With all the killer storms, earthquakes, wars and disease dominating our news, it’s not surprising that people are becoming more interested in End Times Prophecy. Even non-believers are wondering if the end is near. What is surprising is how little most Christians actually know about prophecy, especially since by some accounts it comprises nearly 40% of the Bible’s content, more than any other topic.
With few exceptions seminaries don’t teach it, so preachers don’t preach it. And therefore Christians don’t learn it. In all my years as a denominational Christian, I never once heard a message explaining the importance of prophecy to a believer’s walk with the Lord. And yet the Bible devotes more space to End Times Prophecy than it does to all the teachings of Jesus.
When Christians are asked why they don’t study prophecy more seriously the most common reasons given are 1) because it scares them, and 2) because it confuses them. Both responses are borne out of a lack of understanding. For the believer, prophecy is neither scary nor confusing but the key to understanding God’s plan for man.
The purpose of this series is to provide a solid foundation for further study. When the foundation of a building is stable and solid, the entire building is stronger, able to withstand powerful forces that would otherwise weaken or even topple it. So it is when the foundation of our study is solid. Powerful arguments from scoffers and unbelievers cannot shake us or weaken our faith. Let’s get started.
Seven Things You Have To Know
There are seven pieces of information that are essential to understanding End Times Prophecy. These seven things are the building blocks for the strong foundation we want.
They are, 1) The Sequence of Major End Time Events, 2) The Destiny of the Three Components of Humanity, 3) The Purpose and Length of the Great Tribulation, 4) The Purpose of the Rapture, 5) The Conditions Surrounding the 2nd Coming, 6) The Purpose and Length of the Millennium, and 7) Eternity.
Once you’ve learned them, these seven things will help you avoid the mistakes that have thrown others off the track. Call it perspective or overview or whatever you want, this combination of facts will give you the ability to put all the prophetic verses in the Bible into their proper context. Let’s get started.
1) The Sequence Of Major End Times Events
First is knowing what happens and when. The study of prophecy gets really confusing if you don’t know the sequence in which major End Times events will occur. Actually their order is very logical, and once you learn it, you’ll wonder why you didn’t see it before. The best way to figure it out is to perform what the business world sometimes calls a back scheduling exercise. It involves going to the very end of a process and identifying the final outcome. Then you list all the things that have to happen to produce that outcome. Then you put them in reverse order, backing into the present. It’s simpler than it sounds, and much simpler in prophecy than in business because there are many fewer events to organize. We’ll list the major events first, then we’ll organize them.
Almost everyone knows about the 2nd Coming and Eternity, and many also have heard of the Rapture of the Church and the Great Tribulation. But there’s also the Millennial Kingdom, Daniel’s 70th Week, and the Battles of Ezekiel 38-39, Psalm 83 and Isaiah 17; a total of nine major events yet to come. Now let’s organize them, beginning with the final outcome and working back toward the beginning. As it is with most lists, the order in which some events will occur is obvious while others are less so, and at first some don’t seem to fit any place at all. We’ll order the obvious ones first.
What Are We Waiting For?
We all think of Eternity as the final outcome, and so starting at the end means we begin there. But the last major event described in any detail in the Bible is the Kingdom Age or Millennium. It’s the Lord’s 1000 year reign on Earth, which is distinguished from and precedes Eternity. The very last chapter of Revelation describes trees on either side of the River of Life bearing a different fruit every month. That means time still exists, and Eternity by definition is the absence of time. We’ll talk more about that later. For now let’s just say that Eternity can’t happen till the Millennium is over.
The Millennium obviously can’t begin till after the Second Coming, because that’s when the Lord returns to establish it. And according to Matt. 24:29-30 the Second Coming won’t happen till the end of the Great Tribulation. And that can’t happen till the anti-Christ stands in the Temple in Israel declaring himself to be God. (2 Thes. 2:4) That’s the event Jesus warned Israel to look for as the Great Tribulation’s opening salvo. He called it “The Abomination of Desolation” inMatt. 24:15-21. Daniel 9:27 indicates it will happen in the middle of the last seven year period, which scholars call Daniel’s 70th Week.
But the Abomination can’t happen until there’s a Temple. There hasn’t been a Temple in Israel since 70AD and there won’t be one until the Jews officially decide they need one. They won’t need one until God reinstates their Old Covenant relationship because the Temple’s only purpose is to worship Him according to Old Covenant requirements.
This will signal the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week. The 70th Week can’t begin until the Battle of Ezekiel 38-39 is won because God will use that battle to awaken Israel and reinstate His covenant with them. In Romans 11:25 Paul said Israel has been hardened in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in, a reference to the rapture of the Church, after which Israel will be saved. That means the rapture has to happen before the Battle of Ezekiel 38.
You Got That?
So far when we put the Sequence of Major Events in its proper order, it looks like this:
The Rapture of the Church,
The Battle of Ezekiel 38,
Daniel’s 70th week begins,
The Great Tribulation,
The 2nd Coming,
To those who read Scripture as it’s written, only two of the events in this sequence so far are subject to debate as to timing. These are the Rapture of the Church and the Battle of Ezekiel 38, the first two on our list. They’re the ones I said are less obvious.
So lets find out why they have to be where I’ve placed them in the sequence. Maintaining our back schedule mentality, we’ll begin with Ezekiel’s battle and work back to the Rapture.
“And I will set my glory among the nations, and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them. The house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God, from that day forward.
Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, because I sent them into exile among the nations and then assembled them into their own land. I will leave none of them remaining among the nations anymore. And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD.” (Ezek 39:21-22, 28-29)
The Lord has declared in no uncertain terms that He’s going to use Ezekiel’s battle to spiritually awaken His people and call them to Israel from all over the world. This will result in the re-instatement of their Old Covenant relationship, reviving Daniel’s long dormant “70-Weeks” prophecy for its final seven years and requiring that a Temple be constructed. Without one there’s no way for them to keep His covenant.
This was proven once before in history during the Babylonian captivity. When Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the 1st Temple, Israel ceased to exist. But as soon as Cyrus the Persian defeated Babylon and freed the Jews, they returned to Israel and began building a Temple before they did anything else. Without a Temple there’s no sacrifice for sin, and without that sacrifice, Jews cannot approach God.
Both the Old and New Testaments refer to a Temple in Israel at the End of the Age. The only reason for a Temple is to perform Old Covenant ordinances. But building one today would cause such an uproar that no one in his right mind would consider it.
Only a unified demand from the people of Israel accompanied by quiet acceptance from their Moslem neighbors would make the construction of a Temple even thinkable. Sound impossible? Ezekiel’s battle results in both a Jewish nation re-awakened to the presence of God in their national life and an utterly defeated Moslem attack force in no position to resist. The perfect conditions will finally exist to start building. For these reasons, Ezekiel’s battle has to take place on the threshold of Daniel’s 70th week. Now why does the Rapture of the Church have to precede Ezekiel’s battle?
Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.(Romans 11:25)
Reborn first in unbelief (Ezek. 37:8) the Bible tells us Israel will remain partially estranged from God until the gentile Church reaches its full complement (predetermined number) and arrives at its destination. (The Greek word translated “fullness” in Romans 11:25 was a nautical term often used to describe the full complement of crew and cargo necessary to accomplish a ship’s mission. The ship couldn’t sail till those requirements were met. The one translated “come in” means to arrive at a designated place.)
Then the veil will be pulled back as God reveals Himself to them again. As we saw above, He will use Ezekiel’s battle to begin this by renewing the Old Covenant with them, later transitioning Israel from the Old Covenant to the New toward the end of the Great Tribulation (Zech 12:10). Remember, if they didn’t go back to the Old covenant first, they wouldn’t need a Temple. He’s picking them up where they left off.
After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,
‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’ (Acts 15:13-18)
It was about 20 years after the cross. The controversy of the day was whether Gentiles had to become Jews before they could become Christians. And if not, what would become of Israel? In effect, the Lord’s brother James explained to the Apostles and others present at the Council of Jerusalem that Israel was being temporarily set aside while God focused on the Church. After He had taken this “people for His name” (Christians) from among the Gentiles he would return and rebuild His Temple. The Greek words translated taken mean to carry something away or remove it from its place, so the passage implies that He would take the Church somewhere and then come back to rebuild the Temple, restore Israel, and give what’s left of mankind one final chance to seek Him.
These three Bible prophecies make it clear that as the End of the Age approaches, God will begin preparing Israel to be His once more. But He won’t be exclusively focused on them until He has finished building the Church and has taken us to our appointed place. And where is that? In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:2-3) (He didn’t promise to come back to be with us here where we are, but to take us there, where He is.) After that He would see to Israel’s reawakening and the construction of their Temple.
Throughout Scripture, the Lord seems to be involved with either Israel or the Church, but never both at the same time. James bears this out in his pronouncement regarding the Church inActs 15. All the leaders of the early church now knew that once God had accomplished His goals with the church, He would turn again to Israel, and that would signal the end of the Church Age.
There are two critical points to remember here. The first is that the Church didn’t end the Age of Law, but only interrupted it 7 years short of its scheduled completion. Those seven years, called the 70th Week of Daniel, have to be fulfilled to complete the Old Covenant. And the second is that the Old and New covenants, as practiced in Israel and the Church, are theologically incompatible, and therefore the two can only be on Earth at the same time while Israel is out of covenant. For Israel to return to the Lord, the Church has to be gone.
For this reason, the rebirth of Israel in 1948 and the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 are seen as the most important signs of all that the End of the Age is upon us.
Also, there are two events we haven’t put into the sequence yet, and that’s because they aren’t easy to locate there. These are the battles of Psalm 83 and Isaiah 17. When Israel wins these two battles all their next door enemies will be defeated and they’ll enter into a brief period of peace that sets the stage for Ezekiel’s Battle (Ezekiel 38:11). They’re called battles instead of wars which means they’ll be of short duration and can happen within a fairly short span of time. They can come either before or after the Rapture but do have to happen before the Battle of Ezekiel 38 takes place.
The Sequence of Major Events is only the first of “Seven Things You Have To Know To Understand End Times Prophecy.” Next time we’ll cover The Destiny of the Three Components of Humanity, The Purpose and Length of the Great Tribulation, and The Purpose of the Rapture.