The 20th century was witness to the most terrible wars in human history. Thankfully we haven’t seen anything on like scale in the 70 years since World War II. But will there ever be a time like this again, when genocidal leaders in attempting to rule the world wreak death and havoc on this level?
Your Bible says there will be such a time.
In the face of growing world crises, a charismatic leader akin to the worst dictators of the past will ultimately arise in Europe with promises of peace and safety. Ten other leaders will unite with him, giving their national sovereignty over to this ruler for a short time. The biblical book of Revelation refers to both the power bloc and its leader as “the Beast”—a revival of the Roman Empire.
In fact, this revival will follow the pattern of the Holy Roman Empire in returning to the church-state union of medieval times. The Beast ruler will form a partnership with the prophesied False Prophet, the leader of the great false church system known as Babylon the Great (Revelation 17)—religion being seen as a means to hold the politically unstable empire together. False miracles will convince the masses to follow the False Prophet and the Beast.
Despite its weaknesses, the European power will, like its predecessors, be transformed into a war-making apparatus. An astonished world will ask: “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” (Revelation 13:4 Revelation 13:4And they worshipped the dragon which gave power to the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like to the beast? who is able to make war with him?
American King James Version×). Yet there will indeed be war— the very worst ever.
North-south conflict—the spark
Conflict between this coming European superpower and a Middle Eastern coalition will be the final manifestation of the struggle detailed in the prophecy of Daniel 11 between powers to the north and south of the Holy Land—Syria and Egypt respectively in ancient times, with the northern power eventually becoming Rome and its successors. Daniel 11:40 Daniel 11:40And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.
American King James Version×says that at the time of the end the king of the South will push or ram at the king of the North.
Psalm 83 presents a confederation of nations, now Muslim, united in common cause against Israel (Psalms 83:1-18 Psalms 83:1-18 1 Keep not you silence, O God: hold not your peace, and be not still, O God.
2 For, see, your enemies make a tumult: and they that hate you have lifted up the head.
3 They have taken crafty counsel against your people, and consulted against your hidden ones.
4 They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.
5 For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against you:
6 The tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the Hagarenes;
7 Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre;
8 Assur also is joined with them: they have helped the children of Lot. Selah.
9 Do to them as to the Midianites; as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook of Kison:
10 Which perished at Endor: they became as dung for the earth.
11 Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb: yes, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna:
12 Who said, Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession.
13 O my God, make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind.
14 As the fire burns a wood, and as the flame sets the mountains on fire;
15 So persecute them with your tempest, and make them afraid with your storm.
16 Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek your name, O LORD.
17 Let them be confounded and troubled for ever; yes, let them be put to shame, and perish:
18 That men may know that you, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, are the most high over all the earth.
American King James Version×). This may equate to the final kingdom of the South, perhaps centered in Egypt, the largest Arab state, or possibly Saudi Arabia, homeland of Islam.
Daniel 11:40 Daniel 11:40And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.
American King James Version×shows that some kind of provocative action will be launched from this region against the final king of the North, the European Beast power. It might be a major terrorist attack, in line with jihadists’ dreams of striking against European Christendom. In any case, this is the spark that ignites a new world war, as we next see huge retaliation by the northern power, which includes its forces invading and occupying parts of the Middle East and North Africa—and entering the Holy Land (Daniel 11:40-43 Daniel 11:40-43 40 And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. 41 He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon. 42 He shall stretch forth his hand also on the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 43 But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.
American King James Version×).
America and other nations devastated
We are also told in Daniel’s prophecy that “many countries shall be overthrown” by the European power at this time (Daniel 11:41 Daniel 11:41He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.
American King James Version×). Other passages reveal the horror of what this entails. It ultimately means disaster for the nations descended from the so-called lost 10 tribes of Israel—particularly the United States and the other nations of British descent (see our free study guide The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy for more explanation).
Jesus said these events would be followed by “great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21 Matthew 24:21For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
American King James Version×). The same time is spoken of in Daniel 12:1 Daniel 12:1And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
American King James Version×and Jeremiah 30:7 Jeremiah 30:7Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.
American King James Version×, the latter verse calling it “the time of Jacob’s trouble”—Jacob being the progenitor of the tribes of Israel.
So the Great Tribulation is initially the time of suffering to come particularly on the descendants of ancient Israel for their rebellion against God—to be followed by a year-long “Day of the Lord” judgment on the world at large (Isaiah 34:8 Isaiah 34:8For it is the day of the LORD’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion.
American King James Version×).
The prophet Ezekiel wrote prophecies for his own day and the end time—many with dual application to both. Note that Ezekiel 5:4 Ezekiel 5:4Then take of them again, and cast them into the middle of the fire, and burn them in the fire; for thereof shall a fire come forth into all the house of Israel.
American King James Version×foretells that a fire would go out “into all the house of Israel.” And yet the northern tribes of Israel had gone into captivity about 150 years earlier.
This prophecy, then, was apparently directed to the last days. So it’s certainly disturbing to read God’s warning that one third would die by disease and famine and another third by the sword of warfare, with the remaining third being carried away into captivity and scattered (Ezekial 5:12-13). Some try to apply this exclusively to the siege of Jerusalem in Ezekiel’s time, but a parallel prophecy occurs in Zechariah 13:8-9 Zechariah 13:8-9 8 And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, said the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein.
9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.
American King James Version×, given long after Jerusalem’s ancient fall.
Thus, if the descendants of ancient Israel today in their modern nations were estimated at around 300 million people, that means 100 million would die through disease and famine and another 100 million would die through war—this death toll for just these people being far more than the deaths among all nations in World Wars I and II.
Then another 100 million would be scattered, pursued and taken captive, and other passages seem to say that only a tenth of those will survive (see Amos 5:3 Amos 5:3For thus said the Lord GOD; The city that went out by a thousand shall leave an hundred, and that which went forth by an hundred shall leave ten, to the house of Israel.
American King James Version×; Isaiah 6:11-13 Isaiah 6:11-13 11 Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, 12 And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the middle of the land. 13 But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.
American King James Version×, Living Bible). This would leave only 10 million survivors. The genocide against the Jews in the Nazi Holocaust, horrific as it was, is far smaller in comparison.
In Ezekiel 6:6 Ezekiel 6:6In all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate; that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease, and your images may be cut down, and your works may be abolished.
American King James Version×, God further warns the descendants of ancient Israel, today’s major English-speaking nations, “In all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste.” The destruction of Judah in Ezekiel’s own day utterly pales in comparison to what this verse actually says. What we’re apparently being told here is that major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, London, Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland will be obliterated.
Perhaps we can now see how there could be such a huge death toll as that described in chapter 5. This appears to require the work of nuclear weapons or some other new superweapons—perhaps in conjunction with natural catastrophes from God including drought, famine, disease epidemics, earthquakes and other disasters (compare Leviticus 26:31-32 Leviticus 26:31-32 31 And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries to desolation, and I will not smell the smell of your sweet odors.
32 And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it.
American King James Version×; Deuteronomy 28:24 Deuteronomy 28:24The LORD shall make the rain of your land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down on you, until you be destroyed.
American King James Version×). The prophesied destruction is utterly horrific. But, barring unexpected national repentance, it is going to happen.
Eastern forces attacked and counterattack
Yet some parts of the world will not fit easily into this European-centered, pseudo-Christian system. Consider the rest of the Muslim world—the many Islamic states across south-central Asia over to Indonesia. And how will major nations of the East—like Russia, India, China and Japan—view all this?
They will no doubt be alarmed over European actions in the Middle East. The Islamic states especially will be incensed over European occupation of Muslim lands.
The ruler of the Beast power will be troubled by “news from the east and the north”—the direction of these countries across Asia—and will launch a strike to force their submission (Daniel 11:44 Daniel 11:44But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many.
American King James Version×). As laid out in Revelation 9:1-12 Revelation 9:1-12 1 And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven to the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. 2 And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. 3 And there came out of the smoke locusts on the earth: and to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4 And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. 5 And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he strikes a man. 6 And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. 7 And the shapes of the locusts were like to horses prepared to battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. 8 And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. 9 And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. 10 And they had tails like to scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months. 11 And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue has his name Apollyon. 12 One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.
American King James Version×, the war machinery of the Beast (as both arise figuratively from the abyss—see Revelation 17:8 Revelation 17:8The beast that you saw was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
American King James Version×), portrayed as locusts and scorpions (perhaps helicopters and tanks from the vantage point of visions in the preindustrial first century), will prevail for several months.
The mention here of inflicting pain without killing may refer to the use of chemical or biological agents or new pain rays or other weapons yet to be developed. Revelation lists this as the first of three woes (Revelation 9:12 Revelation 9:12One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.
American King James Version×)—these corresponding to the last three trumpet blasts of the book.
The second woe is a massive counter-offensive by Eastern forces with a vast military force of 200 million troops, resulting in the destruction of much of Europe and a third of mankind killed (Revelation 9:13-19 Revelation 9:13-19 13 And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,
14 Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.
15 And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.
16 And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.
17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone.
18 By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.
19 For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like to serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.
American King James Version×). The death toll here is in the billions —far beyond any war ever. It would certainly seem to imply the unimaginable horror of another devastating exchange of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction.
Then, with the third woe, in which seven last plagues are poured out on the earth, something amazing will happen: “The sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn” (Matthew 24:30 Matthew 24:30And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
American King James Version×). Sadly, a defiant mankind will yet refuse to repent of its evils.
On the earth events will spiral even further out of control. The European dictator’s establishment of his capital in the Holy Land (Daniel 11:45 Daniel 11:45And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.
American King James Version×) will lead armies from the Eastern powers to march toward Israel, intent on finishing the job of wiping out this competing superpower.
Then, just as the two sides prepare to fight a final, climactic battle (Revelation 16:16 Revelation 16:16And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
American King James Version×)—just when it seems that humanity will reach the brink of self-extinction—then God will intervene (see Matthew 24:22 Matthew 24:22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×).
The brightness of Christ’s coming
Jesus Christ will then come in glory to Jerusalem—but it will be to battle. The nations will be angry at this turn of events (Revelation 11:18 Revelation 11:18And the nations were angry, and your wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that you should give reward to your servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear your name, small and great; and should destroy them which destroy the earth.
American King James Version×). Apparently the Beast and Eastern kings will see the returning Lord as a common enemy, for “all nations” then march to Jerusalem to fight Him (see Joel 3:1-2 Joel 3:1-2 1 For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, 2 I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.
American King James Version×; Joel 3:9-17 Joel 3:9-17 9 Proclaim you this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: 10 Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. 11 Assemble yourselves, and come, all you heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause your mighty ones to come down, O LORD. 12 Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. 13 Put you in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. 14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. 15 The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. 16 The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. 17 So shall you know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more.
American King James Version×; Zechariah 14:1-15 Zechariah 14:1-15 1 Behold, the day of the LORD comes, and your spoil shall be divided in the middle of you. 2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. 4 And his feet shall stand in that day on the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall split in the middle thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. 5 And you shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal: yes, you shall flee, like as you fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with you. 6 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: 7 But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light. 8 And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. 9 And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one. 10 All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin’s gate to the place of the first gate, to the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel to the king’s winepresses. 11 And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited. 12 And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand on their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth. 13 And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbor, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbor. 14 And Judah also shall fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the heathen round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel, in great abundance. 15 And so shall be the plague of the horse, of the mule, of the camel, and of the ass, and of all the beasts that shall be in these tents, as this plague.
American King James Version×). Yet He will vanquish them.
For many, their flesh will dissolve away while they’re still standing (Zechariah 14:12 Zechariah 14:12And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand on their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.
American King James Version×)—such will be the power of the returning King of Kings. The Beast ruler and False Prophet will be cast into a lake of fire (Revelation 19:20 Revelation 19:20And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that worked miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
American King James Version×).
The saints who accompany Jesus Christ, His converted followers from this age, will also have a part in meting out judgment at that time (see Psalms 149:5-9 Psalms 149:5-9 5 Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud on their beds.
6 Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand;
7 To execute vengeance on the heathen, and punishments on the people;
8 To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron;
9 To execute on them the judgment written: this honor have all his saints. Praise you the LORD.
American King James Version×). Jesus said His followers do not fight today, as His Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36 John 18:36Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
American King James Version×). But when His Kingdom comes to take over this world, we will assist in bringing God’s justice—tempered, of course, with His mercy.
Sadly, it will take all this to set humanity on the right course. For it’s not until the world comes to the most horrific, nightmarish period of history ever, with unconscionable misery, that the way forward into lasting peace can begin to be taught and learned on a global scale.
But you do not need to wait until that time! If God is opening your mind to understanding His ways, you can turn to Him right now and receive His help in building His character, in rejecting the ways that lead to war and striving for peace.
And let the hope of God’s coming Kingdom encourage you through the worsening conditions of the world around you. Yes, dark days are coming. But the brightest future imaginable lies just beyond! Hold tight to that hope, and never let it go!