Chapter 23 - The Tribulation
The Scriptures speak of a "Great Tribulation" that is coming on the earth. Jesus in His "Olivet Discourse" uttered on the Mt. of Olives on the Tuesday evening before His Crucifixion, said-
"Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the Elect's Sake (the elect of Israel) those days shall be shortened." Matt. 24:21, Matt. 24:22.
That this Tribulation was not the terrible sufferings that befell the Jewish people at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70, is clear, because many of the things that are to happen before and after "The Great Tribulation, " did not happen at the destruction of Jerusalem.
I. The "FACT of the Tribulation.
Our Lord's prophecy does not stand alone. It is backed up by other prophecies both in the Old and New Testament.
Turning to the Old Testament we find in Jer. 30:4-6, that it is the time of "Jacob's Trouble, " and is compared in its sufferings to the "birth-pangs" of a woman. In Eze 26:34 it is spoken of as the time when-Israel shall "Pass under the Rod; " and in Eze. 22:19-21, we read how that God is going to cast Israel into His "Melting Pot, " where they are to be refined as "gold is refined." See also Mal. 3:1-3, and Zech. 13:9. Daniel speaks of it as a "Time of Trouble" for his people, the Jews. Dan. 12:1.
From these references we see that "The Great Tribulation" is something that has to do with the Jewish people, and is a judgment through which they must pass as a "refining process" to fit them to again be God's chosen people. Indirectly the Gentiles will be affected by it, but the Church will be "caught out" before that "Great and Terrible Day of the Lord."
In the New Testament we have two descriptions of it.
The first is by Jesus in His Olivet Discourse, Matt. 24:9-11, and the second is in the Book of Revelation, chapters 6:1 to 19:21, where in the breaking of the "Seals, " the sounding of the "Trumpets" and the pouring out of the "Vials" John sees in vision the things that are to occur during the Tribulation Period.
II. The "TIME" of the Tribulation.
The Old Testament prophets speak of it as "That Day, " and the "Latter Days, " and the Prophet Joel calls it the "Day of the Lord." Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1; Joel 3:14. The Scriptures speak of "Four Days."
1. "Man's Day." That is the present Dispensation in which we are living.
2. "The Day of Christ." That is the day when the Lord Jesus will come and take His Church out of the world, and includes the time between the "Rapture" and the "Revelation." On earth it is the "Day of Antichrist"
3. "The Day of the Lord, " that is the day of "Vengeance of Our Lord, " and includes the period of the "Great Tribulation" and the Millennium that follows.
4. "The Day of God." That is the period that begins with the "Renovation of the Earth by Fire" and extends to eternity.
The time of the Tribulation then is "after" the Church has been "caught out, " and during the reign of Antichrist on the earth.
The Prophet Daniel in his Vision of the "Seventy Weeks" (Dan. 9:20-22) was told that it would be 69 weeks from the going forth of the Edict "to restore and rebuild Jerusalem unto Messiah the Prince." Those were "Prophetic Weeks, " in which each week stood for "seven years, " and they were literally fulfilled, for it was exactly 483 years of 360 days, from the going forth of that Edict, B.C. 445, until Jesus rode in triumph into Jerusalem, A. D. 30, and was hailed as the promised Son of David.
Within a week the Jews had Jesus crucified and then "God's Clock" stopped, and the remaining "one" week, the "Seventieth, " has still to be fulfilled. In the meantime, in the break between the "sixty-ninth" and "seventieth" week, the Holy Spirit is gathering out the Church, and when it is complete it will be taken away, and then "God's Clock" will begin to tick again, because He will again be dealing with. His People the Jews.
It is during this last, or "Seventieth Week" of Daniel's "Seventy Weeks, " that the Tribulation is to occur, and as the "weeks" of the already fulfilled "sixty-nine" weeks, were each "seven years" in length, so this last, or "Seventieth Week, " must be the same. The length then of the "Tribulation Period" should be "seven years, " but Jesus tells us in Matt. 24:22, that for the "ELECT'S SAKE" Those Days Shall Be Shortened. Not the "Elect" of the Church, for they are "caught out" before the Tribulation, but the "Elect" of Israel, the 144, 000 "Sealed Ones" of Rev. 7:1-3.
III. The "CHARACTER" of the Tribulation.
While the "Tribulation Period" shall last for about seven years, as to its severity it will be divided into two parts of three and a half years each. The second or last part so far exceeding in its severity the first part as to be known as "The GREAT TRIBULATION."
What was to happen during Daniel's "Seventieth Week" was not revealed to Daniel. He received a communication which he did not understand and was told to "seal the Book up until the Time of the End." Dan. 12:4, Dan. 12:8, Dan. 12:9. All Daniel knew was that the contents of the Book had reference to the "Time of Trouble" that should befall his People at the "Time of the End" (of their sorrows), not the "End of Time." What that "Sealed Book" contained is no longer a Mystery, for the Apostle John saw the "seals" of that Book broken, and was told to record what it contained. The "Seven-Sealed Book" of the Book of Revelation is the Book that Daniel was told to seal up.
If we want to know then about what is to happen during the Tribulation, all we have to do is to read and study the Book of Revelation from Rev. 6:1 to 19:2 to 19:1.
As the Dragon is cast out of the Heavenlies in chapter 12, and he is cast out in the "Middle of the Week, " it follows that chapters 6 to 11 inclusive cover the "First Half" of the Week, or 3y 2 years, and chapters 13 to 19 inclusive the "Second Half." See the Charts on "Revelation" and "Daniel's Seventieth Week."
Let us study each half of the Week by itself.
1. First Half of the Week.
The "Week" begins with the breaking of the "Seals."
First Seal. Rev. 6:11 Rev. 6:2.
A "White Horse" appears, the Rider of which is uncrowned at first, but is afterward crowned. He has a bow in his hand, and goes forth conquering. This rider is not Christ. Christ as the Lamb, is holding and breaking the "seals" of the Book. He does not appear as a White Horse Rider until chapter 19.
The "Rider" is Antichrist, and pictures him before he is crowned and becomes the Chief Ruler of the "Ten Federated Kingdoms" of the revived Roman Empire. He is the "Prince who is to come, " and who shall "confirm the Covenant" with the Jews for "one week." Dan. 9:26, Dan. 9:27. This proves that Antichrist appears at the "beginning" of the "Week" and not in the "Middle" as some claim.
Second Seal. Rev. 6:3, Rev. 6:4.
A "Red Horse" appears, the Rider of which has power to take peace from the earth. The symbolism is clear. Red, the color of the horse, is a symbol of "blood, " and the sword of "war." The time is clearly that prophesied by Christ. Matt. 24:6, Matt. 24:7. The outcome of these wars will probably be the "Ten Kingdom Federation" over which Antichrist shall become the head.
Third Seal. Rev. 6:5, Rev. 6:6.
A "Black Horse" appears, the Rider of which holds a pair of scales in his hand and a voice cries-"A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine." The meaning is clear. When all able-bodied men are drafted for war, the fields remain untitled and "famine" follows, just as Christ prophesied. Matt. 24:7. The olive and the grape do not need cultivation, so their ruthless destruction is forbidden.
Fourth Seal. Rev. 6:7, Rev. 6:8.
A "Pale Horse" appears, the Rider of which is "Death." It is noteworthy that the Riders of the first three horses are not named. They will be recognized when they appear.
Hell (Hades) follows in the wake of "Death" ready to swallow up his victims caused by war and famine.
Fifth Seal. Rev. 6:9-11.
When the Fifth Seal was broken John saw the "souls of martyrs" under the Altar. These Martyrs, whose "souls" John saw are not the Martyrs of "past ages; " they were taken up with the Church, but the Martyrs who will be killed for the "Word of their Testimony, and who love not their lives unto the death" (Rev. 12:11), during the Tribulation. After the Church is caught out the preaching of the "Gospel of the Kingdom" will be resumed. Matt. 24:14. As it is a proclamation that Christ is about to set up an "Earthly Kingdom, " it will be exceedingly distasteful to Antichrist and his followers, and a "Great Persecution" will follow. Matt. 24:9-11. It is the "souls" of the martyrs of this Persecution that John saw under the Altar. They asked that their death should be avenged, but were told to rest for a "little season" until they were joined by their fellow servants and brethren who should die as they did. The promise is fulfilled in Rev. 20:4.
Sixth Seal. Rev. 6:12-14.
When the Sixth Seal is broken great "physical changes" will occur on the earth. Joel 2:30, 31 ; Matt. 24:29; Isa. 13:9-1 Isa. 13:1. So terrible will these changes be that men will call upon the mountains and rocks to fall and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb. The 24th chapter of Matthew should be compared with Rev. 6:1-3.
Between the breaking of the "Sixth" and "Seventh" Seals there will be a pause or interval, during which 144, 000 of the Children of Israel, 12, 000 from each of the Twelve Tribes, will be "sealed." As there were 7000 in Ahab's time who would not bow the knee to Baal (1Kings 19:18), so in the Tribulation there shall be 144, 000 of Israel who will not bow the knee to Antichrist. They are "scaled" by an angel, and the "Seal" is the imprint of the "Father's Name" on their foreheads. Rev. 14:1 ; 22:4.
Then John saw a "Blood Washed Multitude." Rev. 7:9-11.
This introduces us to another class of saved of the "End Time." They are not the Church, for they come out of the "Great Tribulation." They are probably Gentiles who accept Christ as their Saviour after the Church is caught out. They are saved and shall serve God in His Heavenly Temple, and never hunger or thirst any more, but they are not part of the Church and shall not participate in any Millennial blessings on the earth.
Seventh Seal. Rev. 8:1.
At the breaking of the "Seventh Seal" there will be "silence in Heaven" for a limited period. This will be a period of preparation for the greater conflict to follow.
Following the "Silence, " Seven Angels in succession sound upon Seven Trumpets.
First Trumpet. Rev. 8:7.
When the "First Trumpet" sounds "hail" and "fire mingled with blood" will be cast upon the earth and a "third part of the trees" and "all green grass" will be "burnt up." This will be a fulfillment of Joel 2:30, Joel 2:31. This is a repetition of the "Seventh Egyptian Plague." Ex. 9:22-24. That was "literal." Why should not this be?
Second Trumpet. Rev. 8:8, 9.
When the "Second Trumpet" sounds a "burning mountain, " probably a Meteor, will fall into the sea (Mediterranean) and will destroy a "third part of the creatures of the sea" and a "third part of the ships, " probably some fleets assembled for a naval battle, and the "blood" of the destroyed will discolor a third part of the sea.
Third Trumpet. Rev. 8:10, Rev. 8:11.
When the "Third Trumpet" sounds a "great burning star, " called "Wormwood, " will fall from the heavens and poison the streams of fresh water. This will probably be another Meteor that in exploding will fill the atmosphere with "noxious gases, " that will be absorbed by the rivers and fountains of water, and poison them, so as to cause the death of all who drink of them. Wormwood is used in the manufacture of "Absinthe, " an intoxicating beverage much used in France, and poisonous. The Prophet Jeremiah refers to this time. Jer. 9:13-15.
Fourth Trumpet. Rev. 8:12.
When the "Fourth Trumpet" sounds the "third part" of the sun moon and stars will be smitten and their light diminished a "third." This is one of the "signs" spoken of by Christ. Luke 21:25, Luke 21:26.
An Angel will then fly through the midst of heaven announcing "Three Woes" that are to follow the sounding of the three Trumpets let to sound. Rev. 8:13.
Fifth Trumpet. Rev. 9:1-3
"The Plague of Locusts."
When the "Fifth Trumpet" sounds a "Star" will fall from heaven to the earth with the "key" of the "Bottomless Pit."
This is not a real star, but an Angel who will look like a Star, for "to him" was given the Key. He will not be a "Fallen Angel, " nor Satan himself as some suppose, for God would not entrust the Key of the "Bottomless Pit" to Satan, but he will be the "same Angel" that will bind Satan and cast him into the "Bottomless Pit" for 1000 years. Rev. 20:1-3. When the "Bottomless Pit" is opened a cloud, like smoke, of "locusts" will emerge and cover the earth. They will be a combination of horse, man, woman, lion and scorpion. The "sound of their wings" will be as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.
Their size is not given, but they will doubtless be much larger than ordinary locusts, but they will not be like them, for ordinary locusts feed on vegetation, but these locusts will be forbidden to hurt the grass or the trees, or any green thing, and only be permitted to afflict "men, " and only those men who have not the "seal of God" in their foreheads, and these they shall not be permitted to "kill, " but only "torment."
The meaning of this scourge of "Scorpion Locusts" seems to be that a vast army of "Demons" will be liberated from the "Bottomless Pitt " who shall enter into and take possession of the "bodies" of men, and so "torment" them that they shall desire to die and shall not be able, the demons preventing them.
These "Scorpion Locusts" have a king, which ordinary locusts have not. Pro. 30:27. This king's name in the Hebrew is "Abaddon, " but in the Greek is "Apollyon." The word means "destroyer. This king is not Satan. Satan is at liberty, while the king of the "Bottomless Pit" is confined with his subjects.
Sixth Trumpet. Rev. 9:13-2 Rev. 9:1.
"The Plague of Horsemen."
When the "Sixth Trumpet" shall sound a voice from the "Golden Altar" will command the Trumpeter to loose "four angels" which are bound in the great river Euphrates. That they are "Bad Angels" is seen from the fact that they are "bound" and that they are the leaders of an army of 200,000,000 "Infernal Cavalry."
This Cavalry will not be composed of ordinary men and horses. The horses will have the "body", of a Horse, the "head" of a Lion, a "tall" like a serpent, with the "head of a serpent" at its end. Out of their mouths will issue "fire...... smoke" and "brimstone, " and by these three the "third part of men will be killed, " and the sting of their "serpent tails" will cause great pain. The riders upon these horses will have "breastplates of fire and brimstone" to match the breath of the horses.
Supernatural armies are not unknown to the Scriptures. 2Kings 6:13-15. When Jesus returns He will be accompanied by the Armies of Heaven, and it stands to reason that Satan has his armies. Awful as this "demon" invasion will be it will not cause men to repent.
According to the Revised Version verse 15 should read: "The four angels were loosed which had been prepared for the Hour and Day and Month and Year." That is, the Four Angels now bound in the Euphrates will be loosed in the Exact Year, Month, Day and even Hour predetermined by God for the "Demon Invasion, " and not, as some think, to slay for a year, month and day, or 391 days. These two invasions of "Scorpion Locusts and "Infernal Cavalry" warn us that in the days after the Church is caught out, Satan and his "Demon Forces" will be increasingly active and do all they can to torment and destroy mankind.
Between the sounding of the "Sixth" and "Seventh Trumpets" there will be an "Interval, " just as there was between the breaking of the "Sixth" and "Seventh Seals." During this "Interval" a "Mighty Angel" will come down from Heaven having a "Little Book" (open) in his hand. This "Mighty Angel" will be Christ Himself, for the description of Him corresponds with chapter 1:12-14, and as His "voice" is like that of a Lion, this identifies Him as the "Lion of the Tribe of Judah" of chapter 5:5; and in chapter 11:3, He speaks of the "Two Witnesses" as "My Witnesses." When the "Mighty Angel" shall set His "Right Foot" on the "sea, " and His "Left Foot" on the "earth, " and lift up His hand to Heaven, and swear that there shall be "Time no longer" He shall take formal possession of the Earth. The expression, "Time no longer, " should read, as in the Revised Version (margin), "No longer delay, " for Time does not end until the close of the "Perfect Age." While Christ at this time will take formal possession of the earth, actual possession will not be secured until He comes again to the Mt. of Olives, at the close of the Tribulation.
The Two Witnesses.
In chapter 11:1-3 we are given a description of "Two Witnesses" who are to prophesy during the greater part of the last half of the Week. Who they will be is very clear. One has "power to shut heaven that it rain not in the days of their prophecy." This can be no other than Elijah who was translated that he might come again before the "Great and Terrible Day of the Lord" (Mal. 4:5, Mal. 4:6), and who will shut up the heavens for 42 months, or 3 1/2 years, which is exactly the length of time he did it in the days of Ahab. The other Witness will "have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues as often as he will." This identifies him as Moses, for he is the only person mentioned in the Scriptures who had such power, and it was for this purpose that he was raised from the dead. Jude 9. As Moses and Elijah appeared together on the Mount of Transfiguration with Christ and as they probably were the two "men" in "white apparel" (angel-like) that testified at the Ascension to Christ's coming again (Acts 1:10, Acts 1:11), what more probable than that they are the "Two Witnesses" who will return to the earth to announce that Coming? During their "witnessing" they will have power to destroy their enemies with "fire" that shall issue from their mouths, but at the end of 1260 days they will be slain and their bodies lay exposed in the streets of the city of Jerusalem for 3 1/2 days, when they shall rise and ascend to Heaven, to the amazement of those who see them go. Their ascent will be followed by a destructive earthquake, which completes the "Second Woe."
Seventh Trumpet. Rev. 11:15-17.
The "Seventh Trumpet" includes all that follows down to the end of chapter nineteen. We must not forget in our study of the Book of Revelation that the "Seventh Seal" includes the "Seven Trumpets" and the "Seven Vials, " and that the "Seventh Trumpet" includes the "Seven Vials, " for the "Seventh Seal, " and the "Seventh Trumpet, " and the "Seventh Vial" all end alike with "voices, " "thunderings, " "lightnings" and an "earthquake." Rev. 8:5, Rev. 11:19; Rev. 16:18.
2. Middle of the Week. Rev. 12:1-3.
In the "Middle of the Week" two "Wonders" shall appear in Heaven. The Revised Version calls them "signs, " that is, they are "symbols" of something. The first will be a "Sun-Clothed Woman."
This "Woman" is neither the Virgin Mary, nor the Church, she is Israel. We have only to be reminded of Joseph's Dream of the "sun" and "moon, " and the "eleven stars" (Gen. 37:9), to see that this "Sun-Clothed Woman, with the "moon" under her feet and upon her head a crown of "Twelve Stars, " is Jewish in character. Joseph was the twelfth star. Israel is again and again compared to a "married" woman in the Old Testament, but the Church is a "virgin, " and only an "espoused virgin" at that. 2Cor. 11:2. This "Woman" is described as being "with child" and "travailing to be delivered." When was the Church in such a condition? Paul says of Israel, "Of whom as concerning the flesh Christ Came." Rom. 9:4, Rom. 9:5. And Israel looked forward to the time when she could say-"Unto us a Child Is Born, unto us a Son is given." Isa. 9:6, Isa. 9:7. But before that could happen Israel had to pass through many sore afflictions and judgments. These were her "Travail Time."
As the result of her "travail" the Woman brought forth a "Man-Child" who was to rule the nations with a "Rod of Iron." There can be no question as to who is meant by the "Man-Child. The 2nd Psalm settles that. He is Christ, who at his Ascension was caught up and seated on His Father's Throne.
After her child is delivered the Woman "flees into the Wilderness" where she hath a place prepared of God, and where she is fed for 1260 days. Here is where many interpreters make a mistake. They overlook the fact that between the "fifth" and "sixth" verses of this chapter the present "Church Period" comes in. Here is the "gap" between the "Sixty-ninth" and "Seventieth" Weeks of Daniel's "Seventy Weeks." John jumps over this "gap, " from the Ascension of Christ to the casting out of Satan, because he is not dealing in these Tribulation chapters with the Church but with Israel, and wishes to continue her history without a break. Here is further evidence that the "Woman" is not the Virgin Mary, for she does not flee into Egypt, but into the Wilderness, neither does she flee "with" her child, for that was caught up to the Throne of God; neither does she flee for her child's "Protection, " but for her own.
The second "Wonder" that will appear in Heaven will be a "Great Red Dragon."
We are not left in doubt as to who is meant, for in verse 9 he is called that "Old Serpent, " "The Devil, " and "Satan." His color is "red, " the color of "blood, " for he was a murderer from the beginning. John 8:44. The "Stars of Heaven" attached to his "tail" reveal the fact that Satan will lead astray a third of the Angels, for the Angels are spoken of as "Stars" in the Old Testament. Job 38:7. They will be cast to the earth with him. The casting out of the Dragon is described in verses 7 to 12. His expulsion will start a War in Heaven.
That the Dragon has not yet been cast out of Heaven is clear. He had access to God in the days of Job, 2000 years before Christ. Job 1:1-2:8. He tried to destroy the "Man-Child" (Christ) at the hand of Herod when He was born. Matt. 2:16-18. He was at liberty to tempt Christ in the Wilderness, and to sift Peter. He is today the "Prince of the Powers of the Air, " Eph. 2:2, and the "God of this World" (age). 2Cor. 4:14. When the "Dragon" is cast out of the Heavenlies there will be great rejoicing in Heaven because the "Accuser" of Christ's "Brethren" (the Jews) is cast down, but there will be "woe" for the "inhabitants of the earth, for the "Dragon" will be filled with "great wrath" because he knows that he will have but a "short time" (3 1/2 years) to vent his wrath on the inhabitants of the earth before he is chained and cast into the Bottomless Pit.
When the "Dragon" is cast out, knowing that his defeat has been brought about by the elevation of the "Man-Child" to the place of power, he will concentrate his hatred and malice on the "Woman" (Israel) who gave Him birth. To the "Woman" will be given the "wings of a great eagle, " that she may fly into the "Wilderness, " into "her place, " where she shall be nourished for a "Time, Times, and Half a Time, " or 3 1/2 years. This takes us back to the flight of Israel from Egypt, of which God said-"Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on 'Eagle's Wings, ' and brought you unto myself." Ex. 19:4. As the "Woman" and the "Dragon" are symbols, so are the "Eagle's Wings." They speak of the rapid and safe flight of the "Woman" (Israel) into the "Wilderness, " where she shall be safely kept and nourished for 3 ½ years until the "Dragon" is bound.
The Cities of Refuge.
The "Cities of Refuge" of Old Testament times are a type of this "Wilderness Refuge" of the Children of Israel.
The "Cities of Refuge" were designated cities, 3 on each side the river Jordan, where the "Man-Slayer" could flee for safety from the "Avenger of Blood." If it was proved after trial that he had slain a man "wilfully, " he was turned over to the "Avenger of Blood, " but if he did it unwittingly, his life was spared, but he had to remain in the city until the death of the High Priest. If there were no "Man-Slayer" there would be no "Avenger of Blood, " and therefore no need for a "City of Refuge."
Now if I find in the New Testament that a certain class of people are called upon to flee to a "Place of Refuge" for the protection of their lives, then I must believe that they flee because an "Avenger of Blood" is after them, and that they flee because they are guilty of "Manslaughter."
Such a class of people I find in the Jewish Race. They were the cause of the death of Christ, and though He was crucified by the Roman authorities they assumed the guilt for they cried-"His blood be on Us, and on Our Children." Matt. 27:25. At first sight it looks like "wilful" murder, yet from the prayer of Jesus on the Cross "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do, " it is clear that Jesus death was not so much a premeditated murder as it was a murder committed in a blind religious, frenzy. Paul says "had they known they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory." 1Cor. 2:8. It is clear then that the Jewish race is only guilty of "Manslaughter." As the "Man-Slayer" of Jesus they have been for over 1800 years running for a "City of Refuge" and have not as yet reached it. The "Avenger of Blood" has been on their track and has hounded them from nation to nation, and the epithet of "The Wandering Jew" has followed them down the centuries, and the prophecy of Moses is being fulfilled that they should find no rest for the sole of their foot. Deut. 28:64-66.
If the Jews are the "Man-Slayer" who is the "Avenger of Blood? " Antichrist. If the "Avenger of Blood" must be a "Kinsman" of the man slain, that means that he must be of the same "Race, " and the nearest kinsman alive at the time vengeance is sought. While Jesus was the "first born" of the Virgin Mary, he was not the only child she had. She afterwards had by Joseph four sons, James, Joseph, Judas and Simon, and there were daughters. Two of these brothers of Jesus filled a large place in the Church in the first century. James was pastor of the church at Jerusalem, and Judas wrote the Epistle of Jude. The kinsfolk of Jesus occupied a place by themselves for a long time after Jesus passed away, and could be traced as late as A. D. 324. Somewhere in the world today, without doubt, are living some of the "Kinsfolk" of the Lord Jesus. They may not be able to trace their descent back to Jesus, but God knows where they are, and who they are, and who dare deny that when the time comes for the manifestation of the Antichrist, that the "Avenger of Blood" shall be a Jew, who is a lineal descendant of the family of Jesus.
And now as to the "City of Refuge" that God will provide for Israel when the "Avenger of Blood" (Antichrist), who shall then be indwelt by the Dragon, is on her track. In Isa. 26:20 we read-
"Come, my people (Israel), enter thou into my 'chambers, ' and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself as it were for a 'little moment, ' until the 'indignation' be overpast."'
The context shows that this refers to the time when Antichrist, the "Avenger of Blood, " will seek to destroy the Jewish people, and is the time referred to by Christ in Matt. 24:15- Matt. 24:22.
When the Lord God brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt they journeyed from the Red Sea, tarrying for a while at Mt. Sinai to receive the Law and build the Tabernacle, until they came, one year, after leaving Egypt, to Kadesh Barnea. There they sent up spies to spy out the land of Canaan, but refused to go up and take possession of the land, and were compelled to wander in the Wilderness south of the Dead Sea. There God took care of them and fed them for 40 years. Now it is in the same Wilderness that God is going to provide for them a place of "Refuge" in the day when the "Avenger of Blood" shall seek to destroy them.
Speaking of the Antichrist, the Prophet Daniel says-
"He shall enter also into the Glorious Land (Palestine) and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom and Moab and the chief of the Children of Ammon." Dan. 11:41.
Now Edom takes in the Wilderness where Israel wandered for 40 years. And it is here in Edom that the "City of Refuge" that God has provided for Israel is located, and is known today as Petra. It was a great commercial centre in the days of King Solomon. In A. D. 105 the Romans conquered the country and called the province Arabia Petra.. When the power of Rome waned Petra gradually fell into the hands of the Arabs and became completely lost to the civilized world in the seventh century, and remained so until it was rediscovered by Burckhardt in 1812.
It is located in the mountains like as in the crater of a volcano. It has but one entrance, and that is through a narrow winding defile or canyon from 12 to 40 feet wide, the sides of which are precipitous and at times so close together as to almost shut out the blue sky above and make you think you are passing through a subterranean passageway. The height of the sides varies from 200 to 1000 feet, and the length of the canyon is about two miles. No other city in the world has such a wonderful gateway. The sides of the canyon are lined with wonderful monuments and temples carved out of the rocky sandstone of the sides. Once inside the rocky enclosure of the city we find the ruins of magnificent buildings, tombs and monuments. The cliffs that surround the city are carved and honeycombed with excavations to a height of 300 feet above the floor of the valley, and the excavations cut as they are out of different colored strata of the rock, such as red, purple, blue, black, white and yellow, lend a beauty to their appearance that is indescribable and overpowering to the beholder.
When the time comes for the "Man-Slayer" (Israel), to escape from the hands of the "Avenger of Blood" (Antichrist), the rocky fastness of the ancient city of Petra will be her "City of Refuge." We read that when the "Woman" (Israel) shall flee into the Wilderness that the "Serpent" (Antichrist, indwelt by Satan) shall cast a flood of water out of his mouth after her to destroy her, but that the earth shall open her mouth and swallow the flood. That is, Antichrist will send his army after the fleeing Israelites, and it will probably be swallowed up in a "Sand storm" of the desert, and Israel shall safely reach her place of refuge, where she shall be safe, not until the death of the High Priest, but until the return of "The High Priest" (Jesus), from Heaven, who as "King-Priest" of the Armies of Heaven will deliver her and allow her to leave her place of refuge.
3. Last Half of the Week.
Filled with wrath at the escape of the "Sun-Clothed Woman, " the Dragon will turn his attention to the "remnant of her seed, " and to the better carry out his plans he will give to the "Beast" (Antichrist) his "Power" and his "Seat, " and "Great Authority." Rev. 13:2. While Antichrist, as Antichrist, exists from the "beginning" of the "Week, " for at that time he makes a "covenant for one week, " (Dan. 9:27) ; in the "Middle of the Week" he will break "the Covenant, " and for the "last half of the week" his reign will be terrible, and the change in his character, and the character of his reign, can only be accounted for on the basis that the Dragon has incarnated himself in him. It is this phase of the reign of "Antichrist" that is brought out in the 13th chapter of the Book of Revelation.
John tells us that he saw two Beasts. The first came up out of the sea. This represents "Antichrist" after his incarnation by the "Dragon." The second came up out of the earth and is called the "False Prophet."
For a full description of these Beasts read the chapters on "The Antichrist and the Satanic Trinity." Suffice it to say that for the balance of the "Week, " no man can buy or sell unless he has the "Brand of Hell, " and "Mark of the Beast, " on his Right Hand, or in his Forehead.
At this time three "Angel Messengers" will be sent forth. The first will be a preacher of the Gospel. This is the first time an angel is commissioned to preach the Gospel. But it will not be the Gospel of the "Grace of God, " (Acts 20:24), nor the Gospel of "The Kingdom, " (Matt. 24:14), but a new Gospel, called the "Everlasting Gospel." Its burden is "Judgment" not "Salvation, " and it will be "Good News" to all those passing through the "fiery trials" of those days, for it will be the announcement that the "Hour of judgment" is come for all that do wickedly.
The second "Angel Messenger" will announce the "Fall of Babylon." This is by way of anticipation, for the City of Babylon is not destroyed until after the pouring out of the "Vials."
The third "Angel Messenger" will utter an awful warning to those who are tempted to worship the Beast. Declaring that if they do, they shall drink of the wine of the "Wrath of God, " and shall be tormented with "fire" and "brimstone" Forever and Ever.
At this time preparation will be made in Heaven for the Harvest and Vintage of the earth. This is not the Harvest of the Church, that took place before the beginning of the "Week." This is the Harvest of the Gentile nations. It begins with the pouring out of the "Vials, " and ends with the Battle of Armageddon.
First Vial. Rev. 16:1, Rev. 16:2.
When the "First Vial" is poured out a "noisome and grievous sore" will fall upon the men who have the "Mark of the Beast, " and who "worship his Image." This is a repetition of the "Sixth Egyptian Plague." Ex. 9:8-10. If that was literal why should not this be'? The "literalness" of these "Vial judgments" is the key to the literalness of the whole Book of Revelation.
Second Vial. Rev. 16:3.
When the "Second Vial" is poured out, the sea (Mediterranean) will become as the "blood of a dead man, " and every "living soul" (creature, for creatures have souls) in the sea will die. Something similar, though not so great in extent, happened when the "Second Trumpet" sounded. Rev. 8:8, Rev. 8:9.
Third Vial. Rev. 16:4-6.
When the "Third Vial" is poured out the "rivers" and "fountains of water" will become "blood." This is a repetition of the "First Egyptian Plague." Ex. 7:19-21. Those will be awful times when there will be nothing to quench the thirst but "blood."
Fourth Vial. Rev. 16:8, 9.
When the "Fourth Vial" is poured out men will be "scorched with great heat." This is the only plague for which there is no Egyptian parallel, and as the others are literal so must it be. The Prophet Malachi refers to it. Mal. 4:1. The effect of this plague will be not to make men repent, but to cause them to Blaspheme the Name of God.
Fifth Vial. Rev. 16:10, Rev. 16:11.
When the "Fifth Vial" is poured out there will be "darkness" over the whole kingdom of the "Beast, " and men will gnaw their tongues for pain." This will be a repetition of the "Ninth Egyptian Plague." Ex. 10:21-23. Notice that this Plague follows the Plague of "Scorching Heat, " as if God will hide the sun whose heat was so hard to bear. The effect of the "Darkness" will be to make men "gnaw their tongues" for pain, and for their sores, showing that these "Vial Plagues, " overlap or follow each other -rapidly.
Sixth Vial. Rev. 16:12.
When the "Sixth Vial" is poured out the river Euphrates will be dried up so the kings of the East (India, China, Japan) and their armies may cross over and gather for the great Battle of Armageddon. This will be a repetition of the opening of the Red Sea and of the river Jordan. The Prophet Isaiah foretells this--
"The Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian (Red) Sea, and . . . shake His hand over the River (Euphrates), and smite its seven streams, so men can go over Dry-Shod." Isa. 11:15, Isa. 11:16.
These nations will be gathered by "Three Unclean Spirits" like frogs, that shall come out of the mouth of the "Dragon, " and the "Beast, " and the "False Prophet." Rev. 16:13-15. They will be the "Spirits of Demons." the "Seducing Spirits" of those days. 1Tim. 4:1. It was such a "Lying Spirit" that deceived King Ahab and led him to his death. 1Kings 22:20-22.
Seventh Vial. Rev. 16:17-19.
When the "Seventh Vial" is poured out a "great voice, " probably the voice of the One who cried on the Cross-"It is Finished, " will cry-"It is Done, " and there will be a "Great Earthquake" that will divide into three parts the "Great City" and the cities of the Nations (the 10 Federated Nations), London, Rome, Paris, etc., and "Great Babylon" that shall be rebuilt by that time, and whose destruction by an earthquake is foretold in chapter eighteen, will fall. This earthquake is foretold by the Prophet Zechariah. Zech. 14:4, Zech. 14:5.
In the "Great Hail, " every stone of which shall weigh a 100 pounds, that will fall on men, we have a repetition of the "Seventh Egyptian Plague." Ex. 9:13-15. Hail has been one of God's engines of war. He used it to discomfit the enemies of Israel at Beth-horon in the days of Joshua. Josh. 10:11. The Law required that the "blasphemer" should be "stoned" (Lev. 24:16), and the "Blasphemers" of the "End Time" shall be stoned from HEAVEN.
In the Book of Revelation, between the pouring out of the Vials and the "Battle of Armageddon, " which ends the "Tribulation Period, " in chapters seventeen and eighteen, there is an account of the destruction of a "System" called "Mystery, Babylon the Great, " and a city called Babylon.
They are mentioned at that place in the book, not because they did not exist until that time, but because at that time they are both destroyed. For the meaning of these two chapters, see the Chapter on Babylon the Great.
Battle of Armageddon. Rev. 19:11-13.
The "Tribulation Period" will close with the great "Battle of Armageddon." As we have seen the armies of the East and the West will be assembled in the Holy Land by the "Demon Spirits" that shall be sent forth from the mouths of the "Satanic Trinity." The field of battle will be the "Valley of Megiddo, " located in the heart of Palestine, the battlefield of the great battles of the Old Testament. The forces engaged will be the "Allied Armies" of Antichrist on the one side, and the "Heavenly Army" of Christ on the other. The "time" will be when the "Harvest of the Earth" IS RIPE, (Rev. 14:15), and at the "Psychological Moment" when the "Allied Armies" of Antichrist are about to take the city of Jerusalem.
The Prophet Zechariah says-
"Behold the 'Day of the Lord' cometh." (The "Day of the Lord" is the Millennial Day.) When-"I will Gather All Nations Against Jerusalem to Battle . . . Then shall the Lord Go Forth and Fight Against Those Nations." Zech. 14:1-3.
This "going forth" is graphically described in Rev. 19:11-13. When He came the first time to Jerusalem as King, He rode on a "colt, " the foal of an ass, (Matt. 21:1-3), this time He shall come on a "White Horse." His eyes will be as a "flame of fire" and on His head shall be "many crowns, " and He shall be clothed in a vesture "dipped in blood." Not His own blood but the blood of His enemies. The Prophet Isaiah foresaw that day-
"Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? " And the answer comes back-"I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save." Then the Prophet asks, "Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the Winefat? " And the response is-"I have trodden the wine-press alone; and of the people there was none with me; for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all My Raiment." Isa. 63:1-3.
That this does not refer to Christ's atonement on the Cross is clear, for the Prophet adds-
"For the 'Day of Vengeance' is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come."
There was no "vengeance" in Christ's heart on the Cross. It was "Father 'forgive them' for they know not what they do." The time the Prophet foretells, is the "Day of Christ's Vengeance" on His enemies, and the day when He shall redeem His chosen people the Jews from the power of Antichrist. It is the time when He shall tread - "THE WINEPRESS' Of the Fierceness and Wrath of Almighty God."
The Apostle John had a vision of this "Winepress" in chapter fourteen, verses 14 to 20. That was before the pouring out of the "Vials, " and was a prophetic foreview of what should happen in chapter nineteen.
In verses 18 to 20, an angel with a "sharp sickle" is told to-
"Thrust in thy Sharp Sickle, and gather the clusters of the 'Vine of the Earth, ' for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his Sickle into the earth, and gathered of the 'Vine of the Earth, ' and cast it into the Great Winepress of the wrath of God." And we read that "The Winepress was trodden Without the City, and blood, (not wine), came out of the Winepress, even unto the horses' bridles, by the space of a Thousand and Six Hundred Furlongs."
From this we see that the "Allied Armies" of Antichrist will cover the whole of Palestine, and so great shall be the slaughter, that, in the valleys and hollows, all over the whole of Palestine, for the length of Palestine as far south as Bozrah is 1600 furlongs or 200 miles, the blood shall be up to the horses' bridles.
It will be the time of which Isaiah speaks, when the land shall be "Soaked With Blood."
So great will be the carnage, God will prepare for it in advance.
"And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of Heaven, (Buzzards, Vultures, Eagles, etc.), Come and gather yourselves together unto theSUPPER OF THE GREAT GOD, that ye may eat the flesh of Kings . . . Captains . . . Mighty Men. and the flesh of horses and of them that sit on them, (common soldiers), and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great." Rev. 19:17, Rev. 19:18.
This "Feast" is described in 'the Old Testament.
And, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord God, Speak unto every feathered fowl, and to every beast of the field, Assemble yourselves, and come, gather yourselves on every side to My Sacrifice, that I do sacrifice for you, even a great sacrifice upon the Mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh, and drink blood. Ye shall eat the flesh of the Mighty, and drink the blood of the Princes of the Earth, of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bullocks, all of them fatlins of Bashan. And ye shall eat fat till ye be full, and drink blood till ye be drunken. . . . Thus ye shall be filled 'at My Table, ' with horses and chariots (their occupants), with Mighty Men, and with all Men of War, saith the Lord God." Ez. 39:1-3.
And in the same chapter we are told that the "House of Israel, " the occupants of Palestine in that day, shall be seven months burying the bones of the dead, the flesh having been eaten by the birds 'and beasts of prey, and the wood from the weapons of warfare, army wagons, spears, etc., shall last the inhabitants of the land for fuel seven years, so that they will not have to take wood out of the field, nor cut down any out of the forests.
The words in Rev. 19:21, "and all the fowls were filled with their flesh, " declare that those "Fowl Guests" will be GORGED WITH CARRION.
Then will be fulfilled the words of Jesus-"For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the Eagles (birds of prey) be gathered together." Matt. 24:27, . 28. The eagle feeds mainly on fresh meat. The Hebrews classed the eagle among the birds of prey, such as the vulture.
The destruction of this great army will be brought about by the "sword" of Him who will head the Armies of Heaven. The "sword" that proceedeth out of the mouth of the "White Horse Rider, " is not the "Sword of the Spirit, " for that bringeth "Salvation", not destruction. The "sword" stands for some supernatural means of destruction, and as there is to be a "Great Hail" to fall from Heaven upon the enemies of God at this time, that may be the means God will use, for it was in that way that the enemies of Israel were destroyed on the same battlefield in the "Battle of Beth-Horon" in the days of Joshua. Josh. 10:1-3.
The issue of the "Battle of Armageddon" will never be in doubt. The previous summoning of the birds and beasts of prey, prove this. Before the destruction of the army of Antichrist, he and the False Prophet will be cast "alive" into the "Lake of Fire." This shows that they are not "Systems"' but "Persons, " and as Enoch and Elijah were taken to Heaven without dying, so Antichrist and the False Prophet will be cast into the "Lake of Fire" without dying, and will be still there and alive when Satan is cast in a 1000 years later.
Before Antichrist is seized and cast into the "Lake of Fire, " Satan will make his exit from his person, and after the battle is over, Satan will be bound and cast into the "Bottomless Pit, " where he will be "Sealed up" for 1000 years. This is the culminating act of the "Tribulation Period."
NOTE-For a full description of "Daniel's Seventieth Week" or the "Tribulation Period, " see the author's book on the Book of Revelation.