- KEY ROLE PLAYERS IN THE TRIBULATION
THE EVIL TRINITY
In the evil trinity, Satan is a counterfeit Father (anti-Father), the Antichrist is a counterfeit Son (anti-Christ), and the false prophet is a counterfeit of the Holy Spirit (anti-Spirit). This is the infernal trinity.
Scripture indicates that Satan will be the ultimate power behind the Antichrist. Satan (the dragon) gives his authority to the Beast (Revelation 13:2, 4). He himself will indwell, energize, and control the Antichrist. Likewise, the false prophet is described as speaking with the voice of a dragon, which is a picture of Satan (13:11). This indicates that the false prophet is a foul mouthpiece for Satan.
One of the key topics in Daniel 7–12 is the person and work of the coming world ruler, the Antichrist. He is the dominant human character in these chapters.
Titles of the Antichrist
- the little horn (Daniel 7:8)
- a king, insolent and skilled in intrigue (Daniel 8:23)
- the prince who is to come (Daniel 9:26)
- the one who makes desolate (Daniel 9:27)
- the king who does as he pleases (Daniel 11:36-45)
- a foolish shepherd (Zechariah 11:15-17)
- the man of destruction (2 Thessalonians 2:3)
- the lawless one (2 Thessalonians 2:8)
- the rider on the white horse (Revelation 6:2)
- the beast out of the sea (Revelation 13:1-2)
It refers both to an individual and to the system he represents (1 John 2:18; 4:3). In John 5:43, Jesus says, “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him.” The one coming in his own name will be the world’s final false messiah, the Antichrist.
The Appearance of the Antichrist
The Antichrist will debut on the world stage at the beginning of the Tribulation after the Rapture. We can only imagine the chaos and confusion that will grip the world after the Rapture and the desperate cry for someone to bring things under control.
According to 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7, the Antichrist can only be revealed when the Holy Spirit is removed at the Rapture. “He who now restrains” (NASB)
Although he will be active throughout the entire 70th week of Daniel, he will be at his worst when he rules the world for the final 3½ years before the return of Christ.
The Attributes of the Antichrist
Putting Daniel and Revelation13 and 17 together, we can develop a short character profile for this final world ruler.
- He will be a gentile, not a Jew: the origin of the Antichrist is symbolized by the beast in Revelation 13:1: “Then I saw a beast rising up out of the sea.” The word sea when used symbolically in the book of Revelation and the rest of Scripture symbolizes the Gentile nations. This is confirmed in Revelation 17:15 where “the waters . . .represent masses of people of every nation and language.” Having a Jew as the last world ruler over Gentile power does not seem likely, as one of the primary activities of the Antichrist will be persecuting the Jewish people, invading Israel, and desecrating the rebuilt Jewish Temple (Daniel 7:25; 9:27; 11:41, 45; 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 11:2; 12:6; 13:7).
- He will mesmerize the world with his words (Daniel 7:8, 11; 11:36; Revelation 13:5) Over and over again, biblical passages draw attention to his mouth speaking great words.
- He will rise from obscurity as a great peacemaker (Daniel 9:27; Revelation 17:11-12) He won’t attract much attention when he first enters the political arena. Daniel 7:8 characterizes him as the “little” horn among the ten horns in a reunited Roman Empire. His platform will be peace and prosperity. He will weld together opposing forces with ease. He will bring such peace to the Middle East that the Temple Mount area in Jerusalem will be returned to Jewish sovereignty (Daniel 9:27).
- He will establish a one-world economy (Daniel 11:43; Revelation 13:16-17) From the midpoint of the Tribulation until the second coming of Christ, no one will be able to buy or sell without the Antichrist’s permission (Revelation 13:16-17). People all over the world will be compelled to take his mark. His one-world economy will be run by his sidekick, the false prophet (Revelation 13:11-18).
- He will rule the world (Revelation 6:2; 13:2) No one will be able to stand in the way of his conquest. “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” (Revelation 13:4).
- He will claim to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:8) He will proclaim that he is God and require the world to worship him (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:8).
Summary of the Antichrist’s activities
- He will appear in “the time of the end” of Israel’s history (Daniel 8:17).
- His manifestation will signal the beginning of the Day of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).
- His manifestation is currently being hindered by the “restrainer” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-7).
- His rise to power will come through peace programs (Revelation 6:2). He will make a covenant of peace with Israel (Daniel 9:27). This event will signal the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation. He will later break that covenant at its midpoint.
- Near the middle of the Tribulation, the Antichrist will be assassinated or violently killed (Revelation 13:3, 12, 14).
- He will descend into the abyss (Revelation 17:8).
- He will be raised back to life (Revelation 11:7; 13:3, 12, 14; 17:8).
- The whole world will be amazed and will follow after him (Revelation 13:3).
- He will be totally controlled and energized by Satan (Revelation 13:2-5).
- He will assassinate three of the ten kings in the reunited Roman Empire (Daniel 7:24).
- The kings will give all authority to him (Revelation 17:12-13).
- He will invade the land of Israel and desecrate the rebuilt Temple (Daniel 9:27; 11:41; 12:11; Matthew 24:15; Revelation 11:2).
- He will mercilessly pursue and persecute the Jewish people (Daniel 7:21, 25; Revelation 12:6).
- He will set himself up in the Temple as God (2 Thessalonians 2:4).
- He will be worshiped as God for 3½ years (Revelation 13:4-8).
- His claim to deity will be accompanied by great signs and wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).
- He will speak great blasphemies against God (Daniel 7:8; Revelation 13:6).
- He will rule the world politically, religiously, and economically for 3½ years (Revelation 13:4-8, 16-18).
- He will be promoted by a second beast who will lead the world in worship of him (Revelation 13:11-18).
- He will require all to receive his mark (666) to buy and sell (Revelation 13:16-18).
- He will establish his political and economic capital in Babylon (Revelation 17).
- He and the ten kings will destroy Babylon (Revelation 18:16).
- He will kill the two witnesses (Revelation 11:7).
- He will gather all the nations against Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:1-2; 14:1-3; Revelation 16:16; 19:19).
- He will fight against Christ when He returns to earth and suffer total defeat (Revelation 19:19-20).
- He will be cast alive into the lake of fire (Daniel 7:11; Revelation 19:20).
THE FALSE PROPHET
Revelation 13:11-18 introduces a second beast that comes up out of the earth. Also known as the “false prophet,” he will serve as the lieutenant for the Antichrist, preparing the way. Using stunning miracles, signs, and wonders, the false prophet will convince the world that the Antichrist is the leader they’ve been longing for.
He is called “the false prophet” three times in Revelation (16:13; 19:20; 20:10) and is also known as the second beast in Revelation 13:11-18. He is the final person in the unholy trinity of the end times (Revelation 16:13; 19:20–20:2;20:10). Just as the Holy Spirit gives glory to Christ and points men to Him, the false prophet will glorify the Antichrist and lead people to trust and worship him.
Whereas the Antichrist will primarily be a military and political figure, the false prophet will be a religious figure. He will be a kind of “satanic John the Baptist” preparing the way for the coming of the Antichrist.
Facts about the False Prophet
His deceptive appearance (Revelation 13:11) He is hostile to God’s flock and he ravages God’s people, but he looks gentle, tender, mild, and harmless. In this verse, he is described as “the lamb with two horns.” He has the voice of a dragon and when he speaks, he becomes Satan’s mouthpiece.
His devilish authority (Revelation 13:12) The second beast will have great authority delegated to him by the Antichrist. He will exercise “all the authority of the first beast” (Revelation 13:12).
His deadly activity (Revelation 13:13-18) He will seduce the world with his words and stun the it with his wonders.
He will bring down fire from heaven and perform other miracles (Revelation 13:13-14)
He will erect an image of the antichrist for all the world to worship (Revelation 13:14-15) This image, called the abomination of desolation, will be placed in the Temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15).
He will raise the antichrist from the dead (Revelation 13:14) While this is not stated explicitly in the text, it is strongly implied. Revelation 13 mentions the death and resurrection of the Antichrist three times (verses 3, 12,14), and it is mentioned again in Revelation 17:8. Since the false prophet is a miracle worker who deceives the world, it is probable that Satan will use the false prophet as his human instrument to raise the Antichrist back to life.
He will give life to the image of the beast (Revelation 13:15)
He will control world commerce on behalf of the beast forcing everyone to take the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:16) The crowning achievement for the false prophet will be the global registration of all people. He will use a totally controlled economy to secure the rule of the first beast, the Antichrist. No one will be able to buy or sell without pledging allegiance to the Beast, receiving his mark, and submitting to the global registration system.
Revelation 13:16-17 sets forth the false prophet’s economic program. “He causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name” (NASB).
He will deceive the whole world (13:14) and kill all who refuse to worship the Antichrist (13:15)
They are mentioned in Revelation 7:1-8 and discussed again in Revelation 14:1-5. Revelation 7 is an intermission before the seventh seal is opened. It’s like a flashback to the beginning of the ministry of the 144,000 and gives a panorama of their activity. Revelation 14:1-5 pictures the 144,000 at the end of the Tribulation.
Jews and Gentiles are clearly distinguished from one another in Revelation 7. The 144,000 Jews are listed in 7:1-8 while 7:9-17 presents an uncountable host of “every nation and tribe and people and language.”
If the Scriptures are interpreted literally, then the 144,000 are a literal group of 144,000 Jewish men —12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel—raised up by God during the Tribulation to serve Him. They are not spiritual Israel (the church), but actual Israel.
The 144,000 “had been purchased from the earth” (Revelation 14:3, NASB). The word purchased means to “redeem or pay the price for something.” The precious blood of Christ purchased these servants of God.
The 144,000 are prepared for God’s service by being given His seal on their foreheads (Revelation 7:3-4). On earth during the Tribulation, the followers of the Beast will bear his mark on their right hand or forehead (Revelation 13:16). During this same time, the Lord will identify His people by placing a seal of ownership on their foreheads (Revelation 14:1).
God seals the 144,000 before allowing the four angels to bring their judgment on the earth (Revelation 7:1-3). The 144,000 will be protected from the wrath of God and Satan during the Tribulation (Revelation 9:4).
These Jewish servants fearlessly proclaim the gospel of Christ during the Tribulation period and will fulfil Matthew 24:14: “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come”
In Revelation 14:1-5, John sees the 144,000 at the end of the Tribulation standing triumphantly on Mount Zion—the city of Jerusalem.
THE TWO WITNESSES
Revelation 11:3-14 describes their ministry. God will anoint these two special witnesses who will minister on His behalf amid the darkness and devastation. They are described as wearing sackcloth, just like John the Baptist. Sackcloth signifies mourning and repentance.
They perform miracles and they prophesy for God for 1,260 days (3½ years). They die, and their bodies lie in the street for 3½ days. They are raised back to life and ascend to heaven.
Revelation 11:4 offers further evidence that the two witnesses are real people. There they are called “the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of all the earth.” If we look at the prophecy of Zechariah we see, again, two witnesses: Joshua and Zerubbabel (Zechariah 4:1-14). God uses the lampstand and the olive trees as a picture of them. Just as Joshua and Zerubbabel ministered to restore Israel to her land and her Lord, so will the two witnesses.
Early Christians such as Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus believed Enoch and Elijah will reappear during the Tribulation and will be the two witnesses. Others have held that Moses will be one of the two witnesses along with either Enoch or Elijah. Enoch never died. He was a prophet of judgment who announced the coming of the Lord in the days before the Flood (Jude 1:14-15). First, like Moses, the witnesses will turn the rivers to blood and bring other plagues on the earth (Revelation 11:6). Second, Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, which foreshadowed the glory of Christ at His second coming (Matthew 17:1-11). Elijah also never tasted physical death. Second, like Moses, he was present at the Transfiguration. Third, the Scriptures predict that Elijah will come before “the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Malachi 4:5).
They will be end times prophets who will “prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days” (Revelation 11:3, NASB). They will warn the world that the end is near. When they bring plague after plague upon the earth, the Beast (the Antichrist) and his followers throughout the world will view these two witnesses as public enemies. But God will supernaturally protect them for 3½ years. They will be invincible (Revelation 11:5). However, when the two witnesses have finished their unprecedented 3½-year ministry, God will allow the Antichrist to kill them (Revelation 11:7). The entire world, led by the Antichrist, will celebrate the deaths of these witnesses (Revelation 11:9-10). This is the only mention of any kind of rejoicing or celebrating on earth during the entire Tribulation period Revelation 11:9. This statement could be looking into the future when people from all over the world can see events via television and satellite.
After the dead bodies of the two witnesses have lain swelling in the sun for 3½ days, the Lord will raise their bodies back to life from the street in Jerusalem before a horror-stricken world (Revelation 11:11-12).
The context in Revelation 11:2-3 indicates that the two witnesses will minister during the same forty-two month period—1,260 days, or 3½ years—that the Temple is being trampled by the nations and is dominated by the worship of the Antichrist. This corresponds to the latter half of the Tribulation, when the Antichrist will control Jerusalem. The blowing of the seventh trumpet—which announces the second coming of Christ at the end of the Tribulation—immediately follows the description of the two witnesses (Revelation 11:15-19).
THE TRIBULATION SAINTS
The church will be raptured before the tribulation, but the Bible also indicates that a great number of people will place their faith in Jesus Christ during the tribulation. The tribulation saints will hear the gospel from several possible sources. The first is the Bible; there will be many copies of the Bible left in the world, and when God’s judgments begin to fall, many people will likely react by finding a Bible to see if prophecies are being fulfilled. Many of the tribulation saints will also have heard the gospel from the two witnesses (Revelation 11:1–13). And then there are the 144,000 Jewish missionaries who are redeemed and sealed by God during the tribulation (Revelation 7:1–8). Immediately following the description of their sealing in Revelation 7, we read of the multitudes of tribulation saints who are saved from every corner of the world (verses 9–17).
In his vision of heaven, John sees a vast number of these tribulation saints who have been martyred by the Antichrist: “There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9). When John asks who they are, he is told, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (verse 14).
It will be a time of great persecution for the believers—or saints—because of the Antichrist’s persecution (Revelation 13:7). Daniel saw the Antichrist “waging war against the saints and defeating them” (Daniel 7:21). Faithful to the end, many of these believers will die for their faith. But in their death, they overcome; “They overcame [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Revelation 12:11).
Since the tribulation will cover a period of seven years, as indicated in Daniel 9:27, much interest is focused upon Israel’s year-week cycle. The final year-week before the coming of the Messiah on the Mount of Olives, will be a time of testing and spiritual awakening for Israel. This nation is still spiritually blinded and faces a tough time of purification during the seven years of tribulation (Jer. 30:7; Dan. 9:27; Ezek. 22:19-21; Zech. 13:8-9). After this purification a remnant of Israel will enter the rest of the Messianic kingdom and enjoy all the promises of blessing and perfection.