Biblical Prophecy and the End Times

Everyone is interested in what the future holds.  Only in biblical prophecy do we have any assurance of what will truly take place however.

God has given us a roadmap to what the future holds for humanity.  It is not easy to understand prophecy however, just as many Jews missed the coming of Jesus despite all of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Him.  Fortunately the Bible has an abundance of passages that clearly do tell us what will take place in the future.

Every time a major disaster happens, some people get swept up in wondering whether we are facing the end of the world.  The wise student of prophecy keeps a close eye on Israel and the Middle East as they play an important role in prophecy.  Today the pieces may be coming into place for the return of Christ but we cannot know for sure.  All we can truly know is that Christ’s return may come at any moment and that we have signs to look out for.

Prophecy scares some people but it should give us hope.  We know that God wins.  Jesus is victorious over sin, death, and Satan.  No matter what confusion people may have about prophecy, we can all rest assured in this fact.

There are many ways to discover what you may be looking for in this prophecy section.  The easiest is to just use the search box on the upper left.  You may also choose to select an article by checking out the categories or by looking at the commonly used tags.

Interpreting Biblical Prophecy Looking for the Antichrist
Is this the end? Daniel’s 70 ‘Sevens’ Explained
The Millennial Kingdom

The Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ

Gog and Magog – A Big Battle Looms The Future According to Jesus
Mount Olivet Discourse Bible Study

More in depth looks at Bible prophecy on these sites within the Spreading Light Network.

The Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ

The differences between the rapture and the Second Coming of Christ have confused a lot of Christians.  Scripture describes several differences between the two events.  Because most post-tribulationists lump the two events together, sometimes as one event, sometimes as consecutive events, this may appear to be an attack on the post-tribulational position.  Likewise, it may appear to have a pre-tribulationist slant to it but the truth is, these arguments may be used in favor of both the pre or mid tribulation views of the rapture.  It is not meant as an attack on the post-tribulation position but simply an attempt to separate the two events.

There are four main passages to read when looking at differences between the events of the rapture and the events of our Lord’s Second Coming.  The rapture passages are 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and 1 Corinthians 15.  The passages concerning the Second Coming are Zechariah 14 and Revelation 19.  These passages won’t be cited for each difference looked at but anything outside of these passages will be cited with each point.

See a quick chart comparing the two events:

in pdf format
in excel format

Location of Christians

The first difference to observe is the location of Christians for the events.  In the rapture, believers are called to meet Christ in the air.  In an instant the dead in Christ will rise and the believers who are left will then be called away.  In the case of the Second Coming, Christ returns with angels and thousands upon thousands of His holy ones.  He sets foot on the Mount of Olives and Battles the armies gathered against Him in the Valley of Armageddon.  This can be derived from Rev 16:16, 17:14, 19:11-19.

If not for other descriptions of these two events, it would be feasible that Christians are raptured to meet the Lord in the air and then immediately descend to earth with Him.  This is a mistake many make because they do not look at the other differences surrounding the two events.

Who does He return with?

The next difference is who will be with Christ.  When the rapture is described we are lead to believe that Christ returns alone.  It is an argument from silence because nothing is mentioned one way or another.  When the Second Coming occurs, Christ returns with angels and other Christians.  Jude 14-15 describes this in addition to Zechariah.

Purpose – mercy or judgment?

The purpose of the rapture and the Second Coming must be examined as well.  The rapture is viewed as an act of deliverance as believers are taken from a fallen world to dwell with Christ forever.  The Second Coming will be an act of judgment however.  This is the advent of the conquering king that the Jews looked for in His first coming while missing the suffering servant aspect of His mission.  When Christ returns it will be a glorious day for those who belong to Him as He establishes His kingdom on earth but it will be a dreadful day for all those who stand opposed to Him.

The key to understanding the rapture revolves around God’s mercy and His wrath.  Scripture makes it clear that Christians will not suffer God’s wrath.  In addition to 1 Thessalonians is Revelation 3:10, Luke 21:36, and Romans 5:9.  Many have drawn the conclusion that the Rapture is God’s way to prevent Christians from suffering His wrath.

Who is taken?

The focus of the rapture and the Second Coming is placed upon two different sets of people.  The rapture focuses on Christians as ones who are looking for and awaiting the Lord’s return.  In addition to 1 Thessalonians 4, Matthew 25:1-13 tells the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. Those who had extra oil and were waiting and prepared for the return of the bridegroom were taken while those who were foolish and ran out of oil were left.

The Second Coming paints just the opposite picture.  It is the foolish unrepentant ones who did not anticipate the Lord’s return who are taken.  In the parable of the weeds in Matthew 13, Jesus instructs that harvesters to allow the weeds to grow among the wheat until the time of the harvest.  Then the weeds are gathered together and thrown into the fire to be burned.  We see a similar picture of judgment in Matthew 24:37-39.  Here Jesus speaks of the how the days will be like that of Noah and His coming would be unexpected.  Many have mistakenly interpreted this passage to be in reference to the rapture.  However, the subjects of the illustration are important.  In the days of Noah, it was the unrighteous who were not looking for the Lord and went about as they pleased.  These people were swept away in the flood while righteous Noah and his family were all that remained.  The coming of the Lord will be like the flood and will sweep away the wicked.

Who will see it?

From our passage in 1 Corinthians we find that the rapture will be instant and “secret.”  No one will be able to witness it, only the effects afterward.  On the other hand, the Lord’s return to the earth will be very visible.  Matthew 24:27 & 30 and Revelation 1:7 declare that all will see him as He returns.  The people of the earth will mourn as they witness the Lord’s return.

We also learn that Jesus will return in the same way in which he left.  Acts 1:11 tells us that Jesus “will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.”  The prior verses tell of a slow return that was visible as the disciples watched until He was hidden by the clouds. 

The timing

It is clear from scripture that no one knows when the Lord’s return will be in regards to both His return in the air and His coming to earth.  However, we find from scripture that the rapture is imminent while Christ’s Second Coming follows certain events.

Our rapture passages make it clear that the Lord’s return is imminent.  We find from Matthew 24:43-44 and Revelation 3:3 that the Lord’s return will also be like a thief in the night.  Those who are not watching will be surprised.

The Lord’s Second Coming must be preceded by certain events however.  In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8 we learn that the man of lawlessness must first be revealed.  He will then be destroyed by the splendor of Christ’s coming.

The events of Matthew 24:4-30 need to take place before Christ’s Second Coming as well.  This passage is often used as “proof” that we are living in the end times and that Christ will soon return.  Indeed we have seen a rise in many of these things in our very lifetimes.  However, there will be a much greater increase during the days of the tribulation.  We know that this passage is not simply referring to the days before the rapture because in verse 15 it speaks of the abomination that causes desolation.  We learn from Daniel chapters 9:27 that this abomination occurs in the middle of the final “seven” – the middle of the tribulation.  Likewise, the return of the Lord at verse 30 refers to the Second Coming as we saw above.

The Lord’s return will occur 1260 days after the abomination that causes desolation. (Daniel 9:24-27& 12:11-12.)  Likewise, it will occur after the final 42 months (1260 days or “time, times and half a time” depending on the wording) according to Rev 12:6,14 & 13:5.

Finally, perhaps the weakest argument in favor of events that must precede the Lord’s return to earth – but still in need of mentioning – is the fact that numerous events are recorded in Revelation chapters 6-19 before the Lord’s Second Coming is recorded.  Often prophecy is not recorded chronologically as from our human perspective, but this is still worth mentioning as these are events that must take place and most understand that they will occur before Christ’s return.

The Millennial Kingdom

The Millennial Kingdom follows the Second Coming according to a literal interpretation of scripture.  This causes problems for putting the rapture and the Second Coming together or immediately one after the other.  At the rapture, Christians are immediately changed, made imperishable.  This is found in the discussion of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 as well as 1 John 3:2 which tells us we will be like Christ.  We know that Christ’s resurrected body is not like His earthly body but rather it was changed.

On the other hand, those who are in the Millennium have very mortal bodies as they have not yet been changed.  Isaiah 65:20 records that death will still occur, even if it is at a much slower rate than we presently see.

If the rapture occurs at the same time of Christ’s Second Coming, all Christians will be changed.  This begs the question of who enters the Millennial Kingdom if not the saints who survived the tribulation.  These people would likewise have been raised imperishable and death would not affect them.  Nor would they have children who would be subject to death as Mat 22:30 instructs that there will be no marriage.

It should be noted however, that this is only applicable if one takes a pre-millennial view of the return of Christ.  Other views see the millennium to be figurative rather than literal.  To some, we are living in the millennium currently as the church has inherited the blessings promised to Israel.  According to others of the amillennial view, there is no literal Millennium at all.

The conclusion

This is just one piece of the puzzle in the mystery of what will occur during the end times.  This is not an attempt to persuade one to a certain point of view but rather to show the differences between the rapture and Christ’s Second Coming.  One should educate themselves on the views of the rapture as well as what will occur during the Millennial Kingdom and when it will occur.  (See more on the Millennial Kingdom.)

If scripture were clearer on these issues, there would be less room for argument.  However, this does not excuse us for holding to a certain view and knowing why we believe what we believe.

As Christians we have every reason for hope for the future and we should look forward to the day that the Lord returns for us.

The Millennial Kingdom

The Millennial Kingdom is found specifically in Revelation 20.  Elsewhere throughout prophecy there are events mentioned that will occur during the Millennial Kingdom.  As with all prophecy and all of scripture in general, there are varying viewpoints on the Millennium.  For the purposes of this article, we will be examining the dispensational premillennial view.  We believe this to be the most literal view although we recognize other viewpoints to be derived from the Bible as well and do not look upon them as unbiblical.

Some differences that the other views hold (this is not exhaustive) 

Amillennial – 1,000 years is not literal.  The Millennial Kingdom is occurring now within the hearts of Christians.  The church has taken the place of Israel and has inherited all the blessings promised to Israel. 

Postmillennial – The Millennial Kingdom follows this present age.  It is brought about by an advance of the gospel as the world continues to get better and better.  The church has taken the place of Israel and has inherited all the blessings promised to Israel.  (It should be noted that this view was popular through the 1800’s but lost a lot of followers in the 1900’s after two world wars.) 

Historic premillennial – The second coming of Christ and the rapture occur at the same time just before the millennium.  Christ is currently reigning in heaven but will return to earth but necessarily for a literal 1,000 years.  Israel and the church are distinct but God is not finished with Israel.

To understand the Millennial Kingdom, one must have some understanding of what occurs before it.  Just before or at the very beginning of the tribulation is the rapture of the church.  This is followed by seven years of tribulation.  At the end of the tribulation Satan calls together all of the armies of the world to Armageddon to battle against God.  Christ returns with the armies of heaven of defeats those who are gathered to wage war against him.

At this time the beast and the false prophet are captured and thrown directly into the lake of fire.  Satan is thrown into the abyss and bound for a thousand years.  At this time there is a separation of the sheep and the goats.  There are those who were too young or too old to travel to wage war against Christ but are nevertheless against God.  Also, there are saints who were saved during the tribulation who were not killed.  All people will be called before Christ at this time.

Matthew 25:31-34 describes this: “’When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.’”

At this time, those who were martyred during the tribulation will be resurrected.  They will reign alongside those who were raptured earlier and had returned with Christ at Armageddon.  Revelation 20:4-6 describes this: “I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.  (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”

Those who have died or were raptured will reign with Christ over the living during the Millennial Kingdom.  During this time it will be a return to what life was like in the Garden of Eden.  Creation will be restored to the way God had intended it, but not fully.  There will still be sin and death.  Sin will be dealt with quickly however, and death will be rare as the one who dies at 100 years of age will be considered a youth.  Isaiah 65:20-25 describes this.

“Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.  They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.  No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands.  They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them.  Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.  The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.”

This passage is why we believe that some other views of the millennium must be rejected.  This does not describe heaven because there is still death.  But likewise, it does not describe our current state.  It must occur sometime between now and when we reach heaven and someplace that is not in heaven.  It is feasible that if given enough time medical science may reach these heights but it has not to this point nor has it for the past 2,000 years.  It is not possible to reason that this is occurring in a spiritual way in the hearts of Christians. 

During the Millennial Kingdom we see God complete His promises to Israel.  This is why the distinction between the church and Israel is important.  If the church has taken the place of Israel as the “spiritual Israel” the promises of God to Israel can also be fulfilled spiritually and not literally.  Promises that have to be fulfilled in the Millennial Kingdom involve restoration of land to Israel.  (They have never occupied all of the land that God granted them and possess only a small part of it today.)  Likewise, David was promised an heir would sit on his throne but David’s throne has remained empty for almost 2,600 years.  Jeremiah 33:14-21 speaks of this:

“‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.  “‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land.  In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.’  For this is what the LORD says: ‘David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel,  nor will the priests, who are Levites, ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices.'”  The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:  “This is what the LORD says: ‘If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, then my covenant with David my servant–and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me–can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne. 

Those who believe in a spiritual Israel must believe in a spiritual Millennium because of what takes place during that time.  A separate and literal Israel is in line with the view of a literal Millennium.  Undoubtedly the view of a literal Millennium has gained followers since 1948 when Israel regained a national identity and took hold of Jerusalem and a significant part of their Promised Land.

At the end of the Millennium will be one final time of rebellion.  Despite living with Christ and witnessing the miracles of the Millennium, the hearts of men are still hard and some will rebel.  At the end of the thousand years Satan will be released from the Abyss and he will deceive many and gather them for battle against God’s holy city.  However, a battle won’t even take place as fire from heaven will devour them.  At that time, Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown a thousand years earlier.  Thus ends the Millennium.  After the millennium all people will be judged and there will be new heavens and a new earth created. 

Some scholars note that the thousand years may be figurative and may be representative of any long period of time.  While this may be so, we find no reason for not taking the number as literal.  Other views of the Millennium must take the number as figurative because if it is the reign of Christ in the hearts of Christians, we have long since exceeded one thousand years.  Ultimately, we do not believe that the number of years is as important as the fact that the events should be understood to literally occur in the future.

The Future According to Jesus – Part 2

by Pastor Bob Conway

Matthew 23:29 -25:46

Read part 1 of this sermon

THE THIRD PROPHETIC SIGN THAT WILL SIGNAL CHRIST’S RETURN IS A RISE IN FAMINE AND PESTILENCE. There will be an increase of devastating, widespread famine. In our generation, we are faced with severe drought and famine conditions throughout portions of Africa , India , and southeast Asia. many nations in these areas are already unable to properly feed their large populations.  Because of severe drought, millions of acres of fertile, agricultural land have been transformed into arid wasteland.

Large quantities of precious topsoil are lost each year. Tropical rain forest, which contribute significant amounts of our planet’s oxygen and water supply, are shrinking every year. 

Compounding these problems are the staggering statistics concerning the growth rate of the world’s population. Every day more than 225,000 people are added to the earth’s population with the largest percentage born in third world nation where food supplies are already compromised.

Luke 2:11 adds “pestilence” as a sign here. In our generation, health officials have discovered more than 25 new infectious diseases for which there are no known cures or treatments. Growing urbanization, poor sanitation and the increase in air travel have all helped to spread these deadly diseases throughout our world. Though we try to protect ourselves with antibiotic drugs, health officials now find that we may have compounded the problem. Increasing numbers of diseases are showing resistance to traditional antibiotics. Many diseases of the past—bubonic plague, smallpox, diphtheria, yellow fever, malaria—are remerging as strains that are resistant to standard treatments and are becoming deadly threats to human populations. Sexually transmitted diseases are also on the rise. Of these, the AIDS virus is the most dangerous plague in history.

Toxic substances are also proliferating in our environment. Untested chemicals created in laboratories every year are casually introduced into the earth’s biosphere without adequate tests of their effects on humans, animals or plant life. Scientists readily recognize that a large percentage of cancers and cancerous tumors are caused by exposure to hazardous substances in our environment. In addition, the pestilence of pesticides has created an emergence of a new strain of germs highly resistant to chemical eradication.

Plagues and epidemics typically follow famine and war, compounding their terrors. Jesus warned that worldwide pestilence would signify His imminent return. During the coming holocaust of the tribulation, these epidemics will decimate one-fourth of the world’s population according to Revelation 6:8 —

I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

tribTHE FOURTH PROPHETIC SIGN PRECEDING CHRIST’S RETURN WILL BE EARTHQUAKES IN VARIOUS PLACES.

Both Jesus Christ and the OT prophets prophesied that the last days would see an increase in the number and severity of earthquakes. Jesus also indicated that earthquakes would occur in diverse places. In our century, we have experienced an unparalleled increase in the frequency and intensity of “killer” earthquakes that register 6.5 or higher on the Richter scale.

In 1964, when I was in the War Room, I got the rescue operation started for the Alaskan Earthquake, which was one of the biggest at 9.0.

The reported number of severe earthquakes between 1900-1970 totaled only 37. There were 56 occurrences in 1970s, and the 1980s witnessed 74 major earthquakes. The first half of the 1990s posted a record of 125 killer earthquakes worldwide, a significant jump in the geological annals.

Seismologists can calculate an estimated time when the strain along the fault would be great enough to cause an earthquake. As an example, after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake of 7.0, the measurements showed that in the 50 years prior to 1906, the San Andreas fault accumulated about 10 feet of displacement, or movement, at points across the fault. The maximum 1906 fault slip was 21 feet, so it was suggested that 50 years x 21 feet/10 feet, about 100 years, would elapse before sufficient energy would again accumulate to produce a comparable earthquake. If that calculation is correct, we are about three years away from another killer earthquake along the San Andreas fault .

According to Jesus, the intensity of earthquakes will increase like birth-pains before He comes. These are prelude to the great earthquake that is predicted in Revelation 6:12-17 “I watched as [the Lamb] opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig-tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “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 their wrath has come, and who can stand?” False Messiahs, Wars and Rumors of Wars, Famines, Pestilence, and Earthquakes are the beginning of birth pains. Birth pains are mild warnings compared to the pains that accompany birth. These ever increasing birth pains precede the Lamb opening seven seals of the Title Deed to the Earth that bring Tribulation upon the earth as has never been seen before nor ever will be seen again!

At the end of the seven years of Tribulation, Jesus will return to the earth to judge the nations and establish His kingdom.

Matthew 24:9-31 covers the Tribulation Period, and does not apply to our future since the Church will have been raptured before the wrath of the Lamb. So we will skip down to…
THE NEXT SIGN OF CHRIST’S RETURN THAT APPLIES TO US, MATTHEW 24:32-35 — Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
This sign relates to what happened on the second day of Holy week; we are told in Mark 11:12-14
“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig-tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he [literally] said to the tree, “No more into the age, no one may eat fruit out of you.” The fig tree symbolizes Israel .
Fruit represents righteousness acts, but Jesus looked, He found none!
Fig leaves picture self-righteousness works as it did with Adam and Eve.

Mark 11:20-21 tells us what happened on the third day of Holy Week —
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig-tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig-tree you cursed has withered!” Symbolically, Israel had withered! The nation of Israel had been set aside by God until it bears fruit. But before it can bear fruit its twigs must get tender and its leaves come out. In 1948, the fig tree’s twigs became tender and its leaves came out. The nation of Israel that had been dead for centuries came back to life — physical life; not spiritual life just as predicted in the Vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones of Ezekiel 37.

Today, there is an unsaved nation of Israel that awaits its redemption! It is near, right at the door! I believe “summer” (the heat of Tribulation) that will bring about Israel ’s salvation is close. Why do I believe it? Jesus said that “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” Not the generation of Jesus’ day but the generation that sees the Israel the rebirth of the nation of Israel . How long is a generation? Psalm 90:10 tells us — The length of our days is seventy years–or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. 

You do the math! Summer is near! Jesus goes on to speak of . . . 

THE SUDDENNESS OF HIS RETURN, MATTHEW 24:36-41 

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
Was Noah surprised by the Flood? No! God had warned Noah and told him to get ready 120 years before it came. The entire world was oblivious to the coming judgment, except for Noah and his family. When the time came, God commanded Noah to take his whole family into the ark and seven days later came the flood waters.

Noah typifies the removal of God’s people before wrath. The day of God’s wrath did not surprise righteous Noah or come as a thief in the night, but it surprised the ungodly!

The Second Coming of Christ will come in two stages. First, His coming in the air to Rapture the Church and take His bride to heaven, and then after seven years of Tribulation, His return to earth with the hosts of heaven to fight the Battle of Armageddon, followed by the establishment of His millennial kingdom on earth.

JESUS THREE PARABLES CONCERNING HIS RETURN, MATTHEW 24:42-51.

All three parables deal with the unexpectedness of His coming. The second parable of the Ten Virgins deals with His return at the end of the Tribulation Period. The third Parable of the Talents speaks of His judgment of one’s faithfulness or unfaithfulness, which results in rewards or Hell!

The first parable makes it clear in uncertain terms that we need to be watching, ready, and serving Christ when He comes. Matthew 24:42-51 — Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow-servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Jesus delay has unsettled some in the church and discouraged others. To counter this unsettling feeling, Jesus gave His disciples an ongoing sign of His death, resurrection, and second coming on Thursday night of Holy Week.
THE SIGN OF CHRIST’S COMING IN THE LORD’S SUPPER

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus has declared in this symbolic act the purpose of His first coming — the giving of His life for the forgiveness of our sins. But death is not the end for Jesus; there is resurrection and His second coming — for He goes on to say in Matthew 26:29 — I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom. Jews vows not to drink wine again until the “Father’s kingdom comes, which is Christ’s earthly reign on David’s throne.” The LORD’S SUPPER, therefore, points both to the past and to the future — to Christ’s death at Calvary and to His messianic banquet, which is His kingdom.

Every time we partake of the LORD’S SUPPER, we look back to our redemption as He hung on the Cross, where He died to exchange our sins for God’s righteousness.

And we look forward to “that day” when He will drink of the cup with us in His Father’s kingdom.

This is the ongoing sign for the Church that believes Jesus is coming again!

Scripture is taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION.

The Future According to Jesus

by Pastor Bob Conway

Matthew 23:29 -25:46

One of the major emphasis of Holy Week for Christ was to reveal the signs of His second coming to His disciples. Surprisingly, I have not heard anyone speak on these prophecies during Holy Week. Therefore, I will!

During the early centuries following the ascension of Jesus into heaven, Christians often greeted one another by saying, “MARANATHA.” This Aramaic expression means “come, O Lord” and echoed the believers’ cry for the imminent return of Christ. During Holy Week, our Lord revealed warning signs that will herald His return. The fulfillment of several of these signs in our generation points to the imminent return of Jesus Christ. 

For centuries the Jews had awaited the first arrival of the Messiah, but when He did come and offer his kingdom and did promise blessing and hope and salvation, instead of receiving Him in faith and love, they rejected Him in unbelief and repulsion. They so despised Him that they wanted to murder Him as their ancestors had done with the righteous before Him. 

As a result they identified with their ancestors who murdered the prophets and the guilt and judgment that had been accumulating since the Fall would come down upon the heads of Jesus’ generation. So in a heart-wrenching lament . . .  JESUS PREDICTS HIS SECOND COMING, Matthew 23:37 -39 — 

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem , you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ Jesus was neither cold nor indifferent, even toward His enemies, and on this occasion His judgment is mingled with sorrow and deep pathos. His last public teaching is an exclamation of sorrow for Jerusalem. He had tried to bring the Word of God to the people, but the people of Jerusalem had been true to their reputation. The city which had killed the prophets had rejected Christ and was about to kill Him.
This lament of Jesus is filled with theological significance. Herein Jesus declares Himself to be God — the one who has longed to gather His children together. He shows Himself to be loving, kind, merciful and protecting, and yet be a God of wrath. And He reveals that He will come a second time.

The pages of the OT are filled with the LORD’S efforts to gather His people under His protection through His love and discipline and their The pages of the OT are filled with the LORD’S efforts to gather His people under His protection through His love and discipline and their continual withdrawal from Him.

Here Christ expresses the tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Yahweh had chosen Israel as His people but they rejected Him. Though God desired to gather the nation to Himself, the people were not willing. What God desired to come to pass did not occur because He would not violate the free will of man. No doctrine of the predestination of individuals can survive between Jesus’ “I longed” and Jerusalem’s “you were not willing.”

The fate of desolation was chosen by the people, not imposed by God. “Look, your house is left desolate” could refer to (1) the House of David or (2) Jerusalem or (3) the nation of Israel or (4) the Temple . All four are closely allied and rise and fall together. Desolate (erhmov) refers to wilderness, desert or uninhabited region.

It has been well-said that history is destined to repeat itself. In Jeremiah 12:7, Yahweh had predicted what would happen to Jerusalem in 586 B.C. —

“I will forsake my house, abandon my inheritance; I will give the one I love into the hands of her enemies.”

Now Jesus’ prediction is tantamount to what happen to Israel in Jeremiah’s day. Again, God would abandon His inheritance into the hands to her enemies. This time in A.D. 70.

For how long? Until Israel affirms Jesus as Messiah, saying, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD.” Jesus cannot return to reign on earth until all Israel is saved!    Ironically, the crowds have already had declared this truth at Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This declaration comes from a section of Psalm 118, which speaks of the LORD God making His light shine upon Israel in the house of the LORD. Unfortunately, Israel rejected the Light so the desolation of your house also includes the absence of Jesus since He is “the Light.”

We know from Zechariah 12:10-13:9 that Israel will acknowledge Christ Jesus prior to His second coming. Until then the House of David will be forsaken by God and left abandoned to its enemies. As a sign of this desolation . . .

JESUS PREDICTS THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE BUILDINGS, Matthew 24:1-2 — Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” Mark 13:1 tells us that one of His disciples said to Him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

Jesus’ lament over the desolation of Israel’s house apparently had no impact on the thinking of His disciples as they talked about the Temple complex, which was magnificent by any standard.

At the prodding of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, the Second Temple (Zerubbabel’s) had been completed on March 12, 516 B.C. (Ezra 6:15 ). In the eighteenth year of his reign (19 B.C.), Herod the Great undertook a very great work, to rebuild the Temple of God, making it larger and more magnificent than Zerubbabel’s. Instead of leveling the summit of the mountain, Herod built a vast platform by raising up massive walls enclosing the whole area. On these walls a platform was laid for the Temple .

At the time of Christ, Herod’s Temple was not completely finished, yet it was one of the wonders of the world and its massive stones and the magnificent buildings impressed His disciples. Jesus responded to their observation with a question and statement, “Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” Notice that Jesus specified that the stones of the Temple buildings would be thrown down. The massive stones used to support the platform remain in place today. Fulfilled biblical prophecy is always accurate down to its smallest details.

In A.D. 70, Titus’ soldiers so completely destroyed the Temple buildings that their exact location on the Temple Mount is disputed. The Romans rushed from the Tower of Antonia into the sacred precincts, the halls of which were set on fire by the Jews themselves. It was against the will of Titus that a Roman soldier threw a firebrand into the northern buildings of the Temple , which caused the inferno of the whole structure, although Titus himself endeavored to extinguish the fire (War, 6:4). Gold and silver melted in between the stones and the soldiers turned each and every one upside down to get the precious metals. Josephus remarks that the Temple was destroyed on the same month and day as the holy house was burned by the Babylonians in 586 B.C., that being July 28th. A coincidence! No! A God sighting!

Jesus’ prediction must have amazed and disturbed the disciples as they made their way up the Mount of Olives . As they looked over their shoulders, they could see the Temple standing there on Mount Moriah in all its glory.

The disciples still believed that the earthly Kingdom of God would appear immediately. The destruction of the Temple did not fit the outcome of the Messiah’s arrival that they envisioned.

The Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for the day of God’s intervention, “the Day of the LORD,” at the end of the age. But they were caught between unconquerable optimism and bleak pessimism. They believed God would break into history and rescue them and that this world was so utterly bad that only its complete destruction and the emergence of a new world would suffice. They were not looking for a reformation. The most distant thing from their minds was the spiritual renewal that John the Baptist and Jesus preached: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” So, we read in Matthew 24:3 — As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” The catastrophe of the destruction of the Temple would foreshadow and guarantee the predictions of judgment at the close of the age, but it would not coincide with the signs of His second coming and of the end of the age. The expression “Second Coming” does not appear in the NT, the nearest approximate is found in Hebrews 9:28:

So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

The disciples used the word Parousia (parousia), which denotes the presence, coming, arrival, advent of Christ. At this moment in time, they did not understand that there would be two comings of Christ. So . . . JESUS UNVEILS THE SIGN OF HIS SECOND COMING AND OF THE END OF THE AGE, Matthew 24:4-51.

We call this section of Jesus’ teaching, THE MOUNT OLIVET DISCOURSE. In this discourse, Jesus reveals that at the Parousia this Present Age gives way to the Millennial Kingdom in the Day of the LORD. In doing so, He reveals the conditions on earth as the sign of the time of His return. This is what the future holds according to Jesus.

FIRST, THERE WILL BE THE BEGINNING OF BIRTH PAINS, MATTHEW 24:4-8. Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth-pains. THE FIRST PROPHETIC SIGN THAT WILL SIGNAL CHRIST’S SECOND COMING INVOLVES THE RISE OF FALSE CHRISTS AND DECEIVERS IN THE LAST DAYS. Though there are no historical references to any false messiahs prior to the resurrection of Jesus, many false messiahs have appeared throughout the centuries following His ascension. In our generation alone these impostors and deceivers include Charles Manson, Rev. sun Myung Moon, Jim Jones and David Koresh.

THE SECOND PROPHETIC SIGN THAT WILL SIGNAL CHRIST’S SECOND COMING WILL BE THE HEARING OF WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS. When Jesus spoke these words, the Roman Empire was enjoying a long era of peace. But about four decades later political turmoil would upset the great realm from one end to another. Wars and rumors of wars have occurred since. The end will come with such swiftness that it will be like a flood according to Daniel 9:26– After the sixty-two ‘sevens’, the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. Since the end of World War II the number of wars in our world has increased dramatically. new nations have demanded independence as old empires disintegrate. Though there have been numerous peace treaties, the world has not known a single day without some nation at war with another somewhere on the earth.

How often has the United States been involved in a war in the last hundred years? World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Bosnia, and now the War with Iraq. And there are rumors of wars with Syria and other nations.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that wars are occurring more frequently like the beginning of birth-pains!

While nations have always found reasons to hate one another, Jesus warned that worldwide hatred would increase between nations and kingdoms. What do you think? Is the last month has relations between Arabs and Jews grown closer or further away? How about Arabs and Americans? Or Europeans and Americans?

Wars and rumors of wars are a prelude to the final war at the end of this present age when the LORD gathers the kings of the earth and their armies together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon to be cut down with a sharp sickle, and gathered as grapes and thrown into the great winepress of God’s wrath.

Continue to Part 2

Is This the End?

We’ve made it into the year 2000 without mishap.  There was no Y2K bug and everything is running pretty well.  It turns out that all the doomsday prophets were wrong about the world ending in the year 1999, or 2000 for that matter.  We’ve made it beyond the famed Mayan apocalypse.  And of course we’ve survived Harold Camping’s doomsday (both of them in fact!)  I say shame on the Christians who fell for these supposed doomsdays and woe to the ones making them.  They shouldn’t have been making the predictions anyway.  The Bible clearly states that the day and the hour of Christ’s return are unknown.  In Mark 13:32 states that “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the father.”  How foolish it is for anyone to say they know when Christ will return and the end of the age will occur when even Christ didn’t know the time.

But are there signs that Christ’s return is imminent?  The Bible clearly lays out a diagram of events that shows the events that will occur around the time of Christ’s return.  So fasten your seatbelts, we may all be in for a bumpy ride coming up pretty quickly.

Despite the fact that no one knows when Christ will return, he gave us signs of when he will return.  Such signs are very apparent in today’s world and have caused many Christian leaders to expect Christ to return soon.  How soon, none of us know.  We know that the signs are all about us though.  In Thessalonians 5 Paul writes “Now brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying ‘Peace and safety’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”  If there has ever been a cry for peace and safety, it is certainly now. 

In Matthew 24 Jesus gives a very straightforward description of what the signs surrounding his return would be.  Verses 4-8 predict that many would come claiming to be he and would deceive many people.  We will hear of wars and rumors of wars.  Today, at any given time there are around 40 wars going on in the world.  Nation will rise against nation actually was written that ethnos would rise against ethnos.  Today we so often hear of Ethnic wars and “ethnic cleansing” and so much more of it isn’t covered by the news networks.  Jesus said that there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  Millions of people are starving over the world today while over 14000 earthquakes rock us each year.  Just thirty years ago, there were less than 1200 earthquakes a year.  “All these are the beginnings of birth pains.” Jesus states, “the beginning of the end.”

Verses 9-13 say that Christians will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death.  In America it may be hard to picture this kind of persecution happening but it is incredible in many countries.  Over 400 Christians are killed for their faith EVERY DAY around the world.  In China it means death if you are found to be a Christian.  In many Middle Eastern countries Christians are tortured and put to death for their faith.  It is possible that America was the last “Christian” nation, but that time has passed.  While the United States continues to send out missionaries, missionaries are also coming in from other countries.  The United States has the third most missionaries in it!  That’s not going out, that’s coming in.  The death knell has sounded for the United States as a Christian nation.  Surely there are still Christians and many of them, but it can hardly be considered a Christian nation any longer.  This gives cause to believe the statement that we as Christians are hated by all the nations, just as Jesus said would happen. 

Many people have abandoned their faith in the face of this persecution.  Others have been led astray by those claiming to be prophets.  i.e. Mormons and their gold tablets found in a field or the many cults that have appeared.  Jesus also stated that there would be an increase in wickedness and the love of most people would grow cold.  Certainly this has taken place as all you need to do to notice this is compare today with the 1980’s.  But Jesus also gives us hope at this time.  “…he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Verse 14 speaks of the way the gospel will be preached throughout the entire world.  This was something with which the people of Jesus’ time must have had trouble.  Today it is easy to understand this with nearly instant communication and planes that will take us into the deepest parts of Africa and allow us to travel anywhere.  Verse 14 ends with Christ saying, “…and then the end will come.”  Once all these things have taken place, the end will come.  Seeing all these things about us, our only question left is how soon it will happen.  After these things the rapture will happen, calling all those who believe in Christ into the sky to be with Him. As it says in 1 Thessalonians 4:17  “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

What happens after all this, is really little concern to Christians because they will already be with Christ.  However it is written as a warning for those who don’t believe.  After this the tribulation will begin, when God releases his wrath upon the earth.  A man known as the Antichrist will appear then and deceive those who are left.  He will set up a temple on the temple mount in Jerusalem, where the Muslim Dome of the Rock sits now, and there he will begin sacrifices once again.  But 3 1/2 years into the tribulation the Antichrist will stop the sacrifices and order the people to worship him only.  At that time the Jews who are still alive will finally realize that they missed the first coming of Christ.  Then they become Christians and will be persecuted by all those around them. 

Plague after plague will fall upon the earth, only causing many unbelievers to curse God instead of worshipping him.  At the end of the seven years of tribulation, a battle between Christ and Satan, known as the battle of Armageddon will occur.  Satan will be defeated and locked up in the abyss.  And Christ will return to reign on earth as king for a thousand years.  This time will be known as the millennial kingdom.  At the end of the thousand years Satan will be set loose and the people will rebel once again.  This is the last time though and brings about a final judgment.

Unbelievers will be sent to the great white throne of judgment where they will be judged accordingly but still all sent to the lake of fire.  Christians will be judged too, but at the judgment seat of Christ and according to what we have done for him.  There we will be given rewards accordingly.  Then we will live with Christ in heaven forever.

Of course no one knows for sure when all things will take place.  Matthew 24:42-44 makes this clear.  But we must keep watch expecting his return.  Most importantly, we must be ready for his coming.  We must have accepted Christ as our savior from our sins and we need to tell all our friends about him too. 

Interpreting Biblical Prophecy

The interpretation of Biblical prophecy is something that is very important for any student of the Bible and is unfortunately very neglected by pastors and lay people alike.  Between 1/4 to 1/3 of the Bible is prophecy and this alone makes proper interpretation important for anyone who wants to understand the Bible.

The interpretation of Biblical prophecy has gained importance all the more in our era however as more and more people are claiming that we are near the end times. 

If this is true, we need to know what we can expect – and whether or not we will even be on earth to witness most of it.  And even if the end time events are still very distant, it is prophecy that gives us a glimpse of heaven and what we can expect.

The most important question concerning prophecy is whether we should interpret it literally or figuratively.  This has been a divisive issue for centuries going well back into the early church of the third and fourth centuries.

Augustine was one who advocated a so called “dual hermeneutic.”  In other words, interpret normal scripture to be literal, interpret anything prophetic to be symbolic.  Certainly, his ideas are popular even to this day.

But the question must be asked, was prophecy intended to be interpreted literally or figuratively.  I believe that the question can be answered by looking at prophecies that we know have been answered.

Abraham was promised descendants as numerous as the sand on the seashore even though he was old and did not have an heir.  This was fulfilled literally despite the improbability of it.

In Isaiah 7:14 the prophet predicts that the virgin will be with child, we see this fulfilled literally in the birth of Jesus, despite the impossibility of it. 

When Daniel tells King Belshazzar the meaning of the words “mene mene tekel parsin” and informs him that his kingdom will be taken from him that very night, it happens literally that very night.

And of course there are numerous other prophecies, many concerning the coming of Christ that have been fulfilled literally.  So the question must be asked, would God fulfill some prophecies literally and other prophecies figuratively?  And if God would do such a thing, how does one discern which will be fulfilled literally and which will be figuratively?

The second important thing to consider when studying prophecy is the concept of time.  Time means very little with prophecy and this lead many to miss the coming of Christ.  They saw prophecies of a coming Messiah that would overthrow the oppressors and rule from David’s throne.  What they missed was the prophecies that speak of a suffering Messiah and they could not untangle the two.

Looking at prophecy is like looking at a set of mountains.  From a distance, the back mountain looks like it is right behind the first mountain.  It is only when a person is on top of the first mountain that the realize the second mountain is quite a distance off.

It is the same with prophecy.  It may look like all one part, but often there is a time gap.  Only when the first part has been fulfilled are we able to look and realize that the next part is still future.

This is no better illustrated than perhaps in Luke 4:18-21.  Jesus speaks:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus quotes Isaiah 61:1-2 in this passage, but he stops speaking abruptly in the middle of the second verse.  Verse 2 in its entirety says, “… to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn…”

So why did Jesus stop in the middle of the sentence?  The day of vengeance was still future.  However, if Jesus is speaking the truth, the first part of this prophecy was fulfilled in their hearing.

So how do we distinguish prophecy and prevent the same errors as the Jews of Jesus’ time?  We may pay close attention to what scripture says and understand what has already been fulfilled and what has not been fulfilled.  If a prophecy has not been fulfilled literally, it is safe to conclude that it is yet future, even if part of the prophecy has already been fulfilled.

A third step is to determine what are conditional promises and what are unconditional promises.  God gives some promises that hinge upon a people acting a certain way while other promising are unconditional and will happen regardless of what happens.

For a conditional prophecy, consider the book of Jonah.  It was Jonah’s job to go to Nineveh and prophesy that God would destroy the city.  But Jonah did not desire to do the Lord’s will because Nineveh was a very wicked city and he did not want to pronounce God’s judgment upon it.  If this was an unconditional promise, Jonah would have delighted in seeing the destruction of a wicked city full of the enemies of God.

But when Jonah finally goes and prophecies the people repent and he complains to God in Jonah 4 , “‘O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home?  That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish.  I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”

Jonah had prophesied to Nineveh that it had forty days left, but the unspoken condition was that this was true if they did not repent.

For an unconditional prophecy, consider Psalm 89 where God guarantees an eternal throne for the kingdom of Israel.  Verses 30-37 tell us of unconditional promises:

“If his sons forsake my law and do not follow my statutes, if they violate my decrees and fail to keep my commands, I will punish their sin with the rod, their iniquity with flogging; but I will not take my love from him, nor will I ever betray my faithfulness.  I will not violate my covenant or alter what my lips have uttered.  Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness– and I will not lie to David– that his line will continue forever and his throne endure before me like the sun; it will be established forever like the moon, the faithful witness in the sky.”

The fourth principle in interpreting prophecy should be a given but it is often overlooked.  Scripture does not contradict itself.  If another passage of scripture would appear to contradict your interpretation of a prophecy one of two things must be done.  Either explain why that passage does not contradict your interpretation of the prophecy or re-evaluate your interpretation of this passage. 

The positions many people take on prophecy involve ignoring certain passages of scripture because they can offer no explanation for them.  For a blatant example of this, consider the position taken by some amillennialists.  (An amillennialist is a person who does not believe in a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ at the second coming.)

Some amillennialists say that we are currently living in the millennial kingdom, beginning at the first coming of Christ, or at the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Revelation 20 describes that during this time, Satan will be bound.  This means that if we are living in the millennial kingdom, Satan is currently bound. 

Yet, if Satan is bound during this time, one has to explain the casting out of demons that occurs in the New Testament.  If Satan was bound at the first coming of Christ, one has to explain how Satan entered Judas in John 13:27.  And if Satan was bound at the beginning of the church age, one has to find a way to explain 1 Peter 1:8 which says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

If one has found a way to satisfactorily explain these passages, that is fine.  As such, I have not heard an explanation and many choose to ignore these passages.  If one re-evaluates their view on this, they must then re-evaluate how Satan can not be bound and still consider the present age to be part of millennial kingdom.

The important thing is that one considers all of the details and makes sure that they do not contradict other scriptures.

In summary, the four keys to interpreting prophecy are:

Determine if prophetic passages should be taken literally

Understand that time doesn’t matter in regards to prophecy – parts may be fulfilled and parts may yet be future

Determine if the prophecy is conditional or unconditional

Understand that scripture cannot and does not contradict itself.  If your interpretation contradicts scripture, you must either explain the contradictory passage or re-evaluate your view.

Gog and Magog – A Big Battle Looms

In September 2003 Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat declared, “To Jerusalem we are going as martyrs in the millions.”  Arafat is now gone, but if such an attitude is prevalent in the Arab world, we cannot be far from a massive battle.

The battle of Gog and Magog has often been overlooked in the study of prophecy.  The diligent student of the book of Revelation may recognize the names from chapter 20.  Vs 8 “[Satan] will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth- Gog and Magog- to gather them for battle.”

However, Gog and Magog first appear in Ezekiel 38-39.  In light of recent events in the world today, this prophecy has received more attention.  There are of course no guarantees, but some people, myself included, believe that this could occur at literally any time.

First, some background on the book of Ezekiel.  Ezekiel includes numerous dates within his writing and makes it easy to pinpoint exact dates of his writing.  In short, his first vision comes in 593 BC – seven years before the fall of Jerusalem – and his final vision occurs in 573 – fifteen years after the fall of Jerusalem.

Although the entire book is not chronological in order, at least chapters 36 through the end of the book in 48 would appear to be in order.  Chapter 36 describes the New Covenant, which came in effect with Christ.  Chapter 37 skips ahead over 1900 years to the restoration of Israel.  Many bible scholars, myself included, believe the valley of the dry bones to be in reference to Israel once again becoming a nation in 1948.

Chapters 38-39 are next in the time line as chapter 40 begins the description of the Millennial Kingdom.  This does not mean that these events are imminent, as there is a time span of 1900 years between chapters 36 and 37, but it is next in line by Ezekiel’s timeline.  This does also not mean that other things described in other prophecies will not happen before the battle of Gog and Magog.  It is quite possible that the rapture occurs before this battle, but we have no guarantee.

Chapter 38 begins with a prophecy against Gog.  Verse 3 states, “I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.”  In a short explanation, the names mentioned are sons of Japheth (Noah’s son).  They are also the brothers of Magog, all who settled to the north of present day Israel.  Vss 5,6 “Persia, Cush, and Put will be with them, all with shields and helmets, also Gomer with all its troops, and Beth Togarmah from the far north with all its’ troops- the many nations with you.”  Cush is the upper Nile region (presumably northern Egypt ) and Put is modern day Libya.  Gomer is another son of Japheth and Beth Togarmah is Gomer’s son.  Historically, they are regarded to have originated north of the Black Sea .  North of the Black Sea is present day Ukraine and the western most reaches of Russia.  All put together, the nations described are currently Muslim nations that surround Israel from all sides. 

Verse 8 proclaims that these nations will “invade a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate.”  The land that is invaded can only appear to be Israel, a nation whose people have been gathering from all over the world for 50 years. 

God has intended this invasion however.  In vs. 16 he declares, “In days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my land so that the nations may know me when I show myself holy though you before their eyes.”  Verses 17-23 describe the exact catastrophes that will befall the invading nations.  They are supernaturally destroyed and no harm is done to Israel.  God will not let his people be harmed.  The miraculous Six Day War of 1967 should have taught everyone that, but the world has turned a blind eye.

Ezekiel 39:9 begins the description of the aftermath.  It is gruesome but also amazing in its detail when looked at in comparison to today.  “Then those who live in the towns of Israel will go out and use the weapons for fuel and burn them up – the small and large shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears.  For seven years they will use them for fuel.  This statement is remarkable for two reasons.

First is the nature of the weapons.  In the time that Ezekiel wrote this, burning weapons made perfect sense because they were made of wood.  What of today’s weapons however?  How do you burn warplanes and other metals?  Amazingly, Russia has been using Lignostone in the production of its weapons.  Lignostone “is a special kind of wood used for ‘coke breakers.’  It is stronger than steel, is very elastic… and it burns better than coal.”  (90 LaHaye Are We Living in the End Times?)  You can read more about Lignostone on its website at www.lignostone.com.

While a Cold War enemy of the United States, biblical scholars thought for certain that Russia had to be involved in the invasion of Israel.  However, I do not feel certain about this.  If they are not involved in the invasion, it is well known that Russia has supplied weapons to many Middle Eastern countries and their weapons could be used without actually being involved.  Of course it is still plausible that Russia could be involved in any attack against Israel.

The second important part of this passage is the fact that it will take seven years to burn all the weapons.  The tribulation will be seven years, so this gives us some sort of timeline with which to place this event.  This event would either have to come at the very beginning of the tribulation or before to allow seven full years.

However, this event cannot happen at the beginning of the tribulation because the tribulation begins with the antichrist signing a peace treaty with Israel.  This treaty is not going to immediately be broken with this battle.  It won’t be until 3 ½ years that the treaty is broken.

This means that this battle occurs before the tribulation.  While it is purely speculation on my part, I believe that this is the final straw that leaves everyone crying out for peace and the perfect setting for the antichrist to step in and give it to the nations.

Will believers be around for any of this to take place?  I honestly have no idea.  I believe that we will be taken before the tribulation.  However, even if I’m correct, we have no assurance how long before the tribulation we’ll be taken.  The rapture may occur and then this horrific battle takes place.  Or we may be witness to it.  If we are, let the reader know that the prophetic calendar is being fulfilled in our presence.

Chapter 39 continues with the clean up of these armies that are supernaturally destroyed.  Verse 12 says that for seven months people will work nonstop to cleanse the land.  This isn’t hard to imagine after seeing the devastation caused by the destruction of the World Trade Center.  The cleanup took longer than half a year with crews working around the clock and the best equipment available.  Imagine such destruction spread over forty miles, or an area the size of New Jersey .

Even after the seven month period, there will be people employed full time in cleaning up the land.  Every bone will be marked and carried to the Valley of Hamon Gog, a mass grave for all the invaders.  The name simply means hordes of Gog. 

The reason for all of this destruction is for God to be glorified.  In verses 21-22 he says, “I will display my glory among the nations, and all the nations will see the punishment I inflict and the hand I lay upon them.  From that day forward the house of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God.”

After these events, the Israelites return to their native land in force.  Verse 25, “The Sovereign Lord says: I will now bring Jacob back from captivity and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name.”

Even in such destruction, God has a purpose.  The nations will fear Him and Israel will return to Him and their homeland.  All of this could happen soon.  The world situation is one where any number of  Middle Eastern nations could easily lead a coalition against Israel .  Israel has nothing to fear from their enemies though, because they are protected by the Lord of Hosts.

Daniel’s 70 “Sevens” Explained

The prophecy contained in Daniel chapter 9 has been a much discussed chapter of the Bible.  The passage has confused many Biblical readers for years.  In the sixth century BC, God was giving Daniel a timeline for what was going to come and the amount of time that it would take.  As the modern reader looks at this prophecy 2600 years later, they have the advantage of understanding that some of the prophecy has been fulfilled.  Likewise, the reader may look forward to the remaining portion of prophecy being fulfilled as literally as the first part has been.

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up prophecy and to anoint the most holy.” – Daniel 9:24

The first area of confusion lies in the seventy ‘sevens’.  It must be remembered that the entire Jewish system was designed under a system of sevens.  There were seven days in a week, the seventh day being the Sabbath.  Every seventh year was to be a Sabbath year when no crops were to be planted or harvested.  After seven sets of seven years (or seven Sabbath years) the Israelites were to celebrate The Year of Jubilee.  (The Israelites never celebrated the Sabbath year, nor The Year of Jubilation despite God’s command.)

Thus it should come as no surprise that as God describes His prophetic timetable to Daniel that it should be based on sevens.  An alternate translation of seventy ‘sevens’ would be seventy weeks.  In this case it is seventy weeks of years or 70 x 7 – 490 years total.  It is generally accepted that seventy ‘sevens’ is in reference to weeks and not days, weeks or months.  Common sense and simple math lead us to realize that the events described in the chapter could not occur in 490 days or weeks.  At 490 months – 40 years, 10 months, this would still be a stretch to accomplish what is described and does match any historical facts or dates that are associated with this prophecy.  Thus by process of elimination and understanding we arrive at seventy ‘sevens’ of years, or 490 years.

“Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild the Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’  It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench but in times of trouble.” – Daniel 9-25

The first historical reference appears in this verse with the rebuilding of Jerusalem .  Some may mistake this decree with the one by Cyrus in 538 or 539 BC to allow the Jews to return and rebuild the temple.  Instead, this is the decree found in Nehemiah 2:1-8.  Nehemiah records the date which he speaks to the king.  It is in the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes.  Because no day is given, according to the Jewish system of dating, the first day of the month is to be assumed.  This translates to March 5, 444 BC .

It would take Nehemiah only 52 days to rebuild the walls surrounding the city.  However, it would take much longer to clear away the rubble left from the destruction of the city more than 150 years beforehand.  Also, “streets and a trench” had to be rebuilt.  Although no date is ever recorded in scripture, this has been assumed to take 49 years, or what the first seven ‘sevens’ are in reference to.

“After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing.  The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.  The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.” – Daniel 9:26

After the rebuilding of the city an additional sixty-two ‘sevens’ pass.  This equals 483 years.  Many may be quick to add 483 years from March 5, 444 BC and reach the date of March 5, 40 AD as the time when the Anointed One is cut off.  However, there is no historical significance with this date and further understanding must be applied.

It must be understood that the Jewish calendar contained only 360 days.  This can be confirmed by noting that the time of the Great Tribulation is referred to as “a time, times, and half a time” in Dan 7:25 , 12:7, and Rev 12:14 .  The same time period is referred to as 1260 days in Rev 11:3 and 12:6.  Finally, it is written as 42 months in Rev 11:2 and 13:5.  By doing the math, one will note that months are counted as 30 days.

This can bring us to the following chart as copied from “The Bible Knowledge Commentary” by John Walvoord and Roy Zuck.

 

Jewish Calendar (360 days/ year) Gregorian Calendar (365 days/ year)
(7 x 7)+(62 x 7) = 483 years 444 BC to 33 AD = 476 years *
      483 years       476 years
X    360 days = X    365 days =
173,880 days 173,740 days
  +    116 days in leap years **
  +      24 days = (March 5 – March 30)
  173,880 days

 

* Only one year occurred between 1 BC and 1 AD giving a total of 476 and not 477 years

** In 476 years there would have been a total of 476/4 = 119 leap years.  However, three days are subtracted because every 100 years a leap year must be skipped but every 400th year it is kept.  This gives a total of 116 leap days and not 119.

March 30, 30 AD occurs on a Sunday.  It is historically known as Palm Sunday.  On that Day Jesus would enter Jerusalem to the waving of palm branches and shouts of “Hosannah!”  Jesus wept as he approached the city that day.  He understood God’s timetable and knew that the time was up.  The Israelites, if they had been attentive to prophecy would have understood as well because the very day had been told to them.  Luke 19:41-44 describes this.

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace- but now it is hidden from your eyes.  The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.  They will dash you to the ground, you and your children within your walls.  They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.’”  (emphasis added)

The people of Jerusalem had missed the opportunity and the time had come for the Anointed One to be cut off.  According to vs 26, it would be after the sixty-two ‘sevens’ that the Anointed One would be cut off.  To be cut off is to be killed, just as many of the Jewish laws written in Leviticus called for the lawbreakers to be cut off.

In case there is any doubt that Jesus is the Anointed One to whom the passage is referring, Christ literally means “anointed one.” 

Because of their failure to recognize the coming of the Anointed One, “The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.  The end will come like a flood: war will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.”

History shows beyond a doubt that it was the Romans who entered the city of Jerusalem in AD 70 and flattened it.  The temple was torn apart literally stone by stone.  Because of fire, the gold of the temple melted and ran because the cracks in the stones.  The soldiers pried apart the stones to retrieve the gold.  Over 1 million Jews were killed in the attack and another 90,000 were taken as slaves.

Since that time, war has continued.  Bloody battles were fought over this land for centuries during the Crusades.  In 1948 the nation of Israel was recreated and the people still haven’t had peace.  Immediately they were attacked.  Despite an incredible military, the land is far from peaceful and instead resembles a war zone.

Note who was responsible for the original destruction of Jerusalem .  It was the people of Rome .  They are the people of the ruler to come.  Hence, the ruler to come must be a Roman.  The ruler to come is described in the following verse and it is clear that Daniel is referring to the Antichrist.  This all adds up to the fact that the Antichrist himself will be Roman!  (Although many have pointed the finger at the Pope as the Antichrist, this in no way means that this is the person just because he is Roman.  The end times will see a revived Roman Empire and one must remember that the original Roman Empire expanded to include most of modern day Europe !)

“He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’  In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering.  And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” – Daniel 9:27

Verse 27 describes the 70th ‘seven.’  At the end of the 69th ‘seven’ there is an unknown expanse of time.  The final ‘seven’ has yet to occur.  The final seven years is the tribulation.  While Daniel does not describe any of the catastrophe that falls upon the earth during that time, he does detail what the Antichrist will be doing during this time.

The Antichrist will sign a peace treaty with Israel .  The Jews will be allowed to sacrifice in their temple once again.  This will be the start of the Tribulation.  Those who are on earth at this time can count the days until the return of Christ.  (I believe that the church will be raptured before the tribulation and no one on earth is actually going to recognize what is happening and start counting because the Christians will be removed.)

In the middle of the final seven years, the peace treaty will be broken.  The Antichrist will put an end to the sacrifices.  Then he will set up an abomination on a wing of the temple.  The Antichrist will command of all people what Satan has always wanted: worship of himself rather than God.  This abomination will likely be an image of some sort of the Antichrist that all the peoples of earth are supposed to worship.

There are some scholars who insist that this abomination has already occurred in the 2nd century BC, however, not all of the details were fulfilled then.  It was only a foreshadowing of what was to come.

During that time Antiochus Epiphanes IV sacrificed a pig to the God Zeus on the altar in Jerusalem .  Such an act was obviously an abomination to the Jews, however it does not fit the details of what is described in Daniel.

At the end of the 70 ‘sevens’ and the end of Daniel 9, we see the power of God displayed.  We need not be concerned about all the things that are to come, as dramatic and fearsome as they may be.  God is in control.  In the end, the Antichrist meets the end that is decreed for him.  That end in described in Revelation 19:20 , “But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf.  With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshipped his image.  The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.”

God is in control of the situation.  He is also in control of the timetable.  Everything will happen according to His purpose.  He has told us through Daniel what his plans are and has given us a partial timetable.  It will be fulfilled literally just as the first part of the prophecy has been!