The Lord confronted Apostle Peter in a vision a few months after Jesus returned to Heaven. Peter was dumbfounded by the meaning of the vision until there was a knock on the door.
"At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion [a captain over 100 men] in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing [Cornelius may have become a believer in Jesus through the centurion in Capernaum whose servant Jesus healed. (See Matthew 5:8-10) Nevertheless]; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.
One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, ‘Cornelius!’ Cornelius stared at him in fear. ‘What is it, Lord?’ he asked. The angel answered, ‘Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa [about twenty miles away] to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter.’ " (Acts 10:1-5)
Four days later, "As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. ‘Stand up,’ he said, ‘I am only a man myself.’ Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: ‘You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me [in a vision concerning unclean animals] that I should [abandon this practice. God told me that I must] not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?’
Cornelius answered: ‘Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’
So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. [Read the following sentence twice:] Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.’ Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts [uncircumcised] men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.’ " (Acts 10:25-35, insertions mine)
I am sure that Peter, with his Jewish paradigm, was completely overwhelmed by this revolutionary thinking. He must have been astonished by their willingness to embrace the gospel of Christ. Peter’s visit with Cornelius transformed the thinking of the early church. Peter’s experience would later underscore Paul’s transforming theology.
Up to this time, most of the converts to Christianity were Jews and as such, they were still Jews in terms of culture and behavior, but Christians in terms of theology. Due to their Jewish thinking, they were unwilling to contaminate themselves by entering the home of a dog (a term used by Jews to describe unclean meat, that is, a Gentile. (See Matthew 7:6 and Mark 7:28.) In a vision, God revealed a profound truth to Peter. Cornelius was just as much a child of God as any Jew, even though Cornelius was not a Jew.
This concept is important to understand because it will be demonstrated again during the Great Tribulation. God will soon demonstrate to the whole universe that within every religious system on Earth, there are thousands of people like Cornelius! Such people have the right hearts, even though their heads are messed up. God loves to bless such people. On the other hand, God cannot help individuals with arrogant hearts and hard heads.
The whole world will implode with fury during the first sixty days of the Great Tribulation. There will be thunder, lightning, rumblings, a global earthquake, meteoric firestorms, two asteroid impacts, and darkness. Death and destruction will occur on an unimaginable scale. Infrastructures will disappear. The world will be ruined beyond repair. The recent destruction in Haiti is a prophetic sample of God’s coming wrath with the exception that the nations of the world will not be able to rush in and help. Every nation will be helplessly paralyzed like Haiti.
The essential difference between a natural disaster (such as the earthquake in Haiti) and a divine judgment (such as the seven trumpets of Revelation) is purpose. When God sends a divine judgment, there is a divine purpose. This purpose is revealed before God acts.
For example, God gave Noah a message and a mission before sending the flood. God sent Jonah into Nineveh before destroying the city. God sent two angels into Sodom before destroying the city. For over 100 years, God sent many prophets to Jerusalem before destroying the city. And, today God is sending a warning to the world through the prophet John.
The book of Daniel has been unsealed and the book of Revelation speaks clearly about God’s coming judgments, and unfortunately, few are willing to listen and spiritually prepare. Jesus said, "As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man." (Matthew 24:37)
During the Great Tribulation, the Holy Spirit will give power to God’s servants who will give a clarion declaration of the gospel of Jesus all over the world. This time, the outpouring of Holy Spirit power will dwarf the experience of the disciples at Pentecost. The 144,000, located in every nation, will boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ with signs and wonders and the Holy Spirit will ensure that everyone hears God’s servants.
The overwhelming shock and awe caused by the first four trumpets will shatter religious paradigms. Presently, many people are closed to the gospel because of religion and culture (arrogance and ignorance), but this overwhelming surprise will humble individuals’ hearts and people will become receptive to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In a setting of global ruin, the world will thoughtfully listen to the 144,000. Many, like Cornelius, will receive Jesus as their redeemer.
Many more, like Pharaoh, will only harden their hearts, but there will be a small window of time when Jews, Moslems, Hindus, Atheists, Catholics, Protestants, and Pagans will thoughtfully consider a gospel that may be contrary to everything they believe. What rebuttal is there given the circumstances, the awesome display of signs and wonders, and the message which the 144,000 will proclaim?
The 144,000 will announce the sovereignty, glory, and love of Jesus Christ and they will invite every living person to join His coming kingdom. The price of admission will be submission to the authority of Jesus Christ, the coming King of Glory. Bow down before the King of kings and give Him the love and allegiance He deserves!
The 144,000 will present the gospel of Jesus to the world in four waves.* Each wave will be presented as a nonnegotiable demand. During the first wave, everyone will be told, "Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come. . . ." (Revelation 14:7) The 144,000 will announce the commencement of the judgment of the living.
They will inform the inhabitants of Earth that our faith in Christ will be tested and Jesus Christ Himself will judge us. Each person will ". . .appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:10) The Holy Spirit, speaking through the 144,000 will explain the test, ". . . And worship Him who made the Heavens, the Earth, the sea and springs of water."
(*Note: Four angels will be sent to the 144,000 with four messages from God’s throne to the world. For further study on these four messages, please visit this link: www.wake-up.org/Videos/Video.htm and view the May-July 2007 video segments or you can read the accompanying pdf notes.)
The heavens, earth [land], sea, and springs of water are mentioned in the first angel’s message because these four elements make up the foundations of our planet. Everyone will see and feel the enormity of Christ’s power and His authority over the heavens, earth, sea, and springs of water during the first four trumpets.
(The heavens are darkened in the fourth trumpet, a third of Earth is burned up in the first trumpet, an asteroid will impact the sea in the second trumpet, and an asteroid impact will contaminate the springs of water in the third trumpet.) The power displayed at the beginning of the Great Tribulation will demonstrate to everyone that our Creator’s power over the foundations of this planet cannot be challenged or overthrown.
An overwhelming display of power is needed to shatter the religious paradigms of the world. God has predetermined that every person within every nation will hear about Jesus Christ, His incredible love, and His generous salvation. The full gospel cannot be proclaimed throughout the world currently because of religious arrogance.
After 2,000 years, only 25% of the world claims to be Christian and everyone knows that Christianity is as divisive and fragmented as any other religious system. Even though they come from all over the world and will not know each other, God’s servants, the 144,000, will be on the same page because the Holy Spirit will speak through them.
They will tell the world to give Jesus glory! What does it mean to give glory to God? How does a child give glory to his parents? When a child embraces and exalts the values extolled by his parents, he brings glory to his parents by reflecting their character. Giving glory to God is no different. God insists that we reflect His character because His character is one of love. Giving glory to God means embracing God’s truth and exalting His righteousness, having a clear head, a heart of love, and hands free of guilt.
Religious Heritage Will Disappear
This might come as a shock to some readers, but the Bible predicts that everyone will be forced to abandon their religious heritage during the Great Tribulation. (Revelation 13:15) Every religious organization on Earth will be abolished at the sixth trumpet! The Catholic Church will be abolished. Islam will disappear.
Judaism will be terminated. Eastern Mysticism will be no more. This will be possible because during the fifth trumpet the devil will physically appear on Earth. After convincing the world that he is Almighty God, he will set up a one-world theocracy with himself as King of kings and Lord of lords at the sixth trumpet. Everyone will be required to join and worship his theocracy or be killed. A time is coming when the world’s religions will become meaningless. God permits this because paradoxically, most people worship their religion instead of God!
This is proven by the fact that most people cannot move forward with God’s truth because religion cannot change. In spite of this, within the religions of the world, millions of people, like Cornelius, will embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ during the Great Tribulation and will gladly give Him glory!
They will thoughtfully submit to Christ’s authority in spite of terrible persecution. I know this sounds strange now, but a numberless multitude from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people will step outside of their religious beliefs and culture to worship Jesus. (Revelation 7:9-17)
Jews will be worshiping Jesus, Moslems will exalt Jesus over Mohammed, Hindus will worship Jesus as the only true God, Catholics will abandon church sacraments and put their faith in Christ. Atheists and agnostics will praise the name of Jesus, Protestants will embrace the law of God, and all people will worship Jesus on His holy day!
God’s Spirit will be poured out on all flesh and the result will be astonishing! These coming events tell us that God is not so much concerned with our current beliefs as He is with our honesty and dedication to what we believe to be truth. When God clearly shows the world His truth, those who love truth will embrace it and this will also bring glory to Him! Think about this: Truth, to the honest in heart, behaves like the element iron in the presence of a magnet. When a magnet is brought close, the iron will respond – but aluminum and copper will not.
Bottom line: God will demonstrate during the Great Tribulation that salvation is not church specific. Salvation is heart specific. People like Cornelius will be eager to learn more and the numberless harvest that comes out of the Great Tribulation will demonstrate to the universe that God has and has always had children in every religious system.
God’s people will defy the laws of Babylon when they hear the 144,000 speak the Second Angel’s message. (Revelation 14:8) Remember, the church of Jesus Christ is not a denomination. His church consists of people who love truth and exalt righteousness.
Many people have been misled into thinking that belonging to some church is important or necessary for salvation. This is false. When Jesus comes, He will not gather up THE church, He will gather up individuals like Cornelius who make up HIS church! May God transform our hearts and open our minds so that we might eagerly embrace the full gospel of Christ as Cornelius did.