- God’s People Face Persecution
- Types of Persecution
- The Antichrist and the Final Persecution
- God’s Care of Persecuted Believers
The Bible warns that faithfully following God inevitably results in persecution and difficulties. In fact in a number of countries today severe persecution of Christians is common. Additionally, the Bible speaks of a time just prior to Jesus Christ’s return when persecution will be severe worldwide. But along with such warnings, the Bible gives wonderful and powerful promises of God’s care for his people in the face of persecution.
c Greek lacks will they malign
Jesus is referring primarily to himself and his disciples (cf. John 15:20-21 ↓).
John 15:20-21 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. ▤
John 16:1-4 I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. ▤
“I have said all these things to you” (v. 1) refers to what Jesus had told his disciples towards the end of the preceding chapter regarding the world’s hatred of them (cf. 15:18-25). Jesus warned his disciples of coming persecution so as to prepare them for it (vv. 1, 4).
Acts 8:1, 3 And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. ▤ … 3But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. ▤
Acts 26:9, 11 I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. ▤ … 11And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities. ▤
Opposing the name of Jesus (v. 9) primarily involved persecuting his followers (cf. NLT), as reflected in v. 11b.
Ishmael who was born to Abraham in the ordinary way mocked Isaac (cf. Gen 21:9) who was born to Abraham by the power of the Spirit, with God having enabled barren Sarah to conceive him. Similarly the legalistic Jews who advocated following the law so as to earn righteousness, persecuted the believers whose righteousness was through the Spirit. Furthermore, this points to the general principle that those who are of the world persecute those who are reborn by the Spirit.
1Thes 3:3-4, 7 … that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. ▤ … 7for this reason, brothers,d in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. ▤
d Or brothers and sisters
1Pet 4:16-18 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”e ▤
e Greek where will the ungodly and sinner appear?
The judgment of the family of God (v. 17) refers to the persecution that believers experience (v. 16), a form of disciplinary or purifying judgment. This testing judgment endured by believers as they follow the path of salvation, appears to be what Peter has in view in referring to the righteous being “scarcely saved” (v. 18).
The “dragon” is Satan. In making war against God’s people, one of Satan’s main tactics is to persecute them.
The persecution that the psalmist suffered may well have been related to his devotion to God’s word and ways.
f Or has been coming violently
The phrase “has suffered violence” seemingly refers to persecution of believers. Accordingly, the following clause – “the violent take it by force” – may be speaking of violent people attacking the kingdom. Alternatively, the first phrase could be speaking of the kingdom “going forward in strength” (NCV™; cf. ESV text note), with the latter phrase then likely referring to fervent people pressing their way into the kingdom.
The hardships and suffering referred to in the following verses are largely ones resulting from persecution, but in some verses other things are possibly also in view – such as appears to be the case in Romans 8:35.
Acts 9:15-16 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” ▤
Likely the things listed were mentioned as things that the believers were possibly to face because of their faith.
g Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church
Phil 1:29-30 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. ▤
Heb 10:32-33 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. ▤
Note that this shows that believers should draw strength in the knowledge that they are not alone, but part of a fellowship of suffering believers.
Rev 1:9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. ▤
The term “marks of Jesus” alludes to the markings that identified slaves as belonging to a particular master. Paul is implying that likewise his scars from his sufferings identified him as belonging to Jesus (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NLT).
- Suffering as being part of God’s will for a believer:
Similarly 3:17 indicates that suffering for simply doing good can be God’s will – “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
Acts 13:7-8 He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. ▤
Acts 14:1-2 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. 2But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.h ▤
h Or brothers and sisters
Acts 19:8-9 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.i ▤
i Some manuscripts add from the fifth hour to the tenth (that is, from 11 A.M. to 4 P. M.)
Phil 1:27-28a Only let your manner of life be worthyj of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28and not frightened in anything by your opponents. ▤
j Greek Only behave as citizens worthy
The segment “striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” probably refers primarily to spreading the gospel (cf. CEV, NIrV).
Many live in opposition to the gospel, that is centered on “the cross of Christ” (cf. 1Cor 16:8-9 ↑).
1Thes 2:14-16 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!k ▤
k Or completely, or forever
This appears to indicate that the opposition of the Jews to the gospel was not only displeasing to God, but even produced hostility towards unconverted Gentiles who were potential respondents to the gospel.
Acts 4:1-3 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. ▤
Acts 6:8-13 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. 9Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, … ▤
No doubt Stephen’s ministry (v. 8) involved spreading the gospel, which is also possibly in view in v. 10; hence the opposition.
Acts 13:49-50 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. 50But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. ▤
2Tim 1:8, 11-12a Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, ▤ … 11for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12which is why I suffer as I do. ▤
Rev 1:9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. ▤
Patmos is a small island and was apparently used as a penal colony. John was imprisoned there because of his faithfulness to the gospel.
l Greek the witnesses to Jesus
The “woman” referred to here is the symbolic “Babylon the Great”. As the text note indicates, “the martyrs of Jesus” were witnesses to Jesus.
Here “all” could be hyperbole, but more likely refers to all types or classes of people (cf. “all nations”, Matt 24:9 ↓).
John 15:18-19 If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. ▤
m Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verses 14, 16
1Ki 22:8 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.” ▤
Ahab hated Micaiah because he prophesied faithfully God’s word, rather than tailor his message to what the king wanted to hear.
Isa 66:5 Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word: “Your brothers who hate you and cast you out for my name’s sake have said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy’; but it is they who shall be put to shame. ▤
Jer 11:18-19 The Lord made it [a plot] known to me and I knew; then you showed me their deeds. 19But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. I did not know it was against me they devised schemes, saying, “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more.” ▤
Jer 18:18, 23a Then they said, “Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us strike him with the tongue, and let us not pay attention to any of his words.” ▤ … 23Yet you, O Lord, know all their plotting to kill me. ▤
Note that in v. 18 Jeremiah’s opponents appear to imply that they could do without him, for they still would have their priests, wise men and supposed prophets.
Acts 20:18b-19 You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; … ▤
Acts 23:12-15 When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. 14They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. 15Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.” ▤
- Amidst their scheming, many waited for Jeremiah to slip:
Jer 20:10 For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! “Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” say all my close friends, watching for my fall. “Perhaps he will be deceived; then we can overcome him and take our revenge on him.” ▤
“Terror is on every side” could be a description (possibly a derisive one) of Jeremiah and his predicament, effectively calling him “The Man Who Lives in Terror” (NLT). The use of “friends” is either sarcasm or referring to former friends – “old friends” (NLT), “so-called friends” (CEV).
Neh 4:1-3 n Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. 2And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves?o Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” 3Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” ▤
n Ch 3:33 in Hebrew
o Or Will they commit themselves to God?
On returning from exile, the Jews faced ridicule when rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
Ps 22:6-8 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. 7All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 8“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” ▤
With their taunt the psalmist’s foes appear to ridicule him, probably calling into question the capacity of his God in whom he trusted to help him.
Ps 69:7-12 For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face. 8I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother’s sons. 9For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me. 10When I wept and humbledp my soul with fasting, it became my reproach. 11When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them. 12I am the talk of those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me. ▤
p Hebrew lacks and humbled
The use of “reproach” here is suggestive of insults (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT).
Sarcasm is evident here.
Jer 20:7b-8 I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. 8For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. ▤
Jeremiah’s warnings of coming judgment brought him derision from the unrepentant people of Jerusalem.
In a sense cursing is a form of verbal abuse – as per the theme of this subsection – particularly if unwarranted.
Acts 6:11-14 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” ▤
Acts 24:5-6, 9 For we have found this man a plague [Paul], one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. 6He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him. ▤ … 9The Jews also joined in the charge, affirming that all these things were so. ▤
q Some manuscripts add and we would have judged him according to our law. 7But the chief captain Lysias came and with great violence took him out of our hands, 8commanding his accusers to come before you.
r Greek blasphemy
Jesus Christ knew the afflictions of the church in Smyrna, including the slandering that their opponents did of them.
Ezra 4:7, 12-13 In the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam and Mithredath and Tabeel and the rest of their associates wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated. ▤ … 12be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. 13Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired. ▤
s Hebrew written in Aramaic and translated in Aramaic, indicating that 4:8-6:18 is in Aramaic; another interpretation is The letter was written in the Aramaic script and set forth in the Aramaic language
Although they could claim some past history as evidence – i.e. the attempts of Jehoiakim and Zedekiah to break away from the rule of Babylon – at best what was said by the opponents of the Jews was conjecture; basically it was a lie (as was the case below in Amos 7:10).
Amos 7:12-13 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, 13but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” ▤
Amaziah was a priest in charge of the sanctuary at Bethel and carried a significant amount of authority. The prophet Amos was originally from Judah, but God had called him to prophesy in the northern kingdom of Israel. Amaziah’s directive would have meant Amos was expelled from the sanctuary at Bethel and would have effectively labeled him as being unwelcome in Israel (cf. NSB).
Luke 6:22-23 Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. ▤
Here Jesus speaks of his followers being excluded and rejected (along with being insulted), just as the prophets had been.
t Greek him
1Thes 2:14b-15 For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind … ▤
1Ki 22:26-27 And the king of Israel said, “Seize Micaiah, and take him back to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king’s son, 27and say, ‘Thus says the king, “Put this fellow in prison and feed him meager rations of bread and water, until I come in peace.”’” ▤
Ahab, the king of Israel, said this in response to Micaiah’s prophecy from God that Ahab would be killed (cf. vv. 17-23).
2Chr 16:9b-10a [Hanani:] You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.” 10Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in the stocks in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this. ▤
Jer 38:6 So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud. ▤
Matt 14:3-4 For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife,u 4because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” ▤
u Some manuscripts his brother’s wife
Acts 16:23-24 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. ▤
Acts 22:4-5 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished. ▤
v Greek in the whole praetorium
2Tim 2:8-9 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! ▤
Rev 1:9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. ▤
As noted earlier, Patmos was used as a penal colony.
Rev 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. ▤
Acts 21:30-32 Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. 31And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. 32He at once took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. ▤
2Cor 11:23-25a Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. ▤
As noted earlier in the chapter, in using the term “marks of Jesus” Paul is implying that his scars from inflicted wounds identify him as belonging to Jesus (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NLT).
1Ki 19:1-2 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” ▤
Note that Elijah had earlier ordered the execution of the pagan prophets of Baal.
Jer 26:8, 11 And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! ▤ … 11Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, “This man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.” ▤
w That is, Greek-speaking Jews
Rom 8:35-36 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” ▤
Here Paul quotes Psalm 44:22 to underline the fact that the threat of death – along with the other difficulties and persecution he referred to (v. 35) – was a part of his and his companions’ lives.
2Cor 1:8-9 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers,x of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. ▤
x Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church
Here “sin” presumably refers to opposition arising from or out of sin (cf. v. 3) – which can lead to death, as the writer alludes to.
1Ki 19:14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” ▤
John 21:18-19 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” ▤
Acts 7:59-60 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. ▤
Acts 26:10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. ▤
y Some manuscripts deliver up my body [to death] that I may boast
Here Paul refers to being burnt at the stake because of one’s faith – a sacrifice which brings one no benefit without love.
z Some manuscripts add they were tempted
Cain’s killing of Abel illustrates how the righteous are at times killed by evil people.
Rev 13:15 And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. ▤
Ezra 4:4-5 Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build 5and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. ▤
Luke 21:12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. ▤
This is speaking of what would happen before signs of the end of the age. Such persecution would/will involve believers being put on trial before kings and governors (cf. CEV).
- Jesus said that his mission would cause division and conflict:
Matt 10:34-36 Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. ▤
Jesus came to bring peace between people and God, and gave spiritual peace to his disciples as well. But Jesus knew his coming would also inevitably result in division and conflict – even the persecution of some believers by members of their own household. This is reflected in Luke 21:16 – “You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death.”
- Scripture speaks of the coming of an antichrist
- The antichrist will be of Satan and opposed to God
- The antichrist will have great authority and be worshiped
- Persecution of God’s people will increase in the end times – especially due to the antichrist . . .
- . . . Martyrdom will be prominent
- “Three and a half years” is given for the rule of the antichrist and intense persecution
- The end of the antichrist
- The contrasting outcomes for submitting and not submitting to the antichrist
The Bible speaks of a figure of the end times that is opposed to God and Jesus Christ, and persecutes their people. Daniel has visions which contain figures that appear to be ultimately representative of such an individual. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10 Paul clearly speaks of such a “man”. In his letters John refers to an “antichrist”. Most prominently, in Revelation John speaks of two “beasts” – accomplices of Satan – arising in the end times. The predominant first beast is correlated by many with a final antichrist, though others consider it and the second beast to represent evil world systems rather than individual persons. See also the comment on Revelation 13:1-2, 5-7 below in The antichrist will be of Satan and opposed to God.
The portrayals in both Daniel and Revelation are in apocalyptic literature and thus are highly symbolic. As such much of what is written is open to interpretation. The purpose is not to give precise details but enough knowledge so that when such events occur, believers will be able to recognize them for what they are. Furthermore the general concepts involved give encouragement to all God’s people, giving reason for hope amidst persecution in all eras.
2Thes 2:3, 6-8 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessnessa is revealed, the son of destruction, ▤ … 6And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. ▤
a Some manuscripts sin
b Greek the son of perdition (a Hebrew idiom)
This “man of lawlessness” is quite likely the antichrist. There are a number of theories as to what or who is restraining him (vv. 6-7). The “mystery of lawlessness” (v. 7) appears to refer to evil power in rebellion (cf. v. 3) against God, which is limited for now but still influential (cf. 1Jn 4:3 ↓).
The final antichrist will be preceded by many others who are anti-Christ – “even now many antichrists have come”. False teachers could be primarily in view, but the designation is applicable at least to some degree to anyone who actively denies that Jesus is the Christ (cf. 1Jn 4:3 ↓). This is asserted by v. 22 – “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.”
The reference to “the spirit of the antichrist” coming probably has the coming of the antichrist himself ultimately in view (cf. CEV, NIrV, NLT). Note that in conjunction with the teaching above in 2 Thessalonians 2:7a and 1 John 2:18, this verse indicates that even now the antichrist exerts influence in the world – with the spirit of the antichrist’s work through false teachers primarily being in view.
Rev 17:7-8 But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. 8The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pitc and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. ▤
c Greek the abyss
This beast is quite probably the beast of ch. 13 (cf. Rev 13:1-2, 5-7 ⇓; Rev 16:13 ⇓). While its “seven heads and ten horns” (v. 7) contrast with the “ten horns and seven heads” (13:1) of the latter, they match the description of Satan in 12:3 as “a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns” – reinforcing the beast’s association with Satan (as per the following subsection) and thus the correlation of this beast with the beast of ch. 13. The expression “was and is not and is to come” (v. 8b; cf. v. 11) – along with the similar expression earlier in v. 8 – suggests that the beast with his power was once apparent, although presently not, but will come again and exercise authority. The woman is “Babylon the Great”. The most prominent views of what this represents are: Rome, with its decadence and oppression of Christians; an actual rebuilt city of Babylon, characterized by the power and ungodliness of the original; and all worldly political and religious opposition to the true God.
Dan 7:7-8, 20, 23-24 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. ▤ … 20and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. ▤ … 23“Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all the kingdoms, and it shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces. 24As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them; he shall be different from the former ones, and shall put down three kings. ▤
In this vision of Daniel’s, the “fourth beast” (v. 7) does not itself appear to be the antichrist. Rather the little “horn” that comes from it and becomes so dominant is generally thought to portray the coming antichrist. The “fourth beast” could represent the Roman Empire. Note that it has ten horns (v. 7b; cf. Rev 17:7-8 ↑). The reference to the little “horn” speaking “great things” (vv. 8, 20) denotes boasting.
Rev 13:1-2, 5-6 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. 2And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. ▤ … 5And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling,d that is, those who dwell in heaven. ▤
d Or tabernacle
The dragon is Satan. The verse preceding this passage (12:17) ends by saying of the dragon: “And he stood on the sand of the sea.” Immediately following on from this, v. 1 implies that the beast “rising out of the sea” is of Satan – as further indicated by v. 2b. In addition to (or arguably instead of) a final antichrist, this first beast may symbolize various evil powers of different eras, with its heads and horns possibly symbolizing empires or rulers. The blasphemous names on the heads are possibly titles either claiming deity or blaspheming God. Another view is that the beast represents the Roman Empire, with its emperor worship – the ancient one or a revived, future one. Quite possibly “the sea” (v. 1) symbolizes the Abyss (cf. 11:7; 17:8), which is understood to be a prison or abode for demons.
2Thes 2:9-10 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. ▤
Dan 7:25 He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. ▤
The “times” is often understood to speak of the times set for “sacred feasts and holy days” (AMP; cf. CEV, GNT, NLT, NRSV). In conjunction with this, “the laws” is often interpreted as referring to God’s law in particular.
2Thes 2:3-4 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessnesse is revealed, the son of destruction,f 4who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. ▤
e Some manuscripts sin
f Greek the son of perdition (a Hebrew idiom)
Dan 9:27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week,g and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator. ▤
g Or seven; twice in this verse
Many commentators consider that the antichrist is most likely the ruler spoken of here – as seems to be the case in the other passages in this subsection. His actions here show his opposition to God. The last statement is difficult to translate. Many understand the first part of it as speaking of desecration of the temple in Jerusalem by the setting up of a sacrilegious object (cf. GNT, NLT).
- The gathering of evil forces against God at Armageddon:
Rev 16:13-16 And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. 14For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. 15(“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) 16And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. ▤
This is most likely portraying the beast – along with Satan and the false prophet (cf. Rev 13:11-14 ⇓) – gathering forces to battle against the forces of God – illustrating the beast’s opposition to God and Jesus Christ. There is a place in Israel that many identify with “Armageddon” (v. 16), but this identification is not without its critics. This reference to “Armageddon” may simply signify the event of God’s defeat of evil (cf. Rev 19:19-20), rather than also being its geographical location.
Dan 11:39-43 He shall deal with the strongest fortresses with the help of a foreign god. Those who acknowledge him he shall load with honor. He shall make them rulers over many and shall divide the land for a price.h 40“At the time of the end, the king of the south shall attacki him, but the king of the north shall rush upon him like a whirlwind, with chariots and horsemen, and with many ships. And he shall come into countries and shall overflow and pass through. 41He shall come into the glorious land. And tens of thousands shall fall, but these shall be delivered out of his hand: Edom and Moab and the main part of the Ammonites. 42He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 43He shall become ruler of the treasures of gold and of silver, and all the precious things of Egypt, and the Libyans and the Cushites shall follow in his train. ▤
h Or land as payment
i Hebrew thrust at
This appears to be speaking of an all-conquering antichrist figure, particularly if “the time of the end” (v. 40) is understood to refer to the end of the age – “the end time” (NASB). Verse 40 seemingly refers to this ruler as “the king of the North”, resoundingly responding to the attack of a “king of the South” (cf. CEV, NCV, NIrV). The “glorious land” (v. 41) is Israel or Palestine. Note that the “foreign god” (v. 39a) possibly refers to “the god of fortresses … A god whom his fathers did not know” (v. 38), but what it refers to exactly is open to conjecture.
Rev 13:3-4, 7b-8 One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. 4And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” ▤ … 7… And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. ▤
Note that there are various theories regarding the “mortal wound” (v. 3a; cf. vv. 12, 14 ↓). Whatever its precise meaning, it is something which the beast has miraculously survived and seems to be at least part of the reason why the whole world is so awed by the beast and follows it (v. 3b; cf. NLT).
Rev 13:11-14 Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. 12It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence,j and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. 13It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, 14and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence ofk the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. ▤
j Or on its behalf
k Or on behalf of
This second beast who exercises the first beast’s authority on its his behalf (cf. ESV text note, CEV, NIV, NLT) and instigates worship of it (vv. 12, 14), is quite likely “the false prophet” of 16:13, 19:20 and 20:10. As with the first beast, there are a number of viewpoints regarding its identity, including: a human associate of the final antichrist; persecuting powers of all eras; and the priesthood of the cult of the emperor in the Roman Empire.
Rev 17:3, 9-13 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. ▤ … 9This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; 10they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. 11As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. 12And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. 13These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. ▤
There are various theories regarding the identity of the seven hills and seven kings (vv. 9-11), including the Roman Empire and Roman emperors. In v. 11, “it belongs to the seven” (v. 11b) may mean that the beast is one of the seven kings (cf. CEV. GNT, NASB), or closely associated with at least one of them. The ten kings (vv. 12-13) appear to be rulers of the end times. They are only given authority for a short time (v. 12b), and will give their power and authority to the beast (v. 13), thus adding to his authority.
- Many will receive the number of the beast, in submission to him:
Rev 13:16-18 Also it [the second beast] causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave,l to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.m ▤
l Greek bondservant
m Some manuscripts 616
Having the number of the beast is indicative of being in submission to him, even belonging to him. There are various interpretations of the number 666 (v. 18). In view of v. 17b, many see it as indicative of the name of the final antichrist. In line with this view, 666 has been derived from names through numerical values correlated with letters. Another prominent interpretation is that as 6 is one short of the perfect number 7, the number 666 represents the inferior “trinity” of Satan, the beast and the false prophet.
Dan 7:21-22, 25 As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, 22until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom. ▤ … 25He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. ▤
Dan 11:36 And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done. ▤
The “indignation” appears to refer to God’s indignation or wrath. It implies that God will use the destruction wreaked by this king, an antichrist figure, as a form of punishment. As well as perhaps impacting many non-believers, this punishment will presumably be in part for the purification of God’s own people (cf. Dan 12:10 ↓) – possibly Israel in particular. As such it alludes to or encompasses the persecution of God’s people by this king.
Dan 12:1, 9-10 At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. ▤ … 9He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. 10Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand. ▤
Generally commentators interpret v. 1 to be referring to the end days as a time of distress primarily for God’s people – some understanding “your people” to be referring in particular to Israel – from which they will be delivered. The work of the antichrist is most likely in view, with him being spoken of in the preceding verses (cf. Dan 11:36 ↑). Verse 10a speaks of the purification of God’s people in such a time of distress or persecution in “the time of the end” (v. 9b).
Matt 24:9-14, 21-22 Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10And then many will fall awayn and betray one another and hate one another. 11And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. ▤ … 21For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. ▤
n Or stumble
The teaching of vv. 9-13 was applicable to the disciples and has been to all believers since, but given the context it appears to pertain in particular to the end days (v. 14). The increase of “lawlessness” (v. 12) may not be referring specifically to persecution of believers, but it would appear to be inclusive of it, as is the case with the subsequent reference to standing firm until the end (v. 13). Similarly, the “great tribulation” (v. 21) may well be a period of distress for all people (cf. Rev 3:10 ⇓; Prologue: Judgments Preceding Jesus Christ’s Return) but include increased, intense persecution of believers (cf. Rev 7:14 ⇓) just prior to Christ’s return. Note that some think that vv. 21-22 may primarily be referring to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Rev 12:13, 15-17 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. ▤ … 15The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stoodo on the sand of the sea. ▤
o Some manuscripts And I stood, connecting the sentence with 13:1
This may well portray the intense persecution of the church in the last days by Satan, with a number of commentators believing the woman (cf. vv. 1-6) to be symbolic of the church. Alternatively the woman may symbolize primarily Israel or believing Jews.
p Some manuscripts omit this sentence
Zec 11:15-16 Then the Lord said to me, “Take once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd. 16For behold, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs. ▤
This “foolish” or “worthless” (CEV, GNT, NLT) shepherd is understood by a number of commentators to symbolize the final antichrist. As such these verses would appear to speak of him ruling over and mistreating Israel in particular.
Rev 6:9-11 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servantsq and their brothersr should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. ▤
q Greek fellow bondservants
r Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church
Similar to Matthew 24:9-13 in the previous subsection, this may refer to believers in general since the beginning of Christianity – and is certainly applicable to them. But again the context suggests that the time of the end may well be primarily in view.
Rev 7:9, 14 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, ▤ … 14I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. ▤
Martyrdom is most likely the reason for this great multitude “coming out” of the great tribulation.
s Or the abyss
A number of commentators consider that the “two witnesses” (cf. v. 3 ⇓) spoken of here are representative of the church, and that these verses speak of a concentrated attack on the church by the beast of the end days, no doubt involving a significant number of deaths. Note that the beast’s apparent victory over them is followed by God’s vindication of them (cf. vv. 11-13).
This implies that many of God’s people will undergo captivity and/or death during the reign of the beast.
Rev 13:15 And [the second beast] it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. ▤
t Greek the witnesses to Jesus
The “woman” is the symbolic “Babylon the Great”.
Rev 20:4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. ▤
- The end will be preceded by a time of trial for all the people of the world:
Note that to “keep you from” could mean either to keep from undergoing it or to protect during it.
In regard to the duration of the antichrist’s rule and the future period of intense persecution of believers, the Bible speaks of periods of time which are equivalent to three and a half years. Whether or not this is a literal three and half years, such specifications are indicative of the period being predetermined by God. In view of Daniel 9:27 below, this three and half years of domination may commence half way through a seven-year period of considerable power for the antichrist. See also the comment on Daniel 12:6-7 below.
Dan 7:25 He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. ▤
The expression “a time, times and half a time” (cf. Dan 12:7 ↓) can be equated with three and a half years (cf. AMP, GNT, NCV, NIrV) – “a year, two years, and half a year” (CEV text note).
Dan 9:27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week,u and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator. ▤
u Or seven; twice in this verse
The “week” or “seven” (cf. text note) is often understood to mean a seven-year period, but again it may be symbolic. Assuming the antichrist is in view here, a number of commentators interpret the first statement to mean that the antichrist will make a covenant with Israel. Half way through this period he will break the covenant and “set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration” (NLT), presumably in the temple in Jerusalem. Such actions would set the scene for intense persecution of God’s people for the following three and a half years, i.e. the second half of the seven-year period.
Dan 12:6-7, 11-12 And someone said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream,v “How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?” 7And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream; he raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven and swore by him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished. ▤ … 11And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days. 12Blessed is he who waits and arrives at the 1,335 days. ▤
v Or who was upstream; also verse 7
The question in v. 6 appears to be regarding the duration of the aforementioned events of the end time, including the rule of an antichrist figure (cf. 11:36-45) and great distress (cf. v. 1) particularly for God’s people (v. 7; cf. v. 10). Verse 1 may be speaking of events of the antichrist’s reign on assuming virtually unchallengeable power. The 1,290 days (cf. Rev 11:3 ↓) is quite close to three and a half years of 365 days (1277.5 days) and possibly corresponds to the period given in v. 7. There are various explanations regarding the significance of the extra 45 days making up the 1,335 days (v. 12). One is that it is a period between the end of the intense persecution and the consummation of Jesus Christ’s reign.
Rev 11:1-3 Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, 2but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. 3And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” ▤
In v. 1, “the temple of God” may signify God’s people or church. As such v. 1 possibly figuratively speaks of protection for God’s people (cf. Rev 12:6, 13-14 ↓) – more likely spiritual than physical – amidst great persecution and wickedness perpetrated by heathen nations (v. 2), who will trample on that which is God’s for “forty-two months”. Some commentators take a more literal interpretation, understanding that a literal temple, Jerusalem and the Jews in particular are in view. Note that 1,260 days (v. 3; cf. Rev 12:6 ↓) is equal to 42 months (of 30 days each) – i.e. three and a half years.
- The protection of the “woman” from Satan for three and a half years:
Rev 12:6, 13-14 … and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. ▤ … 13And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. ▤
As noted earlier, the “woman” is quite possibly symbolic of the church, though some think that Israel is in view. Three and a half years is indicated by both 1,260 days (v. 6) and “a time, times and half a time” (v. 14).
Dan 7:11, 26 I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. ▤ … 26But the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and destroyed to the end. ▤
As noted earlier, the “horn” (v. 11) is likely the antichrist and the “beast” is the fourth “beast” (v. 11b), from which the “horn” appears to have come (cf. vv. 7-8). Because of the connection between the “horn” and this “beast”, the slaying of the “beast” (v. 11b) may be indicative also of the end of the “horn”; the end of its power is certainly in view in v. 26.
Dan 11:44-45 But news from the east and the north shall alarm him, and he shall go out with great fury to destroy and devote many to destruction. 45And he shall pitch his palatial tents between the sea and the glorious holy mountain. Yet he shall come to his end, with none to help him. ▤
The final Antichrist may be at least primarily in view.
2Thes 2:3, 8 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessnessw is revealed, the son of destruction, ▤ … 8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. ▤
w Some manuscripts sin
x Greek the son of perdition (a Hebrew idiom)
The title “the son of destruction” appears to speak of being “destined for destruction” (NRSV; cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV).
Rev 17:8a, 11-14 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pity and go to destruction. ▤ … 11As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. 12And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. 13These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. 14They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful. ▤
y Greek the abyss
The destruction of the beast (vv. 8a, 11) may well also be in view in the reference to the defeat of the ten kings who give their power and authority to him (vv. 13-14). As such this would appear to refer to Jesus Christ’s triumph over the beast and his forces in 19:19-20 below (cf. 2Thes 2:8 ↑).
Rev 19:19-20 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presencez had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. ▤
z Or on its behalf
Rev 14:9-11 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” ▤
Rev 16:2, 10-11 So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. ▤ … 10The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish 11and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds. ▤
The “throne of the beast” (v. 10a) appears to refer to the heart of his authority. The “darkness” may not necessarily be physical darkness. Quite possibly it depicts major problems besetting the beast’s kingdom, presumably adversely affecting those who submit to the beast – already in agony because of the sores inflicted on them (vv. 2, 10b-11).
Rev 15:2-4 And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. 3And they sing the song of Moses, the servanta of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!b 4Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” ▤
a Greek bondservant
b Some manuscripts the ages
The faithful believers are pictured as worshiping God in heaven. They are said to have “conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name” (v. 2) as, in faithfulness to God, they had refused to worship the beast or his image and had not submitted to receiving his mark or number (v. 2; cf. 13:16-17; Rev 20:4 ↓).
Rev 20:4-6 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. ▤
- God’s all-surpassing purpose, work and love for his people – despite adversity
- God and Jesus Christ strengthen their people amidst trials
- God and Jesus Christ will rescue their people from trials . . .
- . . . Examples of God and Jesus Christ rescuing believers from trials
- God will ultimately save believers from the persecution of the end times
- Note: God will take vengeance on those who persecute his people
Rom 8:28-31 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,c for those who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can bed against us? ▤
c Some manuscripts God works all things together for good, or God works in all things for the good
d Or who is
The phrase “all things” (v. 28) probably primarily has in view adverse experiences, in particular persecution (cf. v. 18; vv. 35-36 ↓). In vv. 29-30 Paul proceeds to look beyond any suffering to the purpose and work of God for the believer that overshadows all difficulties we might experience in this life. Verse 31 is implying that if God is for us – as Paul has emphatically shown (vv. 28-30) – there is no one (and no thing) of comparable significance that can be against us.
Rom 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ▤
This passage indicates that no difficulties or persecution can separate believers from Jesus Christ’s and God’s love (cf. 2Cor 4:8-9 ↓). In fact through Christ they “are more than conquerors” (v. 37) – they keep on being conquerors, having “overwhelming victory” (NLT, cf. GNT, NCV) over such adversity.
- When believers are facing persecution, God does not abandon them:
In persecution “God does not leave us” (NCV™; cf. CEV, NIrV, NLT).
In alluding to God giving endurance and encouragement to his people – and thus strengthening them – Paul may well have times of persecution at least partly in view.
2Cor 4:16-17 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer selfe is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, … ▤
e Greek man
Although Paul’s “affliction” (v. 17) – including persecution and hardship (vv. 8-9) – were taking a toll on him physically, his spirit or inner being was being daily renewed (v. 16). Possibly Paul has primarily in view his ongoing experience of Christ’s resurrection life, with its power (cf. vv. 11-12).
2Cor 12:9-10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ▤
In weakness, hardship and/or persecution (v. 10a) Christ’s power was perfected in Paul (v. 9). As such Paul could then say: “I am strong” (v. 10b).
Note that persecution is not necessarily primarily in view here, but obviously this is readily applicable to it.
2Thes 3:2-5 … and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.f 4And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. ▤
f Or evil
“He will establish you” (v. 3) refers to the Lord establishing – and so strengthening (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NASB, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV) – the Thessalonians in the faith. The reference to being “delivered from wicked and evil men” (v. 2) implies that the Lord’s strengthening (v. 3) has strengthening in the face of persecution in view. In regard to “the steadfastness of Christ” (v. 5), Paul appears to be speaking of the same perseverance as Christ showed (cf. CEV) and/or of the perseverance that comes from him (cf. GNT, NLT).
By his power God gives Christians the strength (cf. GNT, NCV, NLT) to take part in suffering for the sake of the gospel.
2Tim 4:16-17 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. ▤
1Pet 5:9-10 Resist him [the devil], firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. ▤
The reference to suffering “a little while” (v. 10) is possibly alluding to the temporal nature of our sufferings in comparison to the “eternal glory” to come. The list of verbs in the final clause emphasizes and assures Peter’s readers that God himself will enable them to endure trials and reinvigorate them, particularly spiritually, making them stronger in the faith than they were prior to such trials.
- God comforts his people amidst trials:
2Cor 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.g ▤
g Or For as the sufferings of Christ abound for us, so also our comfort abounds through Christ
Verse 5 is speaking of receiving God’s comfort through Christ (cf. NCV, NLT). One way in which God strengthens people during trials is by comforting them. See also God comforts his people in hard times, and in delivering them.
Jer 15:20-21 And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the Lord. 21I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless. ▤
Acts 26:16-17 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you … ▤
The word “deliverance” may refer to deliverance from prison or final spiritual salvation.
In light of vv. 6-8, which indicate that his death was near, it appears that Paul is not referring here to a physical rescue but a spiritual one – where the Lord would bring him “safely into his heavenly kingdom”.
Acts 12:6-11 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. 7And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” ▤
2Cor 1:8-10 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers,h of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. ▤
h Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church
2Cor 4:7-9 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; … ▤
In vv. 8-9 Paul appears to be illustrating how God’s all-surpassing power (v. 7) has preserved him in the midst of great persecution and hardship, despite him being one of the vulnerable “jars of clay” (v. 7a), containing the “treasure” of the gospel (cf. v. 6). Note that the context (cf. vv. 1-15) indicates that “the surpassing power” from God not only preserved Paul but was behind his effectiveness in spreading the gospel.
2Tim 3:10-11 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. ▤
Dan 3:17, 27-28 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. ▤ … 27And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. 28Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set asidej the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. ▤
i Or If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us, he will deliver us from the burning fiery furnace and out of your hand, O king.
j Aramaic and changed
- The Lord knows how to rescue godly people from trials:
2Pet 2:4-9 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hellk and committed them to chainsl of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;m 7and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8(for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials,n and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, … ▤
k Greek Tartarus
l Some manuscripts pits
m Some manuscripts an example to those who were to be ungodly
n Or temptations
Dan 7:21-22, 25-27 As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, 22until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom. ▤ … 25He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. 26But the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and destroyed to the end. 27And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.’o ▤
o Or his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him
Dan 12:1 At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. ▤
It is the archangel Michael who is spoken of in the first sentence, as protecting God’s people. The eternal deliverance of those whose names are “written in the book” is probably in view (cf. vv. 2-3). As such these verses speak of deliverance out of the trouble rather than necessarily from experiencing any of it.
Rev 11:1-3, 7-12 Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, 2but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. 3And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” ▤ … 7And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pitp will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolicallyq is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. 9For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, 10and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. 11But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. ▤
p Or the abyss
q Greek spiritually
That God will ultimately save believers from the persecution of the end times appears to be illustrated in v. 1 and also vv. 11-12. As noted earlier, v. 1 possibly speaks of spiritual protection for God’s people or church amidst great persecution and wickedness perpetrated by heathen nations (v. 2). A number of commentators consider that the “two witnesses” (v. 3) are representative of the church. The beast’s apparent victory over them is followed by God’s vindication of them (vv. 11-12). Note that “the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt” (v. 8), may be Jerusalem, it being “where their Lord was crucified.” It has also been identified with Rome and the symbolic Babylon spoken of elsewhere in Revelation. Quite possibly it is symbolic for the world forces as a whole that oppose God’s people. Being called “Sodom” signifies its immorality, while “Egypt” points to its idolatry – or possibly its apostasy – as well as its persecution of God’s people.
- Jesus Christ’s faithful followers will share in his victory over the beast and its allies:
Rev 17:13-14 These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. 14They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful. ▤
- . . . and to exact just vengeance
- In due time God does take action . . .
- God will take vengeance on those who persecute Israel
r Greek give place
This is not speaking of persecution because of one’s faith in particular, but obviously is applicable to it.
2Thes 1:6-7 … since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels … ▤
Rev 6:9-11 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servantss and their brotherst should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. ▤
s Greek fellow bondservants
t Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church
Rev 16:5-6 And I heard the angel in charge of the watersu say, “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments. 6For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!” ▤
u Greek angel of the waters
Verse 6 refers to the judgment in vv. 3-4 where the sea and fresh waters were turned into blood, an apt judgment for shedding the blood of believers.
Rev 18:19-20, 24 And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out, “Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! For in a single hour she has been laid waste. 20Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” ▤ … 24And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.” ▤
This and 19:1-2 immediately below concern God’s vengeance on “Babylon the Great”; see The guilt and consequent judgment of “Babylon the Great”.
Rev 19:1-2 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”v ▤
v Greek bondservants; also verse 5
Deut 32:43 “Rejoice with him, O heavens; bow down to him, all gods,w for he avenges the blood of his childrenx and takes vengeance on his adversaries. He repays those who hate himy and cleansesz his people’s land.”a ▤
w Dead Sea Scroll, Septuagint; Masoretic Text Rejoice his people, O nations
x Dead Sea Scroll, Septuagint; Masoretic Text servants
y Dead Sea Scroll, Septuagint; Masoretic Text lacks He repays those who hate him
z Or atones for
a Septuagint, Vulgate; Hebrew his land his people
Jer 51:1-2, 24, 35-37, 49 Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will stir up the spirit of a destroyer against Babylon, against the inhabitants of Leb-kamai,b 2and I will send to Babylon winnowers, and they shall winnow her, and they shall empty her land, when they come against her from every side on the day of trouble. ▤ … 24“I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea before your very eyes for all the evil that they have done in Zion, declares the Lord. ▤ … 35The violence done to me and to my kinsmen be upon Babylon,” let the inhabitant of Zion say. “My blood be upon the inhabitants of Chaldea,” let Jerusalem say. 36Therefore thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will plead your cause and take vengeance for you. I will dry up her sea and make her fountain dry, 37and Babylon shall become a heap of ruins, the haunt of jackals, a horror and a hissing, without inhabitant. ▤ … 49Babylon must fall for the slain of Israel, just as for Babylon have fallen the slain of all the earth. ▤
b A code name for Chaldea
This and Ezekiel 25:14-17 below speak of God’s vengeance on particular enemies of Israel. They illustrate that God does and will take vengeance on those who persecute his people.
Ezek 25:14-17 And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel, and they shall do in Edom according to my anger and according to my wrath, and they shall know my vengeance, declares the Lord God. 15“Thus says the Lord God: Because the Philistines acted revengefully and took vengeance with malice of soul to destroy in never-ending enmity, 16therefore thus says the Lord God, Behold, I will stretch out my hand against the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethites and destroy the rest of the seacoast. 17I will execute great vengeance on them with wrathful rebukes. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I lay my vengeance upon them.” ▤
- The death of his people is of great importance to God: