conformity to do’s and don’ts. The Jews were experts at that. Paul was an expert in keeping the law in the letter when he was a Pharisee. So he says in Philippians 3:6:
...As for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
There are too many Adventists who keep the law to the letter. They have outward conformity to rules and they think that they are accepted by God. I tell you, God hasn’t changed. He looks at such keepers of the letter of the law just as He did at the Jews. And with the Jews, God was not pleased.
The other application is keeping the law in the spirit. Jesus explains the spirit of the law in Matthew 22:40:
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
It can be summed up in two words: “unselfish love”; in Greek, agape. Self-emptying love is the fulfilment of the law. All through the New Testament — as in Galatians 5:14 and Romans 13:10 — love is the fulfilment of the law. Galatians 5:14:
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
In Galatians 5:22-23a, we have the fruit of the spirit, which is “love”:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
All the other fruit are ramifications of love. The word “fruit” is in the singular. The fruit of the Spirit is agape and this agape expresses itself in purpose and all kinds of good things. Then Paul adds (Galatians 5:23b):
Against such things there is no law.
What does he mean, “There is no law?” These things are keeping the law. They are not against the law.
Can God produce a people who love God and who love their neighbor without any self motivation? Can God do the impossible? For God to do that, He has to do something that is contrary to our very nature. Can men produce oranges off of apple trees? No. Can God do it? Yes. God can even make a donkey speak. God can do the impossible. He presents His people who have endurance; who are resting entirely in God’s provision and who are keeping the commandments, not mechanically, not in the letter but in the spirit.
The third characteristic [from Revelation 14:12] is, “They remain faithful to Jesus.” That means they cling to Jesus. They will not give up even though the heavens fall. That’s the kind of people God is going to produce in the last days! He proclaims this and the adversary comes. He says, “Yes, they love you. They are faithful because you have built a hedge around them. You have protected them. You have given them all kinds of promises. Give them into my hands and I will show you that I will defeat this people.”
God says, “All right. I will let you have them. Do what you like with them. You can harm them. You can starve them. You can mistreat them. But one thing you cannot do. You can’t kill them. The rest you can do.” Satan says, “All right. I’ll get them!”
That is the issue in the great tribulation. The great tribulation is not God testing to see if you are living a sinless life. I tell you why. You will not know it. You will not know when God gives you total victory. I believe God will give you that victory, but you won’t know it. You will always feel as sinner. The question is, “Can God produce a people whose faith is unshakable?”
A good text that will bring this out is Luke 18. This is not the apostles speaking. This is Christ speaking. He tells a parable to the disciples about an unjust judge. Luke 18:1-8:
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
What Christ is saying in the parable is, “I want you disciples to hold on.” He is dealing with endurance. Don’t give up. Here is a widow who would not give up. She kept bugging the judge. Luke 18:7:
“And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?”
Here are people who are crying to God, “How long must we put up with this?” Luke 18:8a:
“I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”
God’s truth will be victorious. Then He said:
“However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find [He did not say sinless people] faith on the earth?”
That is our part. Victory is God’s part. You cannot overcome sin. That is God’s part and He is capable of doing that. That’s no problem to Him. The problem is us. Can God produce a people whose faith is unshakable? Can God produce a people who can say with Paul (Romans 8:38-39):
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
That is the issue. Turn to Revelation 6:17, where you have a similar question. Dealing with the second coming of Christ, John is asking in vision the question:
For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?
The answer is that God will have a people who will vindicate the power of the gospel, who will be willing to stand even though the heavens fall. This will be the great time of trouble and what will be the issue? Remember that the book of Daniel gives us the history of this world from the time of Daniel right up to the end of time. In Daniel 12:1, we have a statement that has to do with the time of the end:
At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people — everyone whose name is found written in the book — will be delivered.
Michael is one who is in charge of the angels, the Lord of hosts, which is Christ. “At that time Michael will arise.” Before that He was sitting. How long has he been sitting? We are told that when Jesus rose from the dead and went back to heaven, He sat at the right hand of God. How long would He sit there? Until He put all enemies under His footstool.
Now the final showdown has come. The war of Armageddon, which is the war of God’s people who call themselves Christians and Satan’s people who belong to the world. There will be a time of trouble. In Jeremiah 30:7, this time of trouble is referred to as the time of Jacob’s trouble:
How awful that day will be! No other will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it.
Remember that wrestling match that Jacob had with the angel? I don’t know how he was able to fight all night long. I used to wrestle when I was a youngster. Five minutes and I was wiped out. Genesis 32:24-28:
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
They wrestled all night long. What was the end result of that wrestling match? What happened? Did Jacob endure to the end? Yes. Did the angel dislocate his hip? I have never had a dislocated hip but I can imagine that it must be awfully painful. What would happen normally if your hip was dislocated in a wrestling match? You would let go of everything and grab your hip in agony. If a football player gets a broken or dislocated ankle, he lets everything go and grabs his ankle. But Jacob did not do that. He clung to the angel even though he was experiencing excruciating pain. He said: “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The angel blessed him and the angel changed his name from “Jacob” to “Israel” because “Israel” means “those who have prevailed.”
Turn to Isaiah 54:4:
Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
In other words, when you go through the time of trouble, you will be put to shame, you will be ridiculed, you will be persecuted. But when Christ delivers you, all that will be in the past. In Isaiah 54:7 we find the real issue:
For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
Do you know what it feels like when you are forsaken of God? Do you know what it means? It means that the hope of salvation goes. Let’s look at Christ on the cross. He cried out [Matthew 27:46 (or Mark 15:34)]:
About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
To Christ it meant no resurrection because the source of the resurrection was His Father and, when the Father abandoned Him, the separation was to be eternal. That’s what He felt. He felt — and I’m paraphrasing The Desire of Ages, p.753 — that sin was so offensive to God that the separation was eternal. He felt that there was no more resurrection. He could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him a resurrection.
There were two things which Christ faced:
Now which of the two won at the cross? Well, I’ll tell you what the devil did at that time. He came to Jesus three times: once through the soldiers, once through the high priest, and once through the thief on the left-hand side. Three times the devil said, “Don’t be a fool. The Father has forsaken you. You can no longer depend on Him. You must grab hold of your own power, come down from the cross, and save yourself.” Christ could save Himself but He would have to do it independent of the Father. It was no longer by faith. Jesus did not do it. By faith He was victorious! He said to God, “I will cling to you, even though I feel forsaken.”
When the time of trouble comes, you and I will feel what Christ felt on the cross. We will feel forsaken of God. Which means we will feel lost. That is why you should not dare look at your performance for assurance, because you will feel a sinner, too. Today your faith and your feelings may be partners, but, in the time of trouble, they will part company. Your feelings will say, “God doesn’t love you.” They will say, “God has forsaken you.” They will say, “There is no heaven for you. You are lost!” Your faith will say, “His love endures forever.” Your faith will say, “I have not forsaken you.” Jesus said that, “I will be with you until the end of the world.” Your faith will say, “You stand righteous in Christ.” Two opposite, conflicting issues. Your feelings this way. Your faith that way. The question is, “Which will be victorious?”
While you are going through that agony, the devil will come to you and he will make life miserable. He will say, “Why are you being loyal to God? He has forsaken you.” And you will feel it. He will say, “Look, forget God. Join my group. If you join my group, I won’t touch you.” By this time the devil has passed a decree which is a death decree. At midnight they should all be killed. There is a Passover issue again here. You are to be killed. Jesus said in Matthew 10:28:
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul [which means life]. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
In the time of trouble your feelings will say, “Join Satan’s group — the world.” Your faith says, “Don’t give up.” Before that issue can come up, God has to prepare a people whose faith is unshakeable. The sealing message is that people have settled into the truth of Jesus Christ as their righteousness. They are so clear about God and His love, so clear about His redemptive activity in Christ, that they know, not by feelings but by faith, that God will not forsake them. They know that they stand perfect in Christ. They know that nothing can separate them from the love of God. They will stand faithful. They will remain loyal to God. And the devil will come with great anger and he will produce that anger through the seven last plagues. Worldlings will say, “This is happening to us because of those few; let us kill them.”
We will be frightened. Let’s be honest, because the Bible says that we will be hiding in caves. But beyond our fear is our faith in Jesus Christ. And we will say inwardly, “I know in whom I believe, that He is able to save me to the uttermost, because my confidence is no longer in me but in Him.”
At the last moment, the worldly people rally together. Don’t think that you can save yourself by learning how to eat the weeds of the forest. The devil will get you one way or the other. The first thing to do when the time of trouble comes will might be to visit a Mormon house because they store food for two years. But really, that won’t help me. Those who have stored food will be the first ones who will be attacked for food.
We’ll be in caves, very frightened, just as the disciples were in the upper room. We will hear the voices of those who are coming to get us. Before they reach us, there will be an earthquake — a tremendous earthquake which will shake not only the earth but also the heavens. We will look up and suddenly we’ll see a cloud. It is Christ coming. I know what we will do and I want you to be in that group. We will come out no longer frightened; we will come out rejoicing and we will say, “This is the day that we have been waiting for. This is the day!”
When our enemies see all this, to them it will be the day of wrath! See Revelation 6:15-16:
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”
They will run into the caves that we have vacated and they will say to the rocks: “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.” To us it will be good news.
I am looking for that day when, through the power of the gospel, the gospel power will be vindicated. God will prove once and for all that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. He will produce a people who will manifest the self-emptying love of God.
However, that will not be the end of the showdown. The people will die at the brightness of His coming but the showdown will come to an end after the thousand years, when Christ will resurrect all of the wicked from the time of Adam onward. The final showdown will be when Satan will rally the human race against God’s people coming down with the New Jerusalem.
The real issue for you and me is not there at that time, because we will all be protected in the New Jerusalem. The real issue is whether we will be able to stand at the great time of tribulation. We will be able to stand only if we are rooted and grounded in the love of God and if our faith is not in ourselves or our performance but in Jesus Christ our Righteousness, Our Saviour and our Lord. It is my prayer that all of us will be part of that group who will vindicate Jesus Christ and His gospel. I’m looking forward to that day not because I will enjoy the time of trouble but because of how it ends. Isaiah 54:7-8:
“For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer.
“For a few moments I will forsake you.” It’s a small moment in God’s eyes but it may be like eternity to us.
It is my prayer that you will be among those who are gathered in and taken to God where we shall reign with Him forever and ever.
We are coming to the end of this world’s history. The stage has been set. The world is already polarizing into two camps. No longer can we sit on the fence. There will be those who belong to God and those who do not belong to Him. And those two camps will be based on two formulas. The believers will stand on the platform “Not I, but Christ,” and the opposite camp will stand on the opposite platform: “Not Christ, but I.” They are Babylon that is fallen. Babylon has made all nations to drink of the cup of self but we will stand on “Not I, but Christ.” It is my prayer that you will from now onward make that your platform, that you will be able to stand. This is my prayer in Jesus’ name.