The Promise of Things To Come
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. (Hebr. 11:1-2)
Last time we confirmed the true identity of Jesus of Nazareth beyond a reasonable doubt. (Read ) Even by our very conservative estimates we concluded that there’s only a 1 in 9 x (10 to the 45th power) chance that Jesus or anyone else could have coincidentally fulfilled the 7 Messianic prophecies we chose. And remember, He fulfilled over 300 others that we didn’t even consider. 1 chance in 9 with 45 zeros after it exceeds the limit of statistical probability by a wide margin, so there’s really no reason to doubt that Jesus is just who He claims to be, Israel’s Messiah and the Church’s Savior and Redeemer. We should also remember that although we only looked at Messianic prophecies, there are lots other things that God has promised and then performed as well. And He has a perfect track record in all these other things, too.
So then, since God always has fulfilled prophecy with 100% accuracy isn’t it logical to assume that He always will? After all, Hebrews 13:8 says He’s the same, yesterday today and forever. Let’s review a few of the 500 prophecies concerning our times and see. We’ll take some that have been fulfilled to prove that He’s still doing this and then some that haven’t been to get a feel for what’s coming.
The Re-Birth Of Israel
Beginning with Moses, several Old Testament prophets wrote that Israel would be uprooted from their land for disobedience. It’s happened twice. The first occasion took place in 586 BC and resulted in the 70 year Babylonian captivity. The second one followed the Lord’s crucifixion and is the one about which Isaiah wrote in 750 BC. (The Lord had Amos promise that after the 2nd re-gathering they would never be dispersed again. Amos 9:15)
Prophecy: In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea. He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth. (Isaiah 11:11-12)
Fulfillment: After over 50 years of a growing desire to re-gather in their ancient land the Jews were finally given formal approval to become a nation again in May of 1948. From North, South, East and West they have come in increasing numbers throughout the 20th Century. When the concentration camps were liberated at the end of WW2 a massive influx of Jewish refugees from Europe swelled their number into the millions. The prophecy’s fulfillment was begun and continues to this day. Many believe God’s timepiece had stopped in 70 AD when Judea was overrun by the Romans, the Temple destroyed and the people dispersed. But now it seemed that with his people back in the Land the stage was being set for the progressive fulfillment of the other End Times prophecies as well.
Jerusalem Becomes A Jewish City Again
In the first re-gathering, after the Babylonian Captivity, the Israelites had received permission to resettle their lands and rebuild their Temple but had not been given the go ahead to reconstruct the walls around the City of Jerusalem. This proved to be a great handicap since in those days a city wall was the only protection against enemy attack. Work on the Temple came to a standstill because of the continuous interference of hostile neighbors. Later, when Nehemiah was given authority to rebuild the city walls the work of reestablishing the nation progressed more rapidly and the 2nd Temple was finally completed.
In the second re-gathering Israel’s Arab neighbors attacked the fledgling nation soon after the UN had formally recognized it. Jordanian troops attacking from the East captured the Old City and Temple precincts and for 19 years Jerusalem was a divided city.
(Some scholars see this nineteen years as a parallel to the 19 years separating the date of Nebuchadnezzar’s first attack on Israel in 605BC and his third and final one in 586. The result of first siege is sometimes referred to as The Servitude of the Nation since Jewish sovereignty effectively ended then, and the third is called the Desolations of Jerusalem since that’s when the city was burned to the ground and Israel ceased to exist. Prophecies from Ezekiel 4:4-6 can be used to tie 605 BC to 1948 and 586 BC to 1967. It takes a lot of math but it works.)
Prophecy: When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Luke 21:20-24)
Fulfillment: This is a companion prophecy to the one from Luke 19:41-44 that we reviewed last time. There Jesus had said that the Romans would surround the city and destroy it. Here He warned them that when that happened, Jerusalem would become a Gentile city until the period of Gentile Dominion ended. Indeed when the Roman Emperor Hadrian put down the bar Kochba Rebellion in 135 AD finally defeating the Jews for good, he made it illegal for a Jew to enter Jerusalem. As I stated above, in the 1948 War of Independence Jordan captured the Old City and Temple Mount and Jerusalem became a divided city. It wasn’t until June of 1967, toward the end of the six-day war, that Jewish troops broke into East Jerusalem and re-captured the Old City including the Temple Mount. The Star of David flew over the unified city for the first time since the nation had been dispersed by the Romans. The times of the Gentiles had come to an end, further indication that the End Times had begun.
All End Times Prophecies Fulfilled Within A Single Life Span
All the prophecies of the 1st Coming were fulfilled within the lifetimes of those being born around the time of the first Christmas. They began with the birth of John the Baptist, who was only 6 months older than Jesus, and ended with the destruction of the Temple and Holy City. In the passage below, the Lord explained that the 2nd Coming prophecies would be fulfilled in the same manner.
Prophecy: Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Matt. 24:32-35)
Fulfillment: The fig tree is the last to come out of its winter dormancy. It doesn’t sprout buds and leaves until the warm weather has come to stay, making it a reliable sign that summer is truly near. So it is with End Times prophecies. When their fulfillment begins, it means that the end is coming soon. In fact in the next sentence, the Lord explained that some from the generation being born when the first signs are fulfilled will still be alive at the end.
Since that sentence is surrounded by controversy, let’s look at it again, more carefully. We want to make absolutely sure it says what we think it does. The controversy centers on the word translated generation in verse 34. In Greek it’s genea, and can mean generation or race. It’s the word from which we get generation and genealogy.
There are three major interpretations of the passage:
1. The End Times would occur during the life spans of the generation to whom Jesus was speaking. Some believe the Great Tribulation and 2nd Coming had occurred by 70 AD, and the Millennium began in Heaven then. They’re called Preterists and they believe there are no more End Times prophecies to be fulfilled.
2. The Greek word genea should be translated race and should be applied to the Jewish people. This is the view of those called Idealists and in fact the Jews have endured in spite of all efforts to eradicate them. But does the Idealist view accommodate all the End Times prophecies? Sadly, no. Idealists don’t believe in a literal fulfillment of prophecy.
3. The generation being born as the first of the End Times signs were being fulfilled would live to see them all fulfilled. This is the most logical view and the one held by those who take the Bible literally. It’s easy to prove that the Lord hasn’t come again in the manner indicated by Scripture, and after 6000 years of literal fulfillment of prophecy, why would the Lord suddenly switch to an allegorical method of fulfillment, especially where it concerns making good on His promises to His people?
The big mistake made here by many who follow a literal method of interpretation is to assume the word generation describes a span of time as well as a group of people born during a particular period. Making this mistake led them to predict that all End Times signs would be fulfilled within the span of one generation, nominally 40 years. Connecting this assumption to the re-birth of Israel, they predicted the Lord would return in 1988, and of course they were wrong.
What the Lord said was that the generation alive when the fulfillment of End Times signs begins would not pass away until all was fulfilled. A Biblical lifetime is 70 years according to Psalm 90:10. There’s also a question as to whether the 1948 re-birth of Israel began the final count down or whether is should begin with the 1967 recovery of Jerusalem. After all, the prophecy from Daniel 9:24-27 concerning the Lord’s first coming was timed to the rebuilding of Jerusalem, not the first re-gathering of the nation.
Our best estimate, at least for now, is to expect that all the End Times prophecies will have been fulfilled as early as 2018 (70 years from 1948) and no later than 2037 (70 years from 1967). So the question is, what has to happen between now and then.
Well, there are over 500 unfulfilled prophecies concerning the 2nd Coming. We’ll just take some of the major ones and put them into their proper sequence so we’ll always know what to look for next as we go.
I believe the next sign to be fulfilled will be the disappearance of the Church as foretold in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18. This one could happen at any moment since there’s nothing that has to precede it.
Right on its heels will come the battle foretold in Ezekiel 38-39, causing two critical events to happen as a result. One, the Lord will use that battle to re-instate His covenant with Israel, and two, the Anti-Christ will emerge with a plan to restore peace in the Middle East. A central provision of his plan will permit the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple, as required by Israel’s renewed covenant with the Lord. Daniel 9:24-27 indicates the duration of the anti-Christ’s plan will be seven years, and that in the middle of it, he’ll stand in the new Temple and commit an abomination that causes the Temple to become desolate. (In 2 Thes. 2:4 Paul wrote that the abomination is the anti-Christ proclaiming himself to be God.)
In Matthew 24:21, Jesus said that the anti-Christ’s proclamation will kick off the Great Tribulation, a period of judgments 3½ years long (Daniel 9:27). During that time the Earth will be shaken and bombarded to a point that will make the recent tsunami seem like child’s play and ½ of the world’s remaining population will perish.
But some will survive to see the Lord’s return in Glory, and those who’ve come to believe in Him will be ushered into His Kingdom (Matt 25:34). They will have lived the most harrowing and dangerous life of any generation ever born, having seen all the End Times prophecies fulfilled right before their eyes.
After judging the survivors from the nations the Lord, now King of all the Earth, will commence a 1000 year reign of peace (Rev. 20:4). Earth will have been restored to the way it was created, a beautiful sub-tropical garden paradise, and His people Israel will once again be its pre-imminent nation (Isaiah 2:3).
Meanwhile believers from the Church age will dwell with Him in the nearby New Jerusalem, a place where only those whose names have been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life may enter (Rev. 21).
During the 1000 years Satan will have been bound and imprisoned, no longer free to deceive man and afflict God’s people. (Rev. 20:1-2) But at its end, he’ll be released and will immediately recruit a large army with which to attack God. God will defeat him of course and he’ll be thrown into the place of eternal judgment with all those who sided with him (Rev. 20:10). At that time, the unsaved dead will be brought to life and judged before being thrown into the Lake of Fire to join the Devil, the anti-Christ, and his false prophet (Rev. 20:11-15).
After that, all who believe in the Lord and are called by His name will embark on an eternity filled with blessing in the presence of the Lord.
This is just a summary of events, listed in the sequence I believe the Bible gives us, to permit a glimpse of how the end will unfold. If you’re a believer, you’ll observe all of this from your vantage point in the New Jerusalem, safe and secure. If not, you’ll be able to predict just how close the Lord’s return is by witnessing these signs as they occur on Earth. Better keep your head down though, you’ll only have a 50-50 chance of surviving to the end. I strongly recommend that you make your peace with the Lord now, while you still have the option of being hidden away with the rest of us. For if you listen closely you can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah.