Sudden Death

“Concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 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. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” 1 Thessalonians 5:1–6

Suppose a sudden disaster occurred on planet earth, and all life came to an end except for one – you. The whole planet, everywhere you look, the cities and the great works of mankind are broken down and burned, utterly destroyed; only their charred remains, like broken skeletons, are left. There is no electricity, so there are no telephones, televisions, radios, no newspapers or magazines, no stores or food, no cars, buses, trains or planes. Who won the presidential election or the Super Bowl or the World Series, your promotion and all your fancy possessions, all your relationships are totally meaningless. Everywhere you look are the bodies of people, animals, birds scattered over the face of the earth. Many of them unrecognizable, many remaining just as they fell. The whole world is deafeningly silent and dark. Suddenly all of man’s proud accomplishments are now a thing of the past. And only you are left to survey it.

This will one day happen on planet earth. We find it spoken of in Jeremiah 25:31–33: “ ‘A noise will come to the ends of the earth—for the Lord has a controversy with the nations; He will plead His case with all flesh. He will give those who are wicked to the sword,’ says the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Behold, disaster shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the farthest parts of the earth. And at that day the slain of the Lord shall be from one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth. They shall not be lamented, or gathered, or buried; they shall become refuse on the ground.’ ”

Isaiah describes it further in chapter 26, verse 21, “For behold, the Lord comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain.” All the dead, human, animal, and fowl, will be left lying on the ground, not to decompose, but to remain, preserved as they died, for all the years of the millennium.

We also see in Jeremiah 4 that there will be no light. The sun will not shine, and it will begin to be very cold. There will be no rainfall or snow. In this way the earth will become like a frost-free freezer, preserving the bodies of the dead. Jeremiah says, “I beheld the earth, and indeed it was without form, and void; and the heavens, they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and indeed they trembled, and all the hills moved back and forth [this is Jesus’ second coming (Revelation 6)]. I beheld, and indeed there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens had fled. I beheld, and indeed the fruitful land was a wilderness, and all its cities were broken down at the presence of the Lord, by His fierce anger” (verses 23–26).

This is a description of when Jesus has come and taken the righteous with Him to heaven. God blots out the light of the sun for a thousand years and earth becomes a deep freeze, a place of perpetual preservation for those souls who died from the brightness of His coming. “Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine. ‘I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible’ ” (Isaiah 13:9–11).

But one soul, Satan, is left behind to live on this planet amid all the destruction during this thousand year period. Revelation 20 calls this earth “the bottomless pit,” and verses 1–3 tell us that an angel comes down from heaven “with the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.” The angel binds Satan to this devastated earth, this bottomless pit, for a thousand years. He has nowhere to go. With no one to deceive, he is left to wander this earth in darkness, to stumble among the fallen bodies of the dead and the remains of the broken cities.

At the end of the thousand years, Revelation 20:3, last part, says, “But after these things he must be released for a little while.” Jesus returns to the earth for the last time. He brings back with Him the light of the sun and all the wicked who had no part in the first resurrection will be raised to receive their judgments.

Let’s look back to the time before these unbelievable catastrophic events happen and see how God prepares us for them.

God is not willing that any should perish. He would love to save every soul who has ever been born. He wants to wake up the inhabitants of the earth. Sadly, only a very few respond. For most, in spite of all that God will do, they will not be awakened. In the days of Noah, only eight out of the whole world were saved, but God will still put forth every effort, His heart of love using any means to save every soul who will choose to be saved.

God uses prophecy to leave signs that we can recognize as we draw closer to the end. Seeing these signs, we can realize the end is near and prepare our lives. Prophecy warns us of judgments, but also extends the invitation to be saved from the wrath of God. The disciples asked Jesus when they should expect the last days and His coming. His response is found in Luke 21:9, first part: “But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.” [Emphasis supplied].

Jesus says there will be wars. When World War I and World War II were fought, many people thought the end might be near. Had they read their Bibles, they would have read that there would be wars, but Jesus says that even after these things happened, “the end will not come immediately” (Luke 21:9, last part).

He continues in verse 11: “And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.” God now withdraws His sustaining hand from a sin-filled world as it sinks lower and lower day by day. He has shielded the world for thousands of years, but no longer. The world will begin to experience calamity upon calamity.

There have been disasters in the world throughout its history, and many have made the history books, but the difference between these past disasters and those we experience today is the rapidity with which the disasters come and their worldwide prevalence. Life just doesn’t exist for very long without a disaster somewhere in the world. It is an undeniable fact that today, disasters are rapidly increasing as we have never seen before. People don’t know what to expect next. The Bible says this would be so.

Revelation 17 and 18 describe for us the judgments that God has brought and will bring against the inhabitants of the earth, throughout history and through to the end of time. In Revelation 18:4–7, the angel says, “Come out of her, My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow.” The Bible says the first will be last and the last first (Mark 10:31). And those who have been the richest will become the poorest and those who have been the most glorified will become the most dejected. Those who have been the most blessed will be left the most ravaged. “Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire for strong is the Lord God who judges her” (verse 8). The Bible says it will come quickly, suddenly. She’ll be sitting as a beautiful queen and suddenly there will come disaster upon disaster.

This method of judgment is coupled with the message of the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. Revelation 14:6 and 7 reveal the second method used by God to wake up the people of the world: “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come, and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.’ ”

Jesus tells more about these disasters to come upon the earth in Matthew 24. After talking about famines, pestilences and earthquakes in various places, it says that these are the beginnings of sorrows (verses 7, 8). Verse 9, first part: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you.” It is when the disasters go forth that God’s message is also going to go forth to the world. The desire is that people will be moved to accept Christ, but instead, their anger is aroused and their conscience is pricked and instead of accepting the message, they turn against the messengers. “… and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another” (verses 9, last part, 10).

Yes, by and large, the world’s response to the invitation to accept the Lord will be no. While God is trying to wake people up, Satan is working to keep them asleep; and he has more success because most of the inhabitants of the earth are already his children. The Lord is using His two methods of judgment and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, but the devil has many ways of keeping people asleep. Jesus speaks of these in Luke 21:34–36. He says, “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Satan keeps people so occupied with the things of this world, the cares of this life, that many are barely surviving and they don’t think they have the time to prepare for what God is telling them to expect.

Matthew 24:37–39 gives us the example of how it was in the days of Noah, “ … 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” (verse 38). For 120 years Noah preached the message of sudden destruction and for all that time the majority of the people just went about their daily lives. They heard that the flood would come, but the devil was so successful at keeping them consumed with the things of this life that “the flood came and took them all away.”

The devil succeeded so well then that he is doing it again. But there is more. As he keeps us focused on the things of the world, the environment, society, politics, he surrounds us with the sights and sounds of evil until our hearts grow hard and we become insensitive to the sinfulness around us. “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (verse 12).

Another effective method used by the devil is opposition from our family and friends. “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will send some of you to your death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake” (Luke 21:16, 17). Matthew 10 also speaks of this in verse 21: “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.” But the devil isn’t finished.

While he keeps us occupied with the things of the world so that we don’t have the time to prepare our lives, while evil is all around us and our hearts grow hard and careless and while we are receiving opposition from those we love and care for the most, there comes a great revival, one that will deceive almost everyone. “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). Now we see in 2 Corinthians 11:13, 14 that Satan becomes directly involved: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” He tells the people of the world that it is time to get ready for Jesus to come. We’ve seen the signs and now it is time to get ready. Where past revivals have been opposed, rejected, this revival will be accepted by all, almost.

There is a difference between Satan’s revival and God’s revival. God’s revival leads to sacrifice of self, obedience to God’s law, a change in life and character. Satan’s revival is based on emotion and excitement. The elements of a revival will be seen, but these things are not the result of the working of the Holy Spirit. “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9). There will be power, plenty of power, signs and many disasters, all meant to help bring about this revival.

A call to come to the altar and accept the Lord, to be saved and accept His miracle working power and the Holy Spirit will go out and people will come; but it will not be the Holy Spirit that they will receive. It’s a deception we find in verse 10: “And with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” They have a love of religion, a love for preaching, a love for miracles performed, and a love for what they believe to be the Holy Spirit, but they do not have a love of the truth. “And for this reason God will send them a strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (verses 11, 12). The devil will deceive them to believe that they are saved, that everything will be okay. They will be given a false confidence in their own experience rather than confidence in their relationship with Jesus Christ.

Many religions today that have created teachings of their own based on another spirit that is not according to the Bible and the Bible only, have many sincere believers who believe that they have a love for the truth, but what truth? The Bible teaches that the purification and perfecting of our characters and lives are the necessary preparation for what is soon to come upon the earth. But the beliefs of these religions, for instance the Mormon Church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Catholic Church, are based on teachings not found in the Bible. They are taught that it is okay to do many things that are contrary to the Bible including that the Sabbath should be Sunday and preparation for the end does not include character perfection. The Bible tells us that the spirit of anti-christ claims the power to change God’s law. Thus we must assume that these religions are being influenced by the devil or one of his agents.

If nothing else works, the devil has one final tactic to keep us in a lost condition. We read about this in Hebrews 12:2, 3: “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. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” Have you ever been discouraged? The devil will work to bring discouragement in your life, but the Bible says when this happens to look to Jesus, and you will find courage and strength.

Luke 13:25 says that the time will come when the Master of the house will shut the door. Looking again at Noah’s day, the Lord shut the door then, too. What did that mean? Those who were not inside the ark were shut out. We find this applicable today in Matthew 7:21. It says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” There are many who listened to preaching week after week and heard the Holy Spirit speaking to them. They have prophesied and done many wonders in the name of God, but they find themselves now hearing the words from Jesus, “ ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’ ”(verse 23).

Why would Jesus say this to them? Because the preparation they had made for the end was not the necessary preparation. It is needful to have a love of the truth, to surrender our lives to the in-working of the Holy Spirit, and to seek to do the will of God and obey His law.

An incalculable number of people have died over the course of this world’s history. Many will be raised to life at Jesus’ coming. But the 144,000, those still living when Jesus comes, will be found with God’s character, His name written in their minds. Every person can develop God’s character. Not one sinner has fallen so low that God cannot make them over again, give them a new life, a new heart, a new mind and a new character. There’s not one person who cannot stand before the throne of God faultless and pure and holy, clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Imagine being sick and only having a month to live. If I were facing only a month of life, I think I would be very serious about what I did during that month. Would you? I’d want my heart pure and cleansed. I’d want to spend time in the Bible and on my knees asking the Lord to give me a heart like His.

The 144,000 are those who have looked only to Jesus as their perfect example. Those who are alive on the earth when Jesus is revealed are going to be like Him. They will be permitted to sit with Him on His throne because they will have had His experience. Revelation 3:21 says, “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame.” “Those who place themselves under God’s control, to be led and guided by Him, will catch the steady tread of the events ordained by Him to take place.” Testimonies, vol. 7, 14.

The devil works determinedly to keep our focus on ourselves and the things of this world that are important to us.  He will even use our families, our jobs, and other necessary aspects of this life to keep us too busy to have time for what is spiritually needful. This statement found in The Great Controversy, 625, has always meant a great deal to me. It describes the need for watchfulness, prayer and Bible study in spite of how much the devil is trying to keep us otherwise occupied: “Only those who have been diligent students of the Scriptures and who have received the love of the truth will be shielded from the powerful delusion that takes the world captive. By the Bible testimony these will detect the deceiver in his disguise. To all the testing time will come. By the sifting of temptation the genuine Christian will be revealed. Are the people of God now so firmly established upon His word that they would not yield to the evidence of their senses? Would they, in such a crisis, cling to the Bible and the Bible only?”  Maranatha, 160. “Satan will, if possible, prevent them from obtaining a preparation to stand in that day. He will so arrange affairs as to hedge up their way. …” Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, 443.

Everyone will be tested. Everyone will have to decide – Christ or Satan.

“Christians should be preparing for what is soon to break upon the world as an overwhelming surprise, and this preparation they should make by diligently studying the word of God and striving to conform their lives to its precepts. The tremendous issues of eternity demand of us something besides an imaginary religion, a religion of words and forms, where truth is kept in the outer court.” Conflict and Courage, 260.

We cannot imagine the disasters that will yet take place on this earth. But we are given hope in Psalm 91: “ ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him will I trust.’ … A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you. … 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. … He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him” (verses 2, 7, 9, 10, 15).

Pastor Marshall Grosboll, with his wife Lillian, founded Steps to Life. In July 1991, Pastor Marshall and his family met with tragedy as they were returning home from a camp meeting in Washington state, when the airplane he was piloting went down, killing all on board.