This is the second part in the Bible study series: End-Time Prophecy 101. Over the centuries many have tried to predict the date of Jesus Christ's return. Dates have come and gone. Some have said that all signs point to His return this year. There is no doubt that Christ said He would come again. But can we know when this tremendous event will occur? Our Bible study will examine the timing and occasion of His imminent return.
[Steve Myers] Well good evening everyone. Welcome to Bible study tonight. It’s good to see you all, coming out on this chilly night here in Cincinnati. It’s good to be together. We’re going to continue our series on prophecy tonight. Our series is titled, “Prophecy 101”. And so we’re looking at a number of different subjects that deal with basic aspects of prophecy. And so we’re going to continue that tonight with the topic of “Will Christ Return This Year?” And so that’s our topic for this evening. Why don’t we go ahead and bow our heads right now. We’ll ask God’s blessing on our Bible study tonight and then we’ll go ahead and get started.
“Great, Loving, Heavenly Father, God Almighty, thank you so much for Your wonderful ways. We are so thankful, God, for the opportunity to come together and study Your word; look into your prophecies and strive to understand Your ways as You open our minds to Your wonderful truth. And so Father we thank You for Your word. We thank you for Your way and, Father, we just ask for Your presence here this evening that as we discuss Your word You would direct everything that’s said, and the things that we hear, Father, so that we can understand more deeply Your plan for all of us. So Father we thank You. We praise You. We honor You. We turn this evening into Your hands and we thank You for it and ask all of this by the authority of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Alright, well tonight we’re going to talk about will Christ return this year? Often times you may read something in the news where a minister predicts that Christ could come at any moment. I read an article just the other day that you better be ready now because Christ could come tomorrow. So they even bumped it up a little bit tighter that it could be any time.
Now one of the things they get right is the fact that Christ will return and I think that’s probably a premise that we need start with. Do we know for a fact that Christ will return? Well you may be able to think of a couple of passages in the Bible that refer to that event. One of the things that Christ told the Apostles, or the disciples at that time, He said, “If I go, I will come again.” He told them that very clearly. And He said, “I will receive you to Myself.” So He promised that He would return. In fact, if you want to flip over to the Book of Acts, right at the beginning of the Book of Acts, this is after the crucifixion. Before the Day of Pentecost, Christ was with the disciples for 40 days. And ten days before Pentecost is when Christ ascended to heaven. And in Acts, Chapter 1, Verse 11, we see what an angel said to the disciples as they watched Christ go up into the sky. The angel said:
Acts 1:11 Acts 1:11Which also said, You men of Galilee, why stand you gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven.
American King James Version× “Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
So I think with maybe just a couple of basic passages; this one in Acts; that other one I referred to, I believe is in John 14.
John 14:3 John 14:3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
American King James Version× “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
It points to the very fact that Christ promised He would return. We have angels promising that Jesus Christ will return to earth. And so the question then becomes, “Is this something that could happen without a hint? Is this something that could happen without recognizing anything in the meantime? Or are there Bible prophecies that warn about Christ’s return? In fact, does the Bible reveal anything about what has to take place before Christ returns; before this event that the angels were describing here in Acts, Chapter 1?”
Do certain things have to happen? Or like some feel, would it be possible that you walk out your front door this evening and you see a bright light as Christ starts to descend from the heavens? You know, is that a possibility? And, if there are specific things - you know if there are observable events - that come before His return and if those events have not taken place, then, I think we have to recognize the fact that Christ will return but it sets the stage for when He will return. Or, are we just totally oblivious? You know, we don’t know the day or the hour. We just don’t know anything then. You know, where does prophecy fit with what scripture has to say?
And so let’s dissect that tonight. Let’s take a look at that and we’d like to start tonight at the finish. Okay, we’ll start at the end. So we know, from what we just read that Christ is going to return. So we could start there. We could start with the return of Christ. Okay, so that’s where we’ll begin, with the return of Christ. Christ said He would return. Now, it’s interesting that He tells us there is a sign when it comes to His return. Do you want to flip over to the Book of Revelation with me? Revelation, Chapter 11, and Verse 15. We find the return of Christ coincides with a specific event. Revelation, Chapter 11, Verse 15 gives us that event. It says:
Revelation 11:15 Revelation 11:15And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
American King James Version× “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”
And so when you put these various passages together we see the return of Christ is at the last trumpet. So that is the marker – the seventh angel blowing that seventh trumpet and Christ then returns. So that’s the conclusion of what is going to happen as we look to the return of Christ.
In fact, Paul described this to the Thessalonians over in Chapter 4 of 1 Thessalonians. Let’s notice what he says about the conclusion of the matter over in 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 4, Verse 16. Here Paul describes this event, the return of Christ that matches with what we read over in Revelation, Chapter 11, Verse 15. Let’s notice what he says here in 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 4, Verse 16:
1Thessalonians 4:16 “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:”
So we find, Oh that matches with what we read over in Acts, Chapter 1. Christ is going to return and descend from heaven. It says, “…with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God…” So that matches with we read over in Revelation, Chapter 11. And so we see Christ will return at that trumpet – that last trumpet. And it says here that “…the dead in Christ shall rise first:” Then, Verse 17:
1Thessalonians 4:17 “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
And so we find that’s the conclusion. That’s what we’re looking for – the return of Christ. Now, is that going to happen next week? Next month? A year from now? Could it happen this year? Well, let’s start here and work our way back in prophecy so that we can figure out what is going to happen immediately before Jesus returns. Because if we start here and work our way back, I think we’ll be able to see a pretty clear picture. It will give us an indication of when Christ will return because there’s no doubt the Bible has many events that are prophesied to take place before this happens. Before the return of Christ the Bible points to a number of events. In fact, so many we can’t really go over every one of them tonight. But I thought it might be helpful to just look at just a few of these events that will happen before Jesus returns.
So, let’s stick with this idea of the trumpets for just a minute. Christ, in Revelation 11, was said to come with that seventh trumpet. And so, when we look at scripture, we have a description of the trumpets. And so let’s sort that out for just a minute and think about it.
There’s a prophecy that’s back in the Book of Zephaniah. Zephaniah is one of the minor prophets so if you find the beginning of Matthew and work your way back; get past Malachi; get before Zechariah; and that gigantic Book of Haggai; you can find Zephaniah, Chapter 1, Verse 14, gives a description that begins to describe what is going to proceed Christ’s return. Let’s notice what it says there. It says:
Zephaniah 1:14 Zephaniah 1:14The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hastens greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.
American King James Version× “The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.”
Alright so we see it’s near. We see it’s hastening quickly. Well does that mean it could happen tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Well, let’s read on. It says in Verse 15:
V.15-16 “That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.”
And so we have a description that fits with the trumpets and yet gives us a little bit more information of what is going to precede the return of Jesus Christ? Now what does it describe it as?
Well, it talks about the day. We could say the Day of the Lord. So we see it talks about the Day of the Lord and that Day has all kinds of different events that are happening in it. Now how many days in the lifespan of mankind could there be called, “The Day of the Lord?” In fact, Verse 14, “The great day of the Lord…”
Well I think it’s pointing to something that’s unique. It’s pointing to a specific day of the Lord. That day of the Lord ties in with the Book of Revelation and those trumpets. So, when we go back to Revelation; if we head back to Revelation, Chapter 9, we’re going to see these things broken down a little bit more specifically. When Zephaniah talked about a day of trouble; a day of distress; devastation; desolation; clouds; darkness; it began to describe what Revelation 8 and 9 refer to as “various trumpets”, or “various trumpet plagues”. And what we’ll begin to see is that the day of the Lord is equal to seven trumpets. We find that’s in Revelation, Chapter 9 and Chapter 8, where these trumpets are described and, in fact, it also is described as the “seventh seal”. Now we won’t take a lot of time to rehearse what that’s all about but we’ll see how they all fit together. In fact we find Christ at the last trumpet – the seventh trumpet – if we go to Revelation, Chapter 9, Verse 12. We see the sixth trumpet. So we’re bumping back in time to the sixth trumpet, also called “the second woe”. Let’s read about it. Verse 12, it says:
Revelation 9:12 Revelation 9:12One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.
American King James Version×“One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.”
V.13 “And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,”
Revelation 9:14-16 Revelation 9:14-16  Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.
 And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.
 And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.
American King James Version× “Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet,” So we find the sixth trumpet, “… Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.”
And in fact we see the result if we skip down to Verse 18. It says:
V.18 “By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.”
And so we begin to see, before the return of Christ, is the day of the Lord and the day of the Lord concludes with a sixth trumpet that leads to the return of Christ. That sixth trumpet is also called, a “second woe” where warfare is going to wipe out a third of the world population. A third! So, will Christ return tomorrow? Well, this hasn’t happened. This would be something that’s very obvious. So, not possible. It’s not possible.
Well if we step back just a little bit, what about the fifth trumpet? What about the trumpet that comes before that? Well it’s called “the first woe” and if you look to Verse 1, Revelation 9:1 Revelation 9:1And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven to the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.
American King James Version×, here’s the fifth angel sounding. Notice the description here, Verse 3:
V.3 “And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.”
And as we see it’s describing a horrendous war. We find terrible afflictions on mankind. In fact, it says in Verse 4:
V.4-5 “And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.”
So we have a description of what comes before the return of Christ and we see there’s armies if we tie this in to different prophecies in the Book of Daniel. Daniel, Chapter 11, describes tidings out of the east where there will be armies of a world superpower that will war against those from the east. And we see that comprises this 5th trumpet. And so this 5th trumpet; it says is at least five months before the 6th. So you can see we’re beginning to move back in time from when Christ will actually return. We can take that five months literally – which it seems it probably is – we’re bumping back in time before Christ will actually return. In fact, it doesn’t stop there. As we describe this day of the Lord, these trumpet plagues; we bump back to the 4th trumpet.
The 4th trumpet. We go back to Chapter 8. So, if you move back to Chapter 8, look at Verse 12. In Revelation, Chapter 8, Verse 12, we have a description of the 4th trumpet. It says:
Revelation 8:12 Revelation 8:12And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.
American King James Version× “And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.”
And so just with that brief description, we see amazing signs in the heavens: daylight, moonlight, starlight – all of those things are impacted. And this all has to happen, it says, before the return of Christ. Before the armies that have tidings from the east. Before this second woe is past. And so we see there is this pattern of events that comprise the day of the Lord, these seven trumpets that make up the 7th seal, and described here in Revelation 8 and 9. And of course, it doesn’t stop there. Let’s keep bumping back in time as we talk about this day of the Lord.
Look at Verse 10. Chapter 8, Verse 10. Now we see the rivers are poisoned. The fresh water supply is poisoned. It says:
V.10-11 “And the third angel sounded,” So this is the third trumpet. Remember, we’re working backwards. It says: “and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.”
And so, when we see this event happening, that there is 1/3 of the rivers that are poisoned, then we know we are drawing near to the return of Christ. But has that happened yet?
Well, we haven’t seen that happen. We haven’t seen that come about in world affairs. In fact, we’re shown even more events that are going to take place if we move back just a little bit Revelation 8:8 Revelation 8:8And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;
American King James Version×, we have the 2nd trumpet in the day of the Lord. Notice what the 2nd trumpet is about. It says:
Revelation 8:8-9 Revelation 8:8-9  And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;
 And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
American King James Version× “And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea:” So the Apostle John envisions this burning fire of a mountain. And what happens? He says, “and the third part of the sea became blood; And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.”
Well we haven’t seen that happen yet, have we? 1/3 of the ships in the ocean destroyed? We had fresh water poisoned. Now we have the sea being poisoned, so the sea creatures die, 1/3 of them. And so we see these are monumental events that it’s going to be hard to ignore. Whether you understand what they mean is a whole other thing.
You know, undoubtedly the world is going to see these things but they’re not going to recognize what the significance is. Is there some type of world war? Some type of conflict going on that would bring this about? Is there some type of great sea battle that would cause 1/3 of the ships to be destroyed? Well it seems like that’s certainly a possibility. Certainly with the weaponry we have today this would certainly be very possible. Yet we’re told that will happen before Christ returns. Now where does the day of the Lord begin, then?
You know we’re working our way back through the seven trumpets that comprise the day of the Lord. We see where it begins with the first trumpet. Verse 7. Revelation 8:7 Revelation 8:7The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast on the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
American King James Version×.
V.7 “The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.”
So here we find this is something that can’t be ignored. This is not something that’s going to be a surprise; the Christ would just show up out of nowhere, with no warning, could return, you know, tomorrow or next week. No, we know we’re in the day of the Lord. And so, what kind of time frame are we looking at when we consider these seven trumpets of Revelation 8 and 9 and when we look at these various trumpet plagues, what kind of time frame are we looking at? Well, if we flip back just a couple of pages, it describes the day of the Lord. Look at Revelation, Chapter 6, Verse 17. Just a short little passage here to get the context of what we’re talking about here. It says:
Revelation 6:17 Revelation 6:17For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
American King James Version× “For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to and?”
Talking about God’s wrath. Who is able to stand? Of course, ultimately, at the conclusion of this day, we know no one is able to stand. None. None whatsoever. And so, ultimately, all will fail and if Christ doesn’t return no flesh would remain alive. And so this describes that day of the Lord. In fact we get a little hint of that time frame.
Now, if you hold your place here in Revelation, we’re going to come back here in just a moment. But flip over to Isaiah, Chapter 34, Verse 8. We have a prophecy here that sheds some light on this day of the Lord. Is the day of the Lord just a day? Well, it can’t be because that doesn’t fit with – well we read one of the trumpets is going to be five months long. So, it’s got to be longer than just a 24 hour day. And so, is there a principle that we can find to give us an indication how long this day of the Lord really is? Well, Isaiah 34, Verse 8, describes His wrath; describes that great day of God’s wrath. It says:
Isaiah 34:8 Isaiah 34:8For it is the day of the LORD's vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion.
American King James Version× “For it is the day of the LORD’s vengeance….” And certainly these trumpet plagues are playing out that day of the Lord; the Lord’s vengeance. And it says, then, following, “…it is the day of the LORD'S vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion.”
Or the “year of retribution for the cause of Zion”.
Well, what does that tell us? I think it gives us a pretty strong indication that this day of the Lord – we could probably put in quotations that “more than likely it’s going to be one year”. That these trumpet plagues are going to take a year’s worth of time to play out. We saw the one that was certainly five months. And so, this ongoing day of the Lord, according to Isaiah, seems to connect with a year’s worth of time.
So when we start at the return of Christ, we look at the seven trumpets, moving back in time, the day of the Lord – the beginning of those trumpet plagues – will be a year out. So right now we could look at where we are in prophetic history and we’d have to say, well Christ isn’t going to return for at least a year. For at least a year, He’s not going to return. Okay.
Let’s keep moving back then. Are there other prophetic things that we can look at to give us a little bit better indication of what’s going on? In fact, maybe just before we do, I just was thinking of this day of the Lord. Will this be a shock? Well, it will be shocking, the things that happen, but would the return of Christ be surprising to a Christian? Or should it be surprising? I mean these things are happening? They’re going to be obvious that they’re happening. So, it is something that we should be taken by surprise by? Thessalonians reminds us of this. Paul told the Thessalonians. Look over at 1 Thessalonians 5, right at the beginning of that chapter. (I’m going to write this one down, too. My board’s getting a little crowded.) In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul kind of adds another dimension to this. Let’s notice what he says. He says:
1Thessalonians 5:1-3 “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” So, what’s coming “as a thief in the night”? Is the return of Christ coming like “a thief in the night”? Or is the day of the Lord coming as a “thief in the night”? What did Paul say? Well, let’s look back at it again. It says, “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”
And so the beginning seems to be surprising. We’re not going to be exactly able to predict when the beginning of those trumpet plagues are going to begin. So, it’s talking about the 7 trumpets. This day seemingly begins a year before the actual return of Christ so Paul’s not talking about Christ’s return. See if you can find passages in the Bible where it says “the return of Christ will be like a thief.” Is it that? Or is it the events leading up to the return of Christ? Paul seems to indicate here the day of Lord will begin; that will come, as a “thief in the night”. Because look how he continues here, in Verse 4.
V.4 “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.”
What day? Not the day of the return of Christ? Not that day. He’s talking about this day? He’s talking about the Day of the Lord, “that day, not take you as a thief.” He says:
V.5 “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.”
And so we see these prophetic warnings that God has sent. Paul telling us, “Wow, with all these trumpets coming, how could you be taken unaware? How could you put yourself in a position to be oblivious to the fact that Jesus Christ is going to return?” Because there are many precursors to that actual event of the second coming. And so, the closest one to the return is the day of the Lord. And Paul says you can’t be caught unaware. You can’t be caught unaware like a thief breaking into your home.
Alright, with that, let’s keep working our way back then. Let’s think about what comes before the day of the Lord. Well, if you still have your finger over there in Revelation, flip back to Revelation, Chapter 6. In Chapter 6 we talked about the 7 trumpets of the Day of the Lord being the 7th seal. What we’ll do is we’ll bump back now to the 6th seal. Let’s take a look at the 6th seal that is found here in Revelation, Chapter 6, Verse 12. It says,
Revelation 6:12-14 Revelation 6:12-14  And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, see, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
 And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, even as a fig tree casts her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
American King James Version× “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.”
And so we see this 6ht seal is equivalent with heavenly signs. These are pretty obvious signs, aren’t they? You know we’ve heard a lot about this, even these last few months, haven’t we? Because there’s all these blood moons. All these eclipses that are happening. Well, many have said, “Oh that’s the precursor to Christ’s return. He’s going to be returning right away. Because, look it! There’s all these blood moons.” Wait a second. Is that what’s being described here? When we have the sun becoming black. We have the moon like blood. But it’s more than just an eclipse. It’s more than just a blood moon. Look at Verse 14, “the sky receded”, like rolling it up, “like a scroll.”
These are big, undeniable events that are connected to earthquakes as well as things shaking: mountains and islands being moved. I don’t know if being moved means a couple of inches by earthquakes or being really moved. We’ll have to wait and see. But you see these are monumental heavenly signs that we certainly don’t want to get confused with, you know, an eclipse that might take place. Not saying that there aren’t signs that those things could happen but there’s much more to it than just that. To say that we’re going to have a blood moon and so Christ is going to return next month; or within the next year, then we gotta step back and say, “Well, wait a second. Is that really the case?” Let’s line up prophecy and see if that’s even a possibility. In fact Peter talked about this same thing right when the New Testament church was starting. We’re going to turn over to Acts. Hold your place here in Revelation; we’ll come right back. But look over to Acts. Acts, Chapter 2, Verse 19. We can see a little bit of a description that Peter gives of these same heavenly signs. So we find that over in Revelation 6 and we also have it described by Peter in Acts, Chapter 2. Let’s notice what Peter says.
Acts 2:19-20 Acts 2:19-20  And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke:
 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come:
American King James Version× “And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath;” What are the signs? “blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood,” When? When does that happen? Is it 2014? Well it says, “before that great and notable day of the Lord come:”
So before we get to the Day of The Lord is when this 6th seal; when these heavenly signs; when the sun becomes black; when the islands are moved out of place; when there are tremendous earthquakes; when the heavens seem to fall; when the sky recedes. That’s before the “notable day, the great Day of the Lord.” So you see we’re talking about huge events. Monumental heavenly signs that for true Godly people; true Christians; they’re going to recognize, “Wow! We’re getting closer! We’re getting closer to the return of Christ. We’re getting closer to the day of recompense. We’re getting closer to the wrath of God being poured out on mankind.” And so that’s the step before the Day of the Lord.
Now, you want to flip back to Revelation. Well, actually, let’s wait a minute before we go there. We’ll read about it; let’s read about it somewhere else. We’re going to go to the 5th seal because there are a number of seals that happen before the Day of the Lord; before the return of Christ. It is described in the Book of Revelation when you look at that seal. But, instead of going there, you can find it right there as you look at Revelation. But if you want to go over to Luke, Chapter 21. It’s part of the Olivet Prophecy. Also Matthew 24 describes this 5th seal as well. If you look at Matthew 24:21 Matthew 24:21For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
American King James Version× is where you can find it in Matthew but we’re going to look over at Luke. Look at Luke 21, Verse 22. It says:
Luke 21:22-23 Luke 21:22-23  For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
 But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath on this people.
American King James Version×“For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! For there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.”
So here we see Luke 21, which is the same as Matthew 24 and what do we find? We find tribulation. The Great Tribulation or Great Distress as Luke describes here. And so this 5th seal is the Great Tribulation. (We’ll make that clear here.) So this 5th seal is described in Matthew 24. It’s described in Luke 21 and it is a unique event in all history. We see unique things happening during this time that is a precursor to the heavenly signs. Also, ahead of the Day of the Lord. It’s interesting that Christ, Himself, said where this wrath would be poured. Where would Satan’s wrath be? He says there’ll be great distress. Where? “Upon this people;” described in Matthew 24 as “those in Judea”. And so, when we put that together with the various passages, whether it be Matthew 24 or Mark 13 or Luke 21, we begin to see this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s happening everywhere in the entire world. You know does this great tribulation impact Russia in the same way it would the Holy Land? Would it impact Mexico or Brazil in the same way that it would impact God’s people? You see it says, “This great distress will be upon this people,” and it’s leading up to this amazing event.
Hold your place here for just a minute. We’re going to go to the Book of Jeremiah and fill in a couple of little details. Ones that match, I think, perfectly Matthew 24 and Luke 21. Jeremiah 30. We’re going to kind of break into a thought here. But in Jeremiah, Chapter 30, we’ll find a description of this very time. We’ll find a description of the great tribulation. Notice how Jeremiah prophecies about this 5th seal; about this great tribulation. He says:
Jeremiah 30:7 Jeremiah 30:7Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.
American King James Version×“Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.”
And so this description that Jeremiah gives coincides with Matthew 24. It coincides with Luke 21. It coincides with the 5th seal in describing that time of tribulation upon Jacob; upon God’s people; upon those that in are in that area of the world as well. And yet he’s saying Jacob himself, he’s long gone. But it’s going to impact his people. And so as we look at this; this is going to be another one of those events that are unique. It’s special. It’s something that was never before and will never be again.
And so we know that’s something separate then. It’s gotta be something a little bit different. And so the 5th seal describes the great tribulation. So that’s got to be a part of what happens before the return of Christ. In fact there’s other parts of this tribulation that also tie in with the return of Christ and maybe we could think about a couple of those that should be very obvious; that should be very specific to us. And actually those that would give us a little bit of the time frame as we look at these prophecies that precede the return of Christ.
One of the things that’s described as we come to the great tribulation; we can find it right here in the Book of Luke. If you’re still there in Luke, Chapter 21, look at the description just before this. Luke 21, Verse 20. What does it describe happening before the heavenly signs? The Day of the Lord? The return of Christ?
Luke 21:20-24 Luke 21:20-24  And when you shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is near.
 Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the middle of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.
 For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
 But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath on this people.
 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
American King James Version× “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.” And so a precursor to the return of Christ. We have armies around Jerusalem. We have armies. “Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.” So we have a very specific indication that certainly ties in with what he says right after this.“There will be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.” So those that are in Judea, he says. Verse 24 we see the results of some of the armies that are surrounding Jerusalem. It says: “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” And so we see, and I don’t think it’s just restricted to Judea, but God’s people, it says, “will suffer”. There will be captives. He says, “Jerusalem and these armies,” it says, “will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
And so there’s a times of Gentiles over running Jerusalem. Now that should tell us a little bit of the scenario of the time frame we are dealing with. In fact, we flip over to Revelation again; we can fill in what kind of time frame we’re looking at. So go back to Revelation, Chapter 11, and we’ll find out about these Gentiles that are going to trample Jerusalem right at the very beginning of Revelation 11. Okay, in Revelation11, let’s notice what it says about these Gentiles. Here the Apostle, John, it says:
Revelation 11:1-2 Revelation 11:1-2  And there was given me a reed like to a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.  But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given to the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
American King James Version× “And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out,” now we won’t get into all the symbolism that’s here, but notice where he goes with this. Verse 2: “and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles:” it says, “and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months” – 42 months.
And so now we begin to get a little bit of the time frame for Biblical prophecy leading up to the return of Christ. Jerusalem, the Holy City, will be overrun. How long? Well, we’ve got 42 months. So we’ve got 42 months and that equals 3 ½ years. And so we see here John has given something like a measuring tape, right? And he’s going to assess the situation. There will be an occupation before the 7th trumpet; before the return of Christ, that’s going to last 42 months – 3 ½ years. And this occupation isn’t normal. This is something different. Something unusual. This is not natural. That’s not the way Jerusalem is supposed to be and so I think we can presume, then, that it’s not occupied before this 3 ½ years, at least not in the same sense that it will be overrun or trod under foot as Revelation says here, in that same way. So this is something different for 42 months. You put that together with what we read over in Luke, Chapter 21, and we see that this 42 months was called “the times of the Gentiles”. And so the beginning of this 42 months that seems to coincide with the armies surrounding Jerusalem. And so, when we see armies surrounding Jerusalem, take over Jerusalem; I think that’s when we can begin that 42 month countdown.
So, as we look at these specific prophecies we see there’s some exact things that come about before the return of Christ. In fact, if we read on here in Chapter 11, another significant series of events has to take place as we have two witnesses described here. It says,
V.3“And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.”
And so these two witnesses will be very obvious. The two witnesses described – look at the work that is described here.
V.5-6 “And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.” They’re going to be obvious? It says, “These have power to shut heaven’” – that ought to be pretty obvious. It says, “that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.”
So once again we have specific time period; specific events. And this one’s described in days. You divide out the 1,260 days and we’re going to come to this same time frame. This same time frame with armies encompassing Jerusalem and the work of the two witnesses. And so, evidently, the times of the Gentiles and this time of those witnesses, coincide. And, as we see, it says,
V.7-8 “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.”
Alright, so we know where they are. They’re in Jerusalem. And then look at Verse 11.
V.11 “And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.”
So all of this, including the work of the two witnesses, has to take place before the return of Christ. So, how can that happen without the world knowing about it? The answer is it can’t.
Now they might not understand exactly what’s going on. They might be confused about who these two witnesses are. They might get it confused with a couple of other characters that are on the scene with the Beast and the false prophet. That might very well be. But the things that are going to be happening are monumental and without a doubt, people will know something’s going on. Something’s happening here and so the world will know about it - misunderstand it – but they will certainly know about it.
And so, as we continue to bump back in time, we can see we’re this far out and this is even before we get down to the four horsemen. Because, as we look through the Book of Revelation, we see those four horsemen described. We certainly have been marching throughout time and yet, as we get closer to the return to Christ, there’s going to be even more fantastic events that show these various horsemen doing their tasks at hand. And so, when we look at these things, we begin to see there is a time frame for prophecy. And so, as we look, how close are we to the return of Christ right now? Well, I think we’d have to say, we’re at least 3 ½ years out. With the clear statements of prophecy it doesn’t seem like we could be any closer; especially if there’s going to be armies around Jerusalem; especially if there’s going to be witnesses that begin to prophecy; especially if there’s going to be a world power at hand. All of those things point to the fact we’re not there yet. Certainly this could happen very quickly and we could be right on that verge, you know, very quickly. But, obviously the return of Christ is a little bit farther off.
And so, when we look at these prophecies, what should that tell us? You know, should we say, “Well, we got 3 ½ years, let’s take it easy. No problem. I got time.” Really? How much time do we really have? Do we have 3 ½ years? Or, does prophecy remind us of something else? Well, let’s think about that.
Go over to Matthew 24. Matthew 24 brings us to a seventh thing that is all about us. Let’s notice what Matthew recorded here for us - is actually recording Christ’s words. Right around these prophecies. You know, what was on Christ’s mind when He was describing these various events before His return? What was He most concerned about? Well, I think He voices that here in Verse 42 when He says,
Matthew 24:42 Matthew 24:42Watch therefore: for you know not what hour your Lord does come.
American King James Version× “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” Okay we don’t know the hour but, boy, we can sure narrow it down quite a bit, can’t we? We don’t the very hour but, boy, we can get a pretty good idea of when He’s going to return. He then says this, Verse 43:
V.43-44 “But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.”
He says, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”
So, remember we’ve got all these supernatural events that are going to be taking place. Certainly not everyone is going to understand the impact of these things. You know, because people see these things doesn’t mean they’re going to believe them; not going to necessarily draw them to God. In fact, many times in prophecy we see the exact opposite come about. It may be very possible that some of these events, whether it be ships being sunk or waters being poisoned could all be attributed to man’s own problems; man’s wars; man’s issues. And yet, for us, we shouldn’t get caught up in those kinds of things. These disasters that take place, you know, by human thinking, it might be able to reason all around any spiritual impact that should be going on here. You can imagine different events happening and, you know different people trying to explain them from a whole different means rather than by looking into their Bible and seeing what God has to say about it.
And so I think that’s an important aspect of what Christ was warning about here as we look at these things. For you and I? As these prophetic events begin to happen, there shouldn’t be any room for doubt. There shouldn’t be any doubt that prophecy is truly being fulfilled by all of these things. And as we draw nearer to the time of the return of Christ, I think it’s important, then, to remember too, what’s the purpose? Why would we have all of these warnings? Why would Christ spell it out, you know, in His word so specifically? You know, it is just so that, “Well I can see we’re at least 3 ½ years out.” Is that why we’re told these things? Is it so we can decipher? Well maybe I can decipher the day. Maybe I can decipher the year. Decipher the month. Is that what prophecy is given to us for? Or, is it to help us to understand the meaning of the return of Christ? Is it to understand the plan of God? Is it to give us hope that there is coming a time when the rule of man is going to be over. I think prophecy keeps bringing us back to that point.
Christ Himself said that very thing. If we keep reading here in Matthew 24, Verse 42. He says, “Watch”, and Verse 44, He says, “be ready”.
V.44 “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”
Verse 45 He poses a question.
V.45-46 “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.”
And so after spelling out the various prophecies in Matthew 24, Christ gets down to the meaning; the meaning of His return; the meaning of these events; what it should mean for you and I. He says it should mean we’re watching. Not just watching world events. Not just watching for the next thing to happen. But that we’re watchful over our own lives. He says we’re to be ready. We’re to be spiritually ready. He says faithful. We’re supposed to be a wise servant and, in fact, He’ll give a couple of parables right after this showing how exactly we should put on the character of Christ. How we can be ready; how we can be watching; how we can be faithful and how we can be wise. And so He spells that out so clearly as we go on through this prophecy in Matthew 24 and then in Matthew 25. And so, ultimately, if we are doing, He says, then we are blessed. Then we are certainly blessed. And so that’s part of the significance of prophecy.
Peter posed that same question as well. He said, “Because all of these things are happening,” Peter said, “what difference should it make in our life? What kind of individual should I be? What manner of person of person ought I to be?” – basically, saying we better be a different kind of person. We better be one of those that are faithful. We better be one of those that are spiritually prepared and ready and watching and faithful. And so that should be the impact of these things because, as we see, it all comes down to us being ready. We have to be ready. Be ready. This prophecy that Christ gave in all of its various forms, whether it be the wrath of God; whether it be the wrath of Satan; whether it be the 3 ½ years, when the great tribulation begins; all of those things should remind us that now’s the time. Now’s the time to be ready. To be watching our spiritual life and our growth. To be faithful and wise and to continue to live that way because there’s no doubt Christ is not returning this year. Not going to happen. It’s impossible. Prophecy has to be fulfilled. But you know what? That’s irrelevant, isn’t it? What difference does that make? When you think about our lives, what is it that counts for you and I?
You see, I think what counts is today, doesn’t it? I think all of this leads to today. All we have is right now because who knows how long each of us will have individually? Right? We don’t know. We don’t know how long our life will be and we only have that length. We know how fragile life is. We know how fleeting life can be. And so, just because Christ’s return is at least 3 ½ years away, shouldn’t impact our thinking at all except that I am ready now. So we have to be ready today because, who knows if we’re going to have tomorrow?
And so Christ blesses us with this wonderful information through His prophecies and hopefully, as we ready prophecy, we understand that very thing. The significance is not worrying about exactly when Christ is going to return. Yeah, we can map it out and we get a pretty good idea of these things but that should motivate us just as it motivated Christ to tell us what we needed to do, not tomorrow; not next month; not three years from today but what we need to do right now. He tells us, “Hey. watch!” He says, “be ready.” He says, “be wise; be faithful;” and then when He returns, whether we’re alive or whether we’re waiting in the grave, He says, then we can be there at His return.
And so let’s keep that in mind. Let’s keep in mind the fact that there are a number of prophecies that have to occur before the return of Christ and this is just a few of them. You can expand this list with a number of different aspects of these things. And yet it all points to the same ultimate significance and that’s, “we have right now”. We have right now. Let’s make the most of today and let’s be the kind of people that will be there when Christ returns. And so let’s be spiritually ready and let’s allow prophecy to motivate us to be the kind of people that God truly wants us to be.
Alright, well that will do it for our study for tonight. We do have another in the series of our Prophecy series coming up in two weeks. December 3rd is our next Bible study so we’ll have it T the same time, 7:00 on that Wednesday evening, December 3rd. And Mr. Darris McNeely will be presenting that Bible study and it’s going to be on the topic of “Babylon the Great.” And so we’ll discuss Babylon the Great at our next Bible study on December 3rd. So we hope to see all of you right back here and on the web as well in two weeks. So have a good evening.