Is This the End?

We’ve made it into the year 2000 without mishap.  There was no Y2K bug and everything is running pretty well.  It turns out that all the doomsday prophets were wrong about the world ending in the year 1999, or 2000 for that matter.  We’ve made it beyond the famed Mayan apocalypse.  And of course we’ve survived Harold Camping’s doomsday (both of them in fact!)  I say shame on the Christians who fell for these supposed doomsdays and woe to the ones making them.  They shouldn’t have been making the predictions anyway.  The Bible clearly states that the day and the hour of Christ’s return are unknown.  In Mark 13:32 states that “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the father.”  How foolish it is for anyone to say they know when Christ will return and the end of the age will occur when even Christ didn’t know the time.

But are there signs that Christ’s return is imminent?  The Bible clearly lays out a diagram of events that shows the events that will occur around the time of Christ’s return.  So fasten your seatbelts, we may all be in for a bumpy ride coming up pretty quickly.

Despite the fact that no one knows when Christ will return, he gave us signs of when he will return.  Such signs are very apparent in today’s world and have caused many Christian leaders to expect Christ to return soon.  How soon, none of us know.  We know that the signs are all about us though.  In Thessalonians 5 Paul writes “Now brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying ‘Peace and safety’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”  If there has ever been a cry for peace and safety, it is certainly now. 

In Matthew 24 Jesus gives a very straightforward description of what the signs surrounding his return would be.  Verses 4-8 predict that many would come claiming to be he and would deceive many people.  We will hear of wars and rumors of wars.  Today, at any given time there are around 40 wars going on in the world.  Nation will rise against nation actually was written that ethnos would rise against ethnos.  Today we so often hear of Ethnic wars and “ethnic cleansing” and so much more of it isn’t covered by the news networks.  Jesus said that there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  Millions of people are starving over the world today while over 14000 earthquakes rock us each year.  Just thirty years ago, there were less than 1200 earthquakes a year.  “All these are the beginnings of birth pains.” Jesus states, “the beginning of the end.”

Verses 9-13 say that Christians will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death.  In America it may be hard to picture this kind of persecution happening but it is incredible in many countries.  Over 400 Christians are killed for their faith EVERY DAY around the world.  In China it means death if you are found to be a Christian.  In many Middle Eastern countries Christians are tortured and put to death for their faith.  It is possible that America was the last “Christian” nation, but that time has passed.  While the United States continues to send out missionaries, missionaries are also coming in from other countries.  The United States has the third most missionaries in it!  That’s not going out, that’s coming in.  The death knell has sounded for the United States as a Christian nation.  Surely there are still Christians and many of them, but it can hardly be considered a Christian nation any longer.  This gives cause to believe the statement that we as Christians are hated by all the nations, just as Jesus said would happen. 

Many people have abandoned their faith in the face of this persecution.  Others have been led astray by those claiming to be prophets.  i.e. Mormons and their gold tablets found in a field or the many cults that have appeared.  Jesus also stated that there would be an increase in wickedness and the love of most people would grow cold.  Certainly this has taken place as all you need to do to notice this is compare today with the 1980’s.  But Jesus also gives us hope at this time.  “…he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Verse 14 speaks of the way the gospel will be preached throughout the entire world.  This was something with which the people of Jesus’ time must have had trouble.  Today it is easy to understand this with nearly instant communication and planes that will take us into the deepest parts of Africa and allow us to travel anywhere.  Verse 14 ends with Christ saying, “…and then the end will come.”  Once all these things have taken place, the end will come.  Seeing all these things about us, our only question left is how soon it will happen.  After these things the rapture will happen, calling all those who believe in Christ into the sky to be with Him. As it says in 1 Thessalonians 4:17  “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

What happens after all this, is really little concern to Christians because they will already be with Christ.  However it is written as a warning for those who don’t believe.  After this the tribulation will begin, when God releases his wrath upon the earth.  A man known as the Antichrist will appear then and deceive those who are left.  He will set up a temple on the temple mount in Jerusalem, where the Muslim Dome of the Rock sits now, and there he will begin sacrifices once again.  But 3 1/2 years into the tribulation the Antichrist will stop the sacrifices and order the people to worship him only.  At that time the Jews who are still alive will finally realize that they missed the first coming of Christ.  Then they become Christians and will be persecuted by all those around them. 

Plague after plague will fall upon the earth, only causing many unbelievers to curse God instead of worshipping him.  At the end of the seven years of tribulation, a battle between Christ and Satan, known as the battle of Armageddon will occur.  Satan will be defeated and locked up in the abyss.  And Christ will return to reign on earth as king for a thousand years.  This time will be known as the millennial kingdom.  At the end of the thousand years Satan will be set loose and the people will rebel once again.  This is the last time though and brings about a final judgment.

Unbelievers will be sent to the great white throne of judgment where they will be judged accordingly but still all sent to the lake of fire.  Christians will be judged too, but at the judgment seat of Christ and according to what we have done for him.  There we will be given rewards accordingly.  Then we will live with Christ in heaven forever.

Of course no one knows for sure when all things will take place.  Matthew 24:42-44 makes this clear.  But we must keep watch expecting his return.  Most importantly, we must be ready for his coming.  We must have accepted Christ as our savior from our sins and we need to tell all our friends about him too. 

Gog and Magog – A Big Battle Looms

In September 2003 Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat declared, “To Jerusalem we are going as martyrs in the millions.”  Arafat is now gone, but if such an attitude is prevalent in the Arab world, we cannot be far from a massive battle.

The battle of Gog and Magog has often been overlooked in the study of prophecy.  The diligent student of the book of Revelation may recognize the names from chapter 20.  Vs 8 “[Satan] will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth- Gog and Magog- to gather them for battle.”

However, Gog and Magog first appear in Ezekiel 38-39.  In light of recent events in the world today, this prophecy has received more attention.  There are of course no guarantees, but some people, myself included, believe that this could occur at literally any time.

First, some background on the book of Ezekiel.  Ezekiel includes numerous dates within his writing and makes it easy to pinpoint exact dates of his writing.  In short, his first vision comes in 593 BC – seven years before the fall of Jerusalem – and his final vision occurs in 573 – fifteen years after the fall of Jerusalem.

Although the entire book is not chronological in order, at least chapters 36 through the end of the book in 48 would appear to be in order.  Chapter 36 describes the New Covenant, which came in effect with Christ.  Chapter 37 skips ahead over 1900 years to the restoration of Israel.  Many bible scholars, myself included, believe the valley of the dry bones to be in reference to Israel once again becoming a nation in 1948.

Chapters 38-39 are next in the time line as chapter 40 begins the description of the Millennial Kingdom.  This does not mean that these events are imminent, as there is a time span of 1900 years between chapters 36 and 37, but it is next in line by Ezekiel’s timeline.  This does also not mean that other things described in other prophecies will not happen before the battle of Gog and Magog.  It is quite possible that the rapture occurs before this battle, but we have no guarantee.

Chapter 38 begins with a prophecy against Gog.  Verse 3 states, “I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.”  In a short explanation, the names mentioned are sons of Japheth (Noah’s son).  They are also the brothers of Magog, all who settled to the north of present day Israel.  Vss 5,6 “Persia, Cush, and Put will be with them, all with shields and helmets, also Gomer with all its troops, and Beth Togarmah from the far north with all its’ troops- the many nations with you.”  Cush is the upper Nile region (presumably northern Egypt ) and Put is modern day Libya.  Gomer is another son of Japheth and Beth Togarmah is Gomer’s son.  Historically, they are regarded to have originated north of the Black Sea .  North of the Black Sea is present day Ukraine and the western most reaches of Russia.  All put together, the nations described are currently Muslim nations that surround Israel from all sides. 

Verse 8 proclaims that these nations will “invade a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate.”  The land that is invaded can only appear to be Israel, a nation whose people have been gathering from all over the world for 50 years. 

God has intended this invasion however.  In vs. 16 he declares, “In days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my land so that the nations may know me when I show myself holy though you before their eyes.”  Verses 17-23 describe the exact catastrophes that will befall the invading nations.  They are supernaturally destroyed and no harm is done to Israel.  God will not let his people be harmed.  The miraculous Six Day War of 1967 should have taught everyone that, but the world has turned a blind eye.

Ezekiel 39:9 begins the description of the aftermath.  It is gruesome but also amazing in its detail when looked at in comparison to today.  “Then those who live in the towns of Israel will go out and use the weapons for fuel and burn them up – the small and large shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears.  For seven years they will use them for fuel.  This statement is remarkable for two reasons.

First is the nature of the weapons.  In the time that Ezekiel wrote this, burning weapons made perfect sense because they were made of wood.  What of today’s weapons however?  How do you burn warplanes and other metals?  Amazingly, Russia has been using Lignostone in the production of its weapons.  Lignostone “is a special kind of wood used for ‘coke breakers.’  It is stronger than steel, is very elastic… and it burns better than coal.”  (90 LaHaye Are We Living in the End Times?)  You can read more about Lignostone on its website at www.lignostone.com.

While a Cold War enemy of the United States, biblical scholars thought for certain that Russia had to be involved in the invasion of Israel.  However, I do not feel certain about this.  If they are not involved in the invasion, it is well known that Russia has supplied weapons to many Middle Eastern countries and their weapons could be used without actually being involved.  Of course it is still plausible that Russia could be involved in any attack against Israel.

The second important part of this passage is the fact that it will take seven years to burn all the weapons.  The tribulation will be seven years, so this gives us some sort of timeline with which to place this event.  This event would either have to come at the very beginning of the tribulation or before to allow seven full years.

However, this event cannot happen at the beginning of the tribulation because the tribulation begins with the antichrist signing a peace treaty with Israel.  This treaty is not going to immediately be broken with this battle.  It won’t be until 3 ½ years that the treaty is broken.

This means that this battle occurs before the tribulation.  While it is purely speculation on my part, I believe that this is the final straw that leaves everyone crying out for peace and the perfect setting for the antichrist to step in and give it to the nations.

Will believers be around for any of this to take place?  I honestly have no idea.  I believe that we will be taken before the tribulation.  However, even if I’m correct, we have no assurance how long before the tribulation we’ll be taken.  The rapture may occur and then this horrific battle takes place.  Or we may be witness to it.  If we are, let the reader know that the prophetic calendar is being fulfilled in our presence.

Chapter 39 continues with the clean up of these armies that are supernaturally destroyed.  Verse 12 says that for seven months people will work nonstop to cleanse the land.  This isn’t hard to imagine after seeing the devastation caused by the destruction of the World Trade Center.  The cleanup took longer than half a year with crews working around the clock and the best equipment available.  Imagine such destruction spread over forty miles, or an area the size of New Jersey .

Even after the seven month period, there will be people employed full time in cleaning up the land.  Every bone will be marked and carried to the Valley of Hamon Gog, a mass grave for all the invaders.  The name simply means hordes of Gog. 

The reason for all of this destruction is for God to be glorified.  In verses 21-22 he says, “I will display my glory among the nations, and all the nations will see the punishment I inflict and the hand I lay upon them.  From that day forward the house of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God.”

After these events, the Israelites return to their native land in force.  Verse 25, “The Sovereign Lord says: I will now bring Jacob back from captivity and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name.”

Even in such destruction, God has a purpose.  The nations will fear Him and Israel will return to Him and their homeland.  All of this could happen soon.  The world situation is one where any number of  Middle Eastern nations could easily lead a coalition against Israel .  Israel has nothing to fear from their enemies though, because they are protected by the Lord of Hosts.