A person does not have to be an astute student of prophecy to realize that many things are occurring today that have prophetic significance. Because wrong interpretations of prophecy have been made, some shy away from any attempt to understand what God is doing today. While we must be careful not to read too much into current events, a careful study of Scripture reveals some graphic signs which suggest that the rapture of the church could be very near. And that should encourage us, for the belief in the imminent coming of the Lord is a blessed, happy expectation (Titus 2:13).
Prophecy about the Church
First let's look at Bible prophecy about the church. It falls into two major categories. One is prophecy concerning the church as the Body of Christ. This relates to the rapture of the church, the resurrection of the dead in Christ, the judgment seat of Christ, our return with Christ when He sets up His millennial kingdom, our share in that kingdom, and ultimately our destiny in the new heaven and the new earth.
But alongside prophecy about the church as the Body of Christ is prophecy concerning Christendom, that is the organized church or religion in the end time. Here we find some very interesting things.
Prophecy Related to Christendom
First the background needs to be studied, for there are several events in this structure of the rapture. There will first of all be a period of preparation or stage setting. A ten-nation confederacy will emerge in the Mediterranean area, which will be a revival of the Roman empire. Out of this situation a leader controlling three of these countries will emerge (Dan. 7) who apparently gains control of the other seven countries as well. Once this leader gains control, the sequence of events moves into a second phase. He makes a peace covenant with Israel (Dan. 9:27) designed to last for seven years. During the first three-and-one half years Israel has a measure of peace and prosperity. Then something dramatic happens.
Russia and her allies attack this whole ten-nation group plus Israel, because the man who made the covenant with Israel is also their protector (Ezek. 38-39). Scripture indicates the attack is disastrous for the attackers. Their armies are wiped out and even their home cities are judged of God with fire from heaven.
The result is a dramatically different world situation. Russia temporarily is rendered helpless. This leaves this Middle East ruler in a dynamic position of leadership of the anti-Russian side, and he takes advantage of the situation to declare himself world dictator. This dramatic event occurs three-and-one-half years after the treaty was signed.
The Rise of the Antichrist
When the world dictator takes over, he really takes over. He breaks his covenant with Israel and becomes their persecutor. He takes over the world economically and no one can buy or sell without identifying with this person (cf. Rev. 13:17).
He has power beyond that of any human power, power that is actually supernatural. His power is Satanic, because he is Satan's ultimate masterpiece, a substitute for Jesus Christ. Actually he is an atheist who claims to be God himself. Because of this, God pours out the judgments described in the Book of Revelation — terrible, catastrophic judgments that apparently wipe out more than half of the earth's population. At the climax of this there is a rebellion against the world leader and a great world war ensues with the Holy Land as the battlefield. At the height of this war, seven years after that first treaty was signed, Christ comes back in power and glory and sets up His millennial kingdom.
The Role of the Apostate Church
During this dramatic sequence of events, the apostate church fulfills its role. It is like a world power offering a world religion (Rev. 17). But the church of that day is completely devoid of any vestige of faith in Christ. According to Revelation 17, the ten kings associated with the ruler will eventually turn on the apostate church and destroy her. This sets the stage for the final form of world religion which is the worship of this man who is Satan's tool, who abolishes all other religions in favor of the worship of himself.
In the light of these prophecies it is significant that the world church movement emerged in the twentieth century. While it undoubtedly includes some good Christian people, when the rapture occurs every true Christian will be removed from the earth. Those who will be left are apostate, and soon show their colors by martyring those who do come to Christ in that period.
Prophecy and World Politics
Let's now turn to our second major area of Bible prophecy, and look at the world scene politically. Prophecy points to a future world government (Dan. 7:23, Rev. 13:7). In the world today an amazing development along this line has taken place. In 1946 the United Nations was born. The supporting principle which makes the United Nations possible is the widespread belief that the world must develop a government to avoid atomic war and catastrophe for the whole world. The world is looking for a solution to the problems of atomic war, pollution, population explosion, and starving millions. The world is looking desperately for a leader who can solve these problems and bring unity to a very diverse world.
In our modern day the physical components for world government have been developed. A century ago a world government would have been impossible. In order to have a world government, rapid transportation is needed. Men and supplies can now be transported halfway around the world in comparatively few hours. In the 1973 Middle East conflict, when both sides ran out of munitions, the United States and Russia each transported by air various military supplies amounting to $2 billion in ten days. A century ago it would have taken months.
Prophecy and Technology
In our day there is also rapid communication. A world government requires such communication. Today world leaders speak to the entire world via television and the internet.
Another interesting aspect is the development of great computers. In Revelation 13 it is predicted that the world ruler will have economic control over the entire world. Computers have made it physically possible to have in one place a bank of computers that could control the financial transactions of the entire world.
Today a world ruler has at his disposal missiles that can be sent to any part of the world in thirty minutes, bringing instant punishment to any people that did not submit. It is probably easier to rule the whole world today than it was to rule a comparatively small country one hundred years ago.
Today we do not have to wait for these things to develop; they have already developed.
Prophecy, Oil and Terrorism
When the first global oil crisis occurred in 1973, the question of how a Middle East ruler could have power and wealth and political control sufficient to set up a government in that section of the world was suddenly answered. As the crises in Iran and Iraq have shown us, the Middle East has the power to wreck or control the world. And they know their power will run out in the next twenty-five or thirty years. So are increasingly exercising this power, both by OPEC raising the price of crude oil and by the export of terrorism to set the Western world on edge.
All the component parts of the puzzle concerning a world government have fallen into place. The stage is set for the end time.
Israel and Prophecy
Third, let's look at Israel in relation to prophecy. The most dramatic prophetic event of all is the return of Israel to the land. All the prophecies of the end time picture Israel there. Christ did that in Matthew 24:15. This has been fulfilled in our generation. When the nation of Israel was formed in 1948, there were less than one million Jews in the land. Today there are over three million. This is God's biggest movement of Israel in history.
But Israel's prophetic future falls into four phases. The first phase of Israel's restoration is the return and establishment of a political state. This is history.
The second stage is when they enter into a treaty with the ruler in the Middle East which brings Israel a measure of peace for about three-and-one-half years.
The third stage is Israel's time of tribulation (Jer. 30:7; Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21; Rev. 6:17; Rev. 7:14). It is a time of unprecedented trouble. Two out of three Israelites in the land will perish (Zech. 13:8). The others will be rescued when Christ returns. According to Romans 11:26, "The deliverer will come from Zion"* and Israel will be delivered from her enemies. "All Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:26), that is, delivered from their enemies.
This introduces the fourth and final stage for Israel, the millennial kingdom. We see this in many prophecies in the Old Testament which picture Israel in peace, prosperity, and security, ruled over by Christ and by a resurrected David as a regent of Christ. The prophecies that they would be regathered and inhabit the land from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates will then be fulfilled (Gen. 15:18).
Phase one of Israel's development is already complete, but phase two, the treaty (and they have been working for fifty years trying to get a treaty), cannot come until this man emerges and the church has been raptured. It seems that God is serving notice on us.
Time Is Running Out
If ever there was a generation of Christians who could momentarily expect the blessed hope, it is our generation.
These facts are not simply interesting for study, they are facts which should challenge the way we live. If there exists this massive evidence that the Lord's coming may be soon, it ought to be a dynamic in our lives.
Why has the rapture not occurred? The Bible tells us that God does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). He wants people to hear the gospel who have not heard. He wants people to respond who have heard. He is waiting for the work to be completed. That is His plan. But one of these days, time will run out. Paul gives us good advice for living while we wait: "Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Cor. 15:58).
*Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
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