A review of what the Scriptures reveal of Satans activity during the Tribulation.
It is worthy of note that the New Testament begins and ends with outstanding Satanic activity. The presence here on earth of Gods eternal Son, the Man Christ Jesus, to accomplish redemption, was the signal for a Herculean attack, and thus Scripture declares: “the tempter came to Him” (Matt 4:3). Another attack of similar, if not greater, proportions is envisaged as taking place in the period preceding the second advent of the Lord Jesus Christ, during the “Tribulation.” This article draws attention to that conflict.
Four stages in the execution of judgment upon Satan can be discerned from Scripture: 1) His fall from heaven (Luke 10:18). This refers to his banishment from that very near place which was his as “the anointed cherub that covereth” (Ezek 28:14). Thus, while it is clear that Satan still has access to certain celestial regions (Job 1:6), he has been expelled from the place of intimacy and nearness. 2) Satan is “cast out into the earth” from the heavenly sphere altogether (Rev 12:7-12). 3) He is cast into the bottomless pit for 1000 years (Rev 20:1-3). 4) He is cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:10).
In the passage in Revelation 20:1-3 which describes the imprisonment of Satan in the bottomless pit during the thousand years, he is called the Dragon, that Old Serpent, the Devil, and Satan. The same four terms are found in Chapter 12 in the same order. His designation as “The Dragon” suggests his ferocious character, and this aspect of Satan will be clearly seen in Tribulation times as he cruelly persecutes the woman (12:13). Treachery and subtlety mark the serpent, and no doubt when the term “old” serpent is used, his evil activities and subtlety in the Garden of Eden are recalled. That he still acts in the serpent character is an evidence of his unchanging nature. His evil ways as the false accuser are suggested by the term “Devil,” and it seems possible, that at least in the early part of the Tribulation he will falsely accuse “our brethren” as never before – day and night! As Satan, he will show himself to be the inveterate adversary of God and His Son, and His great purpose.
The expulsion of Satan from heaven in the middle of the seven-year period of tribulation marks the beginning of a new phase in his enmity toward God and man. Various passages in the book of Revelation set forth the objects of Satans virulent attack and undying hatred.
Before his expulsion from heaven, he is seen as “the accuser of our brethren” (Rev 12:10), as already mentioned. When it is stated that they “overcame him, by the blood of the lamb” (vs 11), it becomes readily apparent that one of the principal motives behind Satans accusations is his deep rooted opposition to the plan of salvation whereby men are saved “through faith in His blood.”
Satans opposition to the nation of Israel is a fact of history. That opposition will be manifested in an unparalleled attack during the Great Tribulation. In ch 12:13, in true dragon character, he is said to persecute “the woman which brought forth the man child.” That the woman indicates the nation of Israel can hardly be questioned. A reason for this deep-rooted hatred may be indicated in the words: “…which brought forth the man child.” His opposition to the nation is closely connected with his opposition to the incarnation of the Son of God. This is worthy of note. In his hatred of that people, we trace not only his hatred of Christ, but also of the whole saving plan of God. The passage explains that to the “woman,” whom the dragon is said to persecute, 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, times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.” The reference seems to be, not to the apostate part of the nation which will worship the beast, but to that section of the nation, which although unsaved, refuses the mark of the beast. A further stage of the attack is stated in v.17, where the dragon is said “to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” The reference here is clearly to the saved remnant of the nation, upon which Satan will vent his fury.
There is a close connection between chapters 12 and 13 of Revelation. Many versions translate the first three words of Ch 13 as “And he stood”. Thus it may well be that it is the dragon who is seen to stand “upon the sand of the sea” in an attitude of one supervising the coming forth of his agent. Whatever view is taken of the textual difficulty, it is clear that the beasts are his agents to further his manifestation of hatred against Israel. But as the details of chapter 13 unfold, Satan is seen to use his agents, the beasts, for an all-out attack upon God and Christ. Thus, concerning the first beast it is said that “there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies” (Rev 13:5). His blasphemy against God, His name, and His tabernacle and them that dwell in heaven (v.6) seems to indicate eloquent discourses, perhaps on great state occasions, intended to make appear ridiculous all the biblically-based concepts of the true God and His Son. The truth that saved men and women dwell with God in heaven will also come in for the attack of his evil oratory. But that monstrous attack on God will not only manifest itself in blasphemous lying speeches, but also in the diabolically delegated power given to the Man of Sin as seen in “all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thess 2:9). Of the False Prophet in ch 13 it is said, “He doeth great wonders… and deceiveth them that dwell on the Earth by 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”(v.14). The devils lust for the worship of the human race will reach a climax as he captures the loyalty of the masses and diverts worship from the true God to himself by means of his henchmen (see 13:4).
It will at once occur to the observant reader that the secular society of the present day may well be preparing mankind for the coming blasphemous speeches of the beast, in whose attack upon God the inspiration of Satan is undeniable. In many countries, the time-honored reverence for God and the respect for His Holy Word are regarded as outmoded, almost an insult to the “superior” intelligence of modern man. The spiritual believer, walking in the clear sunlight of Divine revelation, finds grace to rise above the soul-chilling effects of a scoffing society that day by day ripens for the judgment of God.
Attention may here be drawn to Revelation 9:1-12, where at the sounding of the 5th trumpet, a star is seen, having fallen from the heaven unto the earth. That this personage, indicated by the star, is indeed Satan seems very clear, and the reference may be to his expulsion from heaven as presented in ch 12:9. It is to be noted that the passage in chapter 12 includes “his angels” in the expulsion, but in chapter 9 he musters a sinister army from another source, as in the sovereignty of God there is given to him the key of the bottomless pit (9:1). The bottomless pit may answer to the “chains of darkness” of 2 Peter 2:4. The host of evil spirits thus liberated, torments the “men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads”(9:4). It seems clear that this is an all-out effort to induce men to worship the beast. Many able commentators see the symbolic locust army as a latter day outbreak of spiritism in very sinister form. Spirit beings now under restraint will be temporarily liberated to bring untold anguish upon mankind.
The final stage of satanic activity in the Tribulation period is seen in the outpouring of the sixth vial (Rev 16:12-16). First of all there is the drying up of the waters of the great river Euphrates, “that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared” (v 12). The evil trio, headed by the Dragon, and including the beast and the false prophet, are seen with unclean spirits like frogs coming out of their mouths. These are clearly shown to be demons (v 14 Newberry margin) and the sequel indicates intensive demonic activity which results in the gathering together of the kings of the Earth and of the whole world to the battle of the great day of God Almighty. The unclean spirits like frogs coming out of their mouths seem to suggest the satanically inspired persuasion that will so readily convince the nations to gather for war. The professed object of this great war campaign may be one thing, but the true Satanic object is another. It is “the battle of that great day of God Almighty” – an all-out desperate attempt to thwart the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to the Earth. But, despite the mustering of every Satanic force, pressed to the utmost of their limit (as limits they have), ch 19:11 tells of an opened heaven, and of the glorious and majestic descent of Him Who is called “Faithful and True.” He leads “the conquering line.” No weapon, however sophisticated, can have any effect either on His glorious person, or on His accompanying army. He comes in triumph and with His advent the war is over, and the victory over Satan and his hosts is won.
The invitation goes forth from the angel “standing in the sun: Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God” (v 17). Summary divine judgment has turned the vast battlefield into a scene of death and destruction. Victims of the confusion of utter defeat, the beast and the false prophet are cast alive into the Lake of Fire. Heavens victory over the arch enemy is triumphantly dramatized in the majestic descent of an angel having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand (Rev 20:1). Satan is bound for one thousand years and cast into the bottomless pit.
Fitting are the concluding words of Dr. Herbert Lockyer in his massive two- volume work, “The Man who Changed the World.” “O Nazarene, Thou hast conquered.”