Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
“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). I cannot recall the number of articles I have read concerning the identification of the coming world ruler who will fulfill the role of Antichrist. I’ve browsed several websites claiming any number of world leaders, U.S. Presidents especially, are this long awaited world ruler. Every time there is talk of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, people began to wonder if this is the treaty the Antichrist will make. No doubt, we are witnessing important signs of various end-time trends. But it seems many are trying to put the cart ahead of the horse. I have two responses for those who spend their time trying to identify this character. First of all, as Christians, we are not looking for the Antichrist, we are “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13). Secondly, the Bible is clear that this last days world ruler will come on the scene only after certain events take place, not the least of which is the rise of a ten nation confederacy out of which the he will rise to power.
Who are these “ten kings” the Bible speaks of? The prophet Daniel refers to them as “toes of the feet” in Daniel 2:42, and “ten horns” in Daniel 7:7. Additionally, Daniel wrote, “While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them…” (Dan. 7:8). This “little one” is the beast of Revelation 17:13, also known as the Antichrist. Therefore, we can safely conclude this individual will not come on the scene until sometime after this ten nation confederacy arises in the last days. In fact, John tells us this ten nation confederacy exists for one reason: “they give their power and authority to the beast” (Rev. 17:13). Although I believe the Bible is clear the Antichrist will not be revealed until sometime after the Rapture of the Church, I believe it is very possible; indeed highly likely, this ten nation confederacy may begin to emerge prior to the Rapture. Not only would this be an amazing testimony to the accuracy of biblical prophecy (as if we needed more proof) but it would indicate just how amazingly close we really are to the return of Christ. One often overlooked point Daniel makes is in verse 44 of the second chapter: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed.” I believe this group of ten nations will arise during a time of global economic uncertainty. It has been intriguing to watch world leaders over the past several months as the world experienced global economic meltdown. The G-7 quickly morphed into the G-20. Perhaps this is because, given the worldwide implications of the economic troubles, 20 nations is considered better than seven. But if you think about it, 20 may be too big. Perhaps they will soon decide ten would be a more reasonable number. Any number of scenarios is possible and there will definitely be many twists and turns before we finally get there. But get there we will.
This is where we are today. The Antichrist will not come on the scene until the Church is removed and the world is staged to receive him. This stage setting has been rapidly occurring in recent years. I don’t think people really realize how quickly all this could come together. All it takes is one major crisis or the right mix of crisis, such as another major economic downturn, a nuclear exchange somewhere in the world, or the sudden and unexplained disappearance of millions of people worldwide. God is able to bring to pass whatever necessary to give rise to this ten nation confederacy and the eventual rise of Antichrist. When this ten nation confederacy arises, it will be for one purpose and one purpose only: “they give their power and authority to the beast” (Rev. 17:13). How close are we? Mind bogglingly close! Jesus Christ will return for His Church at any moment. Therefore, it is imperative that we are ready. Are you ready? If Jesus shouted from heaven this very moment, would you hear Him? Would you disappear from the face of the earth along with millions of others? It doesn’t matter whether or not you believe in the Rapture. What matters is do you believe in Jesus? Have you received Him as your Lord and Savior? Does your life give evidence you belong to Him? These are questions only you can answer. My prayer is that your answers are yes! “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout…Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
“So, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door” (Matthew 24:33). Every so often I receive a mass of emails in response to a particular Thoughts to Ponder. My recent one, There’s a Change Coming, is one such example. Many responded telling me how encouraging they found the article to be. Speaking of Christ’s return for His Church, some even asked, “Do you really think it’s that close?” Short answer—yes! Just a casual familiarity with Bible prophecy reveals we are mind-bogglingly close to this amazing, life-changing, earth shattering event. But of course, there are always mockers. Those who say, “Look, every generation of Christians believed Christ would return in their lifetime.” This is true. But the difference between those generations and this present generation is this—our generation has more reason to believe Christ will return in our generation than any previous generation ever imagined. And it all boils down to predictive prophecy—the Bible’s track record of 100 percent accuracy, 100 percent of the time!
The Bible predicts a number of events that will be in play just prior to Christ’s return for His Church. If we were witnessing just one or two of these events, we might have reason to believe Christ’s return was still far off. However, the fact that we are now, for the first time in history, witnessing all these events in play—setting the stage for Daniel’s prophesied Seventieth Week (Dan. 9:27)—gives us greater assurance that the Rapture of the Church is indeed close at hand. There is now a nation called Israel. No end-times prophecy could be fulfilled without an Israel. On May 14, 1948, against all odds, this tiny nation no bigger than the State of New Jersey, became a nation again. It occurred in less than 24 hours, sovereignly fulfilling numerous prophecies, particularly Isaiah 66:7-9. In verse 8 of that passage, Isaiah asks, “Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once?” History has confirmed for us that yes, such a thing can and has happened. Israel’s return to the land is no accident of history but the sovereign fulfillment of God’s promise. The Bible also predicts Israel’s enemies, the Palestinians in particular (they are no peace partner), would try to steal Israel’s covenant land as their own (Ezek. 35; Psalm 83). The prophets also predicted, in the last days just prior to the Lord’s return, the whole world would come against Israel over the issue of Jerusalem. Zechariah writes, “It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it” (12:3). We are witnessing this unfolding right before our eyes! Even the United States, Israel’s historic supporter, has now sided with the rest of the world in demanding that Israel cease settlement activity in its covenant land and divide Jerusalem. When you mess with Israel, especially Jerusalem, you mess with the apple of God’s eye (Zech. 2:8). That basically means that we as nation are now actively poking God in the eye. This is not a good position to be in as it invites catastrophic judgment. But it does show how close we really are to hearing Jesus shout from heaven! One more prophecy I would draw your attention too is that which Daniel mentions in chapters 2 and 7 of his prophecy. In both chapters, Daniel prophesied a revived form of the Roman Empire in the last days. We see the stage being set for this in the modern European and Mediterranean Unions. As of today, they are one vote away from a major step forward, and that vote will come soon. And just as Daniel prophesied, they are “partly strong and partly weak” (2:42). Out of this union, Daniel tells us ten kings (or nations) will arise. And from these ten kings, an eleventh king will arise who will, “make a firm covenant with the many for one week…” (Dan. 9:27). This is where we are today—the world is longing for someone—anyone—who can solve the Middle East problem. The only thing standing in his way right now, according to Scripture, is the true church. Once Christ removes His Church, this “man of lawlessness will be revealed” (2 Thess. 2:3).
I’ve only touched the surface. Space will not permit me to talk in detail about other prophecies in play this very moment—the march to globalism and the rise of global governance, economic upheaval, and the rise of an Iranian led, Russian equipped coalition that will attack Israel in the last days, apostasy, natural disasters, deception, calling evil good and good evil, and many, many more. The point is this: it is all coming to pass, exactly as the Bible predicts. Therefore, we can conclude God’s Word is true, its message of salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8) is true, and Christ’s coming for His Church is very near (1 Thess. 4:13-18). So, my question to you is simply this: Are you ready? If Jesus came for His Church today, would you be caught up with all the saints of all the ages or would you be left behind? “I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place…For this reason, you also must be ready”
“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 be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). A friend of mine mused recently, “There’s a change coming.” I could not agree more. However, I suspect the change he has in mind and the change I have in mind are not one and the same. As I study the Bible and Bible prophecy, I am amazed at just how relevant and true the Bible really is. I wonder just how in the world anyone of any intelligence could fail to put two and two together and see that the Bible really is true and its prophecies are rapidly staging for final fulfillment. Sadly, many continue their mockery of Scripture—they are content to embrace the passing pleasures of sin and the promise of eternal separation from God. But despite the mockery, the Bible is clear—we are in fact living in the last days of world history—there’s a change coming! It is a change that will affect both believers and unbelievers. This change, known as the Rapture of the Church, will occur at any moment. It will involve the snatching away from this world all true believers in Christ while leaving unbelievers behind for the cataclysmic judgments of God’s wrath.
In his first letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul describes the Rapture of the Church as a mystery. In Scripture, this term always refers to truth hidden in the past but now revealed in the New Testament. In other words, a mystery in the Bible is not some Hardy Boys style story where we are trying to uncover some mystery. It means truth that is hidden until God chooses to reveal it. Such is the case with the Rapture of the Church. You will not find any mention of the Rapture in the Old Testament. Perhaps this is because the Old Testament prophecies primarily deal with God’s plan for Israel. Its first mention is in John 14:1-3, where Jesus promises to return for His Church after an undetermined period of time. The event itself is specifically explained and detailed in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. In 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, Paul focuses in on the mystery of the resurrection—“we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.” This change will happen “in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” Many confuse this trumpet as the last of the seven trumpet judgments of Revelation 11:15. However, unlike the Revelation trumpets, this is not a trumpet judgment. This is the last trumpet of the church-age, when all true Christians will be removed from the earth. It will happen quickly—“in the twinkling of an eye”—a phrase Paul uses to capture just how rapidly this event will take place. It is the time it takes for light to travel through the front of the eye, be reflected off the retina, and then exit the eye. This equates to an infinitesimally small fraction of a second—10 to the negative 43 to be exact—as far as the division of time can be measured. So, this change that is coming will happen very quickly. In less than the time it takes to blink, all true believers will be taken off this earth to heaven—changed from mortal to immortal, “For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53). I don’t know about you, but I am praying for and looking forward to this change with great anticipation! I believe it will happen very soon.
But what about the rest of the world—those who are left behind? There’s a change coming for them too, as the Rapture changes everything for the unbeliever as well. “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. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe the lie, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thess. 2:8-12). With Christians out of the way, Satan will be able to move in with his program of complete deception. And for those who rejected the truth, judgment will follow. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can escape all these things by simply forsaking your sin and embracing the free gift of eternal life Christ offers. “It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:14).
“Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:11-14). Current events in our world point to the very real possibility that Jesus Christ will return for His Church at any moment. This truth is so spectacularly clear that I am amazed that most Christians have failed to take notice. This indicates a bigger problem—the Church is asleep! It is no wonder, as many churches, both mainline and conservative, have bought into Satan’s lie that the Church has replaced Israel and prophecy, as it relates to the end times, should not be taken literally, but rather spiritualized. However, the God of the Bible does not have a speech impediment. His Word is to be taken literally. Even if something within Scripture is symbolic, there is always a literal meaning behind the symbolism. So, the problem really is one of unbelief. Many in the Church today simply do not believe God when it comes to matters concerning the end of the age. A tragic result is that many in the Church are asleep—ignorant of the times in which we live and the things that are coming upon this world. They may as well be sleep walking!
There is so much going on today that indicates two things. First of all, God is setting the stage for the final fulfillment of all end times prophecy. Secondly, the return of Christ for His Church is very near. Consider the many things in play today that indicate the brevity of the hour. Israel is back in the land—the key to end times prophecy (Ezek. 36-37). The rise of the European super-state and Mediterranean Union is laying the foundation for the rise of a modern form of the ancient Roman Empire (Dan. 2, 7). The current worldwide economic troubles, as well as terrorism, have the nations of the world marching lock-step towards globalism (Dan. 2, 7; Rev. 17). The desire of the Palestinians to take God’s Covenant Land as their own, as well as, the whole Middle East Peace Process has key world leaders working day and night to forge a solution—a solution that seems to allude all who busy themselves with it (Ezek. 35; Dan. 9; Zech. 12). The rise of an Iranian led, Russian equipped coalition that will come against Israel in the near future is quickly taking shape (Ezek. 38, 39). In fact, there is so much going on concerning Iran right now that one can hardly keep up. It seems the whole thing is rushing quickly towards war. Could it be that the prophesied War of Gog and Magog (see Ezek. 38, 39) is on the near horizon? If so, what does this say about the nearness of Christ’s return for His Church? If war breaks out in the Middle East, as I suspect it soon will, the world as we know it will change. The world economy may very well collapse as oil surges to hundreds of dollars a barrel. Add to that the very real possibility of a nuclear exchange in the Middle East and the world will beg for a leader to put things in order—to guarantee peace between Israel and her enemies, thus protecting world access to oil. “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for [seven years]” (Dan. 9:27). Such a leader is coming. He will arise out of Western Europe. The Bible refers to this individual as “the beast” (Rev. 13), and the more commonly known title of Antichrist (1 John 2). He most likely is alive and well on planet Earth today. The hour is indeed late. It is time for the Church to wake up!
When Paul says to “awaken from sleep,” he means to awaken from spiritual apathy and lethargy, or to put it another way, unresponsiveness to the things of God. When we consider the nearness of Christ’s return for His Church and the judgments upon this world that will follow, we must wake up, lay aside and forsake our sins, live a life that is pleasing to God, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (the ongoing spiritual process of sanctification), and be about our Father’s business. Sadly, many in the Church are content to keep sleeping—oblivious to the hour in which we live and the nearness of Christ’s return and judgment. Furthermore, many are content to continue in their blindness and sin rather than repent and believe the true Gospel. They are content to mock God, either by word or deed 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” (2 Pet. 3:4). It escapes their notice that God has directly intervened in human history in the past and He will do so again in the near future. Therefore, we must wake up and be firmly anchored in the Lord, as time is quickly running out, “for now salvation is nearer to us than when we [first] believed” (Rom. 13:11).
"For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one great, He swore by Himself, saying, „I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.‟ And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise… [Therefore], we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner" (Hebrews 6:13-14, 18-20). Perhaps one of the most important questions one can ask is, how can we know which book or writing that claims to be the Word of God really is what it claims to be? There are literally thousands of religions in the world today, nearly all of which have their own so called sacred writings. I believe that the only way to know which book or sacred writing is the Word of God is to ask a very simple question. Which one requires steadfast assurance over blind faith? The answer for me is clear—only the Bible. Any other book or writing that claims to be the Word of God or an additional testament of Christ all have one thing in common—they all require blind faith. One of them requires a so called burning in the bosom. But only the Bible offers steadfast assurance that it and it alone is truly the Word of the true and living God—to the exclusion of all other books or writings that claim to be such! This steadfast assurance comes from the precise fulfillment of past prophecies. In fact, the God of the Bible is so certain that only the Bible and He alone can accurately predict future events, that He challenges anyone to put Him to the test: "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, „My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure‟" (Isaiah 46:9-10). Here God challenges us to recall all the past history of fulfilled biblical prophecies—all of which are ample evidence that He alone is God and the Bible alone is His Word.
Mark Hitchcock says, "In order to accurately predict the future, one must be omniscient (know everything), omnipresent (be present everywhere), and omnipotent (possess all power). The true [God] must know all things, must be present at all times and places, and must possess all power so as to make sure the prediction is fulfilled. Only the true God [of the Bible] meets these prerequisites, so only He can accurately forecast the future. He has proven His ability to tell the future by compiling a 100 percent track record." And because of this 100 percent track record of fulfilled prophecies, we can rest assured with steadfast assurance that the remaining prophecies of the Bible yet unfulfilled will be fulfilled just as literally and completely as those that have already been fulfilled. Today, there are so many end-times related prophecies converging that it is hard to keep up with it all. These prophecies deal with the rise of the European super-state, the Israeli-Palestinian problem including the whole peace process, the worldwide economic problems, the march towards globalism and some type of global governance, and the gathering storm clouds concerning Iran‟s quest to obtain nuclear weapons coupled with their threats to wipe Israel off the map. Jesus, speaking about these things said, "So you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door" (Matt. 24:33). In other words, know that the Bible is truly God‟s Word and His return is very near.
Clearly, the Bible has an unparalleled, unrivaled track record. No other book or writing that claims to be God‟s Word comes close. No other so called prophet can measure up. The Bible has "written by God" all over it. Fulfilled prophecy proves once and for all that the Bible and it alone, is the Word of the true and living God! So my question is this: With all the evidence, why would anyone be so ignorant to continue to pursue, with blind and useless faith, a book, religion or belief system that has been clearly shown to be false? I simply do not understand it. Why would anyone base their whole eternal future on blind faith? Why would anyone cling to a so called "burning in the bosom" or any other feeling rather than on the steadfast assurance that the Bible and it alone is God‟s full, complete and final revelation of Himself to you and me? The writer of Hebrews says, "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner" (Heb. 6:19-20). His point is simply this: The Bible is God‟s Word and Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be—the Son of God, God in human flesh, and our only hope for forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. If you have not previously done so, my challenge to you is that you believe the promises of Scripture and receive the free gift of eternal life in Christ. "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12).
"Daniel answered before the king and said, 'As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians nor diviners are able to declare it to the king. However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed. As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place'" (Daniel 2:27-29). Current events in our world—financial upheaval, nuclear tensions between Iran and the West, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process—continue to cause many to wonder what the future holds. Will there be peace or will there be war? Too many, it seems a mystery. Thankfully, God has not left His people in darkness. Daniel reminds us, "There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries." When it comes to prophecy, Daniel is to the Old Testament what Revelation is to the New Testament. It reveals God’s plan for the future, particularly when it comes to Gentile world powers ruling over Israel. The mysteries revealed to King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2 concern five world empires in succession that would rule over Israel. The fifth world empire is really a revival of the fourth. Daniel 2 presents these empires as parts of a statue while Daniel 7 presents them as four great beasts. These empires are Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and a revived form of Rome. Chapter 2 describes a stone picturing Christ at His second coming. This stone destroys the fourth empire in its revived phase with sudden and unexpected destruction (see 1 Thess. 5:3). It is also interesting to note that Daniel describes a world leader who will arise out of this revived Rome in the last days. According to Daniel 9:27, this leader will seemingly do what no other world leader has been able to do—bring peace to the Middle East, between Israel and her enemies.
Amazingly, we see this scenario unfolding today. We see the old Roman Empire literally ascending from the ash-heap of history as nations who were once under her influence come back together in an economic, political, and soon to be military alliance. This area of the world is referred to today as the European and Mediterranean Unions. Not only that, but the whole world seems to be interested in Jerusalem, Israel and the Middle East. Furthermore, the recent economic upheaval, and the recent meetings of world leaders at the U.N. have clearly shown that the nations of the world are marching lock-step towards globalism and some form of global governance. Even the one world leader indicated his willingness to bring one country under some form of a world governing body (with himself at the helm, of course) when he said, "In an era where our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed." This is the same individual who said, "We have been speaking directly to people around the world, including our friends across the Muslim world, with whom we launch new beginnings based on mutual interests and mutual respect … This spirit of partnership is a defining feature of our foreign policy." Bill Koenig, speaking of this, said, "This spirit of partnership seems a lot like the spirit of the Antichrist in paving the way for a new one-world order based on a utopian idea of serving the idealist for his ideals." This is amazing, as the "God in heaven who reveals mysteries," tells us in Daniel 7:24-25, that such a leader that will arise among other leaders in the last days. This is not to suggest that this particular individual is the long awaited Antichrist of the last days. The Scriptures are clear that when he comes on the scene, he will arise out of the old Roman Empire—Western Europe of today. But it does illustrate how mind-bogglingly close we really are to this period of history.
So what does all this mean? First of all, we see that God not only knows the future but He controls it. Therefore, as believers, we need not worry or lose sleep over the things that are coming upon this world—we just need to preach Jesus! Secondly, and this is the best part—at some point before this last days leader arises, the Bible tells us that Jesus will come for His own—the Church: "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 Thess. 4:15-17). This event, known as the Rapture, may very well happen today! Are you ready to meet the Lord in the air? If not, then forsake your sin and embrace the free gift of eternal life Christ offers to all who will believe. Time is quickly running out!
“Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence—As fire kindles the brushwood, as fire causes water to boil—To make Your name known to Your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Your presence! When You did awesome things which we did not expect, You came down; the mountains quaked at Your presence. For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him” (Isaiah 64:1-4). The Scriptures are replete with examples of God acting in behalf of His people. In the Old Testament, we find Him intervening time and time again in behalf of His chosen people—the Jews. In the New Testament, we find Him acting in behalf of a new race of people—the Church. As I read the accounts of God acting in behalf of His people, the one thing that always strikes me is the experience of God’s presence as He acts. For His people, the experience is always one of awe and protection. For the enemies of His people, the experience is always one of dread.In Isaiah 64:1-4, we find God’s chosen people—the Jews—pleading with the Lord to demonstrate His power as He did in the earlier days of Israel’s history. Their plea is in response to their own assessment of themselves in the last verse of chapter 63: “We have become like those over whom You have never ruled, like those who were not called by Your name.” So they plea for the Lord to “rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence.”
I recently had the experience of living through a magnitude 6.4 earthquake. Everything under and around me was shaking. It was a truly amazing experience; one that I was glad quickly came to an end. It’s no wonder that such events strike fear in many who experience them. And perhaps this is why Israel pleaded for God to act in such a way in their behalf—that they might experience the awe and protection of His presence and that their enemies would experience the dread of His presence. In Psalm 18, David prayed for God to deliver him from the hand of his enemies. David records, “Then the earth shook and quaked; and the foundations of the mountains were trembling and were shaken, because He was angry” (18:7). God responded on David’s behalf in such a way that he was able to write, “He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me…He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me” (Psalm 18:16, 19). God’s sheer power was displayed so dramatically that David experienced the protection of God’s presence while his enemies experienced utter dread and destruction. The manifestations of God’s presence are unique. According to Isaiah 64:4, no one has witnessed the likes of His awesome works on behalf of His own people: “For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.” We serve a mighty and awesome God who has promised to be with us and protect us, no matter what—even if such protection involves bringing us safely home to be with Him. In other words, He protects us against our enemies in both life and death. Death, after all, is our greatest enemy. But we need not fear. Christ has already triumphed over the grave!
Whether one is speaking of God’s chosen people—the Jews—or His new race of people—the Church—God acts in behalf of both. Our generation has witnessed Him acting in behalf of the Jews as He has begun bringing them from the four corners of the earth back into their covenant land. He has thwarted every attempt of Israel’s enemies to destroy the Jewish state, striking dread in them when necessary. This in and of itself is overwhelming evidence that the Messiah—the Lord Jesus Christ—will one day soon reign gloriously on David’s throne and over His Kingdom. Furthermore, the evidence is clear that He will one day soon rescue His new race of people—the Church—from His wrath that He is about to pour out on an unbelieving and rebellious world—an event that will surely strike dread in the hearts of those left behind. So the question you must answer is, “Am I ready?” Christ will return for His Church at any moment. That moment may very well be today. If you have not previously done so, receive God’s free gift of forgiveness and eternal life before it is too late. "For thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land’” (Haggai 2:6).
“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). Matthew 24:32-35, verse 34 in particular, is a difficult text for Bible interpreters. Matthew 24 is known as the Olivet Discourse. The problem is that Jesus appears to be predicting a particular period of time in which we can expect His glorious and visible return to this earth. The argument goes like this: The fig tree represents the nation of Israel. The “branch [becoming] tender and [putting] 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. Many conclude such an 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 to the disciples in Acts 1:7, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” Paul repeated this in his 1st letter to the Thessalonians, “Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you” (1 Thess. 5:1). Those who have been following my writings for any length of time know that I believe the Bible says what it means and means what it says. In other words, God doesn’t have a speech impediment. I use the Historical-Grammatical method of interpretation and 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. So what is the solution to this difficult text?
Hank Hanegraaff, radio’s “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 “this generation” of Matt. 24:34 refers to the generation alive at the time Jesus spoke this prophecy. Since Jesus spoke this prophecy around A.D. 32 or so, there were some still alive when the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. Hank, although he does a splendid job answering most questions posed to him, is a partial Preterist who is thoroughly confused on matters of eschatology. As a partial Preterist, he believes all prophecy except for the Second Coming and resurrection of believers and unbelievers at the end of the age has already been fulfilled. It is obvious that Hank is seeking “other sense” in the passage thus ending up with nonsense. Another solution to this difficult passage is offered by Pastor Bob DeWaay, a man I highly admire and respect. 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 Matt. 24:34 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, Acts 2:40, and others to support his interpretation. His argument is well thought out and he may very well be correct.
Although it is possible the fig tree here refers to Israel’s rebirth, 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, 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. However, there is one important thing to keep in mind. No end-times prophecy could be fulfilled without the existence of the nation of Israel. In other words, the Jews must be back in their biblical lands, and prior to 1948 there had been no nation of Israel for over 2000 years. Therefore, I sincerely believe Israel’s rebirth signals the time of the end has begun. For this, I look to Ezekiel. His detailed prophecies of the end of the age are given chronologically. Chapters 36-37 predicted Israel’s rebirth as a nation. Chapter 38 said it would occur after the land had long lay desolate and had recovered from war. Its people would be gathered from many nations. All of this clearly happened in and since 1948. Chapters 38-39 then describe a great battle known as the War of Gog and Magog where the Lord Himself will intervene and bring His people back into a covenant relationship with Him. This hasn’t happened yet, and whether it happens before or shortly after the Rapture I do not know. But when it does occur, it will set the stage for Daniel’s 70th Week to begin. During that period the signs Jesus spoke of will appear making it clear that His return is near—we see the foreshadowing of these signs today. Ezekiel chapters 40-48 talk about life in Israel during the Millennial Reign of Christ on earth.
Another interpretation, one that I like better than my own (and it might very well be the correct interpretation), suggests Matthew 24:34 says that the generation being born when the end-times signs begin will still be alive when all signs are fulfilled and Jesus returns visibly to this planet. According to Psalm 90:10, a biblical lifespan is 70-80 years. Most scholars worth their salt 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 recently celebrated 61 years as a nation. If a biblical lifespan is 70-80 years, what does this say about the lateness of the hour? Israel has been a nation since May 14, 1948. Since that time the nations that made up the ancient Roman Empire have been coming back together in the European and Mediterranean Unions – a key end-times prophecy. Russia has been entering into military and economic alliances with several Moslem countries, not the least of which is Iran (Persia in biblical times). This is astounding because 2600 years ago the Prophet Ezekiel foretold of a confederation of nations led by Iran and armed by Russia that would form a confederacy in an all out assault on Israel to annihilate her. The most astounding part of this prophecy is when it would take place. Ezekiel carefully pinpoints the exact time – a specific generation. We’ve never seen anything like this in history until now. It is coming to pass just as the Bible predicted. Another thing we are seeing in this generation, something we’ve never seen before in history, is the overwhelming push for a comprehensive Middle East peace. Daniel 9:26-27 says a pseudo-peace is coming between Israel and her enemies. This peace will be brokered by a European—a descendent of the people who destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the Romans. The Hebrew word used here indicates this peace agreement will be forced upon Israel. This is amazing considering the rhetoric we’ve heard over the past few weeks—that a two state solution is non-negotiable and Israel must accept this. Furthermore, Jerusalem has become the point of contention over Middle East peace—who will own and control it. And we must remember, the Bible says when they say, “Peace and safety!” that is the time to expect the Day of the Lord—God’s judgment upon unbelieving Israel and the unbelieving world leading up to the return of Christ. But before all this happens, the Bible foretells another event, one that requires absolutely no signs or prophetic fulfillment—the Rapture of the Church. I believe this event will happen at any moment with the Tribulation period quickly following. So regardless of which interpretation is correct, I do believe we are the generation to witness the Lord’s return! Are you ready to meet the Lord in the air? If not, your time is running out. Maranatha!
"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” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3). Both of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonian believers are highly eschatological in their content. Eschatology, of course, is that branch of theology that deals primarily with prophecy related to the end-times. Every chapter of 1 Thessalonians ends with a reference to the second coming of Jesus. According to Acts 17:2, Paul was with the Thessalonians for only a few weeks. In that time he taught them more about the end-times and the return of Jesus Christ than most churches cover over a period of years. In fact, Paul would be amazed and disappointed that some people today consider the study of end-times prophecy to be unimportant. It is no wonder that most people in the church today have absolutely no idea about the nearness of the Day of the Lord.
What is the Day of the Lord? It is a phrase that identifies events that take place at the end of history and is often closely associated with the phrase “that day.” It always identifies the span of time during which God will personally intervene in human affairs, both directly and indirectly, to accomplish His plan. It will begin with the Rapture of the Church and will continue through the tribulation period. The Rapture is that event when Jesus comes in the air for His Church. Paul clearly taught this in 1 Thess. 4:13-18. The tribulation period, known by its technical name as Daniel’s 70th Week is a period of seven years when God will pour out His wrath on unbelieving Israel and on the unbelieving world. It will also be a time of salvation as God will deliver the remnant of Israel, fulfilling His promise that “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26). Scripture always presents it as an imminent event that will come quickly, like a thief in the night: “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2). It will come upon the world silently and unannounced. Jesus said, “Be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (Matt. 24:42). Therefore, we as Christians must be watchful and ready for the coming of Christ at any moment: “For you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief” (1 Thess. 5:4).
Paul tells us when we can expect the Day of the Lord: “While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’” (1 Thess. 5:3). In other words, although the unbelieving world will not expect it, Christians should see it coming and be ready. One thing that has really stood out to me lately is the intensifying push for peace in the Middle East. A recent news article reports that, “Israel, Syria, Lebanon and other Arab nations should sit down together to try to resolve the Middle East conflict under a new ‘combined approach’ currently under discussion with the U.S. What we are discussing today is a combined approach of bringing together Arabs, Europeans and the United States as a team to create the circumstances over the next several months that allow Israelis and Palestinians to sit at the table, but also with Lebanese, Syrians and Arab nations.” Another article reports, “There is not an alternative to a two-state peace settlement between Israel and Palestinians.” All of this is right in line with what the Bible says will occur in the last days, right before the return of Christ for His Church and the ensuing Day of the Lord. Daniel 9:27 tells us one is coming on the scene who will finally bring peace to the Middle East, albeit a false peace: “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week.” One week, of course, means seven years. In Daniel 11:39, we learn that this peace agreement will be based upon the concept of “Land for Peace”: “He will…parcel out land for a price.” Jeremiah 6:14 tells us this process will be totally one-sided in nature and leave Israel completely vulnerable: “They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace.” It will center on the city of Jerusalem—who will own it—and will be imposed by a global coalition: “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. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it” (Zech. 12:3). We are seeing this today—all nations, including America, are turning on God’s land and people. The world is in turmoil. The global financial upheaval of late has many blaming the Jews! If only we could work out the Middle East problem then all would be well—or so the world thinks. But remember this: “He who watches Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps” (Ps. 122:3). Very soon, perhaps today, millions of people worldwide will disappear, suddenly and without warning. The Day of the Lord will quickly follow. Are you ready to meet the Lord in the air? If not, your time is quickly running out.
“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. 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; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6). Are we living in the end-times? This may very well be the second most important question one could answer—the most important being, are you born again? So much is happening today to set the stage for the return of Christ that I can hardly keep up. Every day the Lord tarries, I am challenged to sound a warning to believers and unbelievers alike. To believers, the warning is to wake up! To unbelievers, the warning is to believe and obey the Gospel, for time is running out. We are living in the generation that will witness the fulfillment of all end-times prophecy up to and including the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. In light of current events and Bible prophecy, this truth could not be any clearer. Yet, most in the church are asleep and many refuse to believe the message of salvation by grace through faith. Paul tells us we are to “be alert and sober.” In other words, all these things should not “overtake [us] like a thief.”
There are numerous reasons why we know we are living in the last-days. Since 1948, this generation has witnessed the miracle of the modern nation of Israel. A modern version of the ancient Roman Empire, “partly strong and partly weak,” as the Bible predicts (see Dan. 2:40-43), is rapidly coming together in the European and Mediterranean Unions. In fact, the scenario we see today is very close to the prophetic scenario that is found in Bible prophecy. The current worldwide financial crisis is pushing the world rapidly towards globalism and some form of global governance. I would not be the least bit surprised if the nations of the world eventually come together in a confederacy of ten political unions led by 10 kings who eventually surrender their power to a strongman arising out of the European Union (see Dan. 7:7-8). Multiple prophecies are at work with Iran, Syria, and Israel. The prophet Ezekiel predicted an end-times alliance among Russia, Iran, and other Moslem nations that will launch a surprise attack against Israel in the last-days. We’ve never seen anything like this in history until now. The wildcard in this alliance has been Turkey. Current events in Turkey indicate she is moving slowly but surely into her prophesied role. The “burden of Damascus” (see Is. 17:1) could be fulfilled in a moment’s notice. The quest for peace in the Middle East is intensifying. The Bible says when everyone is talking about peace, especially in the Middle East, the world is ready for Bible prophecy to be fulfilled. Furthermore, the Bible says when contention arises over the control of the city of Jerusalem, as we see today, the end is indeed near. With all this and more occurring daily, I am amazed that so many in the church are asleep—that is to say, they simply do not care about these things, and some care little more for reaching the lost. Even more amazing is the fact that most unbelievers refuse to believe the simple Gospel message of salvation by grace through faith.
Of all the generations in history, it is to this generation that the prophecies of the last days are addressed. Although every generation since Christ’s first coming have looked for the signs given in Scripture, only this generation is witnessing them all come together at the same time—which is itself a fulfillment of prophecy. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt. 24:34). Both Jesus and Paul described these signs as birth pains. These birth pains (or signs) have begun and are only intensifying with each passing day. Everything Jesus spoke about regarding the signs of the times at His return is happening right before our eyes. A lot sooner than most people are willing to believe, the same Spirit that inspired the amazing accuracy of the last-days prophecies will be removed, taking the Church with Him. This event, known as the Rapture of the Church (see John 14:1-3; 1 Cor. 15:50-52; 1 Thess. 4:13-18), is a signless event that will occur at any moment. It must occur before the prophesied Seventieth Week of Daniel (see Dan. 9:27) can begin. Since all the signs we see today are really God getting the world in position for Daniel’s Seventieth Week to be fulfilled, we know that the Rapture is all the more close! It could happen this very moment. Christ is coming soon for His own. Make sure you are one of them! The Bible says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). That simply means repent of your sins and believe the Gospel (see Rom. 10:9-10).
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