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An Overview of End-Time Prophecy

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An Overview of End-Time Prophecy

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The Left Behind series is one of the most popular religious book series in recent history. Their fictional theme takes advantage of a culture hungry to escape prophesied catastrophic events. 

The series started in 1995 with the release of Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last Days, a fictional book about what supposedly happens on earth after believers are raptured away prior to Jesus Christ's second coming. The series, written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, eventually stretched to 16 novels, of which 65 million copies have been sold.

Ironically, those who believe in the Left Behind concept—supporters of the rapture theory—may well find themselves confused and wondering as the true biblical end-time events unfold.

Why? Because Jesus Christ's outline of end-time prophecies does not include a secret rapture. His return will be obvious, preceded by heavenly signs, a global earthquake, worldwide volcanic activity and angels sounding trumpets with supernatural piercing blasts. Christ will not sneak back to this earth; He will return in great shining glory and well-deserved honor.

Jesus Himself said of His return, "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:30, emphasis added throughout).

Jesus revealed that everyone throughout the planet will see Him coming back to earth. The hidden rapture theory contradicts this, saying He will take away the elect earlier and secretly. Don't you believe it.

When you know the overview of end-time prophecy, you will know the truth about the major events that precede Christ's return, including how God will protect His true servants—and it's not through a secret rapture (Revelation 12:13-17). 

Bible prophecy comes from God alone. "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation" (2 Peter 1:20, New International Version).

The best way to gain a proper overview of end-time prophecies is to let the Bible speak for itself.

What is prophecy?

Prophecy is sometimes described as history written in advance. God foresaw many trends and events to come—in part because He perfectly understands what people will do in given circumstances and also because He guides and directs some circumstances.

To some extent, prophecy is God's advance warnings against ongoing human sin. Since sin harms us and can destroy us, God proclaims prophetic warnings to get the attention of human beings. Prophesied punishments are the results brought on by human beings. God wants to spare humankind, not destroy us.

Most people assume that prophetic warnings against human beings come from a vengeful God who cannot tolerate a weak and disobedient humanity. They reason that since God is holy and all-powerful and we aren't, and since we can never make ourselves holy, then God loses patience with our pathetic state and punishes us—perhaps even unfairly.

But that is not why God proclaims end-time prophecies. This is a false notion from the god of this world, Satan the devil, who has deceived humankind about God in many ways. As long as he can keep humanity blind to the true God's intentions, he can remain in his place as "the god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4).

People need to realize that Satan, who was "a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44), wants all of mankind dead—forever. At the very end of this age of human misrule, Satan will attempt to destroy all humanity through two great military forces that will converge on Jerusalem to make war against the returning Christ, the Messiah (Revelation 16:14; 19:11-21; 14:14-20).

Prophecy shows that God is ultimately in charge, that He has a plan for humankind's future, and that human life has a great purpose. God's will is to save, not destroy, mankind.

Prophecy shows that God pleads with those who resist Him and that He will reward those who honor Him.

Prophecy's misunderstood purpose

Let's consider, then, the purpose of prophecy.

People from time immemorial have wanted to know the future, mostly for their personal benefit. For example, Jesus' disciples wanted to know what signs would precede His return. "Tell us," they asked, "when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" (Matthew 24:3). Human beings want to know what's coming, if for no other reason than their personal protection.

Though people want to know the what, when and where of prophecy—good of itself—this is not the primary purpose of prophecy. The purpose of prophecy, rather, is to help people evaluate their personal conduct in light of God's Word—before the prophesied circumstances come to pass. Without the warnings and fulfillments of prophecy, humanity would have no reason to question and stop its self-indulgent path to self-destruction.

If people read and heed God's warnings, they could look to Him to protect them during the coming days of the Great Tribulation and His wrathful just judgment against the tyrants of this world. As Jesus said, "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial [the Great Tribulation, see Matthew 24:21-22] which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth" (Revelation 3:10).

God is merciful and loving. His Word is full of warnings to sinning human beings to get them to turn from sin and avoid its painful and inevitable consequences. God derives no pleasure from the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). He also promises to reward, bless and protect those who follow His will (Deuteronomy 28:1-2).

The backstory of prophecy

The Bible gives the backstory of prophecy in Deuteronomy 28. This chapter shows the blessings and curses that automatically follow from either obeying or rejecting God's laws. These laws are spiritual (Romans 7:14) and apply regardless of whether one knows about them or not (Romans 2:12). God promises to bless everyone who honors Him and, alternatively, He allows curses to come on those who dishonor Him. Understanding this fundamental aspect of God's laws is foundational to understanding prophecy. 

This one chapter, Deuteronomy 28, is pivotal to all prophecies. Know this chapter and you will know the purpose of prophecy. Again, the purpose of prophecy is to help human beings to turn from their sins and seek God for His blessings.

Many Bible stories validate this backstory of prophecy, but few highlight it better than the story of Judah and Babylon. For many years God warned the kingdom of Judah not to follow the way of her kinsmen, the neighboring kingdom of Israel.

Israel's sins brought about its own demise, just as foretold in Deuteronomy 28:15. Eventually God allowed the cruel nation of Assyria to conquer and carry Israel away from its homeland in two massive deportations—in 733 and 722 B.C.

Nearly a century later, God gave Judah a righteous king, Josiah, as a last-ditch hope to save the Jewish nation from imminent captivity (2 Chronicles 34:1, 26-28). God also sent the prophets Jeremiah, Zephaniah and Habakkuk. Sadly, after Josiah's untimely death the people of Judah quickly returned to their sinful ways, like a washed hog that wallows in its slop and a dog that returns to its vomit (2 Peter 2:22). Like Israel, they, too, were invaded and taken away into captivity.

Again, the purpose of prophecy is to motivate people to question their conduct in light of clear Bible teachings. That applies to all people, whether they profess Christianity or not. Some will heed the warnings of God's end-time prophecies, and many will remain ignorant of them.

Jesus said that He spoke to the religious types of His day in parables because they refused to honor and obey Him:

"I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull, their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn [back to God in repentance], so that I should heal them'" (Matthew 13:13-15).

Strong end-time prophecies are like shots across the bows of rudderless societal ships, adrift on a sea of humanism, cast about by materialism. If there were no prophecy, and especially no end-time prophecies, humankind would have no one to challenge its dangerous drift into self-destruction.

An overview of end-time prophecy

The Bible gives an overview of end-time prophecy. Details are scattered throughout Scripture.

Jesus Christ Himself gave an overview of end-time prophecy shortly before His crucifixion. In it He foretold end-time events or the end of the age of human self-rule under the influence of Satan.
He shared with His disciples the major signs of the end of this age. Major events of His prophecy—recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21—correspond to the seals of the book of Revelation. Once Christ opens a seal (Revelation 6:1), it remains open to the very time of the end of human rule and Christ's return.

For a more detailed guide to the major end-time prophecies, download or request our free booklets The Book of Revelation Unveiled, You Can Understand Bible Prophecy, The Middle East in Bible Prophecy and Are We Living in the Time of the End?

The first seal, in Revelation 6:2 and corresponding to Matthew 24:4-5, signifies the emergence, spread and domination of a false Christianity, which began shortly after Jesus' resurrection and the beginning of the New Testament Church. This false Christianity is a religious mixture derived partly from the Bible and partly from nonbiblical beliefs and traditions originating in ancient pagan religion.

We know that this counterfeit Christianity began in the first century because a number of the New Testament writers spoke of it (Acts 20:16-17, 28-31; 2 Corinthians 11:4, 13-15; Jude 3-4; 1 John 2:18-19; 1 John 4:1). This false religious system, which the apostle Paul labeled "the mystery of lawlessness," continues to the end, where it plays a major role in end-time deception leading up to Christ's return (2 Thessalonians 2:7-12).

The second seal, in Revelation 6:3-4 and corresponding to Matthew 24:6-7, reveals that there will be "wars and rumors of wars." Though there have always been wars and rumors of wars, Jesus said they would continue to the end and escalate into a final bloodbath that will take the lives of no less than a third of mankind (Revelation 9:15-16).

The great final conflict, which Scripture describes as "the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (Revelation 16:14), does not take place at the infamous Armageddon (the hill of Megiddo in northern Israel), where great military forces gather (Revelation 16:14, 16), but near Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:1-4, 12-14). Conditions will be so dangerous that if Christ didn't intervene in human affairs, no flesh would be saved alive (Matthew 24:21-22).

The third seal, in Revelation 6:5-6 and corresponding to Matthew 24:7, shows that the earth will be plagued with major famines, starvation and hunger. While there have always been famines in various regions, as time goes on they will grow worse and worse. Famines follow hard on the heels of war. Multiple millions will die from starvation.

The fourth seal, in Revelation 6:7-8 and corresponding to the next sign in Matthew 24:7, reveals that the world will be plagued by deadly diseases and terrible disasters. Famine, of course, leads to diseases. And both flow from man-made carnages and natural catastrophes. Widespread pandemics will decimate large populations, as the bubonic plague did in the 14th century, when it killed a third of the population of Europe, Russia, China, and cities on associated trade routes. 

The fifth seal, in Revelation 6:9-11 and corresponding to Matthew 24:9-12, represents great persecution and martyrdom of God's true and faithful servants. Persecution is the lot of God's saints. As Jesus Himself said, "A servant is not greater than his master, if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20). Paul similarly wrote, "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12).

Persecution of God's people has been a fact of life throughout the ages, but it will increase in the time of the end. In times of societal turmoil, it's common to seek a scapegoat. As in earlier times, religious authorities will find in true Christians a convenient group on which to fix the blame.
This commences the time of the Great Tribulation. Other passages reveal that the intensifying persecution will extend to not just Christians but to the physical descendants of ancient Israel. The Israelite peoples will experience terrible devastation from enemies at this time, as prophesied in Deuteronomy 28 (see our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy).

The sixth seal of Revelation 6:12-17 corresponds with Matthew 24:29. Both describe terrifying signs in the sky—the sun and the moon darkened—and what appear to be meteor strikes on the earth. This introduces the time of God's wrath (Revelation 11:18; 14:10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1; 19:15), what Scripture also calls "the day of the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 5:2; Malachi 4:5). This leads directly into Jesus Christ's climactic second coming.

All these major prophetic events lead to and are a part of the very end time, referred to by such terms as the last days, latter days, last times, latter times and the Day of the Lord.

Real-time events and end-time prophecy

Not all prophecies are understandable today, but they all will become clear in the future as geopolitical and technological changes transpire. Who could see the advancement of communications through the vehicle of the computer and Internet? Still, God promises to reveal the future to His faithful people sent out to proclaim His truth: "Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7).

And God has indeed revealed to His followers a few end-time conditions that must be in place before Christ Jesus returns. These conditions have been met only within the last century.

• First, the real possibility of human annihilation must exist.

Humankind now has the ability to wipe out human life through nuclear warheads. That prospect already exists with the United States and Russia; and Britain, France, China, India, and Israel also have sizable nuclear arsenals. Especially dangerous is the development of nuclear weapons by unstable states like Pakistan and North Korea, possibly soon to be joined by Iran.

Jesus said of the time of the end: "It will be a time of great distress; there has never been such a time from the beginning of the world until now, and will never be again. If that time of troubles were not cut short, no living thing could survive; but for the sake of God's chosen it will be cut short" (Matthew 24:21-22; New English Bible).

Humankind has always fought wars, but until recently we've never had the ability to exterminate every human being from the earth. Since 1945 and the detonation of the first atomic bombs, followed by even more destructive hydrogen bombs, humanity now has the ability to destroy all human life many times over.

Jesus Christ must intervene to save humankind from itself—from self-annihilation!

• Second, a Jewish nation must be in place and in control of Jerusalem for some end-time prophecies to be fulfilled.

This was not possible before 1948, when the modern state of Israel was born—something thought impossible over preceding centuries.
The Jews' culture and religion has survived major periods when they were dominated or defeated by Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. Noted 19th-century historian Heinrich Graetz said, "A nation . . . which has witnessed the rise and decay of the most ancient empires, and which still continues to hold its place in the present day, deserves . . . the closest attention" (History of the Jews, 1895, p. 705).

The French emperor Napoleon, when passing near a synagogue and hearing Jews weeping inside, remarked, "A people that longs so much for its city and its temple are bound to restore them one day!"

Jesus prophesied that as the end time approached, the Jews would once again control Jerusalem and the "holy place." Later Jesus said the holy place would be desecrated with the abomination of desolation, as the prophet Daniel had earlier written about (Matthew 24:15-16).

The Jews today control Jerusalem. After the Six-Day War in 1967, when the Jews took possession of Jerusalem, they allowed the Arab Muslims to continue to control the Temple Mount. Since 1989, some Israelis have begun to prepare for the building of a new temple or "holy place." Periodically devout Jews have attempted to place the first stone, but to no avail. The conditions of Jesus' prophecy are partially in place, but more must change before prophesied events can proceed.

• Third, a final revival of a major European geopolitical power must come to pass.

A final revival of the ancient Roman Empire, foretold in the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation, must surface. Daniel 2:40-44 shows that a kingdom of iron, fourth in succession from ancient Babylon, would rule until the end time. That can apply only to the ancient Roman Empire and its 10 revivals, the last seven of which were influenced by the Roman church (compare Revelation 17).

At the end time 10 "kings" or rulers align themselves in a final world superpower that Scripture calls "the beast," led by a powerful dictator also called the Beast (verses 12-13). The time setting of this prophecy is clear from the fact that these 10 rulers "will make war with the Lamb"—the returning Jesus Christ—"and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings" (verse 14).

Only Europe can fill this role. Only Europe and the Roman church have worked together throughout the previous revivals of the ancient Holy Roman Empire. No other kingdom or continent can boast of such a 1,500-year-long relationship.

Newsweek journalist Michael Elliot reported that "in January 1957, six nations signed a treaty on the site of the ancient Roman Capitol, and brought into being the European Economic Community" (Newsweek, Jan. 29, 1996). Paul-Henri Spaak, the then Belgian foreign minister, said of that time, "Do you think that we have laid the first stone of a new Roman Empire?" His aide recalled, "We felt very strongly we were Romans that day" (ibid.).

How can end-time prophecy help you?

The Left Behind series of fictional novels cannot provide true prophetic insight to the end times. Only God can. 

God provides end-time prophecies to cause a self-willed humanity to return to Him. He wants us to repent and fulfill our potential to be His children forever! He wants us to follow Him and to share the good news of Christ's return and the Kingdom of God with others. Though, as we have seen, Christians will be persecuted and martyred in the end time, God has a plan to protect many of those who turn to Him from the terrible prophetic events to come. 

To many of those who watch world news in light of end-time Bible prophecy, who are alert to their spiritual condition and who pray continually to draw close to Him, God offers protection in these coming perilous times (Luke 21:29-36). As we saw earlier in Deuteronomy 28, we can obey God and be blessed now and, more importantly, in the life to come.

Satan's avowed purpose is to destroy humanity. He thinks that he can destroy all human beings through the Great Tribulation before Jesus Christ can intervene to save us. Though billions will die (to be resurrected later in God's plan), many millions will remain alive to begin a new life, rebuilding the waste places and living in a new global Garden of Eden under the reign of Jesus Christ on earth (Ezekiel 36:33-35).

Bible prophecies are God's blueprint to save humanity from itself. These end-time prophecies can help deliver you and your family from the terrible times to come—if you will heed them now. GN

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