Millions who call themselves "Christians" are waiting for their Savior's return. It will be the most momentous event since His resurrection. But can we know when and how that world-changing event will occur?
Over the past 2,000 years, many have tried to predict the date of Jesus Christ's return. Predicted dates have come and gone. Yet Christ said He would come again. Can we know when this momentous event will occur?
Imagine the bold headlines announcing "Jesus Christ Has Returned"! Imagine the "headline news" on radio and television: "We interrupt this program to give you the shocking news that Jesus Christ has just returned to this earth! Our Middle East correspondent reports that Jesus has descended to the Mount of Olives—just east of Jerusalem—and seems to be preparing to make His way into the city!"
Wow! And yet, the very real return of Jesus Christ to planet earth is going to be even more awesome and dramatic than that—more than I can possibly describe!
Pollsters have found that about one in four professing Christian adults in the United States expect Jesus Christ to return to this earth. Sadly, because even most professing Christians are biblically illiterate, the vast majority say they are unsure about when and how Christ will return, and what will happen afterward. Even many "mainstream" ministers are quite liberal and do not believe that Jesus was an actual person—or that He died, was resurrected and ascended to heaven. So they often think of Christ's second coming as a theological "myth," or at the very most as something that is very indefinite and "way off."
I well remember hearing, in person, one very famous evangelist thundering to his audience, "Christ may come tonight! Yet, on the other hand, present events may just be another stage in the great human drama that may last another thousand years before Christ's return!"
Frankly, either of these extremes is ridiculous. And those who espouse such ideas have virtually no understanding of biblical prophecy whatsoever or they would not arrive at such conclusions. Either extreme is wrong.
There are literally dozens of indications that we are in the prophesied "last days." Let me give you just a few.
First, in Jesus' famous Olivet Prophecy, He warns us to watch for the "abomination of desolation" described by Daniel the prophet, which will be "standing in the holy place" (Matthew 24:15). Nearly all scholars agree that the original "abomination" was a statue of either Zeus or Jupiter Olympus which was forcibly placed in the Temple of God by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168bc. However, many recognize the principle of duality here—that is, both a typical and antitypical (or later) fulfillment of this same prophecy.
Certainly, the final "abomination of desolation" to which Jesus referred is obviously after Jesus' human lifetime. Notice God's instruction to Daniel near the end of Daniel's prophecy: "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand. And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days" (Daniel 12:9–11).
Clearly, then, there must be some sort of temple or altar in Jerusalem at the end of this age where the "daily sacrifice" (v. 11) is offered. That is when the final "abomination" is set up. This passage also indicates that the Jews at the time of the end would have a significant presence in Jerusalem. None of this makes sense without a revived state of Israel, a Jewish Jerusalem and a rebuilt altar for sacrifices.
Another clear indication that we are in the "end times" is found in Matthew 24:21–22. Jesus had been asked, "What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" (v. 3). After describing a series of events and the placing of the "abomination," Jesus stated: "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." Here, Jesus predicted the most awful and enormous national punishment in history—and the danger of cosmocide if God did not intervene supernaturally.
Cosmocide—the annihilation of all flesh—was not possible even during World War II. For although two atomic bombs were dropped to end the war with Japan, there were few or no more bombs available for some time thereafter. According to many authorities, it was not until about 1957 that—between the U.S. and the Soviet Union—enough atomic weapons existed to annihilate all humanity.
So with the return of many of the Jews to Israel in 1948, and the degree of atomic weapons proliferation by 1957, we had certainly entered the "time of the end"—if not even before then.
Also, in Daniel 12:4, God told Daniel, "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." Note that massive use of transportation would mark the end-time, and a vast increase in man's knowledge would occur. Again, since World War II we have come to take for granted the millions of people hurtling through the air in our modern airplanes and jumbo jets. In almost every corner of the earth, men are now driving automobiles to and fro and are traveling around in a manner that would have been unthinkable before the 20th century began. In addition, the advent of radio, television and the Internet has contributed to a virtual explosion in human knowledge when compared to past ages.
We are definitely living in the "last days"! Christ will undoubtedly return within the lifetimes of the young people growing up today—and many older people may also live to witness this awesome event.
Sadly, human prognosticators and interpreters of Bible prophecy will often read a biblical prophecy and then imagine what it is all about! Of course, the correct way to understand the Bible is to honestly and thoroughly put together all the scriptures dealing with any subject—including prophecy—and then through careful study and heartfelt prayer come to understand the whole picture.
For instance, when you carefully compare the prophecies of Daniel, Revelation and Jesus' Olivet Prophecy as recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, a clear picture emerges as to when and how Christ will return.
Notice: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John" (Revelation 1:1). Here we find that this is Christ's revelation—not the Apostle John's! We also read that the stated purpose is to reveal things or events that would "shortly take place."
In Revelation 2 and 3, we find an inspired description of the eras or ages of God's true Church. The final church era, Laodicea, is characterized as being "lukewarm." So even the majority of the true people of God in the end-times are apparently overcome by a degree of worldliness and are influenced by our fun-seeking "me" generation. Revelation 4 and 5 describe the transcendent glory of God. Then chapter 5 describes how Christ only is found worthy to open the seals of Revelation and begin this revealing of end-time events.
Revelation 6 then describes, in order, the events of the first six seals. Study it carefully and compare especially with Matthew 24:3–9. First, we find the description of the "white horse." This is clearly identified in Matthew 24:5 as a wave of false prophets sent out to use Christ's name and yet deceive the masses (see also Revelation 12:9)! Next, we read of the "red horse" sent out to "take peace from the earth." Matthew 24:6–7 enlarges on this and shows that this will include not only war, but also world war. The third seal, the "black horse" of Revelation 6, describes tiny bits of food being carefully weighed—obviously a time of severe food shortages. Matthew 24:7 describes this next event as "famine."
Then the fourth seal is a "pale horse"—a sickly-looking horse—which brings death and the grave. And Jesus concurs in Matthew 24:7 that the next prophesied event in this series of events leading up to His Second Coming is indeed pestilence—major disease epidemics of unprecedented proportions. For after describing these four major events, the inspired John tells us, "Power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth" (Revelation 6:8). And Matthew 24:7 adds that earthquakes will also be a significant factor during this time period.
A "fourth" of the earth to perish? Most scholars acknowledge that this is not talking about one-fourth of the earth's surface—which is mostly ocean, mountains and desert anyway. It is speaking of one-fourth of the entire population of this earth! Without any increase in the earth's present population (now more than 6.5 billion), one-fourth would represent more than 1.6 billion people to be destroyed by these first four "horsemen."
In this inspired description, the fearful Great Tribulation and the "Day of the Lord" have not yet even begun!
The fifth seal of Revelation is, in fact, describing the Great Tribulation. The emphasis here is on the church aspect—upon the fact that many of the people in God's true Church will be persecuted, martyred as they were in past ages (Revelation 6:9–11). But other scriptures—including Matthew 24:21–22, Luke 21:22–24 and Jeremiah 30:4–7—tell us that this horrifying Tribulation will be not just upon the true Church but on the physical nations of Israel and Judah—including the United States and British-descended nations of the world. For biblical and historical proof of this, write or call us today and ask us for a copy of our booklet, The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy. It will be sent to you absolutely free upon your request.
The Great Tribulation involves a massive national punishment upon the physical nations of Israel who have failed to honor their covenant with God and have turned aside into gross immorality and hedonism. They have a "form" of religion—many even calling themselves "Christian"—but deny the power and authority of the Creator God (2 Timothy 3:5)! Professing Christians of our day will no doubt challenge God's right to punish His people. God answers, "Why do you cry about your affliction? Your sorrow is incurable. Because of the multitude of your iniquities, because your sins have increased, I have done these things to you" (Jeremiah 30:15).
Immediately after the Great Tribulation comes the sixth seal, the "heavenly signs" (Revelation 6:12–16). Again, Matthew 24 corroborates this perfectly: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (v. 29).
Then comes the "Day of the Lord"—the time of God's full wrath upon all the rebellious nations of the earth (Revelation 6:17). After a number of Israelites and Gentiles are "sealed" and are protected from God's final wrath (Revelation 7), then the "trumpet plagues" begin.
The first plague scorches one-third of the trees and all the green grass on the earth (Revelation 8:7). In quick succession, the following plagues turn a third of the sea into blood, destroy one-third of the fish and one-third of all ships, poison one-third of the springs and rivers of water and blot out much of the light from the sun, moon and stars (vv. 7–12).
The fifth and sixth plagues describe what may be a totally sophisticated, gargantuan "Star Wars" type of attack by the European Beast Power upon its enemies, then, a powerful counter-attack by a massive army of 200 million warriors—probably composed of millions of Russians, Mongolians and Chinese troops who have not submitted to the arrogant European dictator also called the "Beast."
Finally, after a three-and-one-half-year Tribulation and captivity for the peoples of Israel—a period of powerful prophesying and "warning" to the Beast Power by the "two witnesses," during which God will provide protection for the truly faithful people in His Church (see Revelation 11:3; 12:14)—Christ returns in magnificent glory at the seventh trump (Revelation 11:15)!
Meanwhile, just before the Great Tribulation, a powerful Arab confederation will come together and threaten and provoke the coming European Beast Power (Daniel 11:40–45). Notice that this is at the "time of the end." The more heavily armed and sophisticated Beast Power will swoop down on this "king of the south" like a "whirlwind."
The forces of the Beast Power will also conquer the Jewish state of Israel and take over much of the Middle East—no doubt to gain control of the Arab oil reserves to fuel their war machine! As we have seen, the next event is the attack upon the "house of Israel" (Jeremiah 30)—the Great Tribulation. This will absolutely be a "time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation" (Daniel 12:1). Soon after this massive Tribulation and Day of the Lord, Christ will return, "and many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake" (v. 2) in the resurrection from the dead at Christ's Second Coming!
Also, just before the Tribulation, the seventh "revival" of the Holy Roman Empire takes place and a final emperor/king/dictator wins the support of ten leaders of nations in Europe, which will comprise the final, prophesied Beast Power (Revelation 17:8–13). Foolishly, the leaders of this awesome, military power think their sophisticated weaponry will somehow prevail even against Christ! They try to do battle even as the returning Christ and the armies of heaven descend in power, "These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful" (v. 14). All this clearly shows the degree of deception and spiritual blindness that will have come over the leaders of the earth at that time. Indeed, the "god of this age" has absolutely blinded those "who do not believe" (2 Corinthians 4:4). Please remember that, until Jesus Christ returns to this earth, this is Satan's world!
Remember also that this coming Beast Power is not only a military and political power. It is a "tool" that will be used by the great harlot described in Revelation 17. For as these scriptures clearly tell us, the woman rides the beast (vv. 3, 7, 9)!
The term "woman" is used in a number of scriptures in God's word to symbolize a church. In 2 Corinthians 11:2, the Apostle Paul is inspired to describe the true Church as a "chaste virgin" to Christ. In Ephesians 5, Paul describes the Church as being in the place of a woman (vv. 23–25). In Revelation 12:6 and 12:14, the Church is pictured as a "woman" fleeing to a place of safety in the "wilderness."
However, in Revelation 17 God is describing a great fallen church, "The mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth" (v. 5). John was inspired to tell us: "I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement. But the angel said to me, 'Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns'" (vv. 6–7). So this spiritually drunken church is also a great persecuting church. And it will be sitting on and guiding the Beast, the final revival of the Holy Roman Empire.
As this foul religious/political system comes together in Europe and as a great false prophet arises "according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders" (2 Thessalonians 2:9), untold millions of Americans, Canadians, British and Europeans will be tempted and will even be pressured to become part of this rotten system. Many of you reading this now may be tempted to "join," to lend support or at least "go along"!
Do not do that!
For God Himself directly warns against our participation in this satanic system: "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities" (Revelation 18:4–5). Indeed, the direct plagues of God are going to fall upon this system and all those who are part of it (see Revelation 16)!
I tell you most sincerely that Jesus Christ will not return to this earth until we have experienced the most spine-tingling, earthshaking and colossal events since mankind has inhabited this planet! Professing Christian ministers who say, "Christ could come tonight," are so out of touch with the truths of the Bible that it is almost unbelievable!
On the other hand, as momentous events quickly spiraled, back in 1989–90, with the shocking and unexpected breakup of the former Soviet Union's control over Eastern Europe, so the events preceding Christ's return will likely attain a similarly swift momentum. And for those true Christians who die before Christ's return, He really could "come tonight"—as those in the grave "know nothing" (Ecclesiastes 9:5). For none of us knows exactly how many days or years we may have left in this human existence.
In any case, remember that God Himself clearly reveals in His inspired word an entire series of events to occur before Christ's coming. If you are willing to genuinely surrender your life to God and to let the living Christ rule your life, you may indeed become part of that "little flock" of God, part of that true Church that is taken to a place of safety on this earth during the soon-coming Great Tribulation (Revelation 12:14).
Speaking of these events, Jesus Christ commands us all: "So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:31–36).