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Category: “What signs indicate that the end times are approaching?”
A common tactic of Satan is to imitate or counterfeit the things of God in order to make himself appear to be like God. What is commonly referred to as the “unholy trinity,” described vividly in Revelation 12 and 13, is no exception. The Holy Trinity consists of God the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Their counterparts in the unholy trinity are Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet. While the Holy Trinity is characterized by infinite truth, love, and goodness, the unholy trinity portrays the diametrically opposite traits of deception, hatred, and unadulterated evil.
Revelation 12 and 13 contain prophetic passages that describe some of the main events and the figures involved during the second half of the seven-year Tribulation period. Although many Bible passages allude to Satan in various forms, such as a serpent or an angel of light, he is described in Revelation 12:3 as a “great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads” (Revelation 12:3). The color red indicates his vicious and homicidal personality. The seven heads symbolize seven evil kingdoms that Satan has empowered and used throughout history to attempt to prevent God’s ultimate plan from coming to fruition. Five of the kingdoms had already come and gone—Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece.
All these kingdoms severely oppressed and persecuted the Hebrews, killing many of them. Satan’s intent was to prevent the birth of Christ (Revelation 12:4). The sixth kingdom, Rome, was still in existence during the writing of this prophecy. Under Roman rule, King Herod murdered Hebrew babies around the time of Christ’s birth and Pontius Pilate ultimately authorized the crucifixion of Jesus. The seventh kingdom, which is more fierce and cruel than the others, will be the final world kingdom that the Antichrist forms during the end times. These kingdoms were also prophesied in Daniel, chapters 2 and 7. The seven crowns represent universal rule, and ten horns represent complete world power or authority.
Revelation 12 indicates many important facts about Satan. Satan and one-third of the angels were cast out of heaven during a rebellion before the world began (Revelation 12:4). The Archangel Michael and the other angels will make war with Satan and his demons, and Satan will be excluded from heaven forever (Revelation 12:7-9). In his attempt to prevent God’s fulfillment of His earthly kingdom, Satan will attempt to annihilate the Jews, but God will supernaturally protect a remnant of the Jews in a location outside of Israel for the last 42 months of the Tribulation (Revelation12: 6,13-17; Matthew 24:15-21).
The second member of the unholy trinity is the Beast or Antichrist described in Revelation 13 and Daniel 7. The beast comes out of the sea, which typically in the Bible refers to the Gentile nations. He also has seven heads and ten horns, indicating his connection to and indwelling by Satan. The ten horns indicate ten seats of world government that will provide power to the Antichrist, three of which will be totally yielded to or taken over by the Antichrist (Daniel 7:8). The number ten also indicates completion or totality, in other words, a one-world government. The one-world government will be blasphemous, denying the true God. The final kingdom will possess traits in common with the former “beast kingdoms” of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and particularly Rome (Revelation13: 2; Daniel 7:7, 23). Revelation 13:3 seems to indicate that the Antichrist will be mortally wounded about halfway through the Tribulation, but Satan will miraculously heal his wound. (Revelation 13:3, 17:8-14). After this wondrous event, the world will be totally enthralled by the Antichrist. They will worship Satan and the Antichrist himself (Revelation 13:4-5). The Antichrist becomes emboldened and, dispensing with all pretenses of being a peaceful ruler, he openly blasphemes God, breaks his peace treaty with the Jews, attacks believers and the Jews, and desecrates the rebuilt Jewish temple, setting himself up as the one to be worshipped (Revelation 13:4-7, Matthew 24:15.) This particular event has been called the Abomination of Desolation.
The final personage of the unholy trinity is the False Prophet, described in Revelation 13:11-18. This second beast comes out of the earth, not the sea, possibly indicating that he will be an apostate Jew coming from Israel. Although he presents himself as a meek, mild and benevolent person, the horns indicate that he will have power. Jesus expressly warned believers to watch out for false prophets that may look innocent but actually can be very destructive (Matthew 7:15). The False Prophet speaks like a dragon, meaning that he will speak persuasively and deceptively to turn humans away from God and promote the worship of the Antichrist and Satan (Revelation 13:11-12). The False Prophet is capable of producing great signs and wonders, including coming forth fire from heaven (Revelation 13:13). He sets up an image of the Antichrist for worship, gives life to the image, demands the worship of the image from all people, and executes those who refuse to worship the image (Revelation 13:14-15). Revelation 20:4 indicates that the executions will occur by the guillotine.
The False Prophet will also compel each person to receive a permanent mark, tattoo, or brand, just as slaves did in John’s day, to show total devotion to the Antichrist and renunciation of God. Only those who receive the mark will be permitted to engage in commerce. Acceptance of the mark means eternal death (Revelation 14:10). The Bible makes clear that humans will fully understand that by accepting the mark, they are not only accepting an economic system but also a worship system that rejects Jesus Christ. Revelation 13:18 reveals the number of the Beast—666. No one knows precisely what this means. Some believe that the Antichrist’s first, middle, and last names will have six letters each. Some believe that the designation refers to a computer chip, since some computer programs start with 666.
Satan is the anti-God, the Beast is the anti-Christ, and the False Prophet is the anti-spirit. This unholy trinity will persecute believers and deceive many others, resulting in their eternal death. But God’s kingdom will prevail. Daniel 7:21-22 states, “I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.”
Some interpreters point to every earthquake, every political upheaval, and every attack on Israel as a sure sign that the end times are rapidly approaching. While the events may signal the approach of the last days, they are not necessarily indicators that the end times have arrived. The apostle Paul warned that the last days would bring a marked increase in false teaching. “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). The last days are described as “perilous times” because of the increasingly evil character of man and people who actively “resist the truth” (2 Timothy 3:1-9; see also 2 Thessalonians 2:3).
Other possible signs would include a rebuilding of a Jewish temple in Jerusalem, increased hostility towards Israel, and advances toward a one-world government. The most prominent sign of the end times, however, is the nation of Israel. In 1948, Israel was recognized as a sovereign state, essentially for the first time since A.D. 70. God promised Abraham that his posterity would have Canaan as “an everlasting possession” (Genesis 17:8), and Ezekiel prophesied a physical and spiritual resuscitation of Israel (Ezekiel chapter 37). Having Israel as a nation in its own land is important in light of end times prophecy because of Israel’s prominence in eschatology (Daniel 10:14; 11:41; Revelation 11:8).
With these signs in mind, we can be wise and discerning in regard to the expectation of the end times. We should not, however, interpret any of these singular events as a clear indication of the soon arrival of the end times. God has given us enough information that we can be prepared, and that is what we are called to be.