Prof Johan Malan, Mossel Bay
It is evident that the history of humanity has progressed full-circle and now ends where it all began. We are once again faced with a well planned and satanically driven rebellion against God and His kingdom in a bid to usurp all power on earth. It was always Satan’s objective to corrupt humanity spiritually and morally by offering them an alternative kingdom in which they can give free reign to their sinful lusts. Throughout the ages he made various attempts to destroy God’s kingdom on earth in order to establish his own kingdom in its place without any further resistance. In the Garden of Eden he tried, and also succeeded, in tempting our first parents into becoming disobedient to God. However, the Lord intervened by enabling fallen people to restore their broken relationship with Him and to again walk with Him.
But with the passage of time most people preferred Satan’s sinful lifestyle above the righteousness of God and ultimately all of them – with the exception only of Noah and his family – lapsed into utter apostasy and lawlessness. According to Genesis 6, all the intents of their hearts’ thoughts were only evil continually, and they also filled the earth with violence. However, God intervened and through the Flood He destroyed all the wicked people on earth. Through Noah and his family a new beginning was made to populate the earth.
Subsequently, wickedness proliferated to such an extent that Satan introduced a new plan to subject all people to the authority of an evil world government. The Tower of Babel was built as a symbol of political, religious and cultural globalism, while all people talked the same language. But the Lord again intervened and thwarted the devil’s plan of global governance. God caused a confusion of tongues among the builders of the tower, which resulted in the dispersion of the participating groups from Babylon.
Under the new circumstances, the devil had to move from group to group and nation to nation to deceive them into accepting and practising false religions. Just when he was on the verge of spiritually blinding all nations on earth by subjecting them to false religious control, God again intervened. Through the calling of Abraham and his descendants He established a new people who were destined to be the special representatives of His kingdom in an evil world. But that did not deter Satan in his efforts of promoting the works of darkness, and he intensified his activities among the pagan nations. Highly abominable sins were embraced by entire communities and nations, e.g. homosexuality in Sodom and Gomorrah. The Lord again intervened and destroyed many of the wicked communities.
Israel’s history as God’s people was also fraught with problems, and the devil eventually gained a large degree of control over them. They became slaves of the pagan Egyptians and also adopted their religion, but the Lord intervened to liberate Israel from their bondage and enabled them to serve Him without foreign oppression in their own land. But they were already spiritually deceived to such an extent that they rejected Moses, thereby also rejecting God, and made a golden calf to worship as their god. The Lord was on the point of destroying His chosen people but Moses interceded for them and the Lord gave them another chance.
During subsequent years there was again great apostasy in Israel, to the extent that Elijah thought he was the only God-fearing person left in the nation. But the Lord informed him that there were another seven thousand Israelites who did not bow the knee to Baal. They were the faithful remnant. But apostasy continued among the great majority of Israelites and, among others, led to the Assyrian and Babylonian exile of the nation.
At the coming of Christ most of the Jews rejected Him and He only had a small group of faithful disciples. The unbelief of the nation’s leaders, as well as the great majority of their followers, gave rise to the destruction of Jerusalem and the international dispersion of the Jews during the first century. But that does not mean that the representatives of God’s kingdom then vanished from the earth. Since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the founding of the church of Christ on earth, all true believers were His disciples and witnesses in an evil world. Jesus said to His disciples: “You are the light of the world” (John 5:14).
Since the beginning of the church dispensation the devil and his demons devoted all their attention to deceiving the church of Christ in an effort to destroy all opposition against their own kingdom. As the centuries came and went during the New Testament dispensation, he gradually succeeded in his efforts. The biggest Christian church was completely corrupted and in the course of time became a dominant force in Europe. They persecuted and killed true Christians who refused to join them. So-called “holy wars” were waged against evangelical believers since they were regarded as heretics. Many of them fled to the mountains and took refuge in caves, e.g. the Waldenses in Italy and Southern France. For a thousand years between the 6th and 16th centuries, the false church played a major role to suppress the truth of the gospel, and was mainly responsible for this period which is described as the “Dark Ages” or “Satan’s Millennium”.
Even long after the Protestant Reformation, the persecution of evangelical Christians still persisted in Europe. One of its consequences was that many of the French Huguenots fled to the Netherlands from where they were sent as settlers to the Cape, a former Dutch colony on the southern tip of Africa. From dark Europe they were relocated to dark Africa, where the battle between spiritual light and darkness took on a different dimension. The kingdoms of God and Satan were still engaged in a fierce battle, with most people being on the wrong side of this war.
The devil wasted no time in devising plans to deceive Protestant churches into becoming unfaithful to the kingdom of God. By now, this deception has already assumed frightening proportions, and in South Africa, like elsewhere in the world, there are many theologians and preachers who do not believe in the virgin birth, deity and bodily resurrection of Christ – neither do they attach any significance to His crucifixion. Intense spiritual darkness is again descending upon the whole world.
Now, at the end of the ages, Satan is launching his greatest ever attack on the kingdom of heaven. It will be a repetition of his previous efforts but much more severe. The spiritual and moral falling away will be reminiscent of the times of Noah and Lot. People will be extremely evil, they will fill the earth with violence, homosexuality will be the order of the day and even churches will condone and accept these perversions as normal human behaviour.
The end-time will also be like the days when they built the Tower of Babel. The nations of the world will come together to establish a global government, a global religion, and also a global economy. No wonder that Revelation 17 and 18 describe an end-time Babylonian conspiracy which will greatly impact upon world affairs. Revelation 17 refers to Mystery Babylon and describes it as “the mother of prostitutes”, i.e. an ecumenical mother organisation for all the false religions. There are various multireligious organisations in the world, e.g. the UN’s United Religions Initiative, that endeavour to unite the world under a global religious banner. If they succeed with their objective they will have played a major role in surrendering the world to the spiritual domination of Satan’s kingdom.
Revelation 18 refers to a Babylonian trade centre which will rise to great prominence in the end-time. It is conspicuous that in the area of the ancient Babylonian Empire there are various modern Arab states that use their vast oil riches to transform their countries and cities into global trade centres. Among them are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar, soon to be joined by a restored Iraq. The city of Dubai with its impressive buildings and infrastructure is clearly set to become the Middle Eastern and Global trade centre of the future.
Satan is on the verge of physically revealing his kingdom on earth under the leadership of his specially empowered king, the Antichrist, and his co-ruler, the false prophet. But as in the time of Noah and Lot, the Lord is ready to pour out His end-time judgements upon this evil kingdom and its subjects. As was the case during ancient times, the Lord’s judgements are definitely not meant for true believers, and for that reason believers will first be removed to a place of safety before the time of divine wrath on earth will begin.
This is where the snatching away, or rapture, of the true believers comes in. They are the withholders that must be taken out of the way before the lawless one, the Antichrist, can be revealed (2 Thess. 2:6-8). The rapture is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, and that will be the fulfilment of a promise made by the Lord Jesus: “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36; cf. John 14:2-3). The Lord clearly expects us to be ready and worthy to escape the coming judgements. “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And if those days had not been shortened, no flesh would be saved” (Matt. 24:21-22). We are now on the threshold of the great escape from the disaster area of divine judgements.
The empire of the Antichrist
The moment after the Christians have left, the devil will no longer encounter resistance and will then fully reveal his kingdom under the leadership of the Antichrist. The false messiah will appear on the scene as a prince of peace who will deceptively claim to have averted a third world war. Because of his alleged achievements, world peace will be promoted and the faltering world economy will temporarily be restored. This sudden turn of events will earn him the title of messiah and he will be openly worshipped, recognised and followed by all people. The evangelical Christians who would have rejected him will be gone by then.
The global government of the Antichrist will be founded upon three power bases as it will be aimed at the political, religious as well as economic control of all people. His leadership position and governance are described in Revelation 13:
Political power. John says: “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 he was given authority over every tribe, tongue, and nation” (Rev. 13:1-2, 7). The beast is a metaphorical image of the Antichrist, and its appearance reveals certain aspects of his evil character.
The symbolism which is used in Revelation ties up with the description in Daniel 7 of our world empires which succeeded one another since the Babylonian exile of Israel. They are the Babylonian Empire that was represented by a lion, the Medo-Persian Empire as a bear, the Greek Empire as a leopard, and the Roman Empire as a vicious animal with ten horns on its head.
It is interesting that the Antichrist is depicted as a composite beast with symbols derived from all four world empires, i.e. a mouth of a lion, the feet of a bear, the body of a leopard, and a head of a ferocious animal with ten horns on its head. He will, therefore, not only revive the Roman Empire but at the same time also the Babylonian, Medo-Persian and Greek Empires. All four of them were strongly focused on the Middle East and, among others, tried to annihilate Israel.
In the end-time a powerful world empire will be established in the Middle East, which will be characteristic of all four the previous world empires. In Isaiah 10:12-14 the head of this empire is identified as “the king of Assyria”, which is an indication that he will arise from the area which, in ancient times, was known as Assyria and sometimes as Babylonia. This region later became known as the Syrian province in the Greek and Roman Empires, and included the present Syria, Iraq and Kuwait. In Daniel 11:31-45, the end-time tyrant is called “the king of the North”. Syria and Iraq are north and northeast from Israel, and will be the home-base of the Antichrist from where he will soon rise to a position of world leadership.
It is significant that Johns says: “And the dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority” (Rev. 13:2). In the physical realm the Antichrist and false prophet will form a two-man government, but from the spiritual realm Satan will be the supreme leader of this evil triumvirate – the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. Satan’s power will be dramatically revealed.
Religious power. Religious and political power will be merged and practised by one person. The religious power-base of the Antichrist will be derived from his position as the common Messiah of all religions, and also from Satan’s position as the universal God of the deluded faiths. All people on earth will be politically and spiritually united under the banner of this government, and be wrongly convinced that they have entered the Utopia of harmony and unity. John says: “And all the world marvelled and followed the beast. So they worshipped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him? ... And all who dwell on the earth will worship him” (Rev. 13:3-4, 8).
Satan will ultimately reach the goal to which he had aspired shortly before his fall from heaven, i.e. to be followed and worshipped by all. His second in charge, the Antichrist, will declare himself to be God during the middle of the tribulation period, thereby imitating the Lord Jesus who is not only Christ but also God. Paul says that this impostor “opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2:4). People who would refuse to worship him as God and to bow down before his image will be executed (Rev. 13:15).
Economic power. The Antichrist will also gain control over the world economy. He will institute a cashless monetary system which will only allow those who receive his number to buy and sell. Electronic control over people’s economic activities will be practised by means of a microchip which will be implanted under their skin. This technology will also be used to monitor the movements of people, thereby drastically restricting their privacy and personal liberties.
From recent events it is obvious that the world economy is faced with very serious and insurmountable problems. Even the economies of the richest countries are under severe pressure due to their governments’ overspending, extremely high debt levels, the downscaling of national credit ratings, forced austerity measures, increased taxes, rising unemployment, and a lack of economic growth. All efforts to resolve these problems only accelerate the movement towards recession and greater unemployment. The unavoidable consequences of this situation are political instability, uprisings, strikes, and the fall of governments.
The Antichrist will temporarily alleviate these economic problems by introducing a new monetary system, as well as centralised control over the world economy. He will abuse this system by insisting that all people take an oath of allegiance to him, which will include the obligation to worship him, before a number will be allocated to them which will allow them to perform financial transactions. Those who refuse the number will be guilty of treason and be forced to make a living as fugitives.
The satanic triumvirate will do everything in their power, including deception and coercion, to induce all people on earth to recognise their authority and also to worship the god and king of this renegade kingdom. Those who refuse to comply with their demands will be persecuted and executed. During this time many people will repent (Rev. 6:9-11; 7:1-14), but they will only prevail spiritually over the Antichrist by their persistent refusal to accept his number and to worship him (Rev. 12:11). On the physical level they will be conquered and destroyed by the powers of the Antichrist. John says: “It was granted to him [the Antichrist] to make war with the saints and to overcome them” (Rev. 13:7).
The destruction of this evil kingdom
As the end of the Antichrist’s seven-year empire approaches, plans will be put into operation by him to fight against Christ and His heavenly army when He is expected to return. The devil knows very well that the Lord Jesus will return to earth at the end of Daniel’s 70th year-week to destroy the Antichrist and his global empire, and to replace it with His own Millennial reign. Christ will return to Jerusalem (Zech. 14:4-5) which will be the capital of His reign of peace (Isa. 2:2-4; Jer. 3:17).
The biggest military mobilisation of all time will precede the confrontation between the true Christ and the false christ in Israel: “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. ... And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon” (Rev. 16:13-16).
This war will not last very long as the Antichrist and his global army will face the One who has all power in heaven and on earth:
“And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh” (Rev. 19:19-21). Directly after that, Satan will be incarcerated in a pit for one thousand years so that he should deceive the nations no more (Rev. 20:1-3).
There will definitely be a great tribulation which will be more severe than any of the wars and disasters that occurred during the entire history of humanity, and according to all indications it is very near. The question is: Are you worthy to escape all these things that are certainly coming, and to stand before the Son of Man? You should be saved and sanctified, and daily conduct your life under the full guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Verkondig die woord; hou aan tydig en ontydig; weerlê, bestraf, vermaan in alle lankmoedigheid en lering; want daar sal ‘n tyd wees wanneer hulle die gesonde leer nie sal verdra nie, maar, omdat hulle in hul gehoor gestreel wil wees, vir hulle ‘n menigte leraars sal versamel volgens hulle eie begeerlikhede, en die oor sal afkeer van die waarheid en hulle sal wend tot fabels. Maar wees jy in alles nugter; ly verdrukking; doen die werk van ‘n evangelis; vervul jou bediening.