Before we tackle the subject matter I plan to cover today, I want to begin with an important disclaimer. While I feel very confident in my Biblical understanding of the End Times and specifically what the Scriptures have to say about the future, I want to acknowledge there are Godly, honorable, intelligent believers who see many of these things much differently than I do. These people are wrong, but they aren’t heretics or bad Christians.
It’s also worth noting that as it pertains to The End, regardless of our disagreements concerning the details, the orthodox understanding of our final destination is universally agreed upon — the suffering of this world will give way to an eternity we spend with our Savior Jesus. In the end, the differences in eschatological beliefs center primarily on the journey we have to travel to reach our final destination.
While there are nuanced positions that split hairs across a wide spectrum of beliefs, the core difference between my view and others hinges upon how one interprets the prophecies of Daniel, the Olivet Discourse of Jesus, and Book of Revelation. For example…
If you believe the 70-Weeks Prophecy recorded in Daniel 9:26-27, what Jesus then articulated to His disciples from the Mount of Olives, and the Revelation given to the Apostle John documents the events of 70 AD when Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, then you’ll have a much different perspective than someone like myself who sees many of these prophecies as still requiring a literal, future fulfillment.
You see for me it boils down to two contrary approaches to the Bible itself… You either contort Scripture to fit into an eschatological position you already have or you allow Scripture to dictate your eschatological position. It’s really that simple.
Let me add a historical footnote… Beginning in 70 AD and continuing for 1878 years until May of 1948, church theologians struggled with a literal reading of End Times prophecies because the Children of Israel were front and center. Many reasoned, “How could any of these things be describing future events since the Nation of Israel doesn’t exist?”
In fairness, you can understand their challenge. Without the Nation of Israel, the logical assumption was these prophecies couldn’t be describing the future. And since this was the case, scholars had to then figure out a way to fit the fulfillment of them into events that had already taken place in history. Not only did the assumption Israel was gone forever give rise to Replacement or Covenant Theology and later Dispensationalism, but the irony is the entire exercise became silly when Israel rose from the ashes of history following WW2!
Frankly, I believe the best way to study and understand Biblical prophecy is to employ three simple approaches: First unless you’re told otherwise, read the text literally. Secondly, look for a historical event that cleanly fits the literal description. And thirdly, if there isn’t one, go ahead and assume the prophecy still has a future fulfillment.
The purpose of this morning’s study is to help us transition from our travels through Daniel to the Book of Revelation. To do this, I have two goals. First, I want to take what we’ve learned from Daniel concerning this Seven-Year Great Tribulation, the Second Coming of Jesus, and Millennial Reign of Christ as well as what we’re going to see in the Book of Revelation and organize it all into a simple timeline that’s easier to understand.
After this, I then want to take some time to address three other prophecies that don’t fit into the End Times scenario but may very well set the stage for these events.
To begin with, any discussion of the End Times must start with the 70-Weeks Prophecy recorded in Daniel 9:24-27, because it provides for us the foundation by which so much of our understanding of the future is based. Since this is the case, let’s take just a few minutes and re-examine the generalities of this important prophecy.
Verse 24, “Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city (God set aside 490 years to accomplish the following things:), to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.” (Most of this list hasn’t been fulfilled.)
Verse 25, “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times.”
We know historically from the command of King Xerxes on March 14, 445 BC allowing the Jews to rebuild the city of Jerusalem it took “seven weeks” or 49 years for the people to complete the street and walls. According to Nehemiah, it was indeed “troublesome times.”
Once the city was finished in accordance with Xerxes command, it then took another “sixty-two weeks” or 434 years for Jesus to make His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. As a result, verse 25 closes with 483 of the 490 years God had set aside already being fulfilled.
Verse 26, “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.”
Again, we know verse 26 has a clear fulfillment in history. 483 years from Xerxes’ decree (“seven weeks” followed by “sixty-two”) Jesus presented Himself to Israel as their Messiah. “After” this incredible moment, we also know two tragic events followed… Jesus was “cut off” and crucified, and the Romans “destroyed the city and the sanctuary.”
Verse 27, “Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week (the “he” refers back to “the prince who is to come” indicating this future leader would be of Roman or European descent — the “covenant for one week” refers to a peace accord that would last a period of 7 years, the 70th week); but in the middle of the week (3½ year mark) he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.”
Jesus would build off of this important passage by saying to His disciples in Matthew 24:15, “Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.
But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”
One of the pastor’s I listened too during my own study through Daniel — a man I admire but totally disagree with when it comes to the future — when he got to the 70-Weeks Prophecy instead of explaining how it fits into his eschatology he threw up his hands and said, “Anyone who says they know what this means is lying to you!” Because the prophecy didn’t fit within his belief structure, it was just easier for him to ignore it. What a shame!
Not only do I reject the idea Daniel 9 is unknowable and confusing, from my perspective there are two things we know for sure in light of the 70-Weeks Prophecy. First, of the 490-years God set aside for the Jewish people, 483 have already taken place in history! Second, in addition to most of the items on God’s to-do list not being presently accomplished, this final period of 7 years has no clear historical fulfillment!
To this point, because Jesus placed the “abomination of desolation spoke of by Daniel the prophet” as still being a future event, we know it could not have been fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanies in 168 BC. Aside from this, while it’s true in 70 AD Titus may have brought to “an end sacrifice and offerings” as a result of destroying Jerusalem and the Temple, he didn’t “confirm a covenant with many” nor did he commit this “abomination of desolation.”
In light of this reality, you’re really only left with one honest conclusion… The final 7 years of God’s “determined” 490-year timeline for Israel still remains future. And since this is the case, the 70-Weeks Prophecy actually places for us three events on the timeline!
According to Daniel 9, we know the 7 years begins with the Antichrist signing a peace accord with many — including Israel. We also know at the 3½ year mark or the middle of the 7 years (1260 days) the Antichrist then commits the Abomination of Desolation.
Because of this evil act, the Hebrew people end up rejecting this man and in turn, they accept Jesus as their Messiah. As a result, the next 3½ years would include a Great Tribulation, unlike anything the world has ever seen. Aside from the systematic persecution of all Jews and anyone who’d follow Jesus, this period will also include the judgment of God being poured out on a wicked world in complete and total rebellion.
On account of all of this, we know these 7 years will end 2,520 days after they began and 1260 days following the Abomination of Desolation with the Battle of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to this earth riding a white stallion in glory.
In this awesome moment in history, everyone on earth who’d taken the mark of the beast will be destroyed and their souls sent to Hades to await the Final Judgment. The Antichrist, False Prophet, and the fallen angels are all thrown into the Lake of Fire. And Satan is cast into the bottomless pit where he’ll remain in chains for 1000 years.
According to an additional timeline provided in Daniel 12 taking us beyond these 7 years… Once Jesus returns it will take Him 30 days to restore the earth, heal the seas, and round up all the survivors. Then, with everyone now gathered in Jerusalem and the earth back in good health, the next 45 days will see Him reordering the nations and forming His government. 75 days after His Second Coming the Millennial Reign will begin lasting for the next 1000 years. BC (“Before Christ”) and AD (“Anno Domini” which is Latin for “In the year of our Lord”) will give way to the NE — a new era of human history.
Though we’re a little vague on all the particulars, according to Revelation 20:7-10, we’re told what happens at the end of the Millennial Reign, “Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth… to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
At this point, the final Great White Throne Judgment occurs whereby those who’ve rejected Jesus are judged according to their works. After this, John writes in Revelation 21:1-4, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’”
Getting back to our timeline and specifically the events of this 7-year tribulation, from the 10,000-foot perspective we know this period of time intended to accomplish two aims. First, God allows the Antichrist to deceived the Jewish people, so that following his abomination they might come to accept Jesus as their Christ. Don’t forget, the purpose of these seven years according to Daniel 9 was for God to finish His dealings with Israel.
That said, there is a second purpose… Just as He did in times past (Noah’s Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the 10 Plagues of Egypt to name just a few examples) God will use this period of time to supernaturally judge the world of their sin, rebellion, and rejection of Jesus! While you’ll find an outline of these judgments in Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, the Book of Revelation provides for us the most comprehensive articulation of these things.
If you call, in Daniel 12:9 Jesus said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.” Fast-forward to the heavenly scene recorded for us in Revelation 5:1-7, “And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.
But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.’ And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.”
Beginning in Revelation 6, from heaven, Jesus begins to “loose these seven seals” and with each, a divine judgment takes place on the earth. Personally, I believe the imagery of Jesus unsealing the scroll intends to relay the enacting or implementing of the future prophecies Daniel the prophet was instructed to “close up and seal till the time of the end.” In the throne room of heaven, it may be that Jesus is unsealing the Book of Daniel!
To this point, the first seal judgment describes the Antichrist emerging onto the world scene. The second sees this man waging a great war in order to consolidate power. The third seal unleashes an economic collapse. The fourth — widespread death and famine. The fifth — a global persecution of the saints. The sixth — cosmic disturbances on the earth.
With the loosing of the seventh seal, we have enacted a second set of seven Trumpet Judgments… With the first — a third of all vegetation is burned up. With the second — a third of all sea creatures and ships are destroyed. With the third — a third of all the freshwater is made bitter. With the fourth — a third of the sky was blackened. With the fifth — demons like locusts are allowed to torment the people of the earth for five months. With the sixth — four fallen angels are released to kill a third of mankind through another war.
With the seventh trumpet, another set of seven final Bowl Judgments are poured out on the earth… The first bowl causes loathsome sores to break out on anyone who’d taken the mark of the beast. The second bowl turns the seas into blood killing all marine life.
The third bowl does the same to the freshwater. The fourth bowl causes the sun to scorch men with a great heat. The fifth bowl sees the world covered in a horrifying darkness. The sixth bowl releases 4 demons who gather the armies of the world for a final conflict. The seventh bowl sees a great earthquake, thunderings and lightenings, Jerusalem spit into three, the cities of the earth brought to ruin, and 100-pound hail raining down on the planet.
I should add that trying to place these three sets of judgments (the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls) into a clear chronological framework with these 7 final years is difficult for two simple reasons. Keep in mind, events taking place in the throne room of heaven are triggering events on earth. The obvious challenge is we don’t fully understand the way time functions in the heavenly realm in relation to the way it does on earth.
Also, because the seventh Seal Judgment triggers six Trumpet judgments with the seventh Trumpet then triggering seven more Bowl Judgments (the seventh Seal Judgment includes a grand total of 13 additional judgments), there is no question we have serious overlap.
In my opinion — and again no one can be dogmatic to this point, the first 4 seals (“white, red, black, and pale horse”) likely occur during the first 3½ years — with the rest of the judgments coming during the second half which Jesus calls Great Tribulation. Side note… There are some who try to argue the first 3½ years are not that bad. While they may not be as bad in the context of the second 3½ years, I wouldn’t want to live through them.
Recap: This seven-year tribulational period begins with the Antichrist signing a peace treaty with many (Seal 1). Concerning those who refuse to join his confederation, the Antichrist wages war on them (Seal 2). As a result, the global economy collapses (Seal 3). From the war, severe inflation, and famine, we’re told “a fourth of the earth” perishes (Seal 4). I should add, during this time, we have 144,000 sealed evangelists and Two Witnesses.
At the halfway point of these seven years, the Antichrist enters the Temple and commits the Abomination of Desolation. He’s finally allowed to kill the Two Witness and he proceeds to initiate a brutal persecution of the saints of God (Seal 5). Almost immediately, the earth begins to moan for its Maker (Seal 6). Over the course of the next 3½ years, the Seventh Seal unleashes what can only be described as truly Great Tribulation.
A third of all vegetation is burned up. A third of the sea is turned to blood. A third of the freshwater becomes undrinkable. A third of the sky is blackened. At some point, demon-locusts are released on earth to torment mankind for 5 months. While this is happening, four more demons are let out of chains to spark a war that will kill an additional ⅓ of mankind.
As we rapidly approach the end of these seven years… All those who’ve taken the mark of the beast break out in loathsome sores. Likely, because of the fall out from this second great war, the rest of the sea is turned to blood and all freshwater becomes undrinkable.
The deterioration of the ozone causes temperatures on earth to sore. Whether it be on account of a nuclear fallout or volcanic eruptions, the entire sky is turned to darkness. Four more demons are released to bring the world together for a final Battle of Armageddon. Then the final bowl is poured out whereby God brings the cities of this world to ruin through a great earthquake and judges the world for blasphemy with 100-pound hailstones.
It’s at this moment, Jesus comes riding out of heaven on a white horse to put an end to the mayhem. Indeed, if things were allowed to continue, no flesh would have been able to survive! Following Jesus’ Second Coming, He takes 30 days to restore the earth and round up the survivors. Over the next 45 days, Jesus reorganizes the nations and establishes His Kingdom. He reigns for 1000 years when there is one final rebellion. Following this, all sinners are judged and this existence gives way to a new heaven and a new earth.
Moving beyond the prophecies that directly tie into what we’d call the End Times, regarding the future, I should add the Bible does include three additional prophecies that seem to occur before Daniel’s 70th Week but likely in close proximity.
First, according to congruent prophecies recorded in Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49, we know a day will come when the Syrian capital of Damascus (one of the oldest cities) will be utterly destroyed. Because of her wickedness, God says He “will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus” so that she “ceases from being a city” and becomes such “a ruinous heap” that “her young men shall fall in her streets and all the men of war shall be cut off in that day.”
Whether the destruction of Damascus happens via a preemptive attack by Israel or the city is brought to ruin because of an accident like we recently saw occur in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, the day is coming when Damascus experiences the judgment of God.
Secondly, in Ezekiel 38 and 39 we have provided an amazingly detailed description of a future attack against the Nation of Israel. I wish I had more time to unpack this prophecy, but let me give you the generalities. At some point in the future, Israel will be attacked by a coalition of nations aligned with Russia who is likely “Gog and Magog.”
The nations listed in the prophecy that join Russia include Iran, Libya, some of the Islamic countries of Northern Africa, as well as Turkey. In the scenario Ezekiel describes, Israel is outmatched and outgunned. That said, against insurmountable odds and what appeared to be certain destruction, God intervenes to protect His people utterly destroying this coalition.
In fact, what happens is so obviously supernatural it leads to a spiritual stirring within Israel I believe sets the stage for the beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week. A case can be made that this event creates the need whereby a world leader rises up to broker a peace between Israel and the rest of the world — a peace the Jews now demand include rebuilding their Temple.
This spiritual awaking on account of God’s direct intervention also paves the way for the Jews to then see this leader who brought peace and a new Temple as being their Messiah. Sadly, it won’t take but 3½ years for the Jews to see this man as being the Antichrist.
What’s so fascinating about the Ezekiel 38 and 39 prophecy are the nations not included in the list of those who come against Israel. Historically, Iraq (Babylon), Jordan, Syrian, and Egypt have always been enemies of the Jewish people. And yet, they are oddly absent.
Today, through events we’ve watched develop over the last 40 years, these nations would likely pass on such a conflict. Syria has been mired in a civil way for the last decade. If Damascus is destroyed prior to Ezekiel 38 and 39, you can understand why the Syrian’s aren’t included. Aside from this, Egypt and Jordan are two of the Arab nations that have peace treaties with Israel. No doubt, Iraq has larger issues with Iran to worry about.
Additionally, you’ll also notice Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Sunni Gulf States are not included as well. Led first by the UAE normalizing relations with Israel just a few weeks ago, many believe most of the Arabian Peninsula are soon likely to follow suit.
According to this prophecy where Israel is left to fend for herself many find it odd the United States is absent. Today, few would risk an attack on Israel because it would bring the USA into the conflict since we’re her chief ally in the region. It’s my personal opinion the reason America is absent and Israel alone by this point in history stems from the third prophetic event that takes place BEFORE the beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week — the Rapture!
While you will not find one chapter dedicated to the Rapture of the Church, there is no question this future event weaves its way throughout the entire New Testament. As an overview, the Doctrine of the Rapture presents a future moment in time when Jesus (the Groom) calls the Church (His Bride) home to heaven. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
Not to be mistaken as the Second Coming when Jesus actually returns to earth, the Rapture describes the moment the Church is taken from this earth to join Jesus in heaven. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
Upfront, regarding those who believe in the Rapture, some see this event happening in the middle of the seven-year tribulation and others at the very end. We refer to these positions as Mid-Trib and Post-Trib respectively. I believe the Bible is absolutely crystal clear the Rapture of the Church must happen before the Tribulation. Let me explain why…
In 2 Thessalonians 2:5-8 Paul points to the work of the Holy Spirit through the Church as the singular thing presently restricting the revealing of the Antichrist. “Now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.”
It stands to reason, the Rapture of the Church not only enables the Antichrist to finally come upon the world stage but the completion of the Church Age also allows God to now turn His attention back to the Hebrew people. Romans 11:25-26, “For I do not desire that you should be ignorant of this mystery, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved.” We’ll get to this in our study of Revelation, but the very structure of the book reinforces this idea.
Aside from this, you will find the idea of imminency being critical to the Rapture itself. Imminency means the Rapture could happen at any moment. Jesus would say, “No man knows the day or the hour.” The biggest issue connecting the Rapture with the Abomination of Desolation (Mid-Trib) or the Second Coming (Post-Trib) is that it completely removes this idea. Because of Daniel’s Prophecy, we have a firm timeline of these events to the day!
It’s worth pointing out the Bible describes the conditions on earth leading up to the Rapture in such a way it could not happen during the tribulation. You see when Jesus calls His Church home no one will see it coming. There will peace. Life will be good. The opposite environment of a tribulational world thrown into judgment, chaos, and calamity.
Ultimately, a Pre-Tribulational placement of the Rapture is the most consistent with Scriptural precedent and Jesus’ character. In 1 Thessalonians 1:10, Paul encourages the Church “to wait for His Son” to come “from heaven, whom He raised from the dead — who delivers us from the wrath to come.” Then a few chapters later (5:9) Paul adds, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Don’t forget the two goals for the Tribulation: Finish His dealings with Israel and judge the world of sin! Over and over again the Bible reinforces the precedent that before God punishes the wicked He removes the righteous (Noah and the Ark, Lot and Sodom). To this point, Joe Focht observed, “Jesus wouldn’t beat up the Bride before the honeymoon.”
Lastly, not only should the Rapture challenge Christians to live every day as if it may be their last, but it provides comfort concerning the future. In Revelation 3:10 Jesus will write to the faithful church, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” If the Church had to endure any of the coming Tribulation, how would the Doctrine of the Rapture provide any comfort or encouragement?
Let me play this out… I believe the Rapture of the Church cripples America leaving Israel completely alone. I believe Syria intends to move against Israel, but this move is thwarted by Israel destroying Damascus. Because Russia is aligned with Syria and has military bases on Syrian soil, they retaliate with a coalition of the willing. Israel is doomed, but God intervenes. Reawakened to spiritual things a Jewish leader emerges from Europe. He ushers in a peace accord that allows the Temple to be built. He’s seen as the Messiah.
In closing… Why should we care about the End Times? In the end, it’s simple really… Knowing how things end should clarify what things should be important now! Christian, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to get bogged down in despair by the things happening in the world around us or worse still distracted by them from our purpose. The remedy to racism, social equity, and environmental justice is the return of Jesus!
Our priorities as Christians should be simple. Let me ask… If the Rapture happened today, are you ready to stand before Jesus — to hear “well done good and faithful servant?” If you knew Great Tribulation began tomorrow, who do you love enough that you’d warn them immediately? You see the way you answer those two questions should let you know what needs to change in your life and who you need to share the love of Christ with!
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