In part one of this three part series on famine, we looked at "Famine in Retrospect" and saw that in ancient times famine was often the result of natural and economic causes that God sometimes used as a wake-up call for His people to return to Him in fear and reverence. We saw that the famine of hearing the Word is symbolic of the lack of the Word of God as the bread of life. When the scriptures are ruled out, then the people perish; the vision is gone; hope fades; and there is a general apostasy or falling away from the truth. Finally, in that sermon, we saw that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and the whole duty of man. Without the proper fear of God, humankind hungers and thirsts physically and spiritually.
In part two, we looked at "Contemporary Famine" and saw that the sins of humankind have brought devastating famines, killing tens of millions of people. We saw that there are penalties to be paid for sin and that the world is reaping what it has sown. We analyzed the first four seals of Revelation 6 and saw them as recurring cycles that continue to unfold upon themselves as the world's wickedness increases through the history of the world from the time of Jesus Christ and the apostles until now. False religion produces war; war produces famine; and famine produces pestilence and disease. As the cycle begins again, it accelerates on the foundation of the previous cycle. We also saw that if we are overcoming sin, Satan, the world and our own human nature, with God's help through His Holy Spirit, we can, in a sense, laugh at famine.
In this sermon, part three, we will examine "The Future of Famine." We will survey the last three trumpets, including the seven plagues of the seventh trumpet. I said "survey" because we will just rapidly go through those to give you a time sequence. We will touch on the protection of God's people and see the irony of the abundance of Babylon the Great compared with the abundance of the Kingdom of God.
The fruits of nature are withdrawn in times of defiance, when the relationship of God and man is dislocated, separated, or destroyed. For this reason, the curse on the soil was one of the primary and immediate results of sin.
Right off the bat, sin was associated with either a lack of food or the toughness of trying to get food out of the ground.
In the Old Testament, the phrase to eat bread by weight indicates the greatest scarcity.
In verse 26, it is the threat of God that, if the people are disobedient, "they shall bring back your bread by weight." This is the point of God's threat through Ezekiel against Israel and Judah.
What I wanted to establish there was the connection between disobedience to God and sin and that God will cause famine to come on people.
God used famines throughout history as an indication of His displeasure and as warnings to repent and return to Him. Other passages warn of famine-producing upsets in weather; ruined harvests and blighted crops; harmful insect pests such as fire ants, mosquitoes with West Nile virus, and ticks with spotted fever; and non-productive soil. All of these come from sin and not following God's way of life, for example, not letting the land to rest. The way society is set up, we can now have famine in one season anywhere in the world because of the way food is moved and the way it is grown on corporate farms and in areas around the world. More and more, this nation imports its food.
In Matthew 24, we see the severity of the Great Tribulation expressed in such a way that it gives us the feeling that Jesus was almost at a loss for words to express its horror.
That is quite a prophecy—a great tribulation worse than anything that came before it or that will come after it.
We have primarily analyzed famine in this sermon series, and what we have seen is far worse than the worst I can imagine. This time of great tribulation will be worse than anything since the beginning of the world has been or ever will be. That puts the severity of the Tribulation or the Day of the Lord beyond anything that I can comprehend. Since it matches the sins of this world, then God sees far more sin in this world than we can imagine.
Taking into consideration what we have heard about the history of famine in the last two sermons, how can it be worse than thirty million people in China dying from starvation caused by her leaders? How can it be worse than starving parents eating their children, people eating corpses, or men fishing from second story windows with hooks for unsuspecting pedestrians to be caught and eaten? How can it possibly be worse than that? Verse 22 answers these questions with this statement: "Unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved." Famine and the other catastrophic events will be of such a tremendous magnitude and scope that they approach wiping humankind off the face of the earth.
Jesus described an era of human existence that is unique from all others in which widespread famine is only one of many interrelated events. Famine in the future will dwarf what is mentioned in Matthew 24:7 and in the first four seals of Revelation 6. They give us a mere hint of much worse to come in the end times just prior to Jesus Christ's return. The famines, pestilences, and diseases that we have seen have built upon each other. The cycles continue constantly, and they get greater and greater in magnitude and in the numbers that they affect.
In the four seals, history shows that it has been primarily the Gentile nations that have been affected by the seals, especially famine. However, as we get into the time of the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord, we find that the descendants of ancient Israel and Judah are affected in a much worse way than anything they have experienced at any time in history.
Joel gives us an inkling of what the Day of the Lord holds in store for the world:
This is a prophetic description of both the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord, because these things happen in varying degrees in both, as we will get into later.
As it stands now, descendants of ancient Israel contained within such nations as the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, Scandinavia, and various parts of Europe, as well as part of South Africa, have not had to deal with very much in the way of horrible famines. They have had famines in the past, but nothing of the magnitude that Israel will receive in the future.
There have been some incidents that came close, such as the Dust Bowl Days of the Midwest and the Great Depression here in the United States. Also, parts of Europe suffered from the Black Death, but nothing like what we have seen on a regular basis throughout the history of the Gentile nations over the last two thousand years. This is because the Israelite nations have had at least some of God's truth, and it has saved us, as descendants of Israel, from much of that famine. The blessing that God promised to Abraham has also kept us from much of that famine.
As people continue to flagrantly disregard the laws of our Creator, such conditions will continue to be aggravated. Jesus Christ went on to warn of dramatically increased calamities in the future. In the book of Revelation, He depicts an earth whose entire food-producing ecosystem is in jeopardy and then eventually destroyed.
The fifth seal pictures a time of Great Tribulation, including a martyrdom of the saints for religious convictions. The New Testament, along with the book of Revelation, emphasizes its impact on the spiritual people of God, His own church. The Great Tribulation also falls on what was God's physical nation, the descendants of ancient Israel. The prophet Jeremiah wrote of this period and the events that immediately follow. He cried out:
Even though we are told that judgment will come on Jacob's descendants, we are also encouraged that we will be saved out of it. Daniel called it a time unlike any other:
It is the same time described by Jesus in Matthew 24:21. This distress would climax in the death of humankind if Christ failed to intervene in human affairs.
The fifth seal of the book of Revelation is described in the sixth chapter.
There is an encouraging and uplifting spiritual principle here. When a righteous person dies for the sake of goodness, it may look like a tragedy, like the waste of a fine life. It may look like the work of the wicked—and it may be all these things. However, every life laid down for right, truth, and God and God's people is ultimately more than any of these things: it is an offering made to God. We should look at martyrdom and the death of the saints as just that: as an offering. It is something that ends in a good thing. It is not the tragedy that we dwell on but the end result of it that gives us that hope.
The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord are totally different time periods. In Matthew 24:3, it is recorded that the disciples asked Jesus when His coming and the "end of the age" would occur. Christ then explained the time order of events that would lead to His Second Coming.
Leading to the Great Tribulation, the first event would be false prophets (verses 4-5); the second, wars and rumors of wars (verse 6); the third, famine (verse 7); the fourth, disease epidemics (verse 7). These are all pre-Tribulation but will also roll over into the time of the fifth, sixth and seventh seals.
False religion and leadership produces war; war produces famine' and famine produces disease epidemics and death. This is a dynamic cycle that increases and builds upon itself every time it recycles. That is why these events affect more people and are of greater magnitude now than they did in the earlier centuries following Christ. They are events caused by the sins of mankind. As the sins of mankind increase in magnitude and in severity, so do these things that will come as punishments upon the people.
The fifth event or seal corresponds with the Great Tribulation and the martyrdom of the saints. The Great Tribulation is not the time of God's wrath but rather the time of the wrath of Satan. Since he is desperate because he has only a short time left, he causes increased persecution and martyrdom of God's people.
Immediately following the Great Tribulation of the fifth seal come the cosmic disturbances of the sixth seal, the time of God's wrath. The sixth seal coincides with the heavenly signs, also known as the time of God's wrath. Occurring sixth in time sequence is God's supernatural intervention. Now notice what Jesus said would follow the Great Tribulation.
The Day of the Lord spoken of in many prophecies is clearly shown here to come after the heavenly signs. The time order is thus: first, the Tribulation—Satan's wrath; second, the heavenly signs; third, the Day of the Lord—God's intervention. The same time sequence is revealed in Revelation 6, speaking of the seven seals. The fifth seal represents the Great Tribulation, followed by the heavenly signs and the Day of the Lord or God's wrath.
The prophet Joel put the day of God's wrath into chronological perspective.
Joel shows us an important sequence: The heavenly signs occur immediately after the Great Tribulation (also called Satan's wrath) and before the Day of the Lord. Disturbing signs in the atmosphere and environment begin shortly before the return of the Messiah. Great earthquakes are striking the earth. These are persistent features of divine visitation in the Bible. The atmosphere is darkened as sunlight is blocked out, and the moon appears blood-red.
The stars, probably meteors, fall to the earth. The sky is receding as a scroll. The mountains and islands are moved out of their places. Everyone still alive by then will be mortally afraid when God's final wrath, or the Day of the Lord, strikes.
The wrath of the Lamb is an unusual expression, used only once, here in Revelation. Elsewhere, the Bible calls this time "the wrath of God." This wrath of God is a basic theme in the Bible. The Day of the Lord is a day of wrath and retribution. Isaiah describes this time as a time that the land will be made desolate. This will obviously cause even more famine than is already decimating nations.
A desolate land means a great number of people are suffering from famine. This is not spiteful hate but God's response to stubbornly-unrepented-of sin that has caused untold misery and suffering among human beings.
The sixth chapter of Revelation then takes us right up to the time when God fully intervenes in the affairs of mankind during the last days. He does this by sending plagues and destruction of increasing severity on the earth. However, God will not send the full fury of His wrath on the earth before He provides protection for His people. At this point in Revelation, the scene temporarily switches to show us what is happening to those who are obedient to Him.
As the seventh chapter of Revelation begins, we find that the wrath of God—the Day of the Lord—is temporarily held up. John sees "four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth." These four winds coming from the north, south, east, and west represent the retribution of God. Specifically, the four winds are restrained from blowing on the earth, sea, and trees. The first three angels blowing on trumpets will strike these ecological targets a very short time later, after God's people are sealed.
To "be sealed" is a symbolic way of saying that these people are identified as belonging to God. They are the servants of God, which means that they obey Him; and they are marked for protection from the afflictions to come. The 144,000 is the first group to be sealed and protected from what is about to come. In the next vision, John sees another group being sealed for protection. This much larger assembly is "a great multitude" which no one could number, and they come from all nations following the Great Tribulation. While some of God's people must suffer through the Tribulation, God protects them from His earth-shattering wrath. Once this protection has been provided to God's true servants, the time for the day of the Lord—God's wrath on a sinning humanity—begins.
We now come to the eighth chapter of Revelation and the opening of the seventh and final seal:
Following a prophetic half-hour of silence, possibly a dramatic pause and time of contemplation, the trumpets begin to herald the day of God's wrath. It is a time of alarm in the world. Lightning, thunder, great noises, and mighty tremors announce the beginning of God's wrath. The first four seals depicted judgments that were the inevitable result of human sinfulness. God now directs the trumpet plagues against a world unyielding in its hostility toward Him. These trumpet plagues affect a significant portion of the earth. These punishments are intended to move the human race to repentance; but tragically, most of humanity still refuses to heed and submit.
John sees seven trumpet visions which constitute the seventh seal. Each trumpet follows the other, representing real world events of the future during the Day of the Lord. The trumpets depict plagues, afflictions, famine, calamities, and much more that God will bring on a world that refuses to repent. It is the time when God begins to directly assert control over a sinning world. It will be a time of great confusion.
The first four trumpet plagues strike the earth itself, creating an ecological catastrophe of global proportions. One-third of whatever is struck is destroyed.
The final three angelic trumpet soundings are immediately preceded by an announcement. They have come to be known as the "Three Woes" because of their extreme severity.
Although there may be some similarities between the last plagues of Revelation 16 and the first six trumpet plagues of Revelation 8 and 9, Revelation 16 is not a restatement of what happened earlier. In both scenarios, the first four destructions are visited upon the earth, sea, inland waters, and heavenly bodies. However, there are distinct differences between the two scenarios. For example, in the first four trumpet plague scenarios, only one-third of the affected part is destroyed. The trumpet plagues of Revelation 8 are meant as a warning; they are a sample of the destruction yet to fall on those who refuse to repent of their evil deeds.
The confrontation between the armies advancing on Jerusalem and the Messiah will result in "the battle of that great day of God Almighty." The supernatural Christ will lead His army of resurrected saints to total victory. Zechariah prophesies of this time of the Day of the Lord and the return of Christ.
Here, we are in the midst of what the Feast of Trumpets represents: the Second Coming of Christ to intervene in world affairs and establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
I would be terrified not to go the Feast of Tabernacles at this point, and I suppose you are, as well. I cannot imagine somebody missing it, when scriptures like this explain what happens to those who do not.
These harrowing times occur during the "wrath of God" as the Messiah puts down all opposition to His rule. Christ must replace the world's political, social, religious, and economic systems so that He can begin all things new. There will be some rebellious nations that go on into the millennium, though, and they will be treated according to their sins. Judgment will come upon them.
It is interesting that anyone not taking part in the Feast of Tabernacles receives the curse of plague. Zechariah specifically mentions here that no rain will come upon those who do not keep the Feast of Tabernacles. The result of no rain, obviously, is famine. No rain causes drought conditions, which in turn cause hunger and thirst. This implies that, in the millennium, those nations who continue to refuse to keep the Feast of Tabernacles will receive famine—like conditions as a curse for disobedience to Almighty God.
There is a spiritual principle here that perpetually applies to all people in all eras: Anyone who does not keep the Feast of Tabernacles will not receive the replenishing effect of the wisdom, understanding, and righteousness from above. Hosea speaks of this spiritual application in the same way:
Next we are going to have a flashback. Let us look back at judgment on Babylon for a moment. Babylon the Great is seen to be a system of abundance; but as its physical abundance is destroyed its, true spiritual abundance is exposed for what it really is: sin!
On the negative side of abundance, the great wickedness of the earth is sometimes portrayed with the descriptions of abundance. In the time of Noah, the wickedness of humankind was great, or abundant, in the earth. Joel speaks of wickedness as ripening the human race for the last judgment. At the end, regarding the sixth plague of the seventh trumpet, Joel says,
We see the symbolism of how Babylon the great is described as having abundance—an abundance of wickedness. This view persists in the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, where famine is a direct judgment on human sin. It is ironic that abundance of sin brings on physical famine of food and water and spiritual famine of a hearing of the Word of the Lord.
The picture of Babylon in Revelation 18 is understood in the imagery of abundance symbolic of the fullness of evil on the earth. We see that commerce in the Babylonish system ends; all that abundance of buying and selling ceases.
Anything you could imagine to buy you could get in this system of Babylon, including slaves, whether worker slaves or sex slaves or whatever. Everything that is wicked is available through Babylon. The abundant sins of Babylon are "heaped high as heaven." In contrast, famine is to play a part in the end-time judgment upon spiritual Babylon.
The Babylonish world system certainly has abundance—profusion of demons; false religion; war; famine; pestilence and disease; abundance of murdered innocent children by abortion; plenty of adultery and fornication; great quantities of lewd nakedness; abundance of greed, lying and stealing—equaling an overabundance of sin. In contrast, part of God's ultimate blessing for physical Israel is a land that is untroubled by famine. Israel will live in complete security. No longer will she be plundered by the nations.
Never again will the descendents of Israel experience physical of spiritual famine.
We see famine definitely tied to sin and to what came upon Israel and Judah throughout much of its history. He promises there never again to bring that upon Israel and Judah.
The pattern God uses for restoration is 1) return, 2) cleansing from sin, 3) enablement of spirit, and 4) prosperity. This is the same pattern He used when He foretold Israel's restoration after the exile when Moses restated the Mosaic covenant on the plains of Moab. God enables their spirit by writing His laws on their hearts. Spiritually, this is done through the Holy Spirit.
Similarly with us, having to do with God's church, we see the same pattern of restoration: 1) We repent, returning to God; 2) we are baptized and we are cleansed from sin by the blood of Christ; 3) we receive God's Holy Spirit which enables us to live God's way of life; and 4) God prospers us with wisdom and spiritual understanding. We see that God uses the same pattern, both in the physical and the spiritual senses, to renew His people and to bring them back to Him.
God will establish conditions in the millennium and in the coming of the Kingdom of God whereby no human beings will ever suffer from hunger and famine again.
The condition described here contrasts to the experience of the human saints who suffer greatly for their faith. For them, starvation, thirst, and the burning desert are forever past. This time of relief from these trials is in the days of the Kingdom of God.
In Revelation 21, John uses a touching metaphor of parental love:
These tears have come from sin's distortion of God's purposes for mankind. They are produced by death or mourning for the dead, by crying or pain. This is a promise for the future; but even in this present world, those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted; and death is swallowed up in victory for those who know Jesus Christ and suffer with Him, that they may also be glorified with Him and receive abundant blessings. We, too, can receive encouragement from this.
The imagery of an abundant harvest appears in the Bible as a metaphor for spiritual truths. More often than not, the imagery of abundance is reserved for spiritual goodness. God's steadfast love and goodness are both abundant, as are His mercy and power. Isaiah speaks of the abundance of God's salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. The apostle Paul writes about abundance of grace, abundant consolation through Christ. This abundance is characteristic of God's Kingdom and is in sharp contrast to the world, whose abundance is wickedness, evil, and sin.
The crowning example of abundance appears in Revelation 21:9-27, where John describes the city of New Jerusalem that God has prepared for those who know him. The great glory of God gives her a brilliance "like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper." It is 1500 miles long and appears like "pure gold, like glass." The foundation of the city wall is equally beautiful, being adorned with every kind of precious stone. In this way Revelation 21 predicts the consummation of the many promises of the Bible: abundant blessings await those who have faithfully obeyed God.
In the Millennium, when perfect accord between God and His people exists, there will be unprecedented fertility of the earth. Fruitfulness will abound.
A time is coming when there will be a superabundance of agricultural produce and wine. In this time, Israel will be restored to the land forever. Amos pictures in a metaphor of new wine flowing from the hills the great amount of wine at this Millennial time.
The fact that the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman in this time implies a great abundance of the produce of the field. Scarcely can the grape vines be planted than the grapes are ready for pressing. Amos depicts a time when God's blessing will be poured out in unimaginable abundance.
Part of what the Day of Atonement portrays is the binding and removal of Satan for a thousand years so that humankind at last may be made at one with God. With him will go the centuries-old system of greed and exploitation that has left many broken, hungry, and destitute people in its wake. It is a time in which we place ourselves under famine so that we can receive spiritual abundance. As God uses famine to cause His people to come back to Him, so hunger and thirst cause us to draw closer to Him.
The dispossessed masses will become a thing of the past as every physical individual will have a chance to own agriculturally productive real estate.
Farming methods will be overhauled until lush crops are considered commonplace, and one harvest follows hard on the heels of the previous one. The earth's arable land mass will be greatly expanded as mountains are lowered. Only then will the age-old problem of famine finally be put to rest.
The fear of the Lord and obedience to Him are necessary before God can work with people to bring peace to their nations. Famine is brought upon people by their own rejection of God and His way of life. Their pride and greed drives them to ignore and reject the way of life that brings abundance and happiness. Obedience is linked to prosperity, as disobedience is linked to want. Both comparisons are biblical inseparables.
There is an abundance of God's salvation for those who fear Him. The key is to fear God, repent of our sins, and overcome them.
The Creator God possesses and controls the forces of nature, the seasons in their order, and the material foundation of man's life on earth. The exercise of this power by our holy God directly corresponds to the relationship existing between Him and man at any given time. Our relationship with God, in the spiritual sense, is absolutely necessary for everything that we are going to do from here on out, as it should have been for the things that we have already done. Our relationship with God is ultra-important for our future. It determines through how much suffering we will go, and it determines how much blessing we will receive and whether we receive the abundance of Babylon the Great or the spiritual abundance that God has to give to us.
As you are not partaking of food on Atonement, keep in mind that it is God who gives us everything, absolutely everything.