Main Figures of the Great Tribulation

by Pastor Kevin Sadler

Print This Article

After the BBS Board of Directors decided to move forward with the Grace Study Bible project, the various board members chose the books of the Bible for which they had an interest in writing notes. Following this, we invited faithful men with an understanding of the grace message from all over the country to write for the remaining books. My choices were the Gospel of John, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon, and Revelation.

Once I got started working on Revelation, however, I wondered if I could change my mind! It was tough at the beginning, but it ended up being a joyful and fascinating study.

The Woman: Israel

“And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev. 12:1).

At this point in the Book of Revelation, we are at the midpoint of the seven-year Tribulation. The seven seal judgments have been broken open, and the seven trumpet judgments have sounded and have started to manifest.

In Revelation 9:2-3,5,10, we learn how demonic locusts will torture men for “five months” under the fifth trumpet judgment. This is followed by the sixth trumpet which announces monstrous, demonic horsemen (vv. 16-19) destroying all that is in their path for “an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year” (v. 15). This equals thirteen months and 25 hours. Adding the five months of locusts to the thirteen months of horsemen makes one and one-half years. Thus, the previous judgments of the seals and four trumpets will take two years, because the seal and trumpet judgments take place during the first three and one-half years of the Tribulation, which our Lord called “the beginning of sorrows” (Matt. 24:8). The bowl judgments take place in the second three and one-half years, which our Lord called, “great tribulation” (Matt. 24:21).

As we come to Revelation 10-15, we learn about events that take place at the midpoint of the Tribulation, such as the slaying of the two witnesses and their resurrection and ascension (11:7-13), the assassination and resurrection of the Antichrist (13:3,12), the making of the image of the beast that all will be required to worship (13:14-15), and the requirement of taking the mark of the beast (13:16-18), among other things.

Revelation chapters 12-14 reveal those who will be the main characters of the second half of the Tribulation, or the Great Tribulation. We find in verse 1 of chapter 12 that one of those main characters will be “a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” This woman very clearly represents Israel. And believing Israel, portrayed as a woman, is the bride of Christ (Isa. 54:5-6; Rev. 19:7-8).

We see that the woman is Israel by the description regarding the sun, moon, and twelve stars. This reminds us of Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:9-11, with the sun representing Jacob (Israel), the moon representing Joseph’s mother, and the stars representing the sons of Jacob. Thus, the twelve stars represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Regarding this woman, Israel, verse 2 of Revelation 12 states,

“And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.”

As a mother giving birth (Isa. 26:17-18), Israel had agonized and suffered for centuries, longing for the Messiah to come and usher in His kingdom. We see affirmation of this in Zacharias, who prophesied, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David…That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us” (Luke 1:68-69,71).

The Dragon: Satan

“And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
“And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born” (Rev. 12:3-4).

Satan will be another main character of the Great Tribulation. Calling him “a great red dragon” depicts Satan as a fierce and deadly foe. Red speaks of bloodshed and his murderous ways. As our Lord said of him, “He was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44).

The dragon has “seven heads and ten horns.” The dragon’s multiple heads and horns, as well as his having “seven crowns upon his heads,” all combine to represent Satan’s power as the god of this world and to tell of the governmental control he will use to subjugate the entire world in the Great Tribulation. Under grace, it is pure speculation to try to identify the heads and horns. The Antichrist is given the same
description of “seven heads and ten horns” (13:1; 17:7,9,12), which shows that Satan will give him his authority.

When Revelation 12:4 states that the dragon’s “tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven,” this refers to the fallen angels who followed Satan at his original rebellion. The dragon standing before the woman (Israel) “to devour her child as soon as it was born” shows that Satan anticipated the Messiah’s birth in accordance with Scripture. Thus, we know that, after Christ was born, Satan was behind Herod’s seeking “the young Child to destroy Him” (Matt. 2:13).

The Man Child: Christ

“And she brought forth a Man Child, Who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her Child was caught up unto God, and to His throne” (Rev. 12:5).

The woman, Israel, gave birth, and the “Man Child,” Jesus Christ, was born (Isa. 9:6-7; Matt. 1:1). Christ is the main character of the Great Tribulation. At the end of those years, He will return on a white horse at the Battle of Armageddon and cast the Antichrist and the False Prophet into the Lake of Fire and establish His Millennial Kingdom (Rev. 19:11-21).

During Christ’s future earthly kingdom, He will “rule all nations with a rod of iron” (Rev. 12:5 cf. Psa. 2:7-9; Rev. 19:15). Further identifying the Man Child as Jesus Christ, John wrote that the “Child was caught up unto God, and to His throne,” which is the ascension of Christ to heaven (Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9; Rev. 3:21).

The Man Child was caught up unto God, but during the Great Tribulation, verse 6 of Revelation 12 says,

“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.”

There is a gap between verses 5 and 6, between Christ’s ascension (v. 5) and the fleeing of Israel into the wilderness (v. 6). What transpires during this gap is the Dispensation of the Grace of God (Eph. 3:2-3), as made known in the revelation of the mystery “which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints” (Col. 1:26). This current age and dispensation are not revealed in any of the prophetic writings in Scripture, including “this prophecy” (Rev. 1:3) of the Book of Revelation. We find it only in the writings of Paul. For nearly 2000 years, the Dispensation of Grace has delayed the fulfillment of the events of Daniel’s 70th week. Following the pretribulational Rapture of the Church (1 Thes. 1:10; 4:13-18; 5:9; 1 Cor. 15:51-53), God will pick up where He left off with Israel, beginning with the Day of the Lord (1 Thes. 5:1-3).

Israel fleeing into the wilderness is what the Lord told her she should do in His Olivet Discourse, that at the midpoint of the Tribulation, when the Abomination of Desolation (the image of the beast) stands in the temple, “Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains” (Matt. 24:16ff).

The “they” that will “feed her” (Rev. 12:6) in the wilderness refers to the sheep nations (Matt. 25:31-40). Prior to His kingdom, the Lord will say unto these nations, “For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in” (v. 35). Israel will be fed in the wilderness by these nations for 1260 days (Rev. 12:6), which equals three and one-half years, the time of the Great Tribulation.

The Archangel: Michael

“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
“And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
“And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night” (Rev. 12:7-10).

During the first half of the Tribulation, there will be “wars and rumours of wars” (Matt. 24:6), but at the midpoint of the Tribulation, there will be a war in heaven. Michael the archangel, the protector of Israel (Dan. 10:20-21; 12:1; Jude 1:9), will battle against the dragon, the adversary of Israel.

It’s interesting to me how this will be a battle between equals. The created angels, Michael and Satan, are equal in strength, and the holy angels and demons under each of their commands are likewise equal. The only difference is that it is a battle between two-thirds holy angels versus one-third fallen angels. Moreover, God is also sovereign over this war, and He will empower the victory of Michael.

As a result of his defeat, “that old serpent, called the Devil [Slanderer], and Satan [Adversary],” will be cast out of heaven and confined to the earth. He will never again have access to any of heaven’s spheres, whether it is the first heaven of our upper atmosphere, the second heaven of outer space, or the third heaven where God dwells.

Verse 10 of Revelation 12 states that Satan, being cast out of heaven, will no longer be able to accuse believers before God in heaven (Job 1:6-11). The accuser of the brethren has something evil that can be said of every believer in Christ. None of us is 100 percent holy in everyday living. We all stumble, fail, and sin. However, we have a faithful Intercessor “Who is even at the right hand of God, Who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:34). Our standing with God is unaffected by Satan’s accusations because “It is God that justifieth” (Rom. 8:33); He has declared us righteous in Christ. We have been given the very righteousness of Christ and are righteous in Him forever (Rom. 3:22; 2 Cor. 5:21).

As a result of Satan being cast to the earth and confined there, verse 12 of Revelation 12 is a verse of exultation:

“Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”

Satan’s banishment from the heavens is cause for its residents to rejoice, but his confinement to the earth is bad news for the inhabitants of the earth. He will be full of great wrath knowing that he has only “a short time.” The “short time” is defined in verse 14 as “a time, and times, and half a time.” “A time” equals one year, “and times” equals two years, “and half a time” equals one-half year. One plus two plus one-half equals three and one-half years, the second half of the Tribulation, the time of Great Tribulation.

Satan’s Persecution of Israel

“And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the Man Child.
“And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
“And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
“And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev.

Satan will fix his attention squarely on believing Israel during the Great Tribulation and will persecute “the woman which brought forth the Man Child.” In Israel’s past, the dragon sought to “devour” the Man Child (v. 4), and during the future Great Tribulation, he will seek to devour the “woman,” or Israel. This is why Israel is taught in 1 Peter 5:8 to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

During the Great Tribulation, verse 14 of Revelation 12 tells us that “two wings of a great eagle” will be given to Israel, “that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place.” This hearkens back to Israel’s past at Mount Sinai when God told Israel, “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto Myself” (Ex. 19:4). God will aid their escape, and in the wilderness, He will protect her from Satan and the Antichrist.

God will also nourish her in the wilderness. Like in the days of Moses when Israel wandered in the wilderness, God will provide manna from heaven (Ex. 16:1-36) and give Israel her daily bread (Matt. 6:11). Revelation 12 shows that believing Israel will be sustained in two ways during the Great Tribulation: first, by the believing nations aiding her (12:6) and, second, by God supernaturally providing for her needs (12:14).

In verse 15, we learn that Satan, in his great wrath, will hunt and find Israel in the wilderness, and he will “cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman.” In Scripture, “flood” sometimes refers to an invading, destroying army. We see this in Psalms 18:4, “the floods of ungodly men,” and in Isaiah 59:19, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood,” and in Jeremiah 46:7-8, “Who is this that cometh up as a flood…? Egypt riseth up like a flood…and he saith…I will destroy the city and the inhabitants thereof.” Thus we see that the serpent will sweep away, consume, and destroy Israel by this attacking force.

However, God will use the earth to thwart this attack. Like with Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Num. 16:31-33; Deut. 11:6), the earth will dramatically and supernaturally open her mouth and swallow “up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth” (Rev. 12:16).

During the Great Tribulation, Satan will be “wroth” (Rev. 12:17), full of rage against the whole nation of Israel, but he will declare war on “the remnant of her seed,” that is, the Jewish “saints” (13:7) who “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (12:17) and believe in Him.

Out of his hatred for believing Israel, Satan will war against her in the Great Tribulation; under grace, Satan wars against the Church, the Body of Christ. Since almost the beginning of time, Satan and his forces of evil have been in battle against God and His own. Satan turns his guns on us the moment we trust Christ as Savior. Being engaged in this ancient struggle, we are called to endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:3), lead others to Him Who delivers lost souls from the power of darkness (Col. 1:13), “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12), and “stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). We do this, not in our own strength, but by being “strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10). May we all be strong in the Lord as we take our place in the spiritual battle to bring honor and glory to our Savior.

You can receive More Minutes With the Bible every week in your email inbox. This list features longer articles, including both original content and articles that have appeared in the Berean Searchlight.