to test those who dwell upon the earth
Both Isaiah and Zephaniah described this day:
For behold, the LORD comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain. (Isa. Isa. 26:21)
The great day of the LORD is near; It is near and hastens quickly. The noise of the day of the LORD is bitter; there the mighty men shall cry out. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and alarm against the fortified cities and against the high towers. I will bring distress upon men, and they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like refuse. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORDS wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of His jealousy, for He will make speedy riddance of all those who dwell in the land. (Zep Zep. 1:14-18)The tribulation and wrath associated with this coming hour is intended to test those whose home, citizenship, and focus is earthward rather than heavenly.1
The phrase those who dwell upon the earth takes on a soteriological/eschatological meaning in the book of Revelation for it denotes the unsaved at the time of the end who steadfastly continue in their rejection of God. In contrast to the faithful who are aliens and sojourners upon the earth (Lev. Lev. 25:23; Num. Num. 18:20, Num. 18:23; 1Chr. 1Chr. 29:15; Ps. Ps. 39:12; Ps. 119:19; John. John 15:19; John 17:14, John 17:16; Php. Php. 3:20; Heb. Heb. 11:13; 1Pe. 1Pe. 2:11) and whose hope is heavenward (Heb. Heb. 11:13-16; Rev. Rev. 13:6+), these that dwell upon the earth are trusting in man and his environment.2 These are the spiritual offspring of the humanists of our day. Believers are not among these earth dwellers, for the earth dwellers ultimately hate believers:3 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you (John John 15:19). When the earth dwellers give us praise and are in love with us, then it is time for us to reassess the validity of our heavenly witness.
The time of testing will come unexpectedly upon those who dwell on the face of the whole earth (Luke Luke 21:35). They will suffer through a time of testing like none before and they will endure both the wrath of God (Rev. Rev. 6:16-17+) and Satan (Rev. Rev. 12:12+)! They will be subjected to incredible deception (2Th. 2Th. 2:11; Rev. Rev. 13:12-14+; Rev. 17:8+),4 will worship both Satan and the Antichrist (Rev. Rev. 13:4+, Rev. 13:8+) and willingly participate in the slaughter of those who remain faithful to God (Rev. Rev. 6:10+; Rev. 11:10+). Even though every nation, tribe, tongue, and people will hear the gospel during this time of testing, the majority will stand confirmed in their rejection of God (Rev. Rev. 14:6+):
All the classes [of men named here] literally reside on the earth, but the phrase referred to is one of moral signification and import. They are apostates from Christianity, having deliberately and determinately rejected the heavenly calling, and chosen the earth. God may have heaven; they are determined to have the earth as their place and portion.5
All of these Revelation references to them that dwell upon the earth clearly indicate that they will be unsaved people of the future period of testing who will never get saved. . . . In spite of the devastating horrors of the sixth trumpet, which will kill one-third of mankind, the earth-dwellers will not repent of their wicked deeds (Rev. Rev. 9:20-21+). The fourth bowl will cause people to be scorched with great heat; the fifth bowl will cause excruciating pain; and the sixth bowl will cause hailstones weighing approximately 94 pounds each to bombard people. Although they will recognize that these are Gods wrath judgments, the earth-dwellers will blaspheme Him rather than repent (Rev. Rev. 16:1+, Rev. 16:7+, Rev. 16:8-11+, Rev. 16:21+).6See Beast Worshipers are Unique.
1 The temptation brings out the fidelity of those kept by Christ and hardens the unbelieving reprobates (Rev. Rev. 9:20+, Rev. 9:21+).A. R. Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Rev. 3:10. Note, however, that this verse indicates that it is those who dwell on the earth who are the object of the testing, not the faithful.
2 This fact explains why the events of Revelation include great judgments poured out upon the natural systems of the earth for the earth has become an idol of worship for the earth dwellers.
3 Some may say that earth dwellers do not hate believers, but simply tolerate them. This is only true to the extent the local culture has been influenced by the salt and light of believers. When darkness increases, hatred of the earth dwellers towards believers escalates dramatically, for believers remind them of Gods righteous judgment which they desire to throw off.
4 This spiritual deception will be so powerful that only those who have come to faith will have the needed supernatural protection to overcome it.