“How will we know that the tribulation has definitely begun?”
This is an important question to address because many speculate about when the tribulation will begin or what people will see before it begins.
It would be useful for us to have clear signposts to look for so we do not get caught off guard when the tribulation begins or get caught up in premature claims that the tribulation has already begun.
I will provide a few definitive signposts that can help us assess whether the tribulation has begun or is about ready to begin in this article.
Signpost 1: A Very Charismatic Leader Arises
The Book of Daniel indicates that the Antichrist will begin his rise to power from relatively humble beginnings. Daniel 7 refers to Antichrist as a “little horn” when he begins his rise. This portrayal suggests he will be lesser in stature than other leaders (horns) initially:
“(20) And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows…(24) And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.” (Daniel 7:20, 24)
The Antichrist will not be an ordinary political leader. The Bible emphasizes that he will be very charismatic; he’ll speak “very great things”:
“And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows.” (Daniel 7:20)
I view Adolf Hitler as a forerunner of the Antichrist. Hitler rose from nothing to become the most infamous person in history. Eye-witnesses indicate that Hitler had an extraordinary level of charisma. He was so charismatic that many people (including his generals) said that he had a hypnotic effect on them.
It’s likely that the Antichrist will be even more charismatic than Hitler. Therefore, you should look for a leader who can hypnotize large crowds and can hypnotize people one-on-one as he rises to power.
Signpost 2: The Covenant with Many
The confirmation of the covenant with many may be the most visible signpost that’ll alert people that the tribulation has begun. Daniel 9:27 indicates that this event will occur at the start of the tribulation (or 70th week):
“And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” (Daniel 9:27)
It’s very likely that people alive at that time will hear about the covenant since the Mideast attracts a lot of media attention.
The Bible gives us clues about what we can expect from the covenant. Here are four things we should look for in the covenant:
1. The Length of the Covenant
Daniel 9:27 suggests that the covenant is intended to last for “one week” (or “one seven” in Hebrew). A prophetic week is seven years long, so a person should look for an agreement that is seven years long.
2. The Signee
Daniel 9:27 mentions that “he” will confirm a covenant with many. This implies that one signee of the deal may be a person instead of a political organization.
Some argue that the person could work for an organization like the United Nations. However, Daniel 9:27 later says the same “he” will halt temple sacrifice and set up an abomination that causes desolation. This suggests that “he” will work on his own behalf.
I believe “he” is the Antichrist. Therefore, you should look to see if one of the key signees is a man working on his own behalf instead of working for a political organization. You should be extra suspicious if “he” gets much of the credit and accolades for being the driving force behind the agreement.
3. The Nature of the Covenant
Many speculate about the details of the covenant. I believe Isaiah 28 reveals the true nature of the covenant. The chapter gives the covenant an ominous nickname: the “covenant with death”:
“(14) Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem. (15) Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:” (Isaiah 28:14-15)
The Antichrist may promise to protect Israel as part of the deal. Isaiah 28:15 indicates that Israel’s leaders will be overconfident about their safety as a result:
“Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:” (Isaiah 28:15)
Therefore, you should look for a covenant that many (including Israel’s leaders) claim will bring peace to Israel and the Mideast. But be aware that any peace created from such an agreement will not last long.
4. The Timing of the Covenant
The tribulation most likely will begin between late October and middle November of a given year. As a result, the confirmation of the covenant with many is likely to occur during this time frame.
Therefore, you should be particularly alarmed if a covenant is confirmed between late October and middle November and meets the other criteria mentioned above.
Signpost 3: A War Leader Dominates His Opposition
The Book of Daniel depicts the Antichrist as a war leader who will dominate anyone who crosses his path, including the strongest of opponents:
“(36) And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. (37) Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all. (38) But in his estate shall he honour the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things. (39) Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain.” (Daniel 11:36-39)
You can probably identify that the Antichrist is rising to power when you see him fighting and defeating very strong opponents.
Signpost 4: Extreme Global Famine & Widespread Death
Revelation 6:5-8 describes extreme famine and death impacting the entire world. The famine will be so extreme that the price of wheat and barley will skyrocket to unprecedented levels:
“(5) And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. (6) And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.” (Revelation 6:5-6)
Meanwhile, death will become so commonplace that a 25% of the world’s population will die from various causes, including from disease:
“(7) And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. (8) And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death [disease], and with the beasts of the earth.” (Revelation 6:7-8)
You should be able to conclude that you’re living in the tribulation when you see extreme global famine and observe the death of a quarter of the world’s population within a short time span.
A Potential Signpost: The Third Temple
The Antichrist cannot set up the abomination that causes desolation and demand worship at the midpoint of the tribulation unless:
- The Third Temple is built in Jerusalem
- Temple sacrifice is underway.
Some speculate the covenant with many will lead to the building of the Third Temple. However, the Third Temple may be built before the tribulation begins.
The Third Temple’s construction and completion would be a major sign that major events may soon unfold because there has not been a temple of God in Jerusalem since the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 A.D.
The start of temple sacrifice would be even a greater sign that the Lord is readying to proceed with His end time plan.
We’re Not in the Tribulation Yet
I do not believe we are living in the tribulation because we have not yet seen the signposts I’ve listed. There’s not yet a “solution” to the problems in the Middle East. In addition, there has not been a highly charismatic leader who has dominated the strongest military opponents in the world recently.
If you would like to learn more about identifying the Antichrist, click this link for an article on the topic.