Some perhaps remember the old E. F. Hutton commercial on TV where it was said “when E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.” The visual aspect of that commercial was that a crowd of talking people all of a sudden became silent and leaned in to hear the latest financial advice from E. F. Hutton. It communicated its message very well, letting the viewer know that this authoritative source for financial information should be listened to very carefully.
Well, a greater than E. F. Hutton has spoken. With authority and clarity, the Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed that the coming period of tribulation is the worst period of time that this planet will ever experience. The focus of His statement was on the second half of that 7 year period of time. Jesus referred to this 3 ½ year period as “the tribulation, the great one.” (Matt. 24:21) And He observed in the next verse (24:22) that no human being would have survived it if God had allotted a longer period of time for the tribulation.
As we conclude our four part study of the time of trouble, there are several specific matters that need to be discussed.
Five Key Elements in the Second Half of the Tribulation Period
- THE NATION OF ISRAEL. The Lord Jesus was quite clear that the second half of Daniel’s 70th week would be a terrible time for Israel. When they see the “abomination of desolation” set up in the Holy Place in the temple at the midpoint of the tribulation, they are encouraged to quickly flee the land. The Antichrist, with whom they are in a covenant relationship, will break that covenant and cease being the protector of Israel, and will become their great persecutor. As Israelites increasingly come to faith in Jesus, their persecution increases tremendously. According to Revelation 12, Satan is forcibly removed from heaven and he knows then that his time is short. This results in Satan going for with “great wrath” on the earth, particularly targeting Israel. By the time of Jesus’ Second Coming, Israel nationally will come to faith. In fact, Israel’s regeneration is the one prerequisite for His return to earth (Matt. 23:39). So it will be the best of times and worst of times for Israel.
- THE ACTIVITY OF THE ANTICHRIST. The career of the Antichrist (the Beast) has very distinct parts to it. Before the tribulation ever begins, he is the ruler of a nation and in that role he signs the treaty with Israel. In the first half of tribulation, he is the dictator of an eleven nation confederacy. At the midpoint of the tribulation, he is killed and returns to life. It is at that point that the world worships him and during the final 42 months of the tribulation (Rev. 13), he becomes ruler of the entire world. In this capacity he, along with his chief assistant the “false prophet”, will attempt to control the world militarily as well as economically (the famous “mark of the beast—666”). The Scriptures consistently testify to the fact that these individuals will be working the most amazing miracles. The outpouring of supernatural manifestations are very messiah-like, causing great deception among mankind (See 2 Thess. 2:9-10; Matt. 24:24; Rev. 13:2, 13-15). His passionate hatred for God and the people of God causes him to wage war against the saints. In this effort he is very successful. But he and his devoted followers will be the target of God’s final series of judgment, the “bowl judgments.” His aggressive rebellion against the Lord God will be brought to a sudden, dramatic end at Armageddon when he (along with the False Prophet) are cast alive into the Lake of Fire (the “second death”).
- THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD. Jesus likened the judgments of God to “birth pains.” Like birth pains, they increase in both number and intensity as the tribulation period proceeds along. This means that the number of judgments are more numerous and of greater intensity during the second half of the tribulation. Most likely, the “trumpet judgments” (Rev. 8-9) and the “bowl judgments” (Rev. 16) occur during the final 3 ½ years. And it is amazing to note (in Rev. 16) that men realize that these terrible judgments are coming from God, yet they still blaspheme Him and refuse to repent. This certainly shows the human heart for what it is when not touched by the Spirit of God.
- THE WITNESSES OF GOD. In the middle of the nightmarish events of these seven years, God will cause the gospel to go throughout the entire world (Matt. 24:14) with the result that multiplied millions will come to faith in Jesus (see Rev. 7). As noted in our earlier study, God will raise up 144,000 as witnesses who will no doubt play a significant role in bringing the gospel to the whole world. But also, God will raise up the famous “two witnesses” (Rev. 11). While many Bible students place the ministry of these two men during the first half, it seems best to place them in the second half. (The information about the “two witnesses” is part of the scroll that John ate and the other pieces of information on the scroll deal with the second half of the tribulation). The “two witnesses” will have a ministry that focuses on the city of Jerusalem which at this time is in terrible moral and spiritual shape. Their ministry, however, will have worldwide impact as is seen by the intense hatred of the entire world towards them. They will have the ability to work miracles and they will be a thorn in the side of the Antichrist as he attempts to bring all to worship himself. The “two witnesses” are preserved by God until the very end of the tribulation. At that time they will be killed, but then will rise bodily after some three days, much to the horror of those who live on the earth. God will always have His witness on this earth, even in the most difficult of times.
- THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST TO THE EARTH. The second half of the tribulation will come to a sudden end with the coming of Jesus. Immediately before His return, there will be a sign in the heavens which alerts all on the earth that the time has now arrived for His return. There is not a doubt in the minds of the unbelievers that it is all over for them. They will mourn when they see the sign. And then Jesus comes back in power and great glory. He comes back to take the planet back from the Evil One and to establish the future, forever kingdom of God. The Antichrist and False Prophet are cast into the Lake of Fire and Satan and his forces are placed into the abyss, the prison for demons (cf. Luke 8:31; Rev. 20:1-3, 7). At His coming, the curse is removed and the world returns back to a paradise-like condition as the long awaited messianic age begins.
The Bible is clear on how things are going to end. They will end wonderfully well for the children of God, but not well for those who have aligned themselves against the Lord and against His Christ. We have God’s word on the matter and on that we can rely. Such truth is given to us to give us perspective on the world that we live in and to help us personally prioritize life better and make better decisions. These prophetic truths are not designed to satisfy our curiosities, but to assist us in living more authentic lives now for our Lord Jesus Christ.