Events of the Tribulation: The First Three and a Half Years (Part 3)
The Great Multitude of Saints
There are three major contributors for why so many are being saved during the Tribulation period. First, consider the climate of the Tribulation. The church is gone, and the Antichrist has deceived the world to prop himself up as the world’s savior, and then unleash apocalyptic terror on planet earth.
Second, any sense of security people had will be short-lived, as the world starts unraveling and they witness the terror unleashed by Satan’s number one man. Many will realize that they have been deceived by the lying leader, raising real questions for which truthful answers will come from those chosen and faithful servants as they proclaim “the gospel of the kingdom.”
Third, the witness of the 144,000 will be evidenced by the fact that they are protected from both God’s and Satan’s wrath.
Ron Rhodes agrees and goes on to say,
Many may become convinced of the truth of Christianity after witnessing millions of Christians supernaturally vanish off the planet at the rapture. (Bibles and Christian books will be left behind to explain the event.) Many will no doubt become believers as a result of the ministry of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists introduced in Revelation 7. …
In the Gospels, John the Baptist and Jesus often preached that the kingdom of God was near. God’s witnesses will do the same during the tribulation period. Jesus will be presented as the divine Messiah, the King who will rule in the soon-coming millennial kingdom. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news that Christ is coming to set up His kingdom on earth and that those who receive Him by faith during the tribulation will enjoy the blessings of His millennial rule.1
This “vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb … clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands … [who] cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb” (7:9–10), who are now in heaven, is notably different than the 144,000.
John went on to describe the scene:
All the angels stood around the throne, and along with the elders and the four living creatures they fell facedown before the throne and worshiped God, saying, Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 7:11–12)
Those present witnessing this cannot help but fall facedown and worship almighty God.
Listen to the answer to the question uttered by one of the elders regarding this multitude of people clothed in white robes:
These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:14)
These Tribulation saints have a place of high honor. They will be “before the throne of God” (7:15). Their ministry is that of perpetual and ongoing praise. But when the battle is over and Christ’s glorious kingdom is established on the earth, this redeemed company is given a prominent place in the affairs of state. They live and reign with Christ a thousand years.
Then I saw thrones, and people seated on them who were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and who had not accepted the mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)
The terrible experiences of the Tribulation will be in the past forever.
For the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; he will guide them to springs of the waters of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Revelation 7:17)
The Two Witnesses
Malachi 4:5–6 says,
Look, I am going to send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.
Timothy Demy and Thomas Ice explain,
The ministry of Elijah, which could be fulfilled through the ministry of the two witnesses (Rev. 11:3–6), will be one of restoration toward the nation of Israel. Since it will be “before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord,” it will occur in the first half of the tribulation.2
Verses 1–2 of Revelation 11 says,
Then I was given a measuring reed like a rod, with these words: “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count those who worship there. But exclude the courtyard outside the temple. Don’t measure it, because it is given to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.”
In verse 1, John is told to take a reed and “measure the temple of God and the altar,” which clearly implies that there will be a temple building in Jerusalem at this time. Notice that “they [the gentiles] will trample the holy city for forty-two months”(11:2), a time period found also in Revelation 13:5, and equal to 1,260 days (11:3, 12:6). I take this to be the first half of the seven-year Tribulation period. During the last half of the Great Tribulation, the Antichrist will be exercising universal power. Walvoord states,
The temple here will be constructed so that orthodox Jews can offer sacrifices according to the Mosaic Law in the period in the first half of the seven-year period known as Daniel’s 70th week. At the beginning of the 42-month Great Tribulation, however, the sacrifices will stop and the temple will be desecrated and become a shrine for the world ruler of the Great Tribulation who will put an idol in it and proclaim himself to be God.3
The Antichrist’s execution of them seems to fit best with other events that will transpire in the middle of the Tribulation, such as the Antichrist’s exaltation of himself to godhood, in defiance of the true God and His witnesses.
Also, the resurrection of the two witnesses would likely have a more significant impact on the world midway through the Tribulation period rather than towards the end, when Armageddon is under way, just prior to the Second Coming of Christ.
God raises two witnesses who appear on the scene.
“I will grant my two witnesses authority to prophesy for 1,260 days, dressed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. (Revelation 11:3–4)
The two witnesses will be individuals, real human beings.
In verse 3, Jesus calls them “my two witnesses,” meaning they have a special and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, a relationship not shared with other witnesses.
Verse 4 describes them as “two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.” To the people reading this at the time, the metaphor would have pointed them to Zechariah’s prophecy. In his vision, he saw a “gold lampstand” with the “seven lamps” and “two olive trees beside it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left,” yielding golden oil for the lamps (Zechariah 4:2–3). Zechariah 4:14 says that the “olive trees are two anointed ones … who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”
Here the prophet is speaking of two faithful individuals who lived in his day: Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel, the governor who was leading the Temple’s restoration. In Zechariah 4:6, we are told that these two men were testimonies to the truth that God does His work “not by strength or by might, but by my Spirit.”
We do not know who these witnesses are since scripture does not tell us. It is also quite possible that the two witnesses may be two entirely new prophets of God (see chapter 8 for some proposed individuals).
Sackcloth is a symbol of mourning, which seems to indicate that they will cry out against the sins of the people and announce the coming indignation of God.
If anyone wants to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and consumes their enemies; if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way. They have authority to close up the sky so that it does not rain during the days of their prophecy. They also have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every plague whenever they want. (Revelation 11:5–6)
They fulfill Zechariah 4:11–14: They are empowered by the Holy Spirit and transmit that spiritual power to the lampstand.
I asked him, “What are the two olive trees on the right and left of the lampstand?” And I questioned him further, “What are the two streams of the olive trees, from which the golden oil is pouring through the two golden conduits?” Then he inquired of me, “Don’t you know what these are?” “No, my lord,” I replied. “These are the two anointed ones,” he said, “who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”
These two individuals will be endowed with supernatural powers that will allow them to control the weather, water, and plagues. If anyone attempts to harm them, they will be able to kill them with fire proceeding from their mouth. These powers and abilities will serve as evidence to the people of Israel that they are from God. As we come to the midpoint of the Tribulation period, we see these two faithful witnesses come to the end of their ministry. The Antichrist will kill them in Jerusalem, where their ministry will be centered.
Their ministry will be like that of John the Baptist, calling for repentance because the King is coming. Their ministry will last for 1,260 days (half of the Tribulation period).
When they finish their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war on them, conquer them, and kill them. Their dead bodies will lie in the main street of the great city, which figuratively is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. (Revelation 11:7–8)
The world will refuse to bury them; rather they will rejoice and celebrate over the fact that they have been killed because their ministry and words “tormented those who live on the earth” (Revelation 11:9–10). David had prophesied this very event:
The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth. Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem; and there was none to bury them. (Psalm 79:2–3 KJV)
The wicked people to whom these two preachers were sent hated them with a passion. Now they are dead, and the world celebrates.
But to their amazement, after three and a half days, the two will be raised from the dead and will be taken into heaven:
But after three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet. Great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” They went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies watched them. At that moment a violent earthquake took place, a tenth of the city fell, and seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake. The survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. (Revelation 11:11–13)
The deceived world believes that they have won the victory as the bodies of the two witnesses lie in the street. But as the messengers ascend to heaven, their enemies watch in terror. The celebration is short-lived; the apparent victory crumbles into defeat. They not only failed to accept the message of God’s redeeming grace, they also murdered God’s messengers. They must now face the God they have rejected.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31)
The last three and a half years of the Tribulation will be characterized by an extreme attempt to wipe the Jews from the face of the earth. Satan likely thinks that if the Jews are annihilated, then God’s plan for history will be thwarted, that this would somehow prevent Christ’s second advent. Within the following imagery, the woman represents Israel, and her male child represents Christ:
A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.She was pregnant and cried out in labor and agony as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: There was a great fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven crowns. Its tail swept away a third of the stars in heaven and hurled them to the earth. And the dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she did give birth it might devour her child. She gave birth to a Son, a male who is going to rule all nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, to be nourished there for 1,260 days. (Revelation 12:1–6)
Revelation 12:7–9 tells us that Satan himself is cast out of heaven to the earth. This provides the basis for an intensification of events upon the earth during the second half of the Tribulation.
Then war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels also fought, but he could not prevail, and there was no place for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was thrown out—the ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world. He was thrown to earth, and his angels with him.
1 Ron Rhodes, 40 Days through Revelation (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2013), 94.
2 Timothy J. Demy and Thomas Ice, Answers to Common Questions about the End Times (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2011), 70.
3 John F. Walvoord, “Revelation,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 1983), 955.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are taken from the King James Version.
Dr. Miguel J. Gonzalez is the Founder and President of Reasons for Faith International Ministries. He served as a pastor for ten years in Charlotte, NC and has taught in churches and conferences throughout the United States. He currently hosts the Time in the Word and Truth To Live By podcasts and writes at KnowingChristianity.blogspot.com.
Copyright © 2006–2021 by Miguel J. Gonzalez Th.D. and published by Reasons for Faith International Ministries, Inc. by permission. No part may be altered or edited in any way. Permission is granted to use in digital or printed form so long as it is circulated without charge, and in its entirety. This document may not be repackaged in any form for sale or resale. All reproductions must contain the copyright notice (i.e., Copyright © 2006-2021 Miguel J. Gonzalez Th.D.) and this Copyright/Limitations notice.