What will happen to churches and religion during the tribulation?
Let’s come back to Revelation again. In Chapter 6, we don’t have any of the descriptions that are equal to Revelation 19, so this has to be the counterfeit. The counterfeit christ is the Anti-christ. As we come into this seven-year period of Tribulation, 3 1/2 years and 3 1/2 years, we are going to find ourselves confronted with an unholy trinity all through the Book of Revelation. Satan is the counterfeit of the Father. The counterfeit of the Son will be the Anti-christ. And the counterfeit of the Holy Spirit and His works will be what we refer to in the Book of Revelation as the false prophet. I think Revelation Chapter 19 is the only place where he is named. This is at the end of the Tribulation, and all the horrible judgments have all ready happened. And it’s time for the King and the Kingdom to come on the scene.
“And the beast (Anti-christ) was taken, and with him the false prophet (here he is named. The rest of the time he’s referred to as a personality. Revelation 13 refers to him as the lamb with two horns) that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”
They go into the lake of fire without benefit of the Great White Throne Judgment. They are the very first ones to inhabit the eternal doom of the wicked, the lake of fire. All the other lost are going to stand before the Great White Throne and at least have their moment of time, and I guess they can put up an argument if they feel like it. Because Jesus said in that day, and He was referring to the Great White Throne, they will say unto Me: “But Lord, didn’t we cast out demons in your name?” And what’s His answer going to be? “Depart from me I never knew you.” So there will be a time of rebuttal or whatever you want to call it. But not for the false prophet and Anti-christ. These two humans who are part of this unholy trinity will go to their doom.
Satan is going to go there as well, but he will join them sometime later. As we come through the Book of Revelation, be aware that Satan and the Anti-christ and the false prophet are working in unison, much like the Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit today in the Age of Grace points people to God, the Son. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, to point lost people to the Son. For we believers, it’s the Holy Spirit’s work to teach and encourage and reprove us, so that we might in turn bring honor and glory to the Son. Now the false prophet is going to do the same thing during the Tribulation. He is going to cause people to worship the Anti-christ. Consequently, he fulfills a counterfeit role of the Holy Spirit. Both of these will be under the power of Satan.
ANTI-CHRIST – “FALSE PROPHET”
Now let’s come back to where we left off in Revelation 17. In verse 3 remember we are talking about this great religious system that is going to come on the world. We are already seeing all the seeds of it. Which particular religious system ends up heading it up I don’t know. There is a lot of speculation. There are a lot of world-wide huge religious organizations on the scene tonight who have tremendous wealth, and political power. They have for the most part been persecutors of true believers. It has always been that way, even back in the Old Testament the pagan idolatrous world was always making life miserable for the true people of God. Even on this side of the Cross, I have always said that most, if not all, of the world’s conflicts (and you look around the planet tonight and it stills bears it out), most of the conflicts have been precipitated by religionists trying to force somebody either out of their area or under their thumb. You just think about that. For example, that whole situation in Yugoslavia is exactly that.
So as this great religious system comes on the scene, it will of course be satanic. Just because it’s a religion doesn’t mean it’s Godly. It will be a satanically inspired organization under the guise of religion, which will be headed up by this one-world religious leader, the false prophet, who could very easily be an apostate Jew. I was reading a few weeks ago about this famous Jew who was a Moslem. So it’s not unusual for Jews to embrace something other than Judaism. But we do know that it’s going to have tremendous power over the everyday individual. We will also see in a moment that it is supported by the government of the Anti-christ. Now that isn’t new. Even today, you go into certain nations in Europe and the government actually subsidizes and supports some of the large denominations. One of the reasons our forefathers left Europe was the separation of church and state. That was going on over there in their generation. That didn’t mean that they didn’t want God in government. That is where it has been twisted all around. They didn’t want God out of government, but they didn’t want government to run their church. And that is as it should be. But in verse 4 let’s look at the language:
“And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand (that speaks of wealth. And again look at some of the large religions of the world. Their subjects are as poor as church mice, but the wealth is in the hands of the hierarchy. And this will be the same thing. Remember all the religions of the world will come under this one. It will be satanic, demonic because you see in her hand is this golden cup) full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:” Not so much the physical immorality, but the spiritual. Verse 5. We will come to the point where she is carried by the government in verse 7.
“And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY (from which we get the word `secret’), BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”
When we were studying back in Genesis, where several years after the flood, the Tower of Babel was built which started all pagan idolatrous religions. Any cult today, if they are a true cult, even though they may use a certain amount of scriptures, takes parts of their doctrine that will put their roots right back in the Tower of Babel. And so all the religions of the world have their roots at Babel. That’s where it all began. And that is what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote in II Thessalonians.
II Thessalonians 1:7
“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work:…”
It’s been working since God scattered them from the Tower of Babel. And it has been a constant adversary of the true worship of Jehovah God. What was Israel’s problem all through their early history? Going into idolatry. And on this side of the Cross you have the Apostle Paul going out into the Gentile world. What was he confronted with? Turn to the Book of Acts, and this is just one example. As Paul is now taking the Gospel of the Grace of God to the Gentile world, and as he and Barnabas have come into Ephesus, multitudes of those pagans are being converted. As they were being converted to Paul’s Gospel, what were they doing with their idols? They were throwing them away. Now that in turn caused the ire of the men who made the idols, the silversmiths. Look what happens when Christianity begins to make inroads into idolatrous worship of these pagan religions. It’s no different today.
“And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.” What way? Paul’s way. The Gospel of Grace.
“For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana (a female goddess), brought no small gain unto the craftsmen (the silversmiths); Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, `Sirs, ye know that by this craft (making silver shrines of Diana) we have our wealth.'”
And after all, what is the engine of economy? Greed. It’s that constantly wanting more and more. And that’s what fuels it. I’m certainly not in favor of sitting back and saying, “I’m not going to do anything.” But on the other hand there has to be a tempering. So greed is what prompted the silversmiths to rise up against Paul’s ministry and against Christianity.
“Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus , but almost throughout all Asia (that is Asia Minor, that would be Turkey), this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands; So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.”
Now that is what idolatry does. Idolatry just feeds on the baser instincts of humanity. Come back to Revelation Chapter 17. Here we have this great religious system. Verse 5 again takes us all the way back to ancient Babylon, the Tower of Babel. And it’s been the adversary of the truth of God ever since. But it’s going to crescendo during this last seven years. It will suddenly come to a peak.
Even though idolatry is basically dealing in the realm of the dark side of the spiritual, yet idolatry is dealing with man’s desire to worship something. But when you get into a study of pagan worship, especially at the time of the Apostle Paul, remember that part and parcel of their worship was gross immorality. Because most of their places of worship, like the one mentioned in Acts 19, where nothing more than glorified houses of prostitution. All in the name of their religion. And those pagan priests would conscript young ladies from across the countryside and force them into prostitution. This is what God is finally referring to. Now verse 6.
“And I saw the woman (the religious system) drunken with the blood of the saints (who has been the persecutor of true believers? Religion of one sort are another), and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.” I suppose that John marveled at wealth, and pomp and circumstance and power.
“And the angel said unto me, `Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.'” The Anti-christ.
What does that tell you? If you’ve got a beast of burden carrying something, then it’s supporting it. What you really have here is this revived Roman Empire; this great political world-wide system headed up by the man Anti-christ is going to subsidize, and support this world church. Do you see that? And the church is riding upon it.
“The beast that thou sawest was (and again I’m holding to the fact that this is the Roman Empire. It was, then it faded off the scene), and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world (so we have the unbelieving element of the world who are going to be part and parcel of this great religious system), when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” In other words, when the ancient Roman political, economical system as well as the pagan religious system are all going to culminate.
“And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains (Kingdoms or nations), on which the woman sitteth.” In other words she has rule. Now verse 10. Again I’ll come back to the Nations of Western Europe who will be the core of all of this.
“And there are seven kings (remember we started with ten): five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come (in other words there is one to come on the scene); and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.” Not for a very long period of time. Now in verse 11 we come to the rise of the Anti-christ.
“And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.”
In other words, the Lord is going to destroy it at His coming. Here you start out with ten nations. Three of them will lose their identity rather shortly. But each of their kings or prime ministers will stay in the picture. But the sovereignty of their nation will be lost. So the ten will be down to seven. Out of the seven will come the Anti-christ who will take over complete control and the others will fade off the scene. And he then is the eighth. Verse 12:
“And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings (do you see how plain that is? There’s no gimmick here), which have received no kingdom as yet (they don’t have the power and political clout that the Anti-christ will have); but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.” Or Anti-christ and his empire. Here is what they will do:
“These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.”
The Anti-christ. Now that is what he has been working for. He came in with peace and prosperity and flatteries, not with civil war. He’s going to manipulate. He’s going to be very smooth. And all of a sudden he’s going to have the pre-eminence. Now leaping to the end of the seven years in verse 14:
“These (all these nations under the headship of the Anti-christ and the false prophet) shall make war with the Lamb (Christ), and the Lamb shall overcome them (at Christ’s Second Coming): for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” You and I are the ones that will be coming with him.
“And he saith unto me, `The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth (in other words, where this great religious system is operating), are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues,…'” It’s a world wide religious system. Verse 16:
“And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these (now all of a sudden you have a change in language so watch it. Remember in verse 7 this religious system is riding on the back of the beast but now) shall hate the whore (or religious system), and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.”
That again is symbolic language. What is the Anti-christ going to do with the religious system? He’s going to destroy it. Why? We must come back to II Thessalonians as we must compare Scripture with Scripture. We can also go all the way back to the Book of Daniel.
II Thessalonians 2:4
“Who (the Anti-christ) opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.”
He’s going to set himself up as God and won’t let the world religion have anything to do with him anymore. He’s going to take absolute control himself. And since he is going to sit in the temple of God, we know that Israel will rebuild her temple and it will be in Jerusalem. In Daniel Chapter 9 we find out what this fellow will do at the mid-point of the Tribulation. We find he’s going to move into the temple in Jerusalem. He then will defile it. Verse 27, where the prince that shall come in verse 26 shall:
“And he shall confirm the covenant with many (the Jews) for one week; (seven years) and in the midst of the week (at the end of 3 1/2 years) he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease,…”