Saved Alive Through the Great Tribulation
“These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”—REVELATION 7:14.
1. Who will greet the resurrected ones in the earthly resurrection?
WHEN untold millions are raised in the ‘resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous,’ they will not be brought back to life on an empty earth. (Acts 24:15) They will awaken in beautifully improved surroundings and find that living quarters, clothing, and an abundance of food have been prepared for them. Who will make all these preparations? Clearly, there will be people living in the new world before the earthly resurrection begins. Who? The Bible indicates that they will be survivors of the coming great tribulation. Of all Bible teachings, undoubtedly this is one of the most intriguing—that some faithful ones will be saved alive through the great tribulation and will never have to die. This hope is well attested to in the Holy Scriptures.
As the Days of Noah
2, 3. (a) What similarities are drawn between the days of Noah and our time? (b) What is pointed to by the survival of Noah and his family through the Flood?
2 At Matthew 24:37-39, Jesus Christ made a comparison between the days of Noah and the last days, where we now find ourselves. He said: “Just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.”
3 The global Flood swept away all who paid no attention to God’s warning message. It did not, though, sweep away Noah and his family. They “entered into the ark,” as Jesus said. Because of their godly devotion, Jehovah provided them with a way of escape. Second Peter 2:5, 9 refers to the survival of Noah and his family when it says: “He [God] . . . kept Noah, a preacher of righteousness, safe with seven others when he brought a deluge upon a world of ungodly people. Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial.” Jesus drew a comparison between Noah’s day and the last days to show that people in general would not heed God’s warning message. Nevertheless, in doing so he also confirmed that Noah and his family obeyed Jehovah God, entered the ark, and survived the great Flood. Survival by Noah and his family points to the survival of God’s faithful servants at this world’s end.
A First-Century Pattern
4. In fulfillment of Jesus’ words, what events led up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.?
4 Jesus also spoke of events to take place at the end of this world. At Matthew 24:21, 22, we read: “Then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again. In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved; but on account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short.” These words had a preliminary fulfillment in the first century of our Common Era. In 66 C.E., the city of Jerusalem was besieged by Roman armies under Cestius Gallus. The Roman troops got to the point of undermining the temple wall, and many Jews were ready to surrender. Unexpectedly, however, and for no apparent reason, Cestius Gallus withdrew his troops. Upon seeing the Romans withdraw, the Christians acted on the words of Jesus, spoken many years before: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, and let those in the midst of her withdraw, and let those in the country places not enter into her.” (Luke 21:20, 21) The Christianized Jews, the chosen ones, immediately abandoned the doomed city of Jerusalem and were thus saved from the terrible destruction that came upon it soon after. In 70 C.E., the Roman legions under General Titus returned. They encamped around Jerusalem, besieged the city, and devastated it.
5. In what sense was the tribulation on Jerusalem cut short in 70 C.E.?
5 The Jewish historian Josephus relates that 1,100,000 Jews died, whereas 97,000 survived and were taken into captivity. Those non-Christian Jewish survivors were certainly not “the chosen ones” of Jesus’ prophecy. Speaking to the rebellious Jewish nation, Jesus had said: “Look! Your house is abandoned to you. For I say to you, You will by no means see me from henceforth until you say, ‘Blessed is he that comes in Jehovah’s name!’” (Matthew 23:38, 39) There is no record that those Jews, bottled up in Jerusalem, at the last minute accepted Jesus as the Messiah, became Christians, and received Jehovah’s favor. Nevertheless, the tribulation that came upon Jerusalem in 70 C.E. was cut short. The final siege by the Roman army was not of long duration. This allowed for some Jews to survive, if only to be sent off to various parts of the Roman Empire as slaves.
A Great Crowd of Survivors
6, 7. (a) What great religious city is yet to be destroyed, as part of what unparalleled tribulation? (b) What did John prophesy about the coming great tribulation on this world?
6 While Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E. did indeed bring “great tribulation” on that religious city, the major fulfillment of Jesus’ words is yet to be realized. A greater religious city, Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, is to experience a death-dealing great tribulation followed immediately by an unparalleled tribulation on the rest of Satan’s system of things. (Matthew 24:29, 30; Revelation 18:21) Some 26 years after the destruction of Jerusalem, the apostle John, at Revelation 7:9-14, wrote about this world-embracing great tribulation. He showed that a great crowd of people would survive it.
7 These survivors, called the “great crowd,” are identified by certain decisive actions that they take. According to Revelation 7:14, one of the 24 elders in heaven told John: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Yes, the great crowd hail Jehovah as the source of their salvation. They exercise faith in Jesus’ shed blood and have a righteous standing before their Creator and his appointed King, Jesus Christ.
8. What fine relationship exists between the “great crowd” and the remaining ones of Jesus’ anointed brothers?
8 Today, almost five million members of the great crowd are living under the active leadership of the heavenly King Jesus Christ. They are in subjection to Christ and in close association with his anointed brothers yet on earth. Concerning the treatment that the great crowd accord these anointed ones, Jesus says: “Truly I say to you, To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) Because they unselfishly render aid to Christ’s anointed brothers, those of the great crowd are judged to have done good to Jesus himself. This helps them to have a secure relationship with Jesus Christ and Jehovah God. They have been privileged to join the anointed remnant in becoming God’s Witnesses and bearers of his name.—Isaiah 43:10, 11; Joel 2:31, 32.
9, 10. (a) What must we do to maintain our righteous standing before the Son of man? (b) How must we act in order to “keep awake”?
9 The great crowd must maintain their righteous standing before the Son of man without letup, which requires staying watchful right up to the end. Jesus stated this clearly when he said: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.”—Luke 21:34-36.
10 To succeed in standing before the Son of man, we must have his approval, which we will not have if we allow ourselves to be influenced by the thinking of this world. Worldly thinking is seductive and can induce a person to overindulge in fleshly pleasures or to become so weighed down with life’s problems that he no longer keeps Kingdom interests first. (Matthew 6:33) Such a course weakens a person spiritually and could leave him indifferent about his responsibilities toward God and others. He could become inactive or jeopardize his place in the congregation by committing serious sin, perhaps even displaying an unrepentant attitude. Each individual in the great crowd must pay attention to himself. He must keep separate from this ungodly world and its practices.—John 17:16.
11. The application of what Scriptural principles will help us to survive Armageddon?
11 To that end, Jehovah has provided what we need by means of his Word, his holy spirit, and his visible organization. We must take full advantage of these. Further, we must be prayerful and obedient to God if we expect to have his favor. For one thing, we must develop a strong hatred for what is bad. The psalmist said: “I have not sat with men of untruth; and with those who hide what they are I do not come in. I have hated the congregation of evildoers, and with the wicked ones I do not sit. Do not take away my soul along with sinners, nor my life along with bloodguilty men.” (Psalm 26:4, 5, 9) In the Christian congregation, young and old alike need to limit association with those not dedicated to Jehovah. To receive God’s favor, we strive to be blameless and without spot from the world. (Psalm 26:1-5; James 1:27; 4:4) Thus, we will be assured that at Armageddon, Jehovah will not sweep us away in death along with the ungodly.
Some “Will Never Die at All”
12, 13. (a) Before resurrecting Lazarus, Jesus uttered what words that Martha did not fully understand? (b) What was not meant by Jesus’ words about some ‘never dying at all’?
12 It is exciting to contemplate survival of the end of this system of things and the possibility of never having to die. This is the prospect held out to us by Jesus. Just before resurrecting his dead friend Lazarus, Jesus told Lazarus’ sister Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life; and everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all. Do you believe this?” Martha believed in the resurrection, but she did not understand all that Jesus was saying.—John 11:25, 26.
13 Jesus did not mean that his faithful apostles would continue living in the flesh and would never die. On the contrary, he later indicated that his disciples would die. (John 21:16-23) Indeed, their anointing with holy spirit at Pentecost 33 C.E. meant that they would have to die in order to receive their heavenly inheritance as kings and priests. (Revelation 20:4, 6) Thus, with the passage of time, all first-century Christians passed away. However, Jesus said what he did for a purpose. His words about living without ever dying will be fulfilled.
14, 15. (a) How will Jesus’ words about some ‘never dying at all’ be fulfilled? (b) What is the situation of this world, but what hope do righteous ones have?
14 For one thing, faithful anointed Christians will never experience everlasting death. (Revelation 20:6) Also, Jesus’ words point to a specific time when God will intervene in human affairs and will wipe out wickedness on the earth, just as he did in Noah’s day. Faithful ones found doing God’s will at that time will not have to die by God’s judgment acts. Rather, like Noah and his family, they will have the opportunity of surviving the destruction of a world. Such a hope is solid, being based on Bible teachings and illustrated by examples. (Compare Hebrews 6:19; 2 Peter 2:4-9.) The fulfillment of Bible prophecy shows that very soon the present world consisting of unrighteous human society is going to end in destruction. The present situation is irreversible, for the world is incorrigibly wicked. What God said about the world of Noah’s day is also true of the world today. Wickedness fills the hearts of the vast majority of humans, and their thoughts are only bad all the time.—Genesis 6:5.
15 Jehovah has allowed men to govern the earth for centuries without divine interference, but their time is almost up. Soon Jehovah will annihilate all the wicked on earth, just as the Bible says. (Psalm 145:20; Proverbs 2:21, 22) However, he will not destroy the righteous along with the wicked. God has never done such a thing! (Compare Genesis 18:22, 23, 26.) Why would he destroy those who are endeavoring to serve him faithfully, with godly fear? It is only reasonable that Jehovah’s faithful worshipers who are living when the great tribulation begins will find favor in his eyes and will not be destroyed, just as Noah and his family were not destroyed when the wicked world of his day came to a cataclysmic end. (Genesis 7:23) They will have divine protection and will survive the end of this world.
16. What wondrous things will happen in the new world, meaning what for survivors?
16 What then? In the new world, healing blessings will flow to mankind as the benefits of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice are fully applied. The Bible speaks of a symbolic “river of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its broad way. And on this side of the river and on that side there were trees of life producing twelve crops of fruit, yielding their fruits each month. And the leaves of the trees were for the curing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1, 2) Marvelous to say, that “curing” includes the conquest of Adamic death itself! “He will actually swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces.” (Isaiah 25:8) Thus, those who survive the great tribulation into the new world need never face death!
A Sure Hope
17. How certain is the hope that some will survive Armageddon and “never die at all”?
17 Can we have full confidence in this astounding hope? Absolutely! Jesus indicated to Martha that there would be a time when people would live without ever dying. (John 11:26) Moreover, in chapter 7 of the Revelation that Jesus gave to John, it was revealed that a great crowd comes out of the great tribulation, surviving it. Can we believe Jesus Christ and the historical account of the Flood of Noah’s day? Unquestionably! Furthermore, the Bible has other accounts of occasions when God preserved his servants alive through judgment periods and the downfall of nations. Should any less be expected of him in this time of the end? Is anything impossible for the Creator?—Compare Matthew 19:26.
18. How can we be assured of life in Jehovah’s righteous new world?
18 By serving Jehovah faithfully now, we have the assurance of life everlasting in his new world. For untold millions, life in that new world will come by means of the resurrection. Yet, in our day, millions of Jehovah’s people—yes, a great crowd that no man can number or limit—will have the unique privilege of being saved alive through the great tribulation. And they will never have to die.
□ How was surviving Armageddon foreshadowed in Noah’s day?
□ What must we do in order to keep standing when Jesus comes to execute Jehovah’s judgments?
□ Why can we say that Armageddon survivors need “never die at all”?
[Picture on page 15]
Christians escaped Jerusalem’s tribulation