In the late 70’s I saw “The Omen,” a Hollywood movie about the Antichrist. After the movie, I almost shaved my head to check for the “mark of the beast” for fear that I might be the Antichrist, like Damien, the kid in the movie who had a crazy 666 birthmark on his scalp.
In the late 70’s, many thought the pre-tribulation rapture would happen in 1988—one generation after the founding of the modern State of Israel, and right before the seven-year Great Tribulation, during which time the temple would be rebuilt and re-destroyed by a renewed Roman Empire under the direction of the Antichrist so that Jesus could come back and accomplish what He supposedly didn’t accomplish the first time around. Make sense? The second time around, He would be different . . . so they said.
I began to secretly dislike Jesus and wanted to save myself from Jesus, and His Great Tribulation . . . and I sure didn’t want the Omen.
In Rev. 6, at the opening of the sixth seal, everyone runs from Jesus . . . but NOT because He’s changed. Instead, they see that He’s eternally unchanged; He’s still the slaughtered Lamb.
In Rev. 7, before the 7th seal is unsealed, 144,000 are sealed—”sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel.”
They are the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16), what Paul called “the Church.” They are sealed with the Holy Spirit and have learned the “new song.” Some call this “Replacement Theology,” but the 12x12x1000 don’t replace Israel; they fulfill and fully fill Israel.
Israel was “blessed to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth.”
But Israel did not trust God for her own salvation and, therefore, did not extend the blessing to all. She believed that Salvation belonged to her.
The Church may be guilty of the very same sin, even in the very same place. The spirit that believes “salvation belongs to me,” is the spirit of the imitation Christ—the Antichrist.
John sees the 144,000, and then he sees “a multitude that no one can number.” They are the multitude that we saw in the beginning and that we will see coming down in the End; they have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. They sing, “Salvation belongs to our God.”And I bet they learned this new song from the 144,000.
The elder says that they “are coming” out of the Great Tribulation.
Our journey through this wilderness-world is the Great Tribulation.
What’s so great about the Great Tribulation? It destroys the lie that Salvation belongs to me, and reveals the Truth: Salvation belongs to our God.
To avoid tribulation is to avoid learning the new song; it is to be “left behind.”
When you sing, “Salvation belongs to our God” in the midst of great tribulation, you become “the Omen” (Phil. 1:29) that destroys the Antichrist and reveals Jesus Christ to a watching world.
*Discussion Questions are available for this sermon here: Discussion Questions “What’s So Great About the Great Tribulation?”