Entering the Great Tribulation
Christians are called to alert and ready with regard to Christ’s return (e.g. Mark 13:33), but what does that really mean? For one thing, it means that we should be aware that the end times period could begin on any day during our lives and that we should be watchful for the signs of His coming.
However, it means something else too: We should be resolved to endure the events of the upcoming period of great tribulation in the most God-honoring way possible. How would we do that? Stockpile supplies? Arm ourselves with weapons? Find someplace to hide?
No. We should look to scripture for an answer. As explained in The Great Harlot and Babylon, Revelation uses Babylon as a metaphor. This metaphor takes the experience that Israel had with Babylon and relates it to the experience that the church will have with Antichrist’s final kingdom. This Babylon metaphor is rich with meaning, because it gives us much understanding about what is happening in the end times, and why.
This metaphor even helps us know how we can endure the great tribulation in the most God honoring way. It turns out that we have been given a detailed account of one Israelite who endured the Babylonian experience in a way that was pleasing to God. His example thus provides a valuable guide for Christians who likewise wish to endure the great tribulation in a way pleasing to God.
Who was this Israelite? It is the prophet Daniel himself! On three different occasions (Dan 9:23, Dan 10:11, Dan 10:19), Daniel received news from heaven that he was highly esteemed. Daniel was used by God to have a tremendous influence on those around him, including the foreign kings who held Israel captive. The book of Daniel ends with Daniel being promised his resurrection and reward (Dan 12:13). His experience is a gold mine of wisdom for Christians who want to live victoriously for Christ during the great tribulation, such as those described in Rev 12:11, Rev 15:2, and Rev 20:4.
Lessons from Daniel
In this article, we will look beyond the astounding prophecies that Daniel wrote, and instead focus upon his personal experiences which he described for us in his book. We will see what lessons are to be learned from this man who endured the Babylonian captivity with great honor before God.
- Keep yourself pure
Dan 1:8 – But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.
There will be many temptations for Christians to compromise their faith. Notice that Daniel respectfully sought permission to follow his conscience. We don’t know what he would have done had permission been denied, but we do know (from the next verse) that God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials. Daniel’s trust in God was shown to be true.
- Be discreet and discerning
Dan 2:14 – Then Daniel replied with discretion and discernment to Arioch, the captain of the king’s bodyguard, who had gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon.
Daniel himself was one of the wise men of Babylon who was to be slain. This was just the first time that his life was in great danger. But by faith, he kept his head and acted with discretion and discernment.
- Be prayerful
Dan 2:17-18 – Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, about the matter, 18so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
If you read this chapter, you will see that Daniel was in an impossible situation. However, he knew where to turn (e.g. Jer 32:27, Mark 10:27). He gave the situation to God in prayer.
- Be thankful
Dan 2:19 – Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
God granted the request, sparing Daniel’s life (as well as those of all the other wise men). You should read Daniel’s prayer of thanks which follows, in Dan 2:20-23.
- Give God the glory
Dan 2:27-28 – Daniel answered before the king and said, “As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians nor diviners are able to declare it to the king. 28“However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days.
Daniel sought no glory for himself, even before the king of Babylon (which would be similar to a Christian appearing before Antichrist!). He made it clear that he was only representing God.
- Acknowledge the authority of the earthly king (!)
Dan 2:37 “You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory”
This is Daniel speaking to the pagan Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. One should notice that Daniel never denied the authority of the invading kings or denied them due respect. As Rom 13:1-7 explains, all governmental authorities receive their authority by God, and for God’s purposes.
In the end times, Christians must likewise respect that even Antichrist shall have his power as part of God’s plan, and even he serves God’s purposes. He should be respected as such, so that the Christian may remain blameless before both God and men (Acts 24:16).
- Do not worship anyone or anything but God, even to save your life
Dan 3:15-18 – 15“Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” 16Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18“But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
This is king Nebuchadnezzar giving Daniel’s three friends two awful options: (1) worship the image he had made, or (2) burn to death in a furnace. How easy it would be to just fall down and pretend to worship the image! But they refused to dishonor God.
This example is especially important in the end times because during the great tribulation, people will be given a very similar choice: Worship an image of the king or be put to death (Rev 13:15). In addition, people will be under great pressure to receive a mark identifying themselves as loyal to the Antichrist (Rev 13:16-17). If you value your eternal standing before God, resolve yourself to be like Daniel’s friends and choose temporal death over idolatry (Rev 14:9-10 “9If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb“).
- Don’t forget that the gospel can change lives (part 1)
Dan 4:27 – ‘Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.’
This was Daniel giving king Nebuchadnezzar the Old Testament equivalent of the gospel, to do righteously in obedience to God. You should read chapter 4, which concludes with Nebuchadnezzar’s own final words on the matter: Dan 4:37 “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”. The prideful and powerful Nebuchadnezzar turned humbly to God, and he was directly influenced by Daniel’s faithful testimony.
Now, in the end times, we know that this won’t happen with the future king Antichrist, for his doom is already decreed. However, there will be many other kings and officials serving under Antichrist, and some may be saved by the testimony of Christians who remain faithful.
- Don’t let your testimony be (or appear to be) motivated by worldly gain
Dan 5:17 – Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Keep your gifts for yourself or give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription to the king and make the interpretation known to him.
Here, Daniel is speaking to Nebuchadnezzar’s wicked (grand)son, Belshazzar, who had offered presents to Daniel in exchange for interpreting the miraculous handwriting on the wall.
Note that Daniel had already been given much honor and status in return for his noble service to Nebuchadnezzar, but Daniel never did it for that purpose, which would have dishonored his service. Daniel did interpret the handwriting, and Belshazzar gave the gifts to Daniel anyway. But Daniel made it clear that his service to God wasn’t for personal worldly gain. He already knew the principle that Christ taught, “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matt 10:8).
- Be forthright
Dan 5:22-23 – “22Yet you, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this, 23but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven
Daniel had just explained that Belshazzar was not as great as his (grand)father, Nebuchadnezzar, and yet Nebuchadnezzar had learned to humble himself before God. Despite knowing this, Belshazzar exalted himself before God by using some of the holy things taken from the temple for profane purposes. Daniel told Belshazzar that for this reason, he would lose his kingdom (Dan 5:25-28), and this prophecy was fulfilled that very night (Dan 5:30-31).
In a sense, Belshazzar is actually more of a parallel of Antichrist than Nebuchadnezzar. If you ever find yourself standing before Antichrist, you can respectfully inform him that his doom is coming because of his blasphemies toward God, just as Daniel did with Belshazzar.
- Don’t love your life more that your testimony before God
Dan 6:10 – Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.
The “signed document” in this verse is the injunction signed by king Darius stating that “anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions’ den” (Dan 6:7). Yet, Daniel purposefully continued to pray to God, knowing that it violated this injunction, and knowing that the penalty was to face death. He thus is an example a victorious saint, like those mentioned in Rev 12:11.
- Be blameless, so that you can assert your innocence
Dan 6:22 – My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime.”
Daniel respectfully affirms his innocence before Persian king Darius. One might wonder how Daniel can claim innocence toward the king since Daniel did violate the injunction signed by Darius.
However, when violating a human law is necessary in order to not violate your testimony before God, God’s law must take precedence. Unfortunately, human laws are sometimes motivated by evil intentions, and this injunction was clearly an example an evil law. In contrast, God’s laws are motivated by love and justice, so that being obedient to them will never truly do wrong toward anyone. Of course, Daniel’s obedience to God never truly did any injustice to king Darius. Darius himself came to realize that the injunction he signed was a unjust, and that Daniel was indeed innocent.
Of course, Christians in the end times can’t assume that their lives will be miraculously spared (and Daniel didn’t assume that either). To be like Daniel, remain innocent before God and leave the consequences up to Him.
- Don’t forget that the gospel can change lives (part 2)
Dan 6:25-27, ‘25Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language who were living in all the land: “May your peace abound! 26“I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel; For He is the living God and enduring forever, And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, And His dominion will be forever. 27“He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders In heaven and on earth, Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”’
Once again, God worked through Daniel’s faithfulness to redeem a pagan king! First Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and now Darius of Persia.
The nation Israel went on to survive the captivity and they were eventually allowed to return to their land. It is very likely that this all happened thanks to the way Daniel’s humble and faithful testimony impacted these powerful foreign kings who, for seventy years, held the fate of Israel in their hands.
- Understand what is happening, and why
Daniel’s prayer in Dan 9:1-19 begins with “4 I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, 5we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. 6“Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land. 7“Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day …”
Again, the Old Testament account of Israel vs. Babylon is a metaphor for the end times account of the Church vs. Antichrist’s kingdom. It stands to reason that church will suffer during the great tribulation for reasons similar to why Israel suffered under Babylonian captivity. Specifically, unfaithfulness, disobedience, and failing to heed the warnings.
Daniel’s prayer acknowledges all of these things, and he does not question God’s motives or “wonder where God is” during this difficult time. However, in his prayer, Daniel also looks forward to call upon God’s mercy and ultimate victory, as we see at the end of the prayer:
Dan 9:18-19 – 18“O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. 19“O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”
The lessons learned from Daniel should already be familiar to Christians, since we already taught all of these things by the words of Christ and his apostles. For example, a few key passages are shown below:
Matt 5:44-45a – 44“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven
Matt 10:22 – You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
Matt 10:28 – Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Rom 12:17-21 – 17Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. 20“BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Rom 13:1-2 – 1Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
James 1:12 – Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
1 Pet 2:12 – Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Christians who act faithfully during the great tribulation may very likely be killed. If so, they will find themselves before the throne of God hearing the words, “well done my good and faithful servant”. There is no higher honor that can be bestowed upon a person. Remember that Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). We know that He showed this love to us, and remarkably, in the end, His true saints will have the opportunity to show such love in return.
One might think that everyone who will be working for Antichrist’s kingdom is a heartless monster out to kill the saints. But I have to think that among them, some will have a conscience and recognize that they are killing innocent people. It’s not unlike Pontius Pilate who was conflicted by Jesus because he knew Jesus was innocent. Pilate ended up making a cowardly choice, but others will be moved to faith by the testimony of these saints. I think Jesus spoke about this in Luke 21:12-13, 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. 13“It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony.”
Should find yourself in the end times, just remember that your testimony for the word of God is by far your most valuable asset. Cling to it and do not let it go, even to save your life.