“After these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands. Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever. The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.”
The image that comes to mind when we read the details of the seven last plagues described in Revelation 16 is not a pretty one: foul and loathsome sores, every creature in the sea dying, all the rivers and streams turning to blood, incredible sunburns, pain so severe that people gnaw their tongues in anguish, hailstones weighing almost 130 pounds. The mind’s eye can hardly conjure up an image that encompasses such pain, misery, and destruction.
It will indeed be a terrible time, referenced in two very familiar Bible texts.
“For thus says the Lord:
‘We have heard a voice of trembling,
Of fear, and not of peace.
Ask now, and see,
Whether a man is ever in labor with child?
So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins
Like a woman in labor,
And all faces turned pale?
Alas! For that day is great,
So that none is like it;
And it is the time of Jacob’s trouble,
But he shall be saved out of it’ ” (Jeremiah 30:5–7).
“At that time Michael shall stand up,
The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people;
And there shall be a time of trouble,
Such as never was since there was a nation,
Even to that time.
And at that time your people shall be delivered,
Every one who is found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1).
Both of these texts—Jeremiah and Daniel—refer to what Adventists rightfully call “Jacob’s time of trouble,” or more commonly, “the time of trouble.” But notice how each of these passages ends. Daniel says, “And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book,” and Jeremiah says, “But he shall be saved out of it,” “he” being Jacob, a symbol in this instance of God’s people—those, as Daniel noted, whose names are written in the book of life.
Although this will be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, and although it will take extreme faith to endure the troubles that arise during this awesome time, God’s word gives us great hope, great assurance, and great promises that we can confidently claim that He will see us through this unprecedented period of time. Let’s look at just a few of those promises.
- First of all, note that the person for whom this time is named survived his personal time of trouble by claiming God’s promise. On Jacob’s return to his homeland, when he feared Esau’s attack, he reminded God of the promise He had made to him. In Genesis 32:9 we have Jacob’s prayer in which he reiterates that promise: “Then Jacob said, ‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, “Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you …” ’ ” Jacob claimed this promise that God would “deal well” with him, and He did! That is essentially the same promise that God gives to His people in Daniel—“your people shall be delivered,” and in Jeremiah—“he shall be saved out of it.” Jacob was also undoubtedly aware of the promise that God had made to Abraham and that had been repeated to Isaac and himself that God would make of them a great nation. Surely he recognized that for that to occur, God would have to see him through this threat from Esau, although that realization did not make Esau’s approach any less foreboding.
- When the seven last plagues come, the saints will have a place to hide. Psalm 91 provides a litany of some of the most encouraging promises in all the Bible. The entire psalm offers a wealth of comfort, but since we are addressing the plagues of the last days, consider only verses 9 and 10, which specifically address the plagues of God’s wrath:
“Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling.”
Here the psalmist provides a very specific promise for a very specific time.
- Scripture makes it clear that God will provide us with the necessities of life during the time of Satan, in his effort to make God’s people—indeed, all people—break the fourth commandment, will succeed in preventing anyone who refuses to accept his mark from buying or selling. Nevertheless, God assures us in Isaiah 33:15, 16 that bread and water is assured for each saint “who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, … who despises the gain of oppressions, who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed, And shuts his eyes from seeing evil.” It is a wonderful promise, but one—like all promises—with conditions. The specific condition in this specific instance is that the recipient of this promise must be one who “walks righteously.” Only those who are obedient to all of God’s commandments can be thus considered.
- In Daniel 12:1, it is made clear that this time of trouble will be such as has never before occurred on earth. With this forewarning, what is a wise Christian to do? Proverbs 22:3 tells us: “A prudent man foresees the evil and hides himself.” God, in His almost incomprehensible mercy, has forewarned His people and given us type and antitype of the protection from destruction that He so lovingly provides. Just as the children of Israel were protected by the typical blood of the lamb when they spread it on their doorposts, we are protected by the antitype: the blood of the real Lamb of God. Isaiah 26:20 gives us an illustration of the actions the prudent man takes as he by faith claims the protection that the antitypical blood provides: “Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past.” Colossians 3 describes in detail what is involved in entering by faith that chamber of safety and being hid with Christ in God.
- Daniel 12:1 notes that those who are saved from this terrible time to come are those whose names are written in the records in heaven. By taking advantage of the provisions given us so plainly in God’s word, we can be assured that our names are indeed written in the Book of Life, and Revelation 3:5 tells us that “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” When we surrender our will to God’s will and determine to walk the narrow way, serving God in whatever capacity His providences lead us, our names are entered into that heavenly record.
- In Revelation 12:12, we are given this warning: “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” Too often, Adventists dwell on this threat, failing to remember that God is bigger than the devil. We can be assured of this, if we need any assurance, because God banished the devil from heaven. But, we also need to remember that the devil is stronger than any of us. However, if we follow the counsel of 2Corinthians 3:18, beholding the face of our loving Saviour, rather than dwelling on the works of Satan, we will become more and more like Jesus. Let us remember the counsel Paul gives us in Philippians 4:8. Whatsoever things are honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report—think on these things. Malachi 3:16, 17 sums up this concept: “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name. ‘They shall be Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.’ ”
It is important that all engage in self-examination from time to time to be sure that we have not concentrated so much on Satan’s sinful attributes that we have inadvertently incorporated vestiges of those traits in our character. By beholding, we become changed. Are we beholding the lovely character of Christ, or the unrighteousness of Satan?
- The Bible indicates clearly that as we near the end, the Lord is going to slowly but surely withdraw His Spirit from this world and that the love of many will grow cold. The Bible-believing Christian sees evidence of this more and more clearly with each passing day. However, even in the face of this irrefutable evidence of the approach of “that day,” we need not fear. The Lord has given us sufficient evidence of His power for this time, too. It is up to us to ask for, believe, and claim this promised power. Matthew 7:7 tells us to ask and we will receive. Mark 11:24 repeats that promise: “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” In Luke 11:13, the Lord has promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, and Inspiration tells us that this gift brings all other blessings in its train. Among those blessings are love, joy, and peace, exactly the blessings we need to maintain our walk on the narrow way during the time of trouble.
- The final promise we will look at is a special one for those who have family members, especially children, who have lost their way and departed from the path of truth and righteousness. Surprisingly, it is the prophet of doom who provides some of the most reassuring and comforting promises about this heart-breaking situation. In Jeremiah 24:7, the prophet writes, “Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.” When you claim this promise and read it to yourself, substitute your child’s name in the appropriate place. It then reads, “Then I will give [your child] a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord, and he shall know My name, and I will be his God, for he shall return to Me with his whole heart.”
We can use the same principle with Jeremiah 31:16, 17: “Thus says the Lord: ‘Refrain [Mom and Dad], your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded,’ says the Lord, ‘And [your children] shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope in your future,’ says the Lord, ‘that your children shall come back to their own border.’ ”
There are indeed some rough waters ahead over which we must sail. However, come what may, we have a promise and an anchor. What more can we ask for? God Himself has promised us safety and victory. Notice this last promise from Isaiah 43.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I gave Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
Since you were precious in My sight,
You have been honored,
And I have loved you;
Therefore I will give men for you,
And people for your life.
Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your descendants from the east,
And gather you from the west” (Isaiah 43:2–5).
And finally, let us remember always that God will keep in perfect peace those whose mind is stayed on Him, because he trusts in Him (Isaiah 26:3).
All Bible quotes NKJV unless otherwise noted.
John R. Pearson is the office manager and a board member of Steps to Life. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.