“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself” (Ezekiel 33:7-9).
Ezekiel 33:7-9 tells of the Lord appointing Ezekiel to be a watchman over Israel, which at the time consisted only of the Southern Kingdom. (This confirmed His earlier statement to that effect in Ezekiel 3:17.) God had also said the prophets He sent to the Northern kingdom earlier were also His watchmen (Hosea 9:8). Notice the watchmen were also prophets God had appointed to speak to Israel on His behalf.
These are the only two places where God speaks of appointing a watchman to warn the people of the consequences of their sinfulness, and both are in the Old Testament and were intended for Israel. And only Ezekiel was held personally accountable for conveying the warning.
There is only one mention of a watchman in the New Testament (John 10:3) and then only in a few English translations. The KJV calls him a porter. Most translations use gate-keeper or door keeper. His job was to open the gate of the community sheep pen so the shepherds could retrieve their sheep. He was not a lookout, or “watchman on the wall.”
A porter is also mentioned in Mark 13:34. Here the Lord was telling believers who will be on Earth at the time of the Second Coming to be on guard and be alert, like a porter who stands at the door and awaits His master’s return. The door keeper/porter was not commanded to warn the people of impending events in either of these cases.
In summary, I believe Ezekiel 33:7-9 was intended specifically for Ezekiel as God’s prophet to Israel. It was was not meant to have application in the Church today.
But that doesn’t mean God has left the Church in the dark where His plan is concerned. In fact Paul specifically said that we should not be in the dark concerning the things to come (1 Thess. 5:4). You see, the Church has something the people of Ezekiel’s day didn’t have. We have the completed Word of God and it contains everything we need in order to know where we are on God’s timeline.
Therefore, although I periodically draw comparisons between current events and Bible prophecy, I don’t see myself or anyone else alive today as a God-appointed “watchman on the wall.” As a church we don’t need specially appointed prophets/watchmen to warn us of what’s coming. Each of us is supposed to become our own watchman by studying His Word.
In this way we come out of the darkness (spiritual ignorance) and into the light (spiritual awareness). We will not be taken by surprise but will see the signs of the coming Day of the Lord for what they are and will encourage one another because we are not appointed to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:8-11).
If it’s Not One Thing, it’s Another …
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the things the Bible tells us about the times in which we live.
Jesus used the symbolism of a woman in labor in reference to the Second Coming. Birth pangs begin well ahead of time to alert the woman of the nearness of her child’s birth. Jesus said in the same way wars, famine, earthquakes, and pestilence alert us to the nearness of His coming (Matt. 24: 4-8, Luke 21:11).
In both cases, the increasing frequency and intensity of the occurrences signal movement toward the culmination of the event. After years of denial, most people agree the signs Jesus identified are in evidence all around us and are rapidly increasing in both frequency and intensity.
Of particular importance is the Lord’s mention of a growing hatred of the Jewish people as the end approaches that will result in them being hated by all nations (Matt. 24:9). Who can deny that we’re seeing a dramatic rise in anti-Semitism as a general trend in the world, as well as the abandonment of pro Israel positions by nations who have traditionally been Israel’s friends.
Paul added other signs that would indicate the end was approaching.
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons (1 Timothy 4:1).
As I look at the current state of what passes for Christianity today, I’m convinced that Paul was really using his letters to Timothy to warn us, not just him.
To me, much of the “emerging church” movement has abandoned the fundamentals of our faith in an effort to attract everyone while offending no one, turning Sunday services into up-tempo variety shows and mistaking attendance figures and bank balances for evangelistic success. Lately there’s even been a blending of Christianity and Islam into “Chrislam” in another attempt to appeal to everyone while offending no one.
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
People regularly comment to me about the mean-spirited nature of some who frequent Christian forums. They ask if these people are really believers. The name calling, personal insults, and pronouncements of judgment against those with differing opinions would make a reasonable person wonder. I tell them the less confident people are in their beliefs the more abusive they can become in defending them. If you have limited knowledge you’re forced to resort to personal attacks in response to questions.
It’s said that many thousands of new believers are born-again every day, mostly in China, India, and Africa. Are these third world converts responding to the construction of huge campuses in their towns, and the arrival of professional musicians and cast members to entertain them? No.
They meet secretly in barns, caves, and forests, often without professional leadership of any kind, and respond to signs and wonders as the Holy Spirit moves powerfully among them. Where are the miracles in the emerging church? Or are they just practicing a form of godliness while denying its power?
“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
One of the great myths in the church today is the “inclusivism” taught in some liberal denominations. It claims there are many roads to eternal life and as long as people are sincere in their beliefs, no matter who they worship as God, they’ll find their way to salvation.
But Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matt 7:13-14). “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10:9). “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Sounds pretty exclusive to me.
Another is the elevation of dreams, visions and prophetic messages above the written Word as the preferred source of information concerning God’s plans. It is true that Peter spoke of dreams, visions, and prophetic messages as signs that the last days are upon us (Acts 2:17-18). But these were meant to support the written Word, not replace it.
Because of this misuse use of spiritual gifts, a growing number of Christians believe the time of God’s wrath will actually be a time of glory for believers who are spiritually prepared, a time for the “Manifestation of the Sons of God.” They don’t believe Jesus is coming to take His Church to heaven. Instead they believe the Church will create heaven here and when it’s ready we’ll summon the Lord to come and lead us.
By relying primarily on these dreams and visions they’ve re-written God’s plan for the end of the age, making it into a human centered elevation of man to godhood. But God said His word is the lamp for our feet and the light for our path (Psalm 119:105) not our dreams and visions. Paul’s admonition to “search the Scriptures daily to see if these things be true” (Acts 17:11) seems to have been forgotten.
These examples of false teaching in the Church were predicted by Paul as part of the apostasy that would precede the Day of the Lord (2 Thess. 2:3).
… Or Another
In past articles I’ve pointed out the similarities between Islamic prophecies of al Mahdi and Biblical prophecies of the Antichrist. For example, both show a leader coming on the scene during a time of great turmoil on earth. Both depict him as man who will initially appear to be a peacemaker who will have a seven-year reign, head up a one world religion and one world government, and claim supernatural origins.
Both prophecies culminate in a battle between good and evil that brings about earth’s final judgment. It’s as if they’re pointing to the same person. The difference is that in Islam he’s a good guy, while the Bible calls him evil.
Take this charismatic (in the secular sense) political and religious leader with his supernatural power, add the widely held but incorrect belief that God and Allah are the same, and that Islam is a religion of peace, and then subtract the spirit of discernment that will disappear with the Church and you can see how this Islamic leader could unite a frightened world on the brink of disaster.
All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world (Rev. 13:8).
The Mahdi/Antichrist’s arrival will be a time of great excitement, with people everywhere believing that the savior of the world has come to bring the peace they’ve longed for. They’ll all marvel at the power and presence of their pseudo savior. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened (Romans 1:21).
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 (1 Thess. 5:3). But alas, all too soon they’ll realize he’s an imposter and they’re stuck in the deadliest period of time in history, a time that half of them won’t survive.
But Wait, There’s More
So far, we’ve looked at signs that have an indeterminate rate of acceleration from which we can only make general observations. Does the Bible give us anything more specific to watch for?
The first clear sign Jesus gave the disciples when they asked about the end times was the Abomination of Desolation standing in the Holy Place (Matt. 24:15). Within a few years of His death and resurrection the Temple was destroyed. Shortly after that the nation ceased to exist altogether. In order to have an abomination of desolation you have to have a Temple, and in order to have a Temple you have to have a nation of covenant keeping Jewish people in Israel. These conditions have not been met since 70AD.
Therefore the rebirth of the nation was the first major sign that the time of the end was upon us. But Israel is not yet a nation of covenant keeping people, and won’t be until after the battle of Ezekiel 38 (Ezekiel 39:22). Out of that battle a seven year covenant will emerge, which will start the clock on Daniel’s missing 70th Week (Daniel 9:24-27). At that time they will build a temple. In the middle of the 70th week the Abomination of Desolation will occur and the Great Tribulation will begin (Daniel 9:27; Matt. 24:15).
Then, 1260 days later it will end and shortly after that, on a day and at an hour no one could have known in advance (Matt. 24:36, 24:42,44; 24:50; 25:13) the Lord will return to establish His Kingdom. In Matt. 24:34 Jesus hinted that all these things will happen within the lifetimes of people being born when the first sign, the rebirth of Israel, appears.
In Psalm 90:10, Moses wrote about man’s lifespan, saying it would level out at 70-80 years on average. Current UN statistics show that average lifespan in much of the world fall within that range today. Counting forward from the birth of Israel in 1948 gives us a window of opportunity from 2018-2028.
The Rapture of the Church
In Acts 15:13-18 James said Israel was being set aside while the Lord went among the Gentiles to take out of them a people for Himself. After that He would rebuild David’s fallen Tabernacle, a reference to the Temple. The Greek phrase translated “to take out of” literally means “to carry away from the time and place.” The Church will be carried away from the time and place of the Temple’s rebuilding before it takes place.
Paul, who heard James say this at the Council of Jerusalem, confirmed it in his letter to the Romans. He said Israel has been hardened in part (against God) until the full number of Gentiles has come in. After that all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:25-26). The Greek phrase translated “full number” indicates a specified or predetermined number. To “come in” means to arrive at one’s scheduled destination” as when a ship or train “comes in.”
Paul was saying the Church has a predetermined number and when that number is reached we will come in to our scheduled destination. Jesus said our scheduled destination is His Father’s house (John 14:2-3). After that He will turn to Israel again. The Temple will be built and the remaining seven years of Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy, known as the time of God’s Wrath will be fulfilled. During this time Israel will be purified in preparation for the Kingdom Age.
These two statements confirm that the Rapture of the Church will take place before the restoration of Israel’s covenant with God, which will take place 7 years before the Lord’s return to establish His Kingdom on Earth.
It Doesn’t Take a Watchman
In closing, I advise everyone to stop watching the network news and instead scroll through the daily headline summaries that many websites offer to gain a more complete understanding of the state of our world. Then, as you become more familiar with these and other similar passages of Scripture you can gain a perspective on current events that those who are not knowledgeable simply cannot acquire. You’ll discover you can literally have your Bible in one hand and a cross section of world news in the other and see how it’s all unfolding.
During His First Coming Jesus accused the religious leaders of the day of being better at predicting the weather than they were at recognizing the signs of his coming (Matt. 16:2-3) even though those signs were clearly identified in their Scriptures.
As you can see the same can be said about most of our leaders today. But because we have the completed Word of God we don’t have to depend on anyone else to tell us where we are on God’s time table.