The prophecies in the Bible give a clear picture of what will happen in the religious world in the last days before Jesus returns. [ Most Christians ignore this and so end up confused. There is a positive and a negative side to this question.
The true church of Jesus Christ will be known to God and will make God known worldwide.
‘Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.’
‘And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, ‘teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen. Matthew 28.18-20.
The true church will be a remnant saved by grace amidst a majority who are in apostasy.
‘Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. ‘Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7.13-14.
‘Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.’ Romans 11:5
‘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.’ Revelation 13.8.
The true church will be saved from the wrath to come by the blood of Jesus and be caught up to meet Him as He comes in the air.
‘And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.’ Revelation 5.9.
‘For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.’ 1 Thessalonians 4.15-18.
This event also known as the rapture of the church could occur at any time. It will result in all true believers in Jesus being supernaturally removed from the earth to meet the Lord in the air in the first stage of his second coming.
What will be left behind will be the apostate church, which denies the blood of Jesus as the only means whereby sins are forgiven and is willing to make a compromise with other faiths in an interfaith union. This interfaith union will be known as Babylon, a false religious system, which will cooperate with the coming Antichrist during the first half of the tribulation. He will use this religious system to gain power. Revelation 17.1-6.
‘Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, ‘with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.’ So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. 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. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marvelled with great amazement.’
This religious system is a whore (unfaithful) as opposed to the faithful wife of Christ described in Revelation 19.7-9: ‘Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: `Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’‘ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God.’
The false church persecutes the saints.
In the days of the Roman Empire when John wrote the Revelation different religions were tolerated as long as they were registered as ‘religio licita’ (a legal religion). Legal religions placed their gods in the Pantheon, a building in Rome, which means ‘all gods’. They were required to give allegiance to Caesar but as long as they did this they could practise their religion how they liked. Caesar was known as the ‘Pontifex Maximus’, a Latin term meaning supreme bridge maker. On one level this title referred to his role as defender of the city of Rome by securing the bridges across the River Tiber. On another level he was considered a divine figure who became the ‘bridge’ between this world and the next. Later when the Roman Empire collapsed, the Bishop of Rome took on the title, Pontifex Maximus, which is today one of the titles of the Pope.
As well as accepting the supremacy of the Caesar, religions were expected to keep the Pax Romana, Roman peace. None of them should disturb this peace by challenging the power of Rome or by stirring up religious or nationalistic conflict. For many people this was a good thing as it stopped warring tribes fighting each other and created a framework of law and order, which as long as they kept the rules was acceptable. The early Christians were a ‘religio illicita’ (illegal religion) because they refused to accept the supremacy of the Caesar and acknowledge him as ‘Lord’ since they believed Jesus to be the only one worthy of being called Lord. They also were seen as a threat to the peace (see Acts 19.23-41) because they proclaimed their message to all other faiths, saying that Jesus is the only Saviour and the Messiah.
Today we find that the world system is becoming increasingly similar to the Roman system. All religions are accepted and brought into the modern ‘Pantheon’ in which human wisdom and institutions are seen as the ultimate authority to which all must submit. As yet we do not see a visible ‘Caesar’ figure to be worshipped as divine, but the Bible says he is waiting in the wings (see Revelation 13). We also see that the world is demanding that religions cooperate in the cause of peace and those who proclaim that they have the only way to God are seen as enemies of the peace. Increasingly political leaders, including our own leader Tony Blair, court religious figures in their quest for a new world order which is clearly backed by a spiritual power aimed at bringing the religions together. The very thing prophesied in Revelation 17 – the woman (false religion) riding the beast (political power) – is already here in embryo. When the true church is removed and the great tribulation begins it will take control of all religious life in the world.
If we take a literal approach to Revelation and other prophetic books, especially Daniel, we find that there is a clear pattern of events described there. Both books point to a period of seven years which will precede the return of Jesus Christ to the earth, during which time there will be ‘great tribulation’ on the earth. Jesus said that if God did not ‘cut short’ those days then no flesh would be saved (Matthew 24.21-22). In other words all life would come to an end on the earth.
During first half of this seven-year period the beast or Antichrist (the coming world Caesar) is in power but not absolutely. During this time he rules in conjunction with 10 kings, who are world leaders, probably responsible for 10 regions of the world (note how the world today is being divided into regional trading blocks which are coming together into units – particularly the region of the former Roman Empire, the European Union). He also rules with the backing of the Babylon world religious system, a coming together of world faiths to try to save the world from disaster. Note today how global threats to the environment, fear of terrorism etc are bringing nations and religions together in a search for a solution. The professing church, especially Roman Catholicism and the World Council of Churches, will join (if not lead) this coming together of religions. Other world religious leaders will be more and more willing to come together in a world forum of religion.
The logical question, which comes now, is how can the Babylon system persecute the saints, if the true believers in Jesus have been removed from the earth in the rapture? Clearly there is a significant group of people who refuse to join religious Babylon, insisting that Jesus is the one way to God, and who become an illegal underground movement, facing persecution. Revelation 7 indicates that despite the opposition of the world system a vast number of people will accept the message of Jesus as Saviour at this time. This message will be presented primarily by 144,000 Jewish people who supernaturally discover that Jesus is the promised Messiah and preach his message with tremendous effects. In the confusion and insecurity of the global situation they will find many people seeking true peace and safety and discovering the truth of the Gospel.
The Babylon world religion will hate these disciples of Jesus and brand them as ‘fundamentalists’ who are seen as the enemies of global harmony and therefore of humanity. ‘Babylon’ will be promoting a religion with New Age / occult leanings, which will be ‘tolerant’ of any lifestyle and belief, but intolerant of true believers in Jesus. Backed by the media, educational system, government, and especially by the UN, this religious organisation will support the Antichrist in his rise to absolute power.
Change happens half way through seven-year tribulation period.
A point, which is often missed by Bible commentators, is that something dramatic happens midway through the tribulation period (i.e. after 3 ½ years). The one world religious system of Babylon and the 10 kings are the religious and political power base of Antichrist in first half of tribulation. But midway through several things happen:
Note the time period referred to in Daniel and Revelation – a time, times and half a time = 3 ½ years (Daniel 7.25), half of seven years = 3 ½ years (final ‘week’ of Daniel 9.27), 42 months = 3 ½ years (Revelation 13.5), 1260 days = 3 ½ years (Revelation 12.6). .
10 kings give power to beast (after he has subdued 3 of them)
‘The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.’ Revelation 17.12.
‘The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings. 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 7.24-25.
In other words at the mid point of the tribulation period absolute power is transferred to the beast or Antichrist by the 10 kings.
Satan comes down with great wrath.
‘Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days. And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, 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. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. ‘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. ‘Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.’ Revelation 12.6-12.
At the present time Satan is not seated on a fiery throne in hell with a pitchfork in his hand as he is sometimes colourfully presented. He is the ‘prince of the power of the air’ ruling this present evil world from his position between humanity and the throne of God. Those who repent and believe in the Lord Jesus now are seated with Christ in heavenly places, far above Satan’s rule. When the church is taken out of the world to be with Jesus there is war in heaven. At the mid point of the tribulation Satan is cast out of his present position to the earth where he gives all power to his man on the earth, the Antichrist.
Antichrist is slain and resurrected.
‘Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast, which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marvelled and followed the beast. 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. Revelation 13.1-6.
The Antichrist is a counterfeit Messiah, given power by Satan and born witness to by the False Prophet. Thus we have a counterfeit of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As the counterfeit Messiah, the beast will experience some kind of death and resurrection, which will be manifested to the whole world and will cause the people of the world who reject Jesus to accept him as god and give him worship.
False Prophet sets up worship of beast system (abomination of desolation).
‘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 six hundred and sixty-six.’ Revelation 13.11-15
As in Daniel 3 a religious system is set up which compels all people on pain of death to an act of idolatry which replaces all other religions and focuses solely on the beast. This is the abomination of desolation of which Jesus warns, saying if you want to understand it you have to look to Daniel (Matthew 24.15- 31). The focal point of the abomination will be the Temple Mount in Jerusalem although it will be manifest all over the world. This will cause outrage among the Jewish people who will recognise at this point that the Antichrist is a deceiver and a false Messiah and will flee from him. From this point to the second coming of Christ to the earth there will be a one-world religion and no other religion will be permitted.
The beast turns on and eliminates Ecclesiastical Babylon
‘And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time. ‘Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done. ‘He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all. ‘But in their place he shall honour a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honour with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things. ‘Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain. Daniel 7.24
‘Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away 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 worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 2 Thessalonians 2.3-4.
‘These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.’ Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. ‘And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. ‘For God has put it into their hearts to fulfil His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. ‘And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.’ Rev.17.14 -18.
Note that in all these passages the beast turns on all religions not just on Bible believing followers of Jesus. His aim is the elimination of all faiths and their replacement with a new Messiah who is to be worshipped by all and who is empowered by Satan with counterfeit miracles to impress people that he is indeed god.
It is interesting to note here that Hitler used apostate Christianity to climb to power. He gained the allegiance of the German churches and was happy to use unfaithful clerics to give him a kind of legitimacy (while genuine Bible believing Christians opposed him). Once in power his aim was to replace Christianity with a religious system based on German nationalism and pre-Christian paganism, ultimately leading to worship of himself (saying ‘Heil Hitler’ – Hail Hitler – with one arm raised is in itself an act of worship). Other types of the coming Antichrist like Mao Tse Tung and Stalin established a kind of religious cult around themselves, bringing violent opposition and persecution on members of all religions, especially Bible believing followers of Jesus.
It is also interesting to note that today although the world religious system has power in the emerging world political system, amongst many young people there is widespread turning away from all religion. In the Islamic world there is a growing opposition to the abuse of power by the mullahs (especially in Afghanistan and Iran). The growing power of the occult and fascination with the demonic realms is softening people up worldwide for the final stage of the satanic programme which is the elimination of all religion, true and false, and its replacement with a religious system which involves direct worship of Satan through his man on the earth the beast directed by the false prophet (the satanic trinity).
God’s purpose in all this is to cleanse the earth of false religion. The Lord Jesus will personally destroy the world political and religious system of the satanic trinity at his second coming with the beast and the false prophet being thrown straight into the lake of fire and Satan being bound for 1000 years, during which time there will be a pure faith on the earth. He will return with the saints who have previously been taken in the rapture (Zechariah 14.5, Jude 14, Revelation 19.14) and he will resurrect those who have been put to death by the antichrist during the great tribulation (Revelation 20.4). He will also resurrect all the saints (true believers) from the Old Testament days (Daniel 12.2).That means that if you believe in Jesus you have a very exciting future in store for you!
Pure faith in Millennium.
‘For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the LORD, to serve Him with one accord.’ Zephaniah 3.9
‘Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD’S house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.’ Isaiah 2.2-4
‘Then the LORD will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. … And in that day it shall be That living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, Half of them toward the eastern sea And half of them toward the western sea; In both summer and winter it shall occur. And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be–’The LORD is one,’ And His name one.’ Zechariah 14.3-4, 8-9.
‘And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.’ Revelation 20.4-6.
This period known as the Millennium or the Messianic Age will be the last 1000 years of human history during which time there will be a one world faith in which the true God will be worshipped through the Messiah. Prior to that there will be an outpouring of the Spirit upon Israel, which will cause faith in the Lord through Jesus the Messiah.
‘And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on my menservants and on my maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. ‘And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, among the remnant whom the LORD calls. Joel 2.28-32.
‘And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.’ Zechariah 12.10
For those who accept the way of salvation through the Messiah this is just the glorious prelude to eternal life in heaven. For those who reject him it is the beginning of eternal separation from God in hell. Satan has been working since the Garden of Eden on the establishment of his man, the beast in absolute power. His triumph is a hollow and a short lived one. After just 3 ½ years during which God is pouring out his wrath on the antichrist kingdom, Jesus returns to the earth with all the believers who have been caught up to meet him in the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4.13-5.11) to bring total defeat on the devil and all his followers and to bring victory to those who follow him. If you are happy to be on the losing side, there is not much we can do for you. But if you want to join the winning side by believing in Jesus we are happy to help you learn more about him. It’s up to you.