The great tribulation will be a time of unprecedented persecution for the enemies of the Antichrist. Matthew 24:21-22 records Christ describing the great tribulation:
“(21) For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. (22) And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (Matt 24:21-22)
Even with Christ’s description, I think it is difficult for many of us to grasp how severe the persecution will be during the great tribulation. Today there are parts of the world where people face persecution for their religious beliefs, but I don’t believe today’s persecution gives us an adequate picture of how severe the persecution will be worldwide during the great tribulation. Therefore, I will attempt to provide some sense of how severe the persecution will be during the great tribulation in this article.
The Ultimate Total War
Different ways to categorize a conflict exist. The most extreme type of conflict is total war, which is a war where at least one side mobilizes all of its available resources and population to wage war. Total war can be very deadly because those who wage total war are willing to sacrifice virtually anything to achieve victory over their opponent(s). The conflict between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany in World War 2 is a good example of what total war can be like. Both sides waged a brutal war of annihilation that resulted in millions of deaths on both sides.
The Antichrist (with help from Satan) will wage the ultimate total war during the great tribulation: he will rally the world’s economic, political, societal, and even spiritual resources to wage war against his enemies. It is appropriate to characterize Antichrist’s persecution as a war given that the Bible depicts it as a war in multiple passages including those shown in the following table.
|A War Will Be Waged Against the Antichrist’s Enemies|
|Daniel 7:20-25: “(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. (21) I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; (22) Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. (23) Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. (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. (25) And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.”|
|Revelation 13:4-7: “(4) And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? (5) And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. (6) And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. (7) And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.”|
The Antichrist will structure the global economy to make it very difficult for his enemies to survive during the great tribulation. For instance, people will not be permitted to buy or sell if they do not have the name of the beast, the number of the beast, or the Mark of the Beast in their right hand or in their forehead:
“(16) And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: (17) And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” (Rev 13:16-17)
This severe economic restriction will make it extremely difficult for the enemies of the Antichrist to obtain food, water, and other essentials of life. Many of Antichrist’s enemies will likely die from just this economic restriction alone.
The Antichrist may also utilize control over the global economy to provide his followers with economic incentives to turn in or eliminate his enemies. For the sake of brevity, I suspect Babylon the Great City, a city that will serve as the future economic and political center of the world under the direction of Antichrist, will be responsible for the deaths of many because the Antichrist will utilize her riches to entice the world’s leaders and citizens to persecute:
“And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.” (Rev 17:6)
Political leaders will likely cooperate to aide the Antichrist in his war against his enemies. In fact, Revelation 17:12-13 tells us that ten leaders will surrender their power and strength to the Antichrist.
“(12) And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. (13) These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.” (Rev 17:12-13)
Beyond these ten leaders, political cooperation among world leaders will be necessary to implement the severe economic restrictions that will exist during the reign of Antichrist.
Severe social pressure will be placed on the enemies of Antichrist as people are encouraged (i.e. with incentives) and perhaps coerced to deliver the enemies of the Antichrist to the authorities. The pressure will be so severe that people will betray one another, including family members:
“(9) Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. (10) And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another… (12) And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matt 24:9-10, 12)
“(12) Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. (13) And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Mark 13:12-13)
The economic, political, and societal pressures of that time will make it very difficult for the Antichrist’s enemies to survive. The challenge to survive becomes even harder when factoring in the spiritual resources that will be utilized to persecute the Antichrist’s enemies.
The persecution of the Antichrist’s enemies will come at a time when Satan will utilize all of his power to deceive the people of the world, particularly those who do not believe in the truth:
“(8) And then shall that Wicked [Antichrist] be revealed… (9) Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,… (11) And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: (12) That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2Thess 2:8-12)
Some enemies of the Antichrist will be tempted out of hiding by false prophets and false Christs who will deceive many.
“(23) Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. (24) For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (25) Behold, I have told you before. (26) Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.” (Matt 24:23-26)
Another hazard that the enemies of the Antichrist shall face will be the presence of all of Satan’s fallen angels on earth. Revelation 12 indicates that Satan’s angels will be cast to earth along with Satan just before the persecution begins:
“(9) And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him… (12) Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” (Rev 12:9, 12)
The danger that fallen angels will pose to the enemies of the Antichrist at that time is difficult to fully describe, but they could potentially pose a serious threat. One thing angelic beings appear capable of is masquerading their true identity. For instance, Paul warned that satanic representatives like fallen angels have the ability to transform or masquerade themselves as ministers of righteousness.
“(13) For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. (14) And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. (15) Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” (2Cor 11:13-15)
Furthermore, Hebrews 13:2 suggests that people can mistaken angels as people:
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb 13:2)
The ability for fallen angels to masquerade their true identity could pose a danger to many unsuspecting enemies of the Antichrist if some fallen angels choose to disguise themselves as their allies. Many unsuspecting people could unknowingly befriend individuals who will later betray them.
The testing of spirits will be paramount during this time. An enemy of the Antichrist may not be able to visually differentiate between friend or foe, but they may be able to differentiate between friend and foe by asking an individual questions like “Did Christ come in the flesh?”. 1 John 4:1-3 provides an example of how to determine whether a spirit is from God or not.
“(1) Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. (2) Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: (3) And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” (1John 4:1-3)
A third hazard that the enemies of the Antichrist shall face will be the images of the beast. Millions, if not billions, of images of the Antichrist will be prevalent around the world since the False Prophet will encourage the inhabitants of the earth to make images of the Antichrist:
“(14) And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. (15) And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.” (Rev 13:14-15)
Revelation 13:15 suggests that an image of the beast will be capable of causing the death of those who do not worship it. Regardless of how an image will be able to cause the death of someone who won’t worship it, it is apparent that the images of the beast will serve as another major obstacle for the enemies of the Antichrist. The enemies of the Antichrist will need to avoid encountering images of the Antichrist lest they risk death for not worshiping them. This could be very difficult given how prevalent and widespread the images of the Antichrist will be at that time.
The Severity of the Great Tribulation Conflict
Human life will be greatly devalued during the Antichrist’s persecution of his enemies, but what will make the war waged against the Antichrist’s enemies completely different and more radical than the war of annihilation waged between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the deadliest conflict in human history, is that one side (the Antichrist) will be able to wage the ultimate total war against an opponent (the Antichrist’s enemies) that will not be able to put up much-if any-resistance. The Antichrist’s enemies will essentially be massacred.
Therefore, it should not be a surprise that Christ warned that there would be no one left to save if the persecution of the great tribulation was allowed to continue indefinitely, which it won’t for the sake of the elect:
“And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (Matt 24:22)
The Enemies of the Antichrist
Anyone who does not worship the Antichrist will practically be an opponent/enemy of the Antichrist since worship of the Antichrist will be mandatory. Interestingly, however, Revelation 13 and Daniel 7 mentions “the saints” as a major target of the Antichrist’s persecution.
|The Persecuted Saints Believe in Jesus Christ|
|The Saints||Believers in Christ||War|
|Revelation 12:17: “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”|
|Revelation 13:7, 10: “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations…He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”|
|Revelation 14:12: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”|
Regardless of where you stand on the Rapture issue, it cannot be denied that there will be people who believe in Jesus Christ persecuted during the great tribulation. If you are curious about when the great tribulation will begin, click this link for an article about the topic.