And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword. And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine. And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth. (Rev 6:2-8)
Here John records that he saw a conqueror, war, famine, and death. Death came to 1/4th of the earth by war, famine, pestilence, and the beast from the earth. This sounds just like what Jesus described in Matthew 24.
So far we have seen that there is a period of seven years at the end of the age in which many prophesied events take place. This period begins with the Antichrist confirming a covenant with Israel. Then we see a conqueror, war, famine, and mass death. Then Jesus says the Temple in Jerusalem is made desolate by an abomination. What is this abomination which Jesus says will stand in the holy place.
Paul the Apostle tells us more about it:
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. (2Th 2:3-4)
Paul said that "the man of sin", another name for the Antichrist, will sit in the temple of God shewing himself that he is God. This man, referred to as the Beast in the book of Revelation, is said to be the son of perdition meaning he is destined to destruction.
John tells us more about this man in the book of Revelation. John calls him the Beast and says that he gets his power from the dragon. We are told that the dragon is the Devil in the previous chapter (Rev. 12:9). The Beast will be slain but come back to life. The whole world will be deceived by his miraculous resurrection and will worship him and Satan which gave him his authority. For forty two months no one, not even the saints of God, will be able to destroy him. In fact, they are given into his hand and he wears them out.
And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. (Rev 13:1-10)
Jesus says that when this takes place, those in and around Jerusalem are to immediately flee to the mountains "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." (Mat 24:21) This is the beginning of the greatest persecution that the elect (God's people) will ever see. In fact, it is so severe that God cuts those days short, as to preserve the lives of some portion of the saints.
And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. (Mat 24:22)
During this time, called The Great Tribulation, any who will not worship the Beast (Antichrist) and receive his mark in their right hand or forehead are to be killed. Those who refuse the mark will immediately be cut off from their communities and society as a whole. They will not be able to buy nor sell without the mark. They will be outcasts subject to starvation and the elements. Much of this is revealed to us in the remainder of Revelation chapter 13. It is there that we are told of a second beast who we later learn is called the false prophet.
And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought 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. (Rev 19:20)
It is the false prophet who, through his miracles, causes the world to worship the Anti-Christ and receive his mark.
And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. (Rev 13:11-18)
Daniel also spoke of this time of intense persecution:
And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. (Dan 7:25)
And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy 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 thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. (Dan 12:1)
Presently, the efforts of Satan to reveal the Antichrist are restrained by Michael the archangel. He is specially empowered to contend with the Devil (Jude 1:9). When Michael stands up the mystery of iniquity is no longer restrained and the Antichrist is revealed. Paul tells us this in II Thessalonians 2.
And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. (2Th 2:6-10)
It is after this that Daniel says "there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time".
John describes the reason for the fierce wrath of the Devil as being “he knoweth that he hath but a short time time”:
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. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. 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. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. (Rev 12:7-13)
Being cast out of heaven the dragon persecutes the woman. The woman is Israel and the man child is none other than Jesus Christ our Lord. We see here that Satan being cast out of heaven exercises great wrath against all who are the elect of God upon the earth.
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 12:17)
The statements of the prophets are so overwhelmingly clear that this will be a time of unparalleled persecution brought on by Satan himself through the Beast (Antichrist) and the False Prophet. In fact, in the vision which Christ gave to John, that is recorded in Revelation 6:9-11, John sees some of these murdered saints of God whose souls were under the altar in the temple of God in Heaven.
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. (Rev 6:9-11)
Here, those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held (Christians) are crying out to the Lord that he would avenge their blood upon those who dwell upon the earth. If you will notice, they are told to rest a little season "until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." There are two things important to pay attention to here. First, that the wrath of God upon those who murdered them has not come yet; in fact He says they have to wait. This lets us know that the wrath of God is not present during the birth pangs or Great Tribulation. The wrath does not begin until the Day of the Lord, at an unknow point in the second half of the seven years. Second, these are God's faithful that were permitted to be slain by the earth dwellers. Some believe that God will not allow His own to suffer at the hand of the Antichrist, but this is clearly not true.
Another distinguishing feature of this time is what Paul called the falling away. It is the Greek word apostasia. It means a departure from the Faith. A forsaking of the Word of God. A turning away from Christ.
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (2Th 2:3)
Paul says that before the day of the LORD comes there will be a falling away. Many will forsake the Christian Faith. There are two aspects of this apostasy. First, there will be great deception wrought by the False Prophet and the Antichrist. So much so that Jesus said:
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Mat 24:24)
Many who are Christian in name only will be deceived and embrace the Antichrist. There are 2.4 billion people upon the earth today that call themselves Christians, however, the vast majority of these don't know Jesus and will readily believe the false prophets and follow the Antichrist when he is revealed. Secondly, the threat of loss of life will cause many to submit to the demands of the Beast. The case is not so with those who know the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is impossible for them to be deceived. Neither will they fail to lay down their lives for Jesus who died for them.
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Rev 12:11)
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mat 16:25-26)
The departure or falling away will be so great that true Christians shall be hated and be betrayed by their own family members.
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. (Mat 24:9-12)
Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. (Mar 13:12)