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.