Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
As I mentioned in today's Prophecy Update, things are continuing to take shape in the Middle East related to Ezekiel's prophecy of an end-time coalition of nations that will come against Israel in the last days. Click on the file below to read the article by Ed Hindson I mentioned in the update. God bless!
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3). Ask the average Christian what it means to be saved and you'll likely get some variation of ask Jesus into your heart or receive Jesus into your life. As acceptable as these descriptions of salvation have become in modern Christian circles they are actually foreign to Scripture. The writers of the New Testament had little if anything to say about asking Jesus into your heart or receiving Him into your life.
There is one phrase, however, some variation of which appears approximately 135 times in the New Testament (some theologians suggest it appears upwards to 200 times) and that is in Christ. Other variations of this phrase include, In Him, in the Beloved, and in the heavenly places. To give a better idea of how often this phrase is used, consider the fact that in Christ appears approximately 93 times in the New Testament, 46 times in the book of Ephesians alone. In Him appears approximately 41 times while in the Beloved appears one time. The writings of the Apostle Paul are rich in using some variation of in Christ.
The New Testament writers teach us that as believers, we are in Christ. Whenever we think about salvation and what it means to be saved we often think in terms of something we did--"I asked Jesus to come into my heart," or "I received Jesus into my life." To be saved, however, means to be in Christ. It means that God has placed me into Christ. This understanding expresses the spiritual union with Jesus we enjoy as a result of our salvation. It means we are united with Christ and that this union identifies us with Christ. This understanding is one reason I prefer the first-century descriptive term Christian over the modern phrase Christ follower. But we'll save that discussion for another time.
What does it mean to be in Christ? Beginning in Paul's letter to the Ephesians we discover our union with Christ began in eternity past with the Father's plan. Since God's plan to save us began before He brought the universe into existence, it speaks to the fact our being in Christ is not an afterthought nor is it God moving from Plan A to Plan B. Our salvation by grace through faith has been God's Plan A all along! God the Father has "blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3). In fact, "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4), going so far as to have "predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself" (Eph. 1:5). All of this, He says, is "to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Eph. 1:6). Our union with Christ, therefore, began in eternity past with God's past election.
Past election, however, is incomplete without present redemption. To be in Christ means we have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Paul writes, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace" (Eph. 1:7). In fact, the Bible teaches one of the many meanings of being in Christ is that we have died with Him (Gal. 2:20) and we have been raised with Him (Eph. 2:5-6). To be in Christ, therefore, means my present identity is one of being just that--in Christ. When God the Father looks at us He no longer sees a dirty, filthy, wicked, and unholy sinner. He sees the holiness and righteousness of Christ because my sins have been transferred onto Christ (at the Cross) and Christ's righteousness has been transferred to me. All of this, according to the Apostle Paul, is "to the praise of His glory" (Eph. 1:12).
Both past election and present redemption guarantee a third reality for those who are in Christ. God's Word promises for us a future inheritance. "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession" (Eph. 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit--God's Spirit--comes to indwell and seal all those who are in Christ. According to pastor and theologian John MacArthur, this seal signifies security, authenticity, ownership, and authority. The Holy Spirit is given as a pledge of the believer's future inheritance in glory. In Christ, "we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will" (Eph. 1:11). Our inheritance, then, is both a present and future reality--right now but not yet. This is amazing to think about. Whatever Christ is heir of we are, too. Why? Because we are in Christ. And just like the Father's choice in past election and the Son's work in present redemption, our future inheritance, guaranteed by the indwelling Holy Spirit is, "to the praise of His glory" (Eph. 1:14). The ultimate purpose for our having been saved and placed in Christ is the glory of God. If that is God's ultimate purpose then perhaps that ought to be my ultimate purpose, too--to live and die in such a way so as to bring glory to God.
When it comes to these matters theologians have debated for centuries how all these things work out in the Christian life. Some have emphasized God's sovereign election while others have emphasized our personal responsibility. Regardless of where one might land on these matters we must understand that salvation is, in a sense, a mystery. We don't fully understand how God's sovereign election and a person's responsibility to believe meet. But this much we do know--God has provided for our salvation through the finished work of redemption. All of this was accomplished in Christ. Our responsibility is to hear and believe the gospel. When that happens, we are saved and "sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph. 1:13). Have you believed the gospel--the good news that Jesus lived the perfect life you could never live and died for your sins and rose from the dead three days later? If you have not, why not take a few moments right now to place your faith and trust in Christ and His finished work of redemption. The moment you believe, God will place you in Christ--a union that will last for all eternity!
"For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved" (2 Thessalonians 2:7-11). Are Satan, fallen angels, and demons real and active in the world today? A 2015 Barna study suggested more than half of self-described Christians in America do not believe that Satan, fallen angels, and demons are real, personal beings. This brand of Christianity might be better described as Western Christianity which has been heavily influenced by a Western or Naturalistic Worldview which tends to deny much when it comes to the reality of the supernatural world. Such a belief is entirely contrary to the biblical revelation and worldview. In both the Old and New Testaments, the clear teaching of scripture is these evil, malevolent beings exist and spiritual warfare is real and sometimes dangerous. Furthermore, I believe the Bible predicts what can only be described as an increase in demonic activity and deception in the last days leading up to and including the final seven years of human history prior to the Return of Jesus and the establishment of His Millennial Kingdom.
A biblical worldview teaches there is a material and immaterial world. To put it another way, there is a seen and an unseen realm--a physical and non physical reality. Although the Bible tells us some things about the unseen realm much of its reality is a mystery to us. Although we are introduced to spiritual or unseen realities in the Old Testament much of what we know today comes straight out of the New Testament--Satan and other fallen angels, as well as, demons are real, personal beings. Demons, also known as unclean spirits, harass, oppress, infest, and sometimes possess people (please note, I do not believe demons can possess true Christian). Furthermore, these malevolent spirits are, along with the good angels and even believers, involved in a cosmic spiritual battle most of which occurs in the unseen realm but often spills over into our physical reality. Consider, for example, Daniel 10:12-13, "Then he said to me, 'Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the king of Persia." The Prophet Daniel prayed for understanding but the answer did not come for twenty-one days. This three week delay was due to a fallen angel who opposed the messenger Gabriel--a good angel who stands in the presence of God--in spiritual warfare. This account tells us Satan engages in spiritual warfare in an attempt to thwart the will of God and to influence people and nations against God and His people. The New Testament affirms this reality. Paul writes, "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against he rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:11-12). Peter writes, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
The Bible further predicts an increase in demonic activity in the last days. Much of the focus is on the deceptive nature of this activity. Jesus warned several times in Matthew 24 alone to be careful so as not to be deceived. "And Jesus answered and said to them, 'See to it that no one misleads you'" (Matt. 24:4). "Then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ,' or 'There He is,' do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect" (Matt. 24:23-24). Even the Apostle Paul predicted the coming of the Antichrist would be, "in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders" (2 Thess. 2:9). Finally, John seems to predict the return of those fallen angels who sinned in Genesis 6 by going after strange flesh with ultimately produced the Nephilim--that race of giants which ultimately led God to bring a flood upon the earth to destroy all flesh save for eight souls carried safely on the ark which Noah and his sons built. John writes, "Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key to the bottomless pit was given to him. He opened the bottomless pit, and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened from the smoke of the pit. Then out of the smoke came locusts upon the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power... And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment to f a scorpion when it stings a man. And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them... They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon" (Revelation 9:1-6, 11).
A biblical worldview, then, calls for a sound theology of and understanding about the existence of Satan, fallen angels, and demons. It further calls for the same in relation to the reality of spiritual warfare. We do not fight this battle like the armies of the world would fight. "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). The weapons of our warfare are further described for us in detail in Ephesians 6:10-20. Paul calls these weapons, "the full armor of God." This armor includes (1) the belt or girdle of truth, (2) the breastplate of righteousness, (3) the gospel sandals of peace, (4) the shield of faith, (5) the helmet of salvation, (6) the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God, and (7) a consistent lifestyle of prayer and petition. The idea of putting on this armor, according to John MacArthur, "Conveys the idea of permanence, indicating that armor should be the Christian's sustained, life-long attire." Three different times in this passage we are admonished to stand firm. Again, MacArthur notes, "Christians [are] to take a firm position in the spiritual battle against Satan and his minions. Whether confronting Satan's efforts to distrust God, forsaking obedience, producing doctrinal confusion and falsehood, hindering service go God, bringing division, serving God in the flesh, living hypocritically, being worldly, or in any other way rejecting biblical obedience, this armor is our defense."
Spiritual warfare is real. Satan, fallen angels, and demons are real. I believe the Bible is clear we will witness an increase in demonic activity leading up to the start of Daniel's 70th Week and continuing throughout that time. We may even begin to witness visible spillover from the unseen realm as this last days spiritual warfare heats up. I would include so called UFO and alien activity in this vein, as well as, outright demonic attacks upon the church in general and individual Christians (and families) in particular. I am already experiencing such attacks in my own life and family. I know other watchmen who are also experiencing increasingly difficult spiritual attacks. We must pray for one another. We must clothe ourselves with the full armor of God and pray earnestly for one another. Pray that God would protect all of us--especially our children--from all spiritual dangers. Pray that the church would wake up to the reality of the unseen realm and the spiritual battles raging around and among us. It's time to get serious about these things. Jesus is coming soon for His church. I believe Satan and his minions are fully aware of this and realize their time is short, so they are pulling out all the stops. They are doing everything possible in order to thwart the will of God and take as many as they can to hell with them. The answer to that is simple, yet profound--pray for protection and proclaim the gospel! Oh, and make sure the demons know you by name (see Acts 19:11-20).
The Antichrist and What We Know:
"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 Bible describes an enigmatic character who will rise to power in the last seven years of human history just prior to the return of Jesus to this earth to set up His Millennial Kingdom. This character has been called by many names, all taken from Scripture, but he is popularly known as the Antichrist. John teaches us that many antichrists or false teachers will come on the scene during the time between Jesus' first and second comings, but there will be one final world ruler empowered by Satan who will set out to replace and oppose the true Christ. He will be the ultimate personification of what it means to be against Christ. It will be Satan's attempt to mimic the Holy Trinity with the Antichrist being his expression of the Son. In this case, however, it will be an unholy trinity and a deceptively evil son.
The Bible does not reveal the identity of the Antichrist and it appears to discourage Christians from trying to figure out his identity. He will be revealed only after the church has been removed from the world. His revealing will signal the start of the final seven year period known by several names--the Tribulation Period, the Great Tribulation, the Time of Jacob's Trouble, and Daniel's Seventieth Week, to name a few. His identity not withstanding, the Bible does reveal several characteristics of this final world ruler. The list below is not exhaustive but will give you an idea of what the Bible teaches about this final world ruler.
Regardless of his worldly success, the Bible teaches he, his armies, and those who worship him will be defeated at Jesus' Second Coming. "And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. And the beast was seized, an 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 who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh" (Revelation 19:19-21).
The Antichrist and His Rise to Power:
The Bible describes the Antichrist's rise to power. To understand his rise to power it is necessary to consider the context of the Bible's predictions. The best place to start is the prophecies of the Old Testament Book of Daniel. This book was written to encourage the exiled Jews by revealing God's program for them from the time of their Babylonian exile all the way to the end of Gentile power and rule in the world and the establishment of God's kingdom ruled by Messiah in both its millennial and eternal phases. Throughout the entire book the sovereignty of God over the affairs of men is easily discerned. Furthermore, history has authenticated the accuracy of Daniel's prophecy in great detail. Given the accuracy of Daniel's prophecy we can conclude that the historic Roman Empire was not its final form. There is more to come!
Six world empires have existed in the history of Israel and a seventh empire is on the near horizon. Daniel's prophecy is only concerned with the last five simply because by the time the prophecy is given, the first two--Egypt and Assyria--had largely passed from the scene. The last five include Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and the Millennial Kingdom and Daniel has something to say about each one but it is Rome with which we are most concerned. Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece have all fallen to history. Although Roman dominion collapsed in A.D. 476, it has continued in a divided status. Daniel 2:40-43 and 7:7 predict a revival of the Roman Empire in the last days. The final form is predicted to be both strong and fatally flawed.
It has been suggested by some that the prophecy of Daniel 2 is from man's perspective while the prophecy of Daniel 7 is from God's perspective. Daniel writes, "Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces" (Daniel 2:40). Later he writes, "After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns" (Daniel 7:7). The prophecy of Daniel 2:40 describes Rome initially whereas the prophecy of Daniel 7:7 describes Rome in its end-time revived or final form. Daniel 2:41-43 provide further insight into the final form of the empire. "In that you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it will be a divided kingdom; but it will have in it the toughness of iron, inasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with common clay. As the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of pottery, so some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle. And in that you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery" (Daniel 2:41-43).
The number ten is prominent in both Daniel's and John's prophecy--ten toes (Dan. 2), ten horns (Dan. 7), and ten horns and ten diadems or crowns (Rev. 13). Revelation 13 provides additional insight into the location of the empire in question although it does not provide much detail on how it will come into being and how it will transform into the worldwide global government the Bible says will devour and crush and trample down the whole world (Dan. 7). John writes, "Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems and on his heads were blasphemous names" (Revelation 13:1). Much can be said about the sea in this verse but suffice it to say it likely represents the area of the Mediterranean Sea--Rome, or what is today known as Western Europe and perhaps Northern Africa. Additionally, it should be noted these nations as an empire, touch Israel. Consider this in light of Daniel 9:26, "... and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary." Many prophecy teachers, myself included, believe the Antichrist will arise from somewhere within the European Union (EU) or a morphed form of it. Furthermore, this morphed form will ultimately devour the whole world under the leadership of the antichrist. It remains to be seen how this will unfold. Will the EU eventually become ten nations? Will ten kings arise from within the current 27 countries of the EU? Will the EU give rise to ten world regions from which the ten kings will arise and ultimately give their power to the Antichrist (Rev. 17:13)? Finally, how much of the world stage has to be set before the Tribulation begins? Time will tell and the closer we get to these things being fulfilled the sharper our focus will become. At some point in the near future, however, the church will be removed to heaven by way of the Rapture.
Regardless of the final form the Roman Empire takes the Bible is clear he will arise from among the then kings although he, himself, will not be one of the ten kings. In his rise to power the Antichrist will subdue three of the ten kings. "While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it" (Daniel 7:8). The Bible seems to indicate the Antichrist will arise from obscurity. In other words, it's really a waste of time today to try and figure out his identity. He likely hasn't even come onto the political scene at this point in history but when he does he will likely begin a slow rise to prominence before finally blasting onto the world scene and assuming total control. "As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings" (Daniel 7:24). His assumption of total control will likely occur at the midpoint of the Tribulation Period. The first half of the Tribulation Period will likely witness his rise to total world dominance.
To summarize, the Antichrist's rise to power out of obscurity and from among the ten kings. It is wise, therefore, to forego any needless speculation on the possible identity of the Antichrist. I believe what we are witnessing right now is a world moving and aligning with the prophetic scenario revealed in the Bible. Rome is slowly coming back into world prominence through the EU. Ultimately, we should expect ten kings (leaders) to arise either from within the EU itself or from ten world regions led by the EU. Time will tell exactly how all these things will work out. It is also important to remember the church will be removed prior to the Antichrist coming on the scene (2 Thess. 2:7). Although he'll present himself as a man of peace the Bible is clear he will ultimately prove to be the exact opposite. He will make war with the saints (Rev. 13:7), he will demand worship (Rev. 13:8), and he will have complete and total economic control over all nations and peoples (Rev. 13:16-17). But the question still remains, how might he rise to power?
The Antichrist and His Rise to Power ~ A Possible Scenario:
We know from Scripture the Antichrist will only come on the scene at some point after the ten kings have risen to power. There is much debate as to who the ten kings might be--political leaders, oligarchs, big tech, alien (demonic) hybrids, to name a few. The purpose of our present speculation assumes the ten kings, whoever they might be, have risen to power. Despite our speculation, the Bible is clear--these ten kings have one purpose and one purpose only. "The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. These have one purpose and they give their power and authority to the beast" (Revelation 17:12-13). The question in my own mind is how do things get to the point the ten kings are willing to give their authority to the Antichrist? As I consider that question I am also reminded three of the ten or less than enthusiastic about giving up their authority but give it up they will--"While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it" (Daniel 7:8).
One scenario for how things get to the point the ten kings arise to power and are willing to give their authority to the eleventh king is worldwide instability brought about by a combination of economic chaos and military conflict possibly including one or more nuclear exchanges. The former is coming into clearer focus with current events related to economic instability, the attack on the US dollar, and talk of Central Bank Digital Currencies. The latter is certainly not out of the realm of possibility considering the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine and Russia's Vladimir Putin threatening nuclear action. If the aforementioned wasn't enough, we also have China saber-rattling about Taiwan and aligning themselves with Russia in the present Russia-Ukrainian conflict. A combination of these events, especially the latter with a nuclear exchange, could certainly set up a scenario for the ten kings to rise to power. Ultimately, I believe, the ten kings will not fully give their authority to the Antichrist until near the midpoint of the Tribulation Period. This assumption makes perfect sense to me given the prophecy in Daniel 7:8, "... three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it." This scenario appears unlikely near the beginning of the Tribulation Period when the Antichrist is on a peace mission.
The aforementioned scenario, particular military conflict leading to a nuclear exchange or at least the possibility of one, would likely require an envoy who's mission would likely be that of negotiation on behalf of world leaders (in this case, the ten kings) to try and bring peace and stability to the world. Assuming this envoy is successful, it just might be he is then dispatched to do what no man has, to date, been able to do--solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem. To add more amazement to this scenario, suppose this individual, in his role as envoy is able to not only bring both sides to the table in an agreement for peace and prosperity but is also able to negotiate an end to the status quo on the Temple Mount complex thus opening the door for many Jews to realize their dream of a third temple on the site of the previous two. "And he will make a firm covenant with the man for one week" (Daniel 9:27). "Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard on of the four living creatures saying with a voice of thunder, 'Come.' I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer" (Revelation 6:1-2). The long awaited period known as Daniel's 70th Week will have begun.
Over the course of the next three and one half years, this peace envoy will continue to rise to power. The Bible predicts a short lived peace followed by wars, famines, death, and a host of other ills. But in all this Israel seemingly continues to enjoy peace but by the midpoint of the Tribulation Period he will have solidified his power and become the worst dictator the world has ever known. He will turn on the Jews and seek to destroy them. His time, however, will be brief. "You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth" (Daniel 2:34-35).
"Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all 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 all be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). The Rapture of the Church. It is Christianity's most preposterous belief. The very idea that a Savior from the sky is coming to get a particular group of people, that dead bodies will be raised back to life, and those alive at that moment will be changed into a new body suitable for heaven before being snatch away from this earth seems more like the work of science fiction than unadulterated biblical truth. But this is exactly what the Bible teaches. Jesus promised His followers that he would return for them at some future time (see John 14:1-3). The Apostle Paul described this still future event when he wrote, "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" (1 Thessalonians4:15-17).
The purpose for this article is not to defend the doctrine of the Pre-Trib Rapture of the Church. I'll save that for a future article. In this musing I want to consider how the world might go about explaining the disappearance of millions of people worldwide. Some explanation will most certainly be offered and I suspect Satan will, in a very direct but deceptive way, join in on the explanation. If millions of people have disappeared and you are reading this article in your search to figure out what has happened, please don't let anyone deceive you. The explanation the world will offer you will not be true. And the deceptive intervention from those who might seem other worldly will be just as false, no matter how 'miraculously convincing' their explanation appears.
The Rapture of the Church will occur at some future time just prior to the Return of Christ to this earth. This earth-shaking event will occur at seven or more years before Jesus' Second Coming. Since nearly every prophetic trend pointing to the soon start of that seven year period the Bible calls the Tribulation is accelerating and converging, we can only conclude the Tribulation is near. This can only mean the Rapture is close at hand. No one knows the day or the hour of the Rapture but the season of the Rapture is undoubtedly upon us. When it occurs the world will naturally be thrown into utter chaos. This will be in addition to whatever chaos is already occurring due to the ever increasing, accelerating and converging trends that are already in play. Those left behind will be looking for answers. Below are some of the possible answers you can expect and the one I believe will be at the top of the list of answers and will be convincingly offered to a world in chaos. There may certainly be additional possibilities not noted below. My list isn't meant to be exhaustive, only thought provoking.
Some possible explanations (in no particular order)...
1. It wasn't the Rapture, because we're still here -- Many of those left behind will have heard about the Rapture from Christian loved ones and friends. They will immediately conclude it was the Rapture. But, among those left behind will be some pretty prominent "Christian" religious leaders and even pastors. They will opine the disappearances could not possibly be the Rapture because, after all, they are still here.
2. Secret military technology -- Kind of far fetched in my opinion but I can see world leaders suggesting secret military technology by a hostile adversary as the culprit behind the disappearances.
3. Quantum leap in the human evolutionary process -- I wouldn't be surprised if many, if not all of the New Age practitioners and gurus suggest this idiotic idea as the reason for all the disappearances. They may say something along the lines of the 'vibrations' of all those who disappeared were out of harmony with the rest (those left behind) and who will be leaping forward in the evolutionary process. Another twist could be that those who disappeared are the ones who have made a quantum leap in the human evolutionary process and those left behind will need to fall in line if they have any hope of catching up with their evolved loved ones.
4. UFO's, UAE's, aliens, and the alien mother ship -- Although I am listing this explanation last, I believe it will be at the top of the list of explanations for the disappearances. I believe world leaders will not only offer this as the explanation but they will be assisted by the appearance of UFO's and aliens which will be nothing more than demons masquerading as our alien brothers or maybe even our creators. They will 'arrive' via so called UFO's that will, for the first time, be clear and easily observable by those left behind. It will be one of the greatest deceptions pulled off by Satan--the father of lies. In fact, this may very well be the grand delusion God sends upon an unbelieving world or at least a part of it. The Apostle Paul writes, "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). God will use Satan and eventually the Antichrist as His instruments of judgment.
Let's consider option 4 a little further. Hollywood, for example, has produced numerous movies in recent years about visitors from outer space. I'm convinced some of Hollywood's movie producers are getting their scripts from unseen sources. Could it be that Satan is using a mostly godless Hollywood to prepare the masses? Even more convincing than Hollywood is news reports of government confirmation of UFO's (or what the government refers to now as UAE's -- Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon) that began to trickle out a few years ago and is now reported with regularity. Here are a few news reports that have capture my attention and indicate to me the Tribulation Period is soon to start which can only mean the Rapture is close at hand.
1. I've seen the saucers: Obama weighs in as US interest in UFOs rises. This CBS 60 Minutes report appeared on May 20, 2021. "Obama was asked about the issue of UFOs during an interview on Tuesday, the former president confirming 'footage and records' of unidentified objects exist... What is true, and I'm actually being serious here, is that there's footage and records of objects in the skies, that we don't know exactly what they are, we can't explain how they moved, their trajectory,' Obama told CBS." https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/20/ufo-obama-cbs-60-minutes-america-alienswww.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/20/ufo-obama-cbs-60-minutes-america-aliens
2. 'Something's coming': is America finally ready to take UFOs seriously? This article appeared on February 5, 2022. "Last year was a breakthrough time for UFOs, as a landmark government report prompted the possibility of extraterrestrial visitors to finally be taken seriously by everyone from senators, to a former president, to the Pentagon... In June, the Pentagon released a highly anticipated report on unexplained aerial phenomena (UAP), the now preferred nomenclature by some in the extraterrestrial community, which found ore than 140 instances of UAPs that could not be explained." https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/05/ufos-america-aliens-government-report
3. Hundreds more UFO sightings included in latest report. It's not just 2022 and preceding years. 2023 has seen its fair share of UFO and UAE reports. On January 12, 2023, CBS News reported, "The office tracking reports of UFOs has added nearly 400 additional sightings to its catalog over the last year, either because of new sightings or older sightings discovered in existing files, bringing the total number of UFO sightings to over 500." https://www.cbsnews.com/news/hundreds-more-ufo-sightings-included-latest-report/
4. Could aliens be investigating us? It's more likely than you think. "Aliens may be sending us very small 'dandelion see' probes to gather information, according to a news article appearing in the March 28, 2023 edition of The Jerusalem Post. "Pentagon officials wrote in a document released earlier this month that it is entirely possible that aliens are vising our solar system and releasing tiny probes to perform small-scale reconnaissance missions like the ones the National Aeronautics and Spaced Administration (NASA) conducts on other planets." https://www.jpost.com/omg/article-735664
Although UFO's and other worldly visitors have been described by humankind going back millennia, the real uptick in UFO activity seems to have begun in 1947 and has continued to what we have read about, heard about, and witnessed today. I find the 1947 date interesting as it is one year prior to the rebirth of Israel in sovereign fulfillment of Isaiah 66:8. The modern Zionist movement--a religious and political effort that brought thousands of Jews from around the world back to their ancient homeland in the Middle East and reestablished the nation can be traced back at least as far as 1894. By 1947, I believe it had become obvious to Satan that God was about to fulfill His promises made in an everlasting covenant to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see Genesis 12, 13, and 15). Since Satan is probably well aware of the coming Tribulation Period and the Rapture of the church that precedes it, it's no wonder that he and his minions would ramp up their spiritually deceptive practices of misleading men and women to believe the foolishness of aliens from outer space arriving via flying saucers or something similar. I believe what we are seeing today is yet another prophetic trend that is accelerating and converging with other prophetic trends all pointing to the to the fact the Tribulation Period is coming upon an unsuspecting world. I am fairly convinced that when the Rapture occurs, Satan and Company will be ready to further deceive the masses with a deluding influence explaining away the sudden disappearance of millions of people worldwide.
I believe the Rapture will occur any moment. It could very well be the catalyst that catapults the world into the final form of the ancient Roman Empire with its 10 kings who ultimately give their authority to the Antichrist. But I also believe it's possible it may not occur until sometime after the world morphs into 10 geopolitical regions and the 10 kings begin to rise to power. The disappearances followed by the arrival of humanity's 'ancient space brothers' arriving to 'set things right,' might be the perfect scenario to bring in the "man of lawlessness" (2 Thessalonians 2:3)--the Antichrist himself--who rises from among the 10 kings and to whom the 10 kings give all of their authority.
Will things work out this way? I'll admit, I am doing a lot of speculating so I'm not dogmatic about it. As I mentioned in a previous article, as the fog continues to lift, things will come into sharper focus. We will see things more clearly. In other words, time will tell. Of course, we may not be around to see it as the Rapture may very well occur right now!
“Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish with all its villages will say to you, ‘Have you come to capture spoil? Have you assembled your company to seize plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to capture great spoil?’"’ (Ezekiel 38:13). Is America in Bible prophecy? Many Americans, myself included, have pondered this question over the years. I have been studying Bible prophecy for more than 25 years. I have probably heard every argument for and against the idea of America in Bible prophecy but as far as I can tell, America is not specifically mentioned in Bible prophecy. It may, however, be mentioned indirectly. Ezekiel's prophecy of the Gog/Magog invasion of Israel in the last days notes a group of nations that will protest the invasion but not get involved. Some prophecy teachers believe the phrase, "with all its villages" (some translations read, "young lions") may point to nations in the west that were originally colonized by western Europe. Some go so far to say the merchants of Tarshish is the United Kingdom. This would naturally include America. I doubt, however, that this is the case. John MacArthur notes, "The location of Tarshish, known for its wealth, is uncertain. The Greek historian Herodotus identified it with Tartessus, a merchant city in southern Spain."
The idea of America not having a specific place in Bible prophecy doesn't sit well with some. This is probably true because America has been, and in a sense, continues to be the greatest nation the world has ever known--a free superpower that has promoted freedom around the world to the extent she is known as the leader of the free world. For this reason many are convinced she has to be in Bible prophecy so they go looking for her in the Scriptures rather than letting the Scripture speak for itself. There are numerous books promoting the idea of America in Bible prophecy. All of these books, however, resort to eisegesis rather than exegesis. Eisegesis is a method of Bible interpretation that expresses the interpreters own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the plain sense meaning of the text.
One book on the subject--"The Hour that Changes Everything," by Richard Pearson--teaches the idea that the Book of Revelation confirms America will, "play a pivotal role in fulfilling Bible prophecy and has 53 biblical descriptions." He insists, "The United States of America meets every description." Unfortunately, not only is Pearson guilty of eisegesis. He has also fallen victim to allegorizing the text--the practice of using a story that conveys a meaning beyond the literal sense of the words in the biblical text. The problem with allegorizing the biblical text is that there are no allegories in Scripture. God says what He means and means what He says. Pearson shows great creativity in his attempt to find America in Bible prophecy but he doesn't demonstrate a sound hermeneutic and his argument falls flat.
If America is not in Bible prophecy the question that naturally follows is, why not? In answering this question we need to remember, first of all, God doesn't owe us an explanation. Any answer we come up with will likely be our own best guess. I believe America is not in Bible prophecy because she simply doesn't have a primary role to play. We need to remember when the biblical authors wrote the inspired text, they were primarily concerned with that part of the world we call the Middle East in general and Israel in particular. We also need to remember the last days world is described by the prophets as being "devoured and crushed" (Daniel 7:7) by the final form of the ancient Roman Empire. As I noted in a previous article, we need to take a wait and see approach as we consider how this empire will come back into existence, take on its final prophesied form, and spread around the world consuming everything and everyone in its path.
Since America doesn't have a primary role to play in last days Bible prophecy, what happens to her? There are so many possibilities. One that has been heavily promoted by many good prophecy teachers is that the Rapture decimates America leading to her decline. I must admit I have considered the Rapture a strong possibility and it may very well work out this way but something tells me America will do herself in long before the Rapture occurs.
Another possibility that has been floated is some kind of nuclear attack such as an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). This type of nuclear detonation occurs at high altitude as a brief burst of electromagnetic energy that disrupts communications and damages electronic equipment. Remember, most of our modern vehicles today from cars to airplanes to space vehicles are basically electronic equipment. An EMP attack on America would be devastating.
A final possibility I want to consider is economic. America has for decades been the economic leader of the world. This reality, however, appears to be changing rapidly (think acceleration). One of the last days prophetic trends we are watching is economic in nature and will ultimately lead to the beast system described in Revelation 13. One of the Kings of the East appears to be on the move. Consider recent news reports such as this one: China rallies countries against dollar as US bickers over gender. This article was published March 31, 2023. The journalist notes, "As the US bickers over the gender of the latest mass shooter, China is nearing dominion over the United States by playing peacemaker among the world's most powerful countries and rallying them against the dollar." Other noteworthy and perhaps near prophetic observations from the article includes China's peacemaking activities between Russia and Ukraine, and Iran and Saudi Arabia. China and France recently conducted a liquefied natural gas trade using the Chinese yuan which ended reliance on the US dollar for energy trades. China and Brazil also agreed this week to conduct their transactions with the yuan and reals instead of the dollar. And lets not forget about the so called BRICS economic alliance (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). All of this likely has America on the fast road to Deminishedville (yes, I just coined that word).
America is in serious trouble and Washington fiddles. At the end of the day, however, we need to recognize things are not falling apart, they're falling into place, just as the Bible predicted millennia ago. These prophetic trends are converging along with pretty much every other prophetic trend we find in the Bible for the last days. But that's not all. They are also accelerating. I am amazed at the swiftness with which these things are occurring. Keep an eye out for more unexpected yet predicted events. Things are definitely moving in the direction the Bible predicted. The Tribulation Period cannot be too far off and if that is true, then the Rapture is a whole lot closer than most folks are willing to believe. Are you Rapture ready? Are you ready to meet Jesus face-to-face? If not, please take a few moments to place your faith and trust in Him for the forgiveness of your sins and receive His free gift of eternal life.
"After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns" (Daniel 7:7). One trend I have noticed among students of last days Bible prophecy is the penchant for thinking about who may or may not be the latest candidate for the role of Antichrist. I have to admit, I too, have considered a handful of world leaders for this role. This tendency, however, is really putting the cart ahead the horse. I have written about this before, all the way back in 2009. You can read it here--Stop Putting the Care Ahead of the Horse. Once you're done reading, return to this blog post because I have some up-to-date musings on this very same subject.
If the Pre-Trib position is correct--and it is--then we know Christians will not be present when the Antichrist rises to power. Writing about the Tribulation Period that is coming upon the earth, Paul told the Thessalonian believers, "Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship... And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed" (2 Thessalonians 2:3-6). Like many prophecy teachers, I believe the restrainer in 2 Thess. 2:6 is the Holy Spirit working through the Body of Christ--the Church. The reason for the restraint is so that the Antichrist will only be revealed at the appointed time--God's appointed time.
Aside from 2 Thess. 6, there are other passages that provide clues as to when the Antichrist will come on the scene. Make no mistake--he is coming. 1 John 2:18 reminds us, "You heard that antichrist is coming." He will be the final world ruler. he will be energized by Satan. He will oppose the true Christ. But when will he come? 1 John 2:18 goes on to predict his coming will be during "the last hour." This means the last period of human history just prior to the return of Christ to this earth to set up His Millennial Kingdom. Daniel's prophecy more precisely reveals the timing of his arrival--"While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them" (Daniel 7:8). The New Testament commentary on Daniel 9:27, Revelation, provides further insight--"... Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names... I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast" (Revelation 13:1, 3). The Antichrist will come on the scene: (1) During the last period of human history just prior to the return of Christ. (2) He will arise from among ten kings but it seems he will not be one of the ten kings but an eleventh. (3) He will seize control of the ten kingdoms--the entire world. There are many other things the Bible predicts the Antichrist will do but they are beyond the scope of this article. The point I am attempting to make is we should be less concerned with the identity of the Antichrist and more concerned with the rise of the ten kings as it is very possible the church will still be present on earth as the world begins to develop into ten kingdoms, whether this means ten nations or ten regions. I believe it means ten regions but I am not dogmatic about it. I base my position on the fact Daniel tells us this kingdom will devour the entire world.
The Bible predicts a revival or resurgence of the ancient Roman Empire in the last days. We see this in the prophecies of Daniel 2 and Daniel 7. The prophecy of Daniel 2 is the account of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream which only Daniel was able to reveal and interpret. The statue that the King saw in his dream detailed the entire period of Gentile history from Nebuchadnezzar to the present day. The first three kingdoms--Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece--fell to each succeeding kingdom or were otherwise divided. But the fourth kingdom--Rome--was different from all the rest. Rome did not fall to another kingdom but it was eventually divided and it did eventually seemingly fade into history. I say seemingly because Daniel's prophecy in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 move right into a prediction about the final form of the Roman Empire--ten of something. Both prophecies along with Revelation 13 and 17 describe toes, horns, and crowns--ten of each. Daniel 7 describes an eleventh horn and Revelation 13 describes a ruler arising from among the ten crowns. Revelation 17 describes ten horns or kings who have not yet come on the scene but whose coming is for one purpose only--to give their power to the Antichrist who rises from among them.
The Bible further predicts this final form of the ancient Roman Empire will be "partly strong and partly weak" (Dan. 2). It also predicts it will be "dreadful, terrifying and extremely strong" (Dan. 2). Finally, Daniel tells us, "It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns" (Dan. 7:7).
As the map shows, the ancient Roman Empire covered most of what we now know as modern Europe, as well as North Africa, and the Middle East. In the past several decades we have witnessed a divided Europe come back together into what we now refer to as the European Union. There have been challenges and Daniel's prophecy of "ten toes of the feet partly of iron and partly of pottery, so some of the kingdom will be strong and some of the kingdom will be brittle" (Dan. 2:42) has certainly proven to be accurate. The Eastern Leg of the Roman Empire seemed absent from the discussion for many years but in 2008, the Union for the Mediterranean formed at the Paris Summit for the Mediterranean. Its stated aim was to reinforce the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership that was established several years earlier in Barcelona. For prophecy watchers, however, the scenario predicted in the Bible continued to come into sharper focus. The question that remains to be answered, and one that is often debated between prophecy watchers, relates to what will ultimately be the final form of this ten-toed kingdom. Will it consist of ten nations in Europe? That has been the traditional view as long as I can remember. Will it consist of some nations from the European Union and some nations from the Union of the Mediterranean? That possibility has crossed my mind but I do not really think it will be fulfilled in that way. I believe we need to think more globally (although I do believe it is crystal clear the Antichrist himself will arise from Western Europe).
As we seek to understand the prophecies about the revival of the ancient Roman Empire we must pay close attention to how the ancient prophets described it. We must also remember the words of the heavenly messenger to Daniel at the end of Daniel's prophecy--"As for me, I heard but could not understand; so I said, 'My Lord, what will be the outcome of these events?,'" Daniel asked. The messenger replied, "Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time" (Daniel 12:8-9). The lesson here is that Bible prophecy concerning the end of the age is shrouded in mystery--like a thick fog--until we near the time of their fulfillment. In the last several decades the fog has begun to lift. We are seeing things more clearly as they come into sharper focus. I do not, however, believe the fog has lifted to the point where we can say for certainty exactly what this last days Rome will look like.
We know from history that Rome conquered most of the known world of its day. But we also understand it will in its final form, as Daniel put it, "devour and crush and trample down the remainder with its feet" (Dan. 7:7). In other words, it will devour and crush and trample down the entire world, not just Western Europe. History and prophecies about the future have certainly led to much speculation. In 1973, the Club of Rome proposed dividing the world into ten economic trading blocks. This has fueled speculation that these economic zones will one day emerge into ten regions led by the ten kings.
Ten global regions not withstanding, other Bible prophecy teachers are just as adamant in their speculation the ten kings will comprise ten nations within Western Europe that will ultimately become the final last days form of the ancient Roman Empire. The Council of Europe, formed shortly after World War II, included a membership of--you guessed it--ten Western European countries. This organization as since morphed into what we know today as the European Union and its 27 member countries.
My point is three-fold. First of all, there has been much speculation concerning the final form of the ancient Roman Empire, the rise of the ten kings leading to the rise of the Antichrist. Secondly, the fog is still lifting on many last days prophecies so although it is okay to speculate some, it is usually much wiser to take a wait and see approach. The closer we get to the end of the age the more sharply things will come into focus. Finally, be cautious about being too dogmatic on things that are not as clear as we might like. Chances are, we all will adjust our understanding of these things as we near the end of the age.
Now, let's speculate just a little, not about the Antichrist and his possible identity, because he comes later--much later, and Christians will not be around to witness his arrival (see 2 Thess. 2:6-8). First on the scene will be the ten kings. Who are the ten kings? Are they political leaders or are they oligarchs? Whoever they are we can be assured they are not historical figures as the Bible reveals they do not yet have a kingdom (see Rev. 17:12). How might they rise to power? These questions are important for us to consider for a couple of reasons. First of all, the Bible teaches it is from among these kings that an eleventh king will arise--the Antichrist--"While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them" (Daniel 7:8). John writes, "The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast" (Rev. 17:12-13). These ten kings may come to power with visions of world peace, saving the planet from certain environmental catastrophe, or any number grand and lofty goals world leaders have these days. But God's Word says they have one purpose and one purpose only--"They give their power and authority to the beast" (Rev. 17:13). The other reason it is wise for us to consider the ten kings and how they might rise to power is because we may very well be here to witness much, if not all of this process. If we are around to witness these things then take courage--"In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever" (Daniel 2:44). Yes, come, Lord Jesus!!!
Enter China the Peacemaker--or to put it another way, what planet am I living on? I must admit, recent news stories about China's Mr. Xi's recent bout of globetrotting peacemaker tours has taken me by surprise. In recent weeks, President Xi Jinping of China (who just happens to be in an unprecedented third term as leader of China) has sought to advance peace in the Middle East, including peace between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Not only that, just a few days ago he visited Russia seeking to encourage peace between Russia and Ukraine. There have even been rumors he would soon hold his first phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky. What in the world is going on?
I recently asked author and Bible prophecy expert, Pete Garcia (www.Rev310.net) this question. I won't relay the entirety of his answer here but suffice it to say Pete's insights proved to be thought provoking as usual. Pete suggested what we are witnessing may very well be geopolitical movement away from a world where America holds a more prominent role in world affairs. The Age of America might very well be ending and this movement may very well be the initial stages in the formation of ten regions ultimately leading to the rise of ten kings.
Consider Pete's insights alongside a recent article by Michael Schuman in The Atlantic. He writes, "[China's] campaign portrays the U.S. as a nation obsessed with war and its world order as unjust, unstable, and unable to solve the world's pressing problems... What better way for China to prove the superiority of its program than to seek peace? On the anniversary of Putin's invasion of Ukraine, Beijing announced a 'peace plan' for the conflict. The statement was nothing of the sort... But its purpose was more likely a headline-grabbing advertisement for Beijing's ideas for a reformed global order... Washington was cold toward China's peace proposal, but that response suited Beijing just fine. It offered an opportunity for Beijing's diplomats to claim that they wish for peace while the U.S. perpetrates war."
Will the ten kings arise from ten nations in Western Europe which is the more popular view or is the geopolitical landscape morphing into what will eventually become ten regions from which ten kings will arise? Time will tell. The closer we get to these things the clearer our focus will become. The fog will finally fully lift and we will be able to see more clearly than ever before. One thing is for certain, however--America is decreasing and things are changing and they are changing quickly. The speed at which prophetic trends seem to be occurring and converging is something to consider.
Finally, to quote my good friend Jack Kinsella--now with Jesus--"Isn't it amazing that given all the directions things could go, they always go in the direction prophesied in the Bible." Yes, Jack, it is amazing. We'll see you soon!
“Now learn 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. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:32-35). The parable of the fig tree, appearing in what is known as the Olivet Discourse, is perhaps one of the most challenging passages of Scripture for Bible students. The challenge stems from the fact that Jesus appears to be predicting a particular period of time in which we can expect to witness His glorious and visible return to earth. In light of current events and the fact modern Israel has been around for over 74 years, I recently revisited this fascinating prophecy. You can read about my earlier musings on this prophecy here.
The Parable of the Fig Tree--The argument goes something like this: The fig tree represents the nation of Israel. The branch that becomes tender and puts forth its leaves refers to the rebirth of the nation in 1948. Therefore, the generation born around the time of Israel’s return to the land will be alive at the Second Coming of Christ. Sounds like a legitimate interpretation, but is this the correct interpretation of this particular passage of Scripture?
Many conclude this traditional interpretation cannot possibly be correct given Jesus’ words in verse 36: “But of that day and hour no one knows.” He said the same thing in Acts 1:7, “It is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” Paul reiterated this in his first letter to the Thessalonian believers: “Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you” (1 Thess. 5:1).
If you have been following my musings for any length of time you know that I believe the Bible says what it means and means what it says. In other words, God does not have a speech impediment. The rule of thumb I follow is, if the plain sense of the text makes sense; seek no other sense, lest you end up with nonsense. I follow this rule in every sermon a preach and every Bible study I teach and every article I right. With that in mind, how should we approach this difficult text?
Hank Hanegraaf, radio’s so called “Bible Answer Man,” and author of The Apocalypse Code (I do not recommend it), believes the entirety of Matthew 24 refers to events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Therefore, his conclusion is that the “this generation” of Matthew 24:34, refers to the generation alive at the time Jesus gave this prophecy. Since Jesus gave this prophecy around A.D. 32, or so, there were some still alive when the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple.
Suffice it to say Hank is guilty of seeking “other sense” in this passage thus ending up with nonsense. He is a partial Preterist who is thoroughly confused on matters of eschatology. He believes all prophecy except for the Second Coming and the resurrection have already been fulfilled. Just to demonstrate how utterly ridiculous this interpretation is, consider the fact that the worldwide preaching of the kingdom, the tribulation period, the return of the Lord in visible glory, and the regathering of the elect of Israel have not yet occurred.
Another solution to this difficult passage is offered by the late Pastor Bob Dewaay. He believes this prophecy is used in a pejorative sense in the New Testament and is therefore qualitative and not setting a time limit. He sees the issue of “this generation” in the sense of Jewish hardness to the gospel and their rejecting Jesus as Messiah down through subsequent generations. He uses passages like Matt. 12:41-45, Luke 9:40-45, and Acts 2:40 to support his interpretation. His argument is well thought out and may very well be correct.
I will admit it is possible the fig tree here refers to Israel’s rebirth. However, I believe Jesus was using this parable to say that when the people of Israel see all the end times signs He described, they will know that His return is really near. Notice I said, “The people of Israel.” I believe the Olivet Discourse, though contained in three Gospels, is meant for Israel (or the Jewish people), and not the Church.
The fig tree is among the last to get its leaves in the spring. So when it begins to bud, you know that summer is really near. Therefore, when the people of Israel see all these signs they’ll know their redemption is near. Luke’s account drives this point home clearly: “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift of your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
Another interpretation—one I like better than my own and it may very well be the correct interpretation—suggests Matthew 24:34 says that the generation born when the end times signs begin will still be alive when all signs are fulfilled and Jesus returns visibly to this planet. This interpretation aligns perfectly with my current position that with the exception of Israel's return to the Land, we are not witnessing signs today but rather prophetic trends pointing to future signs that will be fulfilled during Daniel's 70th Week.
According to Psalm 90:10, a biblical lifespan is 70 to 80 years. Many scholars agree that the first of the end times signs was the rebirth of Israel in 1948. Therefore, the generation born around 1948 can expect to see everything fulfilled in their lifetime. If this interpretation is correct we must keep in mind that Israel is recently 74 years as a nation. If a biblical lifespan is 70 to 80 years, what does this say about the lateness of the hour?
What does this say about the lateness of the hour? Israel has been a nation since May 14, 1948, sovereignly fulfilling Isaiah 66:7-9, and Ezekiel 36-37. Since that time the nations that made up the ancient Roman Empire have been coming back together in what is known as the European and Mediterranean Unions—a key End Time prophecy. Russia, for the very first time in history, has been entering into military and economic alliances with the nations described in Ezekiel 38-39. Jerusalem has become a heavy stone for all the nations of the world just like Zechariah predicted in Zech. 12:3.
But perhaps the key piece to understanding the lateness of the hour is found in Daniel 9:26-27. Here the prophet Daniel speaks of a pseudo-peace that is coming to the Middle East, between Israel and her enemies. The Bible gives us every reason to believe this peace will be brokered by a European—a descendant of the people who destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70—the Romans. Daniel predicts this so called peace agreement will be forced upon the Israeli people. This is amazing considering the ongoing desire of world leaders to broker some kind of peace in the Middle East.
Although it is impossible and foolish to try and interpret prophecy to fit every headline, it is not impossible to see that things are happening in our world, the Middle East, and Israel in particular, that are setting the stage for what the Bible describes as the final act of history—the 70th Week of Daniel and return of Christ. Given the direction things seem to be headed, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see some talk in the near future about dividing the world into ten regions. The Bible is not silent on that and seems to indicate the so called Antichrist will arise from among ten kings in the latter days. With that, I have one final question: Are you ready to meet the Lord in the air? If not, your time is quickly running out!
“His power will be mighty, but not by his own power, and he will destroy to an extraordinary degree and prosper and perform his will; he will destroy mighty men and the holy people. And through his shrewdness he will cause deceit to succeed by his influence; and he will magnify himself in his heart, and through peace he shall destroy many. He will even oppose the Prince of princes, but he will be broken without human agency” (Daniel 8:24-25). According to Wikipedia, “Peace is a concept of societal friendship and harmony in the absence of hostility and violence.” This understanding of peace is passive in nature. It is the absence of war or other hostilities. Peace like this often seems elusive. Even when countries agree to peace terms, those terms often hang by a thread with the smallest misunderstanding resulting in a loss of peace and a return to hostilities.
Christianity affirms God alone is the source of true peace. The Bible teaches peace is possible but only through Jesus Christ. Through faith in Jesus and His finished work of redemption we can have spiritual peace with God (Romans 5:1). But the Bible also speaks of peace in the Age to Come. This peace will be achieved through Jesus Christ at His Second Coming when righteousness and justice will prevail for one thousand years (Revelation 20:4). Final judgment and the eternal state will commence shortly thereafter (Revelation 21). Leading up to His return to this earth, Jesus reminds us there will be “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:4). The Bible further predicts there will be hostilities and other unrest in that part of the world the biblical prophets were concerned about—Israel and the Middle East. Peace for this region, according to Bible prophecy, would seem elusive but a false peace would come at some future time when a man more cunning than anyone imaginable comes on the scene and seemingly brokers peace between Israel and her enemies.
Once again, the Bible bats one thousand when it comes to predicting the future. This time, the evidence points to two categories of events I like to call the anticipation for peace in the Middle East and addiction to Jerusalem. Consider this article that appeared in The Jerusalem Post on October 17, 2022—Israel slams Australia for revoking Jerusalem capital recognition—“The Australian government cited its belief that the status of Jerusalem should be resolved through peace negotiations.” No one seems to be concerned about the status of any other city on the planet except Jerusalem. Amazingly, this is exactly what the Bible predicts for the last days.
The quest for an elusive peace in the Middle East and the refusal to recognize Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish people not only indicates the biblical prophets got it right. It also indicates things are falling right into place on the road to Daniel’s Seventieth Week (Daniel 9:24-27). Again, from the article: “Australian Foreign Ministry Penny Wong said, “Jerusalem is a final status issue that should be resolved as part of any peace negotiations [and] recommits Australia to international efforts in the responsible pursuit of progress towards a just and enduring two-state solution.”
The quest for an elusive peace in the Middle East points to a future time when a man comes on the scene who will seemingly broker the greatest peace deal the world has ever known. This peace deal, however, will end in destruction—“Through peace he shall destroy many” (Daniel 8:25). Furthermore, the Bible predicts the utter destruction of those who concern themselves with trying to tamper with or otherwise change the biblical status of Jerusalem as it relates to the Jewish people and God's everlasting covenant with them—“Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around… It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured” (Zachariah 12:2-3). World leaders are drunk over the status of Jerusalem, and it will not end well for them—just as the Bible predicts.
Finally, are you ready to see Jesus face-to-face? He’s coming soon for His bride—the church. Come to Jesus, confess your sin, and receive His free gift of forgiveness and eternal life. I recently preached about Jesus' promise to return for His church. You can hear it at https://youtu.be/0zr7qkU5O4c.
You are welcome to leave comments and you don't have to necessarily agree with me. However, I expect a civil tone and charitable spirit. We can disagree with one another without being disagreeable. "Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt." (Colossians 4:6)
Striving to glorify God by becoming more like Jesus.
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