The Great Tribulation
[Reading time: 8 minutes] In our examination of the period called the Beginning of Birth Pains, we saw that it’ll include wars, revolutions, coups and general unrest around the globe. The wars probably will include another major war between Israel and the Arab nations, a Russian/Muslim invasion of Israel, five months of chemical warfare or population control, plus an excursion by a mechanized army of 200 million troops. The extreme danger will probably result in nations demanding that a world agency be given authority to impose peace.
The UN Security Council is charged with maintaining international peace and security, but historically its members have used it for their own national interests, reducing its effectiveness as a peacekeeping body. This will eventually lead world leaders to take a different approach to secure international peace and security.
Since 1948, the conflict in the Middle East has either been a smoldering ember or a blazing fire and, as we have seen, it’ll continue to be a threat to world peace and security. The UN General Assembly and Security Council have taken strong stands on the “Palestine problem” and both have passed strong resolutions against Israel. It’s possible the Russian/Muslim invasion of Israel will be an alleged “enforcement” of Security Council resolutions.
Because Israel is Israel and Jews are Jews, I seriously doubt they’ll honor official demands that they withdraw from occupied territories, including Jerusalem, or establish a sovereign Palestinian state within its borders. Especially after they become convinced that God is alive, loves Israel and is fighting in their behalf. Even if Israel withdraws from some of the occupied land under diplomatic pressure or in exchange for peace, I’m convinced it’ll only be temporary.
The UN currently demands that Israel withdraw to its pre-1967 boundaries and give up all claims to Jerusalem. I don’t foresee Israel ever doing that. If anything, another Middle East War will result in Israel occupying even more territory. So it’ll only be a matter of time before a newly-formed “peacekeeping committee” literally attacks the issue.
The Final Human Empire
The solution will involve a special committee – most likely part of the UN Security Council or maybe the World Economic Forum – that’ll restore or impose peace and security in trouble-spots. This special committee will be more effective than the Security Council for several reasons: 1) it’ll provide closer monitoring and quicker response to problems; 2) it’ll remove the roadblocks created by national interests that have plagued the Security Council; and 3) it’ll prevent individual nations from dominating the peacekeeping actions.
When will this committee be formed? I suspect it’ll be after Israel defeats its neighbors, and after the Russian/Muslim invasion. Prolonged chemical warfare and a Chinese military venture may also be instrumental in the formation of the committee. These will be major conflicts and will be dangerous enough to make world leaders willing to do almost anything to restore “peace and security.” I think that is exactly what it’ll take to form such a committee and give it such broad powers.
The committee will consist of ten delegates or military leaders, but national or other ideological interests will fragment the committee and prohibit it from being effective. As a result, another individual will become chairman of the committee, someone who was not one of the original ten members.
This individual is the key figure. The Bible describes him as the antichrist, the beast and a king. I have called him the Chairman because his official responsibility will be the chairmanship of the committee. Because of the impact the Chairman and his committee will have on the world and the policies they’ll enforce, I have called them the Final Human Empire.
The Chairman’s first act will be to subdue three of the ten delegates on the committee, eliminating the issue that divided them. Under his leadership, the committee will exercise almost dictatorial international authority and he’ll immediately begin to earn a reputation for being an outstanding international problem-solver. The Bible indicates he’ll be possessed by an especially powerful demon, which will undoubtedly give the Chairman extraordinary abilities and drive.
The Old and New Testaments together give us a brief character sketch of the Chairman. He’ll speak boastfully and be contemptible (Dan. 7:8 11:21, 36; Rev 13:5) and irreverent (“speak against the Most High,” Dan. 7:25, NIV). “He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods” (Dan. 11:36). “He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped” (2 Thess. 2:4). He’ll “utter proud words … [and] blaspheme God … [and] slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven” (Rev. 13:5-6). The word “blasphemy” means insulting or contemptible statements, a lack of reverence for God, or claiming the attributes of God. This person will say “unheard-of” things against God!
The Chairman will be successful in virtually everything he does. He “will do as he pleases … [and] will be successful until the time of wrath is completed” (Dan. 11:36). The Great Tribulation is the time of wrath, so this verse means the Chairman will be successful until the end of that period.
The book of Revelation refers to the committee as a beast in the following verses. “The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. People worshiped the dragon [Satan] because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?'” (Rev 13:3-4). “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast — all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” (v. 8).
The “inhabitants of the earth” are the permanent residents. We aren’t inhabitants or citizens of earth because “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). Not only is this not our home, we are actually “aliens and strangers in the world” (1 Pet. 2:11). So any reference to “inhabitants of the earth” doesn’t include Christians.
The verses in Revelation 13 introduced a new aspect of the committee’s status — worship — and other verses reinforce this idea. The Chairman “exercised all the authority of the first beast [the committee] on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast” (Rev 13:12). More specifically, the Chairman will have an “abomination” set up in the Jewish Temple, which will mark the beginning of the Great Tribulation (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; Matt. 24:15, 21). This will be a period of great distress unequaled in all of human history and will last 42 months (Matt. 24:21; Rev. 11:2).
We see another reaction people have to the Chairman in Revelation 17:8: “The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast.” This describes more than personal charisma. He’ll astonish people with his abilities. People will worship him, which means they’ll give him extreme respect and admiration.
Scripture is very clear that the Final Human Empire will attack Israel. Daniel 11 describes our Chairman’s activities: He “will invade the kingdom when its people feel secure, and he will seize it through intrigue (v. 21) … When the richest provinces feel secure, he will invade them and will achieve what neither his fathers nor his forefathers did. He will distribute plunder, loot and wealth among his followers. He will plot the overthrow of fortresses—but only for a time” (v. 24).
When Israel feels secure — its enemies defeated, the Russian/Muslim army destroyed, and God obviously blessing the nation — the Final Human Empire attacks. “I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves” (Zech. 12:2-3).
It says that all the nations of the earth will come against Israel militarily. That doesn’t require that every army in the world be in Israel, however, because a multinational army sent by an international agency would fulfill these verses. We’ll see that even more armies go to the region later for the “battle of Armageddon.”
Why do the armies come? Because Jerusalem (the capital of Israel) is an “immovable rock” — Israel refuses to cooperate with the UN. I love God’s sense of humor. First he calls Jerusalem an immovable rock then says that everyone who tries to move it will hurt themselves!
Remember Operation Desert Storm? A multinational force gathered against Iraq because it refused to give up occupied land. The Security Council did it to Iraq, and it’ll do it to Israel.
God’s warnings to Israel are very clear. “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city” (Luke 21:20-21).
“I will encamp against you on all sides; I will encircle you with towers and set up my siege works against you. Brought low, you will speak from the ground; your speech will mumble out of the dust. Your voice will come ghostlike from the earth; out of the dust your speech will whisper” (Isa. 29:3-4). The armies will surround Jerusalem and besiege the city. The Israelis who don’t escape will hide in underground shelters and Israel will be devastated.
Immediately after the distress of those days, a major cosmic event will mark the transition from the Great Tribulation to the Day of the Lord, when Jesus will return for the elect (Matt. 24:29-31).
The Great Tribulation described in Bible end-times prophecy will include the abomination of desolation, Muslim invasion of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem.