From wars to pandemics to astronomical marvels, what does God's Word tell us to watch for in the year ahead?
Bible prophecy gives us an outline of future events. Jesus Christ told His followers to “watch” for the signs of the end-times (Matthew 24:42).
But what are the signs we should be watching? What can we really know from Scripture? We need to be prepared for 2015… and beyond!
In 2014, the drama of human history and its violence and war continued unabated. Coalition forces attacked the extremist Islamic force called ISIS. Military jets from several countries bombed ISIS targets in Iraq and even in Syria. Russia’s military marched into the Crimean Peninsula and claimed it as its own territory. Japan and China clashed over disputed island territories. Palestinian military bases in Gaza fired more than 4,000 missiles into Israel, some as far as Tel Aviv, killing dozens of Israelis, and prompting Israel to send land forces into Gaza to stop this action, killing or injuring thousands of Palestinians in response. Extremists even beheaded journalists, as bloody evil raised its wicked specter. In West Africa, thousands died from the Ebola disease. As many of you know, Jesus of Nazareth warned that there will be terrible disease epidemics in the prophetic end-times, the age in which we are now living! He warned, “And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:7–8).
But will we ever see the end of conflict, wars, and violence? And is there anything you can do to escape the dangerous times ahead? Jesus gave an outline of prophetic events in the famous “Olivet Prophecy” (so-called because it was spoken on the Mount of Olives). You can read it for yourself in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. The Savior stated, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all thesethings must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Matthew 24:6–7).
Has human nature changed since Christ spoke those words? No! The last hundred years brought us two world wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, several Middle East wars and terrorism across the U.S., Great Britain, and many other nations. Nations against nations, ethnic groups against ethnic groups, religious sects against religious sects—violence continues, and at the very end will increase even further.
World history has demonstrated that governments and alliances cannot produce lasting peace. The Apostle Paul quoted the prophet Isaiah, who stated this troubling reality: “And the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:17–18).
What other major trends can we expect in 2015? Chapter 17 of the book of Revelation describes the revival of a mysterious “Beast” power. We read: “There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time” (Revelation 17:10).
Regular readers of this magazine understand that this European superpower will be a revival of the ancient Roman Empire. Ten kings or kingdoms will form a powerful alliance with the Beast power. “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. 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” (Revelation 17:12–14).
Does this surprise you? Even the original Douay-Rheims Bible, translated from the Latin Vulgate for use by Roman Catholics, includes this startling admission about the “Beast” of Revelation 17. Describing verse 11, the commentary acknowledges, “The beast spoken of here seems to be the Roman Empire, as in chapter 13.” The Douay-Rheims commentary on Revelation 13:1 is as follows: “The picture of the first beast is based on the seventh chapter of Daniel. This beast is the figure of kingdoms of the world, kingdoms founded on passion and selfishness, which in every age are antagonistic to Christ and seek to oppress the servants of God. Imperial Rome represents this power.”
Bible prophecy reveals that the political entity that becomes a revived Roman Empire will be under the control of a “woman”—biblical symbol for a church—who “rides” the Beast and controls it. We read: “And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. 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” (Revelation 17:3–6).
Yes, the prophesied end-time Beast power is also referred to as Great Babylon. This superpower will only last for a few years. The Apostle John writes, “After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, ‘Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury’” (Revelation 18:1–3).
This end-time revival of the Roman Empire will grow into an economic superpower and will dominate international politics. It will exercise such modern military might that it will even fight against Christ at His coming, as we read in Revelation 17:14. Will all of this fall into place in 2015? Almost certainly not. But it is prophesied to happen before Christ returns. So, watch for the rise of a powerful European conglomerate of states, as it prepares the way for the final end-time revival of the Roman Empire.
Many of you who read this magazine may be familiar with self-appointed preachers who have come up with wild ideas about the supposed “blood moons” of 2014–15. What are these? They are an astronomical phenomenon, recurring in cycles every 550 years or so, in which four total eclipses of the moon appear in shades of deep red. A press release by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration described the Moon’s coloring as “sunset red” and described each eclipse as filling the Moon “with a coppery glow and transforming the Moon into a great red orb.” The first two of the four occurred last year on April 15 and October 8. This year, the eclipses will fall on April 4 and September 28. Will any of these herald Christ’s coming? No! The truth is that your Bible describes a future event even more breathtaking than these blood moons. “I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood” (Revelation 6:12). The heading in some Bibles just above this section is “Sixth Seal: Cosmic Disturbances”—and indeed, these will make the “blood moons” pale by comparison.
In the actual fulfillment of the “sixth seal” as prophesied by Scripture, the cosmic disturbances will be unprecedented. Notice: “And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. 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 6:13–17).
These cosmic disturbances will introduce the Day of the Lord, the “great day of [Christ’s] wrath.” What lessons can we learn from these heavenly signs? When they come, they will herald not the beginning of the Great Tribulation, but rather the end of that event and the start of the Day of the Lord—the final year of human history before Jesus Christ’s Second Coming!
During the Great Tribulation, the world will experience Satan’s wrath against true Christians and on the Western nations, descendants of the House of Israel. Scripture tells us that this time, unique in all history, is the time of Jacob’s trouble: “Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it” (Jeremiah 30:7). Remember that Jacob’s name was changed to Israel. The house of Israel became the “lost” ten tribes—the American and British-descended peoples, including the nations of northwest Europe.
Has God given signs in the heavens before? Yes, He has! Read about the darkness that fell when Jesus was being crucified—that was on Wednesday, April 25, in 31ad. The people of Jerusalem saw a supernatural darkness for three hours (Matthew 27:45). Later that night, a lunar eclipse also occured. The Apostle Peter, in his inspiring Pentecost message, quoted the prophet Joel in describing heavenly signs yet to come. “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 coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:19–21).
The city of Jerusalem, and especially the Temple Mount area, continue as a source of conflict between Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians. In recent years, small numbers of Jews have been making preparations to restore the animal sacrifices that ended in 70ad when the Second Temple was destroyed. Israeli courts have prohibited attempts by Jewish activists to establish their worship services on the Temple Mount.
We know from the prophet Daniel that in the end-time, there will be a revival of animal sacrifices and then their prohibition, paralleling what occurred under the Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes, who in 167bc issued a decree prohibiting sacrifices in the Jerusalem Temple. Anciently, Antiochus further profaned the temple. He erected a statue of Jupiter Olympus in the temple and directed everyone to worship it.
Similarly, the book of Revelation warns of a future occupation of Jerusalem by a Gentile power. “Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, ‘Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months’” (Revelation 11:1–2).
What will happen during this time? “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 12:11). If the daily sacrifice is to be taken away, then it must first begin—at some time still ahead of us. My friends, when that happens, you will know that the end of this world’s civilization is about to come.
On the one hand, it may be easy to become discouraged by all the suffering and the trends we see around us. On the other hand, when we know that prophesied events are still a few years away, it may also be easy to stop paying attention to Christ’s commands. What warning did our Savior give us in this regard? “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 21:34–36).
As Christians, we must remain alert to the prophecies Jesus gave us. We must not fall asleep spiritually. The Apostle Paul gave us this admonition: “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:11–12).
Dear readers, we are living in the exciting prophesied “end-times.” End-time prophecies that have been in place for thousands of years are “speeding up” toward fulfillment as never before. We look forward to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, who will soon return to establish the Kingdom of God on planet Earth. So we must be prepared. Even if Christ does not return for a few more years, we cannot let our guard down individually, as any one of us might die tonight. We must draw close to God in 2015, and we must stay close to Him. As we do, we can be informed and encouraged by the fulfillment of prophesied events as we obey Christ’s command to “watch” in 2015 and beyond!