Monthly Archives: January 2018

Will There Be a Global Harvest of Souls at the End of the Age? A Hint from Revelation 11

Christians are divided on whether or not there will be a mass, global ingathering of souls at the end of the age. There may be a hint that could help us in Revelation 11:13. There we read:

“And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.”

We know that the “hour” in view here is the time of the end when Christ returns. That point is generally agreed upon by all who have studied Revelation. So let’s take note of four things that are said to occur in conjunction with the end of the age.

(1) First, “there was a great earthquake.” Similar terminology occurs in Revelation 6:12 (the sixth seal) and 16:18 (seventh bowl) where the last judgment is beginning to unfold. Is it a literal earthquake or a symbolic portrayal of the fall of earthly kingdoms as Christ brings his judgment to bear upon them? I don’t know.

(2) Second, “a tenth of the city fell.”

(3) Third, “seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake.” If the two witnesses are linked to the ministry of Elijah, the 7,000 who die may be the just equivalent of the 7,000 faithful who “did not bow the knee to Baal” (cf. Rom. 11:4).

But these are odd numbers. If this is a global judgment at the time of Christ’s return, why does only one-tenth of the world city fall and why are only seven thousand people killed? Ah, be patient, the answer is coming!

(4) Finally, “the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.” The question once again is whether this “terror” or “fear” and the subsequent “glorifying” of God describes an expression of saving repentance and faith in the God of heaven. I believe it does! Almost identical terminology occurs in Revelation 14:7 (“fear God and give him glory”) and Revelation 15:4 (“Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?”). Both of these texts have in view saving fear and acknowledgement of God.

We should also take note of Revelation 16:9 where the unrepentant are described in these terms: “they did not repent and give him glory,” the point being that “to give God glory” is to repent. In fact, in Revelation “to give God glory” always refers positively to a saving response on the part of people (see 4:9; 14:7; 16:9; 19:7).

There is yet one more thing we must note, and I owe these observations to Richard Bauckham (The Climax of Prophecy). He believes, and I am inclined to agree with him, that the numbers “1/10” and “7,000” indicate that the conversion portrayed here is of the vast majority of the lost, not a paltry few. That is to say, there is in the events of Revelation 11:11-13 an indication of a great, vast final global harvest or revival of souls!

In the OT God’s judgment typically falls on the vast majority of people and only a tiny remnant is saved or delivered. That remnant is often described as only 1/10th (Amos 5:3; cf. Isa. 6:13, where in its present context the tenth part is the righteous remnant). The figure of seven thousand alludes more specifically to Elijah’s prophetic commission to bring about the judgment of all except the seven thousand faithful Israelites who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:14-18; cf. Rom. 11:2-5).

In other words, John here in v. 13 reverses the arithmetic! It is typically a small number whom God saves and a large percentage that God judges. But here in Revelation 11:13 it is a small percentage that God judges and a vastly larger percentage that God saves!

So, if only a tenth of the world-city falls under judgment, nine-tenths of the city fears God and gives him glory. If only 7,000 are killed in the judgment of the earthquake and the rest fear God and give him glory, it would seem as if John is describing a vast global harvest of souls coming into the kingdom at the end of the age.

Psalm Eighteen (Part Three)

Psalm 18:4-6

The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears (NIV).

Next, David sang about the desperate situation from which the Lord had rescued him. We don’t know the tune to which these words were sung, but a minor key would have been a good choice. In this broken world there are many times that we will be melancholy and downcast. This is unpleasant. David was not ashamed to write about the dark times of his experience. He wanted his people to face cold, gloomy reality.

This is very unlike some of the songs I learned in Sunday School in my childhood. Here is a one: “I’m in right, out right, up right, down right, happy all the time. I’m in right, out right, up right, down right, happy all the time. Since Jesus Christ came in and cleansed my heart from sin, I’m in right, out right, up right, down right, happy all the time.” I assume that the teachers wanted Sunday School to be a warm, welcoming place. And after World War II, the Korean War, and during the Cold War, they themselves probably wanted to escape from the horrors of life. However, the song did not present an accurate view of life or what the Lord promised his people in their walk with him. The point is not to fill the hearts of children with terror, but it is to say what is accurate.

Accuracy about life and God’s ability to deliver fill this psalm. David started the song on a positive note. Then, in the verses quoted above, he described the reason God’s might was needed to rescue. In the English of the NIV, depressing “D” words pile up to make his point: death… destruction… distress. The word translated grave is the Hebrew Sheol, the invisible realm of the dead, from which only the Lord can deliver. David piled up words to announce that he was totally dependent on God, apart from his mighty power, he was certain to die. Until we understand our desperate need, we will not cry out to the Lord to save. David wanted people to feel how bad his case was. Unless the living God had intervened, he was dead.

In this apparently hopeless situation, David did what people who believe in God do. He prayed. Notice again the personal relationship he claimed with God: I cried to my God for help. Because he knew God, he brought his requests to God. He knew that God heard him. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. God has compassion on us in our trials. He may not answer the way we want or expect, but he does act as we pray. David wrote to give God’s people words and ideas for us when we cry out to the Lord. He wanted them to know that in the bleakest times, God hears and cares and helps his people. Don’t give way to despair. God might well have closed one way for you. But he who will not lead you one way will lead you another, as you trust in him. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6 CSB).

Grace and peace, David