End-Times 102

But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (Matthew 24:37)

In last week’s article, “End-Times 101,” I attempted to present a “high level” perspective of end-times prophecy because, for many Christians, end-times prophecy mystifies and confuses them. Much of this confusion comes from conflating the events of the seven-year Tribulation culminating in Jesus’ physical return to earth and the Rapture of the Church, which takes place before the Tribulation. As I pointed out in “End-Times 101,” end-times prophecy can be divided into four basic parts: (1) the Rapture of the Church, (2) the seven-year Tribulation, (3) the 1000-year reign of Christ on earth, and (4) the New Heavens and New Earth for eternity. However, most of the confusion centers around the events leading to and including the seven-year Tribulation before Jesus returns to earth to reign.

The time of Tribulation is a complex subject drawing information from several Old Testament prophets, none of which were given a complete picture of this time in future history. Furthermore, none of them, with perhaps the exception of Daniel, was given a complete sequence of events. Modern prophecy scholars must rely on “the whole counsel” of God’s Word to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, so it is unwise to take one teacher’s perspective and call it “Gospel.” We need to remember that we all “see in a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). We are flawed human beings and prone to error. No one has it ALL right; however, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, we can have a good idea of what will take place during the Tribulation and the events that will lead to “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7).

All end-times prophecy centers on Israel. The prophet Daniel was told. “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy” (Daniel 9:24, emphasis mine). “Seventy weeks” literally means “seventy sevens (of years),” or 490 years. This time was to begin at the time that Cyrus the Great gave the command that the Jews could return from Babylonian captivity to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple (Daniel 9:25). Notice that the prophecy applies to Daniel’s people (the Jews) and Daniel’s holy city (Jerusalem). The specificity of this prophecy applies to all end-times prophecy. The purpose of God’s plan is to “make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity [i.e., make things right], and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy [i.e., conclude history as we know it], and to anoint the most Holy [i.e., establish Jesus’ reign on earth]. There is nothing here about “the Church.” To the Old Testament prophets, the Church was a “mystery” (Ephesians 5:32).

Daniel’s seventy weeks is divided into seven weeks (49 years), 62 weeks (434 years) and one week (seven years). Opinions differ on the significance of first 49 years (seven weeks), and I do not want to add to the confusion. However, the seven weeks and 62 weeks add up to 69 weeks (one short of 70) or 483 years. At the end of this time, Daniel predicts the coming of Messiah (Daniel 9:26) at which time Messiah will be “cut off,” i.e., killed. Scholars have calculated and determined that from the time Cyrus decreed that the Jews were to return to their land (c. 445 BC[1]) unto the day Jesus made His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. In that same week, Jesus was “cut off.”

Daniel’s prophecy then predicts a “prince” that will destroy the city and the temple and bring an end to the sacrifices. He will come with an army (“a flood”) and at the end of war bring “desolation” (Daniel 9:26). This prophecy has been fulfilled twice: the first time by Antiochus IV Epiphanes around 164 BC, and the second time by the Roman general Titus in 70 AD. It was this second destruction that left Jerusalem (and all of Palestine) desolate for almost 2000 years. However, the prophecy reveals a third “prince” that will come. “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate” (Daniel 9:27, emphasis mine). That “week” is the last of the 70 weeks of years determined for Israel. The difference between this “prince” and those that come before is that he “confirms” (not “makes”) a covenant (or “treaty”) with “many” for seven years (one week).

This seven-year period is the Tribulation, and it is not intended for the Church. Remember, it is a time determined for Daniel’s people and Daniel’s holy city (Daniel 9:24). The “prince,” aka, Antichrist, will be revealed when he enforces (“confirms”) a peace treaty with “many.” In context, this would be Israel and all her “many” enemies that would see her destroyed. For years, many tried to predict who Antichrist might be, but in reality, this is wasted effort for the church, since the church will not be on the scene when the Antichrist arrives. In speaking of the appearance of this “man of sin,” the Apostle Paul says, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [or “restrains”] will let, until he be taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7, emphasis mine). “He who now restrains” is the Holy Spirit who works in the lives of believers. When that Restrainer is “taken out of the way,” then “then shall that Wicked [one] be revealed” (2 Thessalonians 2:8), and the Tribulation begins.

The Rapture of the Church comes “as a thief in the night,” but it will precede the Tribulation. We cannot predict with certainty the time of the Rapture, but the events during the Tribulation are predictable according to Scripture. Knowing the events that will take place during the Tribulation helps us to forecast the proximity of the Rapture.

Daniel characterized the end as a time when “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:4). By land, we can traverse the US from coast to coast in a matter of three or four days. By air, the journey takes a matter of hours. A little more than a century ago, the same trip took about a year and four months.[2] According to “industry tap,” knowledge currently doubles every 12 months, and they predict it will soon double every 12 hours.[3]

The prophet Ezekiel tells of a coming invasion of Israel by a confederacy of nations from the north (Ezekiel 38-39). The prophet identifies these nations as Magog (Russia), Meshech (Georgia) and Tubal (Turkey). God says to Gog, the leader of Magog (V. Putin), “I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army” (Ezekiel 38:4, emphasis mine). Along with this, the prophet also names Persia (Iran), Ethiopia, and Libya. With the exception of Ethiopia, these nations are majority Muslim, and their hatred for Israel is well known. Today we see the amassing of Russian and Iranian troops near Syria’s southern border with Israel. Russia (Magog) has aligned itself with Turkey, Syria, and Iran. While Russia is not openly hostile toward Israel, it does have interest in Israel’s newfound gas and oil reserves. Israel’s newfound treasure threatens Russia’s energy market with Europe as Israel builds a gas pipeline to deliver cheaper gas to Europe. This competition has the potential to incite Russia to attack Israel. When this takes place, Israel’s allies will be unable to help other than to protest the invasion. “Sheba, and Dedan [Saudi Arabia], and the merchants of Tarshish [Spain/Europe], with all the young lions thereof [some think this refers to Britain and the US], shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?” (Ezekiel 38:13). Israel’s allies will be helpless to do anything more than complain. Considering the Christian population of the US and, to a less extent, Britain and Europe, the Rapture will deal such a blow to these nations that their governments, military, and their economies will be in such shambles that they will be unable to help. Israel will be completely on her own except for God. “And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, that my fury shall come up in my face” (Ezekiel 38:18). This is yet a future event, but we can see the stage being set for the unfolding of this drama.

Of the Tribulation, Jesus said “ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6). Critics might be quick to point out that “wars and rumors of wars” have existed since time began. However, scoffers too are a sign of the end-times. “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4, emphasis mine). These scoffers forget that end-times prophecy centers on Israel and Jerusalem and not the world in general even though these events will affect the whole world. From 70 AD to 1948, Israel vanished from the earth as a nation. The Jews were scattered to the four corners of the globe (yes, I know a globe does not have corners!). Therefore, all those other wars are irrelevant to end-times prophecy. For these events to fulfill Bible prophecy, Israel must be a nation, Jerusalem must be the capital, and the Temple must be rebuilt. Israel became a nation on May 14, 1948. Despite being scattered all over the world, the Jewish people retained their “Jewishness.” Even the Hebrew language, once thought to be a dead language, is restored and in use as the official language of Israel. On May 14, 2018, 70 years after Israel’s rebirth, President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel and the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Temple is not built, but all the implements of the Temple are ready. The priests are in training to carry out the ministry of the temple. The plans and the materials for the Temple are ready for the building. The only thing that remains is for the order to be given to build. Scoffers may scoff, but the stage is being set.

Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 17, 21 record Jesus’ words about the end times – the time of Tribulation. Revelation 4-19 goes into great detail about the events that will take place during that terrible seven-year period. Those who belong to the Church, the Bride, of Christ, need not worry about going through that awful time. However, we must be alert and watch. Jesus said, “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28, emphasis mine). We see these things “beginning” to come to pass. We see the stage being set. The time is near. Look up! Lift up your heads! Your redemption is drawing near!

Notes:


[1]  The time is calculated based on a biblical year of 360 days.

[2]  http://www.answers.com/Q/How_long_did_it_take_to_cross_the_US_in_covered_wagon

[3]  http://www.industrytap.com/knowledge-doubling-every-12-months-soon-to-be-every-12-hours/3950

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Current Events, End Times, Religion, Second Coming of Christ, Theology

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