There is a major storm gathering on the horizon. This is not just stormy weather; this storm will have eternal consequences for every man, woman and child on earth! The Bible, which is the inerrant and verbally inspired word of God, warns us about this coming storm which will suddenly unleash unparalleled, world-wide destruction and bring about the end of this world. Although we can't know the exact day, there are ominous signs everywhere predicting that this great storm will soon begin. Are you prepared?
The Christian church began on the day of Pentecost in the year AD 30 after the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his ascension into heaven; “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves and rested on each one of them. (Acts 2:1-3)
The early church grew rapidly as the Apostles, inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit, spread the gospel (which means “good news”) of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Son of God and the promised Messiah (which means “The Christ”) who died to pay the penalty for our sins. He was crucified on a Roman cross, died and was buried, but three days later He was bodily resurrected. This living Savior, Jesus Christ, has ascended into heaven, but will be returning to earth again someday and maybe very soon.
I have been a Christian since August of 1975 when I heard and believed the gospel message of the Lord Jesus Christ. My wife, Linda, and I were blessed to be a part of Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, a non- denominational, Bible teaching church. This is where we first learned what the Bible taught about something called the “rapture” of the church and all of the other amazing events surrounding the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Every generation of Christian believers from the beginning of the church described in the second chapter of the book of Acts up to this present generation of Christian believers has been looking expectantly for the eminent return of Jesus Christ; “…This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11b)
If you are a Christian, you probably already know at least some of what the Bible teaches about the end of the world and all the amazing events that the Bible says are coming. This booklet is not intended to be an exhaustive study of biblical prophecies or a comprehensive Bible commentary. Our purpose is to simply introduce you to the basic biblical prophecies about the second coming of Jesus Christ and the coming end of the world. I hope that you will be encouraged and motivated to more carefully examine for yourself what the Bible says about things to come.
"Now learn from the parable of the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door." (Matthew 24:32-33)
One day Jesus' disciples came to Him privately and asked Him about the future. They were anxiously looking forward to the promised coming Kingdom of God that, over a thousand years earlier, the Old Testament Jewish prophets had spoken and written about. Jesus’ disciples said to Him; "Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of your coming, and the end of the age?" One of those Old Testament prophets was a man named Daniel. He was the author of the biblical Book of Daniel that was written about 530 BC at the time of the nation of Israel's Babylonian captivity.
Daniel is best known as the godly young man who was miraculously protected by God after he was cast into the lion's den. But Daniel was also an important prophet of the God who protected him that day from those lions. Most of Daniel's prophecies that were made hundreds, even thousands of years in advance, have already been fulfilled exactly as he had prophesied. And many Bible scholars believe that the yet unfulfilled prophecies of Daniel may soon happen. Let's examine the Biblical prophecies of the Lord Jesus Christ, Daniel and other biblical prophets that have predicted "that He (Jesus) is near, right at the door." What are the signs of His imminent return and what should you do in anticipation of this fast approaching countdown to eternity - "the end of the age?" Is God giving us a final warning?
In the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel, we have an important foundational prophecy concerning Daniel's people, Israel; "Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people (Israel) and your holy city (Jerusalem), to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”(Daniel 9:24-27)
The key to understanding the timing of this prophecy is understanding that Daniel's "seventy weeks" are literally seventy weeks of years or seventy times seven (490 years). In other words, Daniel, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, prophesized that God's remaining program for His people Israel would be completed over a period of 490 years. Daniel writes that this 490 year period of time begins with the signing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. At the time Daniel wrote these words, Jerusalem was in ruins. But just as he prophesized, the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem was given by the Persian King Artaxerxes in the month of Nisan (March or April), 444 BC; "And it came about in the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes (444 BC)." (Nehemiah 2:1). This is the first month in the Jewish calendar, the spring month of the Jewish Passover.
The Old Testament Jewish calendar had 360 days rather than the 365 days in our modern day western calendar. Daniel prophesized that after the 69th week of years (7 years plus 62 years) or a total of 483 years, "the Messiah (Jesus Christ) will be cut off and have nothing." Bible Scholars have identified the actual decree by King Artaxerxes that was given on March 5, 444 BC. From this starting date and adding 483 Jewish calendar years or exactly 173,880 days would mean that Jesus, the Jewish Messiah or Christ, would be "cutoff" on March 30th, AD 33. This is approximately one week prior to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ when He made his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, the day we celebrate as "Palm Sunday" as recorded in Luke 19:28-40. So 483 of the 490 years of Daniel's prophecy concerning His people, Israel, have been fulfilled. But what about the last seven years of Daniel’s prophecy?
The Church Age
“For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in;” (Romans 11:25)
After 483 years of Daniel’s prophecy concerning Israel, God’s chosen people rejected Jesus as their Messiah and God’s program for Israel was temporally interrupted. After being rejected by the Jews, Jesus was crucified, resurrected three days later and then ascended to be with His Father in heaven. This interruption, known as the present Church age, has already lasted nearly 2,000 years. Although Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah, God has not rejected His chosen people or forgotten His solemn promises to them; “…for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29). God will certainly complete His program with Israel and fulfill all His promises to them but only after “…thefullnessof the Gentiles has come in.”
Our English word “Church” comes from the Greek word “ecclesia” meaning the assembly of the called out ones. Although both Israel and the Church are beneficiaries of God’s blessings and promises, they are unique groups of saints (or holy ones) with unique and separate promises from God. The Church was never mentioned in the Old Testament and was therefore a mystery that wasn’t revealed or fully understood until after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament saints were understandably confused by messianic prophecies of a coming Messiah who would suffer and die, yet be their Savior and eternal King.
They, of course, did not know about this 2,000 year interruption in God’s program for Israel we know as the Church age. The Church had its beginning ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven; “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:7-9) Just as Jesus promised and the prophet Joel prophesized (Joel 2:28-29), the Holy Spirit descended upon the twelve apostles one day as they were together observing the Jewish harvest festival that was celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover or Pentecost; “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves and they rested on eachone of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)
The disciples were suddenly empowered to proclaim the gospel (the good news) of the risen Christ. They went out into the streets of Jerusalem and began preaching to the crowds gathered for the festival. Not only did the disciples preach with power, but by a miracle of the Holy Spirit they spoke in native languages of the people present, many who were visiting from distant areas of the Roman Empire. The apostle Peter, seizing this opportunity, preached to them about Jesus’ death and resurrection; “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day were added about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41) Wow! Can you imagine the excitement as about three thousand people heard the good news about Jesus and became Christians that day!
These newly minted Christians, like Christians of every generation, wondered when Jesus would return for them and finally establish His promised kingdom on earth. Every generation of Christians has expected that Jesus would be returning in their lifetime. And as the years, decades and even centuries passed by without Him coming back, many Christians got increasingly discouraged and began listening to the mockers; Know this first of all, that in the last days, mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?Foreversincethe fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning.” (2 Peter 3:3, 4)
The argument that the Lord isn’t ever coming back is not only theologically wrong, it is illogical. Just because something hasn’t yet to happen, doesn’t prove that it never will. This is the same illogical argument and mocking that I’m sure Noah must have had to endure from ungodly naysayers before the flood that drowned probably more than a billion people. Everyone on earth accept Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives perished in that world-wide flood because they refused to heed the warning that Noah preached to them about God’s coming judgment. Our present generation that listens to the mocking of ungodly false teachers and ignores the obvious biblical prophecies about the imminent return of Jesus Christ and coming judgment, is not that much different from Noah’s generation; Forwhenthey maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water, through which the world at that time (in the days of Noah) was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:5-7)
Just because it has been nearly 2,000 years and Jesus Christ has still not returned, doesn’t mean that He has forgotten or changed His mind or probably won’t be coming back. The reason He has not yet returned is that, just like in the days of Noah, God has been patient towards us, waiting for us to repent and be saved from His final judgment; But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8, 9) Jesus will someday return for His Church and then, just like in the days of Noah, will come the final judgment of all unbelievers.
In the Gospel of John, there is a beautiful analogy of a traditional Jewish marriage betrothal and wedding ceremony picturing the unique relationship between Jesus, His Church and Israel. The Church is said to be the “bride” of Jesus and the Old Testament saints as friends of the bridegroom; “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice.” (John 3:29). Following the pattern of a traditional Jewish betrothal and wedding, the Bride (the Church) has been formally engaged or promised to the bridegroom (Jesus), who has returned to His Father’s house to prepare a home for His bride; “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3).
When the bridegroom returns for his bride, they are formally united in marriage, followed by a wedding celebration including all their friends (the Old Testament Saints). The celebration of Jesus returning for His Church will last a thousand years and is known as the “Millennial Kingdom of Christ”; Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb (Jesus) has come and His bride (the Church) has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7). This will be an amazing thousand year celebration on earth and we will look at more of the details in a later chapter.
Starting on the day of Pentecost, the Church rapidly grew as the gospel of Jesus Christ was proclaimed everywhere as Jesus commanded “evento the remotest parts of the earth.” It has been almost 2,000 years since the beginning of the Church age and the interruption of God’s promised program for Israel. But this interruption and the present Church age will suddenly end with the “rapture of the Church.”
The Rapture of the Church
“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)
There are no prerequisite prophecies in the Old or New Testament that must be fulfilled prior to what is known as the “rapture of the Church.” The word “rapture” is not found in the Bible. It is a transliteration of a Latin word meaning “to be caught up.” The Bible tells us that the rapture of the Church could happen at any time and will mark the end of the Church age that began almost 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem. This sudden and incredible event will be followed soon after by the last remaining seven years of the prophet Daniel’s 490 years that were decreed for his people, Israel.
At the Rapture, all true believers in Jesus Christ from the beginning of the Church, both Jews and Gentiles, will be bodily caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. The bodies of all those saints who have died in Christ prior to the rapture will be resurrected (“raised imperishable”), once again reunited with their spirits and together with the Lord. Those true believers who are still alive will also receive perfected and imperishable bodies suited for eternity and will be immediately “caught up” into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; “But we do not want you to be uniformed, brethren, about those who are asleep (those Christians who have already died), so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we, who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
The Bible says that no one can know the exact day of the rapture of the Church; “Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2) Although we don’t know when the rapture will happen, we do know that the last seven year period decreed for Daniel’s people, Israel, known as the “tribulation,” will follow very soon after the Rapture of the Church. It is the rapidly developing and converging spiritual, societal, environmental, economic, governmental and technological revelations that cause many of us to believe that the coming rapture of the church and tribulation period that follows are very near. We will consider this in more depth in a later chapter. But believers in Jesus Christ should be looking for His imminent return at the Rapture and the final countdown to eternity which could begin at any time and without any further warning.
The rapture of the church will obviously change the world in ways never before seen. Only true believers, those who have trusted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will be caught up together with Him. Only unbelievers will be left behind on earth to suffer through the tribulation period. For a while, the world will be in complete chaos. Great fear, panic and a sense of foreboding will prevail as those left behind try to come to grips with the reality that millions of people have suddenly vanished. There will be increased violence, insanity and suicide. Many governments, businesses, economies, schools and other institutions will collapse as people focus on their own survival and the survival of their remaining family and friends with an attitude of “everyone for themselves.” Tensions and power struggles between nations, as well as individuals, will intensify as supplies of food and other basic commodities rapidly dwindle.
And yet for many, life will continue and quickly return to pre-rapture daily routines. Although the true Christians are gone, religious activities, including many so called “churches” (that are really not true churches) and other religious groups, will have resurgence as people seek spiritual answers and hope for the future. It will probably be similar to the spike in church attendance and interest in religion following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. But much like what happened within a few weeks following the 9/11 attacks, as people begin to believe that they will survive, their anxiety about what has happened and what the future holds will fade. People will gain a sense of spiritual, physical and emotional comfort and security in other distractions. There will probably be an increase in alcohol and drug use and sexual perversion of all kinds. Past constraints on immorality, societal stigmas of what is and what is not respectable, moral behavior and the governing conviction of individual consciences will no longer restrain bad behavior. It may be similar in some ways to the attitude and mantra of young people in the late 1960’s who said, “If it feels good, do it!” However, for most people, everyday life and even survival will be a challenge.
There will be, of course, many explanations and theories as to what really happened at the rapture. Why did all those people disappear and where did they go?” There will be plausible explanations that will seem reasonable and logical. Most people will be completely deceived and history will quickly be rewritten in order to calm the masses. Probably any explanation, other than the frightening Biblical truth about the rapture, will be welcomed by those who have rejected the truth; “For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12)
The Seven Year Tribulation Period
"And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate." (Daniel 9:27)
Soon after the rapture of the Church, Daniel's prophesized last seven year period of time for his people (Israel) will begin. Remember that 483 years of God's 490 year program for Israel was completed precisely on March 30th, AD 33 when Jesus Christ was rejected by the Jews as the promised Messiah. As Daniel wrote; "Messiah will be cut off and have nothing." A time period of almost 2,000 years known as the "Church Age" or "the day of the gentiles" has interrupted God's program for His chosen people. But He has not forgotten His promises and the ancient prophecies made concerning this last seven year period of time that will soon be fulfilled.
This remaining last seven years of Daniel's prophecy is known as the “Tribulation.” This will be an unprecedented and terrible time on earth. About these last seven years, Jesus said "Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short." (Matthew 24:22) God will pour out His wrath on both the Jews and Gentiles who have rejected the Lord Jesus Christ. There will be increasingly violent and destructive natural and super-natural disasters all around the world resulting in tremendous human suffering and unprecedented loss of life.
The seven year tribulation period begins with the formal signing of an agreement between Israel and the new leader of the western world, a man the Bible says is the coming “Antichrist.” We will have much more to say about this man in the next chapter. The tribulation period is divided into two 3 ½ year periods of time. The first 3 ½ years are relatively mild compared to the last 3 ½ years. But understand that even the first few years of the tribulation period will see great devastation, suffering and loss of life.
The last book of the Bible, The Revelation of John, from chapters six through nineteen, chronicle in much detail the unfolding events of the coming tribulation period. In the opening verses of chapter six, the Apostle John writes about what is known as the "Four Horseman of the Apocalypse." These apocalyptic horsemen picture the first four tribulations God will pour out on an unbelieving world that has rejected Jesus Christ. The first horseman represents the
Antichrist, empowered by Satan, becoming the next sovereign world-wide leader prior to the establishment of the final and eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ at the end of the tribulation period; "I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given him, and he went out conquering and to conquer." (Revelation 6:2); "...and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate." (Daniel 9:27b)
The next horseman of the apocalypse is riding a red horse signifying a great world war, followed by a third horseman riding a black horse signifying shortages of food, hyper-inflation and world-wide famine. The forth horseman is riding an ashen (pale green) horse signifying death; "Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and wild beasts of the earth." (Revelation 6:8b) As I write this, there are approximately six billion people alive on earth. If a fourth of the world's population died today of war, famine, pestilence (deceases) and wild animals (who will also be starving and desperately seeking food), the number of dead would be approximately 1.5 billion. This devastation all happens within just the first few years of the tribulation and there is much more to come. It is hard to overstate how horrific these tribulation days will be on earth.
During the seven year tribulation period that is outlined for us in The Revelation of John, there are a series of twenty- one different tribulation judgments known as the seven Seal Judgments, the seven Trumpet Judgments, and the final seven Bowl Judgments. Each consecutive judgment increases in intensity and they are cumulative, meaning that the accumulative tribulations being poured out upon the people on earth increases exponentially with each new judgment. As Jesus told His disciples; "Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved." All six billion or so people left on the earth following the rapture of the Church will die during the tribulation period if Jesus Christ does not intervene.
"Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour." (1 John 2:18)
The man called the Antichrist has a number of different names in the Bible that reveal his true character and motivation. Some of his other names are "The Man of Lawlessness" (2 Thessalonians 2:3), "The Beast" (Revelation 11:7), "The Wicked One" (Psalms 10: 2, 4), "The Man of the Earth" (Psalms 10:18), "The Mighty Man" (Psalms 52:1), "The Adversary or Enemy" (Psalms 55:3 and 74:10, Isaiah 59:19, Lamentations 4:12, and Amos 3:11), "The Wicked Prince of Israel" (Ezekiel 21:25-27), "The Little Horn" (Daniel 7:8), and "The Willful King" (Daniel 11:36). This godless man has other names in Scripture, but these names give us a pretty good understanding of his awful evil character and hateful motivation.
The word "Antichrist" can mean one who is opposed to or “anti” to Christ and it can also mean one who is "instead" of Christ. The Antichrist who is to come will fulfill both meanings of his name. He will first come upon the world scene as the self-proclaimed promised Christ or Messiah who will masquerade as the savior of the world. But then he will reveal his true character as one who hates God and all those who would follow the true Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Antichrist will be Satan's counterfeit Messiah, who will not only be opposed to God, but will try to usurp all the rights and honors of the Lord Jesus Christ, the true Son of God.
Satan is the master counterfeiter and the father of lies who deceives the world. He and his surrogate Antichrist along with a man known as the "False Prophet", another counterfeit of the Holy Spirit, will comprise an unholy trinity on earth. They will try to replace the genuine true Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Antichrist and the False Prophet will be empowered and directed by Satan, who seeks to finally be acknowledged and worshipped as god.
The Antichrist will be a very charismatic and attractive man in every respect. He will be the culmination of everything people admire, a mighty man (see Psalm 52:1) who will amass immense wealth and political power. For a short period of time he will rule the world and will certainly be the most powerful and feared man on earth. At his pinnacle, he will claim to be not only the ruler of the world, but a god and will demand that everyone worship him as well as submit completely to his sovereign rule.
Not everyone, however, will worship or submit to the Antichrist. God always keeps a remnant of those on earth who worship Him alone. There will be a miraculous Jewish revival on earth as millions of Jews finally understand and believe that Jesus is indeed their promised Messiah. They will hear this truth from 144,000 Jewish evangelists who are personally selected and protected by God Himself; "And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel." (Revelation 7:4) The Antichrist and his followers will, of course, try to silence these 144,000 Jewish evangelists. But because they have a special seal of protection from God, their message regarding Jesus, the true Messiah, and His coming Kingdom will spread rapidly throughout the world.
Those who resist the Antichrist will pay a heavy price for their civil disobedience. The Antichrist will require that everyone receive his mark, the infamous 666 (probably an encoded tattoo or identifying barcode). Anyone who refuses will find it very difficult to survive because they are not able to either buy or sell food or anything else; "And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the freemen and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty six." (Revelation13:16-18) The required technology enabling the mark of the Antichrist didn't exist prior to the invention of computers, lasers and other technology advancements of the past few decades.
Almost every major financial transaction in the world today is done instantaneously via electronic transfer. More and more of simple retail sales are also completed using "electronic" money in the form of credit and debit card numbers. Thanks to super-fast computers with enormous data storage capability, trillions of sales transactions can be approved or declined in an instant. In the not too distant future, physical currency will be a relic of the past. This financial technology obviously provides many great benefits and efficiencies.
Without cash money, the so called "underground" economy will be virtually eliminated. The banks, government or whoever controls the "electronic" money will be able to better track and eliminate tax evasion, illegal drug sales and other crimes. Of course, these same controlling entities will have great power, even deciding who is authorized to buy and sell food. The current problem of lost or stolen card numbers will be easily solved with required invisible laser tattoos or identifying barcodes on the right hand or forehead. It doesn't take much imagination to see how the coming Antichrist will be able to quickly and effectively take control of the people who are part of his world-wide kingdom. And those who refuse his mark will be fugitives who will find it nearly impossible to survive during the seven year tribulation period.
Armageddon -theLast Great World War
"And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon." (Revelation 16:16)
The climax of the seven-year tribulation period is known as "Armageddon" and will be followed by the long awaited second coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Satan, the current ruler of this world, will gather all the world's powerful armies for the final battle, "...for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty." Ground zero for this last great world war will be the Valley of Megiddo, also known as the Jezreel Valley. The spacious Jezreel Valley spreads out to the north and east from Mount Carmel in Israel. This is an historic battleground and will be the stage for the end of the Antichrist's reign as well as God's final judgments upon the Antichrist and all those remaining on the earth who are settled in their opposition to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Preceding Armageddon, God will judge the world's corrupted economic system that has seduced those on earth, promising them peace and prosperity apart from the living God: "...Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.”(Revelation 17: 1, 2) ..Woe, woe, the great city, she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls; for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!" Revelation 19: 16, 17)
Throughout the seven-year tribulation period, there will be increasing world-wide economic disruptions, including unsustainable accumulations in the sovereign debt of nations, businesses and individuals. This will lead to hyper inflation, unemployment, financial defaults, economic depression and shortages of basic commodities, including food. As the Antichrist consolidates his political power and takes control of the world's finances, he and his political partners will become extremely wealthy at the expense of the rest of the world's population.
The Antichrist's corrupt economic and false religious system is called "Babylon the great," a reference to the Old Testament Babylonian kingdom with its great wealth and Satan-inspired pagan worship. This powerful Babylonian kingdom that dominated the world was a type and a precursor of the Antichrist's final tribulation kingdom on earth. But in the last days, before Jesus Christ returns, the Antichrist's economic system as well as his false religious system will collapse, and his one-world government will begin to quickly unravel. We read about this in the eighteenth chapter of The Revelation to John: "...Fallen, fallenis Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every hateful bird. For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality." (Revelation 18:2-3) "And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning...And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more..." (Revelation 18:9, 11)
With the pending collapse of the Antichrist's kingdom, there is a power vacuum that others seek to fill. All of the world's armies will gather in the Jezreel Valley to fight each other for world control--the ultimate and final world war. The forces of the Antichrist's once invincible western nation confederation come to try to regain their dominance. A confederation of a revived military power (possibly Russia and its Islamic nation partners) also come to this battle. During the first few months of the tribulation period (or maybe in the months preceding the tribulation), a powerful nation to the far north of Jerusalem (Russia?) attacks Israel. But God once again miraculously protects Israel and these northern armies are destroyed: “ ‘Onthat day I will give Gog a burial ground there in Israel...Even all the people of the land will bury them; and it will be to theirrenownon the day that I glorify Myself,' declares the Lord God" (Ezekiel 39:11, 13)
There is also a large army from the far eastern nations that will come to the Jezreel Valley for this final battle known as Armageddon: "The number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them." (Revelation 9:16) It is interesting that when the Apostle John penned these words, the total world population wasn’t two hundred million people. Because of this supposedly improbable number of soldiers, John’s Revelation has been dismissed and mocked by many who point to this obvious discrepancy. However, the Republic of China recently claimed that they now can field more than a two hundred million-man infantry. Could this possibly be the large army from the far eastern nations that John saw?
The Second Coming of Jesus Christ
"And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God." (Revelation 19:11-13)
The world's kings and their armies have been assembled and the battleground is ready for the final world war known as Armageddon. All the armies who have converged in the Jezreel Valley to fight each other are suddenly united against Jesus Christ who is returning to earth. "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11) The armies of the world now realize that their common enemy is God. In one final desperate attempt to deny Jesus Christ His rightful place as King of kings and Lord of lords on earth as He is in heaven, these united armies turn their weapons toward Him: "And I saw the beast (the Antichrist) and the kings of the earth and their armies assembledto make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army." (Revelation 19:19)
But the world's armies and their impotent weaponry are no match against the living God. In a moment, the final battle is over! "From his mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, 'Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of the horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.'“(Revelation 19:15-18)
Jesus does not come this second time as a humble baby who is laid in a manger. He returns triumphantly, indicated by the imagery of the white horse He rides. He also comes in judgment, indicated by the imagery of the sharp sword that comes from His mouth. When Jesus Christ returns to earth, everyone who has rejected Him will die and will be sentenced to an eternal hell known as "the lake of fire." Antichrist (the beast) and the man known as the false prophet will immediately be thrown alive into the lake of fire (hell): "And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him (Jesus) who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with flesh." (Revelation 19:20-21) What a gruesome scene! Billions of people are rightly judged and executed by Jesus Christ, and the birds feast on all the dead bodies.
When Jesus Christ returns to earth, He is followed by the saints who trusted Him as their Lord and Savior during the Church Age. He is also followed by those saints who resisted the antichrist and were martyred during the seven-year tribulation period. They are clothed in fine linen, clean and white, signifying that all of their sins have been forgiven. And they are also riding white horses, along with Jesus Christ, signifying that they too are victorious: "And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses." (Revelation 19:14)
These saints will rule and reign with Jesus Christ during His Millennial Kingdom on earth (see the next chapter). When the long-awaited promise of the second coming of Jesus Christ happens, the world will have a new king and a new beginning. Then that prayer that Jesus taught His disciples almost 2,000 years ago will finally be answered; "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven..." (Matthew 6:10)
The Eternal Kingdom
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.' " (Revelation 21:1-4)
Following the great tribulation and the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and His saints, there will be a thousand-year celebration on earth. Jesus will take His place as the rightful and eternal king. This thousand-year celebration period is known as the Millennium (thousand) Kingdom and is the first stage of Jesus Christ's eternal kingdom. It will be an amazing time on earth and very different from any previous period of time. Jesus will sit on His throne as the just and eternal king who rules and reigns in total sovereignty. This will be a perfect environment for those living on the earth who will not only be His loyal subjects, but will also be very blessed beneficiaries of the King of kings, and Lord of lords.
At the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom, the earth will be populated by the remnant of followers of Jesus Christ who miraculously survived the seven-year tribulation period. All others who rejected Jesus perished, either during the Tribulation period or at the time of His second coming to earth. Unlike the saints of all the ages--church saints, tribulation saints, and Old Testament saints--this remnant on the earth will still have physical bodies. Their bodies, however, will not age or be subject to diseases.
They will probably be similar to the physical bodies of Adam and Eve when they lived in the Garden of Eden prior to their sin (see Genesis, chapters 3 and 4). Those who do die will be seen as accursed by God because they outwardly disobeyed the king, Jesus Christ, and His sovereign authority: "No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days; for the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred will be thought accursed." (Isaiah 65:20)
The Millennial Kingdom will provide a perfect environment on earth with no evil, illness, crime, wars, poverty, social, or political problems. This will be a time of total peace and prosperity for the people on earth. God will meet every need and provide abundant blessings. There will no longer be any pain associated with childbirth, and the earth will be quickly repopulated with billions of people who only know this perfect environment. Even the animals will live in peace with man and with each other: "'It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent's food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,' says the Lord." (Isaiah 65:24-25)
During the Millennial Kingdom, God will not allow Satan to do evil or deceive the people of earth because "...He (God's holy angel) laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years." (Revelation 20:2) However, at the end of the millennium, God releases Satan for a time. Satan immediately goes back to his old ways, deceiving naïve people and leading them away from the Lord Jesus Christ and His salvation. Amazingly, even after experiencing a perfect existence for a thousand years with the Lord Jesus Christ, an innumerable number of people choose to reject Him and follow after Satan, proving the total depravity and sinfulness of people: "When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four cornersof the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore." (Revelation 20:7, 8)
These who reject the Lord Jesus Christ and choose to follow Satan will follow him into an eternal hell: "And they came up on the broad plain of the earth (the Jezreel Valley) and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone (hell) where the beast and false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." (Revelation 20:9-10) What a tragic ending to such a wonderful and amazing thousand-year celebration.
Following the Millennial Kingdom God, who created the first earth and heavens (Genesis 1:1), will create new heavens and a new earth. We are not told the size of the new earth and heavens or universe, but we can assume that God's new creation will dwarf what currently exists. Astronomers have already discovered thousands of galaxies, each containing billions of stars like our own sun. Most scientists believe that our current universe contains billions of yet undetected galaxies. The size and scope of what God has already created boggles the mind and is beyond our finite human understanding. It is therefore impossible to even imagine, let alone comprehend, the size, the complexity and the magnificence of the new earth and heavens God will soon create.
The Bible does give us a quick glimpse of His coming new creation in Revelation, chapters 21 and 22. The Apostle John, after receiving this amazing revelation from an angel of God, had the following reaction: "I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. But he said to me, 'Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God!' " (Revelation 22:8-9)
Just Like the Days of Noah
"And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all." (Luke 17:26, 27)
When His disciples questioned Jesus regarding the signs of His return and the prophesied end of the world, Jesus replied, "And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man." Jesus often called Himself "the Son of man" and taught that when the days of Noah before the flood are repeated, then you will know the end is near. Although we can't know the exact day or the hour, there are many verses in the Bible that tell us to watch for signs indicating the nearness of the second coming of Jesus Christ: "Now as to the times and epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying 'Peace and safety!' then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief." (I Thessalonians 5:1-4)
While Jesus warned His disciples not to try to determine dates, days, and hours, He reminded them that there will be signs pointing to His imminent return, and they (and we) should look for similarities to the days of Noah before the flood. Since the days of Noah, the world has seen tremendous technological advancements. However, there are also many ominous social, economic, immorality, and religious similarities today with those before the flood in the days of our ancestor, Noah. Though there are dark, foreboding clouds on the horizon for all to see, most people remain totally oblivious to the coming storm that will destroy them and this world as we know it. For over one hundred years while building the ark, Noah warned of God's coming judgment. It is estimated that there were more than a billion people living on the earth at that time, possibly as many as 16 billion people. But only Noah and seven others entered the ark and were saved from the worldwide flood: "...just like it happened in the days of Noah...”
How close are we to God's final judgment? Here are ten considerations which lead us to believe that we may be very close to the end of time:
1. For the first time since the Jewish Babylonian captivity during the prophet Daniel's time, Israel is back in the promised land as discussed in Isaiah chapter 66 and Ezekiel chapter. In 1967, Israel regained control of the city of Jerusalem fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 12:1-3. There are reports that preparations are under way for the rebuilding of a new Jewish Temple in Jerusalem which may be a precursor of the events discussed in Revelation 11:1-2.
2. "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place." (Matthew 24:32-34) We believe the "fig tree" and "this generation" is referring to Israel that was declared a nation in 1948.
3. Will it be soon that the international political pressures and peace initiatives in the Middle East result in the prophesied signing of the historic peace agreement mentioned in Daniel 9:27 by the coming antichrist, supposedly providing for Israel's security?
4. "But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase." (Daniel 12:4) Since the time that Daniel wrote these words about 536 BC, we have seen tremendous increases in knowledge, travel, and technology, including the introduction of computers, the internet, and instantaneous, worldwide communications. Another possible interpretation of this verse is that near the end of time, knowledge will increase about Jesus Christ and many will search for answers about Him and His gospel. Could Daniel’s prophetic words be signaling that the end of time is near?
5. The prophet Daniel describes a ten-nation European political and military confederacy that will eventually be controlled by the coming antichrist. (Daniel 7:7-8) Could the present European Union be the early nucleus of his revived Roman Empire?
6. During the past 75 years there has been an increasing worldwide demand for energy, especially for oil. However, the world is experiencing dwindling oil supplies. Will a large oil reserve be discovered in Israel, sparking increased hostility between Israel and its enemies, including Russia and Iran? "I will give you (Israel) the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name." (Isaiah 45:3)
7. Are the increases in worldwide epidemic and pandemic diseases another indication that God's final judgment may be near? "I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence (epidemic and pandemic diseases)..."(Revelation 6:8)
8. Are the increases in worldwide natural disasters and unusual weather events consistent with the end-of-time prophecies of the Revelation given by God to the Apostle John?
9. Will the growing economic and military might of Russia, China and Iran soon collide with the Antichrist's western nation confederacy? And is the international proliferation of nuclear weapons and the deployment of them a warning that an escalating, catastrophic, nuclear conflict may soon happen? (see Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39; Revelation 9:13-16)
10. Is growing ambivalence about biblical prophecies and the outright rejection of God's Word, the Bible, another clear sign that the end is very near? "Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.' For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, beingfloodedwith water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men." (2 Peter 3:3-8)
The Good News
"And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.'" (Acts 1:9-11)
Again, I want to be very clear about this. No one except God knows the exact year, day, or hour of the rapture of the church, nor the prophesied events of the seven-year tribulation period and the millennial kingdom that will follow. But we should also remember that Jesus said we can know the "season" of His coming kingdom (Luke 21:29-31). Therefore, Christians are to stay alert, anticipating His imminent return; "But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief..." (1 Thessalonians 5:4)
Unlike His first coming, the second coming of Jesus Christ will usher in a time of judgment on the earth. For the vast majority of people, His return and the terrifying judgments to follow will be very bad news: "For we know Him who said, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.' And again, 'The Lord will judge His people.' It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Hebrews 10:30-31)
But for the true followers of Jesus Christ who are eagerly anticipating His coming, the promise of His second coming is exceeding good news! The biblical word "gospel" literally means "good news." Maybe the most well known and most often recited verse in the New Testament is John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." God the Father gave His Son, Jesus (who is also God), to become the ultimate acceptable sacrifice for sin.
The Bible tells us that we are all sinners: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." (Romans 3:23) Our sin separates us from God's glory because the penalty for sin, even just one sin, is death: "For the wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23a) This is not just physical death (the spirit separated from the body) but spiritual death -- eternal separation from God in a literal place known as hell or the "lake of fire." There are actually more verses in the Bible describing the horrors of hell than the magnificence of heaven.
The Bible says that everyone whose sin is not forgiven will spend eternity suffering in hell: "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels...’" (Matthew 25:41)
Most people I have known understand that God will someday judge their sin. They try to justify and save themselves by doing things they hope will pacify God's anger toward sin. They hope their good deeds, things like being baptized, attending church or synagogue, giving their money and time to the needy, keeping the Ten Commandments, or just trying to be a good person will be enough to satisfy God's judgment. These may all be admirable things from a human perspective, but the Bible is very clear that none of us will be justified before God and escape eternal hell on the basis of our good deeds: "...and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law (good deeds) no flesh (no one) will be justified in His sight..." (Romans 3:19b-20a) If someone was somehow able to live a nearly perfect life yet sin just once, that one sin would be enough to condemn him to an eternal death in hell. You might be saying, "That doesn't seem fair!" But the Bible says God's standard is total perfection and the penalty for even just one sin is eternal death in hell.
But the Bible also gives us very good news. John 3:16 tells us, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."Jesus Christ came into this world almost 2,000 years ago, both fully man and fully God. He was without sin, but He died on a Roman cross to pay the penalty God requires for the sins of "whoever believes in Him." This is the "good news," the "gospel"; "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23) and, "ButGoddemonstratesHisown love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
The Bible says "...that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Himfrom the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9) In others words, our sins can be forgiven, and we can be justified before God by faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He died in the place of sinners, and He has been resurrected, providing eternal life to those who will trust in Him and Him alone.
The Bible has given everyone who will listen a final warning. This risen Jesus Christ will come again, not to die, but to gather together those who have been saved and belong to Him, and then to judge those who are lost and don't belong to Him.
Growing up in Nebraska, we would watch the storm clouds gather in the western skies and prepare for the stormy weather that was sure to follow. There is a major storm gathering today all over the world. Are you prepared?
"So, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door."(Matthew 24:33)