Please read Revelation chapters 12 and 13.
The lesson today continues a study of the events surrounding the Great Tribulation period. We look (in our fifth lesson based on the Book of Revelation) at the persons who will be active on earth during the Great Tribulation.
There are three personalities described in Revelation 12 and 13 that make up what is sometimes called “the satanic trinity.” There is a divine trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)—but there is also a satanic trinity (a false god; a false christ; and a false spirit).
In the end times, Satan will make one last (and almost successful) attempt to consolidate religion around himself, and to rule in God’s stead. The satanic trinity consists of:
- (1) Satan himself
- (2) A man called Antichrist
- (3) A figure called The False Prophet
The false god is symbolized by a dragon; the false christ is symbolized by a beast out of the sea; the false spirit is symbolized by a beast out of the earth.
1. The False God
In Revelation 12 we are given an account of the conflict of the ages. It is not merely a conflict between right and wrong and good and evil, but a conflict between two great personalities—the woman and the dragon. The “woman” symbolizes the nation Israel. The “dragon” is clearly stated to be Satan. The “male child” is Jesus Christ. The occasion is His first coming to the earth.
The “woman” is described in Rev. 12:1-2. Throughout the Scriptures, the woman is used as a symbol of “religion.” Jezebel represents paganism and idolatrous heathen worship. The “bride of Christ” represents the true church. And here in Revelation 12, the “sun-clad woman” represents the nation Israel and the Jewish religion. It was through the nation Israel that Christ was born into the world. This is what Jesus referred to when He said, “Salvation is of the Jews.” The Saviour came from the Jewish nation.
The “male child” described in Rev. 12:5 is a clear reference to Jesus Christ (the Messiah). This child is to be caught up to the throne of God, and it is distinctly said that He is the one who will rule the nations with a rod of iron. When we compare Scripture with Scripture we learn that only of Christ is it ever said that “He shall rule the nations with a rod of iron” (Psalms 2:8-9). Rev. 12-5 is obviously a reference to Christ’s ascension at His first coming (“and her child was caught up unto God”)—and the verse is also a reference to His reign over the earth at His second coming (“and she brought forth a child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron”). And thus we see that the sun-clad woman pictures the nation Israel; and the male-child is a reference to Jesus Christ.
The “dragon” is described in Rev. 12:3-4, and again in Rev. 12:7-9. There are more names used for Satan in this passage than in any other group of verses in the Bible. Each name has a particular significance:
- (1) “that old serpent”—a reference to his sly and tricky entrance into the Garden of Eden.
- (2) “the devil”—means “the accuser.”
- (3) “Satan”—means “the chief of evil spirits.”
The dragon is clearly said to be the devil. It was he who introduced all the sin and sorrow and suffering into this world. The “heads” and “horns” are symbols of his wisdom and power. The devil is a master strategist and a deceiver.
Down through the centuries, the dragon has hated and persecuted the nation Israel, because the nation was chosen of God to be the people out of whom the Messiah should come. Later verses in Revelation 12 tell more about the conflict throughout the ages. It was the devil who moved Cain to slay Abel (in the days of Adam and Eve). It was the devil who stirred Pharaoh to slay the Hebrew male children (in the days of Moses). It was the devil who moved Saul to try and slay David (in the days of the kings of Israel). Several times the royal line leading to Christ, just barely escaped extinction. The words of Rev. 12:4 (“the dragon stood ready to devour her child as soon as it was born”)—are certainly a reference to Herod’s massacre of infants at the time of Jesus’ birth.
The closing verses of Revelation 12 tell about the ultimate downfall of Satan, and the triumph of the saints. Read Rev. 12:10. Rev. 12:13 explains that after Satan is cast out of heaven, he will severely persecute the woman that brought forth the male child. Satan will vent his wrath against Israel, and he will work feverishly (Rev. 12:12) because he knows that his time is short.
The hearts of the Jewish people will be filled with fear so that many will flee into the wilderness for protection from his wrath. Rev. 12:14 indicates that there will be some kind of supernatural care for Israel. The place of refuge may very well be an uninhabited region in the land of Moab, southeast of Jerusalem—a place carved out of red sandstone rocks (known as Petra). Some of the later translations use the name “Petra” in Revelation 12:14.
The New Testament calls Satan “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). He is a god all right, but he is a false god! And in the final years of human history he will make one last attempt to destroy God’s chosen nation (the Jews). But God has pledged to safely preserve a remnant of his chosen people, even through the horrors of the Tribulation.
2. The False Christ
We have just seen how Satan will be cast out of heaven, and in his rage, he persecutes the people of God. Revelation 13 tells how Satan will do his evil work by delegating power to a political leader, and also to a religious leader—each an agent of Satan here on earth during the Tribulation.
The first part of Revelation 13 tells about the rise of a great world political leader, a leader who sometimes is called the Antichrist, sometimes the Man of Sin, and sometimes The Beast out of the Sea. The nations of the world will be restless and troubled (like the waves of the ocean), and out from the milling masses of people, this great personality will emerge. The Antichrist will be a king; he will be a shrewd and clever leader of men; his behavior will be frightful. He will have the characteristics of a leopard and a bear and a lion all combined into one personality—and he will receive his power from the devil himself (Rev. 13:1-2; 13:6-7).
The Antichrist will be a man of great ability who will promise a solution to the world’s problems. To the Jews, he will pose as a Messiah; the whole world will go after him; men will worship him as a god; people of the earth will believe that in this leader their troubles are past! The Antichrist will arise at a time when the world is in chaos and will bring peace and a measure of prosperity to the earth. He will have the oratorical ability of a Kennedy, the intelligence of an Einstein, the moral stature of a Ghandi, and the administrative ability of a Kissinger. Some say that “The Beast out of the Sea” is merely a symbol for the state (the government), but Rev. 19:20 describes him as an individual (a person) cast into the burning pit. The “beast . . . and the false prophet . . . these both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”
Rev. 13:6-7 says that the Antichrist will have dominion over “all kindreds and tongues and nations.” Repeatedly, textbooks and magazines and news commentators are stating that the only hope for humanity in this hour is the formation of a world government. We are told that civilization is doomed unless all nations unite under one federal head. The complex economic problems, the interdependence of nations for supplies of fuel, the rapid increase of international trade and travel—all these factors are contributing to the constant cry for world government. The world is ready and anxious, and looking for this great political leader.
Daniel (in chapter 7) saw four great world empires. The first was Babylon; the second was the Medo-Persian Empire; the third was Greece; and the fourth was Rome. And out from the midst of the reconstructed fourth Empire, the Man of Sin (the Antichrist) would arise (Daniel 7:23-25). Daniel says that the only god that the Man of Sin will know, is the god of military might (Dan. 11:38), and that eventually he will have dominion over all the earth (Dan. 11:41-43). He will conquer nations and topple kings; he will create an international league of nations; the flag of the Antichrist will someday fly over the capitals of nearly every nation on earth (Rev. 13:7b).
The Antichrist will be the world’s last great dictator. A number of men in the past (including Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Adolph Hitler), have aspired to this kind of world supremacy. Someday a world dictator is going to appear. The rise of the Antichrist on the earth (during the closing days of this age) will be one of the most spectacular things ever to happen in human history! There are many passages in the Bible that describe the Antichrist and his work. We have not referred to half of them, but I am convinced that there are hardly enough words in the English language to describe all his wickedness. Rev. 13:9 says, “If any man have an ear, let him hear.” God wants us to hear about things that are going to take place in the future.
3. The False Spirit
The third figure that comprises the satanic trinity is called (in Rev. 19:20), The False Prophet. Revelation 13 describes him as “the beast out of the earth” (or “the land”). The False Prophet originates out of the land, the ancient land of Palestine. The False Prophet will be the leader of the ultimate, final religious system here in this world.
The Apostle John describes the False Prophet (Rev. 13:11) by saying that he looks like a lamb, but actually he will be a mouthpiece for the devil. His purpose will primarily be to turn the worship and the devotion of the people toward the Antichrist. He will set up an image of this great world political leader, in the Holy Place of the Temple at Jerusalem, and the image will become the center of worship during the Great Tribulation.
Rev. 13:13-15 says that the False Prophet will cause fire to come down from heaven, and he will cause the image to speak. We don’t know what all this means, but we know that the world is looking for this kind of thing. Sometime ago, the report was circulated that in one of the European cities, an image of the Virgin Mary seemed to move. Her eyes, according to the report, blinked and her face turned—and people by the thousands flocked to the area to wonder after the image.
During the Great Tribulation, the world religious leader is going to launch a campaign focusing attention on the Antichrist. He will even give life to the huge image. Perhaps it will be some supernatural miracle performed by Satan, or, it may be performed through some mere electronic device. At any rate, Rev. 13:15 clearly states that all who fail to fall down and worship the image of the Antichrist, will be killed.
In order to be identified, every person will be marked with a number. The number 666 is likely the most famous number in all the Bible, and one who bears that number, indicates that he worships the beast and that he submits to his authority. No man will be able to buy nor sell (neither will anyone be able to beg nor borrow), unless he shows the mark of the beast. No wonder Jesus urges us to watch and pray that we might be accounted worthy to escape all these things which shall come to pass on the earth (Luke 21:36).
The transaction of business during World War 2 (when food and gasoline were rationed), and the fuel crisis (during the early 1970’s)—give us just a little concept of what it will be like in the days of the Antichrist. Shoppers at the supermarket will need to show the mark at the check-out counter. If there is no mark, there will be no food. Utility Companies will have to shut off services to those without the mark. If there is no mark, there will be no heat nor light. Read Revelation 13:16-18.
Those days will be sad beyond words. And persons who hold out against this wicked system will be starved and tortured and even slain with the sword. Many preachers today take a historicist view toward the Revelation. That is, they say all these things have been fulfilled in the past history—in the days of the Roman Empire (in the days of Nero). But in Revelation 19, John links the activities of the Antichrist and the False Prophet with the Battle of Armageddon and with the Second Coming of Christ! These events are still future.
The Bible very clearly predicts that as the world moves through the endtime judgments, men and women here on the earth will be controlled by three persons. Revelation 12 tells about the activity of Satan during the last days. Revelation 13 tells about a great political leader (the Antichrist), and a great religious leader (the False Prophet). These three persons form an unholy trinity. Satan stands in contrast to God. The Man of Sin stands in contrast to Jesus Christ. The False Prophet stands in contrast to the Holy Spirit. During the Tribulation Period, the world will be governed and controlled by this unholy trinity of beings.
The latter half of Revelation 14 assures the reader of the ultimate triumph of Jesus Christ, and of the final judgment of the wicked. In verse 8, an angel announces the fall of Babylon. In verses 9-11, another angel tells about the eternal torment of those who worship the Antichrist. In verse 13, still another voice tells about the blessedness of those who die in Christ. Verse 10 describes the doom of those who deny the Lord. “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God.” Verse 13 describes the eternal rest for those who are faithful to Him. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.” Verse 11 makes it clear that there is no second chance after death. Those who worship the beast will suffer for ever and ever.
And then finally in Rev. 14:15, another angel will announce that the harvest is ripe, and the hour of judgment has come. Read Revelation 14:15-16; 14:19-20. It is altogether possible that there are people living today who will hear the angel make the announcement described in these verses. You can angrily cast off all thoughts about such coming doom, and you can declare that a God of love would never pour out such judgments upon mankind—but the Bible repeatedly says that severe judgments are coming. Just as grapes are crushed in the winepress, so the enemies of God (at Armageddon) will be crushed under the wrath of God. And when the winepress of humanity is trodden down, Revelation 14:20 says the blood will become a river throughout an entire valley.
There are days of agony ahead for this old world, and when the day of God’s final wrath comes, there will be no more time to get right with the Lord. Earthly activities will quickly grind to a halt. Won’t you come to Jesus and surrender your heart in submission to Him if you have never done it? Won’t you love Him and trust Him and let Him save you? Let Him make you His child and thus be prepared when the day of His wrath comes.