Bible Prophecy in Chronology series (post #14)
The last three-and-a-half years of the seven-year tribulation period are sometimes referred to as “the great tribulation.” This term comes from Christ’s quote concerning the midway point of the period: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). I myself have never been too concerned with dissecting the seven-year period into the general tribulation of the first half and the great tribulation of the second half. As we’ve seen in our studies, the first half will be plenty bad! Still, though, there is no denying that those final three-and-a-half years are going to ratchet things up to a much more intense level.
In my last post, I explained that the trigger for the closing half of the tribulation period will be a second war in heaven between Satan’s angels and God’s angels (Revelation 12:7). As they did so long ago in the first war in heaven, Satan and the other rebellious angels will come up on the losing end and be cast down to the earth (Revelation 12:9). But Satan won’t land on earth, learn from his mistakes, and humbly slink away to lick his wounds and ponder his future. No, he’ll be MAD! Really MAD! He’ll come down “having great wrath” knowing that he now has but a short time – the last half of the tribulation period – to seek his revenge upon God (Revelation 12:12). He’ll achieve this revenge by persecuting God’s people. And how will he get this persecution done? He’ll do it through the Antichrist.
In Revelation 13:1, the Antichrist is called a “beast.” This description speaks of his character rather than his appearance. The verse also says that he has seven heads and ten horns. Upon each horn is a crown, and upon each head is a blasphemous name. Thankfully, in Revelation 17:9-11, an angel explains most of this symbolism:
- The seven heads have a dual meaning. They represent not only seven mountains but also seven kings. The seven mountains surely speak of the city of Rome, which has long been known as the city which sits upon seven hills. The seven rulers refer to seven historical rulers of the Roman empire, with the Antichrist serving as the seventh on the list.
- The ten horns are ten kings who will receive authority during the time of the Antichrist. This explains why there is a crown upon each horn. These are the ten kings of the alliance that Daniel prophesied would make up the revived Roman empire of the end times. According to Daniel, the Antichrist will rise up as an eleventh horn (a “little horn”) and take over the entire alliance by subduing (“plucking up”) three of the ten kings (Daniel 7:7-8,23-24).
- The seven blasphemous names, one upon each head, evidently refer to the level of hatred the Antichrist will exhibit toward God. In scriptural numerology, the number seven frequently symbolizes completion or perfection. Therefore, the Antichrist bearing seven blasphemous names speaks to how completely and perfectly blasphemous his intentions, words, and actions will be toward God, especially in the last half of the tribulation period.
Now, one of the most perplexing prophecies concerning the Antichrist is found in Revelation 13:3 and it has major implications on the midway point of the tribulation period. John says, “And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.” This “deadly wound” must surely be important because it is also mentioned in verse 12 and verse 14. In verse 14, John even adds in that the wound was caused “by the sword.”
The most common interpretation of this prophecy is that the Antichrist will experience some type of resurrection after the whole world thinks he has been assassinated. Obviously, this will be Satan’s attempt to replicate Christ’s resurrection. However, a debate rages as to exactly how we should interpret the Antichrist’s death and resurrection. Will he barely survive an assassination attempt or will he actually be killed and somehow miraculously brought back to life? It doesn’t help that even John seems to offer conflicting descriptions of the event. Let me show you what I mean.
In Revelation 13:14, we read that the Antichrist “was wounded by the sword and lived.” Okay, that wording seems to imply a wound that is life-threatening but not fatal. However, in Revelation 13:3 and 13:12 the wound is described as “deadly,” and in Revelation 13:3 the words “mortally wounded” are used. Okay, that seems to imply a wound that results in actual death.
But wait, there’s more. Even though Revelation 13:3 does use those words “mortally wounded” it precedes them by saying “as if it had been mortally wounded.” That makes it sound like the wound appeared fatal but really wasn’t. But then we get Revelation 17:8 and Revelation 17:11 where the Antichrist is described as the beast “who was, and is not.” Well, if the word “was” speaks of a time when the man was alive, then it only makes sense that the words “and is not” speak of a time when he is not alive. Right?
Those who believe that the Antichrist will literally die and literally be resurrected point to the fact that Pharaoh’s “sorcerers” (“wise men” “magicians”) were seemingly able to duplicate some of the miraculous things that Moses and Aaron did in their attempts to convince Pharaoh to free the Israelites from their bondage in ancient Egypt. First, when Aaron threw his rod to the ground so that it could become a serpent, Pharaoh’s sorcerers matched that feat by throwing their rods to the ground and causing them to become serpents (Exodus 7:8-13). Second, when Moses used the rod to strike the waters of Egypt and turn them into blood, Pharaoh’s sorcerers used their enchantments to somehow produce the same effect (Exodus 7:14-25). Third, when Moses used the rod to call forth frogs from Egypt’s waters to come upon the dry land and ruin everyday life, Pharaoh’s sorcerers copied that act by causing even more frogs to come upon the land (Exodus 8:1-7). Admittedly that’s as far into the ten plagues as those sorcerers could go in their attempts to keep up with Moses, but the fact that they could keep up that long leads some to assert that those sorcerers were performing authentic miracles via the power of Satan. And if that really is what was happening, perhaps Satan similarly has enough power to literally resurrect the literally dead Antichrist.
Others, however, scoff at the whole notion that Satan has any genuine miracle-working power. After all, 2 Thessalonians 2:9 associates the Antichrist with “all power, signs, and lying wonders.” The use of that word “lying” might be taken to mean that the wonders (including the supposed resurrection) aren’t legitimate. Also, if Pharaoh’s sorcerers were able to perform honest-to-goodness miracles wouldn’t the better course of action have been to reverse whatever Moses and Aaron were doing rather than mimic it? I mean, why turn even more water into blood and bring up even more frogs just to show your power? Isn’t that evidence that what those sorcerers actually did was perform parlor tricks rather than authentic miracles?
As you might expect, whichever camp you align with on this debate will provide you with plenty of company. Rarely do both sides of an argument offer such compelling evidences to back up their positions. But since I’m the one writing this post I’ll be brave enough to offer my opinion. Just know going in that I don’t claim any secret insight for what you’re about to read. This is just one man’s take on a controversial subject.
I tend to side with those who teach that the Antichrist will literally die and literally be resurrected, and I’ve got two main reasons for choosing this side. Reason #1 comes from the original Greek of Revelation 13:3. The Greek word translated as “wounded” in the phrase “mortally wounded” is sphazo and it literally means “to slay.” It’s actually the same Greek word that is used in Revelation 5:6 in reference to Jesus as a “slain” Lamb. That sounds like a literal death to me.
Reason #2 involves Revelation 17:9-11. Do you remember that I told you that those verses explain that the Antichrist’s seven symbolic heads represent seven historical rulers of the Roman empire? What I didn’t tell you is that the passage offers us clues as to the identities of those seven rulers. Revelation 17:10 says: “There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time.”
Many scholars identify the five “fallen” kings as the Roman emperors who had ruled before John’s day. Those were Caesar Augustus, Cladius, Caligula, Tiberius, and Nero. Continuing with this line of thought, the “one is” king of John’s day was Domitian – the Roman emperor who had exiled John to the island of Patmos. This leaves only “the other who has not yet come.” He will be the Antichrist, the ruler of the revived Roman empire in the tribulation period. This makes the Antichrist the seventh of the seven kings.
It is important to note, though, that the prophecy says that the Antichrist (the seventh king) will only “continue a short time” before he is replaced by an eighth king. And who will this eighth ruler be? Revelation 17:11 plainly says, “The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth.” You see, the way the prophecy reads, the Antichrist will be not only the seventh king but also the eighth. It’s as if he has two completely separate reigns, one in the first half of the tribulation period and another in the last half. To me, this indicates that he will have two separate existences.
But how could such a thing be possible? I believe the answer is found in a demon. The Revelation doesn’t just call the Antichrist “the beast”; it calls him “the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit” (Revelation 11:7, Revelation 17:8). As we learned in a previous post, “the bottomless pit” (the abyss, the deep, Tartarus) is a place exclusively used for the incarceration of certain fallen angels (demons).
Hopefully you’ll recall that in Revelation 9:1-12 Satan is given the key to the bottomless pit as a part of the fifth trumpet judgment in the first half of the tribulation period. When he opens the pit the incarcerated demons (symbolically described by John as hideous looking locusts) are released (Revelation 9:3-10). Their “king” (leader) is a fallen angel John calls “the angel of the bottomless pit.” That fallen angel’s name is Abaddon in the Hebrew and Apollyon in the Greek (Revelation 9:11). Both names mean “Destroyer.”
So, what all this means is that at some point in the tribulation period the Antichrist will become demon possessed by a demon that ascends out of the bottomless pit. We are never given the name of that demon but it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s Abaddon/Apollyon himself. I’m not presenting that as absolute fact, but it would explain why that demon’s name is the only one given. Regardless of whether or not it’s Abaddon/Apollyon, it seems to me that the demon that enters the Antichrist’s body and possesses it will provide the impetus and empowerment for the miraculous resurrection.
Did you know that in Luke 22:3 the Bible says that Satan literally entered into the body of Judas Iscariot just before Judas betrayed Jesus? What this shows us is that when Satan wants to do his biggest work he brings out his biggest guns for demon possession. The demon that possesses the Antichrist will change the Antichrist’s personality overnight. The man of peace will become the man of war. The diplomat will become the dictator. The politician will become the punisher. The mogul will become the madman. In the words of prominent pastor and denominational leader Adrian Rogers, “He will enter the grave as a human, but he will arise as a super human.”
And now I’ll close this post by providing a list of seven events that will occur immediately following the Antichrist’s death and resurrection at the midway point of the tribulation period:
- The Antichrist will be granted a God-given authority to have dominion for 42 months (Revelation 13:5). These 42 months will be the last three-and-a-half years of the tribulation period. The power he wields before the midway point of the period will be minor compared to the power he wields after it.
- The Antichrist will break his treaty with Israel and claim the Jewish temple as what we might think of as his personal palace. He will sit “as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4).
- The people of the world will marvel at the Antichrist’s resurrection and begin to think of him as a godlike figure (Revelation 13:4,8). Not only will they worship him, they will either knowingly or unknowing worship the devil who empowers him (Revelation 13:4).
- The Antichrist will begin to publicly speak blasphemies against God and will go to war with and overcome the “saints” (Revelation 13:6-7). These “saints” will be people who have become Christians during the tribulation period. Not all of the tribulation-period Christians will end up martyred, but many of them will, and the Antichrist’s chosen method of execution will be death-by-beheading (Revelation 20:4).
- The Antichrist will have a right-hand man known as “the false prophet.” (I’ll have more to say about him in the next post.) This false prophet will have the power to perform incredible “signs” that will give him the platform by which to convince the whole world to worship the Antichrist (Revelation 13:11-14).
- The false prophet will erect an image to the Antichrist inside the Jewish temple. Somehow this image will be given breath and the power to speak (Revelation 13:14-15). Anyone who refuses to bow down and worship the image will be put to death (Revelation 13:15). Jesus described the erecting of this image inside the temple as “the abomination of desolation” and warned future eyewitnesses to flee the region as fast as they can (Matthew 24:15-22).
- The false prophet will institute an economic program that will force individuals to take a certain mark either in the right hand or in the forehead. Without this mark they will not be able to buy or sell anything. This mark will be directly associated with the Antichrist and will somehow involve his name or the number of his name. Revelation 13:18 cites that number as 666. In the ancient world, each of the letters of the alphabets used in languages such as Hebrew or Greek corresponded to a number. This has led countless students of prophecy to spend countless hours trying to break the code of the numbers 6-6-6. The problem is that if you work hard enough at it you can manipulate the system to make the numbers 6-6-6 correspond to a long list of names. For example, the name “Ronald” has six letters, as do the names “Wilson” and “Reagan.” So there you have it, Ronald Wilson Reagan was the Antichrist. Get my point? That’s why I don’t stress out over the numbers 6-6-6. The mark itself and its ramifications are much more important than the specifics of the mark. And what are those ramifications? If you refuse to take the mark you will doom yourself to starvation, poverty, and a high chance of martyrdom. But if you take it you will doom yourself to eternal separation from God. Nice choice, huh? Welcome to the last half of the tribulation period.