The Tribulation: Israel's Seventieth Week
This article is divided into the following sections:
Fulfillment of Ancient Prophecies: The Scattering and Regathering of Israel
Fulfillment of Ancient Prophecies: The Day of the LORD
Understanding the Framework of the Tribulation
The First Six Seals
The Sealing of the 144,000 and the Seventh Seal
The First Six Trumpets
The Midpoint of the Tribulation
The Seventh Trumpet
Satan's Wrath Against the Remnant of Israel
The Kingdom of the Antichrist
The Seven Bowls of the Wrath of God
The Woman on the Beast and the Fall of Babylon
The Battle of Armageddon
In this article we will study the future seven year period of the tribulation. When first learning about the Bible, many may get the impression that the tribulation is only discussed in the book of Revelation. But as we study God's Word more deeply, we find that there is information about the tribulation scattered all over the Bible. The books of the Old Testament prophets are filled with it, including Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, Zephaniah, Zechariah, and many others. Jesus Christ spoke of it in His earthly ministry. Peter spoke of it in early Acts, and Paul wrote about it in his two letters to the Thessalonians. Actually, there is far more written about the tribulation outside of the book of Revelation than there is inside the book of Revelation.
Because of the seemingly inexhaustible number of scriptural passages dealing with this seven year period, there is still room for this article to grow beyond the material presented here. If our Lord tarries, from time to time I plan to add further detail and scriptures to show what the Word tells us about the tribulation more completely.
The article, Four Views of End-Time Prophecy, explained how the catching away (rapture) of all true Christians will happen before the seven-year tribulation begins and is therefore not part of the tribulation. The tribulation was prophesied to the nation of Israel by the Old Testament prophets and by Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry and by the Apostle John in the book of Revelation. By contrast, the rapture of the church was a mystery that was not revealed to the nation of Israel, but was revealed to the predominantly Gentile church. The rapture is doctrine for the grace dispensation, not for the law dispensation. It is the "blessed hope" (Titus 2:13) of the church, not for the nation of Israel, which hopes for the Messiah's millennial reign in which they will occupy a special place above all other nations. The rapture was taught only by our Apostle Paul to the church. For a detailed explanation of the important distinctions between law and grace and between Israel and the church, see Israel's Kingdom Gospel and Our Grace Gospel. We must keep these two programs clearly separated in our minds if we are to properly understand God’s Word. Therefore, though the rapture may be mentioned briefly in this article, we will be focusing on the tribulation itself, rather than on the pre-tribulational rapture. The Old Testament, Matthew 24-25, and Revelation are addressed, not to the church, but to the nation of Israel, and therefore reveal a great deal about the tribulation, but nothing at all about the rapture. Readers who are wondering about the role of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation chapters 2-3 may want to study the article The Seven Churches of Revelation. Now, we begin our study of this exceedingly dreadful seven year tribulation.
Fulfillment of Ancient Prophecies: The Scattering and Regathering of Israel
To understand the tribulation, let us first look at where it fits in the overall story of the Bible. In the Old Testament, God foretold that He would remove the nation of Israel from their land which He had given them and would scatter them into all nations where they would be greatly persecuted.
Deuteronomy 28:63-67 says, "And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it. And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life: In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see."
Thousands of years of history have proven this to be true. About six million Jews were killed in Germany by the Nazis. As terrible as that was, it is but one piece of the great persecution the Jews have faced from nation to nation over the centuries. Many times they have been banished from one country to another. But God also said that one day He would gather them back to the land of Israel.
Deuteronomy 30:1-3 says, "And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee."
In 1948, Israel became an independent nation for the first time since Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, conquered them more than 2500 years earlier. Since then, millions of Israelites have moved back to the land of Israel. But there are still large populations of Israelites in other countries, mostly in Russia and the United States.
Many other Bible passages prophesied Israel's scattering and regathering as well. Hosea 3:4-5 says, "For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod (a priestly garment), and without teraphim (family idols): Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days."
Jeremiah 16:14-15 "Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers."
Amos 9:9 "For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth."
Isaiah 11:11-12 "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth."
Ezekiel 34:12-13 "As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country."
God returning Israel to their land is the subject of Ezekiel's prophecy of the dry bones. Ezekiel 37:1-2 says, "The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry."
In Ezekiel 37:5-8, the vision continues to show the bones resurrection with a complete body, but still with no life. "Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them." This condition of being resurrected, but still with no breath may be in reference to the way Israel will be brought back to the land, but for a few years, they will still be without the indwelling Holy Spirit.
But they receive their breath in Ezekiel 37 verses 9-10, "Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army."
Ezekiel 37:11-14 tells of how God would one day bring the people of Israel back to their land. "Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD." Notice how Israel being forced out of their land is likened to their bones being dried out. But by stark contrast, Israel being returned to their land is compared to them coming out of their graves.
Fulfillment of Ancient Prophecies: The Day of the LORD
Few subjects are spoken of more frequently and in more different books in the Old Testament than the day of the LORD. Here are just a few of the passages describing the day of the LORD:
Zephaniah 1:14-15 says, "The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness ...." It seems that no matter how many times I read over these and other such verses, I am still taken aback at just how severe the day of the LORD will be. I am so thankful that we who believe the gospel, that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead, will be with the Lord in heaven when the tribulation is occurring. It is easy to understand why the rapture is the "blessed hope" of the church (Titus 2:13).
Isaiah 13:6 says, "Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty." Continuing on to verse Isaiah 13:9, "... the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger ...."
Joel 2:11 says, "... the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?"
It is important to be aware that most English Bible translations translate the name of God, "Jehovah", as "the LORD" with LORD in all capital letters. For example, the King James Version does this thousands of times. So whenever you see "day of the LORD", understand that it means "day of Jehovah".
Jeremiah 30:5-7 says, "For thus saith the LORD; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it." So we see that the day of the LORD is a time of great trouble for Jacob, the nation of Israel. In fact, Zechariah 13:8-9 reveals that only one third of the nation of Israel will survive this great time of trouble, "And it shall come to pass, that in all the land saith the LORD, two parts (2/3) therein shall be cut off and die; but the third (1/3) shall be left therein. And I will bring the third (1/3) part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God."
Even so, the tribulation will be global, not just local to Israel. It will also be upon all nations, Gentiles (people who are not part of the nation of Israel), all over the world. Below are a few verses which make this clear.
Obadiah 1:15 "For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen (Gentiles): as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head."
Ezekiel 30:3 "For the day is near, even the day of the LORD is near, a cloudy day; it shall be the time of the heathen."
Zechariah 12:9 "And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem."
Isaiah 34:1-2 "Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people: let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it. For the indignation of the LORD is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter." We know this is describing the day of the LORD because a few verses later, Isaiah 34:8 says, "For it is the day of the LORD'S vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion (Jerusalem)."
Zechariah 14:2-3 "For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle."
Jeremiah 25:29-33 "... I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth, saith the LORD of hosts. Therefore prophesy thou against them all these words, and say unto them, The LORD shall roar from on high, and utter his voice from his holy habitation; he shall mightily roar upon his habitation; he shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth; for the LORD hath a controversy with the nations, he will plead with all flesh; he will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth. And the slain of the LORD shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground."
Micah 5:15 "And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard."
Zephaniah 3:8 "Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I will rise up to the prey: for my determination is the gather the nations that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy."
So we see that even though the focus of the tribulation period is the nation of Israel, the wrath of God will be poured out upon the whole world during the tribulation.
Isaiah 1:24-28 provides good insight into the purpose of the tribulation. God says, "… I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies: And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin: And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness. And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed." Here we see that God will have vengeance upon His enemies, purify the nation of Israel, restore Israel’s judges, and destroy the transgressors and sinners. All of this is leading up to yet another purpose which follows in the early verses of the next chapter. That purpose is to establish the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Isaiah 2:1-4 says, "The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."
Understanding the Framework of the Tribulation
Before delving into the events of the tribulation in detail, it is beneficial to first learn the basic framework of the tribulation, including the following:
1. The length of the tribulation
2. The events that will occur at the beginning of the tribulation
3. The events that will occur at the midpoint of the tribulation
4. The events that will occur at the end of the tribulation
5. With the framework having been established in steps 1-4, then all of the other events of the tribulation can be placed in their proper sequence on the appropriate side of the midpoint.
The length: In Daniel 9:24-27, God revealed that there would be a time frame of 70 weeks in which certain prophecies regarding the nation of Israel would be fulfilled. The Hebrew word "shabuwa", translated in Daniel 9 as "week" in the King James Version means a "period of seven". Shabuwa can mean seven days or seven years, depending upon the context. Often, shabuwa is used in scripture to describe the length of a feast or some other event that obviously is only a matter of days in length. But sometimes a shabuwa clearly means seven years, such as in Genesis 29:27-28. After Jacob was given Leah, in place of Rachel, for a wife after serving Laban for seven years, Laban told him. "27 Fulfil her week (shabuwa), and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. 28 And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week (shabuwa): and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also." Like in Genesis 29, shabuwa is used in Daniel 9 to refer to periods of seven years (not days). Some Bible teachers refer to these time periods as "weeks of years". After the first 69 seven year periods (weeks) ended, Jesus Christ was crucified. The 70th week is still yet to come, and is first mentioned as being the seven-year tribulation in Daniel 9:27. Later, Revelation 11:2-3 and Revelation 13:5 tell us of the two halves of the seven years which are 42 months each, with each month containing 30 days for a total of 1260 days in each half of the seven years.
The beginning: The seven years will begin when the Antichrist (the future leader of the revived Roman Empire) will make a seven year covenant, or treaty, with the nation of Israel and possibly some of the surrounding nations. This treaty will result in Israel feeling protected and experiencing a temporary, pseudo peace. Israel will even have their rights to worship and sacrifice on the temple mount restored.
The mid-point: 3 1/2 years later, at the mid-point of the seven year tribulation, the Antichrist will break the treaty with Israel. He will commit the abomination of desolation in the rebuilt temple and kill God's two witnesses which will have been prophesying for the last 3 1/2 years. Then after 3 1/2 days, the witnesses will be resurrected and ascend into heaven, and the seventh trumpet will sound. Also at the mid-point of the tribulation, the Antichrist will launch an all out attack on the people of Israel.
The end: Another 3 1/2 years later, at the end of the tribulation, Jesus Christ will return to earth and slay the wicked at the battle of Armageddon. Then He will judge all the nations and set up His kingdom on the earth. Israel will be judged separately from the other nations. For a description of Christ's future kingdom on Earth, see the article The Millennial Kingdom Reign of Jesus Christ.
Here is a high-level overview of the sequence of events of the tribulation: The seven-year tribulation will begin with the opening of the first six seals which unleash the many plagues of Revelation chapter 6. Then the 144,000 young men of Israel will be sealed in Revelation 7. Then the seventh seal will be opened, and the first six trumpet plagues will be unleashed in Revelation 8-9. Next comes the middle of the seven-year tribulation, death and resurrection of the two witnesses, and the sounding of the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11. In chapter 12, Satan pursues the remnant of Israel who flea to wilderness. Having been thwarted, Satan will give power to the beast (Antichrist) over all nations. Next come the many great plagues of the seven bowls of wrath. Finally all the armies of the nations will converge upon the land of Israel at the battle of Armageddon, and Jesus Christ will descend from heaven and destroy them. Then He will bind Satan in the bottomless pit for 1000 years and set up His millennial kingdom on the earth.
Now we will begin our detailed study or the chronological series of the events of the tribulation.
The First Six Seals
The First Six Seals
The tribulation was described by Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:4-31. This passage closely parallels the events described in Revelation chapters 6-19. Therefore, we will frequently cross-reference these two passages as we make our way through this study the tribulation.
As Jesus Christ and His disciples were leaving the temple, some of the disciples began to comment on the greatness of the temple structure. But Jesus replied in Matthew 24:2, "... See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." After they had walked a short distance over to the Mount of Olives, some of the disciples came to Jesus privately. Mark 13:3 identifies these disciples as Peter, James, John, and Andrew. They asked Jesus, in Matthew 24:3, "... Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world (end of the age)?"
In answering them, Jesus Christ did not simply describe His return to the earth. Instead, He gave a summary of the whole final seven years (the tribulation) in what is often referred to as the Olivet discourse. In this article, we will examine the portion of the discourse in Matthew 24:4-31. Mark 13:5-27 and Luke 21:8-28 also record this portion of the discourse and provide further insight.
The first few verses of the Olivet discourse are a short summary of the opening of the seven seals in Revelation chapter 6 which are the beginning of the tribulation. Revelation 5:1-2 says, "And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?" Here we have a scroll with writing inside it. It is rolled up and sealed shut. In Biblical days it was common for legal documents, such as land deeds, to be sealed shut with a drop of candle wax which hardened to hold to scroll closed. No one could legally open the scroll except one who met the particular legal qualifications. There is an example in Jeremiah 32:6-14 which tells how the evidence of the land purchase (deed) was written in a scroll and then sealed and placed in a clay jar for long term safe keeping.
The law for redeeming land is in Leviticus 25:23-25, where God explained how land that had been sold could be redeemed by a kinsman (a near relative), "The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land. If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold." This has the effect of keeping the land in the family for the long term.
Likewise, in Leviticus 25:47-49, God explained how people who have sold themselves as servants could be redeemed by a kinsman, "And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger's family: After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him: Either his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him ...."
One account of a land redemption is recorded in the book of Ruth. In that account, Boaz redeemed the land of his deceased relative, Elimelech, but only after a closer relative to Elimelech (Ruth 3:12-13) proved to be unable to redeem the land (Ruth 4:6). To be able to open the scroll to redeem the land or the person, one must be a near relative and be both willing and able to pay the required price. This is very similar to what we see as we continue in Revelation 5:3-4, "And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon." No man on earth is able to redeem mankind, nor the earth itself for mankind.
But as was the case with Boaz, another near relative, who is able to redeem, steps up to open the scroll. Revelation 5:5 says, "And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof." The elder says this in reference to the Lamb, Jesus Christ. And the onlookers sing praises to the Lamb in Revelation 5:9 saying, "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation …." This shows that the shed blood of Jesus Christ was the purchase price by which we are redeemed. We also know this from Acts 20:28 which refers to, "... the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."
This agrees with what Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:13-14, that Christians, "... were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession ...." Likewise, Ephesians 4:30 says, "... the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."
In Revelation chapters 5-6, the Lamb, Jesus Christ, is taking on the role of the "kinsman redeemer" as described in Leviticus 25. He is opening the scroll to redeem both His saints and the land which they will inherit. The scroll is the legal document for the redemption of the saints and of the earth, and Jesus Christ is opening it one seal at a time.
It should also be noted that the term "redeemer" in the old testament is translated from the Hebrew word, "gaal", which is usually translated "redeem" or "redeemer". However, it is occasionally translated "kinsman" or "avenger" or "revenger". This may seem strange to Christians who are not used to thinking of a "redeemer" as having anything to do with avenging someone or taking revenge on one's behalf. But the old testament concept of redeemer and avenger are the same, so much that the one word "gaal" means both. Note that "gaal is also occasionally translated "kinsman". This is because a "gaal", who would be one's redeemer and avenger was to be an Israelite man of the same tribe and family. Under the Law of Moses, it was the responsibilty of a "gaal" to kill a brother's killer, to raise up a son for a dead brother (Ruth 4:14), to buy back a dead brother's sold property (Ruth 4:1-8), and to protect the property. For example, Numbers 35:12 mentions "gaal", translated as "avenger" in describing how one who accidentally killed someone should hurry to one of the assigned cities of refuge to stand trial, fleeing from the slain person's kinsman who would be seeking to avenge the slain man's blood.
In few moments, we will see this concept of a kinsman redeemer/avenger playing out in Revelation 6:9-11, the opening of the fifth seal. This is when the souls of those slain for the word of God are heard crying out for the Lord to avenge their blood upon their murderers on the earth. Much later, when God destroys the city of Babylon near the end of the tribulation, we will see in Revelation 18:20 that God is avenging His holy apostles and prophets.
"And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many" (Matthew 24:4-5).
The seals in Revelation chapter 6 begin in verses 1-2 by describing one particular such false christ. "And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals (the first seal), and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer." Here we have the appearance of the Antichrist, which will occur sometime after the rapture of the church as discussed in the article, "Four Views of End Time Prophecy". The word "antichrist" is a term that is only used in 1 John and 2 John. It is a compound word which begins with the Greek word "anti" meaning "instead of" or "in place of". So this impostor will try to take the place of Christ to be worshipped (Revelation 13:8) instead of Christ, just as. Daniel 11:36 says, "... he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god ...." We know that the rider on this white horse represents the Antichrist for several reasons: (1) He appears on a white horse, impersonating Christ who will later appear on a white horse in Revelation 19:11. (2) He carries a bow which symbolizes his military power, which we know that the Antichrist (also known as "the Beast") will have. In Revelation 13:4, all the world will say, "... Who is like unto the beast? who is able to wage war with him?" (3) A crown is given to him. That shows that he will have great political power and identifies him as "the prince that shall come" of Daniel 9:26 and the "little horn" of Daniel 7:8. (4) He makes his appearance at the very beginning of the tribulation, right when the Antichrist is to arrive on the scene and confirm the covenant for seven years (Daniel 9:27).
Continuing through the Olivet discourse, Christ says in Matthew 24:6-7, "And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom …." The statement "the end is not yet" combined with "these are the beginning of sorrows" in verse 9 shows that this is not the end of the tribulation, but only the beginning. Never-the-less the very fact that the statement "the end is not yet" was needed implies that the wars are of such great severity that one might otherwise think that it was the end of the age.
This passage corresponds to the second seal in Revelation 6:3-4 which says, "And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword." So the wars are only the second seal, still very early in the tribulation.
I believe this second seal and the future attack by Magog upon Israel in Ezekiel chapters 38-39 are one and the same. Let's take a close look at this is truly remarkable passage. In Ezekiel 38:2-6, God says to the prophet Ezekiel, "Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army … Persia (Iran), Ethiopia, and Libya with them … Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee."
Who is Magog? Genesis 10:1-2 records that one of the grandsons of Noah, after the great flood, was named Magog. "Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood. The sons of Japheth; Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras." So when the Bible refers to a people as Magog, it means, the descendants of Magog, grandson of Noah.
Magog is usually understood to be Russia, for several reasons:
(1) Ezekiel 38:15 and 39:2 reveal that Magog is located to the far north of Israel.
(2) The first century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, wrote that, "Magog founded those that from him were named Magogites, but who are by the Greeks called Scythians." (Antiquities of the Jews, 1.6.1). The Scythians dwelt primarily in the lands north of the Black Sea and the lands on the north, east, and west sides of the Caspian Sea, in what is now modern Russia and what are now the former Soviet Republics of Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.
(3) Tubal, Magog's brother, mentioned in the Ezekiel passage above, may be the name-sake of the Tubol River, which flows to the northeast from Kazakhstan into Russia, as well as the Russian city of Tobolsk, which is along the Tubol River.
We see in Ezekiel 38:2-6 that God will stir up Magog out of the north and bring them down into battle with Israel. They will not be alone, but with a great company of other nations including Iran, Libya, Ethiopia, Sudan, and probably Turkey and some of the other middle eastern nations.
Ezekiel 38:8 continues, "After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them." Notice that the prophecy is clearly for the end times when Israel has been regathered from the countries in which they have suffered persecution and will be living in what they will believe is a peaceful situation. God has only recently, over the last few decades, been bringing forth Israel out of the nations.
Then in Ezekiel 38:9-13 God says to Magog, "Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee. Thus saith the Lord GOD; It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought: And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land … to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods …." This will be an extremely massive military assault. The attacking nations will expect to take advantage of Israel’s overconfidence and take their wealth. Notice the repeated emphasis on how the desolate, uninhabited places of Israel will be inhabited with Israelites who have returned from other nations.
The next chapter tells the result of this battle. In Ezekiel 39:2-4 God says, "And I will turn thee (Magog) back, and leave but the sixth part of thee, and will cause thee to come up from the north parts, and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel: And I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand. Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and the people that is with thee …." Verse 6 adds, "And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles: and they shall know that I am the LORD." It would seem that everything favored the attackers, including the numbers, the military alliances, and the element of surprise over Israel. Nevertheless, God will fight for Israel with fire and will destroy all but one sixth of the attacking Magog army. It will be an overwhelming and totally unexpected defeat for them.
Some have taught that this attack by Magog will be in the middle or at the end of the seven years, but there are a three key reasons that I believe it will be very early in the tribulation.
First, Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3, "... the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety: then sudden destruction shall come upon them, as travail upon a woman with child ...." The "travail upon a woman with child" mentioned here is "the beginning of sorrows" that is mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24:8 at the beginning of the tribulation. The Greek word "odin", translated as "sorrows" in Matthew 24:8, is defined by Strong's dictionary as "the pain of childbirth, travail pain, birth pangs". That same Greek word, "odin", is translated as "travail" in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 above. Notice also that "... when they shall say, Peace and safety: then sudden destruction shall come upon them ...." Ezekiel 38:8-9 prophesies, "... in the latter years thou (Magog) shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have always been waste: but is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them. Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm ...." Israel will be dwelling in safety when Magog attacks, which corresponds to Paul's statement in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 above. Ezekiel 38:11-12 continues, "And thou (Magog) shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, To take a spoil, and to take a prey ...." This correspondence between 1 Thessalonians 5, Ezekiel 38, and Matthew 24, would seem to indicate that the Magog attack of Ezekiel 38 will occur near the beginning of the seven-year tribulation.
The second reason I believe the Magog attack will be very early in the tribulation is because Revelation 6:4 says, "... and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword." Compare this to Ezekiel 38:21 which says, "And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord GOD: every man's sword shall be against his brother." Notice that in both cases, a sword is supplied by God. In both cases, men begin to kill one another. Finally, in both cases, there was a peace that was shattered. We know this to be that case of the Magog invasion due to Ezekiel 38:8, 11, and 14 which all refer to Israel dwelling safely.
Third, after Magog is defeated, Ezekiel 39:9-10 says, "And they that dwell in the cities of Israel shall go forth, and shall set on fire and burn the weapons ... seven years: So that they shall take no wood out of the field, neither cut down any out of the forests; for they shall burn the weapons with fire ...." This cannot be the same Magog attack that is described in Revelation 20:7-9. That attack is immediately followed by the great white throne judgment, and there is not time to burn the weapons. Nor can this Magog attack be the Battle of Armageddon at the end of the tribulation. That is because Israel will not be dwelling safely in their unwalled cities at that time. It would seem that this Magog attack must be near the beginning of the tribulation, and these seven years of burning weapons are the same seven years as the tribulation.
Continuing in Matthew 24:7 we have, "… and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers (diverse, widely scattered) places." The famines are the third seal. Revelation 6:5-6 says, "And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine." This is the plague of famine. The volume of a "measure" is generally understood to be less than a quart, about enough to feed one person for one day. The price of a "penny" is not much today, but at the time this passage was written, a denarius (the Roman coin translated as "penny" here) was much more valuable, more along the lines of a day's wages. For example, Matthew 20:2 speaks of a man who needed men to work in his vineyard and "... agreed with the labourers for a penny a day ...." So when a day's wages are required to buy a small amount of wheat or barley, we know that this famine will be very severe.
The pestilences in Matthew 24:7 will result in both disease and damage to crops which will in turn cause death. The combination of the wars, famines, and pestilences, and the beasts of the earth will kill one fourth of the earth's population, 25 per cent, in the fourth seal, death and Hades. In year 2001, the population of the earth is about 6 billion, and one fourth of the earth's population is about 1.5 billion. Revelation 6:7-8 says, "And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell (Hades) followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth." Modern scientists have studied possible nuclear war scenarios in which a nuclear war would result in tremendous amounts of dust in the atmosphere that would dim the sun for several months. This light reduction would result in crops failing which would be followed by massive starvation, disease, and death. Certainly, God can deliver these plagues by other means, but the nuclear scenario would result in plagues in the same order (war, famine, and pestilence) and could be the tool which God uses to carry out the plagues of second, third, and fourth seals. The earthquakes mentioned in Matthew 24:7 come in the sixth seal in Revelation 6:12 and 14 which we will get to in a moment.
But first let us look at Matthew 24:9 which says, "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye (Israelites) shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake." Because the earthquakes are mentioned in verse 7, and the martyrdom is mentioned in verse 9, one might assume that the earthquakes take place first. But the word "then" in verse 9 means "at that time", not "after". A key cross reference is in Luke 21:12 which corresponds to this same verse and says, "But before all these ..." rather than "then". The combined effect of these two time indicators would seem to show that at least some of the martyrdom begins early and continues across the occurrence of the other seal plagues (war, famine, pestilence, and earthquakes). Thus we see the martyrdom listed be before the earthquakes in Revelation chapter 6. Matthew 24:9 is the fifth seal of Revelation.
Revelation 6:9-11 describes this fifth seal as follows, "And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled."
Now let us move on to the sixth seal. As stated above Matthew 24:7 says there will be "earthquakes, in divers places". Luke 21:11, which corresponds to Matthew 24:7 in the Olivet discourse, records in addition to the famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, "… fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven." Here, Jesus Christ is not just saying that there will be scary things going on in the sky. He is saying there will be great signs. In order for some event to be a sign, it must be stated in advance to be a sign. For example, the sun turning green would not be a sign because that was never predicted, nor was any prophetic meaning ever assigned to it. But the moon turning blood-red would be a sign because it was foretold in Bible prophecy (Joel 2:31), and a specific meaning was assigned to it. It will precede the day of Jehovah, which is the "day of the LORD".
In foretelling the earthquakes and great signs from heaven in Matthew 24:7 and Luke 21:11, Jesus Christ is referring to the sixth seal in Revelation 6:12-17. It says, "And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" This was also foreseen in Isaiah 2:12 and 19. Isaiah 2:12 says, "For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low ...." Then Isaiah 2:19 says, "And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth."
The "great day of his wrath" in the verse above is the "day of the LORD" as Zephaniah 1:14-15 prophesied, "The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble (tribulation) and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness ...."
These events were prophesied extensively in the Old Testament. Peter, quoting from Joel 2:28-31, says in Acts 2:16-20, "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable (terrible) day of the Lord come …." Notice here that these signs will be given "... before that great and notable (terrible) day of the Lord ...." So the first six seals are not at the end of the tribulation where many people try to put them. They are clearly at the very beginning of that final seven years.
This agrees with Matthew 24:8 which says, "All these are the beginning of sorrows." As we saw earlier in our discussion of the second seal, the Greek word "odin", translated as "sorrows" here, is the same word that in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 is translated as "travail", meaning, "birth-pains". Let us now examine 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4.
Paul describes the catching away (rapture) of the Church in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Then he says in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2, "But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." Logically then, we can see that the rapture must coincide with the beginning of the day of the Lord.
Keep these two verses in mind as we look at the next two verses, 1 Thessalonians 5:3-4, "For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction shall cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief." Notice in these four verses how Paul changes pronouns from ye, you, and yourselves to them and they. So we who are believers will be out of here, having been raptured. But they who do not believe the gospel of grace will be trapped in the tribulation.
When we combine this knowledge with the fact that the "travail upon a woman with child" in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 "the beginning of sorrows" in Matthew 24:8, it becomes clear that the beginning of the day of the Lord is not the end of the seven years of tribulation, but the beginning. That is why early in the tribulation, in Revelation 6:17, the great men of the earth cry, "... the great day of His wrath is come and who shall be able to stand?" The seven years will have terrible plagues, like birth pangs, which get progressively more severe, and the first six seals are only the beginning.
The months that lay ahead in the first half of the tribulation are the times of which Jesus Christ spoke in Matthew 24:10-13 saying, "And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved."
The Sealing of the 144,000 and the Seventh Seal
In Revelation 7:3, the angel that has the seal of the living God tells the four angels that have the power to hurt the earth and sea, "Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads." As we will see in a moment, the trumpet plagues which follow will destroy 1/3 of the trees, 1/3 of the sea, 1/3 of the rivers, and 1/3 of the people on the earth. But the 144,000 must be sealed first. This further confirms that these events are, for the most part, written in the chronological order in which they will occur.
Revelation 7:4 then says, "And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel." Verses 5-8 then proceed to list the twelve tribes of Israel and how that 12,000 will come from each tribe, for a total of 144,000. There will be no Gentiles included in this group. We also know from Revelation 14:4 that they are "not defiled with women; for they are virgins", which means they are all male Israelites. These 144,000 will preach the gospel of the kingdom during the tribulation, fulfilling Matthew 24:14 which says, "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." Note that the gospel of the kingdom is not the same as the gospel of grace which is for the church today. For the differences between the two gospels, see Israel's Kingdom Gospel and Our Grace Gospel.
The seventh seal is opened in Revelation 8:1 , "And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour." Remember this verse the next time someone tells you that there is no time in heaven. Also, notice that in the order of events, the sealing of the 144,000 takes place between the opening of the sixth and seventh seals.
The First Six Trumpets
Chapters 8 and 9 of Revelation record the plagues from the first six trumpets. These are still all in the first half of the tribulation, leading up toward the middle of the seven years. In Revelation 8:2, seven angels prepare for the trumpet judgments, "And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets."
The first trumpet sounds in Revelation 8:7, destroying one third of the trees and all the grass on the earth. "The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up."
The second trumpet sounds in Revelation 8:8-9, destroying one third of all life in the sea. "And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed."
The third trumpet sounds in Revelation 8:10-11, destroying one third of fresh water sources and killing those who try to drink from them. "And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter."
The fourth trumpet sounds in Revelation 8:12, blocking out one third of the light from the sun, moon, and stars. "And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise."
Despite how terrible these plagues will have been, the worst will still be yet to come. The judgments of next three trumpets will be especially grievous, for in Revelation 8:13 an angel loudly proclaims the three "woes", " ... Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!"
Revelation 9:1-12 describes the fifth trumpet which unleashes the plague which is the first "woe". Revelation 9:1-2 says, "And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit."
But the worst part of the plague is not the smoke which darkens the sun, but what comes out of the smoke. Revelation 9:3-6 says, "And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them." These "locusts" will torture those which do not have the seal of God in their foreheads for five months. This five month period is still in the first half of the seven year tribulation.
Revelation 9:7-12 goes on to describes the locusts, "And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months. And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon. One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter."
The Hebrew word "Abaddon" and the Greek word "Apollyon" both mean "destroyer" in English. At the first Passover, when God slew the firstborn of all the Egyptians, Exodus 12:23 says, "For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you."
More detail about the plagues on Egypt is provided in Psalms 78. Describing the plague of death upon the firstborn, Psalms 78:49 says, "He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them."
Some readers may be wondering if the attack on the Egyptians was by one destroyer or many evil angels, thinking that Exodus 12:23 and Psalms 78:49 sound contradictory to one another. However, in many places in the Bible, only the king or leader is mentioned when it is obvious from the passage that the king's entire army in being referenced. For example, 1 Kings 20:21 says, "And the king of Israel went out, and smote the horses and chariots, and slew the Syrians with a great slaughter." Of course, the king of Israel led his army who slew the Syrians. The king did not do it all by himself.
So the "locusts", which are obviously not ordinary locusts, are "evil angels" whose king is "the angel of the bottomless pit", who is "the destroyer". We will discuss this more in a moment, but first let us look at the next trumpet
Revelation 9:13-21 describes the sixth trumpet which unleashes the plague which is the "second woe". By this plague, one third of all the people left on the earth will be killed. Revelation 9:13-16 says, "And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand (200 million): and I heard the number of them." The Euphrates River is located to the north and east of Israel, flowing from eastern Turkey through Iraq to the Persian Gulf. It is interesting to note that at the time John wrote this prophecy, the entire adult male population of the earth was less than the 200 million. Such an army would have been utterly inconceivable prior to the earth's population explosion in recent years. Today, China boasts of being capable of assembling a fight force of more than 300 million, which is even larger than the one described here in Revelation. Perhaps India, whose population has now surpassed one billion, could as well.
But are these warriors humans or angels or devils? As Revelation 9:17-19 describes, these horsemen are not riding ordinary horses. "And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt." This army of horses and horsemen seems to be the same one that was described in Joel 2:1-5 which says, "Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand; A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them. The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array." Joel 2:2 and 2:5 confirm that these 200,000,000 in the sixth trumpet are people, rather than angels or devils. However, these are certainly not ordinary horses. The horses with fire and brimstone coming out of their mouths could be symbolic representations of modern or perhaps even future military fighting vehicles.
The similarities between the Revelation (sixth trumpet) and Joel chapter 2 passages confirm that they are referring to the same event. Revelation mentions an army of "... two hundred thousand thousand ...", whereas Joel mentions "... a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it ...." Revelation says, "... I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them ...", and Joel says, "The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen ...." Revelation mentions "... the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails ...", and Joel mentions "... a fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth ...."
We have seen that the evidence indicates that those perpetrators in the fifth trumpet are evil angels whereas those perpetrators in the sixth trumpet are humans. Reading through these, you may have noticed how there are striking similarities between them. Despite all the similarities, there are several distinct differences as well.
1. The "locusts" are released from the bottomless pit by the star that falls from heaven (Revelation 9:1), but the "horses" are released from the Euphrates River by four angels (Revelation 9:15).
2. Those in the fifth trumpet are called "locusts" which were shaped like horses with faces "as the faces of men", whereas those in the sixth trumpet are called "horses" with horsemen sitting on them.
3. The locusts have teeth "as the teeth of lions", whereas the horses have heads "as the heads of lions". If the reference here is to male African lions, consider how their long manes might look like "the hair of women" that the locusts are said to have.
4. The locusts have "tails like unto scorpions", whereas the horses have tails "like unto serpents".
5. The locusts torment men for five months, but do not kill them (Revelation 9:5-6). But the Horses do kill one third of all men with the fire, smoke, and brimstone coming out of their mouths (Revelation 9:17-18).
6. The locusts have breastplates "as it were breastplates of iron", whereas the horses "have breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone"
7. The locusts do not harm the trees, grass and other plant life (Revelation 9:4), whereas the horses burn everything in sight. This is much more obvious from the Joel 2:1-10 cross-reference mentioned above.
8. The locusts are said to have wings, whereas this is not said of the horses.
9. We are told the number of the horses and horsemen, 200,000,000, but we are not given the number of the locusts.
The Euphrates River is mentioned again at the pouring out of the sixth bowl of wrath in Revelation 16:12, "And the sixth angel poured out his vial (bowl) upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared." They are headed for Armageddon in northern Israel, as Revelation 16:16 indicates. Perhaps these "kings of the east" are the kings over the armies that number 200 million in Revelation 9. This would seem to make sense. The vast armies of China, India, and the other far eastern nations would have to cross the Euphrates to get to Israel, and they would be the only countries capable of such a numerous fighting force. About 60% of the world's population lives in Asia, and the huge majority of this number, more that half the world's population, live east of the Euphrates River. The Joel 2:1-5 passage quoted above is immediately preceded by the statement in Joel 1:20, "... the rivers of waters are dried up ...." So it would seem that the great armies of the kings of the east have been slaughtering hundreds of millions on the east side of the Euphrates, beginning at the sixth trumpet. Then at the sixth bowl of wrath, near the end of the tribulation, they cross over to the west and invade Israel. That is a quick look ahead, but now let us go back to Revelation 9 and the sixth trumpet which is still prior to the middle of the tribulation.
Despite such a terrible plague, Revelation 9:20-21 says the wicked people of the earth will not repent. "And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts." This brings us to the middle of the tribulation. I should point out that the earthquake which will occur just after the midpoint (Revelation 11:13-14) is also considered to be part of the "second woe".
Perhaps you have heard some Bible teachers say that the first half of the tribulation will be relatively peaceful and that all of the really bad plagues happen in the second half. But as you can see, the first half is anything but peaceful. More than half the population of the earth (3 billion today) will be killed during the first three and one half years. Recall that one fourth were killed at the fourth seal. That leaves three fourths still alive. Then one third of those left are killed at the sixth trumpet. That eliminates another one fourth, cutting the population to one half. When you consider those that will have died in the various other plagues, more that half of all people will have been killed. So I do not subscribe to the teaching that the first half of the tribulation will be peaceful. But despite all this, the worst plagues are still yet to come. We are not even half way through the book of Revelation yet.
The Midpoint of the Tribulation
Next we come to the middle of the seven year tribulation. The second half of this seven years is when Jesus Christ said there would be "great tribulation" in Matthew 24:21. So the term "great tribulation" refers to the last 3 1/2 years of this terrible seven year period. All of this that we have seen up until now will take place over the first 3 1/2 years. Prior to the midpoint, the temple will have been rebuilt in Jerusalem, and the people of Israel will have returned to keeping the law of Moses once again, including the animal sacrifices. Revelation 11:1 refers to, "... the temple of God, and the alter, and them that worship therein." Also, during this 42 month period, God's two witnesses will have been prophesying in Jerusalem. Revelation 11:3-6 says, "And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will."
The "two olive trees, and the two candlesticks" mentioned above is a reference to the vision described in Zechariah 4:1-14. I believe these two witnesses will be Elijah and Moses. Malachi 4:5 says, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD ...." Also, the plagues the two witnesses will unleash are like the plagues God used Elijah and Moses to unleash. Revelation 11:6 says, "These will have the power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy (3 1/2 years): and have the power over waters to turn them into blood ...." Elijah once did the former (1 Kings 17:1, 18:1, and James 5:17) and Moses once did the latter (Exodus 7:20). Also, it was Moses and Elijah that appeared together with Jesus Christ at His transfiguration (Matthew 17:3).
Some others believe that the two witnesses will be Elijah and Enoch, because they were each taken to heaven without dying first (Genesis 5:24 and 2 Kings 2:11). But I do not think Enoch would be one of the two because the Law of Moses will be in effect during the tribulation. Enoch was not an Israelite, and he lived long before God gave the Law to the nation of Israel. Also, there are highly unusual circumstances regarding the death Moses. Recall that no man knows where Moses was buried (Deuteronomy 34:5-6) and that the archangel Michael contended with Satan and "... disputed about the body of Moses ..." (Jude 9).
Regardless of whether it is Elijah and Moses or Elijah and Enoch, God will give them great power to send plagues on the earth. Therefore, they will be hated by those people who do not believe their message.
The two witnesses along with the 144,000 sealed servants of God will have been preaching the gospel of the kingdom throughout the first half of the tribulation. Matthew 24:14 says, "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." Note that this gospel of the kingdom is not the gospel of grace preached today that Jesus Christ died as payment for our sins and rose from the dead. The gospel of the kingdom is, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17) which was preached to the nation of Israel when they were still under the law of Moses. See also Matthew 4:23, Matthew 10:7, and Mark 1:14-15.
Daniel 9:26 says that after the Messiah has been killed, "... the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary ...." That was fulfilled when the armies of the Roman General Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD. The Antichrist is "the prince that shall come", and we now know that he will the leader of the Roman Empire that will be revived. Daniel 9:27 continues, "And he (the Antichrist) shall confirm the covenant with many for one week (of years, that is, seven years): and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate." For the first half of the seven years, the Antichrist's policies will we favorable to Israel, even to the point of allowing them to sacrifice on the temple mount. But halfway through the seven years, he will break the treaty with Israel. He will stop Israel from making sacrifices. He will commit the "abomination of desolation" in the rebuilt temple. Following along in the chronology given in Matthew 24, this is the next event Christ mentions. "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (the temple) ..." (Matthew 24:15). I should clarify that Christ is not telling his disciples to stand in the temple. He is saying that the abomination will stand in the temple. This indicates that the abomination will be an idol of some kind, as we will see later.
Around this same time, the Antichrist will murder the two witnesses. Revelation 11:7-12 says, "And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast (the Antichrist) that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them."
Revelation 11:8-10 says, "And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified (Jerusalem). And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth." These two men are hated so badly all over the globe that their dead bodies will be put on display for mocking as the world throws a party to celebrate their deaths.
The statement, "nations shall see their dead bodies", indicates that this event will likely be televised worldwide via satellite, in all the places where television has not been disrupted by the various plagues. This is evidence of God’s divine inspiration of the scriptures, since a first century Hebrew prophet obviously would not have known of such technology. The wicked will think they have won, but God will show them all that the game is not yet over. Revelation 11:11-12 says, "And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them."
The Seventh Trumpet
Shortly after the two witness are resurrected and ascend into heaven, there will be an earthquake which destroys one tenth of Jerusalem and kills 7000 men. "And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly." (Revelation 11:13-14).
Next, in Revelation 11:15-19, the seventh trumpet is sounded, "And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail."
Satan's Wrath Against the Remnant of Israel
Matthew 24:15-22 and Revelation 12 describe how the Antichrist will turn all his power against the children of Israel. And they will flee into the wilderness.
Matthew 24:15 says, "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) ...."
This is a reference to Daniel 9:27 which says, "And he (the Antichrist) shall confirm the covenant with many for one week (one "seven" of years): and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of the abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation (the end of the tribulation), and that determined is poured out upon the desolate." When Christ speaks of the "abomination of desolation", he is referring to what the Antichrist will do in the rebuilt temple in the middle of the tribulation. I believe he will set up a pagan idol of himself in the holy of holies for all to worship. This is because the abomination will "stand in the holy place" and also because Revelation 13:14-15 describes an idol made in the image of the Antichrist.
Matthew 24:16-20 says, "Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop (most likely, the retired people) not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field (working adults and young people) return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, (mothers to be) and to them that give suck (young mothers with small children) in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day ...." Here we have Israelites of all ages and walks of life who must escape into the mountains. This group is not to be confused with the 144,000 who are all young men.
Matthew 24:21-22 says, "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." So beginning with the midpoint of the seven years and continuing to the end, there will be great tribulation. Some have thought that the statement "those days shall be shortened" means that the 3 1/2 year time frame will be reduced to perhaps 2 or 3 years, but that is incorrect. Christ is saying that if the impact of the plagues were allowed to run there course over many years, perhaps 10 or 15 years, no one would survive. So the great tribulation will be shortened to 3 1/2 years, not from 3 1/2 years to some shorter time period.
One point that can be seen, but that is not completely obvious is that in Matthew 24:16-20 and Matthew 24:37-42, Jesus Christ is talking about the same event. In order to see this key point more clearly, let’s first take a look at Matthew 24:37-42. "But as the days of Noe (Noah) were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come."
Many Bible students believe that in Matthew 24:16-20, Christ is describing the rescue of the remnant of Israel in the middle of the tribulation, and that in Matthew 24:37-42, Christ is talking about the catching away (rapture) of the church. But Luke 17:26-36 ties the two passages together. It shows that in each passage, Christ is describing the rescue of the remnant of Israel in the middle of the tribulation, and not the rapture of the church.
Luke 17:26-29 says, "And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all."
Then we have Luke 17:30, "Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed." This day is not a 24-hour day, but the day of the LORD, which is spoken of so often in the Old Testament prophets. It lasts from the beginning of the tribulation until the end of the millennial kingdom, more than 1000 years. I will explain this more in a moment, but for now, let us continue in Luke 17.
The next verse, Luke 17:31, really reveals a lot. It says, "In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back." This is the same as Matthew 24:17-18, mentioned above. That means "the days of Noe" refers to the time when the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel in Daniel 9:27 takes place as we saw in Matthew 24:15. This is at the mid-point of the future seven years.
Also, this is an actual call to the people of Israel living in Judea to run from one place to another, as Matthew 24:16 says, "Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains ...." This is certainly not the dead in Christ being resurrected and Christians being changed into immortal bodies and all being snatched up into the upper atmosphere. No Christian, just after being instantly changed into an immortal body and being raptured, is going to try to go back and get stuff out of his house.
This is the call for the remnant of Israel during the tribulation to flee to the mountains (or wilderness). Revelation 12 also describes this event. Revelation 12:6 says, "And the woman (who is symbolic of the remnant of Israel) fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days (1260 days)."
In Isaiah 16:4 God says, "Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab (the land on the east side of the Dead Sea, in modern-day Jordan); be thou a covert (hiding place) to them from the face of the spoiler .…" Many believe that this hiding place will be the ancient stone fortress of Petra, which is called "Sela" (Rock) in Isaiah 16:1. Petra is in southwestern Jordan, near the Israeli border, south of the Dead Sea. A true marvel of the ancient world, it fell into ruins hundreds of years ago and is a major tourist attraction today. It is surrounded by mountains and is only accessible by a narrow gorge that is no more than twelve feet wide in some places. Inside the city, there are magnificent monuments and buildings carved directly out of the rock faces of the mountains.
Wherever the hiding place is, the remnant will be safe there for 1260 days, which is 42 months of 30 days each or 3 1/2 prophetic years of 360 days each. Revelation 12:14 reiterates this same point, "And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time (3 1/2 years), from the face of the serpent (Satan)." This verse is very reminiscent of what God said to the children of Israel after he brought them out of Egypt. He said in Exodus 19:4, "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself."
This remnant of Israel will be spared the horrors of the second half of the seven years. They are probably also those of whom God said in Revelation 3:8-10 that He would protect, "I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." Hosea 2:14-15 also refers to the "door" that will be opened for the escaping remnant, "Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt." From Joshua 7:24 and the surrounding context, we know that the valley of Achor is near Ai, just a few miles to the north and east of Jerusalem.
We have confirmed that the escape of the remnant of Israel is at the midpoint of the tribulation because in Revelation 11:7, the 1260 day ministry (Revelation 11:3) of the two witnesses ended, and the woman (symbolic of the remnant) in Revelation 12:6 has 1260 more days to hide while the beast reigns for 42 more months according to Revelation 13:5 and Daniel 7:24-25.
Now, back to our comparison of Luke 17 and Matthew 24. Luke 17:32-36 says, "Remember Lot's wife. (The remnant of Israel are not to look back, but to keep running into the wilderness.) Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left." Verses 35-36 are tied to Matthew 24:40-41 where we saw the same reference, "Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left."
So we cannot assume that Noah and or Lot in these verses are "types" (symbols or foreshadowing) of the rapture. Actually, they are types of another great rescue, the rescue of the remnant of Israel into the wilderness during the future tribulation. It is also important to remember that Matthew 24:16-20 and Matthew 24:37-42 refer to the same event.
Now back to the point about the day of the Lord not being a 24-hour period. The day of the Lord will last from the beginning of the tribulation all the way to the end of the millennial kingdom reign of Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:10 says, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." We know from Revelation 20:1-11 that the earth is not burned up until 1000 years after the tribulation ends. That is why Peter says just two verses earlier in 2 Peter 3:8, "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."
We know that the actual arrival of Christ on the earth will occur at the end of the tribulation. But as we have seen, when Christ describes His coming, He frequently starts with all of the events leading up to it. So when He says things will be as in the days of Noah in the day of His coming, it should be no surprise that the reference to things being as in the days of Noah, actually refers to a time 3 1/2 years earlier, which leads to Christ’s return.
For example: When the disciples asked Jesus in Matthew 24:3, "... what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world (age)?", Christ could have gone straight to Matthew 24:29-30 and said, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." But He didn't. Instead He summarized the whole seven year tribulation leading up to it in Matthew 24:4-28, even listing many of the plagues to come during the seven years.
Peter confirmed that there would be terrible plagues from the beginning. Quoting from Joel 2:28-31, he says in Acts 2:17-20, "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood (sixth seal in Revelation 6), before that great and notable (terrible) day of the Lord come ...."
These plagues (the seven seals and the first six trumpets of Revelation) and the rise in power of the Anti-Christ will result in a major change in the political situation in Israel and the middle east. Israel will be protected by their covenant with the Antichrist and allowed to rebuild their temple (something virtually unthinkable in the present political climate). Under this false protection, they will feel safe and secure, under the illusion that they finally have peace. It will then be at the midpoint of the seven years that the Antichrist will break the covenant and attack Israel. Then the remnant must flee to the wilderness as Luke 17, Matthew 24, and Revelation 12 describe. There they will be protected by God. Jeremiah 31:1-2, "At that same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest."
The Kingdom of the Antichrist
Now we come to Revelation 13 which describes the kingdom of the Antichrist. But before we look at the Revelation passage, let's go back and see what God revealed to Daniel about this kingdom.
In chapter 2 of Daniel we find the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, the first king of the great Babylonian Empire. Nebuchadnezzar needed someone to interpret the images in his dream, and God gave Daniel this ability. In Daniel 2:31-35, Daniel said to the king, "Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth."
Daniel explained how the different metals in the image represent the great empires that would arise in the future. The Babylonian Empire, represented by the golden head, reigned supreme from about 606 to 536 BC. The Medo-Persian Empire, represented by the silver arms and breast, reigned from about 536 to 331 BC. The Greek Empire, represented by the brass belly and thighs, reigned from about 331 to 146 BC. The Roman Empire, represented by the legs of iron, reigned longer than them all from about 146 BC to 476 AD. Daniel 2:40-42 says, "And the fourth kingdom (Roman) shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes (ten toes), part of potters' clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken." Eventually, this kingdom of iron will be revived into a kingdom that is very strong like iron, but not solidly unified, thus the clay is mixed in with the iron. Just as there are ten toes, this revived kingdom will have ten kings, all joined together in a confederacy or some similar loose unification.
The interpretation of the imagery continues in Daniel 2:43-45, "And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure."
The stone represents Jesus Christ, who is symbolized by a stone in many places in the scriptures. For example, Romans 9:33 says of Jesus Christ, "As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." Jesus Christ will return and crush all of man's kingdoms and set up His own kingdom which will last forever. That is the future, and it will happen. Thus the prophecy confidently states that it, "... shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure."
Now let's look further at the kingdom which will be ruled by the ten kings. This kingdom will consist of ten nations of the old Roman Empire. The Roman Empire covered southern and western Europe and all of the nations around the Mediterranean Sea. This area covers all or part of far more than ten nations today. We do not know which ten nations will make up the revived Roman Empire.
It is possible that some of the nations of the European Union or the Western European Union will eventually combine forces to form this ten nation kingdom. Created in 1954 for defense and security purposes, the Western European Union’s original seven members were United Kingdom, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy, and West Germany (no longer divided). Later, Portugal, Spain, and Greece joined the WEU, bringing the total to ten nations. The European Union has more members than the WEU, with several different membership statuses. Then again, the EU and WEU may not be involved at all. We only know that this kingdom will consist of ten nations from the old Roman Empire.
The visions and prophecies that God revealed to Daniel about the great empires are truly amazing. But there is even more just a few chapters later. Daniel 7:3-6 says, "And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it. And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it." Either by studying world history, or by Daniel 2:37-38, 8:21, 10:20, and 11:2, we can know that the lion, the bear, and leopard represent the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, and Greek Empires.
Then the Roman Empire appears. Daniel 7:7-8 says, "After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things."
The interpretation of the visions is given in Daniel 7:23-25 which says, "Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time (1 + 2 + 1/2 = 3 1/2 years)." The "little horn" of Daniel 7:8 is the Antichrist, also called "the beast", who will arise in the future and overthrow three of the ten kings.
In Revelation 13, the Apostle John saw a similar vision. Revelation 13:1-4 says, "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?"
This beast out of the sea represents both a king and the kingdom he rules. This beast has characteristics of the same four kingdoms described in Daniel 7:4-7. The beast was "like unto a leopard" like the Greek Empire symbolized in Daniel 7:6. The beast out of the sea also had feet "as the feet of a bear" like the Medo-Persian Empire symbolized in Daniel 7:5. The beast had a "mouth as the mouth of a lion" like the Babylonian Empire symbolized in Daniel 7:4. The beast also had "ten horns" like the Roman Empire symbolized in Daniel 7:7. So this future kingdom will have many of the characteristics of the four kingdoms which came before it.
Continuing on to Revelation 13:5-10, "And there was given unto him (the beast) a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months (3 1/2 years). And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints." For the last 3 1/2 years of the tribulation. This vile beast, the Antichrist will reign over the earth. It will be a time of great persecution for the saints who have come to believe the gospel of the kingdom after the church has been raptured. But the majority of the world, the lost, will worship the Antichrist.
The Antichrist is called many things including "man of sin" and "son of perdition" in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, "that Wicked" in 2 Thessalonians 2:8, and the "king of fierce countenance" in Daniel 8:23. Daniel 8:23-25 says, "... a king of fierce countenance (Antichrist), and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes (Jesus Christ); but he shall be broken without hand."
Notice how "... he shall magnify himself in his heart ...." He will set himself up to be a god to the people, to be worshipped above all. Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 that the Antichrist, "... opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God."
Notice also from Daniel 8:23-25 that the Antichrist shall, "... by peace shall destroy many ...." He does not attack directly, but pretends to make friends in effort gain the confidence of his prey first so that he may establish a better position to attack while maximizing the element of surprise.
He will also use peaceful means to obtain his power in the first place. Daniel 11:21 says, "And in his estate shall stand up a vile person , to whom they shall not give the honour of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries." It is apparent that the Antichrist will be full of charisma and the people will believe his lies.
Daniel 11 also describes an ancient king of Syria, in the Greek Empire, named Antiochus Epiphanes, also known as Antiochus IV. He was a type of the Antichrist. That is, his actions foreshadowed the actions of the future Antichrist. Daniel 11:31-32 says, "And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate. And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits." Around 168 BC, Antiochus Epiphanes polluted the temple by sacrificing swine's flesh on the alter to a pagan god. This was an abomination both because of the homage paid to the false god and because the pig is an unclean animal under the law which God gave to Israel. He also stopped the Jews from being able to sacrifice in the temple.
This was documented by the first century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, who wrote that Antiochus Epiphanes, "... came upon the Jews with a great army, and took their city (Jerusalem) by force, and slew a great multitude of those that favored Ptolemy (his rival in Egypt), and sent out his soldiers to plunder them without mercy. He also spoiled the temple, and put a stop to the constant practice of offering a daily sacrifice of expiation for three years and six months." (Wars of the Jews, 1.1.1). Note the length of time, three and a half years, 42 months, the same length of time that the Antichrist will make war with the saints in the second half of the seven-year tribulation.
But these offenses were not enough for Antiochus Epiphanes, as Josephus explains in the next paragraph. "Now Antiochus was not satisfied either with his unexpected taking the city (Jerusalem), or with its pillage, or with the great slaughter he had made there; but being overcome with his violent passions, and remembering what he had suffered during the siege, he compelled the Jews to dissolve the laws of their country, and to keep their infants uncircumcised, and to sacrifice swine's flesh upon the altar; against which they all opposed themselves, and the most approved among them were put to death ..." (Wars of the Jews, 1.1.2).
Likewise the Antichrist will "cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it (the temple) desolate …" as written in Daniel 9:27.
By the time we come to Daniel 11:36-37, the passage is talking about the Antichrist directly. "And the king (the Antichrist) shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all." This goes right along with the verses we saw above showing that the Antichrist will want everyone to see him as not only a god, but the most supreme god.
Next we see the arrival of yet another beast, but this one comes out of the land. Revelation 13:11 says, "And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon." This beast is a man who appears to be innocent, symbolized by the appearance of a lamb. But his words are those of Satan, who we saw symbolized by a dragon in Revelation 12:9. He is also known as "the false prophet" (Revelation 16:13 and 19:20).
Revelation 13:12 says of this second beast, "And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and …." Let’s stop right there for a moment and compare this passage with the next passage from the Olivet discourse.
Christ continues in Matthew 24:23-26, "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible (it is not), they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not." We frequently see those charlatans claiming to be the Son of God. Every now and then we hear of another one in the news. When the tribulation comes, these deceivers will be given power from Satan to perform false miracles which will be very hard not to believe. The elect (the saints) will be protected from being deceived by them. But those who refused to believe the gospel of grace when it was preached to them before the tribulation will be ripe for the deception. Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, "Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." So those who heard and rejected the gospel of grace before the rapture, will not get a second chance during the tribulation. Satan’s miracles will deceive them, and they will follow the Antichrist.
The tribulation saints will know that Jesus Christ’s second coming will not be like the appearance of these false christs. Matthew 24:27 says, "For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." So there should not be any mistaking it.
Picking up where we left off, Revelation 13:15-18 says that this second beast out of the earth will, "… cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six." This is the mark of the beast. Millions will be required to either worship the Antichrist or be put to death. Those who try to avoid the authorities, will not be able to buy or sell anything because they do not have the mark of the beast. For the first time in 1900 plus years since the book of Revelation was written, mankind now has the technology to do this. A tiny chip could be placed under the skin of one’s hand that contains identification and financial records. Purchases would be made by electronic transfer without the use of cash. In addition, this could serve as a global positioning device, allowing the tracking of one's position to within a few feet, anywhere on the planet. We cannot say with absolute certainty, that such a chip will be how the mark of the beast will be given, but it could certainly perform the function.
The Seven Bowls of the Wrath of God
In addition to the tyrannical rule of the Antichrist. The second half of the seven year tribulation will also see the worst set of plagues ever to come upon the earth. In Revelation 16:1 John writes, "And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials (bowls) of the wrath of God upon the earth."
The first bowl of wrath is poured out on the earth in Revelation 16:2, causing terrible sores on all those who have taken the mark of the beast. "And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image."
The second bowl of wrath is poured out on the sea in Revelation 16:3, killing all life in the sea. "And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea." This is truly a global disaster, almost beyond comprehension. Recall that earlier, in Revelation 8:8-9, the second trumpet had caused one third of the sea to become as blood and had killed one third of life in the sea. The second bowl of wrath will have a similar effect, except that the destruction will be far more extensive.
To a large degree, this is the trend with the bowl judgments. They are frequently, but not always, similar to the trumpet judgments, except much more devastating.
The third bowl of wrath is poured out on all the fresh water supplies in Revelation 16:4, turning the water to blood. "And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood." Recall that earlier, in Revelation 8:10-11, the third trumpet had caused one third of the rivers and fountains (fresh water) to become as bitter as wormwood, which made them poisonous. The third bowl of wrath will have a similar effect, except that the waters will turn to blood, and it will be all of the fresh water, not just one third.
The fourth bowl of wrath is poured out onto the sun in Revelation 16:8, scorching the people of the earth. "And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire." There is a limited similarity between this fourth bowl of wrath and the fourth trumpet in Revelation 8:12-13. Although the plagues are not that much alike, they do each involve the sun.
The fifth bowl of wrath is poured out on the throne of the beast in Revelation 16:10-11, causing darkness and terrible pain. "And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat (throne) of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores ...." Notice that even though these people do not honor the true God as God, they still blame Him for the plagues that are being placed upon them. Again we see the limited similarity to the fifth trumpet of Revelation 9:1-11, which also brought great pain. There, the pain was upon "... those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads" (Revelation 9:4).
As we have been moving forward in Revelation and Matthew 24 comparing the two, the next pair of verses we come to is Matthew 24:28-29 which says, "For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken …." Some have mistaken verse 29 as the sixth seal, in which the sun was turned black like sackcloth and the moon to blood. But that had taken place much earlier as we discussed previously. Verse 29 is much more likely in reference to the fifth bowl of wrath in Revelation 16:10-11 in which the kingdom of the beast is put in darkness. Joel 3:15 also placed the events of Matthew 24:28-29 just before the Lord's return saying, "The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining." At this point, the end of the tribulation is getting very near, perhaps only few days away.
The sixth bowl of wrath is poured out on the Euphrates River in Revelation 16:12, drying it up, making way for the kings of the east. "And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared." As mentioned earlier in the discussion of the sixth trumpet, this are most likely the same army of 200 million which slew one third of the earth's population in Revelation 9:13-19. The verse quoted above seems to imply that these armies had previously only been on the east side of the Euphrates River. It is possible that the one third of the earth's population that had been killed could have been in the far east and the eastern parts of the middle east. There are certainly enough people living there in China, India, and the many smaller highly populated far eastern countries. But of course, if nuclear missiles are involved, the destruction could include countries anywhere on the globe.
This tremendous invasion coming from the east is why Daniel 11:44-45 says of the Antichrist, "But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy … And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain (in the holy city Jerusalem); yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him."
Revelation 16:13-14 says, "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty." Revelation 16:16 tells where they are being gathered, "And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon." This is referring to the city of Megiddo in northern Israel. Interestingly, the word "Megiddo" means "place of multitudes". This city sits on a hill overlooking a large plain known as the Valley of Armageddon.
It will naturally take a several days for the military forces of the world to reach the Valley of Armageddon. So we can see that the fifth and sixth bowls of wrath are not happening one right on top of the other. Some who teach a post-tribulational rapture often try to compress the seven bowls of wrath into a very short time period of perhaps a day or two. But this is obviously not the case. We do not know how long it will take for the seven bowls of wrath to be poured out, but we do know that it will cover at least several days, and probably several months.
The seventh bowl of wrath is poured into the air, producing thunder, lightning, earthquake, and great hailstones. Revelation 16:17-20 says, "And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found."
Obviously, this will not be like the typical localized earthquake, which may impact a single city. This earthquake will devastate many cities and nations and mountains and islands. Perhaps you have seen the scientific documentaries which tell how an earthquake could trigger other earthquakes, tidal waves, and volcanic eruptions which could have a cascading effect around the earth’s major fault lines. One such fault line is known as the Ring of Fire due to the high volcanic activity along it. It follows the coastlines of the continents around the rim of the Pacific Ocean. Earthquakes are frequent along this ring which includes those in California, Alaska, and Japan. Another such fault line is the Rift Valley fault line which extends northward through Africa to Israel. The large lakes of south-central Africa and the Dead Sea in Israel are all along this fault line.
Revelation 16:21 continues saying, "And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great." A "talent" was a weight which varied in different places and times due to laws regulating currency. In Israel, a talent of silver weighed about 100 pounds, and a talent of gold weighed about 200 pounds. While we may not be sure precisely how much the hailstones will weigh, it is clear that they will be excessively large resulting in a plague that is "exceedingly great".
In discussing the natural hazards that can result from earthquakes that involve volcanic eruptions, Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2000 says, "Climatic hazards include storms of various types, damage to coastlines by ice or wave action, droughts, floods, snow, hail, lightning, and natural fires." So it may be that God will use His plague of the earthquakes to set off the chain of events that produces the great hail. I should also point out that this is further evidence of God’s divine inspiration of the scriptures. I doubt that a first century Hebrew prophet would have known that volcanic eruptions can result in hailstorms.
The Woman on the Beast and the Fall of Babylon
In the previous section, we saw how the description of the seventh bowl of wrath, Revelation 16:19 says, "And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath."
This brings us to Revelation chapters 17 and 18 which describe the "great whore" and the destruction of the "great city". These chapters contain quite a few metaphors that will need to be explained as we progress through the text.
Revelation 17:1 says, "And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters …." Later, in verse 7, the angel begins to provide many of the metaphors given in this chapter. So we will be jumping ahead periodically to the explanations as we make our way through these verses.
Revelation 17:18 explains what the great whore symbolizes. "And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth." Also, Revelation 17:15 tells what the many waters are. "And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues."
So the judgment that the angel is speaking of in Revelation 17:1 is the judgment of a great city which is ruling over the kings of the earth and thereby rules over many nations of people of many languages.
The question of which specific city is being referred to here has been the topic of much debate. Some believe this passage refers to Rome. Others think the great city is Babylon rebuilt from its ruins, and some think the great city is Jerusalem. We will examine each of these possibilities in considerable detail as we continue. Having studied the issue, I cannot say with certainty which city is the great city. But I find that of the three, the great city of Revelation 17 cannot be Jerusalem, and the evidence pointing toward it being Babylon rebuilt is greater than the evidence pointing toward it being Rome.
Rome was, of course, the capital of the Roman Empire at the time that this revelation of Jesus Christ was given to the apostle John. The Roman Empire covered most of Europe, North Africa, and the middle east. At the time of Christ and the apostles, the Roman Empire did not extend as far as Babylon. In about 113 AD, the emperor Trajan (98-117 AD) was able to expand the empire to the Persian Gulf, encompassing Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and including the city of Babylon. Babylon was the capital of the Babylonian Empire which ruled the middle east during the sixth century BC, before falling to the Medo-Persian Empire. The Babylonian Empire did not extend to the city of Rome. Jerusalem is where the Lord Jesus Christ will establish His throne and reign over all the earth in the future thousand year kingdom. But historically, even at its peak, Israel’s kingdom was never nearly as extensive as either the Babylonian or Roman empires.
When mentioning "the great whore that sitteth upon many waters" in Revelation 17:1, it is important to note that a similar phrase was used to describe Babylon. Jeremiah 51:12-13 prophesies, "… Babylon … O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come …."
In Revelation 17:2, we see the great whore (the great city) described as one, "With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication."
In scripture, words such as "fornication", "harlot", and "whoring" are often used metaphorically in reference to the worship of false gods, as is the case in Ezekiel 16 and 2 Chronicles 21:11. A woman might commit fornication by whoring after a man who is not her husband. The metaphorical analogy is that a nation might commit fornication by worshiping a false god instead of the one true God. So when Revelation 17:2 refers to the kings of the earth committing fornication with the great whore, the reference is to the kings' worship of a false god, which is in this case, the beast (the Antichrist). Those who argue that the "great city" is Rome point to the fact that the Roman Catholic Church has its headquarters there, and that the false religion taught by it easily qualifies as Biblical fornication. However, we should recognize that any of the many false religions in the world today would also qualify as Biblical fornication.
Revelation 17:3 says, "So he (the angel) carried me (John) away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns." Recall that back in Revelation 13:1, we saw, "… a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy." This is reminiscent of how, the Roman Empire was symbolized by a similar ten-horned beast in Daniel 7:7-8. Also, Satan was described as a red dragon with seven heads and ten horns in Revelation 12:3-17. The argument that the "great city" is Rome is helped by the theory, partly based upon Daniel 7:7-8, that the ten nations will be part of the revived Roman Empire. The ten nations of the revived Roman Empire may come from the European Union which was created by the Treaty of Rome in 1957.
Revelation 17:9-10 says, "And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space." Mountains in scripture are sometimes used to symbolize kingdoms as in the case of Daniel 2:35-45 and Jeremiah 51:24-25. And naturally, the seven kingdoms have seven kings. Then we are told that five of the kings are fallen (no longer reign), one is reigning, and one is yet to come and reign for a little while. As we will see in a moment, the seventh king is the antichrist. Now I have heard Bible teachers explain their theories on who the other kings or kingdoms are. However, I am not aware of a theory that has enough scriptural backing to warrant being discussed here. So for now, I will leave this question alone.
Revelation 17:4-6 says, "And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration." The great city is referred to as "Babylon" in the passage above and is called "Babylon" four times in chapters 17 and 18 (Revelation 17:5, 18:2, 10, and 21). The woman has golden cup of fornication and as we will see in Revelation 18:3, "… all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication …." Compare this with Jeremiah 51:7-8 which says, "Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD'S hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad. Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed …." So here is a very strong tie to Babylon.
Another tie to Babylon is found in Zechariah 5:6-11. In verses 6-8, an angel says to Zechariah, "... This is an ephah (a measuring container) that goeth forth. He said moreover, This is their resemblance through all the earth. And, behold, there was lifted up a talent (a round weight) of lead: and this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah. And he said, This is wickedness. And he cast it into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof." So here we have "wickedness" symbolized by a woman, like the woman in Revelation 17, and she is sitting in a container, with a lead weight now covering the top of the container. Next, Zechariah 5:9-11 says, "Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out two women, and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven. Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah? And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base." The land of Shinar is the land of Babylonia in what is now Iraq. This is a clear geographic reference to the land where Babylon is located. We see "wickedness", symbolized by a woman, being taken to the land of Babylon, where a house will be built for it.
Returning to Revelation 17, the woman (the great city) will have killed great numbers of saints. Those who believe the great city is Rome point to the fact that the Roman Empire put a great number of Christians to death, especially during the first three centuries following Christ’s earthly ministry. Many Christians were also persecuted or put to death at Jerusalem, as indicated by Acts 8:1, "And Saul was consenting unto his (Stephen's) death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles."
Revelation 17:8, "The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is."
Recall that back in Revelation 13:3-4 we saw, "… one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?"
In Revelation 17:11 we see, "And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth (king), and is of the seven (kings), and goeth into perdition."
In these verses, it is clear that the beast with seven heads and ten horns represents both a kingdom that had passed away, but will be revived, and the king (the Antichrist) who rules over them. This kingdom is so powerful, that it contains many smaller kingdoms, and the king is so powerful that he rules over many kings and their kingdoms.
This is part of Satan's counterfeiting strategy. Knowing that Jesus Christ is the "King of kings" (verse 14), Satan enters into the Antichrist who temporarily becomes a king of kings. Also, just as Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead, the Satan will perform his counterfeit miracle on the Antichrist. The Antichrist (the seventh king) will be killed, or so it will seem, but rise, as it were, from the dead (Revelation 13:3-4), becoming the eighth king, as Revelation 17:11 describes.
Revelation 17:12-13 says, "And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast." These ten kings (the ten horns) are not to be confused with the seven kings (the seven heads). We saw that five of the seven kings reigns have ended, and the sixth will be over by the time the Antichrist comes along. But the ten kings in verses 12-13 do not have their kingdoms yet, and will not until the Antichrist takes over as the king over all these kingdoms.
Also, are these ten kings all of the kings in the entire world? No, there are hundreds of kings in the world. These are just the ten that are in league with the beast. This is an important distinction, and we will see why later.
Revelation 17:16-17, "And the ten horns (ten kings) which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore (the great city), and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled." Here we have further assurance that even in this time of great destruction, God will still be in full control. God wants the great whore to be destroyed. So He puts this purpose into the hearts of the ten kings, so that they will destroy her and give their kingdoms to the beast.
These ten kings attacking "BABYLON THE GREAT" may be the same as the many kings and great nations which Jeremiah prophesied would attack Babylon. The attack on Babylon described in Jeremiah is said to come from many great nations from the direction of the north. Jeremiah 50:9 says, "For, lo, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the north country: and they shall set themselves in array against her; from thence she shall be taken: their arrows shall be as of a mighty expert man; none shall return in vain." Jeremiah 50:41 adds, "Behold, a people shall come from the north, and a great nation, and many kings shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth."
Note the phrase, "she shall be taken" in verse 9. God commonly refers to Babylon by feminine pronouns or titles such as, "daughter of Babylon" in Jeremiah 50:42. This is consistent with "BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS" in Revelation 17:5, "Come out of her, my people" in Revelation 18:4, and "I sit a queen, and am no widow" in Revelation 18:7.
Revelation 17:14 looks even further ahead to the coming of Jesus Christ to the earth. "These (the ten kings) shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful." Just because God used the ten kings to accomplish His will, does not mean they are off the hook. They will face off against the Lord in the battle of Armageddon, and be utterly defeated.
Next comes Revelation chapter 18 which tells of the fall of the great city, referred to as "Babylon the great", the world’s lamentation for its fall, and heaven’s rejoicing over its fall. Revelation 18:1-2 says, "And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, (cross-reference Isaiah 21:9) and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird." It is interesting to note that the phrase, "is fallen", is repeated. Some believe that this means the city will actually have fallen twice, which reinforces the argument that the great city is Babylon rebuilt. It fell once in the sixth century BC, and this would be its second fall. I do not know if Babylon will be rebuilt and fall again, or if this passage refers to another city metaphorically referred to as Babylon. But I do find the study of this topic most interesting.
Here is a little background on the city of Babylon. According to the encyclopedia "Microsoft Encarta 2000", in Nebuchadnezzar’s time (around 600 BC), Babylon was the largest city of the then known world. After Babylon fell to the Medo-Persians around 536 BC, the Medo-Persians kept Babylon as their capital for about another 60 years. After Alexander the Great defeated the Medo-Persians led by Darius III in the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC, Alexander entered Babylon and made sacrifices to the Babylonians' god Marduk. A few years later, Alexander returned to Babylon and planned to make it the capital of his Greek empire, but he suffered an early death in 323 BC in Babylon (according to Wikipedia) in the Palace of Nebuchadnezzar. Babylon was later made the capital by the Seleucid dynasty by the successors of Alexander, but a few years later, the capital was relocated a few miles to the north to Seleucia along the Tigris River. The ruins of Seleucia are located about 15 miles southwest of Baghdad. Though Babylon lost much of its worldly significance, it continued to be inhabited for centuries. Around 1100 AD, the city of Al Hillah, was built nearby, largely from the bricks taken from the ruins of Babylon. Al Hillah is now a city of nearly 300,000 people. Babylon is located in Iraq, roughly five miles northwest of Al Hillah, about 20 miles east-southeast of Karbala, and about 50 miles south of Baghdad.
The prophecy in Jeremiah 51:26 said of Babylon, "And they shall not take of thee a stone for a corner, nor a stone for foundations; but thou shalt be desolate for ever, saith the LORD." Some point out the fact that that a great number of stones from ancient Babylon were used to build Al-Hillah. Therefore, many argue that this prophecy in Jeremiah 51:26 is still yet to be fulfilled in the future. There are may other similar passages predicting Babylon becoming a desolate, uninhabited place for ever, including several in chapters 50 and 51 of Jeremiah. For example, Jeremiah 50:39-40 says, "Therefore the wild beasts of the desert with the wild beasts of the islands shall dwell there, and the owls shall dwell therein: and it shall be no more inhabited for ever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation. As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the LORD; so shall no man abide there, neither shall any son of man dwell therein." Recall that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was by fire and was sudden. Also see Jeremiah 50:2-3, 50:13, 50:23, 51:29, 51:37, 51:41-44, and 51:62, in which God repeatedly emphasizes the desolation of Babylon. So when I occasionally see news footage showing activity in Babylon, I have to wonder if the prophecy of Babylon's destruction is still left to be fulfilled in the future.
Revelation 18:3 says, "For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies." Some theorize that the prophecies of Revelation 17 and Revelation 18 refer to two different cities. However, this verse provides evidence that the city that is the headquarters of the global false religion and the city that is the center of the global economic wealth are one and the same. The city that has made the merchants of the earth rich is the same city that has committed fornication with the kings of the earth. Remember that the term "fornication" as used in Revelation is a metaphorical reference to the worship of a false god. This verse is also very reminiscent of Revelation 14:8 which says, "And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication."
Revelation 18:4-5 says, "And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities." The sounds very much like Jeremiah 51:6 which says, "Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the LORD'S vengeance; he will render unto her a recompence." The reference to the time of the Jehovah's vengeance is and indication that Jeremiah 51 prophecy is for the future tribulation. Jeremiah 51:2 helps clarify that this attack of Babylon will be during the tribulation by calling it the "day of trouble". Jeremiah 51:45 makes the same point as Revelation 18:4-5 and Jeremiah 51:6 saying, "My people, go ye out of the midst of her, and deliver ye every man his soul from the fierce anger of the LORD."
Another reason we know that if the Jeremiah 50-51 passage must be referring of the future tribulation, instead of just to the invasion of Babylon by the Medes and the Persians long ago, is found in Jeremiah 50:20. "In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve." This is obviously a reference to the end of the tribulation when Jesus Christ returns. It is not until that future time that God will pardon all of those He has reserved in the nation of Israel.
Another clue is where Jeremiah 50:38 says, "A drought is upon her waters; and they shall be dried up: for it is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their idols." This could be a reference to the sixth bowl of wrath in Revelation 16:12 which says, "And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared."
Revelation 18:6-8 says, "Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double. How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her." Notice that the city will sit as a queen and will be burned with fire, just as the city in chapter 17. This further illustrates that Revelation 17 and Revelation 18 refer to the same city.
Jeremiah 51:25 also mentions the city of Babylon being burned, which may be the same event described in Revelation 17:16 and 18:9, "Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain (kingdom), saith the LORD, which destroyest all the earth: and I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain." A few verses later, Jeremiah 51:30 says, "The mighty men of Babylon have forborn to fight, they have remained in their holds: their might hath failed; they became as women: they have burned her dwellingplaces; her bars are broken." Later in this same chapter, Jeremiah 51:58 says, "Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the people shall labour in vain, and the folk in the fire, and they shall be weary."
Another aspect of Revelation 18:6-8 that we can compare with an old testament passage is how it says, "… she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow …. " In Isaiah 47, God speaks to "virgin daughter of Babylon … daughter of the Chaldeans" (verse 1). He says in verse 3-5, "Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man. As for our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel. Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called, The lady (queen) of kingdoms." Continuing in verses 8-9 He says, "… hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children: But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments." In both Revelation 18 and in Isaiah 47, we see Babylon symbolized as a queen, denying that she will be a widow.
Revelation 18:9-10 says, "And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come."
There are some who see this verse and assume that the great city in chapter 18 is not the same great city as the one in chapter 17. This is because they see "the kings of the earth" lamenting the destruction of the great city, but the ten kings in chapter 17 are said to hate the city and to be the ones that will burn it. However, I think that it is not the cities that are different. Rather, the kings are different. There are hundreds of nations on the earth today, and there likely will be hundreds of nations on the earth during the tribulation. Just because the "ten kings" that give their power to the beast hate the great city, does not mean that the great city is hated by the hundreds of other kings of the other nations, referred to as "the kings of the earth". One clue that Revelation 17 and 18 are describing the same great city is the fact that Revelation 18:9 says that "the kings of the earth" have committed fornication with the great city, and Revelation 17:2 says that "the kings of the earth" have committed fornication with the great whore, which is, in turn, said to be a great city in Revelation 17:18). This is a strong indication that they are one and the same.
The hundreds of other nations will love the great city for all of the money and great riches which made them rich. Revelation 18:11-19 says, "And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her (the whore, the great city); for no man buyeth their merchandise any more: The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men. And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all. The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, And saying, Alas, alas that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city! And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate." The merchants were made rich by the great city, and are devastated that it has been destroyed.
Isaiah 43:5-6 says, "Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth …." Isaiah 43:9 "Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled …." So the context of this passage is obviously the end times. Then Isaiah 43:14 says, "Thus saith the LORD, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; For your sake I have sent to Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans, whose cry (singing, rejoicing, joy) is in the ships."
It is interesting that those who "trade by sea" (in Revelation 18) will stand a long way off and see the smoke of the city burning. Ancient Babylon is about 300 miles inland from the Persian gulf and the Euphrates River is normally too shallow for very large boats. That is not to say that the river could not be dredged to allow for ship traffic or that rainfall will not increase in the tribulation. But as it presently stands, Babylon would not be considered much of a port. Jerusalem certainly does not fit the bill, since it is not on the coast and has no river at all. While Rome is not on the coast, it is a port city, being only about 15 miles up the Tevere River from the Mediterranean Sea.
The merchants in Revelation 18:11-19 will be in a state of despair over the destruction of the great city, but the reaction in heaven will be the complete opposite. Revelation 18:20-21 says, "Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her. And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all." This is very similar to what Jeremiah 51:63-64 says, "And it shall be, when thou hast made an end of reading this book, that thou shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of Euphrates: And thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her …." This supports the thinking that the Jeremiah 50-51 prophecies are speaking of the tribulation.
We know that in the thousand year kingdom that will follow the tribulation, Jesus Christ will reign from Jerusalem which will have its temple. So it seems to be conclusive that the great city is not Jerusalem, because the great city will be utterly destroyed forever in this judgment, and Jerusalem will not.
In Revelation 18:22-24, the fate of the great city is described further. "And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee; And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth." So the great city will remain utterly desolate and uninhabited forever as judgment for the great deception and for the murders of the saints.
Those who subscribe to the theory that a rebuilt Babylon is the "great city" say that the destruction of Babylon by the Medo-Persians in the sixth century BC did not fulfill the Biblical prophecies of Babylon’s utter destruction. They point out Babylon's later history with Alexander the Great, mentioned earlier in this article, and that Babylon remained as a city, though much less substantial, for several hundred years, having become the home of many dispersed Jews. Even after Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, there was still a community of Jews in Babylon. Peter wrote his first epistle from Babylon around 60 AD. 1 Peter 5:13 says, "The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son."
We have already seen that the prophecies of Babylon in the end times are quite numerous. Is this the old Babylon rebuilt, or is it another city like Babylon that is spoken of metaphorically as Babylon? More of the many prophecies of Babylon in the end times are discussed below.
The prophecy of Isaiah 13:19-20 says, "And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there." This same chapter began in Isaiah 13:1 with "The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see." And verses 6 and 9 indicate that the context is "the day of the LORD", the future tribulation.
Did this destruction take place when Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians in 536 BC? Ezra 7:6-7 says, "This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him. And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king." Artaxerxes was king from 465 BC to 424 BC. So his seventh year would have been about 458 BC which was about 78 years after the Medes and Persians invaded and took over Babylon in 536 BC. So the city of Babylon did not suddenly fall and become uninhabited when the Babylonian Empire fell. At a minimum there were still many Jews there even after all those years.
Assyria: When looking at these prophecies about Babylon, we should probably also examine some of the passages dealing with Assyria in the end times. The prophecies about Assyria may shed light on the prophecies about Babylon, since Assyria and Babylon were both in the land that is modern Iraq and was as we shall see, the "land of Nimrod". Micah 5:3-4 says, "Therefore will he (the Messiah) give them (the Jews) up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth." The travail is the birth pangs which are frequently used as a metaphor for the repeated intense plagues that God will put on the earth in the future tribulation. The remnant returning to Israel and Christ ruling the earth are also indications of the end times. That being the context, Micah 5:5-6 continues, "And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men. And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof: thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders."
We must be careful not to confuse Assyria with Syria. They are separate peoples. This is clearly demonstrated in 2 Kings 16:5-9 which says, "Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to war: and they besieged Ahaz (king of Judah), but could not overcome him. At that time Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria, and drave the Jews from Elath: and the Syrians came to Elath, and dwelt there unto this day. So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, saying, I am thy servant and thy son: come up, and save me out of the hand of the king of Syria, and out of the hand of the king of Israel, which rise up against me. And Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king's house, and sent it for a present to the king of Assyria. And the king of Assyria hearkened unto him: for the king of Assyria went up against Damascus (Syria’s capital), and took it, and carried the people of it captive to Kir, and slew Rezin (Syria’s king)." These are some strange alliances. Rather than Israel (the 10 northern tribes) and Judah (the two southern tribes) being allied together against Syria and Assyria, here we see Syria and Israel allied against Judah and Assyria. This is somewhat surprising, but the reason for bringing this up is just to show that Assyria and Syria are two different kingdoms. Syria had Damascus as its capital, just as it does today. The capital city of Assyria was Ninevah. Ninevah was not in modern day Syria, but in what is now northern Iraq. The ruins of Ninevah are about ten miles north of the present day city of Mosul. There are Assyrians today living in Iraq, but Ninevah was destroyed and the Assyria ceased being an independent kingdom long ago.
Note that in the Micah 5-6 passage above, along with "the land of Assyria", God mentions "the land of Nimrod". Recall that Nimrod was the founder of the kingdom of Babel in the land of Shinar, along with Erech, Accad, and Calneh. Genesis 10:8-10 says, "And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar."
The ruins of the city of Nimrod (also called Nimrud, Namrud, or Borsippa) sit on the east side of the Tigris River, about 20 miles southeast of Mosul in northern Iraq. Note that this is not very far, perhaps 25-30 miles, from the ruins of Ninevah.
Quite some distance to the southeast, but still in Iraq, the ruins of Erech are located on the east side of the Euphrates, about 110 miles southeast of Al Hillah. I have not been able to locate the ruins of Accad or Calneh on a map, but the ruins of Accad are reported to be near Baghdad in central Iraq.
From this, it seems that by "the land of Assyria" and "the land of Nimrod", God is referring in Micah 5:5-6 to a region that extends up and down the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, covering most of the eastern half of the region known as the fertile crescent. That is, most of the populated region modern day Iraq, probably not including the barren desert to the southwest. The city of Kush is also said to be in this region. As we saw in Genesis 10:8 above, Nimrod was the son of Cush (Kush), son of Ham, son of Noah.
Several Biblical passages speak of Assyria as be being the object of God’s wrath. For example, Isaiah 10:5 says, "O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation." In Isaiah 14:25, God says, "... I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders." It is apparent here that the Assyrian will have invaded the land of Israel, an thus is in God's land and upon His mountains. The prophecy in Nahum 3 begins in verse 1 with, "Woe to the bloody city! (Ninevah, capital of Assyria) …." Nahum 3:3-4 says, "The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword and the glittering spear: and there is a multitude of slain, and a great number of carcases; and there is none end of their corpses; they stumble upon their corpses: Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts." Nahum 3:7 says, "And it shall come to pass, that all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee, and say, Nineveh is laid waste: who will bemoan her? whence shall I seek comforters for thee?" Note how the harlotry, witchcraft, selling to the nations, and whoredoms parallels Babylon in Revelation 18. Likewise, the destruction and lamentations parallel Revelation 18.
Other cities in modern Iraq that are of Biblical significance include Ur and Al Qurnah. The ruins of Ur (now also called Tell Al Zmugqayyar) are just south of the Euphrates River, about 8 miles southwest of An Nasiriyah and about 150 miles from the Persian Gulf. The city of Al Qurnah is believed by some to be the site of the garden of Eden based upon Genesis 2:10-14. Al Qurnah is located about 35 miles northwest of Basrah about 100 miles from the Persian Gulf, where the Euphrates and Tigris merge.
Battle of Armageddon
God said in Zechariah 12:2-3, "Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it."
We have already seen when the sixth bowl of wrath was poured out, the Euphrates River was dried up, so that the masses military forces from the east could move westward toward Armageddon. We also saw how the three unclean spirits went out to gather the military powers from all the earth. They will all gather together in this one large flat expanse in northern Israel. Now of course this makes no sense militarily. No general would cram his whole army into one location such as this with millions of other troops. This is just our sovereign God taking control and working His plan according to His will.
There is a prophecy about the return of Jesus Christ in Isaiah 63:3-6 which says, "I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me. And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth."
A winepress is like a big vat that is filled with grapes. The grapes are then stomped by a person in the vat, and the grape juice drains out of the bottom of the vat into a container. The Valley of Armageddon will be like a giant winepress, and the armies of the world will be the grapes. Jesus Christ will crush them, and their blood will flow like a river.
This was foreshadowed when the Apostle John saw the an angel in Revelation 14:18-20 cry to another angel, "… Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs (about 180 miles)."
In Joel chapter 3, we have a prophecy of this same event. In Joel 3:2 God says, "I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with (judge) them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land." Joel 3:9-14 continues, "Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen (Gentiles), and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press (winepress) is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision." In this passage, the Valley of Armageddon is referred to as the valley of decision and as the valley of Jehoshaphat. This does not appear to have any link to ancient Judah’s King Jehoshaphat. Rather, "Jehoshaphat" is used here because it means "Jehovah has judged". Notice the repeated references to the sickle and the winepress.
This will take place when Jesus Christ finally returns to the earth, which brings us to Matthew 24:30, "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."
Jesus Christ will return from Heaven on a white horse and slay the armies of all the nations with the sword of His mouth (the Word of God) at Armageddon. Revelation 19:11-16 says, "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."
Although it is difficult to tell just how they will be involved, Zechariah 12:8 indicates that Israel will be strengthened for battle at the end of the tribulation. "In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David (a mighty warrior); and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD (invincible) before them."
And Christ shall return and set His feet down on the Mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem. Zechariah 14:4 says, "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east ...." This is just as He left. Acts 1:9-11 says, "And when he had spoken these things, while they (the disciples) beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." So the Lord will return to the Mount of Olives, which is only a very short walk to Jerusalem
Zechariah 12:9-10 says, "And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn." Israel will finally realize that their Messiah who has finally come to them is really Jesus Christ whom Israel had crucified and rejected. They actually will not know until He returns. This is further evidenced by Zechariah 13:6 which says that after Christ returns, "... one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends." No wonder they will mourn. They will realize that the one that they so greatly despised is actually their Savior, who suffered and died for them.
After the tribulation, Jesus Christ will judge the Antichrist, the False Prophet, Satan, the Gentile nations, and the nation of Israel, not necessarily in that order.
The Antichrist (the beast) and the False Prophet will be taken and thrown directly into the lake of fire for all eternity. Revelation 19:20 says, "And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone." These two precede all the rest of the lost by one thousand years, for it not until the end of millennial kingdom that Satan and the rest of the lost from all ages will be thrown into the lake of fire for all eternity (Revelation 20:11-15).
During the one thousand years of Christ’s reign on the earth, Satan will be bound in the bottomless pit as Revelation 20:1-3 says. "And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season."
In Matthew 25, Jesus Christ explained how he would judge the Gentile nations. Matthew 25:31-32 says, "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats …." The nation of Israel shall be judged separately, as we will see later. But this passage concerns all of the survivors of the tribulation from the Gentile nations.
Matthew 25:33-40 continues, "And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King (Jesus Christ) say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." By "my brethren" Jesus Christ is referring to the believing portion of Israel. So we see that the Gentiles will be judged based upon their treatment during the tribulation of the Israelites, especially the 144,000. There will be people from all nations who go into the kingdom, still in their mortal bodies.
There will also be people from all nations who will not be let into the kingdom. Matthew 25:41-46 says, "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."
The lost people of the tribulation will be imprisoned in Hades until the time for the great white throne judgment. Isaiah 24:21-22 "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited."
Regarding the judgment of the nation of Israel, Ezekiel 20:34-38 says, "And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord GOD. And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the LORD." From this passage, it appears that the Israelites will be judged outside of the land of Israel, in the wilderness. The transgressors will not be allowed into the kingdom, or even into the land of Israel. This is unlike the Gentiles who will all be judged at the Valley of Armageddon.
Finally, all the saints that will have died in the tribulation and all the old testament saints will be resurrected into their immortal bodies to live in the kingdom. Revelation 20:4-5 tells us this about the tribulation saints. "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection." As for the old testament saints, we know from Daniel that they will be resurrected at this time as well. In reference to the days just after the tribulation, Daniel 12:11-13 says to Daniel, "And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up (in the middle of the tribulation), there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days. But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days." See also Daniel 12:1-3 and Isaiah 26:19-21.
This concludes our study of the tribulation. Next comes The Millennial Kingdom Reign of Jesus Christ. Just click on the link to continue.
Copyright © 2001 Matthew McGee. All rights reserved.