Christian Library
 

Surviving the Great Tribulation
by Michael C. Wells

In recent years, one of the great movie themes coming out of Hollywood has been the destruction of the earth by nuclear warfare. Story after story has graced the screen to delight the public with half mutated humans and a world thrown into chaos. Everything from a brave new world where people have learned the lesson of cooperation, to a time of great tribulation, war, strife, and anarchy has been suggested as the destiny of this earth. Some of these stories have even taken themes from the Bible itself. Audiences have been given a distorted view of Bible prophecies from these Hollywood movies, so much so that the subject of end time events have been muddled under a facade of lies.

If this wasn't bad enough, the Christian world have started their own version of "end time events." Now we have Christian movies coming out that seem to portray the idea of a great tribulation that will follow an event called the rapture (See our book The Rapture and Israel's Future). Of course, people don't expect to get a fully truthful depiction of what will happen during the end times from Hollywood, but it does tend to mold their minds just as movies like the Ten Commandments or Noah Ark, and of course these movies are far from the truth of the Bible. They do, though, expect to receive a clear cut picture of end time events from religious television evangelists who claim to know what will happen, and then offer videos in "living Hollywood style color" to entice the people to believe their theories.

To be able to "see" what will happen, by way of an enactment by actors on video, helps to reinforce these ideas. It is said that people retain more by seeing and hearing than just by hearing. Television and the "big screen" directly implants these ideas into our mind, and they are immediately stored for future reference. Our minds do not even have to process the information. And what if that scenario that has been put forth on the screen was incorrect? Now it has been permanently burned into your memory. Through all these mediums, the idea of a great tribulation has taken many forms. A little Bible truth mixed up with a little fiction (lies) make for a great story, but gives misconceptions and leads to a greater misunderstanding of what the Bible really says.

Why all this confusion? Jesus said about the last days "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold." Matthew 24:11,12. The truth is not well received by the majority because of their love for sin. These lies have been put forth by the adversary himself. When the Pharisees (religious leaders of Jesus' day) were promoting the fiction and deceit of their day, Jesus said to them, "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it." John 8:44.

So how are we to find out the truth about the tribulation that Jesus talks about in Matthew 24? Is there any clear evidence that can show us the truth? Does the Bible give tangible scriptures that show what the tribulation is all about? The answer is a definite yes! And you can see it, follow it, and understand it without being a Greek scholar. We are going to investigate the tribulation, and who is behind it. We will look at how to survive this tribulation and be one of God's people. Jesus gave us obvious instruction that, if followed, would produce a result that would bring eternal happiness.

Some obvious questions we should ask are; when will this tribulation occur? Who will be involved? Will it involve us and can we avoid it? Notice these statements that the Apostle Paul wrote in II Thessalonians 2: "Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in the mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away (apostasy) comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called god or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God."

Paul points out that a great apostasy is to come upon the earth. The word apostasy is a Greek word, which means to "fall away" or "to turn back" from something. Paul was speaking of Christians who would "fall away" from true Bible doctrines and principles and be turned to the traditions of man. All this was to happen before the coming of the Lord Jesus. This "man of sin" was to be revealed and claim to be able to do what only God has the authority to do. Jesus speaks of this when He is giving insight to the disciples in Matthew 24. He says, "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened." Matthew 24:15,16,21,22

At the time of this apostasy, a great tribulation will occur. . Notice that Jesus used two words that will help us understand this tribulation. First notice that He speaks of many days. So many that if they are not shortened, "not flesh would be saved." Jesus also uses the word great, which mean "lengthy." This is tribulation will be a great (lengthy) tribulation, over a long period of time. It will affect the people of God, and even cause great spiritual darkness to fall on the earth. For the "man of sin" will be revealed, and people will follow him thinking he is of God. "Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you before hand." Matthew 24:23-25. Jesus warns us when this tribulation will take place. He says it will happen during a time when this "man of sin" will claim to be Christ. He will exalt himself as god and claim to sit in the place of God. He will have signs and wonders that will surround him and his religion, and he will deceive many.

Jesus said in Matthew 24:15 that we must "understand" those things written by the prophet Daniel if we are to know the truth about this deceptive power and when to expect this great tribulation to come upon the earth. We must first study the book of Daniel and find out who this "man of sin" truly is. He is spoken about in many places. In Revelation 13, he is called the "beast" power and in Daniel 7, he is called the "little horn." Let's look at his identifying marks.

In our book, The End of War and Injustice, we showed that in Daniel 7 four beasts arose from the sea. A beast in Bible prophecy represents a kingdom. We can even see that today. We characterize the United States as an eagle, and the Soviet Union as the bear. So it is in Bible prophecy. God used animals to depict certain nations. We saw that the lion represented Babylon, the bear, Medio-Persia, the leopard was Greece, and the dreadful and terrible beast was no other than Rome. Out of this fourth beast, the Roman Empire, ten horns sprouted. A horn in prophecy symbolizes a kingdom also. "The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom." Daniel 7:24.

In the middle of these ten horns, a little horn comes up and plucks out three of the first horns by the roots. "I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words." Daniel 7:8. This little horn is a kingdom that has a man at its head who speaks "pompous" words. Remember that we saw that the man of sin was to exalt himself above all that is called God. In Revelation 13:5,6, this beast power speaks "great things and blasphemies against God."

What are two ways that a man can blaspheme against God? Jesus was accused of just such a thing, so we have some criteria to look at to interpret the word blasphemy. In Matthew 9:1-8, Jesus heals a paralytic and more importantly He says to him, "Son, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you." The scribes who stood around Jesus and heard and saw these things were astounded that a mere man would presume to claim to be able to forgive sin. It is recorded that the said, "And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, 'This Man blasphemes." So our first example of blasphemy is for a man to claim to be able to forgive sin. In Luke 5:17-26, we see the same story. Here the scribes and Pharisees blatantly say, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Of course, they were right. No one can forgive sin except God. They failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, as the Son of God, and that He had the ability to forgive sin.

The second example we have in regard to blasphemy is in John 8:54-59. Here Jesus makes a statement that even the Jews could figure out. They realized that He was claiming to be the Son of the God of heaven. "Jesus answered, 'If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. and if I say, "I do not know Him," I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.' Then the Jews said to Him, 'you are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?' And Jesus said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.' Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by." Jesus claimed to be the great I AM who brought the people out of Egypt, who gave the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. See Exodus 3:10-15. So to claim to be able to forgive sin and the exalt oneself as God are considered to be blaspheme according to the Bible.

We can see that this "little horn/beast power/ man of sin" will claim to be able to forgive sin, claim to be God on earth, and will be involved in religious matters. Notice that this little horn is different than the other horns. ". . . and another shall arise after them (the ten horns); he shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue (pluck out by the roots) three kings." Daniel 7:24. What shall he try to do? "He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time." verse 25.

We see this same thing in Revelation 13:4-8, "So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying 'Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?' And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."

Now let us look at some other scriptures that speak about this same power, then we will put it all together. In order to understand the great tribulation, we must first put together some prophecies out of the book of Revelation. Let us first look at some important texts. In Revelation 12 we see a woman dress in the sun, with a garland of twelve stars, and with her feet on the moon. She is giving birth to a child, who was to rule the nations with a rod of iron (Revelation 12:1,2,5). We also see a red dragon with seven heads and ten horns. This dragon tries to destroy the child and then becomes enraged with the woman and makes war with the remnant of her offspring (Revelation 12:3,4,17). We will also note another woman that is riding a beast having seven heads and ten horns. This woman is called a harlot (a defiled woman). She is also drunk with the blood of the saints and of the martyrs of Jesus (Revelation 17:1,3,6).

In the Bible, we let the scriptures interpret themselves. Many times when reading prophecy, the terms that are used are symbolic. We can read in Revelation 1:1 that Jesus, Himself, signified (put into symbols) this book. Let's first interpret the term woman in the Bible. We can find many places that this terminology is used. In Jeremiah 6:2, speaking of the church of that day, the Lord says, "I have likened the daughter of Zion (the church) to a lovely and delicate woman." So God describes His church, His true people as a lovely and delicate (pure and holy) woman. Paul says, "For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." II Corinthians 11:2.

God's people are called the bribe of Christ, His wife (Revelation 21:9; 19:7). This pure church is a mother. She gives birth to a child. Jesus was the child to whom the church gave birth. Remember that a church is nothing more than a body of believers. It represents the body of Christ. "And He (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence." Colossians 1:18. In Old Testament times, the church was the Israelites. It was this church that God used to bring Jesus into the world as a man. So a woman represents a church in Bible prophecy. This pure woman in Revelation 12 has a garland of twelve stars on her head. Stars represent "angels" (which means messengers in the Greek). So this church has the twelve apostles as its charter members. This is not speaking of any denomination, but God's true and faithful.

If a pure woman signifies a pure church, then a harlot woman would have to represent a fallen or corrupt church. Notice that this harlot woman in Revelation 17 is "drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus." This church is involved in the death of many of God's people. It is a persecuting power that is call "Mystery, Babylon the Great, Mother of Harlots" (verse 5). This church is a mother, too. If a church is called a "mother," does it stand to reason that she would have offspring? Of course. She would be the mother of other corrupt churches that have taken her doctrines and belief for their own. Now a daughter has her own characteristics, but does she still carry some of her parents' characteristics also? Most definitely! So it is with these daughter churches. They are not exactly the same as their mother church, but still carry some of the same doctrinal beliefs that she instilled in them.

Notice also that this harlot "sits on many waters." Revelation 17:1. Water symbolizes people. "Then he said to me, 'The water which you saw, where the harlot sits, are people, multitudes, nations, and tongues." Revelation 17:15. This corrupt church does not enjoy the support of God, but takes for itself the support of the world. This church is also called a city. "And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth." Revelation 17:18. This harlot church is garbed in special clothing that identifies it. "The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication" (verse 4). So this church sits in the hub of society, is decked out in purple and scarlet and pomp, and she is called a great city.

We also saw a great fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns in Revelation 12. This dragon symbolizes two entities. First and foremost, it represents Satan, that serpent of old. "So the great dragon was cast out of heaven, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." Revelation 12:9. This dragon hated the pure woman of Revelation 12, and hated her child. "His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born." Verse 5. Although the devil is called the dragon, he had to use human agencies to do his dirty work. Who was it that tried to have Christ killed at his birth? Who was it that sent troops into Bethlehem? It was King Herod, who was the Roman authority figure over Judea. See Matthew 2:1,7,16. Who eventually killed Christ on the cross? It was the Roman governor Pilate. See Matthew 27:23-27. So the great red dragon also refers to the Roman power. Jesus' parents had to take Him to Egypt to secure His life from the power of Rome (Mathew 2:13,14).

This great red dragon also has seven heads and ten horns. We noted earlier that the beast that the harlot woman sits on also has seven heads and ten horns. In Revelation 13:2, we read that the beast with seven heads and ten horns was a composite of beasts and that the "dragon gave him his authority." So this dragon and beast come from the same source, which is Rome. In Revelation 17:9 it says, "Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits." So the seven heads symbolizes seven mountains. We already saw that the harlot was situated where there were many "peoples and nations" and that she was also a city. Where is there a city that sits on seven mountains? "The Tiber (river) divides Rome into two parts, the section on the east bank constituting the oldest and most important part of the city. In this ancient section of the city are the famous 'Seven Hills,' which are now only relatively low elevations because of the gradual accumulation of rubbish in the valleys which separate them." The American Peoples Encyclopedia, Vol. 16, pg. 903.

Rome is the city that sits on seven hills. It is the beast that the woman sits on. During the Dark Ages and Medeval times this constituted the actual city of Rome itself. Today the city that is spoken of here is the city within the city of Rome. The corrupt church sits on (in charge of ) the city, guides and controls this city, which is the Vatican. The Roman Catholic Church rules over the city of the Vatican. It controls its commerce, trade, political, and religious functions. This "beast" is religious as well as political. It is involved in worship (Revelation 13:4,8) and has great political authority (Revelation 13:5,7).

As we discovered earlier in this book, in Daniel 7, we see this same persecuting power called the "little horn" as it arises from among the ten horns (kingdoms) of Europe. "The ten horns are ten kings (kingdoms) who shall arise from this kingdom (speaking of the fourth kingdom in verse 24,which is the Roman Empire). I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words." Daniel 7:25,8. This "little horn" or "beast" comes up in Europe among the divided Roman Empire. It is "different from the first ones (horns)" and "plucked out by the roots" three of these horns, or kingdoms.

As the Roman Catholic Church rose to power in the 4th and 5th centuries, it began to mold the minds of the people to its false worship if idols and festivals. In the 5th and 6th centuries, it played a major part in causing three kingdoms to be eradicated. The Heruli, the Ostrogoths, and the Vandals, who were Arian in power, rejected the authority of the papacy and was consequently "rooted out" or destroyed. The papacy arose as a religious and political power, and held sway over the Christian world for 1260 years. Before the papacy could have control over Rome, the Emperor hierarchy had to be removed. As long as it was there, the bishop of Rome could not have total control. Paul spoke of this in II Thessalonians 2:2,7 when he says, "And now you know what is restraining, that he (the man of sin/papacy) may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he (the Roman hierarchy of Emperors) who now restrains will do so until he (the Emperor) is taken out of the way." In 330 AD, Constantine, Emperor of Rome, left Rome to establish his kingdom in Constantinople. He gave his authority the bishop of Rome, the pope. "The removal of the capital of the empire from Rome to Constantinople in 330 AD, left the western church practially free from imperial power, to develop its own form of organization. The Bishop of Rome (pope), in the seat of the Caesars, was now the greatest man in the west, and was soon forced to become the political as well as the spiritual head." The Rise of the Medieval Church, pg. 168.

As the Roman church continued to gain spiritual influence over the people, it also gained in political power. But full authority was not granted for many years. In 533, Emperor Justinian gave full temporal power to the Church of Rome, yet the pope could not take control until these three tribes of "heretics" were removed from Rome. After the removal of the three kingdoms which were against the papacy, the pope took the throne of Rome in 538 AD. He became the supreme authority in Rome in not only religious matters but also in the political realm. Through his power, he held in check the kings of the nations of Europe. The Roman Catholic Church sent cardinals as advisers and mentors to the kings to "guide them in the way" of the Roman Church.

The "mystery of lawlessness" or the papacy was in its infancy in the days of Paul. He could see its formation and the dangers it presented. He saw that this was to cause a great "falling away" from the straight Bible truths and warned against it several times. There are four warnings, one very specifically speaking of the Roman Church. It is a prophecy of the latter times. "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times (our day) some will depart from the faith (true Biblical doctrine), giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrine of demons (the doctrines of men influenced by Satan), speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry (such as priest and nuns), and commanding to abstain from foods (for certain "holy days" such as Lent) which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth." I Timothy 4:1-3.

Paul is worried for the Corithians as he sees this deceptive power creeping into the church. He writes, "But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted- you may well put up with it!" II Corinthians 11:3,4. Also see Galatians 1:6-9 and Colossians 2:8. Not only Paul, but also Peter warns of these same false doctrines worming its way into the Christian church. "But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them (by praying to the "Virgin Mary" for salvation), and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber." II Peter 2:1-3.

From 538 AD to 1798 AD, the papacy had dominion over the earth. Speaking of the papacy, Daniel writes, "He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time." Daniel 7:25. This same description is given in Revelation. "And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue of forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation." Revelation 13:5-7.

Every pope has made the claim that he is infallible, can forgive sin, and the pope is called "God on earth," which is obvious blaspheme. Here is a quote from The Catholic World, June 1871, pages 422,423, "All dogmatic decrees of the Pope, made with or without his general council, are infallible . . . Once made, no pope or council can reverse them . . . This is the Catholic principle, that the Church cannot err in faith." "The Pope is infallible . . . (he) cannot err when, as Shepherd and Teacher of all Christians, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals, to be held by the whole church." A Catechism of Christian Doctrine, pg. 16. You may remember that this current pope has been on record as supporting the theory of evolution. Does this now disprove the story of creation?

In this quote, the pope claims the position of God. "The Pope is of so great dignity and so exalted that he is not a mere man, but as it were God, and vicar of God . . ." "The Pope is a it were God on earth, sole sovereign of the faithful of Christ, chief of kings, having plenitude of power, to whom has been intrusted be the omnipotent God direction not only of the earthly but also of the heavenly kingdom . . ." Prompta Bibliotheca, Vol. VI, pp. 25-29. Are we now to bow before the pope instead of the God of heaven? Can a mere man stand in the place of God? If you remember, this is exactly what caused Satan to fall from heaven. He wanted to become as God.

The little horn/beast power will also "persecute the saints" and they will be given into his hands for a time and times and half a time." He was to "continue for forty-two months." In Bible prophecy the term "time" stands for a year. In each year, there were 360 days in the Jewish Calender. In Daniel 7:25, we find a total of three and a half years. By calculating out this by 360, we come up with 1260 days. By using the Bible definition for understanding time prophecies, we find a day represents a year. See Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6. Therefore, we are talking about a 1260-year period of time when the papacy will bring the Christian world under their submission. We can also see this same time prophecy in Revelation 13:5, when speaking of the forty-two months (which equals out to 1260 years). Notice that this tribulation is "great" not only because of persecution, but also because of the great length of time the people on the earth was to endure it.

For 1260 years (from 538 to 1798) the papacy was to wield its sword of persecution over all whom would not obey its authority. Christian people like the Albigenses and Waldenses were ruthlessly hunted down and murdered because they would not pledge their allegiance to the authority of the Roman Church and the pope. These people held to the belief that God's people would honor Him by "keeping the commandments and the faith of Jesus." Revelation 14:12. " 'They shall prophecy a thousand two hundred and three-score days, clothed in sackcloth.' During the greater part of this period, God's witnesses remained in a state of obscurity. The papal power sought to hide from the people the word of truth, and set before them false witnesses to contradict its testimony. (See Appendix.) When the Bible was proscribed by religious and secular authority; when its testimony was perverted, and every effort made that men and demons could invent to turn the minds of the people from it; when those who dared proclaim its sacred truths were hunted, betrayed, tortured, buried in dungeon cells, martyred for their faith, or compelled to flee to mountain fastnesses, and to dens and caves of the earth--then the faithful witnesses prophesied in sackcloth. Yet they continued their testimony throughout the entire period of 1260 years. In the darkest times there were faithful men who loved God's word and were jealous for His honor. To these loyal servants were given wisdom, power, and authority to declare His truth during the whole of this time." Great Controversy, pg. 267.

During the Dark Ages and Middle Ages, it has been estimated that over 50,000,000 people were killed because they would not submit to the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. The papacy was in the business of subjugating the people. It tried to control how and when they worshiped. Over the next 1750 years, after the death of Christ, first the Roman Empire, then the Roman Church dictated whom, how, and when a person should worship. In 321 AD, Constantine created the first Sunday law of worship. This was not a Christian day of worship. Far from it! It was called the "Venerable Day of the Sun." All who did not worship as the emperor dictated would be killed. This day of worship was then adopted into the Roman Catholic Church who, through persecution, initiated it into the Christian world. For centuries Christians fought against this change in God's law. They died for their faith and continued to worship on the Sabbath in the face of certain death. Remember that in Daniel 7:25 it says, "he will think to change times and law."

This time period of 1260 years is of eminent importance. It is so important to God that in Revelation 11-13, He speaks of it five times. It is also spoken of in Daniel 7. This is not just a short time period of persecution. This is quite lengthy. It is the same period of time Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24:21,22, "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened." Notice that Jesus said that if these days of persecution were not shortened, none of His people would have been alive. This is how serious the persecution of these 1260 years became.

The massive martyrdom of God's people and even those who were just suspected, as heretics were tortured, maimed, and killed. Many people were burned at the stake for their faith or spent their life in prison. In Revelation 6, this time period is documented. "When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held" (verse 9). "Thousands were imprisoned and slain, but others sprang up to fill their places. And those who were martyred for their faith were secured to Christ and accounted of Him as conquerors. They had fought the good fight, and they were to receive the crown of glory when Christ should come. The sufferings, which they endured, brought Christians nearer to one another and to their Redeemer. Their living example and dying testimony were a constant witness for the truth; and where least expected, the subjects of Satan were leaving his service and enlisting under the banner of Christ." Great Controversy, pg. 42.

These people were killed because they held fast to the word of God. They were those who went through the 1260 years of papal persecution. In Revelation 6:11, they are symbolically asking the Lord when their deaths will be avenged, and the Lord told them that another time of trouble was to come upon the earth before the end of time. "Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was complete" (verse 11).

We see that there will be another time of trouble that will result in the death of many people, but that this troubled time is not the "great tribulation" that is spoken of in Daniel 7, and Revelation 13:1-10. In Revelation 7:13,14, one of the elders tells John that this first group who are given the white robes are the one who came out of that great tribulation. "Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, 'Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?' And I said to him, 'Sir, you know.' So he said to me, 'These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

In Matthew 24:22, the Lord promised that He would not allow His people to be totally exterminated by this persecuting power. In the late 15th and early 16th centuries when the Protestant movement went forth, God granted His people new light to bring them out of the papal darkness they have been in for over 1000 years. Vigilantly, Martin Luther, the great German reformer, using the Word of God, spiritually fought against the papacy and eventually proclaimed the pope and the Roman Church as antichrist. He protested against the evils of the Roman Catholic Church that he had been a part of for so many years. He saw the abuses, and the false ideology of this pagan religion wrapped in the garb of Christianity. He saw that the identifying marks in the Bible that spoke of the antichrist pointed right at the papal power.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, God opened a new haven for His people. He gave them a refuge from the persecuting power of the papacy in the form of the New World. America became the home for thousands who fled from the tyranny of Europe and the Roman Catholic Church to establish a country where religious freedom was a right and not a privilege. Here the papacy also tried to gain a foothold, but Catholicism was not welcome in the New World north of Mexico in the early years. In 1798, Berthier, general to Napoleon, marched into Italy and captured the pope. The general imprisoned the pope, who later died in prison. From 538 AD to 1798 AD, exactly 1260 years later, the papacy fell and the "Great Tribulation" ended.

It was said that the papacy would never be a power to reckon with again, but someone didn't study the prophecies of the Bible. "And I saw one of his heads wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast." Revelation 13:3. In 1929, Mussolini, dictator of Italy, gave the papacy the land to build a city within the city of Rome. He also gave them back their temporal power to govern. The "deadly wound" was healed and the papacy began to gain power and dominion over the earth again.

In World War II, the papacy endorsed Hitler's grab for power and supported him behind the scenes. Cardinal Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII, can be seen in photographs presenting Hitler with the backing of the Roman Catholic Church in the form of the concordat between the Vatican and the Nazi party. Hitler was Catholic after all and was pushing forward Roman Catholic ideals and policies. He made this statement: "I reject that book by Rosenberg. It was written by a Protestant. It is not a party book . . . as a Catholic I never feel comfortable in the evangelical church or its structures . . . as for the Jews, I am just carrying on with the same policy which the Catholic Church has adopted for fifteen hundred years, when it has regarded the Jews as dangerous and pushed them into ghettos, etc., because it knew what the Jews were like. I don't put race above religion, but I do see the danger in the representatives of this race for church and state, and perhaps I am doing Christianity a great service." The Nazi Persecution of the Churches by J.S. Conway, pp. 25,26,162.

It was the Church who systematically condemned Jews for years and did all in their power to put up divisions between Christians and Jews. Remember that it was the Roman government, with the help of the Jews, who crucified Christ on the cross, and they have tried to use to Jews as a scapegoat and separate themselves from anything "Jewish" ever since. Rome is still Rome. It does not change its policies, just its outward subterfuge. When a building is given a face-lift it does not change the inside operation. This is the same with Rome.

While supporting Hitler, they also were involved in hiding Jews so it could be said that they were immersed in "humanitarian" concerns. The papacy has always played both sides of the fence and has continued the practice today. In Eastern Europe, the papacy has stirred up religious conflicts in the Balkan States and Serbia, who happen to be Greek Orthodox and not Catholic. This "beast" of a power is reemerging again today as a player in world events. It is the only church that has a representative to the United Nations and sends ambassadors to other countries. This "harlot" church is again preparing for world domination through political agencies and puppet powers. It stays behind the scenes pulling the strings of nations and countries, political and religious organizations, and will soon be worshiped through the "image of the beast."

The Great Tribulation lasted 1260 years, and was shortened as Christ predicted. The last few remaining years out of the 1260-year prophecy were relatively free from persecution. But Jesus did warn of a soon coming time of trouble for everyone who will live at the end of time. It will not be a lengthy tribulation as was the Great Tribulation. It will last just a short time. This time of trouble will happen shortly before the coming of Christ to redeem His people. "At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book (of Life)." Daniel 12:1.

This will be the end time persecution which Jesus talks about in Revelation 13:11-18, and again we see the papacy emerging to be worshiped with a death decree hanging over everyone's head who does not comply. "Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666."

We read in Revelation 6:11 that many will be martyred in this last conflict with the beast, yet many will stand for the truth of God's word. Many who once scorned the Bible and the love of God will be turned from sin and become a mighty force for the truth of God. One Bible writer describes the events of the victory of God's saints this way. "Nearest the throne are those who were once zealous in the cause of Satan, but who, plucked as brands from the burning, have followed their Saviour with deep, intense devotion. Next are those who perfected Christian characters in the midst of falsehood and infidelity, those who honored the law of God when the Christian world declared it void, and the millions, of all ages, who were martyred for their faith. And beyond is the 'great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, . . . before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.' Revelation 7:9. Their warfare is ended, their victory won. They have run the race and reached the prize. The palm branch in their hands is a symbol of their triumph, the white robe an emblem of the spotless righteousness of Christ which now is theirs." The Great Controversy, pg. 665.

There are serious times ahead of us whether we stand for God, or take the mark of the beast. One may cause our physical death, but we will receive the gift of eternal life. The other will give us momentary peace, but will eventually cause us great pain and eternal death. If we are to survive the coming time of trouble, we must take lessons from those who weathered the 1260 years of the Great Tribulation. They remained strong in the Lord, not giving heed to the devil, his doctrines, his enticements, or his earthly agents. They are those who are spoken of in Revelation 12:11. "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death."

We can have this same experience if we put our trust in God above. We, too, can overcome and be counted as one of God's true and faithful. Are you willing to give your heart to the One who gave all for you? Are you willing to lay your life on the line for Jesus? He gives this promise to all who will follow Him. "He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation." Psalm 91:15,16.

Appendix:

The Biblical Identifying Marks of Antichrist

  1. The little horn is Antichrist: "speaks great words against the Most High." Daniel 7:25

  2. The Antichrist arises among the 10 horns, the 10 divisions of the Roman empire Daniel 7:8 The Antichrist

  3. In the process of arising, uproots 3 of the original horns (the 3 who were uprooted were the kingdoms of Odoacer, or Heruli, (A.D. 493) the Ostrogoths (A.D. 538) and the Vandals (A.D. 534)

  4. At the beginning of his time of civil power he was a little horn--smaller than the others.

  5. This Antichrist power has a human leader, "were eyes like the eyes of a man." Daniel 7:8

  6. This Antichrist power makes great claims. Daniel 7:8; 25

  7. This power became greater than any of the other horns or kingdoms of Europe. Daniel 7:20

  8. This antichrist power persecuted the saints and overcame or destroyed them. Daniel 7:21, 25 (see also Revelation 13:7)

  9. The little horn power would come into power after the first 10 horns had already divided up the Roman Empire (which occurred from A.D. 351 to A.D. 476).

  10. This antichrist power would attempt to change times and laws (Daniel 7:25). He would teach people to break God's law by saying that the original law had been changed (by himself).

  11. This antichrist power would continue to exist until the court of God's judgement would execute sentence against it and consume and destroy it. Daniel 7:26

  12. This same antichrist power is spoken of in II Thessalonians 2 and we know again that it is antichrist because it says, "who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God; or that is worshiped so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." II Thessalonians 2:4

  13. This power is called the man of sin (breaking the law I John 3:4) and the son of destruction and the lawless one, so it is a power that teaches people to break God's law and breaks the law himself. II Thessalonians 2:3, 8

  14. This power exalts itself above all that is called God or that is worshiped. II Thessalonians 2:4

  15. He considers himself to be as God: "he sits as God." II Thessalonians 2:4

  16. He sits "in the temple of God" or in other words, the antichrist would arise out of the apostolic Christian church because the church is the temple of God (see Ephesians 2:11-22 and I Corinthians 3:16, 17.) (It has been forgotten by most, but the early Christians knew that the antichrist would arise out of the church.)

  17. The antichrist has its roots in the apostolic church because in speaking of the antichrist power Paul says, "the mystery of lawlessness does already work." II Thessalonians 2:7. So, the roots of the antichrist power were present and working already in the days of the apostles.

  18. When the Roman Caesar was taken out of the way, then the antichrist power, who had its roots back in the days of the apostles, was to be manifested openly: "he who now restrains (the Roman Caesar who was worshiped as a God and would not allow another to be worshiped, even killing Christians for worshipping another Lord) will do so until He is taken out of the way (A.D. 330-476) and then the lawless one (the antichrist) will be revealed.

  19. When the Lord comes, the Lord will consume the antichrist power with the breath of His mouth and will destroy the antichrist power with the brightness of His coming. II Thessalonians 2:8. The antichrist power will not continue for 3 ½ years or 7 years beyond the coming of the Lord as many people think. Rather, when the Lord comes the antichrist power (which has been in existence since the days of the apostles and became openly manifested to the world after the demise of the Roman Empire) will be destroyed.

  20. Since the antichrist power has its roots in the days of the apostles (see above) and since it will not be destroyed until the Lord comes (II Thessalonians 2:8) and since the Lord has not returned yet, we know that the antichrist power must be in the world today.

  21. The antichrist power will work with all manner of power, signs, and lying wonders. (II Thessalonians 2:9) There will be many miracles and therefore we cannot depend on miracles for evidence of anything in the realm of religion or faith.

  22. The antichrist will develop as a consequence of a great apostasy in the Christian church. II Thessalonians 2:3

  23. The day of the Lord will not come until the antichrist power has arisen first as a result of the great apostasy. II Thessalonians 2:1-3

  24. The beast power in Revelation 13:1-10 is the antichrist power, because it says concerning this power in verse 6, "he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven." Revelation 13:6

  25. The antichrist power received his throne (seat of government), power, and great authority from the dragon. The dragon represents primarily the devil, but secondarily the Pagan Roman empire. (see Revelation 12:1-5)

  26. The antichrist power has to do with religion because people worship it. Revelation 13:4

  27. The antichrist power has elements from Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and the pagan Roman Empire within it. Revelation 13:2. The common denominator of all these ancient powers was that none of them allowed religious liberty to their subjects. (See Daniel 3, 6, and the history of the Jews under the Ptolemies and Seleucid kings and the history of the Maccabees and the history of the early Christian church.) In addition to intolerance, all of these powers have in common, the worship of men and other creatures, see Romans 1; Daniel 3, Daniel 6 etc.

  28. The antichrist power arose from the sea. (Revelation 17:15) In other words, in a populated area of the world.

  29. This antichrist power obviously has kingly power, because his horns have crowns on them. Revelation 13:1

  30. The Antichrist power receives a deadly wound, and it appears that it will not survive. Revelation 13:3

  31. The deadly wound to the antichrist power is healed. Revelation 13:3

  32. After the deadly wound is healed, all the world will marvel and follow after the antichrist power. Revelation 13:3

  33. The antichrist power will appear so powerful during this time, that it will be thought that nobody can resist or make war with the antichrist power. Revelation 13:4

  34. The antichrist power has a blasphemous name. Revelation 13:1. The name that this power has which is blasphemous is the name of Christ. Although it is a power that is against Christ, it bears the name of Christ. The word "antichrist" means somebody or something who stands in the place of Christ, the Latin word which is equivalent to the Greek word "anti" is the word "vicar." That which is blasphemous about the name is the fact that it claims to be of Christ, when actually this power is fighting Christ in the person of His saints and representatives. By bearing the name of Christ and acting out the policy of the dragon, this power does blasphemy to its name.

  35. The antichrist power is given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies. Revelation 13:5

  36. This antichrist power was given authority to continue for 42 months. Revelation 13:5. Or in other words, 1260 prophetic days or 1260 literal years.

  37. This power blasphemes four things: God, God's name, God's sanctuary or temple, and those who dwell in heaven. Revelation 13:6

  38. The antichrist would be given authority over every tribe, language, and nation. Or in other words, it would be both a world power and a super-power because it would have authority over all nations and languages. Revelation 13:7

  39. All who dwell on the earth who are not saved, will worship this power. Revelation 13:8

  40. This antichrist power, who leads the saints into captivity and martyrdom, will itself be led into captivity and to the sword. Revelation 13:10

  41. The antichrist has a number and it is the number of a man, and that number is 666. Revelation 13:18

  42. The antichrist power has an identifying mark. Revelation 13:15-17, Revelation 14:9-11. This identifying mark is His attempt to change times and laws (Daniel 7:25). This mark is to be enforced on all the world by an oppressive law that will not allow any man to buy or sell unless he has either the mark of the beast or worships his image or has the name of the beast. The people at the grocery store will be able to tell whether you have the mark of the antichrist or not.

  43. In the last generation anybody who worships this antichrist power will lose eternal life and be cast into hell-fire. Revelation 14:9-11

  44. In the last days, an image of the antichrist power is formed by the two-horned beast (something that looks just like the antichrist,) and this image will cooperate with the antichrist, and all the world will be commanded to worship it. Revelation 13: 12-17

  45. Those who do not receive the mark of the beast or worship his image or receive his mark are described as those who "keep the commandments of God" and "the faith of Jesus." Revelation 14:12; Revelation 20:4; Revelation 15:2. So we know that receiving the mark of the beast involves breaking the commandments of God and not keeping the faith of Jesus, and we know that the commandment that is broken as a mark of the beast's authority, is the commandment concerning time. (Daniel 7:25)

Sources:
J.T.C., Smokescreens
White, E.G., Great Controversy
J.S. Conway, The Nazi Persecution of the Churches pp. 25,26,162
Prompta Bibliotheca, Vol. VI, pp. 25-29.
The Catholic World, June 1871, pages 422,423
A Catechism of Christian Doctrine, pg. 16
The American Peoples Encyclopedia, Vol. 16, pg. 903.
Wells, Michael C., The End of War and Injustice
Wilkinson, B.G., Truth Triumphant
The Rise of the Medieval Church, pg. 168

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