The End Times
A special time
Christians over two millennia have been expecting Jesus’ return in their life times. The imminent return of Christ is emphasised in the Bible to reinforce the fact that Christians should always be doing the works of faith in anticipation of his return. It is now possible to say with assurance that we have entered an unparalleled period in history when Jesus’ imminent return seems inevitable. Prior to our current time all the conditions, necessary for fulfilling end times biblical prophecies and bring all nations to their knees before Jesus (Revelation 15:4) were not present. They are now.
In his ‘first coming’ 2,000 years ago Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament ‘suffering servant’ prophecies In his second coming at the end of the Tribulation he will be the conquering king. Having established his ‘millennial kingdom’ he will rule the nations with a rod of iron. This does not mean his rule will be marked by cruelty and oppression; quite the opposite; but, those who choose to flout God’s laws will experience the full and just consequences of disobedience.
This paper examines the ‘end times’, or ‘Tribulation’; that period leading up to the long-awaited return of Jesus Christ. Two aspects mark evangelical Christian discussions on these events. Firstly, there is general agreement on specific aspects, because they are clearly predicted in the Bible. Secondly, there is much debate about the context in which the known prophesied events will happen. There are also other phasing, identification and timing issues.
This article is written for Christians wanting to untangle their understanding of the end times. Non-Christians searching for the truth might also find it useful as it underpins the reliability of the Bible and its continuing application to present and future events. We will begin by listing the matters predicted in the Bible concerning end times before entering into some conjecture on debatable aspects. We will do so without adding or taking away from the plain meaning of Scripture. Our speculations are only possibilities. We do not presume to claim we are right.
Based on 1 Thessalonians 5:9 the Tribulation’s judgements will not directly affect existing Christians, although those becoming Christians during it will face persecution and martyrdom. Christians alive leading up to the Tribulation are not ‘destined for wrath’ (1 Thessalonians 1:10 and 5:9); they will be translated to be with Jesus either before or during the Tribulation. However there is considerable debate around this; as we shall see. Some believe Christians will simply be protected by God while remaining on earth. The Tribulation is ordained by God to:
- Bring Satan’s plans to counterfeit God out into the open and to execute God’s judgement on ‘the Dragon’ and all those in the world deceived by him – the unbelievers, or unsaved.
- Restore Israel (the Jewish people) to Christ their Messiah through revelation and judgement.
- Inaugurate the return of Christ Jesus and the establishment of his millennial rule over the nations.
We should also note that the end times have always been with us in a general sense. The signs of Matthew 24 (wars, earthquakes) recur regularly and the Apostle John reminds us that the ‘last hour’ and ‘Antichrists’ have always been with us (1 John 2:18). The Tribulation is simply the culmination of all that has been going on, although it is bookmarked with specific events and includes cataclysmic God-ordained judgements.
Accepted end times events
Truth Watch is convinced there is every reason to expect God will initiate the end times Tribulation some time soon. We do not pretend to know the time but we do know all the conditions, prophecied in the Bible for God’s judgement to fall on Mankind, prior to Jesus’ return, are present to a degree never seen before. Here is a list of 21 events predicted to happen just prior to and during the end times period and generally accepted by evangelicals:
- The Jews must return to their ancestral land – Israel. There are many verses predicting this (E.g. Amos 9:14-15; Jeremiah 16:14:15). They did return (officially) in May, 1948 when the State of Israel was formally inaugurated. For the first time in history it is now possible for the Israel prophecies of Ezekiel and Revelation to be fulfilled. The Bible even predicts the restoration of the Shekel as the national currency (Ezekiel 45:12) and the productive use of the desert (Isaiah 41:18); both fulfilled with the return of the Jews.
- Jerusalem will become a point of international friction, or ‘stumbling block’ for the nations (Zechariah 12:3).
- There will be a seven year period referred to variously in the Bible as the ‘Tribulation’, ‘the great Tribulation’ and the ‘time of Jacobs’s trouble’ (Jeremiah 30:7). It is divided in two with God’s judgements falling with greater severity in the second half as humanity and the earth are confronted with and then overwhelmed by God’s wrath. This period is referred to as the great Tribulation. War is coupled with terrible environmental disasters.
- Prior to the Tribulation Church influence will all but disappear. Most importantly it will no longer be a bastion of truth. It will ‘fall away’ as the Holy Spirit steps aside (2 Thessalonians 2:7, 1 Timothy 4:1) to let Man’s fallen attraction to falsehood and deception take hold (2 Thessalonians 2:11) inside and outside the Church. The Holy Spirit will not leave Christians, but it will no longer restrain the full measure of evil and deception. False prophets and teachers now infest the Church, ranging from Bishop Spong to the emergent church icon, Rob Bell. On four occasions in Matthew 24 Jesus warned that false prophets would abound in the last days. There is little doubt that the Church’s weakened state is symptomatic of a church fallen. Over 2,000 years the Church was on the ascent, peaking in the Victorian and Edwardian period. Since the late Nineteenth Century it has slipped into decline after it failed to properly confront evolutionary dogma, humanist philosophy and theological revisionism. Of course, a fallen Church leaves the way open for the immorality, fraud, tyranny, injustice and idolatry that will kindle God’s anger to the point where his final intervention becomes inevitable. He may be long suffering and patient but there are limits. With the Church ‘taken out of the way’ the world lacks a moral and spiritual compass (2 Timothy 3:1-5). This is apparent in the widespread practice of abortion and the acceptance of homosexuality. Significantly, homosexuality sparked the most dramatic events recorded in the Bible – God’s destruction of Sodom and the Benjamite civil war.
- Christians and non-Christians alike will largely ignore all the warning signs of impending world government, lost democracy, the threat of widespread war and Christian claims that the apocalyptic events foretold in the Bible are looming. Christians will fall for false teachers and non-Christians will accept the deceptive claims and policies of national and international leaders.
- At some point prior to or during the Tribulation all Christians, still living and those who are dead but remain alive in spirit, will be ‘taken up’ to be with Christ forever (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-55).
- The seven years will begin when a new world leader brings many parties together in a landmark international agreement that appears to promise the lasting peace, security and prosperity the world yearns for (Daniel 9:24-27). God calls this leader the ‘man of sin’, the Beast, or the ‘Antichrist’ (Revelation 19:19, 1 John 2:18). It is speculated the treaty will involve apparent geo-political stabilisation, coupled with a middle-eastern entente that aligns the three monotheistic faiths sufficiently to allow for the rebuilding of the Jewish temple. It is assumed this will go up next to the Dome of the Rock. Some think the reference to the temple is symbolic and spiritual. Truth Watch prefers the plain bricks and mortar interpretation. This world leader –the Beast or Antichrist of Revelation will attain the height of his power for 42 months, or half the Tribulation period (Revelation 13:5-7).
- A new world order will be established, which God labels ‘Babylon the Great’. Babylon in its spiritual and temporal manifestations (the “secret power of lawlessness” – 2 Thessalonians. 2:7) has always been with us but it achieves unprecedented power going into the Tribulation. The conditions for a new world economic and religious order are now discernible. At no time since God’s intervention at Babel over 4,000 years ago has it been possible for the global human community to form what President Bush (Snr.) called a new world order. A one world government is now a real possibility. The formation of the U.N. after World War Two; the emergence of regional power blocks like the EU and OPEC and global economic shocks are making a single governing entity more plausible and more appealing. For many the world- wide demand for peace, security and economic stability makes it an attractive option. The climate change and debt scares are helping to fuel calls for global government. The creation of a world-wide economic order under the auspices of the IMF, WTO, World Bank and other international agencies makes a single global government a natural next step.
- The new world figure will wield a lot of power under this new order. He will partner with an ecumenical religious leader called the ‘false prophet’ and they will seem to succeed in all they do. Together they will set up an ‘image’ for the world to venerate. Speculation continues as to what this image may be.
- The Jews will finally accept Jesus Christ as their long sought after Messiah.
- During the Tribulation Christians will experience persecution and martyrdom (Matthew 24:9). Much of this will result from refusing to accept the ‘mark of the beast’; a personal data access and identification system at the heart of the commercial and administrative arm of Babylon. No doubt there will also be other avenues of abuse too, for the Bible says Christians will be hated by all nations. Many believe the global world system will rely on each person accepting an RFID ‘smart’ chip inserted under the skin of the forehead or right hand. Those who do not ‘take the mark’ will not be able to function in society (Revelation 13:16-17). Since Jesus warns those that accept this mark will not be admitted to heaven, Christians cannot buy into the new order and will therefore be outcasts, subject to legal penalties and even death. Despite persecution, or because of it, the "gospel of the kingdom" will go out across the world until the end comes.
- Nothing will prevent the spread of the good news of Jesus Christ, especially just prior to his return ( Matthew 24:14), because God has promised the gospel will always be advancing (Matthew 11:12).
- Jewish evangelism and the much publicised activities of two great evangelists called ‘the two witnesses’ (Revelation 11:3-6) will mark a period of Church growth during the Tribulation, especially amongst Jews in Israel and elsewhere (Zechariah 12:10; Romans 11:25-27). Reference in Revelation Seven (vv. 1-8) to the 144,000 Israelites ‘sealed’ by God (Revelation 14:1-5); the fact the two witnesses die in Jerusalem plus the final conflict in Israel support the contention that the Tribulation is very much about reconciling God’s chosen people back to himself (Romans 11). As we write (2013) it has been revealed that a highly venerated Jewish Rabbi posthumously announced (a sealed letter) that God had revealed to him that the Messiah was Jesus. This looks remarkably like a step along the road to Zechariah’s prophecy (12:10).
- The Tribulation events will encompass the world but will be centred around Israel and Jerusalem in particular.
- The watershed moment in the Tribulation will be half way through when the Antichrist enters the rebuilt temple and desecrates it in a way that suggests he is setting himself up in the place of God (2 Thessalonians 2:4). This recapitulates events prophecied in Daniel that occurred in the 2nd century B.C. when the Seleucid king Antiochus IV desecrated the temple, by sacrificing a pig. Daniel 9:27 records that the Antichrist will end Jewish worship in the temple, indicating he supplants Jewish rites with something idolatrous and pagan in character.
- The new economic order and the promised world peace will quickly fall apart over the first half of the tribulation, indicated by the Antichrist’s ‘temple invasion’ at the end of the first half. Israel will be invaded by a coalition of nations from the north and east who surround Jerusalem (Luke 21:20). Two-thirds of Israel are killed before the cataclysmic end to the second half of the Tribulation in an event called Armageddon. The coalition forces will be decimated, but it will be God’s doing, not Mans.
- Two 42 month (3.5 year) periods are assigned to both the Antichrist and to God’s people over the seven year tribulation. During one of these periods the Antichrist will be allowed free-reign to persecute Christians (Daniel 7:27) while over the other period God protects Christians, or a segment of them (Revelation 12:6). The warning in Matthew 24:15-16 for Christians in and around Jerusalem to flee is probably connected to this period of protection.
- Events after the desecration will be tumultuous and devastating both because mankind is striving to achieve world peace without God and because God judges the world for its rebellion and sin. This judgement is allegorised in the Bible’s Book of Revelation as the breaking of the seven seals, the seven trumpets and the seven bowls of God’s wrath.
- The ‘Great Tribulation’, or second half of the seven year period sees God’s judgement on rebellious mankind in the events described in the trumpet and bowl sequences. In Matthew 24:22 this period is described as so terrible all of mankind would be wiped out if God did not stop it all to protect his people.
- Despite cataclysmic events involving war, disease and environmental disaster much of Mankind will continue to reject God (Revelation 6:15-17) even as they recognise the world-wide disasters are of God’s making. The Tribulation will be marked by many false prophets and false Christs (Matthew 24:24). Only ‘the elect’ will not be fooled.
- The tribulation will end with the return of Jesus Christ to the site from whence he left – the Mount of Olives. His return will be in a manner that irrefutably confirms he is God. He will be accompanied by all true Christians (Jude 14) from across Man’s history and initiate a 1,000 year ‘millennial reign’ over all nations.
Prior to the tribulation and running into it there will be various confirmatory signs that Christians will recognise (Matthew 24 and Luke 21):
- A dramatic decline in the Church – the ‘falling away’ accompanied by hate and betrayal.
- Pervasive anti-Christian propaganda and deception through false teachers.
- A world-wide hatred for true Christians, despite the fact that the Gospel will have gone out to all nations
- Wars and rumours (constant talk) of wars, with nations banding along ethnic lines against other nations.
- Earthquakes, famines and pest/diseases in many places. These may be connected to the 4th seal as they bring widespread death with them.
- People living in times similar to the period immediately preceding God’s earlier world-wide judgement – Noah’s flood.
- Signs in the sky –relating in particular to the sun and moon.
Special mention needs to be made at this juncture about trans-humanism because some believe it is the modern equivalent of the Nephilim referred to in the description of the situation prior to the Noahaic flood (Genesis 6:1-7). An important element in Man’s wickedness at that time was the influence of ‘the sons of God’ (fallen angels). In their book Forbidden Gates (2010) Tom and Nita Horn document advances in artificial intelligences, nanotechnologies and genetic engineering that scientists maintain will lead to fundamental changes in what it means to be human. In both Forbidden Gates and a sister work, Pandemonium’s Engine (2011) it is argued alterations to the human genome, by fallen angels intermarrying with women, fundamentally altered the genetic made in the image of God make-up of humans. God’s created order was at stake.
The same will be true of trans-humanism. Blending new genetic technologies with advances in robotics and electronics will eventually mean man and machine will be harmonised to create Homo Sapiens 2.0. A coterie of scientists are predicting that within 70-100 years, if not earlier, man will first extend his life time and then become virtually immortal by being able to transfer a person’s emotions, intellect, thoughts and memory into an I Robot type machine, making it possible for a person to live on after their body dies. The promise of immortality challenges God’s order at a foundational level, requiring his intervention. Behind it all Satan is at work to ‘glorify’ himself in his counterfeit of God’s kingdom (Isaiah 14:13-14).
If this hypothesis is correct trans-human technologies that replace Man made in God’s image with Man made in Man’s image, coupled with sins like abortion, homosexuality and a fascination with idolatry and the occult will probably be the triggers for God’s final judgement on this world. His long-suffering patience will have finally run its course and the seven-year tribulation stop-watch will begin to tick.
End time gaps
At this point it would be perfectly acceptable to end this discussion. The information provided thus far is largely uncontested in its broader scope. Armed with the light the Bible throws on end time events a Christian aware of them should not be ‘found asleep’ as the Tribulation unfolds. The insights provided by God are all obvious markers for Christians alive during the tribulation to follow. However, the gaps God has deliberately left in the narrative (Daniel 12:8-9) provide fertile ground for debate and speculation, providing such views do not distort and cloud the prophetic clarity we have been given in Scripture. What follows is an introduction to the debate to be had ‘in the gaps’. Although these gaps will be of little significance once the Tribulation is underway they are important now for helping Christians remain alive to the times in which we live. Those that fail to take end times events and signs seriously are in danger of slipping into the camp of the bridesmaids caught with no oil in their lamps.
The debatable issues
Evangelicals accept the Christians alive at the time of the Tribulation, will be translated to be with Jesus in a moment of time (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). Truth Watch accepts there are good arguments for either a pre-tribulation or mid-tribulation translation, or ‘rapture’. Some Christians dismiss the whole idea, asserting there will be no ‘taking up’ until the end of the millennium when all will face God’s final judgement. Dave Hunt has cataloged some compelling arguments against any form of post-trib rapture. For example:
- Christians are ‘taken up’ to be with Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:17), but on Jesus return he descends to the Mount of Olives and the surviving Christians simply join him on the ground (Matthew 24:30-31).
- The rapture is always imminent. Its time is unknown (Matthew 25:13) and a mystery (Ephesians 1:9-10, 1 Timothy 3:14-16). Conversely, there can be no double about when Jesus is returning towards the end of the Tribulation.
- Christians will be translated instantly (1 Corinthians 15:51) while at the end of the Tribulation Jesus is revealed to all without any instantaneous event (Revelation 1:7)
From that analysis we are left with a pre-tribulation or mid tribulation rapture being the most likely options. Both raise some interesting questions about which we can only speculate. The sudden disappearance of millions of people across the globe is bound to cause consternation. How will the authorities explain it? Mankind has always excelled at obfuscating the sovereign work of God. The Pharisees were good at dismissing Jesus’ miracles and the Israelites still rebelled against God despite all the miraculous events he orchestrated within their midst. No doubt skeptics will find ways to rationalise the disappearance. With UFO/Alien 'body-snatches' being a popular topic perhaps this will be offered as the likely scenario. Also, if people are powerless under the authority of a supra-world state any amount of concern and speculation can be be simply ignored.
There is also debate over the timing of end times prophecies. Some claim they all happened prior to and during the sack of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. This is what is called the Preterist position. Read http://www.gotquestions.org/partial-preterism.html for a refutation. Others maintain they have been fulfilled across history. A majority of evangelicals are ‘futurists’, believing the Tribulation predictions have to be fulfilled in an actual short end-of-the-current-age series of events. Truth Watch falls within this camp. While past events may mirror the prophecies in some respect they are only indicative preludes patterning God’s judgment behaviour over time. In that sense God’s intervention in the Noahaic flood, the destruction of Sodom and the events of 70 A.D. are precursors to and examples of his hand on Man’s affairs, without replacing the end times significance of the prophecies related specifically to the Tribulation. This view is reinforced by the fact that in seeking a preview of end times events the disciples asked Jesus about his return and “the end of the age” (AV: world) – Matthew 24: 3b.
A provisional scenario
We now enter the speculative arena where Christians have been coming up with all sorts of scenarios covering the pre-Tribulation and Tribulation periods. Indulging in this guess work is not really necessary. As already explained, the end times pointers provided in the Bible are God’s guide stones to the end times and on their own provide sufficient guidance.
Despite that Truth Watch offers this possible event-scape around the actual known events prescribed by Scripture. Without intentionally taking away from or adding to Scripture and without getting lost in endless possibilities we suggest some ways the prophecies may unfold.
The lead in
Starting back in the eighteenth century the seeds were sewn for rebellion. Even as Christianity asserted its rapidly-spreading influence over the world Satan was conducting his counter-attack. The so called Enlightenment saw a gaggle of philosophers inventing theories on the nature of Man and his development that favoured a growing insistence on Man evolving and acting independent of any God. This culminated philosophically and theologically in the nineteenth century with the Theory of Evolution and a ‘higher critical’ re-evaluation of the Bible that insisted it was mostly the work of men. Humanism also emerged from the Enlightenment; the idea that Man is the author and perfector of his own destiny. These movements manifested last century in widespread atheism, the growth of state-centred power, a morality breakdown, ‘earth-mother’ environmentalism, radical feminism and a movement towards a global governing order. The stage was set for the end time prophecies and the Tribulation.
Two world wars, the cold war (wars and rumours of…), environmental alarms and global financial meltdowns have been used to ferment demands for all nations to come under closer centralised control. The United Nations, the international financial systems, along with their institutions, the growth of multinational corporations and regional economic alliances have all played their part in encouraging this centralising process and moving it close to a reality. Claims of a looming man-made global warming crisis and insecurities around terrorism have added a widespread desire for peace and security to the mix. Over the same period the Church has lost its way, becoming largely apostate and ineffectual. Meanwhile, the ‘birth pangs of Matthew 24 have been apparent. The twentieth century was marked by wars, epidemics, earthquakes, false teachers and the persecution of Christians and Jews. These events fit snugly with Bible end time prophecies that point to the emergence of a one-world economic system, a one world leader and a Church that has fallen away as the one who sustains it (the Holy Spirit) is distanced from events. There is also evidence of a return to a pantheistic worship of ‘god in nature’.
The end game
The forces at play behind the U.N., governments, international institutions and multi-national corporations will eventually have their way and some form of world-government will form. A major financial meltdown may be its catalyst. It will either drive, or ride the coat tails of an acclaimed peace accord that will bring to prominence a world leader (the Antichrist) who has the ability to succeed in everything he sets his mind to achieve. He will almost certainly be hailed as a great leader, able to rally the world around a new economic, spiritual and political order that will personify all that God said concerning the accretion of power in 1 Samuel 8:10-18. His rise to power is probably reflected in the opening of the first seal (Revelation 6:1-2).
The peace treaty he secures will involve an initial seven year time frame before it is re-evaluated. The treaty, given the importance of Israel and Jerusalem must include an entente across the three monotheistic faiths that brings apparent peace to the Middle East and high levels of global confidence in a world government promising long lasting peace and security. In this context the ECT agreement (Evangelicals and Catholics Together), the virtual collapse of Protestantism and conciliatory moves between ‘Christians’ and Moslems (the Pope symbolically kisses the Koran in 1999) all presage an ecumenical accord. The false prophet, widely touted to be the Catholic Pope, will make achieving this cross-religious ecumenical pact possible (Revelation 17:3-17). In 2013 the new Pope has instigated interfaith dialogue between Jews, Christians and Muslims and openly claimed we all worship the same God (http://christiannews.net/2013/12/16/pope-meets-with-head-of-international-islamic-organization/). The world leader (the Antichrist figure of Revelation) will be working closely with the false prophet. It is also possible that we should look not to the Catholic Church for the false prophet but to Islam. Radical Islam is looking to see the re-establishment of the Caliphate with a leader who is the spiritual descendant, so to speak, of Mohammad.
Off the back of the treaty, Islamic leaders will agree to the rebuilding of the temple, in some form, next to the Dome of the Rock. Plans have already been drawn up for the temple and modern construction methods will mean it could easily be completed, or substantially completed well before the end of the Tribulation’s first half.
Satan will be orchestrating events (the Dragon of Revelation). The new ecumenical accord will involve acceptance of some new religious rite which celebrates the ‘light bringer’ or giver of light, which the different faiths can attribute to their own deity. It will probably be associated with a modern pantheistic cum pseudo-scientific belief in mother earth and its life force pervading everything. Hindu’s and Buddhists will find this acceptable. Only true Christians will see this as demonic. Even now this false religious pantheism is embedded in the U.N. (Read Totalataria, 2013, by Ian Wishart) and lies at the heart of many environmental movements.
Muslims, may accept this turn of events at a political level, but the fundamentalist nature of Islam will never accept any rapprochement with Israel. A popularist backlash will grow quickly. According to the Islamic Hadith, the land of Israel is wakf; a land under trust to Allah, because it has been occupied by Moslems. The Hadith also insists all Jews must be killed before the resurrection of Muslims can occur. Therefore, any peace will be regarded as only a Hudna – a temporary cease fire. This creates an impossible impediment to any peace; something that is clearly demonic since Satan may well think he has only to defeat God on his covenant with Israel and God’s integrity would be shattered. For these reasons there can be little doubt that Muslim activists will call on the Islamic world to oppose the peace and it will quickly break down –the second seal is opened (Revelation 6:3-4). This will form part of the cascade into the third and fourth seals (vv.5-8), although other factors, apart from war, are probably also at work to cause the famine and death these seals refer to. Genetically modified crops might unleash the ‘killer gene’ that makes it hard to grow food. War may break out between India and China or the Chinese and Americans. The new world government may institute deep ecology policies that call for the dramatic reduction in the world’s population. Civil war may break out in Europe over the Islamic immigrant invasion or European Union policies. A range of other scenarios are also possible.
Initially, the people of the earth will be besotted with the turn of events, having been assailed for decades with fears over global insecurities, indebtedness, the threat of wars and the climate crisis claims of environmentalists. With a global governing entity seemingly getting on top of all these issues and with the peace treaty as its flagship, the world’s people will happily submit to a new global order that supplants the nation state. They will readily accept a centralised economic system requiring them to be individually registered using a personalised smart chip or other technology. It will mean they can seamlessly manage their personal affairs by becoming part of a global economic and social system. There will also be the promise of enhancing ‘trans-human’ technologies that will seem to offer more promise of future ‘immortality’ than any monotheistic claims concerning the after-life.
It is reasonable to assume the new global order with a central governing entity with its mark of the beast system will all be launched early on in the Tribulation’s first half. Given the horrendous nature of the trumpet and bowl judgements it would seem unlikely that much energy would be devoted to introducing a new global economic and political order over the second half. It is more than likely that the planning for this new order has already been completed. Much of its underlying infrastructure is already in place. Powerful people have been talking about a new world order for decades and the instruments for its introduction, such as the Vienna Convention, global financial system and the many binding U.N. declarations are already operating. Its introduction may well start prior to the final seven years, paving the way for the treaty at its start. The Copenhagen conference a few years back had setting up a global government on its agenda but the early leaking of this move allowed activists to thwart it.
Given that Revelation 12:6 refers to the women, or Church in Israel, being sheltered for 3.6 years it means things have already boiled over in Israel by the Tribulations mid-point. We can therefore predict the opening of the seals brings war and rumours of war in a rapidly escalating scale culminating in a massed attack on Israel by a federation of Islamic states, possibly led by Turkey and supported indirectly by Russia and China. Israel must suffer grievous losses but it is not defeated, otherwise the much larger invasion destined for the end of the seven years and orchestrated by the Antichrist would not be necessary. If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, its presence will create a balance, or mutually assured destruction between the Arab world and Israel which will neutralise the Israeli ability to use its nuclear arsenal as a last resort. This will embolden the Islamic world and make attacking Israel viable. It is also possible that we should look to a much weakened U.S. An Islamic attack on Israel is unlikely if a quick intervention by the U.S was likely to happen.
The Antichrist will probably be at the zenith of his power to rally the nations against God when he takes over the temple in Jerusalem at the half way point – based on the prophecy that he will exercise authority for 42 months, but it all ends towards the end of the Tribulation when God casts him into hell, along with the false prophet (Revelation 19:20).
The two specific 3.5 year periods of either persecution or protection referred to earlier may correspond to the Tribulation’s two halves. The first, mentioned in Daniel 7:25b, refers to the unfettered power the Antichrist will be allowed to exercise over the saints. This will obviously involve persecution and martyrdom and will probably revolve around the ‘mark’ issue. Logic suggests this period must occur before the second period of 3.5 years which has to do with the protection of Christians (the ‘woman’) noted in Revelation 12:6. This is because the two appear to be mutually exclusive; unless there is a differentiation between messianic Christians and gentile Christians (c.f. Revelation 12:17), or the two periods are concurrent. The latter seems unlikely but perhaps Revelation 12: 13-17 suggests otherwise. Perhaps God protects his people precisely because he gives the Antichrist power over them. Given the references to martyrdom during the Tribulation it is certain that Christian are persecuted. Under what circumstances that occurs remains to be seen. The more plausible scenario is two distinct periods. If both Daniel 7:27 and Revelation 12:6 refer to the whole Church then it cannot be protected and persecuted at the same time. The Chapter 12 reference must allude to Christian (messianic) Jews getting to a place of safety as the coalition armies close on Israel, but it may also refer to Christians across the world escaping harm during the trumpet and bowl judgements, as per Psalm 91:1-8 where the righteous see, but are not affected by, the punishment of the wicked.
A global new world order will promise much:
- The maintenance of world peace, using an international system for controlling and using existing military forces across the globe.
- Safety and security, even if some freedoms must be sacrificed.
- Resolution of the debt mountain issues.
- Effective climate change management – which may involve shrinking the human population.
- The pursuit of advanced genetic and other sciences that promise access to ‘six-million dollar man’ technologies, including enhanced human capabilities, including much longer lives and freedom from disease.
- Policies that will eliminate poverty, hunger and over-population.
- Energy technologies that allay fears concerning a peak oil scenario.
- A comforting Gaia, or mother earth pantheism with people embracing the idea that they are part of god in nature and free to explore whatever feels right for them.
- The allures of post-human technologies that promise to take humans past their physical life spans by merging humans with human-like robotics.
It will appear as if Man has finally risen above petty cultural, national and moral prejudices and embraced John Lennon’s imagined world of harmony and happiness with the added promise of techno-immortality. Unfortunately, there will be a number of rips in this otherwise seamless robe that world leaders, under the Antichrist, will determine to patch as quickly as possible before they shred the whole garment. They will be:
- Emergent Jewish Christianity and its likely de-stabilising effect in the Middle East.
- The unexplained disappearance of large numbers of Christians across the world – assuming a rapture prior to the tribulation, or during its first half.
- Obdurate Christians who refuse to accept the new global personal information and identification system.
- The much hailed peace applies only to the Middle East. Tensions elsewhere may be growing over access to raw materials and energy sources with the world divided roughly into three blocks: the West, Russia and central Asia and China – with its allies.
- Many in the Islamic world will be agitating against the peace as it abrogates Allah’s call on them to restore Israeli lands to full Islamic control and destroy Jewry. As Israel resists this growing agitation they will be dubbed the rogue state threatening world peace.
The seven seals of Revelation confirm that the peace treaty will be a charade. It will perform the same function of the false peace proclaimed in Judah (Jeremiah 6:14, 8:11). A peace that tries to reconcile differences rooted in religious and political opposites cannot succeed. Apart from existing geo-political tensions of Oriental, Islamic and Russian origins, fermented by poorly conceived western interventions, events like a Jewish messianic renaissance, coupled with resentments around the operation of the peace accord would make the acclaimed peace a largely hypocritical device employed by a world leader to achieve other objectives. Because Satan is behind it all the destruction of Israel has to lie at the centre of a peace accord, even as it claims to protect Israeli interests.
Power-block rivalries over markets, regional influence and raw materials will be inflamed by the opening of the seven seals which promise conflict, war, famine, mass death, huge earthquakes and persecution. These are all going to unfold rapidly in the first half of the tribulation. The peace treaty will be quickly exposed as a fraud and Israel will find itself facing another multi-nation assault, fueled by the Temple going up on temple mount as a direct affront to Islam. No doubt it will be claimed the Israelis broke the treaty in some way, while they in their turn will refuse to suspend construction of the temple, claiming it was all ‘signed-off’. Other factors pertaining to conditions within the treaty are also likely to be at issue, but we will not know what they are until it actually happens.
The resurgent anti-Semitism across the world suggests most nations will side with Islam and the Palestinians. Israel will be forced to mobilise and may even conduct pre-emptive strikes to try and ward-off an attack during the first half of the Tribulation. This perfect storm must have international ramifications politically, militarily and economically. Those nations who perceive they have much to lose from either a breakdown in the new world order, or its success, will become bellicose and take action to support a ‘grand campaign’. Countries like Russia and China may well leverage off the breakdown in the treaty to pursue their own global agenda. The four horses of the apocalypse will be at work.
The Antichrist leader steps into all of this half way through the Tribulation (Daniel 9:27) in a way that dramatically changes the situation. He occupies the temple and flaunts the fact on ‘the wing of the temple’ to either shore up the peace, or proclaim Israel the defaulter deserving the sanction of its enemies. His occupation of the temple will almost certainly be accompanied by the introduction or promotion of a pagan worship system of an ecumenical nature to placate other faiths and mock Jewry. This will add fuel to the messianic reformation, alarm Israel and play perfectly into God’s time-line for Armageddon.
By the time the Antichrist occupies the temple it is more than likely the first phase in an Israeli war has already taken place with Israel holding its own, but so weakened that an invasion, with the terrible loss of life and enemy occupation described in the Bible, is a foregone conclusion. Events surrounding a wider world war are also probable, but the Revelation account focuses on Israel for it is there that God will finally judge the nations and bring an end to this current era.
If war does flares up around Israel during the first half of tribulation it will clearly continue through to the end. Overall, war, quite apart from God’s trumpet and bowl judgements, is likely to play out like this:
- Arab/Islamic opposition to the peace and the rebuilding of the temple will spark an attack on Israel, with it being branded as the rogue state.
- The Israeli’s will hold off the attack but suffer heavy casualties.
- The Antichrist will step directly into the situation to shore-up his own position as the grand conductor, blame Israel for the collapse of peace and open the diplomatic and political gates to a concerted international invasion of Israel.
- Arab agitation and the ‘oil card’ will likely be the hooks of Ezekiel 38:4 that draws in the ‘stans’ Russia and China or Iran/Pakistan (the kings of the east) for the final assault and attempted annihilation of the Jews in Israel.
- Two-thirds of the Israeli population will die, quite apart from other possible war deaths elsewhere in the world over the same period.
- The return of Jesus and Armageddon occurs.
Christians in the Tribulation
Attempts to forestall Christian revival during the Tribulation will use the personal identity and information ‘mark’ as the modern equivalent of the Caesar-god fealty that had to be sworn by all during the Roman period. Laws would be passed to make it a ‘federal crime’ to refuse to contract with the new order and it would provide an excuse to oppress those Christians who refused to take it. The fifth seal marks the persecution of Christians (Revelation 6:9-11). As the situation becomes progressively worse this oppression would escalate into capital punishment, especially as the world wide worship of an idolatrous image is also involved. We will not attempt to speculate about that. God has also sent the two witnesses into Israel, inflaming the whole situation as they show up the false prophet and Antichrist as modern equivalents of the priests of Baal. They also ensure the Jewish messianic renaissance gains even more momentum, bringing anti-Semitism and the hatred for Christianity focused even more firmly on Israel.
The rapture is perhaps the most hotly debated issue. Some argue the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11:15 is tied to the last trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52. It is probably impossible to say the two trumpets are one in the same. For starters the former refers to the trumpet of God and the latter is an angel’s trumpet. Also the link between the last trumpet of Revelation and events is not defined and could easily refer to an indeterminate period rather than a specific timed sequence during the Tribulation (See: the-end-time.blogspot.co.nz/2011/09/last-trumpet-of-corinthians-and-7th.html).
Overall, we cannot say with any certainty, under the ‘light’ we have on all of this at present, how things will pan out specifically. But, if we continue to speculate, while trying to respect differing views on the subject, we can indulge in some further guesstimates related to the rapture because it pertains to the immediate future of the Church, if the Tribulation event is close.
If…a pre-tribulation rapture
A rapture event will be a monumental event the world would notice. Tens of millions of people would simply vanish (“one will be taken, the other left – Matthew 24:40-41). This would create considerable difficulties for world leadership. They might seek to suppress the news using a variety of strategies; claiming Christians have gone into hiding, or were the victims of an as yet unexplained UFO event. The Muslims may claim Satan has claimed his own. A media black out may limit public debate on the phenomenon. It will also be more than likely that governmental controls will be so strong that public debate will be limited through a politically correct fear of public derision and legal censure. It is quite possible a rapture would trigger the treaty event, rousing Satan to prosecute his agenda as quickly as possible in the light of God’s obvious intention to execute his end time judgements.
These is also another possibility. The likes of Rob Bell and Catholic theologians Robert Barron and Karl Rahner have been echoing the old Originian heresy that hell will be empty – that God’s love will ultimately triumph over any person dying in their sin. The argument assumes each person faces an irresistible appeal from God as they go through the final stages of dying. Or, although people do go to hell God’s love triumphs and their spirits are eventually drawn back to heaven by God’s grace. This is a re-design of Catholicism’s purgatory for which there is no Biblical support. Barron argues hell is simply a metaphor for loneliness and we don’t know if anyone is actually in hell. These arguments may well fortify rejection of Christian appeals and deafen them to apocalyptic warnings. The false good-people-go-to-heaven belief may also add to this mix. It is therefore not surprising that people will cling to their false world view despite a rapture and the Tribulation judgements. Even more importantly, the world will be steeped in its anti-God delusion (2 Thessalonians 2:11, Job 21-14-15, Romans 1:28, Psalm 10:4).
No amount of obfuscation concerning a rapture would satisfy those who were left behind. Those represented by the five bridesmaids without oil, those who have been ‘Christian-agnostics’ and the Jews would be alarmed. A grassroots surge of interest in Christianity is certain. The poor bridesmaid types would realise from Matthew 25:11-12 that they are lost forever (Hebrews 6:4-8), but that does not mean they do not evangelise their family and friends so they might avoid their fate. Widespread conversions will sweep the Jewish community around the world, as represented by the reference in Revelation Seven to the 144,000 from all twelve tribes of Israel. The use of this number (12 x 12) symbolises completeness, or the full measure with which Jews embrace the truth at last.
This messianic renaissance is fueled by the presence of the two witnesses who appear for 42 months before being killed (Revelation 11). Towards the end of the Tribulation all remaining Jews will recognise and embrace their messiah and prophecy concerning God’s faithfulness to them will be fully realised. Those in Israel, rather than the large number of Jews in the U.S.A. (about 40%) and elsewhere, may be more resistant to Jesus. Zechariah 12:10 suggests those non-messianic Jews left alive in Israel on Jesus’ return actually see him in the flesh and like Thomas, finally believe. Prior to that many of them will try to battle on in their own strength, believing their historic victories against the odds will happen again.
A mid-Tribulation rapture
Those subscribing to this position see the true identity of the anti-Christ only emerging at the end of the first half of the Tribulation. This is based on an interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 which concludes the translation of Christians will not happen until ‘the man of lawlessness’ is revealed. His temple intervention at the midway point, foreseen in Daniel 9, would unequivocally expose him. They also point to the fact that in the case of Noah, Lot and the Christians trapped in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., God snatched them from the jaws of disaster at the last moment. Thus, a rapture during the tribulation, perhaps around the time of the seventh seal, is plausible.
Inevitably, there are some fish hooks in this argument:
There is an unwarranted assumption that 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 prescribes the Antichrist’s identity will only become apparent at the half-way point, but this conflicts with Daniel 9:27’s seven-year treaty. This would surely be a significant event that would clearly signal who he was to true Christians – the bridesmaids with oil in their lamps (Matthew 25) and those Christians who have remained alive to the times – they are not asleep (1 Thessalonians 5:4-5). The other trends towards a new international order will also be apparent – they are apparent now. Since the Daniel 9 prophecy links a particular leader to the treaty it seems improbable that the Antichrist’s identity would not be apparent right from the start of the Tribulation.
So what of it? The parable of the ten bridesmaids in Matthew 25 and the preceding companion analogy at the end of Matthew 24 are perhaps the biggest hurdles to a mid-trib or late-trib rapture. Taken together they provide a quite detailed picture of expectational conditions prior to the rapture. As in the days of Noah and in the thief in the night situation there is no ‘situational awareness’. Christians will not be keeping watch; their guard will be down; they will not be paying attention to the signs of the times. There will be a general ambivalence concerning preparedness. This cannot mean every Christian will be unaware. Jesus encourages us to be ready (Matthew 24:44, 46) suggesting he expects some to be anticipating his imminent return. In the days of Noah, God had revealed his intentions to Noah and instructed him to warn the people. So, some will be reading the signs and will know the rapture is coming some time soon.
The problem for the mid-trib position is tied to comments made already. It seems to stretch credibility to hold that after a very obvious treaty that ticks all the end times boxes that the bridesmaids would not have woken up at the signing of the treaty. They would, after-all, be people familiar with the Daniel 9 prophecy. Those without spare oil are clearly those who have adopted Christian culture without being born again, or having become Christians have ‘fallen-away’ (Hebrews 6:5-6). They have never taken the Bible seriously, let alone its end times prophecies. It is both they and the true Christian who are asleep prior to the revelation of the anti-Christ, but it is hard to accept his identity would remain a mystery post treaty. If this conclusion is correct the rapture has to occur prior to the treaty and therefore prior to the Tribulation.
It is also difficult to accept that the first half of the tribulation would progress without significant events pointing to it as the last seven-year period. The temple would be going up, the Antichrist and false prophet would be active. The new world order would be either in place or in train with the ‘mark of the beast system’ being introduced.
Relying on 2 Thessalonians 2 to support a mid-trib rapture may also fail because the ‘revelation’ of the Antichrist (vv. 3-4) is not reliant on his connection to the temple, but on his acts of defiance against God. The first such bookend act is the peace treaty where he counterfeits Christ as ‘prince of peace’ and ‘wonderful counsellor’ (Isaiah 9:6). In addition the day of the Lord and “being gathered to him” (v.1) do not necessarily relate to the same day or moment. They refer to two events but to assume the ‘and’ makes them definitively concurrent may be incorrect.
Truth Watch does not dismiss a mid-trib rapture. Some members believe it is the right scenario. It is up to each Christian to look at the Scriptures and decide where they want to position themselves. The argument is academic because no one will really know until the actual events happen. However, given the state of the Church now it is not impossible to imagine large numbers of Christians going on past the treaty in a somnambulant state. So in the end the mid-tribbers may well be right.
Final observations around God’s judgements
As observed earlier, the Tribulation is global. It must be so because the whole world is complicit in the final rebellion and stands condemned anyway for rejecting the one true God. A one world order and a one world system referred to as Babylon the Great with its associated economic and commercial arm – the mark of the Beast, will insolently hold God in contempt and reap his final acts of judgement. The world is now so close to the one world system referred to in Revelation that it is reasonable to conclude the Tribulation is imminent.
Spending a lot of time covering the judgements of revelation is unnecessary because many others more qualified to do so have waxed lyrical on the subject for a long time. All we will do is make some over-arching comments.
God’s judgements are described under three headings – the seven seals, the seven trumpets and the seven vials or bowls. Although they are depicted sequentially it is more than likely that they overlap to a greater or lesser extent. One thing is for sure; despite environmental disasters on an epic scale, nations will continue to operate geo-politically and militarily until the end. The wholesale rejection of God also continues, even when people are in despair. This may mirror the pathology that has followed in the wake of natural and man-made disasters for more than a century. Rather than turning to God under such circumstances the now common argument is to use large-scale tragedies as an argument against God, on the basis that a loving God would not let bad things happen. Therefore, if they do happen God cannot exist. In similar fashion those rejecting God during the Tribulation may do so because they refuse to accept he has, if he is a God of grace and love, the right to afflict them. Since he is defying that nature, as they perceive it, he has no right to expect their belief, repentance or obedience. This sort of obdurate, twisted thinking, is already prevalent today. In a world where God gives people over to their delusions this obstinate blindness will be magnified in child-like belligerence.
We can therefore predict a world during the Tribulation that embraces a Babel-like unity around a Nimrod-like figure and a system of global governance that requires individual fealty to monist mother-earth spirituality and a commercial system that brooks no opposition. The U.N.’s Agenda 21 has already made mother earth environmentalism a top priority. People will sacrifice their freedoms and democracy for what they think will be security, prosperity and environmental purity, while some will sacrifice their lives in martyrdom, because they refuse to bow before it. The world will be so steeped in a narcissistic pleasure and materialistic world view, or so mired in difficulties that they will not spare a thought for truth. They will therefore be unable to read the signs of the times or take those who warn them of impending doom seriously. They will have been so conditioned to believe lies that the truth will look like fantasy. It will be as it was in the days of Noah. Perhaps God targets the environment for so many of his judgements to target mother-earth worship, with its associated insistence that Man is simply another evolved animal, not made by God in his image.
Anti-Semitism will rapidly become endemic, fueled by Islamic and satanic propaganda. That Antisemitism must be satanic can be inferred from the fact that there is no logical reason why Muslims or any other people group should hate Jews to the extent that they would want to exterminate them. The only one who wants to eliminate God’s people, as the ultimate challenge to God’s authority, is Satan himself. If he can thwart God’s plan for Israel he can postpone his own end.
As the seals are opened war will become the common modus operandi and the Pax-Americana will no longer hold it back. The fuhrer-like worship of a leader-figure and claims of peace will be mired, paradoxically, in wars that may well be world-wide, before concentrating on the Middle East. God will wreck environmental havoc on a scale reminiscent of the flood and the plagues sent on Egypt. Israel will appear to be the only impediment to either a lasting peace or the hegemony of rival power blocks. Either way, Israel’s destruction will assume a priority that will draw the nations into God’s final subjugation prior to the dawn of Jesus’ millennial reign. Through it all God will continue to draw both Israel and those able to see past all the obfuscation and lies to him. Two witnesses with international profiles and the shock of a rapture, no matter when it occurs, plus the terrible Tribulation events, will turn unknown numbers to Christ. In the end conjecture about the end times will seem of little account when all God’s people are finally united with him, in Christ – forever.
At the end
When the Tribulation has run its course Man’s ‘earth lease’ (“the time of the gentiles” – Luke 21:24b) is terminated and God assumes direct control. The 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ begins with the judgement of the ‘sheep and goats’ (Joel 3:1-2, Matthew 25:31-46). Christians and messianic Jews who are still alive move bodily into Jesus millennial kingdom. They do not face judgement because they are not under God’s condemnation (Romans 8:1). Those Jews who refused to recognise their messiah will be judged and cast from Jesus’ presence (Ezekiel 20:34-38). All those who died in Christ will be brought into everlasting life (Daniel 12:2-3, Mathew 16:27, Revelation 20:4-6). Christians then serve as Jesus ‘agents’ during Jesus reign and remain with him for eternity. Romans 11:26-27 is fulfilled with all Israel being saved and all God’s promises to his people are honoured.
We assume some percentage of the world’s population will be left and the nations will be rebuilt under the authority of Christ. After 1000 years with no abortion or wars the world’s population will grow to a substantial size.
Satan is released for a short period at the end of the 1000 year reign and is allowed to deceive the nations once again, before being cast once and for all into hell. We assume this last cast of Satan’s dice is to sieve the nations once and for all-time for believers and non-believers. There can be no sin and no 'fallen-ness' in God's eternal realm
The Holy Bible – various translations
MacArthur John F. (1999). The Second Coming: Signs of Christ’s Return and the End of the Age. Crossway Books, Illinois.
Prasch James J. (2011). Shadows of the Beast: How the Identity of the Coming Antichrist will be Revealed to the Faithful Church. Moriel Ministries, Pittsburgh.