THE SECOND 3 ½ YEARS – GREAT TRIBULATION LIKE NEVER BEFORE IN HISTORY
Matthew 24:15-20 marks the midpoint of the Tribulation when the Antichrist breaks his treaty with Israel, invades the nation, and desecrates the Temple (cf. Daniel 9:27).
The Antichrist will dominate the latter half of the Tribulation (3½ years) as he institutes a one-world government, economy, and religion aided by his henchman, the false prophet. During this time the Antichrist will declare himself to be God, will require universal worship, and will institute the notorious Tribulation trademark—the mark of the Beast—666.
THE MARK OF THE BEAST
Revelation 13:16-18 is the biblical key that opens the door to the meaning of 666, the mark of the Beast, and the coming one-world economy. The key issue underlying the mark of the Beast is “worship [of] the image of the beast” (Revelation 13:15, NASB). During the Tribulation, the false prophet, who is the leader of the Antichrist’s religious propaganda machine, will head up the campaign of the mark of the Beast (Revelation 13:11-18). The mark of the Beast will force people to declare their allegiance—either to the Antichrist or to Jesus Christ. It will be impossible to be neutral or undecided. Those who do not receive the mark will be killed (Revelation 20:4). Scripture is very specific: the false prophet will require a “mark” of loyalty and devotion to the Beast, and it will be “on the right hand,” not the left, “or on the forehead” (Revelation 13:16).
But what is this “mark”? The question for each person alive during the Tribulation will be, will I swear allegiance to the man who claims to be God? Will I give up ownership of my life to him by taking his mark, or will I bow the knee to the true God and lose my right to buy and sell while also risking beheading? (Revelation 20:4). Taking the mark will ultimately be a spiritual decision; the economic benefits will be secondary to this momentous decision every person will face.
When the Antichrist begins to appear on the world scene, those who have an understanding of Bible prophecy will be able to identify him by the number of his name. The numerical value of his name will be 666. “Counting the name” is not to be applied in our day, for that would be jumping the gun. Instead, it is to be applied by believers during the Tribulation. The Antichrist will not be unveiled until the beginning of the Tribulation period or Day of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:2-3). At that time people will be able to identify him because the number of his name will be 666 (Revelation 13:18).
Many prophecy teachers have pointed out that the triple six refers to man’s number, which is the number six or one short of God’s perfect number, seven. In the Book of Revelation, the number 7 is one of the most significant numbers indicating perfection.
The mark of the Beast will serve two main purposes during the Tribulation. The mark of the Beast will be a satanic counterfeit of the seal of God on the foreheads of the saints (Revelation 7:3). Those who take it will make a deliberate choice; they will knowingly align themselves with the Antichrist and his agenda. Second, the mark will provide economic benefits. during the latter half of the Tribulation (Revelation 13:17).
All who take the mark of the Beast will face the eternal judgment of God. Taking the mark will seal their everlasting doom. It will be an unpardonable, irreversible sin (Revelation 14:9-11).
We don’t know exactly what method the Antichrist will adopt to make his mark. The technology is certainly available today to accomplish the purposes of the mark by regulating world commerce and controlling people’s transactions.
SEVEN SOUNDING TRUMPETS
The seventh seal contains a second series of seven more judgments—the seven trumpets—which will sound during the second half of the Tribulation (Revelation 8:1-2). These trumpets represent specific catastrophes, many of which will destroy large portions of the earth (Revelation 8–11). They represent the supernatural judgment of God. The first four trumpets will bring natural catastrophes. One-third of the earth will be consumed by fire—by a direct act of God. One-third of the sea will become as blood, and one-third of sea life will be destroyed.
First Trumpet (Revelation 8:7) Bloody Hail and Fire: One-Third of Vegetation Destroyed
Second Trumpet (Revelation 8:8-9) Fireball from Heaven: One-Third of Oceans Polluted
Third Trumpet (Revelation 8:10-11) Falling Star: One-Third of Fresh Water Polluted
Fourth Trumpet (Revelation 8:12) Darkness: One-Third of Sun, Moon, and Stars Darkened
Fifth Trumpet (Revelation 9:1-12) Demonic Invasion: Possession and Torment
Sixth Trumpet (Revelation 9:13-21) Demonic Army of 200 Million: One-Third of Mankind Killed
At the sounding of the fifth trumpet, demonic forces from the abyss will swarm the earth like locusts. The forces of hell will be unleashed across the face of the earth to torment people with pain like the sting of a scorpion (Revelation 9:1-12). These demonic creatures are “supernatural soldiers in the kingdom of darkness.” But God will limit the demonic invasion to five months and will only allow the demons to torment, not to kill.
The sixth trumpet signals the advance of a great army numbering 200 million that will kill one-third of mankind (Revelation 9:15-16). Some speculate that this passage describes a Chinese invasion of Israel. The army of 200 million is viewed as parallel with the kings from the east in Revelation 16:12 who come from the east into Israel, crossing the dried-up Euphrates River.
It is however much better to identify this massive army as a second wave of demonic invaders who assault the earth during the Tribulation. The fifth trumpet judgment is clearly a demonic invasion of earth, and the fifth and sixth trumpet judgments go together since they are the first two of three “terrors” (Revelation 8:13). During the Tribulation period, demons will overrun the earth, afflicting men with great pain and ultimately slaying one-third of the people on earth (Revelation 9:15, 18).
One-third of the earth’s population perishes in the sixth trumpet judgment alone. Adding in the one-fourth of the population that dies earlier in the fourth seal judgment (Revelation 6:7-8), that is one-half of the world’s population dying
SEVEN SUPER BOWLS OF WRATH
When the seventh trumpet sounds, the second coming of Christ is announced (Revelation 11:15-17). This makes it clear, then, that the seventh trumpet stretches all the way to Christ’s return and thus includes the seven bowls in Revelation 16. Chronologically, the seventh trumpet both introduces and includes the final period of God’s wrath symbolized by the seven bowls in Revelation.
The trumpets and bowls of judgment have striking parallels to the plagues of Egypt and both deal with God’s direct judgment.
Yet, instead of being horrified, people will be hardened, despite their knowing that this devastation comes from God. Instead of repenting, they will rebel. Revelation 16:11.
- First Bowl (Revelation 16:2) upon the Earth: Sores on the Worshipers of the Antichrist
- Second Bowl (Revelation 16:3) upon the Seas: Turned to Blood
- Third Bowl (Revelation 16:4-7) upon the Fresh Water: Turned to Blood
- Fourth Bowl (Revelation 16:8-9) upon the Sun: Intense, Scorching Heat
- Fifth Bowl (Revelation 16:10-11) upon the Antichrist’s Kingdom: Darkness and Pain
- Sixth Bowl (Revelation 16:12-16) upon the River Euphrates: Armageddon (To be discussed in more detail in Part 10)
- Seventh Bowl (Revelation 16:17-21) upon the Air: Earthquakes and Hail (To be discussed in more detail in Part 10)
THE FALL OF BABYLON THE GREAT – REVELATION 17–18
Before Armageddon is fully described and the second coming of Christ is unveiled in Revelation 19, there is a sudden pause or interlude in the main action. Before Christ returns, one final event must be addressed—the demise of Babylon the Great.
Chapters 17 and 18 are inserted into the chronological flow of Revelation, which continues in chapter 19. The pouring out of the seventh bowl (16:17) is actually followed immediately in time by the return of Jesus Christ to end the great world battle (19:11). Chapters 17 and 18 digress to look not at God’s specific judgments, but at what is being judged. Those two chapters go back to describe the world system led by Satan, Antichrist, and the false prophet, before recording its destruction. John had already heard harbingers of Babylon’s destruction (14:8; 16:19); now the details of that destruction are given in these remarkable visions.
Babylon, the earthly city, is presented in Revelation 17–18 as a vile prostitute. This city is in sharp contrast to the new Jerusalem, the heavenly city, pictured with the virtuous bride of Christ in Revelation 21–22.
The identification of Babylon is more difficult. Some believe it refers to the Roman Catholic church and the Vatican, while others relate it to the ancient city of Babylon, apostate Christendom, the United States, New York City, Rome or Jerusalem. Babylon is a literal city according to Revelation 17:18.
It is a city of worldwide importance and influence, probably the capital city of the Antichrist (Revelation 17:15, 18). Babylon and the Beast (the Antichrist) are very closely connected with one another. The woman (Babylon) is pictured riding on the Beast (the Antichrist) (Revelation 17:3-5, 7). It is a center of false religion (Revelation 17:4-5; 18:1-2) and of world commerce (Revelation 18:9-19).
Babylon persecutes the Lord’s people (Revelation 17:6; 18:20, 24) and will be destroyed suddenly and completely at the end of the Tribulation, never to rise again (Revelation 18:8-10, 21-24).
These two systems, religion and commerce, will share the same geographical location under the Antichrist’s domain. Babylon will be both a city and a system.
Taking all the facts into account, most scholars of end time prophecy conclude that the best view is that Babylon is the literal city of Babylon on the Euphrates in modern Iraq that will be rebuilt in the last days. There are several points that favour this identification. Babylon is the most mentioned city in the Bible other than Jerusalem. Babylon was the capital city of the first of four Gentile world empires to rule over Jerusalem. Throughout history, Babylon has represented the height of rebellion and opposition to God’s plans and purposes
The Euphrates River is mentioned by name twice in Revelation (9:14; 16:12). Zechariah, writing about twenty years after Babylon’s fall to the Medo-Persians, saw a future time when evil would return to its original place in Babylon (Zechariah 5:5-11). Isaiah 13 and Jeremiah 50–51 predicted that the city of Babylon would be destroyed suddenly and completely. Babylon was never destroyed in this way but died a long, slow death over many centuries. The many parallels between Jeremiah 50–51 and the future Babylon in Revelation 17–18 indicate that both are describing the same city.
The site of modern Babylon is strategically located at the crossroads of Asia, Europe, and Africa and is not far from the Persian Gulf. It is also near the world’s richest oil fields and has a virtually unlimited water supply from the Euphrates. Those considerations led the famed historian Arnold Toynbee to proclaim that Babylon would be an ideal site for an important political and cultural center (Morris, Revelation Record, 349).
Putting all these pieces together, it appears that Babylon will be rebuilt in the last days to serve as the religious and commercial capital for the Antichrist’s empire.
Revelation 17: Religious Babylon
Prophecy often uses prostitution, fornication, or adultery to describe idolatry (Isaiah 23:15-17; Jeremiah 2:20-31; 13:27; Ezekiel 16:17-19; Hosea 2:5; Nahum 3:4). The major indictment against Babylon in Revelation 17 is the city’s spiritual idolatry (17:4-5). The prostitute is identified as “Babylon the Great, Mother of All Prostitutes and Obscenities in the World,” and symbolizes a false religious system, climaxing in a one world religion during the first 3½ years of the Tribulation.
Babylon is the “Mother,” which means the source, or the polluted fountain from which all spiritual prostitution flows. It takes us back to the tower of Babel, where it started. Man will again organize in rebellion against the Creator just as he did at the tower of Babel.
The disappearance of millions of Christians at the Rapture will deepen the religious confusion already evident. The church institution left on earth after the Rapture—void of true believers—will quickly fall into the hands of opportunists.
During the Tribulation, all the world’s diverse false religions will be reunited into one great world religion. Her association with the kings of the earth reveals that the scope of the harlot’s influence will be immense. Those at the highest levels of power and influence will commit spiritual fornication with her. That the woman was sitting on the scarlet beast signifies that the Antichrist was supporting her.
The beast and the woman will coexist for a while; that is, the religion will be separate from the kingdom of the Antichrist at first. But eventually “the beast … will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire” (v. 16). It will be at that point that the false prophet will make the whole world worship the Antichrist (13:11–14), and everything will be one in the beast’s universal and comprehensive rule. The Antichrist’s faked resurrection and his destruction of the false religious system will take place approximately halfway through the Tribulation period.
Babylon will spiritually rule over the nations of the world (the many waters) fully controlling the religious affairs.
Revelation 18: Commercial Babylon
Revelation 18:1 begins with the words, “After all this.” In Revelation 18, this phrase signals a shift or change in focus from Babylon’s religious aspect in the first half of the seven-year Tribulation to its economic, commercial, and political aspect that dominates the world in the last half of the Tribulation. The city is connected with the merchants of the earth (Revelation 18:3, 11, 15, 23) and those engaged in maritime commerce (18:17). The long list of goods and cargo associated with Babylon marks the city as an economic juggernaut (18:11-13). The guilt of Babylon in chapter 18 primarily stems from her sensuality associated with materialism and wanton luxury. When Babylon falls, the kings of the earth, the merchants, and the traders of the sea will lament the fall of the nerve center of the world economy. All their dreams will come crashing down. Chuck Swindoll describes the fall of commercial Babylon:
“As they watch the empire of the Beast burn amidst its countless treasures, they will also know that their own time is short. Thinking they had gotten in on an opportunity of a lifetime, those who rest in the lap of Babylon’s luxury will suddenly realize that the tables have been turned. Like the Nazis in Berlin on the eve of the Allied victory, the reality of the Antichrist’s defeat will be obvious as their satanic Reich disintegrates before their eyes.”
The Doom of Babylon
Since the Antichrist rules the world for the final 3½ years of the Tribulation, the woman cannot be in control of him during that time. Therefore, at the midpoint of the Tribulation, the Antichrist and the ten kings will destroy the religious system of Babylon (Revelation 17:16). The Antichrist will replace the false religious system of Babylon with his own blasphemous system that deifies him.
Babylon itself, with its political and commercial influence, will continue under the rule of the Antichrist for another 3½ years until it is destroyed in the seventh bowl judgment near the end of the Tribulation (Revelation 16:19; 18:16-24). Babylon will fall, never to rise again, just as the Scripture says.