Will There Be a Global Harvest of Souls at the End of the Age? A Hint from Revelation 112
Christians are divided on whether or not there will be a mass, global ingathering of souls at the end of the age. There may be a hint that could help us in Revelation 11:13. There we read:
“And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.”
We know that the “hour” in view here is the time of the end when Christ returns. That point is generally agreed upon by all who have studied Revelation. So let’s take note of four things that are said to occur in conjunction with the end of the age.
(1) First, “there was a great earthquake.” Similar terminology occurs in Revelation 6:12 (the sixth seal) and 16:18 (seventh bowl) where the last judgment is beginning to unfold. Is it a literal earthquake or a symbolic portrayal of the fall of earthly kingdoms as Christ brings his judgment to bear upon them? I don’t know.
(2) Second, “a tenth of the city fell.”
(3) Third, “seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake.” If the two witnesses are linked to the ministry of Elijah, the 7,000 who die may be the just equivalent of the 7,000 faithful who “did not bow the knee to Baal” (cf. Rom. 11:4).
But these are odd numbers. If this is a global judgment at the time of Christ’s return, why does only one-tenth of the world city fall and why are only seven thousand people killed? Ah, be patient, the answer is coming!
(4) Finally, “the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.” The question once again is whether this “terror” or “fear” and the subsequent “glorifying” of God describes an expression of saving repentance and faith in the God of heaven. I believe it does! Almost identical terminology occurs in Revelation 14:7 (“fear God and give him glory”) and Revelation 15:4 (“Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?”). Both of these texts have in view saving fear and acknowledgement of God.
We should also take note of Revelation 16:9 where the unrepentant are described in these terms: “they did not repent and give him glory,” the point being that “to give God glory” is to repent. In fact, in Revelation “to give God glory” always refers positively to a saving response on the part of people (see 4:9; 14:7; 16:9; 19:7).
There is yet one more thing we must note, and I owe these observations to Richard Bauckham (The Climax of Prophecy). He believes, and I am inclined to agree with him, that the numbers “1/10” and “7,000” indicate that the conversion portrayed here is of the vast majority of the lost, not a paltry few. That is to say, there is in the events of Revelation 11:11-13 an indication of a great, vast final global harvest or revival of souls!
In the OT God’s judgment typically falls on the vast majority of people and only a tiny remnant is saved or delivered. That remnant is often described as only 1/10th (Amos 5:3; cf. Isa. 6:13, where in its present context the tenth part is the righteous remnant). The figure of seven thousand alludes more specifically to Elijah’s prophetic commission to bring about the judgment of all except the seven thousand faithful Israelites who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:14-18; cf. Rom. 11:2-5).
In other words, John here in v. 13 reverses the arithmetic! It is typically a small number whom God saves and a large percentage that God judges. But here in Revelation 11:13 it is a small percentage that God judges and a vastly larger percentage that God saves!
So, if only a tenth of the world-city falls under judgment, nine-tenths of the city fears God and gives him glory. If only 7,000 are killed in the judgment of the earthquake and the rest fear God and give him glory, it would seem as if John is describing a vast global harvest of souls coming into the kingdom at the end of the age.