If you’ve read the book of Revelation, one of the questions that may have come to mind is: How do the persecutors know certain people have turned to Christ? There are three sets of martyrs in Revelation. What is it that points to these new believers, i.e. those who have come to the Lord following the Rapture and are in the midst of the Tribulation?
It’s an interesting question because once an initial group of newly minted Christ-followers have been identified and destroyed for their faith, others who subsequently come to the Lord would see this persecution and avoid the things that expose it to the wicked of the day. Wouldn’t they?
The effect of the Rapture is the stepping aside of the Holy Spirit so that lawlessness might rise. It’s not that the Holy Spirit completely departs from the earth; what apparently occurs is that He no longer operates as He has in the Church Age. Of course, in our Age of Grace, the Holy Spirit indwells believers. After the Rapture, the implication from Scripture is that He doesn’t do that anymore. Instead, it appears that He comes upon these new believers similar to what He did in Old Testament times. The other inference we draw is that there will no longer be church as we know it. This makes sense since true Christianity will be at extreme odds with the prevailing thought and culture; thus, Christians won’t meet in the exposed manner that we do today.
As stated above, much persecution is foretold in Scripture during the Tribulation. Especially if Christians aren’t gathering, how do people who hate them see them for what they are?
I’m convinced the book of Acts provides some clues. In our reading for today, Barnabus and Saul (called Paul for the first time ) travel to and minister in Cyprus. They encounter a government official who is open to hearing the Gospel. However, he has an advisor who is described as a false prophet and magician. As such, he is clearly operating in the power of Satan and is far from God.
When the proconsul hears the Word of the Lord, Elymas opposes this truth and does whatever he can to keep Sergius Paulus from believing and walking in true faith. This obviously irritates Paul to no end. It incites righteous anger in him, and he confronts Elymas. Sparing no words, Paul denounces the man in Acts 13:10-11:
… “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand.
This is harsh, but certainly no more so that when Ananias and Saphira lied to the apostles and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5); it’s no worse than later in Philippi when Paul denounced the evil spirit in the slave girl whom wicked men used to profit through her divination (Acts 16).
In the case of Elymas, there don’t appear to be any negative ramifications for Paul’s calling down blindness upon the man. However, just as in all these incidents in which Paul and the other apostles operated in miracles, signs, and wonders, you can surely bet that the religious Jews were watching. And that’s the point.
The apostles were operating in the power of the Holy Spirit. He brought them into situations whereby they could demonstrate the truth and power of God in Christ Jesus. What was true then will likely be replayed and magnified in the Tribulation.
Although the Holy Spirit may not indwell believers at the time, He will certainly operate in power. He must. The darkness will be so overwhelming then that the light must intensify its brilliance. How else will people be convicted of their need to turn to the Lord? The Gospel message will go forth from the 144,000 witnesses, the two witnesses in Jerusalem, and the angel flying throughout the earth. But Satan’s work will be exceedingly strong. God must show Himself greater and worthy of the allegiance of the world.
As such, I think that believers at this time will be performing such miraculous feats that they will easily come to the attention of those who hate Christ. Their light will shine so brightly that it will be like a spotlight upon them. It may be that they’ve been so convicted in their faith, that it’s such a fire burning in their bellies, that they must be obedient to heal and preach, and through that, draw attention to themselves.
The world will see and hate. This will bring such immense persecution upon them that they will be martyred in droves. Why else, even early in the Tribulation in the 5th Seal Judgment are we given this description in Revelation 6:9?
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.
What an amazing witness this will be to cause so many to die for Christ!
In these latter years, we in the church have largely failed to be salt and light to our dying culture. During the Tribulation, that will reverse. Men and women will rise up and stand for the Lord. They will be the witnesses that Jesus wishes we had been during this final time of the Church Age. These believers will know the cost of their faith. They will not hide their light under a basket.