The great tribulation will be the worst persecution ever. 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.” (Matthew 24:21-22)
Even with Christ’s description, I think it’s difficult for many of us to grasp how bad the persecution will be during the great tribulation.
Therefore, I aim to provide you with a sense of how bad the persecution will be during the great tribulation in this article.
Events Before the Great Tribulation
Some erroneously teach that we are already in the great tribulation. Those who claim we are in the great tribulation underestimate how bad it will be and do not understand what events will take place before it begins.
In this section, I explain when the great tribulation will begin and highlight three events that will precede it.
The Start of the Great Tribulation
Christ taught that the great tribulation (not to be confused the tribulation) will begin when the “abomination of desolation” (an act or an object detestable to God) mentioned by Daniel is set up:
“(15) When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) (16) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:[…] (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.” (Matthew 24:15-16, 21)
Daniel wrote that Antichrist will set it up at the midpoint of the final week or 70th week of Daniel:
“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)
The 70th week of Daniel (the tribulation period) is seven years in length. Therefore, the great tribulation cannot begin until 3.5 years through the tribulation.
It won’t be hard for us to determine whether the great tribulation is near if we know what to look for. Here are three can’t-miss events that’ll help us identify our proximity to the start of the great tribulation.
Event 1: Confirmation of the “Covenant With Many”
The tribulation will begin with the confirmation of the “covenant with many” (Daniel 9:27). This covenant will likely be a Mideast peace deal that provides security to Israel.
The covenant with many will receive a lot of public attention as major Middle East events often dominate news coverage. If you hear about this event, add 3.5 years to find the start date of the great tribulation.
Event 2: Antichrist Declares Himself God in Jerusalem
Recall that Christ warned that the great tribulation is about to begin when Antichrist sets up an abomination of desolation. 2 Thessalonians 2:4 captures this event by describing a scene where Antichrist will claim to be God while he sits in a temple in Jerusalem:
“(3) Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (4) Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” (2Thessalonians 2:3-4)
This event will likely be shown around the world because it will be the Antichrist’s first public claim that he is God. If you see this, realize that the great tribulation is about to begin.
Event 3: Sacrifice in a Jerusalem Temple
Antichrist will set up the abomination of desolation in a temple in Jerusalem where daily sacrifice will occur (Daniel 9:27). Therefore, it is not possible for the great tribulation to begin without
- A temple first being built in Jerusalem.
- Daily sacrifice beginning in that temple.
If you hear about the start of either of these developments, be aware that the great tribulation is approaching.
The Great Tribulation
As I stated at the start of this article, the great tribulation will be the worst persecution ever. In this section, I explain why the great tribulation will be so difficult to endure.
The Ultimate Total War
Total war occurs when at least one side mobilizes all of its resources to wage war. Total war can be very deadly because those who wage it are willing to sacrifice virtually anything to win.
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 will wage the ultimate total war during the great tribulation. The Bible depicts this war in many passages including the ones 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 (with help from Satan) will rally the world’s resources to wage war against his enemies, including:
- Economic Resources
- Political Resources
- Societal Resources
- Spiritual Resources
1. Economic Resources
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.” (Revelation 13:16-17)
This severe restriction will make it hard for the enemies of the Antichrist to get food, water, and other essentials of life. Many will die as a result.
The Antichrist may also use his control over the global economy to provide his followers with incentives to turn in or kill his enemies.
2. Political Resources
Political leaders will aide the Antichrist as he wages war against his enemies. In fact, Revelation 17:12-13 tells us that ten leaders will hand over 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.” (Revelation 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.
3. Societal Resources
Severe social pressure will be placed on the enemies of Antichrist. People will be encouraged (i.e. with incentives) and perhaps coerced to deliver the enemies of the Antichrist to the authorities. The pressure will be so intense that people will betray one another:
“(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.” (Matthew 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)
4. Spiritual Resources
The economic, political, and societal pressures of that time will make it very difficult for the Antichrist’s enemies to survive.
The spiritual resources that Antichrist will have will make things even more difficult. This persecution will come at a time when Satan will use all of his power to deceive the people of the world:
“(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.” (2Thessalonians 2:8-12)
False Christs & False Prophets
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.” (Matthew 24:23-26)
The presence of all of Satan’s fallen angels on earth will be another hazard. 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.” (Revelation 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, these angels will pose a serious threat.
The Bible indicates that angels can hide their true identity. The Apostle Paul warned that satanic entities like fallen angels can transform or disguise 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.” (2Corinthians 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.” (Hebrews 13:2)
The ability for fallen angels to hide their true identity could pose a big danger. Many people could unknowingly befriend a person who will later betray them.
The testing of spirits will be crucial at that time. An enemy of the Antichrist may not be able to see the difference between friend or foe. However, 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)
Images of the Beast
The False Prophet will encourage the people of the earth to make images of the Antichrist. As a result, millions, if not billions, of images of the Antichrist will be prevalent around the world:
“(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.” (Revelation 13:14-15)
Revelation 13:15 suggests that an image of the beast can cause the death of those who do not worship it. This makes them 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 widespread the images of the Antichrist will be at that time.
The Severity of the Great Tribulation Conflict
The great tribulation will be a complete massacre because Antichrist will be able to wage the ultimate total war against foes who will not be able to put up much-if any-resistance.
It shouldn’t 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.” (Matthew 24:22)
The Enemies of the Antichrist
The worship of the Antichrist and Satan will be mandatory during the great tribulation. Anyone who refuses will be an enemy of the Antichrist.
Interestingly, Revelation 13 and Daniel 7 mentions “the saints” as a big target of the Antichrist’s persecution. The saints are people who believe in Jesus Christ:
The Persecuted Saints Believe in Jesus Christ
- The Saints
- Believers in Christ
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, you can’t deny that there’ll be people who believe in Jesus Christ that will face persecution during the great tribulation.
Christians believe in Jesus Christ. Does this mean that Christians will see the Antichrist? To find out, read my article: “Will Christians See the Antichrist?“