7. The Tribulation:Going from Bad to Worse The last chapter discussed "the rapture"--that amazing event when Christians are going to be sucked off the earth to join Jesus in the sky. But the end-times events described in the Bible are not restricted to people who believe and follow Jesus. Eveyone everywhere will be a participant in these events--whether they want to be or not. Who Says?...Jesus, That's Who ------------------------------ If you have a fascination about how the world is going to end, so did the disciples of Jesus. They couldn't contain their curiosity, so one day they simply asked Him: Will there be any sign ahead of time to signal you return and the end of the world? (Matthew 24:3). So if you are looking for clues to the end of the world, the most reliable source is Jesus, the Son of God (Matthew 24:1-22;Mark 13:3-23; and Luke 21:5-28). International wars Revolutions Famines Earthquakes Epidemics Strange natural disasters Unpredictable oceanic events Worldwide dissemination of the message of Jesus Persecution of Christians Rampant immorality Jesus summed up the effect of all these calamities with this statement: For that will be a time of greater horror than anything the world has ever seen or will ever see again (Matthew 24:21). Tribulation With A Capital "T" ----------------------------- The "tribulation" is the period of worldwide horror which Jesus predicted would occur at the end of the world. The tribulation will last seven years, and the last half will be much worse than the first half. The Vision and Prophecy of Daniel --------------------------------- Jesus wasn't the only one to predict that cataclysmic events would occur at the end of the world. Back in Old testament times, around 550 B.C., the prophet Daniel had visions concerning how the world was going to end (Daniel 12:1). His prophecies include the same sort of disasters which Jesus predicted: One-half of the world's population will be killed The earth will be severly damaged by natural and man-made disasters There will be earthquakes, disease, and warfare Humanity will be close to extinction Daniel's prophecies, along with the statements of Jesus and the Book of Revelation, form the foundation of what is known about the tribulation. It is Daniel's prophecies which reveal that the tribulation is going to last for seven years. "When Will the Tribulation Start?" ---------------------------------- Daniel says that the seven-year tribulation will start when the nation of Israel signs a peace treaty with the Antichrist (Daniel 9:27). We don't know who the Antichrist will be, but we do know that the treaty will be for seven years. Daniel's Calendar Of 70 Sets Of 7 --------------------------------- Daniel refers in his prophecy to "seventy sets of seven"- or a total of 490 years (Daniel 9:24-27). The prophecies of Daniel indicate that the first 483 years lead up to the crucifixion of Christ--that the clock stops running during the "church age"--and that the last 7 years start ticking during the tribulation, so that the buzzer rings at the second coming of Christ when He returns to earth to establish His kingdom. More than 500 years before Christ was born, Daniel predicted that 69 sets of 7 (483 years) would pass between the time that a decree was made to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and the time when "the anointed one" would be "cut off." When Daniel wrote this prophecy, he was living in exile in Babylon, and the temple in Jerusalem had been demolished by the invading Assyrians. Historians tell us that after Daniel's death on March 5, 444 B.C., the Persian king Artaxerxes issued a decree that the temple in Jerusalem could be rebuilt. Exactly 173,880 days later (which is 483 years using a 360-day calendar), on March 30, A.D. 33, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem on a donkey in the event known as Palm Sunday (which was the preclude to His crucifixion). According to Daniel's timetable, we have just seven more years to go until the second coming, and the clock will start ticking (at the beginning of the tribulation) as soon as Israel signs the peace treaty with the as-yet unidentified Antichrist. There's Tribulation in John's Revelation, Too --------------------------------------------- Much of the information about the tribulation is found in Revelation, the last book of the Bible. This book contains the writings of the disciple John when he was exiled by Roman authorities to the island of Patmos off the coast of Asia about 95 A.D. In the Book of Revelation, John recounts the vision which God gave him about the end of the world. Seven Years of Hell on Earth ---------------------------- The horror of the seals, trumpets, and bowls represents the beginning of God's judgment upon a world that has rejected Him. These catastrophic events begin at the commencement of the tribulation and continue through the seven-year period. The Judgment of the Seven Seals ------------------------------- In Revelation 6:1-8:6, John tells of a vision in which he saw a Lamb (a reference to Jesus Christ) sitting on the throne of God. The Lamb opened a scroll, and with the breaking of each of the seven seals, John sees a particular vision with specific meaning for the end times. John's Vision Representing ------------- ------------ First Seal A rider on a white horse Antichrist (Rev. 6:1,2) Second Seal A rider on a red horse The bloodshed from (Rev. 6:3,4) war Third Seal A rider on a black horse Famine (Rev. 6:5,6) Fourth Seal A rider on a green horse One-fourth of the (Rev. 6:7,8) world's population dies from warfare,famine, and disease. Fifth Seal Souls under the altar Those who were (Rev. 6:9-11) martyred for the sake of Christ Sixth Seal Natural calamities People are gripped with (Rev. 6:12-17) fear and hide for safety in caves When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence throughout heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and they were given seven trumpets (Revelation 8:1,2). The Judgment of the Seven Trumpets ---------------------------------- John's vision continues with the angels blowing the trumpets in Revelation 8:7-11:19. With the blast of each trumpet, John sees an event which impacts earth's inhabitants: The Event The Impact --------- ---------- First Trumpet Hail and fire One-third of the earth's (Rev. 8:7) (with blood) vegetation is destroyed Second Trumpet A burning mountain One-third of the sea (Rev. 8:8,9) drops into the sea becomes blood; one-third of sea animals die; one- third of all ships are destroyed Third Trumpet Star falls from One-third of drinking (Rev. 8:10,11) sky water becomes conta- minated; many die from poisoning Fourth Trumpet Heavenly bodies One-third of earth's (Rev. 8:12) collide light is lost Fifth Trumpet Poisonous locusts People suffer painful (Rev. 9:1-12) attack people torture for five months Sixth Trumpet Two hundred One-third of mankind (Rev. 9:13-21) million horsemen is killed attack Then with the blast of the seventh and final trumpet, these horrible events come to a conclusion. There is then a time when God is worshipped in heaven, before a great earthquake hits the earth (Revelation 11:15-19). The Judgment of the Seven Bowls ------------------------------- While the world is still reeling from the disasters of the seven seals and seven trumpets, the final set of God's judgments begins. Here is how John describes it: Then I saw in heaven another significant event and it was great and marvelous. Seven angels were holding the seven last plagues, which would bring God's wrath to completion...Then I heard a mighty voice shouting from the Temple to the seven angels, "Now go your ways and empty out the seven bowls of god's wrath on the earth" (Revelation 15:1;16:1). First Bowl Horrible, malignant sores will break out on anyone who (Revelation 16:2) has the "mark of the beast" and has worshiped his statue (Revelation 16:2) Second Bowl The oceans turn to blood, and everything in them dies (Revelation 16:3) Third Bowl The earth's rivers and springs turn to blood (Revelation 16:4) Fourth Bowl The heat from the sun intensifies, and everyone is (Rev. 16:8,9) scorched Fifth Bowl The earth is plunged into darkness, and everyone is (Rev. 16:10,11) in anguish from their sores and pain Sixth Bowl The Euphrates River dries up-a geological event which (Rev. 16:12-16) allows armies from the east to march toward Israel. The world leaders, under demonic influence, prepare for world war Seventh Bowl The world experiences its greatest earthquake-cities (Rev. 16:17-21) around the world are just heaps of rubble, islands disappear, and mountains are leveled. The earth is hit with its most severe hailstorm-hailstones weighing 75 pounds hit earth's inhabitants YOU DO THE MATH --------------- More than half of the earth's population will be killed during the judgments of the tribulation. Under the fourth seal, 25 percent of the world's population will be killed. That will only leave 75 percent. Then under the sixth trumpet, another one-third of the world's population will be killed in battle. That means only 50 percent of the population is left before the beginning of the judgments of the seven bowls. The Antichrist:Satan's Puppet ----------------------------- Meanwhile, in the midst of all the disasters from the judgments of seals, trumpets, and bowls, Satan is hard at work on planet Earth. He has always been trying to thwart God's plan and sucker people into disbelieving the obvious evidence of God's existence. During the tribulation, Satan will intensify his efforts. (If the rapture happens immediately before the tribulation--the "pre-trib view"--then all of the Christians, and the power of the Holy Spirit that resides inside them, will be removed from earth and Satan's scheme will be easier to achieve.) Remenber John's vision of the first seal? When it broke, he saw a rider on a white horse (Revelation 6:1,2). Many Bible scholars see this as a clear reference to "the Antichrist." All indications are that the Antichrist will be a smooth, debonair political leader who will be able to persuade most of the world to follow him. The sequence of Satan's schemes for the tribulation can be traced by reading the predictions of Jesus, Daniel, and John. The First Half of the Tribulation-the Antichrist Is a Great Imposter -------------------------------------------------------------------- The rapture will probably be the triggering event for the tribulation. The worldwide confusion that follows the disappearance of all the Christians would leave the citizens of planet Earth in a state of panic. This creates the perfect opportunity for a political leader to emerge who could have global support. The Antichrist is just such a figure, and he plays a key role in the tribulation. Here is how the senario plays out: The Antichrist serves as a mediator between the Arabs and Israel. He takes the side of the Jews in claiming that the land of Palestine belongs to the nation of Israel. The Antichrist is instrumental in negotiating a peace treaty with the nation of Israel and its Arab neighbors. The signing of the seven-year peace treaty will mark the beginning of the tribulation (Daniel 9:26,27). The Antichrist rises in popularity, becoming a leader in the ten-nation confederacy that will end up ruling the world during the tribulation (Daniel 2:42-44; Revelation 12:3; 13:1; 17:12,16). With a false sense of security from the peace treaty, Israel rebuilds the temple in Jerusalem. The whole system of ritual sacrifices is reinstituted by the Jews (Revelation 11:1,2). There are 144,000 Jews (12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel) who become Christians and spread the message of Jesus Christ around the world during the tribulation (Revelation 7). God appoints two people to be His special witnesses to the Jews in Jerusalem and in Israel. They preach about God's salvation, which is available only through belief in Jesus Christ. God supernaturally empowers these "two witnesses" to perform miracles which bring credibility to their claims (Revelation 11:3-6). PROFILE OF THE ANTICHRIST ------------------------- There is not enough information about the Antichrist to predict who he is or where he will come from. But we do know that he will be a dangerous fraud. Referring to the Antichrist as "the man of lawlessness," Paul said this about him: This evil man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. He will use every kind of wicked deception to fool those who are on their way to destruction because they refuse to believe the truth that would save them (2 Thessalonians 2:9,10). The Aliases of the Antichrist ----------------------------- We can get a glimpse into the true nature of the Antichrist if we look at the names by which the Bible refers to him. He is also known as: A fierce king (Daniel 8:23) A master of intrigue (Daniel 8:23) A despicable man (Daniel 11:21) A worthless shepherd (Zechariah 11:17) The man of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:3) The evil man (2 Thessalonians 2:9) The beast (Revelation 11:7) The Second Half of the Tribulation-the Antichrist Reveals His True Nature ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Halfway through the tribulation, at the 3 1/2-year mark, things change drastically when the Antichrist drops his charade and reveals his true evil nature. The Antichrist breaks his treaty with Israel, and the Jews are the subject of great persecution (Daneil 9:27; Isaiah 28:18). The Antichrist is killed, but he is raised back to life by the power of Satan, in an attempt to counterfeit the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Revelation 13:3,4). After his death and resurrection, the Antichrist carries out the assassination of the leaders of three countries in the confederacy. The leaders of the other countries immediately relinquish their power and position to the Antichrist. He is now perfectly situated to carry out Satan's plan for world domination. More and more, the world moves toward a single government and economy (Daniel 7:24; Revelations 17:12,13). In a public display, the two witnesses are murdered by the Antichrist for their allegiance to God. Their dead corpses are left in the street as an example for the world to see. However, after 3 1/2 days, the two witnesses are resurrected by the power of God and are taken to heaven in the sight of the entire world (Revelation 11:7-13). The Antichrist puts himself forward as a god and demands the worship and adoration of the people of the world (Revelation 13:3,4,8). Satan empowers "the false prophet" to be the Antichrist's sidekick. Through demonic miracles, the false prophet creates an entire religion around worshiping the Antichrist, which is really worship of Satan (Revelation 13:11-15). The false prophet administers the issuance of the "mark of the beast" (some form of identification placed on the forehead or right hand by which people display their allegiance to the Antichrist). Without this identification, no one can buy or sell in the world's economy (Revelation 13:16-18). The Antichrist sets himself up in the temple in Jerusalem and performs perverse acts of desecration (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15,16; 2 Thess 2:4). The Antichrist attempts to annihilate every Jew. It may be Satan's belief that he can divert God's plan for the world if the Jews are eliminated (Revelation 12:1-6)). The Antichrist leads a military alliance of the western world powers. They prepare to battle against a mighty army of 200 million soldiers from the east in the "battle of Armageddon" (Daniel 11:40-45; Rev. 16:14-16). 666 === Here is all anyone knows for sure about the "mark of the beast": Wisdom is needed to understand this. Let the one who has understanding solve the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666 (Revelation 13:18). Armageddon--the Bible Version ---------- The last event of the tribulation is the battle of Armageddon. This battle was predicted by Daniel, John, and other Old Testament prophets (See Joel 3:9-17; Zechariah 14:1-3). The battlefield will be a large plain in northern Israel. Armageddon is going to be a battle unlike anything the world has ever known. At the same time, military powers from the four corners of the globe will converge upon Israel to battle for world domination. 1. The Antichrist's allies assemble--The ten-nation confederacy assembles with the intent to wipe the Jews off the map (Revelation 16:12-16). 2. Babylon is destroyed--While the Antichrist is with his armies at Armageddon, the invading forces from the east destroy his capital city of Babylon, which is in present-day Iran (Jeremiah 50-51; Revelation 18). 3. Jerusalem falls--Instead of moving eastward to protect his capital city of Babylon, the Antichrist will move his forces south to the city of Jerusalem. The Jews will resist, but the Antichrist will prevail. There will be devastating loss of life (Zechariah 12:1-3; 14:1,2). 4. The Antichrist moves south against the remnant--After he has captured Jerusalem, the Antichrist will disperse his armies to the south in an attempt to capture and kill the Jews who are hiding in the outlying areas--"the remnant" (Jeremiah 49:13,14). 5. The regeneration of Israel--When the forces of the Antichrist descend on the Jews in the wilderness, the Jews will turn back to God. Two-thirds of the Jewish population will have been killed during the tribulation, but the remaining one-third, "the remnant," will acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah (Jeremiah 3:11-18). 6. The second coming of Jesus Christ--The repentant Jews will plead for the Messiah to rescue them from the attacking Antichrist. Their prayers will be answered when Jesus Christ returns to earth with His angelic army and the Christian saints to battle the Antichrist (Jude 14,15; Rev. 19:11-16). 7. The final battle--Jesus Christ will battle alone against the Antichrist and his armies. The Antichrist will be killed and his forces will be destroyed (Habakkuk 3:13; Revelation 14:19,20). 8. The ascent to the Mount of Olives--At the defeat of the Antichrist and his army, there will be a tremendous earthquake and hailstorm. As these calamities subside, Christ will assume His role as rightful king and ruler of the universe on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:3,4 Rev.16:17-21). "Can People Be Saved During the Tribulation?" --------------------------------------------- Yes! Remember that the two witnesses and the 144,000 will be hard at work explaining that belief in Jesus Christ is the only way to have eternal life. In his vision of the end time, John described an event during the tribulation when multitudes worshiped God: After [the commissioning of the 144,000], I saw a vast crowd, too great to count from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne, and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a mighty shout, "Salvation comes from our God on the throne and from the Lamb!" (Revelation 7:9,10). "What's That Again?" -------------------- 1. The tribulation is a seven-year period of disaster which will immediately precede the second coming of Christ. 2. During the tribulation, God will pour out His wrath on the earth in punishment for mankind's sin and rebellion. The catastrophes will include earthquakes, fires, famines, and other natural calamities of immeasurable proportions. More than half of the earth's population will be killed in these disasters. 3. Also during the tribulation, Satan will promote his schemes through a world leader (referred to as the Antichrist). 4. The Antichrist will eventually declare himself to be God as he asserts worldwide domination. His identifying mark (the "mark of the beast") will be required for commerce. Those without this mark will likely starve. 5. The tribulation will end in the prolonged battle of Armageddon. The conflict between the earthly armies will turn heavenward as Christ returns to earth. Christ will prevail.