Category Archives: End Times Questions

Questions about the End Times: Who Is the Man of Lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12?

 

The man of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12 is the Antichrist who will come on the world scene at the beginning of the Day of the Lord. This Day, sometimes called the “end times,” starts after the rapture of the church in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:1–11). It is good to note that the Day of the Lord is not a twenty-four-hour period of time; rather, it is an extended period of time that includes the seven-year tribulation, the return of Christ to put down all rebellion against Him, the 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth, the final defeat of Satan, and the Great White Throne Judgment.

The Antichrist is given the title “man of lawlessness” because he will oppose in every way the biblical God and His law. He will be completely lawless. Daniel 7 speaks of this man as a “boastful” king who will “try to change the set times and the laws” (verses 11 and 25). He will come offering a false peace to the world and will with his charismatic personality, incredible promises, and breathtaking miracles unite all nations politically, economically, and religiously under his leadership. At the same time, he will make a covenant with Israel for three and one-half years (cf. Daniel 9:27, where “seven” indicates seven years). In the middle of the seven years, the man of lawlessness will break his covenant with Israel, stop their sacrifices (Daniel 9:27), and enter the temple to set himself up as “god” and demand worship (2 Thessalonians 2:4). This is the “abomination that causes desolation” that Jesus spoke of in Mark 13:14.

Satan works through the Antichrist, for Satan himself is not able to become incarnate. By possessing and controlling the Antichrist, Satan is worshipped in the temple where the biblical God is to be worshipped. No wonder the Antichrist is called the man of lawlessness. To act as “god” is the ultimate rejection of the biblical God’s character and laws.

This action of the Antichrist will cause an upheaval in his worldwide kingdom, and forces from the East will gather to fight against him. But instead of fighting each other, the forces of the world unite to fight the King of kings and Lord of lords, who comes to put down the man of lawlessness and his allies in the great battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:16; 19:19). Of course, the man of lawlessness loses that battle. He and his false prophet are then cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20). The Word of God (Revelation 19:13), Jesus Christ, will be the Victor.

A quick observation of the happenings in our world today reveals that lawlessness is on the rise. Such lawlessness will continue and increase (2 Timothy 3:13), and when the man of lawlessness appears on the scene, he will be welcomed with open arms. Those who have rejected the true Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, will fall for the Antichrist’s empty promise of peace. It is vitally important that each of us is sure that we have accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and are living for Him. “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come” (Mark 13:33).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

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Questions about the End Times: Will All Israel Be Saved in the End Times?

 

Romans 11:26 plainly says, “All Israel will be saved.” The question that arises is “What is meant by Israel?” Is the future “Israel” literal or figurative (i.e., referring to the ethnic Jews or referring to the Church)? Those who take a literal approach to the promises of the Old Testament believe that the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be restored to a right relationship with God and receive the fulfillment of the covenants. Those who advocate replacement theology basically affirm that the Church has completely replaced Israel and will inherit God’s promises to Israel; the covenants, then, will be fulfilled only in a spiritual sense. In other words, replacement theology teaches that Israel will not inherit the actual land of Palestine; the Church is the “new Israel,” and ethnic Israel is forever excluded from the promises—the Jews will not inherit the Promised Land as Jews per se.

The literal approach seems better. The passages that speak of future Israel are difficult to view as figurative for the Church. The classic text (Romans 11:16–24) depicts Israel as distinct from the Church: the “natural branches” are the Jews, and the “wild branches” are the Gentiles. The “olive tree” is the collective people of God. The “natural branches” (Jews) are “cut off” the tree in unbelief, and the “wild branches” (believing Gentiles) are grafted in. This has the effect of making the Jews “jealous” and then drawing them to faith in Christ, so they might be “grafted in” again and receive their promised inheritance. The “natural branches” are still distinct from the “wild branches,” so that God’s covenant with His people is literally fulfilled. Romans 11:25–29, citing Isaiah 59:20–21; 27:9; Jeremiah 31:33–34, says:

In this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.

Here, Paul emphasizes the “irrevocable” nature of Israel’s calling as a nation. Isaiah predicted that a “remnant” of Israel would one day “be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the LORD” (Isaiah 62:12). Paul speaks of the “full inclusion” of Israel in the future (Romans 11:12). Regardless of Israel’s current state of unbelief, a future remnant will in fact repent and fulfill their calling to establish righteousness by faith (Romans 10:1–8; 11:5). This conversion will fulfill Moses’ prediction of Israel’s permanent restoration to the land (Deuteronomy 30:1–10). God’s larger redemptive plan involves both Jews and Gentiles. When Paul says Israel will be “saved,” he means their deliverance to this physical inheritance as integral to God’s ultimate plan (Romans 11:30–36).

So how will “all Israel be saved” and restored in the land? The details of this deliverance are filled out in passages such as Zechariah 8–14 and Revelation 7–19, which speak of end-times Israel at Christ’s return. The key verse describing the coming to faith of the future remnant of Israel is Zechariah 12:10, “I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.” This occurs during the tribulation prophesied in Daniel 9:24–27. The apostle John references this event in Revelation 1:7. The faithful remnant of Israel is epitomized in Revelation 7:1–8 and 11:1–12. These faithful ones the Lord will save and bring back to Jerusalem “in truth and righteousness” (Zechariah 8:7–8, NASB).

The tribulation period will feature unprecedented apostasy in Israel for 3½ years, with a “second exodus” arranged by God to protect the faithful remnant from Satan (Revelation 11–12) just as in the first Exodus. Isaiah predicted this as well: “In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people” (Isaiah 11:11). The gospel will be preached to all the world, and Christ will return to meet the faithful remnant (Revelation 14) and destroy the armies gathered against Him in rebellion (Revelation 19). The apostates left in Jerusalem will be purged, and the remnant set apart forever as God’s holy people (Zechariah 13:8–14:21). Isaiah 12 is their song of deliverance: Zion will rule over all the nations defeated under the banner of Messiah the King, and Israel’s “salvation” is the wholeness and peace she will enjoy during the millennial reign of Christ.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the End Times: What Are the Three Woes of Revelation?

 

Woe means “grief, anguish, affliction”; the three woes of Revelation are the final judgment God pronounces on the evil inhabitants of the earth in order to spur them to repentance (Revelation 9:20). The three woes are, indeed, a time of great anguish and affliction for those who have pledged their allegiance to the Antichrist during the end times.

The number 7 is significant in Revelation, and the three woes will come toward the end of the seven-year tribulation period right before the second coming of Christ. God’s judgments during the tribulation are pictured as seven seals, opened one at a time. The seventh seal reveals the seven trumpet judgments. The fifth, sixth, and seventh trumpets are called the three woes (Revelation 8:13).

The first woe is revealed after the fifth trumpet judgment. This woe is involves something like locusts that have the ability to sting like a scorpion (Revelation 9:3). Generally, these are not accepted as literal locusts because of their description and because they come from the Abyss and have a demonic overlord (Revelation 9:3, 7–8, 11). These creatures are permitted to harm only those people who do not have the “seal of God on their forehead” (Revelation 9:4). Those bearing God’s seal are the 144,000 (Revelation 7:3–4) or, possibly, all believers during that time (Ephesians 4:30). These demonic locusts are allowed to torment unbelievers for five months (Revelation 9:5) with painful stings. Although victims will long for death (Revelation 9:6), they will not be granted that release.

The second woe is revealed after the sixth trumpet judgment. This woe begins when a voice commands, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates” (Revelation 9:14). These four angels are demons who were cast from heaven along with Satan. God is right now keeping them imprisoned until the appointed time (Revelation 9:15; cf. Jude 1:6; 2 Peter 2:4). These angels and their armies, numbering two hundred million, are released to kill a third of mankind (Revelation 9:15–16).

After the second woe passes (Revelation 11:14), there comes a clear division in the book with the announcement from heaven, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ” (Revelation 11:15). In other words, this final stage of judgment will be the end, and righteousness will be restored to the earth.

The third woe is revealed after the seventh trumpet judgment. This woe is parallel to the trumpet that sounds in Joel 2 and signals the consummation of God’s plan for the entire world. This third woe marks the finishing of God’s judgment on sin; it occupies the book of Revelation through the 19th chapter, when Christ’s Kingdom is established on earth. Incorporated within this third and final woe are the seven “bowls” of God’s wrath, described in Revelation 16:1–21. This series of judgments is the greatest horror the citizens of earth have ever seen. Jesus said, “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive” (Matthew 24:22).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the End Times: Is Jesus Going to Return during the Blood-Red Moon of 2015?

 

Gaining in popularity today is the teaching that a series of blood-red moons in the next two years will be a portent of Jesus’ second coming and a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Astrological charts show four lunar eclipses will occur from 2014 to 2015. Because a full lunar eclipse often makes the moon look red or orange, it is sometimes referred to as a “blood moon” or “blood-red moon.” Some teachers of prophecy say that this tetrad of blood moons will fulfill end-times prophecies in Joel and Revelation.

What has interested prophecy teachers is not just the number of lunar eclipses in the next two years but the timing of the eclipses. In both 2014 and 2015, a full lunar eclipse will occur on the first day of Passover and the first day of Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). In addition to the two lunar eclipses of 2015, two solar eclipses will also occur. Similar lunar eclipses in back-to-back years have happened seven times since the time of Christ. Some of those have occurred in years of significance for the Jewish people, such as 1948 (when Israel was granted statehood) and 1967 (when the Six-Day War was fought).

References to a moon like “blood” are found in two passages of the Bible. Joel 2:30–31 says, “I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” In Revelation 6:12, John describes one of the seal judgments of the Tribulation: “I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.” Other passages refer to the moon being “darkened” (Matthew 24:29; Joel 2:10).

A tetrad of lunar eclipses—and the timing of those eclipses in the Jewish calendar—is fairly unusual, but not unprecedented. So the fact of the eclipses, while interesting, is no proof that Jesus will return by 2015. Furthermore, John’s and Joel’s descriptions of the signs of the Day of the Lord could refer to solar and lunar eclipses, but there are other possible explanations for those phenomena, such as changes in the atmosphere (mentioned in Revelation 6:12).

The blood-red moon theory is just that—a theory. Even as a theory, it comes close to doing what the Bible warns against: setting dates for the coming of the Lord. “About that day or hour no one knows” (Mark 13:32).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the End Times: Does the Bible Say the United Nations Will Have a Role in the End Times?

 

Many believe the formation of the United Nations was a key development relating to biblical prophecy of the end times. The United Nations is not mentioned by name in the Bible, and neither is its predecessor, the League of Nations; of course, that does not mean it is not symbolically suggested in prophecy. The possibility of a one-world government has come and gone constantly over the past 2,000 years since John wrote the book of Revelation. As the United Nations has gained more power, it has provided fodder for various conspiracy theories. At the same time, the rise of the UN is a valid field of study for students of prophecy and for anyone anticipating the New World Order.

A one-world or global government is predicted in Daniel and Revelation. It will come after the rise of a confederation of ten nations or regions (Revelation 13:1; Daniel 7:16–24; Daniel 2:41–42). One member of the confederation will displace three of the other members, subdue the others, and rule over all, led by the satanically empowered Antichrist. It is this confederation of ten nations that is most often connected with the United Nations. If this connection is correct, it may be that the UN or a similar group is mentioned, indirectly, in the Bible, but there is no way to be completely sure before the Antichrist makes his appearance.

Another prophecy that some people connect with the United Nations is found in Revelation 17–18. There, “Babylon the great” or the “Whore of Babylon” is condemned. The first mention of Babel is in Genesis 11, the story of the Tower of Babel. The building of the tower was mankind’s first attempt at “world government” in defiance of God. Babylon the Great in the end times is a similar conglomeration of nations attempting to unite against God. This could be the United Nations or the European Union or some other, yet-to-be-identified bloc of countries associated with the Antichrist. The fact that this evil world system is called a “mystery” (Revelation 17:5) indicates that we do not know all the details yet.

It should be noted that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were quick to denounce the formation of the League of Nations. In 1919 the second president of the Watchtower Society condemned both the League and any person who supported it. They did the same when the United Nations was created, passing a resolution condemning it in 1963. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the UN is the “image of the beast” of Revelation 13:1–18 and the “abomination of desolation” mentioned in Matthew 24:15, although there is no clear hermeneutical evidence for either interpretation.

There are many international events which could be interpreted as the fulfillment of various apocalyptic prophecies in the Bible. However, we should be careful not to jump to conclusions. Throughout history there have been major international threats, possibilities of global totalitarian governments, and proud, out-of-control leaders. It may appear that our current situation is more likely to fulfill prophecy than past situations, and we can more clearly “see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). But until we see Christ, we must trust God and continue our efforts to spread the good news of His Kingdom with the resources we have been given.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the End Times: Will David Reign with Jesus in the Millennial Kingdom?

 

After the Tribulation and the Battle of Armageddon, Jesus will establish His 1,000-year Kingdom on earth. In Jeremiah 30, God promises Israel that the yoke of foreign oppression would be cast off forever, and “instead, they will serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them” (verse 9). Speaking of the same time, God says through the prophet Ezekiel, “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees” (Ezekiel 37:24). From the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, some have concluded that King David will be resurrected during the Millennium and installed as co-regent over Israel, ruling the Kingdom with Jesus Christ.

Jeremiah’s and Ezekiel’s prophecies should be understood this way: the Jews would one day return to their own country, their yoke of slavery would be removed, their fellowship with God would be restored, and God would provide them with a King of His own choosing. This King would, in some way, be like King David of old. These passages can refer to none other than the long-awaited Messiah, the “Servant of the Lord” (cf. Isaiah 42:1). The Jews sometimes referred to the Messiah as “David” because it was known the Messiah would come from David’s lineage. The New Testament often refers to Jesus as the “Son of David” (Matthew 15:22; Mark 10:47).

There are other reasons, besides being the Son of David, that the Messiah is referred to as “David.” King David in the Old Testament was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), he was an unlikely king of God’s own choosing, and the Spirit of God was upon Him (1 Samuel 16:12–13). David, then, is a type of Christ (a type is a person who foreshadows someone else). Another example of this kind of typology is Elijah, whose ministry foreshadowed that of John the Baptist to the extent that Malachi called John “Elijah” (Malachi 4:5; cf. Luke 1:17; Mark 9:11–13).

David will be resurrected at the beginning of the Millennium, along with all the other Old Testament saints. And David will be one of those who reign with Jesus in the Kingdom (Daniel 7:27). However, all believers will rule the nations (Revelation 2:26–27; 20:4) and judge the world (1 Corinthians 6:2). The apostle Peter calls Christians “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). In Revelation 3:21, Jesus says about the believer who conquers, “I will grant him to sit with me on my throne.” In some sense, then, Christians will share authority with Christ (cf. Ephesians 2:6). There is some biblical evidence, as in the Parable of the Ten Minas (Luke 19:11–27), that individuals will be given more or less authority in the Kingdom according to how they handle the responsibilities God has given them in this age (Luke 19:17).

Jesus is the King of kings (Revelation 19:16). Humanly speaking, Jesus is from the Davidic dynasty; but in power, in glory, in righteousness, and in every other way, He is rightly called the Greater David. “The government will be on his shoulders” (Isaiah 9:6). The Old and New Testaments reveal that the future King during the Millennium and all eternity is Jesus Christ and Him alone (Jeremiah 23:5; Isaiah 9:7; 33:22; Revelation 17:14; 1 Timothy 6:15).[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the End Times: Are We Living in the End Times?

 

The Bible prophesies of many events that will occur in the end times. These events can be categorized as natural signs, spiritual signs, sociological signs, technological signs, and political signs. We can look to what the Bible says about these things, and if the signs are present in abundance, we can be certain that we are, in fact, living in the end times.

Luke 21:11 lists some of the natural signs that will occur before Jesus’ Second Coming: “There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” In 13 years, between 1991 and 2004, the United States alone has experienced 5 of its costliest hurricanes in history, 3 of its 4 largest tornado swarms in history, and 9 of the 10 greatest disasters as determined by FEMA. We have recently seen Hurricane Sandy, which some have called the “perfect storm.” There is a huge upswing in the prevalence of sinkholes. As for great signs from heaven, we’ve seen the Chelyabinsk meteor, which exploded over Russia, emitting a powerful shock wave. All of these events seem to be a warm up to what is coming next—“birth pangs,” as Jesus called them (Matthew 24:8).

The Bible lists both positive and negative spiritual signs. In 2 Timothy 4:3–4 we discover that many people will follow false teachers. We see now an increase in cultic groups, heresy, deception and occultism, with many choosing to follow new age or pagan religions. On the positive side, Joel 2:28–29 prophesies that there will be a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16), and we are still seeing the effects of that outpouring in revivals and Spirit-led Christian movements, worldwide preaching of the gospel message, and the emergence of Messianic Judaism.

Along with the signs in the natural and spiritual realms, there are signs in society. The immorality rampant in society today is a symptom of mankind’s rebellion against God. Abortion, homosexuality, drug abuse and child molestation are proof that “evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse” (2 Timothy 3:13). We are now living in a hedonistic and materialistic society. People are lovers of themselves—“looking out for number one”—and doing what is right in their own eyes. All these things, and many more, can be seen around us every day (see 2 Timothy 3:1–4).

The fulfillment of some end-times prophecies seemed impossible until the advent of modern technology. Daniel 12:4 foretold an increase in knowledge. Some of the judgments in Revelation are more easily imagined in a nuclear age. In Revelation 13, the Antichrist will control commerce by forcing people to take the mark of the beast, and, given today’s advances in computer chip technology, the tools he will use may very well be here already. And through the internet, radio and television, the gospel can now be proclaimed to the entire world (Mark 13:10).

And there are political signs. The restoration of Israel to her land in 1948 is the single most impressive fulfilled prophecy proving that we live in the end times. At the turn of the 20th century, no one would have dreamed that Israel would be back in her land, let alone occupying Jerusalem. Jerusalem is definitely at the center of geopolitics and stands alone against many enemies; Zechariah 12:3 confirms this: “On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.” Matthew 24:6–7 predicted that “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” “Wars and rumors of wars” are definitely characteristic of this present age.

These are just a few of the signs that we are living in the end of the age. There are many more. God gave us these prophecies because He does not want anyone to perish, and He always gives ample warning before pouring out His wrath (2 Peter 3:9).

Are we living in the end times? The rapture could occur at any moment. God will deal with sin either by grace or by wrath. John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” Those who do not accept Jesus Christ as their savior will remain under the Lord’s wrath.

The good news is that it’s not too late to choose eternal life. All that is required is acceptance, by faith, of God’s free gift of grace. There is nothing you can do to earn grace; Jesus has paid the price for you (Romans 3:24). Are you ready for the Lord’s return? Or will you experience His wrath?[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the End Times: What Is the Prophecy of St. Malachy?

 

St. Malachy, whose Gaelic name was Máel Máedóc, was born in Ireland in AD 1094. He became a Catholic priest and later the Archbishop of Armagh. Several miracles have been attributed to him, according to evidence investigated by the Roman Catholic Church. He was the first Irishman to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.

Malachy was an influential reformer within Irish Catholicism, bringing its liturgical practices into closer agreement with those of Rome. For his efforts, he was appointed legate for Ireland, but during his second trip to Rome, in 1148, he became ill and died on November 2.

Malachy is known today for a set of prophecies, purportedly written by him in 1139, concerning the future line of Popes. His list started with his contemporary, Pope Celestine III and continued through the next 112 Popes. The last Pope would be called Petrus Romanus (“Peter the Roman”), whose reign would end with Judgment Day. Malachy’s vision of the future included a brief, cryptic description of each Pope.

According to Catholic tradition, Malachy’s prophecy remained hidden until AD 1590, when it was first published. It has been a source of conjecture and controversy ever since. The prophecy has recently come into focus again because of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. According to Malachy’s reckoning, Pope Francis I will be the last.

Here are the final five Popes, according to Malachy:

Flos Florum (“Flower of Flowers”)—Pope Paul VI De medietate Lunae (“Of the Half Moon”)—Pope Juan Pablo I De Labore Solis (“From the Toil of the Sun”)—Pope John Paul II Gloria Olivae (“The Glory of the Olive”)—Pope Benedict XVI Petrus Romanus (“Peter the Roman”)—Pope Francis I

Some people have found “evidence” that Malachy’s prophecy is true. For example, Paul VI’s coat of arms contained fleur-de-lys, thereby associating him with flowers. Other connections between the prophecy and the Popes are more strained and hardly plausible.

The prophecy of Malachy concerning the final Pope is as follows: “In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign Peter the Roman, who will feed his flock amid many tribulations, after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people. The End.” According to Malachy, the final Pope will take the title “Pope Peter the Roman” or a derivative thereof. According to Catholic teaching, the apostle Peter was the first Pope, and, according to Malachy, another Peter will be the final one.

The mention of “persecution” and the destruction of Rome in Malachy’s prophecy have led some to believe that the final Pope will be the Antichrist or the False Prophet of Revelation 19:20. There are others who find a prediction of a “black Pope” in Malachy’s writings.

Because Malachy was immersed in the teachings and dogmas of the Catholic Church, his prophetic utterances and dreams are questionable at best. His prophecy is extra-biblical; for that matter, the whole concept of a “Pope” is extra-biblical. Rather than interpret the end times according to the dreams of a Catholic mystic, we should trust what God’s Word says in the books of Daniel, Revelation, and Zechariah.

The Bible warns about listening to false prophets who speak as though their oracles were given to them by God. Jeremiah 23:32 says, “ ‘Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,’ declares the Lord. ‘They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least.’ ”[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the End Times: Does the Harbinger Really Predict America’s Future?

 

The book The Harbinger: the Ancient Mystery that holds the secret of America’s Future by Messianic Jewish Rabbi Jonathan Cahn has been a best-seller and has sparked controversy and much discussion. There is no question as to Cahn’s passion about alerting his fellow countrymen to the spiritual, economic, and moral dangers that the United States faces. But is Cahn’s interpretation of the book of Isaiah correct, and are those Old Testament prophecies applicable to modern-day America?

The back cover of the book clearly labels the book as “FICTION / Suspense,” and the line following the copyright page says, “What you are about to read is presented in the form of a story …” The rest of that sentence is ambiguous: “… but what is contained within the story is real.” If the author is saying that the book’s content is a real message from God to the USA, then it is important to examine his view of the meaning of biblical prophecy.

The story’s opening dialogue reads, “An ancient mystery that holds the secret to America’s future.” This attention-getting assertion is made by the story’s narrator and lead character, journalist Nouriel Kaplan. Kaplan is attempting to persuade Ana Goren, a media executive, to publish information that Kaplan believes will affect the economic, political, military, moral, and spiritual future of the United States. Even though Cahn presents this information in a fictional vehicle, he asserts that it is “real.” Is it?

In the story, a nameless prophet meets Kaplan on a number of occasions, giving him information about how recent events, including the World Trade Center terrorist attacks of 9/11, the housing boom, the war in Iraq, the 2008 collapse of Wall Street, etc., were predicted specifically by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. The prophet leads Kaplan to understand that Isaiah not only warned his own nation (Israel) about the danger of abandoning God but, in a mysterious way, also predicted America’s contemporary events.

In drawing parallels between Israel and America, Cahn asserts several things: first, that America was founded on a covenant with God as much as Israel was. Second, that America is being released from God’s protection to suffer the consequences of having marginalized Him. Third, that Isaiah predicted all of this.

Cahn’s prophet in the book tells Kaplan that each of the key American events since September 11, 2001, is a harbinger of America’s coming fall; each disaster is another warning from God for America to return to Him. Cahn’s point, couched as it is in a fictional narrative, is that, unless the U.S. changes course, it will suffer the same fate as the ancient nations. That is, God will allow America’s enemies, external and internal, to bring it down. Cahn sees evidence for his claim in the words of Isaiah 9.

Cahn identifies Isaiah 9:8–10 as revealing the main harbinger of coming disaster: “The Lord has sent a message against Jacob; it will fall on Israel. All the people will know it—Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria—who say with pride and arrogance of heart, ‘The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars.’ ” In the original context, God is expressing His anger at Israel over their refusal to repent from their idolatry. Even after receiving God’s discipline in the form of several disasters, the nation of Israel hurled their defiance at God Himself. To paraphrase Israel’s words, they said, “God, You may have allowed our enemies to damage our city, but we will rebuild it even stronger.” This was conscious and deliberate rebellion against God. The Israel of Isaiah’s day would not bow to God, not even under His rod.

Cahn’s prophet in The Harbinger quotes government leaders using similarly defiant words following the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Since U.S. leaders used the words, “We will rebuild” and expressed a “spirit of defiance,” Cahn applies God’s angry words in Isaiah 9 to America. The problem with this interpretation is that when America’s leaders vowed to rebuild the World Trade Center, they were not defying God but the terrorists who demolished it. Israel was defying both their human enemies and God. Cahn’s linking of the two nations with the same prophecy is unfair. The principle behind Isaiah’s prophecy—that judgment may befall any nation that forsakes God—could be applied to America. It may be a fascinating coincidence that Isaiah mentions fallen bricks. The book may be exciting to read. But it is faulty Bible interpretation to take a prophecy clearly meant for Israel and make the details pertain to modern-day America.

Cahn does not claim in his book to be a prophet. Neither does he claim to have received the message of his story directly from God. He writes as a teacher, putting into the mouth of Kaplan what he understands to be both the original and the contemporary meanings of Isaiah’s prophecy. Cahn does not claim that Isaiah uses the name America or the United States in his prophecies. He does not even claim that Isaiah had a dual fulfillment of his prophecies in mind. Cahn’s apparent purpose in his book is to spin a convincing yarn and persuade readers of a real danger America faces in light of Cahn’s understanding of how Israel’s situation in 600–500 BC applies to America’s current situation.

In the book, Cahn creates a fictional means of revealing prophecy from God—clay seals, such as were used to hold impressed signatures on official documents. In The Harbinger, the prophet gives Kaplan a set of nine such seals. Each seal supposedly represents a national event in Israel’s history—a harbinger that warned of final collapse and dispersion into the surrounding pagan nations—as well as a current event in America, heralding ultimate doom if America does not repent.

Cahn connects each seal with a serious American event in the decade following September 11, 2001, and with an object or an event in Israel’s history. Since Cahn is writing fiction, he is free to manufacture not only clay seals but coincidences. His creative way of identifying the coincidences is both fascinating and convincing, as far as the story goes. He sees in the coincidences a pattern of God’s warnings to both His chosen nation, Israel, and the U.S. Each seal and its related dire event are harbingers of ultimate doom. America is being warned to turn back to God.

Persuasive preaching about a real need, yes; accurate interpretation of a Bible text, no. The problem is that Israel is the only nation with whom God has made a covenant, through Abraham (Genesis 12:1–3). America is not Israel.

If you read The Harbinger, remember that only time can reveal the validity of what claims to be prophecy from God (Deuteronomy 18:21–22). And, even though the book may use some faulty interpretations, do not close your heart to Cahn’s essential message. He is right that America needs to repent. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). The United States of America very likely will meet the same fate as ancient Israel if its people do not repent. Americans need to give their hearts to God and exercise faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. To that end we should pray.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the End Times: What Are the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Midtribulational View of the Rapture (Midtribulationism)?

 

Eschatologically speaking, it is important to remember that almost all Christians agree on three things: 1) there will be a future time of Tribulation such as the world has never seen, 2) the Ssecond Coming Jesus Christ, and 3) a translation from mortality to immortality for believers, commonly known as the Rapture (John 14:1–3; 1 Corinthians 15:51–52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17). The question is when does the Rapture occur in relation to the Tribulation and the Second Coming? The three main theories concerning the timing of the rapture are pretribulationism (the belief that the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation begins), midtribulationism (the belief that the Rapture will occur at the midpoint of the Tribulation), and posttribulationism (the belief that the Rapture will occur at the end of the Tribulation). This article deals specifically with the midtribulational view.

Midtribulationism teaches that the Rapture occurs at the midpoint of the Tribulation. At that time, the seventh trumpet sounds (Revelation 11:15), the church will meet Christ in the air, and then the bowl judgments are poured upon the earth (Revelation 15–16) in a time known as the Great Tribulation. In other words, the Rapture and Christ’s Second Coming (to set up His kingdom) are separated by a period of three-and-a-half years. According to this view, the church goes through the first half of the Tribulation but is spared the worst of the Tribulation which occurs in the last three-and-a-half years. Very close to midtribulationism is the belief in a “pre-wrath” rapture, i.e., a belief that the church is caught up to heaven before the “great day of … wrath” comes (Revelation 6:17).

In support of their view, midtribulationists point to the chronology given in 2 Thessalonians 2:1–3. The order of events is as follows: 1) apostasy, 2) the revelation of the Antichrist, and 3) the Day of Christ. The midtribulational view teaches that the Antichrist will not be decisively revealed until “the abomination which makes desolate” (Matthew 24:15), which occurs at the midpoint of the Tribulation (Daniel 9:27). Also, midtribulationists interpret “the Day of Christ” as the Rapture; therefore, the church will not be caught up to heaven until after the Antichrist is revealed.

Another foundational teaching of midtribulationism is that the trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52 is the same trumpet mentioned in Revelation 11:15. The trumpet of Revelation 11 is the final in a series of trumpets; therefore, it makes sense that it would be “the last trumpet” of 1 Corinthians 15. This logic fails, however, in view of the trumpets’ objectives. The trumpet that sounds at the Rapture is “the trumpet call of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16), but the one in Revelation 11 is a harbinger of judgment. One trumpet is a call of grace to God’s elect; the other is a pronouncement of doom on the wicked. Further, the seventh trumpet in Revelation is not the “last” trumpet chronologically—Matthew 24:31 speaks of a later trumpet which sounds at the commencement of Christ’s kingdom.

First Thessalonians 5:9 says that the church has not been appointed “to suffer wrath but to receive salvation.” This would seem to indicate that believers will not experience the Tribulation. However, midtribulationism interprets “wrath” as only referring to the second half of the Tribulation—specifically, the bowl judgments. Limiting the word in such a way seems unwarranted, however. Surely the terrible judgments contained in the seals and trumpets—including famine, poisoned rivers, a darkened moon, bloodshed, earthquakes, and torment—could also be considered the wrath of God.

Midtribulationism places the Rapture in Revelation 11, prior to the start of “the great tribulation.” There are two problems with this placement in the chronology of Revelation. First, the only occurrence of the term “great tribulation” in the entire book of Revelation is in 7:14. Second, the only reference to a “great day of wrath” is in Revelation 6:17. Both of these references come too early for a midtribulational Rapture.

And a final weakness of the midtribulational view is shared by the other two theories: namely, the Bible does not give an explicit time line concerning future events. Scripture does not expressly teach one view over another, and that is why we have diversity of opinion concerning the end times and some variety on how the related prophecies should be harmonized.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the End Times: What Are the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Posttribulational View of the Rapture (Posttribulationism)?

 

When considering any question involving eschatology (the study of end times), it is important to remember that almost all Christians agree on these three things:

1) There is coming a time of great tribulation such as the world has never seen,
2) After the Tribulation, Christ will return to establish His kingdom on earth,
3) There will be a Rapture—a “catching away” from mortality to immortality—for believers as described in John 14:1–3, 1 Corinthians 15:51–52, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17. The only question regards the timing of the Rapture: when will it occur in relation to the Tribulation and the Second Coming?

There are primarily three theories about the timing of the Rapture: the belief that the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation begins (pretribulationism), the belief that the Rapture will occur at the midpoint of the Tribulation (midtribulationism), and the belief that the Rapture will occur at the end of the Tribulation (posttribulationism). This article deals specifically with the posttribulational view.

Posttribulationism teaches that the Rapture occurs at the end, or near the end, of the Tribulation. At that time, the church will meet Christ in the air and then return to earth for the commencement of Christ’s Kingdom on earth. In other words, the Rapture and Christ’s Second Coming (to set up His Kingdom) happen almost simultaneously. According to this view, the church goes through the entire seven-year Tribulation. Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, and many Protestant denominations espouse a posttribulational view of the Rapture.

One strength of posttribulationism is that Jesus, in His extended discourse on the end times, says He will return after a “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21, 29). Also, the book of Revelation, with all its various prophecies, mentions only one coming of the Lord—and that occurs after the Tribulation (Revelation 19–20). Passages such as Revelation 13:7 and 20:9 also lend support to posttribulationism in that there will obviously be saints in the Tribulation. Also, the resurrection of the dead in Revelation 20:5 is called “the first resurrection.” Posttribulationists assert that, since this “first” resurrection takes place after the Tribulation, the resurrection associated with the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 cannot occur until then.

Posttribulationists also point out that, historically, God’s people have experienced times of intense persecution and trial. Therefore, they say, it should not be surprising that the church also experiences the Great Tribulation of the end times. In relation to this, the posttribulational view distinguishes “Satan’s wrath” (or “man’s wrath”) from “God’s wrath” in the book of Revelation. Satan’s wrath is directed against the saints, and God allows it as a means of purifying His faithful. On the other hand, God’s wrath is poured out on the Antichrist and his godless kingdom, and God will protect His people from that punishment.

One weakness of posttribulationism is the clear teaching of Scripture that those who are in Christ are not under condemnation and will never experience the wrath of God (Romans 8:1). While some judgments during the Tribulation specifically target the unsaved, many other judgments, such as the earthquakes, falling stars, and famines, will affect the saved and unsaved equally. Thus, if believers go through the Tribulation, they will experience the wrath of God, in contradiction of Romans 8:1.

Another weakness of the posttribulational view is that it must, to some extent, allegorize the Tribulation. Many posttribulationists teach that we are living in the Tribulation now; in fact, some say the Tribulation began immediately after Pentecost in Acts 2. Such teaching ignores the singular nature of the Tribulation as presented in Scripture (Matthew 24:21), that it will be a time of distress unparalleled in the history of the world. Also, posttribulationists face a difficulty in explaining the absence of the word “church” in all biblical passages related to the Tribulation. Even in Revelation 4–21, the lengthiest description of the Tribulation in all of Scripture, the word “church” never appears. Posttribulationists must assume that the word “saints” in Revelation 4–21 means the church, although a different Greek word is used.

And a final weakness of the posttribulational view is shared by the other two theories: namely, the Bible does not give an explicit time line concerning future events. Scripture does not expressly teach one view over another, and that is why we have diversity of opinion concerning the end times and some variety on how the related prophecies should be harmonized.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the End Times: What Are the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Pretribulational View of the Rapture (Pretribulationism)?

 

In eschatology, it is important to remember that almost all Christians agree on these three things: 1) there is coming a time of great tribulation such as the world has never seen, 2) after the Tribulation, Christ will return to establish His kingdom on earth, and, 3) there will be a Rapture—a translation from mortality to immortality—for believers (John 14:1–3; 1 Corinthians 15:51–52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17). The question is when does the Rapture occur in relation to the Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ?

Through the years three main theories have emerged concerning the timing of the Rapture: pretribulationism (the belief that the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation begins), midtribulationism (the belief that the Rapture will occur at the midpoint of the Tribulation), and posttribulationism (the belief that the Rapture will occur at the end of the Tribulation). This article deals specifically with the pretribulational view.

Pretribulationism teaches that the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation starts. At that time, the church will meet Christ in the air, and then sometime after that the Antichrist is revealed and the Tribulation begins. In other words, the Rapture and Christ’s Second Coming (to set up His kingdom) are separated by at least seven years. According to this view, the church does not experience any of the Tribulation.

Scripturally, the pretribulational view has much to commend it. For example, the church is not appointed to wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:9–10, 5:9), and believers will not be overtaken by the Day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:1–9). The church of Philadelphia was promised to be kept from “the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world” (Revelation 3:10). Note that the promise is not preservation through the trial but deliverance from the hour, that is, from the time period of the trial.

Pretribulationism also finds support in what is not found in Scripture. The word “church” appears nineteen times in the first three chapters of Revelation, but, significantly, the word is not used again until chapter 22. In other words, in the entire lengthy description of the Tribulation in Revelation, the word church is noticeably absent. In fact, the Bible never uses the word “church” in a passage relating to the Tribulation.

Pretribulationism is the only theory which clearly maintains the distinction between Israel and the church and God’s separate plans for each. The seventy “sevens” of Daniel 9:24 are decreed upon Daniel’s people (the Jews) and Daniel’s holy city (Jerusalem). This prophecy makes it plain that the seventieth week (the Tribulation) is a time of purging and restoration for Israel and Jerusalem, not for the church.

Also, pretribulationism has historical support. From John 21:22–23, it would seem that the early church viewed Christ’s return as imminent, that He could return at any moment. Otherwise, the rumor would not have persisted that Jesus would return within John’s lifetime. Imminence, which is incompatible with the other two Rapture theories, is a key tenet of pretribulationism.

And the pretribulational view seems to be the most in keeping with God’s character and His desire to deliver the righteous from the judgment of the world. Biblical examples of God’s salvation include Noah, who was delivered from the worldwide flood; Lot, who was delivered from Sodom; and Rahab, who was delivered from Jericho (2 Peter 2:6–9).

One perceived weakness of pretribulationism is its relatively recent development as a church doctrine, not having been formulated in detail until the early 1800s. Another weakness is that pretribulationism splits the return of Jesus Christ into two “phases”—the Rapture and the Second Coming—whereas the Bible does not clearly delineate any such phases.

Another difficulty facing the pretribulational view is the fact that there will obviously be saints in the Tribulation (Revelation 13:7, 20:9). Pretribulationists answer this by distinguishing the saints of the Old Testament and the saints of the Tribulation from the church of the New Testament. Believers alive at the Rapture will be removed before the Tribulation, but there will be those who will come to Christ during the Tribulation.

And a final weakness of the pretribulational view is shared by the other two theories: namely, the Bible does not give an explicit time line concerning future events. Scripture does not expressly teach one view over another, and that is why we have diversity of opinion concerning the end times and some variety on how the related prophecies should be harmonized.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.