Major Events Preceding the Second Coming of Christ # 3
Daniel 9:27 describes the final seven years leading up to the second coming of Christ and divides it into two periods, the first being the three and a half years during which the covenant is observed and the second being the three and a half years when the covenant is broken, resulting in the termination of Jewish sacrifices in their temple. The Jews will make this seven year covenant with the ruler over the ten kingdoms who later becomes the world dictator. Though the term Antichrist is never applied directly to this world ruler, he will be the ultimate fulfillment of predictions of the antichrist (3 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7).
Antichrist is anyone who opposes Christ or who claims to be a substitute for Christ. The apostle John declared that the antichrist is coming, but that there are many antichrists. "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come" (1 John 2:18). John further defines an antichrist, "Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist - he denies the Father and the Son" (1 John 2:22). John further describes an antichrist as one who denies that Christ came in the flesh as God in 1 John 4:3, "but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world." The same explanation is given in 2 John 7. The future world ruler who governs ten nations and later becomes dictator over the whole world is the antichrist because he is against Christ and is a substitute for Christ, as the prefix "anti" means.
Three Periods Between the Rapture and the Second Coming
In a study of all the passages that relate to the end time, it becomes clear that there are three major time periods between the Rapture and the Second Coming. The first is the period of preparation, a relatively short period, in which the ten nation kingdom emerges. Its leader rises to conquer first three and then all ten kingdoms. When this leader becomes powerful, because of his backing of the ten kingdoms, he is able to make the covenant with Israel for seven years described in Daniel 9:27. This introduces the second period of time, which covers the first half of the seven years mentioned in the covenant. In the middle of the seven years, however, a dramatic change takes place, and the ruler of the ten kingdoms becomes a world dictator, apparently without a war. This sets the stage for the third period, the last three and a half years leading up to the second coming of Christ. Accordingly, there is first a period of preparation leading up to the seven year period. Then there will be three and a half years of peace, the second period, and this will be followed by the third great trouble and tribulation. The third period will be followed immediately by the Second Coming.
The War with Russia
In Ezekiel 38-39 a strange war is predicted in which a great nation to the north of Israel, a reference to Russia (Ezekiel 36:15; 38:6, 15; 39:2), will be joined by a number of other nations in a sneak attack upon Israel at a time when Israel is at peace (Ezekiel 38:11). Though a number of explanations have been given of the prophecy, it seems that this Soviet invasion will come during the first three and a half years leading up to the second coming of Christ. This would correspond to the time of peace described in Ezekiel 38 (see Thess. 5:3). This war turns out to be a disaster for Russia and her other allies (Ezekiel 39:3-6, 11-20) as they will be annihilated.
The destruction of the invaders will change the world situation, which apparently then will be much like it is now, with Russia and her allies opposed to the rest of the world. With Russia out of the way as a military power because of the destruction of her army, it will be possible for the ruler of the ten kingdoms himself a world dictator, and apparently, there will be no power great enough to oppose him, and a world empire will be born overnight. At the beginning of his world empire the world will ask the question, "Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?" (Revelation 13:4). And the answer is that no one will be strong enough to deny the ruler of the ten kingdoms the place of a dictatorship over the entire world.
When this takes place and the world empire suddenly emerges, the Middle East ruler will break his covenant with Israel and become her persecutor instead of her protector, and the final three and a half years leading up to the second coming of Christ will be a time of trouble for Israel and for the entire world. The world ruler of the end time will not only claim political rule over all nations but will also claim to be God (Revelation 13:8).
According to Daniel 13:37, the world ruler "will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all." According to Daniel 11:38, he will worship only the power to make war and gain victory, and he will be engaged in warfare toward the end of that last three and a half years.
The Great Tribulation: Armageddon
As indicated to the breaking of the covenant with Israel, the future world ruler will bring on a terrible time of persecution by the government and judgment of God upon the world. This time of trouble is described graphically in Revelation 6:18. This period will include disasters from God as well as persecution of all those who will not recognize the world ruler as deity.
In his vision recorded in Revelation 6, John is introduced to a scroll with seven seals affixed to the side. As the scroll is unrolled, each seal is broken, signaling a great event on the earth. Some of these are great catastrophes. Seal one refers to the world empire that is brought out at the beginning of the three and a half years. This is indicated by the bow without an arrow (Revelation 6:2), the formation of the world empire without a fight.
Seals two and three refer to warfare and starvation, which will affect many. The fourth seal reveals that one-fourth of the earth's population will be destroyed, certainly a time of the wrath of God. The fifth seal recognizes that the world ruler will put to death those who do not recognize him as deity, and they are seen in heaven waiting for the time when the world ruler will be judged. In this period, according to the sixth seal, great disturbances will take place in the earth, with the sun darkened, the moon turning blood red, and stars of heaven falling to earth. There will also be a great earthquake, with every mountain and island removed from its place (Revelation 6:12-14).
Out of the seventh seal will come a second series of sevens called trumpets. As each trumpet is sounded, it signals another tremendous judgment on earth, usually extending to one-third of the earth's area (Revelation 9:7-12), and one-third of the earth's population will be destroyed (Revelation 9:15). Again, there will be great disturbances in nature, and eventually war.
Out of the seventh trumpet will come a third series of sevens called vials, or bowls, of the wrath of God. Each of these introduces another tremendous judgment on earth, usually extending to the entire earth. The first bowl judgment poured out will cause painful sores on people who have been worshiping the world ruler and the idol of him that was set up in the temple (Revelation 16:1-2). The second bowl pictures judgment on the sea so that every living creature in it dies (Revelation 16:3). The third bowl of the wrath of God will corrupt the springs of water, and they will become blood (Revelation 16:4). The fourth bowl will disturb the ordinary course of the sun, and people will be scorched because of the intense heat (Revelation 16:8). The fifth bowl results in the earth's being plunged into darkness, because the heavens will be so disturbed that they do not give their normal light (Revelation 16:10). The sixth bowl will dry up the river Euphrates, which will make it possible for a great army from the East to approach the Holy Land and join in the final great war that is described taking place there. The final bowl of wrath will consist of a great earthquake that destroys the cities of the world, causing mountains and islands to disappear, and apparently the topography of the entire earth will be changed (Revelation 16:17-21).
During the three and a half years of the Great Tribulation, God protected 144,000 Israelites, 12,000 in each tribe, as described in Revelation 7. They were able to go through the great Tribulation unscathed and will be on Mount Zion at the end of the great Tribulation (Revelation 14:1). By contrast, however, Revelation 7:9-17 pictures a great multitude in heaven consisting of those who have been martyred because they would not worship the world ruler and his claim for deity. By putting all these tremendous disasters of the end time together, we are introduced to a world scene where most of the world's population has been destroyed prior to the second coming of Christ, and many of those who did turn to Christ in that day have become martyrs. In the great Tribulation the final form of anti-God religion will consist of the atheistic worship of the world ruler and a denial of the true God. When Christ returns, He will judge the wickedness of the earth, rescue those still living in the earth who are saved and bring them into the millennial kingdom, and bring judgment of physical death on all the others (Matthew 24:30-31; 25:31-45).
~John F. Walvoord~