As the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ is, without question, the principal figure in all of history, past, present, and future. Bible prophecy is both revealed by Him and the One whom it reveals. In Revelation 19:10 (NLT), the angel told John,
“Worship only God. For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus.“
Mark Hitchcock says that,
“The clearest and most concise way to capture the centrality of Christ to Bible prophecy is to list all thirty-five names and titles given to him in Revelation:
1. Jesus Christ (1:1)
2. Faithful witness (1:5)
3. First to rise from the dead (1:5)
4. Commander of all the rulers of the world (1:5)
5. The Alpha and the Omega (1:8)
6. The beginning and the end (1:8)
7. One who is, who always was, and who is to come, the Almighty One (1:8)
8. Son of Man (1:13)
9. The First and the Last (1:17; 2:8)
10. The living one who died (1:18)
11. The one who holds the seven stars in his right hand (2:1)
12. The one who walks among the seven gold lampstands (2:1)
13. The one who has a sharp two-edged sword (2:12)
14. Son of God (2:18)
15. Whose eyes are bright like flames of fire (2:18)
16. Whose feet are like polished bronze (2:18)
17. The one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars (3:1)
18. The one who is holy and true (3:7)
19. The one who has the key of David (3:7)
20. The Amen (3:14)
21. The faithful and true witness (3:14)
22. The ruler of God’s creation (3:14)
23. The Lion of the tribe of Judah (5:5)
24. The heir to David’s throne (5:5)
25. The Lamb (twenty-eight times)
26. Sovereign Lord, holy and true (6:10)
27. Their Lord (11:8)
28. A boy who was to rule all nations with an iron rod (12:5)
29. The child (12:5)
30. Lord God Almighty (15:3)
31. King of the nations (15:3)
32. Faithful and True (19:11)
33. The Word of God (19:13)
34. King of kings and Lord of lords (19:16)
35. The bright morning star (22:16)”1
Michael the Archangel
In all of Scripture, there are only two angels that are designated by name and who are given special places of importance in both Testaments, Gabriel (Mighty One of God) and Michael (Who Is Like God).
Gabriel is the one always delivering messages from God about God’s kingdom program (Daniel 8:15–22; 9:21; Luke 1:19, 26).
Michael protects God’s people and leads God’s army to do so. He is mentioned in Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude 1:9; Revelation 12:7, which clearly point to the fact that he has an exalted status among the angels.
“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered” (Revelation 12:1 NIV).
“Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back” (Revelation 12:7 NIV).
In the book of Daniel, Michael is called “one of the chief princes” (Daniel 10:13) and “the great prince” (Daniel 12:1). The cherubim angels are of a class that is equal in power to Satan. Michael is also likely of the cherubim class since he can withstand the power of Satan himself in battle (Ezekiel 28:14–16; Revelation 12:7).
Daniel 12:1 tells us that Michael will stand up for the people of Israel during the seven-year tribulation.
“At that time Michael, the great prince who stands watch over your people, will rise up. There will be a time of distress such as never has occurred since nations came into being until that time. But at that time all your people who are found written in the book will escape” (Daniel 12:1).
He will also lead heaven’s armies against the forces of Satan in the heavenly realm (Revelation 12:7). The nature of Michael’s protective ministry over Israel is seen in more detail in Revelation 12:7–9. As Satan persecutes the nation of Israel during the tribulation, a war breaks out in the heavenly realm between the elect angels and the evil angels as Michael and his army come to deliver the persecuted Jewish remnant:
“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.”
This war takes place midway through the tribulation because the period of Israel’s protection is 1,260 days. During the last three-and-a-half-years of the seven-year tribulation, God preserves the Jewish remnant.
“The woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, to be nourished there for 1,260 days” (Revelation 12:6).
This three-and-a-half-year period corresponds to the last half of the Tribulation, when God protects the Jewish remnant from Satan’s attack.
The Twenty-Four Elders
There are twelve references of the twenty-four elders in the book of Revelation (Revelation 4:4, 10; 5:5, 6, 8, 11, 14; 7:11, 13; 11:16; 14:3; 19:4).
There has been considerable debate regarding the identity of the twenty-four elders. The main views are: (1) angelic beings; (2) Israel; (3) the church; and (4) all the redeemed—Israel and the church. I am of the position that the twenty-four elders are humans, not angels, who represent the church. Why? First, Scripture says that the elders will sit on thrones, which indicates that they will rule with Jesus Christ. A study of Scripture will show that nowhere are we told that angels sit on thrones nor are they depicted as reigning. On the other hand, we are told repeatedly that the church will reign with King Jesus:
“So that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom. And you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:30).
“Or don’t you know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the trivial cases? Don’t you know that we will judge angels—how much more matters of this life?” (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).
“You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:10).
“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).
Second, nowhere in Scripture is the Greek word translated “elders” (presbuteros) used to refer to angelic beings; it always refers to men. “Elder” speaks of older men in general, and the rulers of both Israel and the church. It would not be an appropriate term for beings who do not grow older.
Third, the white cloths they are dressed in is the clothing of the redeemed church.
“In the same way, the one who conquers will be dressed in white clothes, and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name before my Father and before his angels… I advise you to buy from me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see” (Revelation 3:5, 18).
“She was given fine linen to wear, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints” (Revelation 19:8).
White garments represent the righteousness of Christ imputed to the believer at the moment he or she is saved. Generally, they are the dress of believers, particularly in the context of the book of Revelation.
Fourth, nowhere in Scripture are crowns promised to angels, nor do we see an instance of them wearing them. The Greek word (stephanos) refers to the victor’s crown. Christ promised this crown to the loyal believers at Smyrna (Revelation 2:10; cf.1 Corinthians 9:25; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12).
“Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will experience affliction for ten days. Be faithful to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
“Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown” (1 Corinthians 9:25).
“There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:18).
“Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).
Fourth, the elders cannot be Israel, because Old Testament believers will not be resurrected and rewarded until after the Tribulation is over.
“At that time Michael, the great prince who stands watch over your people, will rise up. There will be a time of distress such as never has occurred since nations came into being until that time. But at that time all your people who are found written in the book will escape. Many who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, and some to disgrace and eternal contempt. Those who have insight will shine like the bright expanse of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:1–3).
Fifth, in Scripture the number twenty-four is used to speak of completion and representation. The Levitical priesthood, which numbered in the thousands, was divided into twenty-four groups. There would be a representative of each group serving on a rotating basis in the temple. Exodus 19:6 tells us that Israel was a kingdom of priests, nevertheless, the only ones allowed into the presence of God were Aaron’s sons. As for the church, all believers are priests unto the Lord.
“You yourselves, as living stones, a spiritual house, are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:5, 9).
Whoever the twenty-four elders are, then, are representative of the entire church of Jesus Christ.
John MacArthur explains that,
“Some believe the elders represent Israel. But while individual Jews have been and will continue to be redeemed throughout history, at the time of this vision the nation as a whole had not yet been redeemed. The elders also cannot be tribulation saints, since they too had not yet been converted. Others split the twenty-four elders into two groups of twelve, one representing the church and the other Israel. Yet in all their appearances in Revelation, they appear as a unified group of twenty-four, never as two groups of twelve.
The most likely option is that they represent the raptured church, which sings the song of redemption (5:8–10). They have their crowns and live in the place prepared for them, where they have gone to be with Jesus (John 14:1–4).”2
Ron Rhodes writes of the twenty-four elder that,
“They seem to be glorified, crowned, and enthroned—characteristics that seem to be in keeping with redeemed human beings. Scripture elsewhere reveals that believers will be judged…and then rewarded with crowns…unlike angels.
It makes good sense to view the twenty-four elders as representative of the church. This will coincide with the pretribulational view of the rapture, which holds that the church will be raptured and brought to heaven before the tribulation.”3
John Walvoord adds,
“If this passage is regarded as chronologically before the time of the tribulation which succeeding chapters unfold, it would seem to eliminate the angels, as at this point they have not been judged and rewarded since their judgment seems to come later. For the same reason the elders do not seem to be a proper representation of Israel, for Israel’s judgment also seems to come at the end of the tribulation, not before. Only the church which is raptured before chapter 4 is properly complete in heaven and eligible for reward at the judgment seat of Christ. In that case, the crowns of gold on the heads of the twenty-four elders would be fitting at this point and would seem to confirm the idea that these may be representative of the church in glory.”4
Adrian Rogers states that,
“Some people have surmised that these twenty-four elders are angels. But they are not, since Revelation 5:11 makes a distinction between angels, beasts, and elders. Others think that they are inanimate symbols. Wrong again. The elders cannot be symbols because symbols do not talk to one another (see Revelation 5:5).
Elders are representatives of God’s people.”5
Sixth, Revelation 5:11 makes a clear distinction between angels and the twenty-four elders.
“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels around the throne, and also of the living creatures and of the elders. Their number was countless thousands, plus thousands of thousands.”
So, the twenty-four elders are humans, not angels, who represent the church.
The main person in Bible prophecy, other than the Lord Jesus Christ, is the coming world ruler, Antichrist. Harold Willmington describes this coming ruler this way,
“Since the days of Adam, it has been estimated that approximately 40 billion human beings have been born upon our earth. Four and one-half billion of this number are alive today. However, by any standard of measurement one might employ, the greatest human (apart from the Son of God himself) in matters of ability and achievement is yet to make his appearance upon our planet.”6
“Antichrist” is used once in 1 John 2:18.
“Children, it is the last hour. And as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. By this we know that it is the last hour.”
The title says something significant about his character and intentions. In relation to the Antichrist, the proposition “anti” carries with it or conveys two ideas: (1) the idea of opposition to Jesus and His mission or purpose, and (2) the idea of “in place of” or being a substitute. This also holds true of the seven-year tribulation period antichrist since he will be Satan’s substitute messiah. He is also known as the “man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Since he lives outside of God’s laws, this title highlights his personal wickedness. In Revelation 13 and 14, he is called the beast, a title which emphasizes his depravity and deep hostility towards God and God’s people. In Daniel 7:8, we find him called the little horn, a name which allows his pride and aggressiveness to be seen.
“While I was considering the horns, suddenly another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. And suddenly in this horn there were eyes like the eyes of a human and a mouth that was speaking arrogantly.”
It also speaks to the relative power that he will have. Often in the Old Testament, this term is used to describe power, such as that of a king.
There are a number of passages in Scripture, both in the Old and New Testaments, that indicate that the Antichrist will be endowed by Satan with great abilities and power (cf. Daniel 7:8-26; 9:26-27; 11:36-45; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10; Revelation 13:1-9; 17:8-14). He will be precisely the kind of individual that the world is ready for, a charismatic individual who will successfully and easily win over the hearts and minds of the inhabitants of the earth. How will he accomplish that? Well the Bible suggests the following things about him: First, he will be a great leader, someone with an incredible ability to solve complex problems and who will be able to take control of situations.
Second, he will be very smart, perhaps a highly educated individual with a keen grasp of both economic and political matters.
Third, in light of the hostile and dangerous world, and the events taking place during his time of reign, he will be both brilliant and powerful militarily.
Fourth, his craftiness and oratorical abilities will enable him to persuade multitudes from all over the world to follow him (cf. Daniel 7:20; 8:24, 25; 11:21; 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:1-2). Remember though, his abilities, power, and authority to rule is given to him by Satan.
There are four characteristics about his character that will be mentioned here: First, he is driven by a consuming pride.
“Then the king will do whatever he wants. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god, and he will say outrageous things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, because what has been decreed will be accomplished. He will not show regard for the gods of his ancestors, the god desired by women, or for any other god, because he will magnify himself above all” (Daniel 11:36, 37).
The king referred to here is the coming Antichrist.
“He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in God’s temple, proclaiming that he himself is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4).
Second, he will be an arrogant blasphemer.
“And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two month. Them he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven” (Revelation 13:5-6 NKJV).
Third, he will have great power.
“He will also invade the beautiful land, and many will fall. But these will escape from his power: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of the Ammonites. He will extend his power against the countries, and not even the land of Egypt will escape. He will get control over the hidden treasures of gold and silver and over all the riches of Egypt. The Libyans and Cushites will also be in submission. But reports from the east and the north will terrify him, and he will go out with great fury to annihilate and completely destroy many” (Daniel 11:41-44).
“The beast was given a mouth to utter boasts and blasphemies. It was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. And it was permitted to wage war against the saints and to conquer them. It was also given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation” (Revelation 13:5, 7).
Fourth, he will oppose Christ. In Luke 19:10, Jesus clearly stated that the very reason or purpose for His incarnation was “to seek and to save the lost.” The goal of the Antichrist, as it has been with Satan all along, is to oppose the purposes of Christ. In addition to opposing in every conceivable area, Antichrist will also seek to supplant Jesus by claiming to be the Messiah (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:4).
As we assess the current state of the world today, it sure seems quite evident that the world is ready to embrace a leader such as the one described above. In the midst of all the fear, chaos, hostility, violence, evil, hatred, etc., that the world is currently experiencing, and the direction the world is headed in for which there is no turning back now (for who will deny that the world is nothing more than a time bomb waiting to explode), it is clear that the way is being paved for the antichrist to emerge on the world scene and be perceived by its inhabitants as the one who will successfully bring peace and stability to the world. The truth is, though, no other wicked dictator in all human history can be compared to him. He will be a vile and vicious demagogue who will bring devastation and agony to men as nobody ever has in history.
Some have argued that the Antichrist is: (1) a Jew, (2) some hold that he is Gog (the leader of the invasion of Israel described in Ezekiel 38), and (3) others, in more recent times, have proposed that he will be a Muslim, drawing support by noting alleged similarities between the Antichrist and the coming Muslim Mahdi, who will emerge in the end times and subject the entire world to Islam according to Muslims. But does Islamic Scripture and tradition really reflect that position? Ron Rhodes says,
“By no means! Many of the passages in the hadith (Islamic tradition) that deal with the end times are contradictory. This makes it difficult to piece together a cohesive Islamic theology of the end times. Unfortunately, books and articles written by Christian proponents of the antichrist-Muslim hypothesis avoid addressing this reality. The reason is understandable: It would weaken their case.”7
I do not think any of those options are correct. Regarding him being a Jew, why would a Jew persecute Jews, persecute Israel? Plus, Revelation 13:1 says that the beast is coming up out of the sea, and the term sea in the Bible is often a reference to Gentile countries.
As for Gog, that leader heads up the Russian and Muslim force that will invade Israel (Ezekiel 38:1-6, while the Antichrist is an individual who rises out of the revived Roman empire (Daniel 2, 7). Ezekiel 39 tells us that God ends up destroying this invading force, yet we know that the Antichrist will play a significant role and will be in power for a significant part of the seven-year tribulation period (Revelation 4-18).
As for him being a Muslim, I think that there are several problems with that position. First, Daniel 9:26 (NLT), speaking of the 70 weeks of Daniel, tells us that he will be a Roman.
“After those sixty-two weeks the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the coming ruler will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come with a flood, and until the end there will be war; desolations are decreed.”
We are told here that both Jerusalem and the temple will be destroyed by the people of the coming ruler. When Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in A.D. 70, who destroyed it? A Roman emperor (Titus) with his Roman army. So, who would be the people of this coming ruler (Antichrist)? The Roman people.
Second, Daniel 9:27 tells us that the Antichrist “will make a firm covenant with many for one week” (that is one week of years—seven years). The obvious questions here are, why would Israel make a covenant with a Muslim Antichrist and vice versa? Would a Muslim Antichrist make a covenant with the Jewish people in Israel to protect those whom they hate and the land which Muslims believe is theirs and have sought to get it back at every turn? Would Israel consider making a covenant and place their own security in the hands of a world leader who is part of a people who have hated them, have sought to destroy them, and have been archenemies for millennia? It seems inconceivable that a Muslim Antichrist would sign a covenant with Israel.
Additionally, what Muslim nation or nations would agree or go along with a Muslim leader who covenants to protect the Jewish State? There is no precedent that even makes this covenant even plausible. If anything, the history between these two peoples point to the exact opposite.
Then Daniel 11:36 tells us that the Antichrist “will exalt and magnify himself above every god.” Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 says that the Antichrist “opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in God’s temple, proclaiming that he himself is God.” Such actions by a Muslim Antichrist would be inconsistent with and in complete opposition to the Muslim creed which says: “There is one God named Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.” Rhodes says that he,
“Cannot imagine a true Muslim making any claim that he was God. Just as it is anathema to Muslims to call Jesus “God incarnate” or the “Son of God,” so it would be anathema to Muslims for any human to claim he was God. A Muslim antichrist would be viewed as an infidel among Quran-believing Muslims.
In keeping with this is the Muslim teaching that “God can have no partners.” Muslims generally say this as a means of arguing against the doctrine of the Trinity. But it is certainly applicable to human leaders on earth who claim to be God.”8
Will believers who are raptured when the Lord returns for His church know beforehand who the Antichrist is? I do not think so, at least with any certainty, because the event that will cause the tribulation period to start will be the signing of a covenant between the Antichrist and Israel (Daniel 9:27). By the time that event takes place, the church will have already been taken to be with Christ.
The career of the Antichrist can be broken down into four stages. These stages or phases characterize his progression and ultimately his demise.
Prior to the Tribulation
According to Daniel 7, the Antichrist (“little horn”) will come out of the revived Roman empire which means that he is coming from the West. At this stage, he will most likely be the political leader of a powerful western country, powerful enough to enter into a covenant with Israel and guarantee her safety. The restored Roman empire will result from the coming together of a western federation of nations, which appears to take place after the beginning of the tribulation. We may very well be witnessing the initial stages of this prophecy as we witness the coming together of many western European countries who have forged a federation or union socially, politically, and economically.
According to Revelation 6:2, early in the tribulation, the Antichrist will go out to conquer.
“I looked, and there was a white horse. Its rider held a bow; a crown was given to him, and he went out as a conqueror in order to conquer.”
In Daniel 7:8, 20 we are told that he successfully conquers three countries and either conquers or subdues seven other countries, these are possibly the nations that were part of the federation from which he emerges as its supreme leader through force.
“While I was considering the horns, suddenly another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. And suddenly in this horn there were eyes like the eyes of a human and a mouth that was speaking arrogantly… I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three fell—the horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spoke arrogantly, and that looked bigger than the others.”
Daniel 9:27 tells us that the Antichrist will emerge in power during the “Seventieth Week” and after the fulfillment of the previously prophesied sixty-nine weeks.
During the First Half of the Tribulation
During the first half of the tribulation period, the Antichrist will have successfully become the ruler of the revived Roman empire. Through his rise to power, the Antichrist will have made many enemies who, midway through the tribulation will assassinate him. To the astonishment of the whole world, the Antichrist is brought back to life. As a result, he is to be followed and both the Antichrist and Satan become the object of worship.
“One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?… It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed… and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived” (Revelation 13:3, 4, 12, 14).
When Scripture describes the Antichrist as a “beast,” it has nothing to do with his appearance; it has everything to do with his character. In the eyes of the world he will be an appealing individual. He will be smart, articulate, educated, politically savvy, clever, handsome, charming, and charismatic. But he will be ruthless.
During the third stage of the Antichrist’s career, he achieves worldwide adulation which affords him with the ability to become the dictator of the world.
“The beast was given a mouth to utter boasts and blasphemies. It was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It began to speak blasphemies against God: to blaspheme his name and his dwelling—those who dwell in heaven. And it was permitted to wage war against the saints and to conquer them. It was also given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation” (Revelation 13:5-7).
For the remaining three and a half years, he will have literally achieved what many sought before but never accomplished, namely, worldwide domination and control. His control over the world will be such that people will not even be able to live life or conduct routine business without having submitted to his authority.
“And it makes everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark: the beast’s name or the number of its name” (Revelation 13:16-17).
But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.
“But the beast was taken prisoner, and along with it the false prophet, who had performed the signs in its presence. He deceived those who accepted the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image with these signs. Both of them were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur” (Revelation 19:20).
With the second coming of Christ, the reign of unparalleled terror and the careers of both the Antichrist and the false prophet come to an end.
Similarities and Differences Between Jesus Christ and the Antichrist
|Miracles, signs, and wonders (Matt. 9:32–33; Mark 6:2)||Miracles, signs, and wonders (Matt. 24:24; 2 Thess. 2:9)|
|Causes men to worship God (Rev. 1:6)||Causes men to worship Satan (Rev. 13:3–4)|
|Followers sealed on their forehead (Rev. 7:4; 14:1)||Followers sealed on their forehead or right hand (Rev. 13:16–18)|
|Violent death (Rev. 13:8)||Violent death (Rev. 13:3)|
|Crowned with many crowns (Rev. 19:12)||Crowned with ten crowns (Rev. 13:1)|
|Worthy name (Rev. 19:16)||Blasphemous names (Rev. 13:1)|
|Resurrection (Matt. 28:6)||Resurrection (Rev. 13:3, 14)|
|Second coming (Rev. 19:1–21)||Second coming (Rev. 17:8)|
|One-thousand-year worldwide kingdom (Rev. 20:4–6)||Three-and-a-half-year worldwide kingdom (Rev. 13:5–8)|
|Part of a holy trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)||Part of an unholy trinity (Satan, Antichrist, false prophet)|
|Has the power and throne of God (Rev. 12:5)||Has the power and throne of Satan (Rev. 13:2)|
The False Prophet
“Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; it had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast on its behalf and compels the earth and those who live on it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed”(Revelation 13:11-12).
There is a second “beast” mentioned in Revelation, the third member of the evil trio (Rev. 13:11-18) who is subservient to the first “beast” (Antichrist). He is also called the “False Prophet.”
“Then I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming from the dragon’s mouth, from the beast’s mouth, and from the mouth of the false prophet” (Revelation 16:13).
“But the beast was taken prisoner, and along with it the false prophet, who had performed the signs in its presence. He deceived those who accepted the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image with these signs. Both of them were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur” (Revelation 19:20).
“The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet are, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).
The name False Prophet clearly indicates that he will be the leading religious figure in the Tribulation and that his activities are religious in nature. He will be capable of working miracles, which will be important in deceiving the unbelieving world into worshiping the Antichrist.
The job of this Satan inspired creature will be to mimic the Holy Spirit’s relationship to Christ. The Holy Spirit’s role is to bring praise and worship to Christ, so the False Prophet’s assignment will be to bring praise and worship to the false Christ, the Antichrist.
“It also performs great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in front of people. It deceives those who live on the earth because of the signs that it is permitted to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who live on the earth to make an image of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived” (Revelation 13:13-14).
The False Prophet will use all types of religious props to deceive people. Today, we see the satanical influence of counterfeit Christianity enticing people into its web. Religion without Jesus is the tool of Satan to draw people into his realm. During the Tribulation, religiosity will be intense, and the False Prophet will use every counterfeit tool in his arsenal.
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.”
Without a doubt, the False Prophet was performing these miracles to use as evidence to convince the people and validate his claim to be the Elijah whom Malachi said would come before “the great and terrible day of the Lord.” The claim will be made, and the Antichrist will be promoted as the true Messiah. During the last half of the Tribulation, the focus is on the temple in Jerusalem where the image of the Antichrist is set up and worshiped (the “abomination of desolation”).
The False Prophet, with his use of miracles and wonders, leads the world in worshiping the image of the Antichrist and kills those who will not do so.
“It also performs great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in front of people. It deceives those who live on the earth because of the signs that it is permitted to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who live on the earth to make an image of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. It was permitted to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast could both speak and cause whoever would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (Rev. 13:13-15).
His power will come from Satan, and his authority will be delegated to him from the Antichrist. The evidence from Revelation 13 is that economics and religion will be inseparably linked together during this time. Those who refuse to worship the Antichrist not only face death but will not receive the image of the beast (666), which is essential for any buying or selling.
“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… 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” (Revelation 12:3-4, 9).
In Revelation chapter 12, the curtain is lifted to let us see Satan’s expulsion from heaven. Notice Satan’s description of who he is, what he does, and what happened to him provided in verse 9:
- the great dragon
- the ancient serpent
- the devil
- deceives the whole world
- thrown to earth along with his angels
The description provided is not intended to communicate his physical appearance; they show what his nature is like. He is not a horned red person with a long tongue and a pitchfork, nor does he have a dragon-like appearance. In 2 Corinthians 11:14 Paul says that Satan “disguises himself as an angel of light. His original name, Lucifer, means shining morning star” (Isaiah 14:12).
Speaking of Satan Jesus said,
“He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.”
In 1 Peter 5:8 Peter says to believers,
“Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.”
In Revelation 12:10 we are told he is,
“The accuser of our brethren.”
In 2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul says that Satan,
“…the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
The Primary Activities of Satan in the End Times
Satan will involve himself in seven main activities during the last days. He will:
- lead the false, unholy trinity (Rev. 13:2; 16:13)
- be cast out of heaven by Michael at the midpoint of the Tribulation (Rev. 12:7–9)
- persecute the Jewish people (Rev. 12:13–15)
- know that his time is short, so he will pour out his wrath on the earth (Rev. 12:12)
- gather the armies of the world at Armageddon (Rev. 16:13–16)
- continue to deceive the world (Rev. 12:9; 20:8)
- foment and lead the final rebellion against God (Rev. 20:7–10)
Prophetic Names and Titles for the Devil
Revelation contains at least eight names or titles for Satan that give us insight into his character:
- Satan (Rev. 2:9)
- The Devil (Rev. 2:10; 12:9)
- A large red dragon (Rev. 12:3)
- This great dragon (Rev. 12:9)
- The ancient serpent (Rev. 12:9)
- The one deceiving the whole world (Rev. 12:9)
- The Accuser (Rev. 12:10)
- That old serpent (Rev. 20:2)9
Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet each counterfeit one of the persons in the Holy Trinity. Satan is the counterfeit of the Father, the Antichrist as the false Christ is the counterfeit Jesus Christ, and the False Prophet is the counterfeit of the Holy Spirit.
The Unholy Trinity of the End Times
|Holy Trinity||Unholy Trinity|
|Holy Spirit||False Prophet|
I start by saying that the 144,000 are not the church. As previously stated, the church has been raptured and are already in heaven, as pictured by the twenty-four elders.
During the Tribulation period, though it may seem like it, God does not abandon the earth or its inhabitants to the unholy trinity.
“After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, restraining the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel rising up from the east, who had the seal of the living God. He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were allowed to harm the earth and the sea, ‘Don’t harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we seal the servants of our God on their foreheads.’ And I heard the number of the sealed: 144,000 sealed from every tribe of the Israelites” (Revelation 7:1-4).
“These are the ones who have not defiled themselves with women, since they remained virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were redeemed from humanity as the firstfruits for God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless” (Rev. 14:4-5).
Note what Revelation 7:1-8 and 14:4-5 state about the 144,000: First, they will be Jews. Verse 4 tells us that they will come “from every tribe of the Israelites.” 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes will make up the 144,000 (7:5-8).
Second, they will be servants of God. These are individuals who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, they were saved during the first half of the Tribulation, they are born-again. They will be the evangelists of the Tribulation. Jesus said,
“This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
Their ministry will produce much fruit, for many all over the world will be saved (Revelation 7:9-17). God will fulfill his purpose of bringing salvation to the world during these terrifying days.
Third, they will be protected. Verse 3 tells us that the angels are not to harm anything until the 144,000 servants of God have been sealed. They will not be harmed by the judgments of God that He will unleash on the earth or by Satan’s wrath.
They are sealed because of God’s promise; they will enter the kingdom at the end of the Tribulation to reign with Christ and His glorified church. They are kept from harm during the Tribulation so that they might be alive when the Millennium begins, thus fulfilling God’s covenant promises to His people.
Fourth, they are undefiled and pure. These were virgin males, most likely meaning that they had been consecrated to God and remained single and that they were spiritually pure, for “these are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (14:4).
Fifth, they are the “firstfruits” (14:4). As stated previously, these Jews were saved during the first half of the Tribulation. They were the first Jews converted from among the many that will be saved during this period.
Sixth, they are truthful and blameless. The description of the 144,000 closes with the statement that “no lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless” (14:5).The thought is that there is no falsehood, especially no false religion in them. This large number has been kept utterly clean from the false religion of the great Tribulation. They are also described as without fault, that is, blameless and without stain, in contrast to those who are apostates.
But the 144,000 are not the only ones God uses to represent Him in those days.
The Two Witnesses
During the first half of the Tribulation, God will raise up two witnesses who will bear testimony to Him. The two witnesses will be individuals, real human beings. David Jeremiah explains that,
“The two witnesses are not symbols of the law and the gospel; neither do they represent the Old and New Testaments. They are real people who will be both heeded and hated. They will speak and perform miracles. They will die as only real people do.”10
We read in Revelation 11:1-4,
“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. 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.”
Note that in verse 3 Jesus calls the two witnesses, my two witnesses, meaning that these two individuals have a special and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, a relationship not shared with other witnesses.
Verse 4 describes the two witnesses as “two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.” To those reading this at the time, the metaphor would have clearly 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.”
Jeremiah says that,
“The book of Revelation references the lampstand and the olive trees as a nod to Joshua and Zerubbabel, the two witnesses in Zechariah 4. Like the lampstand, they burned brightly. And like the olive tree, they provided fuel for the candelabra. This is a metaphor for the fact that these two witnesses in Revelation will shine in the darkness of the Tribulation and that they will be fueled by God’s Spirit.”11
Who are these two witnesses? Moses, Enoch, and Elijah have been identified as possible candidates. Many in the early church, such as Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus, held that they would be Enoch and Elijah. Others have believed that Moses will be one of the two witnesses along with either Enoch or Elijah. Most scholars of the scholars I have studied who believe it will be two of the three identified, most believe it will be Moses and Elijah. Rhodes presents three reasons for their conclusion,
“Here are three of the reasons for this view.
- The tribulation is a period in which God deals with the Jews—just as He did in the first 69 weeks (that is, weeks of years) of Daniel. Moses and Elijah are two of the most influential figures in Jewish history.
- Moses and Elijah appeared on the mount of transfiguration with Jesus. This shows their centrality.
- The miracles portrayed in Revelation 11 are very similar to those previously performed by Moses and Elijah in Old Testament times.”12
In their case for Moses and Elijah, Demy and Whitcombe write,
“No two men in Israel’s entire history would receive greater respect and appreciation than Moses and Elijah. Moses was God’s great deliverer and lawgiver for Israel (Deuteronomy 34:10–12). First-century Jews actually thought that Moses had given them the manna in the wilderness (John 6:32). And God raised up Elijah to confront Israel in a time of great national apostasy. God vindicated him by sending fire from heaven and “a chariot of fire and horses of fire” to escort him out of this world. So highly did the Jews of Jesus’ day think of Elijah that when they saw Jesus’ miracles, some people concluded that Elijah had returned (Matthew 16:14).”13
Though these are good arguments, the truth is we do not know since Scripture does not tell us. It is also quite possible that the two witnesses may be two entirely new prophets of God.
Sackcloth is a symbol of mourning, which seems to indicate that they will cry out against the sins of the people and announce God’s coming indignation.
“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—the empowerment of the Holy Spirit needed in order to minister.
“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 have supernatural powers that will allow them to control the weather, water, and plagues. If anyone attempts to harm them, they will have the ability to kill them with fire which will proceed from their mouth. These powers and abilities will serve as evidence to the people of Israel that they are from God. Once their work is done, the beast will kill them in Jerusalem, which is where their ministry is centered.
Their ministry will be like that of John the Baptist, calling for repentance because the King is coming. Their ministry will last for 1260 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; in fact, they will rejoice and celebrate over the fact that they have been killed because their ministry and the words they uttered “tormented those who live on the earth” (Revelation 11:9-10).
But to their amazement, after the 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” (Revelation 11:11-12).
1 Hitchcock, The Complete Book of Bible Prophecy, 116–117.
2 MacArthur, Because the Time Is Near, 112.
3 Ron Rhodes, 40 Days Through Revelation: Uncovering the Mystery of the End Times (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2013), 59.
4 Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, 106-107.
5 Adrian Rogers, Unveiling the End Times in Our Time (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2004), 69.
6 Harold Willmington, The King Is Coming (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1981), 81.
7 Ron Rhodes, Bible Prophecy Answer Book (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2017), 150-151.
8 Ibid., p.153.
9 Hitchcock, The Complete Book of Bible Prophecy, 130.
10 David Jeremiah, Agents of the Apocalypse (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2014), 91.
11 Ibid., 92.
12 Ron Rhodes, The End Times in Chronological Order: A Complete Overview to Understanding Bible Prophecy, 115.
13 Timothy J. Demy and John C. Whitcomb, “Witnesses, Two,” in The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy, ed. Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson (Eugene, OR: Harvest, 2004), 402-403.
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.
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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.