The two great spiritual realities which face all of us are God’s kingdom and Satan’s kingdom. The Triune God has supreme authority over the universe, and He is served by a large number of angels and humans. The devil’s counterfeit kingdom arose from a prehistoric rebellion against God’s kingdom, and in its composition it shows clear signs of imitating the kingdom of God. The following is a comparative table of the two kingdoms:
Yahweh – the true God of heaven and earth (Acts 17:24). His servants, i.e. angels and saved people, are called to live holy and walk in the light of His divine nature (Matt. 25:31; 1 Pet. 1:15-16; Eph. 5:8).
Satan – the false god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4). His servants, i.e. fallen angels and unsaved people, are walking in spiritual darkness according to the dictates of his depraved nature (2 Pet. 2:4; John 3:19).
Christ – God’s Son, in whom the Father dwells and through whom He works (John 10:30; 14:10; Heb. 1:1-2). He was appointed Judge and King and will publicly assume these positions at His second coming in power and glory (Rev. 11:15; 19:16).
Antichrist – the son of perdition, to whom Satan will give his power, throne and great authority (Rev. 13:2). He will institute a satanic new world order, rule over the whole world for seven years and persecute the followers of the true Christ (Rev. 13:7).
The Holy Spirit – God sent His Spirit to convict people of sin, to regenerate and fill them, and to guide them into all truth (John 3:5; 16:8-13). He glorifies Christ (John 16:14) and enables us to honour and follow Him.
Deceiving spirits – Satan sends out evil spirits to deceive people spiritually (1 Tim. 4:1) and to promote a sinful lifestyle. They empower their victims to practise occult gifts, thereby glorifying and following Lucifer.
Born again people – they are witnesses to God and His Son, with a commission to expand His kingdom on earth (Acts 1:8). They are the light of a dark world (Matt. 5:14) and will rule with Christ in His kingdom (Rev. 5:9-10; 20:6). Apart from evangelising they should also warn against deception (cf. Matt. 24:4-5). At present they are pilgrims and sojourners in an apostate world (1 Pet. 2:11; 1 John 5:19).
Lost people – they are Satan’s co-workers in the expansion of his kingdom, and are actively promoting the works of darkness (Eph. 5:11). Among them are many false prophets who play a leading role in deceiving people (2 Cor. 11:13-15; Matt. 24:24). The end-time false prophet will be the biggest deceiver of them all (Rev. 19:20), and will secure a world-wide following for the Antichrist.
The predominantly spiritual war that has been waged between these two kingdoms throughout the ages will, in the end-time, culminate in a major physical confrontation on earth. Lucifer will again try to do what he had done in heaven long ago before his fall, i.e. to exalt himself to the position of God in a bid to become sole ruler of the universe. This effort will lead to a direct confrontation between two christs – the true Christ of God’s kingdom and the false christ of Satan’s kingdom (the Antichrist). There can be no doubt concerning the outcome of this war as Satan and his co-workers will be cast down to the deepest depths of the pit.
Let us briefly review the waging of the war between these two kingdoms as that will give us an indication of what we can expect during the end-time confrontation. We read the following on Satan’s eviction from heaven:
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High. Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit. Those who see you will gaze at you, and consider you, saying: Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms?” (Isa. 14:12-16).
According to Revelation 12:4, Lucifer deceived a third of the angels in heaven to join him in rebellion against God. Because of this, they became fallen angels who were subsequently described as devils (demons) or evil spirits (Eph. 6:12; Rev. 9:20). Lucifer was known as devil or Satan (Matt. 4:1, 10), but many descriptive names are also used for him, e.g. dragon, serpent, and the deceiver of the world (Rev. 12:9).
Satan’s wicked spiritual kingdom was established in heavenly places surrounding the earth, from where he wields great influence upon the vast majority of the people on earth. Paul informs believers about this intense battle: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).
During Old Testament times, the Lord often engaged in Satan’s kingdom on a physical level by pouring out His judgements upon the wicked. During the Flood, an entire community of wicked people were obliterated from the face of the earth. Centuries later, large numbers of people again apostatised greatly, giving rise to the outpouring of divine wrath upon Sodom, Gomorrah, and neighbouring cities in the Jordan Valley when they were destroyed with fire from heaven.
The Lord called Abraham from the pagan world and made him the founding father of a new, spiritually enlightened people who were called to live holy lives. Israel was God’s Chosen People and the representatives of His kingdom, and their divine calling imposed the obligation upon them to live separated from the heathen kingdoms. On various occasions the Lord intervened in a dramatic way by pouring out judgements upon the enemies of His kingdom. It was often demonstrated that, for God’s enemies, it is “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). Think about the thousands of Egyptians who died during the Ten Plagues of the Lord (Ex. 7–11), the city of Ai which was destroyed together with its inhabitants (Jos. 8:26-29), and the 185 000 Assyrians who were killed in one night by the angel of the Lord (2 Kings 19:35). There were various divine interventions by the Lord to deliver His people and judge His enemies.
However, Israel’s unfaithfulness towards the Lord caused Him to reduce His intervening actions. During the course of time, Israel apostatised to such an extent that they even started practising idolatry, thereby rendering themselves enemies of the Lord. Instead of destroying their enemies the Lord surrendered Israel to their enemies. Even these experiences did not cause Israel to come to their senses and repent, and eventually they did not only reject the Father and His prophets, but also the Messiah and His disciples. Consequently, the entire Israel was surrendered to the Roman Empire, leading to the destruction of their capital, Jerusalem, and also the temple, while the surviving Jews were taken as captives of war and later became dispersed throughout the world.
The dispensation of grace
After the rejection of the Messiah and the establishment of the church of Christ among the nations, a completely new dispensation dawned in God’s plan for humanity. That is the dispensation of grace, not of judgements. This does not mean that God will no longer judge sinners, as eternal death still awaits all unrepentant sinners. It only means that there is no longer a geographic boundary between God’s people and the heathen nations, as was the case during Old Testament times. In this new dispensation God would offer blessings and forgiveness of sins to all nations. The wheat and tares would grow together in the same field until harvest time, when the tares will be gathered together and burnt (Matt. 13:36-43).
In the meantime, the Lord sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matt. 5:45). When natural disasters occur, such as floods and earthquakes, it is part of the imperfect world in which we live – they are definitely not judgements of God as many innocent people also die in these disasters. The Lord will only during the coming time of judgements in the tribulation period, again use natural disasters as part of His judgements upon the wicked. But the righteous will have been removed ahead of this time as they are not destined for God’s judgements.
During the church dispensation only a spiritual battle is raging between God’s kingdom and Satan’s kingdom, which does not lead to any physical judgements. We must put on God’s spiritual armour to be able to remain standing against the wiles of the devil. We are waging war against evil powers by means of spiritual weapons such as faith, prayer, the Word, the blood of the Lamb, and the word of our testimony. This spiritual conflict will not continue indefinitely as these two kingdoms will be revealed physically, after which there will be no possibility for their co-existence on earth. That situation will lead to a major confrontation since one of them will have to make way for the other.
The Day of the Lord
After the dispensation of grace (the church dispensation) has been concluded by way of the rapture of the true church (1 Thess. 4:16-17; Luke 21:36), “the Day of the Lord” will dawn which is a long period of about 1 000 years. The Lord Jesus will then be revealed as Judge and King. The beginning of this period, during the seven years of tribulation, will be a time of divine judgements when Christ will be the Judge of an apostate world. Subsequently, during His reign of peace, He will be King on the throne of David in Jerusalem. At the end of His thousand-year reign of peace the second resurrection and final judgement will occur when Christ will judge all the wicked people of all time.
In biblical prophecies on the Day of the Lord, reference is mostly made to the divine wrath which will be poured out upon the wicked during the coming tribulation period, but the Day of the Lord is not at all restricted to this relatively short period. We must know that Jesus Christ is Lord, King and Judge. He will destroy His enemies and rule as King with a rod of iron. We should not only think of Him as the meek and mild Jesus of the Gospels, which was a time when people did not yet realise that He is Lord and God. We should be mindful of the fact that He is the true God and Judge of all people.
Even though there were no divine judgements in the church dispensation after the fall of Jerusalem and the dispersion of Israel, it does not mean that we serve a God of love only, who suddenly became so tolerant of sinners that He will not judge any people and send them to hell. He is indeed longsuffering but will certainly judge all sinners during the coming Day of the Lord. He clearly states that there will be a time of reckoning:
“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).
The Day of Judgement at the end of the millennium will be the biggest single day of judgement within the wider framework of the Day of the Lord. This long period of the revelation of Jesus Christ (one thousand years) is often only referred to in the Bible as “that day”. It will begin when the true church is snatched away to appear before Christ. Directly afterwards, the seven years of tribulation will follow when Christ will be revealed as Judge who will pour out the wrath of God upon the earth (Rev. 6:1-17). After the seven years, Christ will set foot on the Mount of Olives when all people will see Him as Judge and King. He will then continue His judgements upon the remainder of the wicked.
During Christ’s reign of peace, which will form part of the Day of the Lord, He will rule from Jerusalem. A stream of water will emerge from the Temple Mount, one part of which shall flow to the Dead Sea and one part to the Mediterranean Sea: “And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, Half of them toward the eastern sea And half of them toward the western sea; In both summer and winter it shall occur. And the LORD shall be King over all the earth” (Zech. 14:8-9). There will indeed be many summers and winters in “that day”.
This long period in which the Lord Jesus will reveal Himself in His judicial and royal capacities will begin when He first shows Himself to His faithful servants when He comes to take them with Him to heaven. He said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).
When we arrive in heaven with Him we will first, as part of our glorification, appear before His judgement seat to receive awards of grace for our works after repentance. Paul says, “For we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ. ... So then each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:10, 12; cf. 2 Cor. 5:10). Paul refers to “the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). Will you stand before the Lord on that day with empty hands, or as one who used your talents and gifts in His service?
After the true church has been caught away, the seven-year tribulation on earth will commence when the first seal of God’s judgements is broken in heaven. A white horse will appear on earth, which symbolically refers to the Antichrist as a false prince of peace who will establish his policy of global unity and peace. During the subsequent 3½ years there will be a time of extreme spiritual deception on earth, when all people will be united into a new world order – religious unity under the guidance of a single world messiah, political unity under a world government headed by the false messiah, as well as economic unity within a centrally controlled, cashless world economy. John says, “And all the world marvelled and followed the beast. So they worshipped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like the beast?” (Rev. 13:3-4).
During the middle of the tribulation a power struggle will erupt which will be unprecedented in the entire history of humanity. The dragon (Satan) will have given the beast (the Antichrist) “his power, his throne, and great authority” (Rev. 13:2). Halfway through the tribulation, when the Antichrist is firmly established as world messiah, he will emerge with a great show of power and exalt himself from world messiah to the position of God. Paul says he is the man of sin and the son of perdition, “who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2:3-4).
In the middle of the tribulation, when Israel has already built the third temple in Jerusalem and fully put it into operation, the Antichrist will enter the Holy of Holies and declare himself to be God. He will cause an image of himself to be erected in the temple and force all the citizens of his global empire to worship the image. John says, “... the image of the beast [will] both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (Rev. 13:15).
When these dramatic events occur on earth there will, at the same time, break out a war in the spiritual realm which will form part of the dragon’s and beast’s show of power in an effort to become supreme rulers of the universe:
“And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. ... Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time. Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. ... And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:7-17).
The kingdom of darkness is clearly conscious of biblical prophecies that Christ will return at the end of Israel’s 70th year-week (the tribulation of seven years; cf. Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15-30) to destroy the Antichrist, his followers and their satanic new world order. They will do everything in their power to avert this situation. First, there will be war in the heavenly places, where Satan still has access to God’s throne to accuse Christians who are sinning. When he launches this big offensive he will be defeated and expelled from God’s presence. After this event he will focus all his attention on the earth and its inhabitants.
Here on earth the devil, together with the Antichrist and false prophet, will do everything possible to destroy God’s kingdom. They will try to kill the woman, Israel, who bore the Child, Jesus. But the Lord will prepare a place in the wilderness for a remnant of Israel where they can survive during the last 3½ years (time, times and a half time) of the tribulation period. Satan will also try to kill her other offspring, i.e. Christians who, during the time of the tribulation, accepted Israel’s Messiah (the seed of Abraham) as their Saviour. They will refuse to worship the image of the beast and to receive his number, and that will cost them their lives (cf. Rev. 6:9-11; 20:4).
During the dark times described as the “great tribulation” (Matt. 24:21) the satanic triumvirate will employ all possible means to convince as many people on earth as possible, and specifically also their governments, to deploy armed forces in the Middle East to fight against Christ and His heavenly army when He returns to Jerusalem. Demons will be sent out to deceive them:
“And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. ... And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon” (Rev. 16:13-16).
During this great deployment of the Antichrist and his powers the Lord will cause plagues and judgements to be poured out upon the kingdom of the beast – more severe than anything that ever occurred on earth, thereby rendering it a great tribulation as there never was on earth:
“Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine. I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, a man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger” (Isa. 13:9-13; cf. Isa. 24:1-23; Joel 2:11, 31; 3:14).
Unusually big earthquakes will occur – not only in the earth’s fault areas, but everywhere. John says, “And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. ... And the cities of the nations fell” (Rev. 16:18-19).
The people on earth, including the pagans, will know about the judgements of the true Christ whom they have rejected, and will call out to the mountains and the rocks when the judgements befall them: “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev. 6:16-17). But most of the people who survive these judgements will remain unrepentant: “But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues ... did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Rev. 9:20-21).
The great victory
At the height of the battle of Armageddon Jesus Christ will return to the earth to judge the wicked, to save the remnant of Israel, and to establish His new, Christian world order on earth. The two leaders of Satan’s kingdom will be cast alive into the lake of fire, while the devil himself will be confined to the bottomless pit (Rev. 19:20; 20:1-3).
That will still not be the end of the war between the kingdoms of God and Satan, as Satan will, for a short time, be released from the pit at the end of Christ’s thousand-year reign of peace. He will then succeed in deceiving multitudes of people on earth to join him in launching an attack on Jerusalem as the main centre of God’s kingdom on earth (Rev. 20:7-10). The enemies of God will be devoured by fire from heaven. After that, the second resurrection and the final judgement will occur, when the devil and all his deceived followers will be cast into the lake of fire.
It is difficult to comprehend how a large multitude of people who experienced the blessings and benefits of Christ’s reign of peace during the Millennium, will nevertheless become victims of Satan’s deception. This fact again underscores the phenomenon that even in the best and most peaceful societies there are people who are not truly born again, despite their close association with Christianity. They are nominal believers who pay lip service to the Christian faith, but they only have a form of godliness. When they are subjected to a test their faith is found wanting.
Are you truly a member of Christ’s kingdom and are you ready for the final drama that will soon play out? Only those who are ready will depart with the Bridegroom.