One of the most successful genres of cinema in the last three decades has been the “disaster movie.” Digital special effects make it possible to create scenes of catastrophes far more realistic than ever before. In exciting sequences, cities are destroyed or humans encounter technologically superior beings bent on conquering earth. And it all looks so real. In fact, the scenes and characters seem so realistic and engaging on the screen that people can easily imagine such events actually happening.
But how would you react, if a reliable authority told you that there was an imminent invasion of non-humans coming to rule the earth? Would you help fight against them? After all, characters in the movies always resist the space invaders… and surely you want to be on the side of the heroes.
The idea of “space invaders” is taken seriously by some prominent scientists. Consider this: “British physicist Stephen Hawking says aliens are out there, but it could be too dangerous for humans to interact with extraterrestrial life. Hawking claims in a new documentary… that intelligent alien life forms almost certainly exist—but warns that communicating with them could be ‘too risky.’ ‘We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet,’ Hawking said. ‘I imagine they might exist in massive ships... having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach’” (“Hawking: Aliens may pose risks to Earth,” MSNBC, April 25, 2010).
Interestingly enough, a similar movie plot played out in the successful film “Independence Day,” which was released in 1996, well before Professor Hawking’s 2010 comment. In that movie, space invaders with superior technology were bent on destroying human life in order to exploit the earth’s resources.
Is the Bible just a compilation of ancient literary works? Should it be trusted as a book of science? Would you expect the Bible to contain information about a coming space invasion? Is it a book of literature, or of science, or of fiction?
Those questions present false choices. A better question would be, “Is the Bible a book of history?” It certainly is—and the history it contains is being consistently verified by modern archaeology. Among many things, it is also an “instruction manual” for living a successful life.
Moreover, as history, the Bible is unique in that it contains both past and future history. “Prophecy” is another name for that future history. The God of the Bible tells us, “I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure’” (Isaiah 46:9–10). What God tells us about future events is as certain as the history that has already occurred.
Fulfilled prophecy may be as dramatic as a movie thriller. Or it may seem as routine as a story in your morning newspaper—except that the prophecy was given thousands of years ago. In one sense, God is an advance newscaster. For example, in 70ad, Roman soldiers destroyed the temple in Jerusalem while defeating a Jewish rebellion, and the Jews were soon scattered into what is often called the “Diaspora.” Yet, long before, God had foretold through His prophet Zechariah that the Jewish people would return from a scattering many centuries later, as part of a series of prophesied events occurring just before the return of the Messiah. “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it… In that day I will make the governors of Judah like a firepan in the woodpile, and like a fiery torch in the sheaves; they shall devour all the surrounding peoples on the right hand and on the left, but Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place—Jerusalem” (Zechariah 12:2–6).
Indeed, after nearly two millennia of exile, descendants of the ancient kingdom of Judah reestablished their homeland in 1948 as the nation of Israel. Obsessed with destroying Israel, the surrounding Arab nations immediately attacked, but were “burned” and driven back. Then, in 1967, Jerusalem was retaken by the Israelis in the “Six-Day War,” and since that time, Jerusalem has been “a heavy stone” and an intractable political problem for all nations. Those events are history now, yet the prophet Zechariah recorded them millennia ago as “future history”!
What is some additional “future history” that you will see as news in the near future? Tomorrow’s World has long recognized some of the key developments we can expect:
- A ten-nation “United States of Europe” will form, led by Germany. It will not be a secular union as the EU is now, but will be led by a very charismatic religious leader and a powerful political figure. The political leader will not take his power by force; rather, the ten nations—or “kings”—will give it to him, probably for economic reasons. Britain will not be a part of this union.
- This great European leader will make an agreement with Israel that, among other things, will allow the Jews to resume religious sacrifices in Jerusalem.
- A powerful Islamic leader will arise and “push” at the European power. This will result in a European invasion of the Middle East that will defeat the Islamic power. It will also end the sacrifices in Jerusalem (see Daniel 11).
- The cessation of the sacrifices in Jerusalem will begin a period of great trial in the earth, known as “The Great Tribulation” (see Matthew 24:15–22).
- To many observers unaware of Bible prophecy, these events—dramatic though they may be—will seem “normal” in their modern context, though they were, in fact, foretold long ago by a God who tells “the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done” (Isaiah 46:10). God’s plan for humanity will not fail. Yet many observers will be blinded by secular assumptions that exclude the possibility that the Creator is real and is working out His plan.
Beyond these political and military developments, other details of our “future history” will be so dramatic that they will seem remarkably like the catastrophes depicted in Hollywood disaster movies:
Earthquakes: Characters in the popular movie 2012 attempt to flee worldwide catastrophe brought about by astronomical events that cause changes in the earth’s crust, resulting in great earthquakes. As characters narrowly escape death, Los Angeles, California slips into the sea. Los Angeles was also destroyed in the 1974 box office hit, Earthquake, and other films as well. Destroying “L.A.” seems to be a preoccupation with Hollywood producers. The movie earthquakes also produce massive tsunamis that destroy cities worldwide.
Students of Bible prophecy will recognize that Scripture describes great earthquakes just before the coming of Christ. The Apostle John recorded a remarkable vision that mentioned several great earthquakes. “I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake… Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’” (Revelation 6:12–17). This scripture alone could almost be taken as the screenplay for a modern disaster movie.
Other prophetic passages of Scripture also mention great earthquakes occurring before the end of this age. The Apostle Paul explained God’s motivation for this, quoting Haggai 2:6 that “now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.’ Now this, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain” (Hebrews 12:26–27).
Tsunamis: In recent years, many popular films such as Poseidon, Tidal Wave and 2012 have depicted great destruction caused by massive waves of the sea. This echoes the biblical description: “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25–26).
Asteroids and Comets: Some disaster movies—such as Armageddon and Deep Impact—portray an asteroid or comet crashing into the earth, causing great damage. Once again, the Bible foretells of a similar event. “And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter” (Revelation 8:10–11). When this finally happens, will people see it as a natural disaster, or recognize the biblical warning?
Disease Epidemics: Dozens of disaster movies in recent years have been built around the theme of disease epidemics. Films such as Outbreak and Ebola Syndrome echo Scripture’s warning that major disease pandemics will devastate the earth’s population at the end of this age. “So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image… They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds” (Revelation 16:2, 11). Notice that, instead of recognizing God’s warning and correction, Scripture shows that many will blame God for their illness, and will harden their hearts against Him rather than turn from their sins. This hardening will set up a final prophesied worldwide rebellion against God, and a great battle between good and evil upon the return of Jesus Christ.
Alien Invaders: One of Hollywood’s most popularmovie genres is the alien invader from outer space. The aliens may be cuddly, as in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, or benevolent as in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Or, they may be terrifying creatures bent on destroying mankind, as in War of the Worlds.
End-time prophecy in the Bible describes an extraordinary event in which a ruler with great power and glory will descend from the clouds to set up a kingdom on the earth. “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).
Notice that this remarkable prophecy, given by Jesus Himself, states that “all the tribes of the earth will mourn” at the sight of Christ’s coming. Will people see these dramatic events as divinely fulfilled prophecy—or as natural events that they have already seen depicted very realistically in one way or another in the movies? Will they see Christ as a Savior or an invader? The Bible indicates the latter.
The Apostle Paul warned Christians that a time of great deception will come on the earth: “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4).
Paul then reminded the brethren in Thessalonica about the prophecies he had shared with them. “Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?… 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. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (vv. 5–12).
The Bible foretells that Judah—the modern nation of Israel—will reinstate animal sacrifices, but that the sacrifices will be stopped by an unrighteous king who will occupy Jerusalem. This will occur as part of an invasion of the Middle East by a great European “king of the north.” The end of the sacrifices will begin a series of catastrophic events over three and a half years that will culminate in what many on the earth will assume is an invasion by a hostile being and his armies. That “invasion,” however, will in fact be the long-awaited coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ—the King of Kings!
“And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon” (Revelation 16:16). The word, “Armageddon” derives from a place about fifty miles north of Jerusalem called “Har Megiddo” or Mount Megiddo. It is located on the edge of the Plain of Jezreel, which has ample room for great armies to gather. It sits astride the northern invasion route into Israel, and in ancient times was the scene of various battles. Notice that the armies only gather at Armageddon. The actual name of the battle is “the battle of that great day of God Almighty,” and it takes place at another location—the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:1–2)—which is the Kidron Valley in Jerusalem. The Kidron Valley lies between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives.
Incredibly, the nations of the earth—in a state of “strong delusion”—will go out to fight against Christ when He returns—just as they would fight an invading alien. “Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east” (Zechariah 14:3–4). In the movies, the hero always defeats the invading aliens—but this battle is not a movie script. They will be fighting Jesus Christ, who has “all authority in heaven and earth” (Matthew 28:18)—and the climax of the story is that the nations’ armies will be annihilated (Zechariah 14:12)!
God tells us that He will “shake the earth” to get the world’s attention. But will a world in spiritual darkness be able to recognize what is actually happening? Only those who are willing to look at these dramatic events through the eyes of faith will see. If we allow ourselves to be informed by faith, then we will believe what God says through His prophets. If not, in those days, only deception will remain. In the end, it will be a choice between the flesh and the Spirit. Jesus asked, “when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).