The Tribulation

The purpose of this paper is to develop the subject of the pretribulational return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the nature of the tribulation.

The theological distance between pretribulationists and their mid and post tribulation brethren and even the partial rapture theorists is typically much shorter than between the premillennialists and other camps. In general all groups take the Bible as inerrant and most take it literally when at all possible. The key points of distinction tend to be how much of the tribulation is endured by the church and the role of Israel during the tribulation.

As the difference in approach between the camps is small I am not going to draw up battle lines and attempt to defend. Instead, I think it is wise to expound the truth positively and mention potential points of contention along the way.

Thus this paper will attempt to reveal the nature of the tribulation by following the path of its' disclosure in the book of Revelation, we shall then delve into other portions of scripture to enforce some of the interpretive statements I'll be making.

Introduction

The tribulation has become a very hot topic of conversation. The Left Behind series by Tim La Haye has brought the subject into nearly every bookstore in the country, usually on the best selling shelves. It is quite commonplace to discover copies of the book sitting on desks in offices and being read at the beach or park. The phenomenon has become so prevalent that Time magazine devoted a whole issue to the 'End Times'.

Along with the book the events of 9/11 have brought home to people the concept that life in America may not always continued the way it has. The continued predations of terrorists around the globe, the middle-east conflict and the prospect of war in Iraq have all added to the air of apocalyptic gloom that pervades many.

To an evangelical Christian this instantly spells out opportunity. Do you like the book? What do you think of it? Do you really thing it is going to happen? It is also fairly easy to get a number of people to come to gospel services if they deal with sections of the book of Revelation.

The series expounds conservative pretribulational theology on the back of extremely good fictional prose. This is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that huge quantities of text can be crammed into people that would normally object to reading a whole chapter of the Bible. The series now comes in audiobook and video form for those that don't want to read. The curse is that there is so much text, and it is so will blended between truth and fiction, that it is quite possible for people to firmly believe the truth without quite knowing what it is they actually believe.

La Haye, as prolific and dedicated as he is, has produced a number of books and resources to tackle this opening. I certainly wouldn't want to claim I was on the same level as him, yet in the chapters that follow I aim to develop a model of the tribulation based upon simple Bible prose. The aim is not, so much, to describe the tribulation in all its' detail as to describe the detail as it should be relating to us today. Put another way: Revelation[1] pronounces that those that read, hear and do the contents of the book will be blessed, I am seeking to draw out some of the blessing from the pages of Revelation.

Phases of Time

19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;

If we wish to unpick the pages of Revelation then the first thing we need to do is get hold of the concept of phases of time.

We live in a world that many consider to be governed by the so-called laws of nature. Our scientists spend huge amounts of time and money studying the way things behave today and our natural assumption is that this is what has always happened and what will happen in the future too. Within the timescales of scientific measurement (the last hundred or so years) this assumption is valid. Within the timescales that God envisages this is completely wrong. In fact we are told that it is precisely this assumption of a continuous state that will lead scoffers in the last days to doubt the return of God[2].

The error made by unbelievers over creation can also be made by believers when considering purposes of God. There are many churches where the Ten Commandments are memorized by Sunday scholars that are left completely unaware that they no longer apply[3]. The truth is that God's dealings with man are divided into phases or dispensations. There is some debate about exactly what these are but at the very least we need to distinguish the period before and after the flood, after the giving of the Law, after the death of Christ and after the establishment of Christ's kingdom upon earth[4].

Our verse in this chapter was delivered after the death of Christ in a section of scripture whose stated intention is to reveal the things that must shortly come to pass[5]. We therefore see that the future as seen from around 95AD[6] is divided into three sections or phases.

Thou hast seen

The first phase looks very easy to define. In verse 1 of Rev 1 it was still future and by verse 19 it had been revealed. This may lead us to imagine that the activities described within it already past tense; but that need not be the case. There are two major pieces of the enclosed 19 verses. The first is verse 8: 'behold he cometh with clouds'. This is clearly a reference to the return of Christ. So if we take the things seen as being past tense then we need to assume the Lord had returned before 95AD, which is clearly false.

The second can be focused around verses 10&12 where John hears and then sees a vision of Christ. Scripture is inspired; that means every detail is perfect and profitable[7]. Have you ever noticed in these verses that John was facing the wrong way? It was the Lord's day; he was in the Spirit, yet he was looking in the wrong direction. The voice of God came from behind him and he had to look back to see the source.

I suggest therefore that the first phase is that the church[8] is being issued a wake up call. The action of verse 7 is not that the Lord is coming but they are to behold because the Lord is coming. We naturally tend to look ahead of ourselves; yet we are being told to look back to get a correct perspective of Christ. So the action of verses 1-19 is past tense by verse 19, that action being the delivery of a vision that is to alter the behavior of the church in the light of the soon return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Going Forward

The remaining two phases are at least easy to commence. The 'things which are' tells us that some portion of the remainder of Revelation is going to pertain to conditions as they relate to the instant that John is writing. That leaves us with the rest, which relate to another distinct and later phase.

The debate then comes as to where that break between the present age and future age is placed. Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation speak of seven churches and thus, most agree, must refer to the church age. But does the church age end with Chapter 3 (pretribulationism) or does it continue up to the return of the return of the Lord to the earth (postribulationsim) or does it cease halfway through the tribulation (midtribulationism)?

The Rapture

1 ∂ After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.

John

John the disciple is unusual amongst the apostles for two different features. Firstly he characterizes himself as the disciple that Jesus loved[9]. The usual explanation for that is that John had the best appreciation of the love of Christ; that may be true but other than this expression we have no real reason to say that. In fact Peter is the one we see more often alone with the Lord asking questions.

The second is the strange little passage in John 21 where the rumor goes abroad that John will not die until the Lord returns. The passage explains that this isn't what the Lord had said[10] yet it is still an odd detail for the Holy Spirit to have recorded. It is particularly interesting in the light of Matthew 16:28 that said some of those standing would not taste death until they had seen Christ come in his kingdom. Conservative exposition usually links that expression either to the rapid spread of the gospel or to the transfiguration. However I don't think that is necessary. John did see Christ come in his kingdom; Revelation is what John saw[11] not particularly what he heard.

So, why does the Spirit see fit to give us these details about John? I suggest that it is because John is a type of the church. Of course he, and the other apostles, are also part of the church but I think the suggestion that he was close[12], that he was loved and that he may tarry to the Lord's return are all there to suggest a link between John and the church.

The Call

If my suggestion about John is correct then the first verse of Revelation 4 becomes very suggestive. John is being called up into heaven. The expression used is 'come up hither'. That expression is only used one other time in the New Testament; in Rev 11:12 when the two witnesses were being raised from the dead and ascending into heaven. Is it not possible that in the call issued here we actually have a foretelling of the rapture?

If you view the verse in this light certain other things immediately slot into place. We know from 1 Th 4:16 and 1 Co 15:52 that the rapture is to be accompanied with a trumpet blast; in Rev 4:1 we find it is a trumpet calling John to heaven. We know that the transformation at the rapture is immediate[13] we find that John's transformation in this verse is immediate too. We also find, pleasantly, that by chapter 4 John was looking (without being told) and in the right direction; we are reminded that the duty of the church is to look for the coming of the Lord[14].

Another interesting feature we'll consider is the opening of the door into heaven. With one or two exceptions[15] heaven has been closed, at least insofar as it is recorded in scripture. As part of the Revelation we see it being opened in four distinct stages. The first stage we see here is a door being opened, this would allow entrance or exit whilst keeping the contents largely sealed. In Rev 11:19 we see the temple in heaven opened. The beast had just set up his image in the temple on Earth so God was showing the Earth that however marred the Earth's picture of the temple in heaven, the temple in heaven was doing fine. Thirdly in Rev 15 we hear the song of Moses and we see[16] the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony being opened. Nowhere else in scripture do we see those three words together, they appear in pairs elsewhere but he we see the majesty of the temple being combined with the personality of the tabernacle. Finally in Rev 19:11 we see heaven itself opened; man was to find out exactly what was going on, too late.

The last point to make about this verse is that it specifically says that John is about to be shown the 'things which must be hereafter'. The Greek is meta tauta which is exactly the same expression as was used in Rev 1:19 and the expression doesn't appear in between[17]. If we remember that Revelation was read to most of the people that experienced it then we must look for interpretations that make sense starting at the front of the book. If you write to someone and say you'll be talking about things happening now and things happening later, and then 3 pages later say 'and these are the things that happen later' then most people would assume you had moved on to the second part of your description.

The Deal

3 ... and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

For me one of the biggest mistakes people make when reading Revelation is that they assume they are not going to understand it and therefore it doesn't bother them when things don't make sense. This becomes particularly true when looking at the imagery, we go into skip mode until we get back to something we can understand. To me that is like trying to do long multiplication before we have mastered addition. This error is particularly true in the case of Revelation 4 and this verse.

Have you ever noticed that this verse doesn't work. There is a rainbow around the throne. What do you think of when you see a rainbow? All the colors. But this rainbow wasn't multi-colored, it was green. And just in case you think John used 'like a rainbow' because he didn't have a word for arch look at the second clause. 'like a rainbow, in sight like unto an emerald'. In other words John hadn't even begun to describe what it looked like when he had said it was a rainbow.

So if John does not use the expression 'rainbow' to convey a visual picture why is he using the expression at all? JFB[18] suggests that in the same way that the first rainbow spoke of a covenant after judgement this is a promise that after the coming judgement there was to be a new covenant built. Whilst I see the similarity, and it is a nice idea, I think it is better to let scripture explain what symbols mean.

In Gen 9 a 'deal' is set up between God and man[19]. We are specifically told that this is to be an everlasting covenant[20] and apply to all generations[21]. The sign of this covenant from God's point of view is to be a rainbow; and when he sees the bow in the clouds he will remember the covenant. As the tribulation starts a change in the weather patterns[22] causes a three and a half year drought[23]; there aren't going to be any clouds. So God has set the rainbow in heaven to show that the rainbow covenant is now in effect. To me this suggests that this is the basis of judgment of flesh during the tribulation. Man will not see it, he probably won't remember it, but we are now going to see the deal with Noah's seed enacted.

The Elders

Whilst there are a great many beautiful lessons to learn from chapters 4 and 5 for our purposes I want to focus upon the twenty-four elders. I believe that these elders represent a resurrected church for the following reasons:

  1. They have bodies. In Rev 4:4 we find the elders can sit and have heads. In verse 10 we find they are able to fall down and throw their crowns down. In Rev 5:8 they are capable of holding instruments and vials. This is in marked contrast to the souls under the alter in Rev 6:9-11 which are capable of speech but apparently not much else.
  2. They converse with John. In Rev 5:5 and again in Rev 7:13 the elders talk to John to explain things to him, this is very different from the behavior one would expect from a disembodied spirit.
  3. They are not (all) Jewish. In Rev 5:9 they specifically say they have been redeemed out of every kindred, tongue and people and nature. This is not the way that a group of Jews would describe themselves. Incidentally, even some pretribulationists consider these 24 elders to be the twelve heads of patriarchs and the twelve apostles: this verse shows this to be false.
  4. The elders are redeemed. This means they cannot be angels as angels to do need to be redeemed, as they didn't fall[24].
  5. These men are redeemed before the tribulation. Again in Rev 5:9 the elders state that the lamb is worthy to open the seals because he hast redeemed them. In fact the verse also puts the fact that he was slain before their redemption and the seals after, suggesting a group of redeemed people between Calvary and the tribulation.
  6. These men wear crowns[25]. These elders are seen to be wearing crowns. Christian elders are specifically promised a crown of glory for feeding the flock[26]. In addition to that crown Christians can get an incorruptible crown[27], a crown of life[28], a crown of righteousness[29] and a crown of rejoicing[30]. The fact that crowns characterize these elders would have suggested to a Christian audience members of their own and in a glorified state. In particular it would suggest the Bema[31] has already happened by this point.
  7. They are to be kings and priests[32]. The Israelites had been promised that they would be a kingdom of priests[33] but, to my knowledge, they were never told they would all be kings and priests. The promise of kingship and priesthood was made to the church in Rev 1:6. So again the hearers of Rev 4&5 would have assumed this expression related to Christians.

Having shown that these elders are members of a resurrected church the question comes who are they? I believe the answer is very simple: but very unsatisfactory. We don't know. In fact I would go so far as to say that I could guarantee that whoever they are we won't have heard of them. This is pretty much what they Lord said when asked a similar question[34].

This leaves one final question on the elders: why are there 24 of them? The suggestion I like[35] is that this is the same number as the number of courses of priest in Solomon's temple[36] and that the Jewish priesthood was complete by being 24 in number and thus the Christian one is too. That is a good answer but in some ways it just pushes the question back a level. Why was the Jewish priesthood complete in 24 courses? I don't have a scriptural answer for that but I did have an experience that convinced me of the answer. On Dec 31st 1999 as a senior computer programmer I was part of the 'Millenium BugWatch' that eagerly watched the reports of computer problems around the globe as the third millennium rolled in. And I was struck by the wave effect of every time zone coming in one after another. Often on the Lord's day I think of a similar effect in heaven as church after church starts praying from time zone to time zone. I wonder if that isn't why priesthood is complete by being in 24 parts it shows that it encompasses the world. As a system architect I often have to worry about maintaining 24/7 service; perhaps our Christianity is supposed to be the same!

Wrath

16 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: 17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

Whilst most people understand that a 'lot of bad things' will happen during the tribulation it is not always clear as to whom the active agent is in the disasters that occur. Is it that God is actively causing death upon the Earth or simply that his removal of the Spirit allows Satan to run rampant?

The answer to this question is crucial, as the clear teaching of the New Testament is that we, the church, are spared from the wrath of God[37]. In fact we are specifically told that the wrath of God is against the ungodly[38]; the children of disobedience[39] from whom we are to be separate[40].

The notion of separation is key: when God punished Sodom he removed 'just Lot' first. With God there are not going to be any 'friendly fire' casualties. We do know that 144,000 people are going to be sealed during the tribulation[41], but that is not many. God could not protect the whole of Christendom by sealing 144,000 people during a time when half of the world's population (say three billion people) dies. Therefore if we can show that the tribulation is the wrath of God, then we know the church will not go through it.

I believe the answer is clear although it is a little subtle and detailed so we shall need to overview the tribulation period to see it.

The Seals

Rev 6:16 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: 17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

When people think of Revelation the often think of the wrath of God being revealed against mankind. It is true that Revelation does contain that yet it is interesting that was are actually towards the end of the sixth chapter before we find our reference. When the reference comes we get a beautiful irony; it is not the wrath of God but the wrath of the Lamb. Even then the word rendered lamb is actually arnion which means young lamb, almost lambkin. This same young lamb was first introduced in Rev 5:6 freshly slain. So even when the wrath of God is first introduced in this book we find the method of avoiding God's wrath mentioned too, the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

However; when the wrath of God is introduced it is done with a certain dignified finality. The cry to the mountains and rocks is a quote from the Old Testament[42]; it shows that at this point in time it becomes clear to man that God is angry and about to do something. The reference to 'him that sitteth on the throne' could easily be a reference to psalm 2[43]. In that psalm we see the nations gathering against God in an attempt to do battle with him and the Omnipotence of God is registered with the expression 'he that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh'.

The key question at the end of verse 17 (and chapter 6) is another Old Testament quote; this time from Ps 76:7. God's wrath is about to be revealed, which of the earthlings will be able to resist. This question is actually answered in chapter 7.

But the point is this; these verses appear to be describing an earthquake that announces the arrival of the wrath of God. But these verses are also describing the sixth seal. We have already had five seals by this time; according to some commentators we have had almost half of the tribulation by this point. So what about the first five seals? Are they the wrath of God or are they something else?

The fifth seal provides an important clue here; it is the persecution of tribulation saints. God would not be working out his wrath upon mankind by persecuting the one group trying to follow Him. So the fifth seal is not the wrath of God, it is the wrath of man presumably inspired by Satan.

The four horses are interesting. They are clearly operating with divinely orchestrated timing as witnessed by the pronouncements of the living ones. Each one is also given something to enable them to complete their mission. However I suggest that even then we are actually seeing non-Godly entities being permitted to carry out work they are happy to do. The easiest proof of this is the fourth horse. This is identified as death; yet we are specifically told[44] death is an enemy that will be destroyed. Note too that it is the horses that destroy 25% of the earth's population: not the sixth seal.

I suggest therefore that in the seals we are not actually seeing the wrath of God. What we are seeing is the evilness of man in a spirit-forsaken world with a backdrop reminding us that the will and purposes of God are about to be unfurled.

The Trumpets

Rev 11:18 And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged...

The seventh seal telescopes into the seven trumpets. These trumpets span from Rev 8:7 to 11:19 and we don't hear about wrath again until the seventh trumpet is blown.

So what is going on during the seven trumpets? The picture of seven trumpets goes all the way back to the days of Joshua when the Jews were entering in to the Promised Land. The first great battle they had to face was Jericho. They were told to march around it with the priests blowing upon seven trumpets[45]. On the seventh day they went around seven times, blew the trumpets, shouted and the walls fell down. We find more generally that trumpets were commonly associated with war[46].

I suggest therefore that in the seven trumpets, especially the scene in Rev 8 that we are seeing the declaration of war: specifically heaven is declaring war upon the earth. When we actually look at the contents of the seven trumpets we may also be surprised to see that God is still only firing warning shots. The first four trumpets represent aerial attacks; much of nature is destroyed; yet we are not told of the loss of any human life. The fifth trumpet is most naturally interpreted as God allowing demons to torment men: but not kill them. It is the sixth trumpet that results in horrendous loss of human life but I believe this is a human lead attack.

My position is a little unusual because following the demonic imagery of trumpet five many will take the sixth trumpet to be demonic too. However I'm not sure that is called for. This is a very long battle[47] involving a lot of 'people'; why would this be necessary for a supernatural attack? We know that single angels can kill 185,000 overnight[48]. Thus two hundred million demons, which are really just fallen angels, could kill a third of the world's population in one day. To me if you look at the imagery and draw it then you have something remarkably similar to an armed attack by millions of heavy infantry and tank battalions.

Finally under the trumpets look back at Rev 11 where our verse comes from. Here the four and twenty elders are giving glory to God because the seventh trumpet is heralding the arrival of the wrath of God. In other words; at the end of the seventh trumpet war has been signaled, the warning shots have been fired, but God has still not vented his wrath upon mankind.

The Vials

Re 16:1 ∂ And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.

The bulk of the references to wrath in Revelation occur in Chapters 14 through 16 all of which look towards the seven vials. In Rev 14 we see the two harvests; the harvest of believers and unbelievers and we hear of the winepress of the wrath of God. In Rev 15:1 we are told that the seven vials contain the seven last plagues in which are filled up (or which complete) the wrath of God.

The first verse of Rev 16 has to be one of the saddest and most ironic verses in scripture. The temple of God was now wide open[49] man could now hear God directly. The first thing man hears definitively from God is that it is too late. Judgment is coming. Now.

Interestingly the full description of the seven vials, that complete the wrath of God, are only accorded 21 verses in scripture. They run in close parallel to some of the ten plagues of Egypt and may be summarized as follows: -

Vial Title Result Notes Egyptian Equivalent
1st Vial Grievous Sore Pain Only on beast followers Plague 6 - The boils
2nd Vial Sea becomes blood All living things in sea die
3rd Vial Rivers become blood Angel declares righteousness of God Plague 1 - Nile becoming blood
4th Vial Sun becomes hotter Men Scorch and blaspheme No repentance
5th Vial Darkness Men gnaw tongues in pain Only on the beast Plague 9 - Darkness
6th Vial Drying of Euphrates Armageddon
7th Vial Massive Earthquake Pangea Reformed Huge tectonic upheaval

Summary

So in summary, the whole of the Revelation is not about the wrath of God; most of it is actually given over to showing how God tries to avoid showing his wrath. However the wrath of God will eventually be revealed at it happens during the seven vials that are part of the tribulation. To be fair they are almost certainly during the latter part of the tribulation so whilst the wrath of God shows that post-tribulationism is lacking it would allow for mid-tribulationism. The latter is better tackled by pointing to the clear indications of the rapture in Rev 4.

The Main Players

One piece of imagery in Revelation that seems to captivate the imagination is that describing the beasts in Revelation 13. In interpreting scripture we are generally best placed by attempting to find other pieces of scripture similar to the one we are studying. Looking for beasts, earth or sea would result in very many hits. However we are helped in Revelation 13 noting in verse 5 the duration of their work 42 months. We can then jump back to a verse from the preceding chapter[50], which describes the timeframe for their behaviors as 'A time and times and the dividing of time'.

We find this expression in two other places, one in Daniel 7[51] the other Daniel 12[52]. In fact all three of these probably refer to the same time period[53] but the clear bull's-eye is in Daniel 7. Here we find not only the identical time period but also the identical activity: the persecution of the saints.

The Little Horn

Reading Daniel seven would seem to suggest that the 'little horn' is a candidate for one of these beasts: but which one? There are two alternatives, the 'beast of the sea'[54] or the 'beast of the earth'[55]. To see which has the most similar characteristics it is profitable to tabulate the information[56].

Little Horn (Dan 7) Beast of Sea Beast of Earth
From non-descript beast with 10 horns. Dan 7:7-8 Beast from sea with 10 horns. Rev 13:1 Two horns. Rev 13:11
Spake great things. Dan 7:8 A mouth speaking great blasphemies. Rev 13:5 Spake as a dragon yet was deceptive. Rev 13:11&14
Spake against Most High God.Dan 7:25 Rev 13:6 Opened his mouth in blasphemy against God. No blasphemy noted
To 'wear out' the saints. Dan 7:24 To make war with the saints and overcome them. Rev 13:7 Rev 13:15, would cause death to non-beast worshippers.

I think it becomes readily apparent that the 'little horn' of Daniel 7 is also the 'beast of the sea' from revelation 13.

Tying together Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 allows us to draw in a third chapter, Revelation 17. Rev 17 describes another beast with 7 heads and 10 horns. Simply from reading revelation it is probable that this beast is the same as Revelation 13, however Daniel 7 clinches the deal. In Dan 7 we are told that the 10 horns represent 10 kings, in Revelation 17 we are told the 10 horns represent 10 kings, it is therefore very probably that these are the same 10 kings and thus the same 10 horns.

Having formed this identification we may now look at the cumulative characteristics to attempt to adduce the behavior and role of this entity.

The first profitable thing to note is that this entity is actually a person. There are a number of pointers to this: -

For me a fascinating feature of the little horn (or beast) is the deadly wound. This is mentioned most clearly in Rev 13:3-4; where one of the heads is said to be 'wounded to death', yet healed. We know from verse 4 that this inspires awe on the part of the earth folk. From Rev 17:10-11 we find that this fatally wounded king is almost certainly the 7th that, in the time of John, was yet to come.

We know a fair amount about the nature of the little horn too. He raises himself up against the Most High God, he attempts to alter the legal system and he ruthlessly persecutes the saints[58]. We also know that he deals in treachery. He is brought up amongst the ten kings[59] yet he roots three of them out[60].

Rev 13:7 tells us that his rule is going to be fairly global. We know that his full rule lasts for three and a half years[61] although in the scheme of things it is viewed as a short space[62]. In fact his rule with the 10 kings is viewed as one hour, which may imply that having come to power through the 10 kings he very rapidly subjugates them entirely, possibly through the threat of uprooting the remaining seven.

Daniel 7 gives us the most authoritative clue as to when the little horn comes to power. Dan 7:26-27 tells us plainly that the kingdom of the beast will be directly judged and that the kingdom he had will be given to the saints. As this is a vision to Daniel (a Jew) it must be the Jewish saints that are in view. If you go through our history there is no global kingdom that has rapidly passed away and the remains of the kingdom been handed to the Jews. This tells us that the little horn is yet to come.

There is one more potential clue about the little horn. In Rev 13:1 we are told the beast came from the sea. The sea is a type of the gentile nations, which suggests that the little horn, the beast from the sea is a gentile.

The linking to Daniel also helps us establish at least one of the activities of the beast. Daniel tells us[63] that the beast will sign a covenant with the Jew that is a seven-year covenant. Amongst other things it would appear that this covenant allows the Jew to re-establish the sacrificial system. In the middle of that time he breaks the covenant, the sacrificial system ceases and the so-called 'abomination of desolations' is set up. This is the object referred to by the Lord[64] and that He says is the sign that the Jews should flee. This of course ties the breaking of the covenant with the event in Rev 12 where the saints get persecuted. The abomination of desolation is probably the image of the beast[65].

It is interesting to note that in Daniel 9:27 we are told this beast continues until 'that determined shall be poured upon the desolate'. Even whilst the predations of the beast are being described we are reminded of the vials of wrath to come.

The AntiChrist

As noted in the previous section, the beast from the sea is a gentile, thus he cannot actually be the anti-Christ[66], as any false Christ would need to be a Jew in order to attempt to deceive the Jews[67].

The antichrist is more properly identified with the beast from the earth also known as the false prophet. In Daniel 11 we have a description of many kings that are literal historic figures yet as the chapter ends we find the language is becoming increasing extreme until in verse 36 we find one that magnifies himself against every God and that continues until the 'indignation be accomplished'. This would appear to suggest the end times. We are also shown that he is Jew and that he avoids sex.

Verse 38 of that chapter all refers to the God of forces; this could be a reference to the beast from the sea. The political side of his work as suggested in verse 39 further strengthens the identification of the two beasts with the willful king and god of forces. Finally in chapter 11 verse 40 shows that this king is resident between the kings of the north and south which strongly suggests Jerusalem.

Overview of tribulation politics

As the role and nature of the beast is of such interest I thought it might be useful to lay out a possible timeline and mechanism of what occurs politically on earth during the tribulation. Of necessity I am going somewhat beyond what can be proven, although the picture I am about to paint is one held by a number of conservative prophecy students[68].

At the start of the tribulation a gentile world leader arises, probably the rider of the first horse of Rev 6. He is an extremely skilled orator and an acute observer of the times: a perfect politician. He is friendly towards the Jews in particular he signs a covenant with them that appears to have solved the middle-east conflict. He rules in a fairly democratic and popular way. He has a council of ten kings, each for a given region.

There will be much turmoil during this time, which will be blamed upon those that worship God[69]. Around the middle of the tribulation he receives a deadly wound. My guess is that this wound comes from the two witnesses of Revelation 11. Then as Satan is cast from heaven (Rev 12) he enters into the now dead ruler and essentially brings him 'to life[70]'. The ruler now kills the two witnesses and draws the awe of the world.

From this position of power he now takes control of his council[71] and declares war on the saints[72]. Somewhere around this crucial middle phase the antichrist sets himself up as the religious ruler of the nation. The state sponsored 'Mystery Babylon' religion has been destroyed and now the beasts take over religious as well as political control of the world. This period is the three and a half years of the great tribulation and continues until the Lord comes.

The Reason for the Tribulation

Dan 9:24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

Having shown that the tribulation is the same period as that predicted by Daniel we are shown two more things.

The first is that the tribulation deals principally with the Jew. Daniel is told in this verse that the 70 weeks have been set upon thy people. Daniel was a Jew; there would have been no doubt in this mind that this meant Jews. Further, as shown in my essay upon the 70th week, the first sixty-nine of these weeks have already been fulfilled before the church was on earth. Additionally we are told that during the seventieth week the 'people' establish a sacrificial system, which is hardly a Christian pursuit.

The second thing is that we are told the reason for the tribulation. This is split into a number of pieces:

  1. finish the transgression. As strange as it may seem, the tribulation is a God given opportunity to sin. Men, both Jew and Gentile have a propensity to sin and they were getting worse throughout the first 69 weeks. Yet from the death of the Messiah, or shortly thereafter, the Holy Spirit was upon the earth as was the church, and this had a restraining effect upon sin. In the full length of 70 weeks man is to show what he is really capable of.
  2. to make an end of sins. We know that the wage of sin is death[73]. The tribulation is just an opportunity for sin to flourish but also one in which it will be possible to see exactly what sin does to the world. It will no longer be funny. Billions of people will die. In fact at least 2.5 Billion die in the first 1260 days: that is around two million people a day. During the tribulation an attack like 9/11 would not even be an article in the local newspaper.
  3. to make reconciliation for iniquity. Iniquity itself has been atoned for on the cross already. But the Jew has not yet appropriated it. We know that the result of the tribulation is that many Jews will turn to Christ. We also know[74] that His return to save them is going to have a major effect on the spiritual state of the Jewish nation.
  4. to bring in everlasting righteousness. This refers to the effect at the very end of the tribulation whereby the sin of the world is literally pummeled into the ground[75] and then the Lord returns to bring in the millennial kingdom.
  5. to seal up the vision and prophecy. This is a bald statement that the verses in Daniel 7 and later will be fulfilled, literally. The vision has been given it will be complete. Perhaps this is even an oblique reference to the seven seals of Rev 5&6.
  6. to anoint the most Holy. Ultimately however the object of the tribulation, as indeed with every other phase of history, is to bring glory to God. Man is going to get complete and utter control for three and half years and is then going to have three and a half years to try to 'handle' and angry God. The tribulation will demonstrate unequivocally that left to his own devices man will destroy himself, and also that man has no answer to the judgment of God.

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