The Last Days
It seems as if the world is getting more and more troubled. There are wars, famines, earthquakes, new diseases; there are increases in corruption, immorality, and violent crime all over the world. It is no wonder that many ask if we are living in the Last Days, if the end of the world is near.
- What is the world coming to?
- What is the rapture?
- Is Armageddon around the corner?
- Is the return of Christ at the door?
- Can we know the future?
These are just some of the questions people are asking. There is great uncertainty in the air. In spite of breathtaking advances in science and technology, we have seen the condition of humanity only get worse and worse.
In these anxious and critical days, some look to politicians and world leaders for direction, hoping that they will lead to peace. Others turn to psychics, fortune tellers, or the latest prediction of the supermarket tabloid prophets. Yet, all the while there has been someone who knows exactly what the future holds, and He tells about it in His book—the Bible.Back to Top
The Prophetic Standard
The Bible is the only book that accurately predicts the future. It is worth noting that two-thirds of the Bible is prophecy. One-half of these prophecies have already come to pass. No other world religion has a book that does this.
The basic test of the true God, the true faith, the true prophet and the true belief is this: can they predict the future?
If one-half of all Bible prophecies have happened just as God said, should I have any reason to doubt that the remaining ones will happen exactly as He said? God can speak of the future with absolute certainty because He knows exactly what will happen. In other words, we can count on His Word to be true and accurate.Back to Top
Signs of the Times
We are living at a time when Bible prophecy is being fulfilled before our very eyes. We watched the dramatic changes that have taken place in Eastern Europe with the collapse of communism. We have seen the emergence of the European Community as a major economic power, while the United States has faded in its prominence. We see the increasing isolation of the nation of Israel and the rising hostility of the nations around her. There have been wars in the Middle East and popular uprisings in many countries. All of these are signs that Jesus said would tell us that His coming is near:
"When you see these things happening, know that it is near—at the doors!" (Mark 13:29).
The Bible also predicts the behavior and mood of the people just prior to His return. Jesus told us that the days preceding His return would be like the days of Noah and Lot (Luke 17:26–29). What are some of those signs?M
Sexual promiscuity and perversion
Nowhere is this better seen than in the two angelic visitors to Lot in the city of Sodom (see Genesis 19:1–17). There the visitors found all manner of sexual perversion, with the homosexual activists of the day coming to Lot's door. Likewise, today's popular culture celebrates promiscuity and perversion while it mocks the God-given principles of purity and marriage.
Increased violence and crime
Noah's time was characterized by exceedingly wicked violence and crime:
"Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. . .So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth" (Genesis 6:5–6, 12).
Does this not sound like a description of our very time?Back to Top
What is the Rapture?
According to the Bible, there is a generation that will not see death (Mark 13:30). Instead, they will be removed from the face of the earth in what is known as the rapture of the church.
"Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:51–52).
We will be "caught up."
The passage 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 full of wonderful hope and promise: "Then we who are alive and who remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17).M
"Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming" (Matthew 24:40–42).
We will "meet the Lord."
The Greek word for "meet" carries the idea of meeting a royal person, or a person of great importance. That is because when the Lord calls us to Himself, we will meet the King of kings.
"In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, you may be also" (John 14:2–4).
"Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:2–3).
What Does the Rapture Mean for Us?
Let's consider some of the effects of the rapture on each of us:
The rapture means no death.
As I said earlier, there is a generation that will not see death. Are we that generation? I cannot say with certainty that we are, but if we are not, I believe that we are very close to His return. However, He warned us not to try to set dates for His return (Matthew 24:42).
The rapture is a transformation.
As 1 Corinthians 15:51–52 says, "We shall all be changed in a moment." The word for changed in the Greek is "transformed." God will give us a brand new body:
"But we are citizens of Heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior. He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like His own, using the same mighty power that He will use to conquer everything, everywhere" (Philippians 3:20–21 NLT).
The rapture is instantaneous.
It happens in a moment—in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:51–52). It has been said that the "twinkling of an eye" is about one-thousandth of a second. The Greek word for it is atomos, from which we get the word "atom." It means something that cannot be divided.
In other words, the rapture will occur so quickly and suddenly, the time frame in which it appears cannot be humanly divided.
Think of it! In the flash of a second, every living believer on earth will suddenly, instantaneously be gone.
The rapture is a reunion.
The question is often asked, "Will we see our loved ones again?" The apostle Paul wrote these words to reassure the Thessalonians who had believing loved ones who had already died. They were afraid that their departed loved ones would be in some other part of God's plan. They were afraid that they would never see them again. Paul's words were very comforting. He says that the dead in Christ will rise first, "then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them" (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).
We will be reunited with our departed believing friends and family.
We will not only meet the Lord in the rapture, but we will also be reunited with our friends and loved ones who have gone on to already meet the Lord.
One moment we will be going about our life here on earth—and the next moment we will be hurtled into the presence of departed loved ones. Above all, we will have a face-to-face meeting with Him whose death in our place made it all happen. Death is the great separator, but Jesus Christ is the great reconciler.
We will be reunited with those we have led to Christ.
"For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?" (1 Thessalonians 2:19).
Paul said that his spiritual children in Thessalonica will be His crown of rejoicing in the Lord's presence when He comes. From this it appears that each of us will have grouped around those we have helped to believe in Jesus.
This should make us want to redouble our efforts to witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. To see one person standing there before our Savior in a glorified body because we were faithful to preach the gospel to him or her would be worth it all!
We will recognize our loved ones in Heaven.
While the Bible does not reveal all the details of this reunion, we do read that on the Mount of Transfiguration, the three disciples knew and recognized both Moses and Elijah (see Mark 9:1–8). It would seem that in Heaven we will be able to do the same. Speaking of the knowledge we will have in the Lord's presence, Paul writes, "Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Our Spiritual Wake-up Call
Paul wrote practical words on how the truth of the rapture should affect our lives in 1 Thessalonians 5:1–9.
"Peace and safety"
Today this is the great cry of humanity. We hear so much about a global family, and the only thing that is really lacking is a leader. The world is ripe for such a one that the Bible has much to say about: the Antichrist.
But while the world is saying "peace and safety" (1 Thessalonians 5:3), we as believers have an unpopular message: "Judgment is coming!" How then should we, as believers, live?
Some people say that Christians live with their heads in the clouds, that we are not realists. In fact, the opposite is true. The person who believes that we as one global family can live together in peace, and that humanity is basically good is not dealing with reality. Christianity is realistic about the problems and the solution.
"Let Us Not Sleep"
We must not be sleeping as so many are (1 Thessalonians 5:6–7), but we must be alert and ready.
"And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11).
"The night is nearly over, the day has almost dawned. Let us therefore fling away the things that men do in the dark! Let us arm ourselves for the fight of the day! Let us live cleanly, as in the daylight, not in the 'delights' of getting drunk or playing with sex, nor in quarreling or jealousy. Let us be Christ's men from head to foot and give not chances to the flesh to have its fling!" (Romans 13:12–14 Phillips).
A spiritual alarm has sounded. In a sense, this is God's wake-up call for the church. Keep in mind that these words are addressed to believers. We need to wake up from our spiritual lethargy, laziness, and apathy to meet the urgency of the hour. The time is late, and we must prepare for the soon coming of the Lord!
"We who are of the day"
Jesus said, ""I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world'" (John 9:4–5).
Our time is limited. We must do our work while we can. To the believers in the last days, Jesus said, "See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it" (Revelation 3:8).
But there might be some dead weight that is slowing us down or dulling our desire to go through that door. We must persevere! (See Revelation 3:10.)
It is time to prepare to meet your God. Are you ready? If not, make the necessary changes so that you can be counted among those who will love His appearing (see 2 Timothy 4:8).
Next Stop: Heaven!
Have you ever really been homesick?
For those who come from wonderful homes, the old saying, "There is no place like home," rings true. On the other hand, those from miserable homes sometimes enjoy their time away. Regardless, there is one home waiting for us that we all should desperately miss—Heaven!
Eternity in our hearts
The Bible says, "He has put eternity in their hearts" (Ecclesiastes 3:11). For this reason, we will never really be fully satisfied in this life. Nothing will ever quite measure up.
We have all experienced those moments when everything seemed to be just perfect— that perfect sunset, that star-filled night, that special moment with someone you love. At those times you think you want it to be this way always. But it doesn't last. In a sense, you have had a glimpse of eternity—a taste of the bliss you will experience one day in glory.
Some try to fill this homesickness for Heaven by trying to have a perfect life. They don't feel that special feeling any more with their husband or wife, so they go looking for someone else. Their work is not as gratifying as it once was, so they pursue another career. Their home no longer satisfies them, so they buy one that is bigger and better. Yet, true fulfillment eludes them.
We could look back on life and come to the same conclusion that Benjamin Disraeli, the former prime minister of England, came to. Reviewing his life, he said, "Youth is a mistake, manhood a struggle, old age a regret."
Why is life itself often so dissatisfying? Because there is something in us which earth can never satisfy. It is a hunger for God. Unfortunately, Mr. Disraeli seemed to miss this point. God placed this built-in homing instinct for Heaven in our hearts to draw us to Himself.
The reality of Heaven
While the Bible frequently talks about Heaven, and we are given clear instructions as to what we must do to get there. Still, many do not take the existence of this eternal home seriously. Heaven is often dismissed as some foggy concept, not really understandable, and not really believable.
Here are the biblical facts about Heaven:
- The existence of Heaven is 100% real.
- The existence of Hell is 100% real.
- We can be 100% sure of going to Heaven when we have been born again by faith in Christ (not by the good things we do).
Heaven is a place prepared for those who are prepared for it (John 14:2).
What Happens After the Rapture?
Two significant events will take place in Heaven after the rapture of believers:
- The Judgment Seat of Christ
- The Marriage Supper of the Lamb
These two events will precede our return to earth with the Lord in the Second Coming of Christ. If you are a believer, you will be present at both.
After the Lord descends from Heaven with a shout, and we are caught up to meet our departed, believing loved ones in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17), what happens next?
We will receive a new, resurrection body.
We will need new bodies for a new place: Heaven. Our earthly bodies are suited for this earthly environment. Our resurrection bodies will be suited for the heavenly environment. Paul explained this unique transformation:
"Our earthly bodies, which die and decay, will be different when they are resurrected, for they will never die. Our bodies now disappoint us, but when they are raised, they will be full of glory. They are weak now, but when they are raised, they will be full of power" (1 Corinthians 15:42–43 NLT).
If we have been faithful, we will be rewarded.
Many of us have acquired the great awards this world has to offer over the years—trophies, blue ribbons, plaques, etc. In Heaven, however, people will be rewarded for their faithfulness to God over the years. Even the smallest and most insignificant action done on behalf of God's kingdom will not be overlooked by our Heavenly Father.
Jesus promises, "Your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly" (Matthew 6:4; see also Matthew 6:6, 18). This reward will be given to you as we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
The Judgment Seat of Christ
You might have thought that only nonbelievers would be judged. They will be, but that occurs at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20). That is the final judgment, and it takes place to show the nonbeliever why they are rejected from God's presence in Heaven. (They rejected God's offer of forgiveness).
Yet the Bible teaches there is a judgment for Christians as well (2 Corinthians 5:10). The Judgment Seat of Christ is different. It is not about whether or not you get to Heaven. (You are already in Heaven when it happens.) It is about the rewards you will receive.
"Then at the resurrection of the godly, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you" (Luke 14:14 NLT, see also Revelation 22:12).
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ"
The word appear in 2 Corinthians 5:10 could be translated "to be made manifest." This suggests that the purpose of the Judgment Seat of Christ is the public manifestation and demonstration of the essential character and motives of the individual. We will not be judged en masse but individually.
"That each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad"
Exactly what will be judged is laid out in 2 Corinthians 5:10. The word used for bad in this text is not speaking of something that is ethically or morally evil. Instead, it means "evil of another kind," "good for nothingness" or "worthlessness." In other words, it means the wasting of one's time, energy, and life in general.
At the Judgment Seat of Christ, each of us will have to give an account of what we did with the life, gifts and calling that God gave to us. Speaking again of the Judgment Seat for Christians, Paul wrote:
"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames" (1 Corinthians 3:11–15 NIV).
This wood, hay, or straw Paul spoke of refers not so much to gross sin, but to placing greater importance on the passing things of this life rather than the things of God. You might be putting all of your energies into your career, a sport or hobby, or even watching TV—but all of these things will pass.
"If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward"
That treasure we stored up in Heaven (Matthew 6:20; see also Matthew 19:21) will bring us rewards (1 Corinthians 3:14 NIV). We would seem logical that the great men and women of faith will get all the awards. But we may be surprised by the award sweep of relatively unknown believers—those Christians who prayed behind the scenes, served others without expecting recognition, or anonymously gave of their resources, quietly doing what the Lord had called them to do.
Don't worry about what God has called someone else to do. Concentrate on what He has called you to do. What may not seem very valuable or important now will be worth a lot more in Heaven.
What Rewards Will We Receive?
The Bible describes many crowns we will receive at the judgment seat of Christ.
The crown of rejoicing (or a soul-winner's crown)
"For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?" (1 Thessalonians 2:19). To obtain this reward, you must seek to win others to Christ.
The "crown of rejoicing" appears to be the ability to see all the people that you helped bring to the Lord. These people may actually be gathered around us. That thought could be very exciting or quite depressing—depending upon how faithful you as an individual are to fulfilling the Great Commission.
We must remember that we ourselves have never converted anyone. That is what the Holy Spirit does (John 6:63). Yet, we can play a part in that process. In fact, we may not even be aware of all those we have influenced to come to Jesus.
"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase" (1 Corinthians 3:6; see also Daniel 12:3).
The crown of life
To obtain this reward, you must love the Lord and persevere under trial.
"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12 NIV).
Perhaps you feel as though you have given up many things to follow Jesus Christ. You've resisted temptations and endured hardships because of your faith. God promises you this special reward in Heaven!
The crown of righteousness
To obtain this great reward, you must finish your course and love His appearing.
"The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:6–8).
You were created to know God and to go to Heaven. You may have lost your way, but don't lose your address. Don't deny the spiritual hunger in your soul. As believers, we have hope beyond the grave.
Don't become overly concerned with the things of this life. Otherwise, you will have a saved soul but a lost life. Instead, remember your eternal rewards. And keep your eyes on Jesus, "the author and finisher of [your] faith" (Hebrews 12:2).
What About the Antichrist?
There have been quite a number of cults (Heaven's Gate, the Order of the Solar Temple, the Branch Davidians, and the followers of Jim Jones, for example) who have sought to leave this world in search of a better place by means of suicide.
Other preachers and teachers have publicly announced that they know exactly when the end of the world is coming. What does this all mean?
"Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many" (Matthew 24:11).
"But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach their destructive heresies about God and even turn against their Master who bought them. Theirs will be a swift and terrible end. Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of them, Christ and His true way will be slandered. In their greed, they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction is on the way" (2 Peter 2:1–3 NLT).
Why do people accept these crazy teachings? Don't they know any better? The Bible tells us that in the last days, there will literally be a cult explosion—an ever-growing plethora of every belief system possible except the right one. The devil has his counterfeit power at work in the world. He is the father of lies (John 8:44).
"He will use every kind of wicked deception to fool those who are on their way to destruction because they refuse to believe the truth that would save them. So God will send great deception upon them, and they will believe all these lies. Then they will be condemned for not believing the truth and for enjoying the evil they do" (2 Thessalonians 2:10–12 NLT).
You know something is popular when you start seeing the knock-offs or imitations. The devil is not very original. He has always seen the value of copying something, and, in so doing, confusing the issue. It seems that whenever there is a genuine work of the Spirit of God, Satan will have his imitation.
Consider Pharaoh's magicians, who were able to duplicate the miracles of Moses, such as the plague of blood in the Nile, and the plague of frogs (see Exodus 7–8).
Jesus told the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24–30). In the story, a man planted wheat in a field, but his enemy came at night and planted tares (or darnel seeds) in the same field. Initially, this tare looks just like the wheat. But as time goes by, it actually uproots the wheat and ultimately destroys it.
These days while God is working, the devil is planting his tares. When they are exposed, people say, "See—they are all hypocrites!" As Peter said, "Christ and his true way will be slandered" (2 Peter 2:2) through this. Yet, the presence of so many imitations should actually prove that there is an original.
Whatever we have as Christians, you can be sure that Satan has a counterfeit version:
- He has a false gospel that tells you that you can make up the rules as you go.
- Along with this false gospel comes a false hope. People think that because they have gone through a certain religious ritual, they are eternally secure.
- He has a false messiah. Satan always wanted the top job in Heaven, and he has never gotten over losing his once exalted position. In these last days, he will thrust his imitation messiah—the Antichrist—on the world scene.
Overview of the Tribulation
Hard times for planet Earth
Revelation 6:1–17 shows that planet Earth is headed for some hard times.
- Ecological disaster on a scale never known to man.
- Unprecedented famine, disease, and possibly nuclear war will sweep the planet, culminating in the war to end all wars—Armageddon.
- More than one billion people will lose their lives as Satan wreaks havoc on this planet.
- Those who would have us cast off our moral restraints, those who do not live by the standards God has set down in His Word for our protection, will finally have their way.
Were it not for the intervention of God Himself as He returns to reign, no one would survive! The tribulation, as this period is called, is well named. Jesus, knowing the severity of the coming tribulation period, described it as
"There will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved" (Matthew 24:21–22).
Revelation 6 is an overview of the seven-year period beginning with the Antichrist and ending with the second coming of Jesus Christ. This period is God's final countdown for humanity, culminating in the personal, visible return of Jesus Christ to this earth.
Profile of the Antichrist
Some have confused the rider of the white horse in verse two with Jesus, but the rider is actually the Antichrist.
For following the appearing of the rider is not a kingdom of righteousness, but a time of wickedness and sorrow. Masquerading as the true Messiah, he wears a crown, while Jesus wears many crowns (Revelation 19:12). In the Greek translation, the crown worn by the rider of the white horse refers to the crown of victory worn by a conqueror. The crowns Jesus wears in Revelation 19 refer to crowns of royalty.
A conqueror bent on conquest
When a victor triumphantly entered a newly conquered kingdom, he would invariably ride a white horse. The Antichrist will deceitfully establish himself, and then show his true colors.
This coming world leader, the Antichrist, will come at an economically difficult time. There will be war in different parts of the world, and he—through brilliant political moves along with an incredible charisma—will be able to do what no one else has ever done: bring economic stability to the world's monetary system and bring world peace. By establishing this peace, he will deceive many. He will even convince the Jewish nation and the Arab nations to sign a peace treaty, paving the way for the long-awaited third temple.
His accomplishments will be so spectacular, so far-reaching and unprecedented, that many will hail him as the Messiah. But we are warned in Scripture that he is a deceiver.
The man of sin
The Antichrist will be history's vilest embodiment of sin and rebellion: "Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that Day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness [sin] is revealed, the man doomed to destruction" (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
The wicked one
"And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the brightness of His coming" (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
Lawless can be translated "wicked." The Antichrist totally opposes every law of God. Halfway into his power play he will show his true colors, rebuilding the temple and committing the abomination of desolation (Daniel 12:11; Matthew 24:15). He will show himself to be a blood-thirsty dictator who will make Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Saddam Hussein look like lightweights in comparison.
Dictators rarely take over nations by brute force. Political or economic problems almost always pave the way for tyranny. This has already proven true in history. Rome set the precedent, seeking out nations who were in political and economic turmoil. They came with seeming benevolence, only to turn to tyrannical suppression and demand worship of Caesar.
Adolph Hitler did the same. In 1930, Germany was in desperate financial straits. Inflation was so bad, that literally thousands of people were starving. Communists stirred up riots in the streets, and there was general chaos.
Then Adolph Hitler came on the scene—a voice of authority in the midst of chaos. He spoke of a people of destiny and promised glories to come. But it was not meant to be.
Hitler was but a pale version of the Antichrist who will work through a revived Roman empire. He, like the Romans and Hitler, will bring political, military, and economic answers, and he will persecute Jews and Christians.
Satan's unholy trinity
The Antichrist will not act alone. There will be a false prophet working with him. "Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Revelation 19:20).
Here we see Satan's unholy trinity:
- Satan, imitating God (and, for a short time, having the worship of people worldwide)
- The Antichrist, masquerading as the Son
- The false prophet, impersonating the Holy Spirit
The work of the Antichrist
The Antichrist will bring about a new religious system that will accommodate everyone.
We are currently in the midst of a cult explosion. Whether it be dianetics, EST, goddess worship, reincarnation, astrology, holistic healing, or any of a hundred other consciousness-raising techniques, the modern age is on a search for some mystical divine unity. The time is ripe for a world religion.
The Antichrist will harness the world's economic system.
"He required everyone—great and small, rich and poor, slave and free—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name. Wisdom is needed to understand this. Let the one who has understanding solve the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666" (Revelation 13:16–18 NLT).
Modern technology and the last days
Before computers were such a vital part of our lives, it was hard to imagine how this prophecy could be enforced. In our generation, we have seen the developments of all the parts of the electronic system necessary for one person to wield total economic control: credit cards, debit cards, smart cards, ATM, etc. Now we have supercomputers that are so fast, they can perform thousands of operations on each person's files in the world every second.
Satellites can link the whole world together instantly, receiving unbelievable amounts of data simultaneously. Fiber optics that service our homes and computers are able to carry thousands of conversations, video images, and data transfers at the same time. Our cell phones can do this wirelessly. The Internet links large and small businesses around the globe together instantly. In addition, we all have several numbers assigned to us (Social Security, driver's license, etc.) that enable easy access to our records.
Modern technology has made it possible for the Antichrist to do what the Bible predicts: to literally control the right of individuals to buy and sell. For example, we can buy most of what we need by use of our debit or credit cards. Cards, however, can be lost.
This problem could be solved by inserting tiny electronic transponders (chip implants) somewhere in our body. (This has already been done with livestock and household pets). Thus, the stage is set for the mark of the beast.
A Hopeful Thought
Social unrest, violence, immorality, political and economic instability—all these are but signs of the times. If the Antichrist is getting close, then the return of Jesus Christ for His people is even closer.
The Antichrist cannot be revealed until after the church is removed. Are you ready for that great event? Keep in mind these prophetic words of Jesus: "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near" (Luke 21:28).Back to Top
What about Armageddon and the Return of Jesus Christ?
"We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants." —Gen. Omar Bradley, Armistice Day Speech 1948
The problem with world peace
Now that we are some years into this new millennium, it is a wonderful thing to think that humankind, with all our rapid advances in technology, could soon usher in a new era of peace and global harmony. But humankind cannot bring about peace. The human heart is sinful and will never bring about world peace. The Bible tells us that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).
Though many seek and hope for world peace, Jesus said, "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet" (Matthew 24:6).
A Time of War
World War I was called the "War to End All Wars." However, it taught us further strategies of war by introducing air forces and bombing techniques. World War II brought the world to the brink of nuclear destruction, introducing the atomic bomb. Today there are several countries with nuclear capability and many more countries with the missile capability to carry them.
Rather than world peace, the Bible reveals that in the last days there will be hard times for the planet Earth.
The Great Tribulation Period
Revelation 19 is a description of the war to end all wars. The Great Tribulation Period will be the hardest and most devastating time this planet has ever seen. In fact, Jesus told us that if He didn't return to end this tribulation period, there wouldn't be anyone left alive!
"It will be a time of nuclear conflagrations. Biological holocausts and chemical apocalypses rolling over the earth, bringing man to the edge of the precipice. History will bottom out in the battle of Armageddon—we will see its shadow creeping over the earth." —Billy GrahamBack to Top
The Beginning of the End: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
In Revelation 6:1–8 Jesus shows the apostle John the beginning of the end by describing the planet's coming horrors through descriptive pictures of four successive horses and their riders.
The White Horse
The White Horse symbolizes the coming Antichrist, masquerading as the Messiah, who will:
- Bring temporary peace
- Rebuild the temple in Jerusalem
- Survive an assassination attempt
However, three and a half years into the tribulation, the Antichrist will show his true colors.
The Red Horse
The Red Horse takes peace from the earth and carries a great sword, symbolizing the massive outbreak of war—and very possibly nuclear war. One-third of all trees, green grass, and human life will be destroyed instantaneously.
- There will be a great mountain burning with fire
- One-third of the sea will become blood
- The rebuilt city of Babylon will be destroyed in one hour
- Kings will stand at a great distance for fear of torment
Are these descriptions of a nuclear holocaust? Remember, John is describing twenty-first century phenomena in first century terms!
The Black Horse and the Pale Horse
The Black Horse and the Pale Horse symbolize famine and plagues. This certainly fits with the scenario our scientists give us of the results of a nuclear war.
Proclaiming the gospel
Though the tribulation will be a destructive and dark time, the light of God will still shine throughout the world. Many people will believe in Christ after the rapture of the church but they will have to avoid taking the mark of the beast—which means many will die for their faith.
The gospel will be preached throughout the earth by an angel "flying in the midst of Heaven having the everlasting gospel to preach to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people" (Revelation 14:6).
This also fulfills the statement of Jesus, "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).
During the Great Tribulation, God will bring about a tremendous revival among the Jewish people. Representing the twelve tribes of Israel, 144,000 Jews will be under divine protection with the mandate to proclaim the gospel throughout the world (Revelation 7:4–8).
In the last days, God will raise up two prophets who will have a ministry of miracles, including calling down fire from Heaven on those who attempt to hurt them! They will also have power over the waters, turning them to blood. But, as the whole world watches, they will be assassinated and left on the street as dead. Suddenly, they will be resurrected and ascend to Heaven.
Yet, even though the world will witness their resurrection, there will be those who remain hardened in their unbelief!
"And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).
The Battle of Armagaeddon
"Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces. . .And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn" (Zechariah 12:2–3, 10).
Those engaged in the Battle of Armageddon are the united ten nations of the Antichrist, a force identified as the Kings of the East. This massive army will be demonically inspired to attack Israel.
"For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. . . And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon" (Revelation 16:14, 16).
We learn in Revelation 9:15, 16 that the size of the army is 200 million troops. But who is this mysterious army and what nation on earth could field a fighting force this large?
At this point, China is the only nation with the capability of boasting an army of some 200 million. Keep in mind, when the apostle John wrote the book of Revelation there were not yet 200 million people on the whole earth!Back to Top
The Church and the Tribulation Period
Will believers experience the Great Tribulation?
In any instance where God's wrath was poured out, He delivered His people. Noah and Lot are good examples. Noah and his family were rescued from world judgment while Lot and his family were rescued from the destruction of a city.
"Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth" (Revelation 3:10).
"For when they say, 'Peace and safety!' then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober...For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:3–6,9).
The rapture saves the church
There are three specific elements of the rapture:
- It comes before judgment
- It only involves true believers
- It will happen as a thief in the night
Remember, there will be those who will be left out of the rapture.
"And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds" (Revelation 2:21–22).
Are you ready for the rapture? Are you waiting for Him?
"And he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him" (Hebrews 9:28).
The Second Coming of Christ
The return of Jesus Christ is described in Revelation 19:11–21.
Like the rapture, there are specific elements to Christ's second coming. But, unlike the rapture:
- Christ will come with judgment
- Christ will come back with His people
- Everyone will see Christ's return
A joyous time for God's people
As the disciples watched Jesus ascend, two angels appeared to encourage them. "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into Heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into Heaven" (Acts 1:11).
This event, and this event only, will bring an end to the senseless killing, wars, and unrighteousness of humankind.
"The government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever!" (Isaiah 9:6–7).
The return of Christ upon the earth is what every believer yearns for and eagerly awaits.
A time of reckoning and judgment
As far as the inhabitants of the earth are concerned, the second coming of Christ will not be a joyous event but one of terrible judgment. Remember, believers will already be with Jesus in Heaven, and will come back with Him.
"Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his saints to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him" (Jude 14–15).
This is the day when Jesus is finally vindicated before everyone. Every eye shall see him, every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord! (See Philippians 2:9–11.)
Even in this terrible time, the hearts of men and women will be hard and they will curse and blaspheme God though He has given them warning of His impending judgment. In the eyes of the nonbeliever, God is never fair in what He does. When people suffer the consequences of flaunting God's grace and breaking His commandments, they blame God and call Him unjust!
Believers will share in the Lord's glory
If you are walking with the Lord, rejoice! Not only will you escape judgment, but you will share in God's glorious return! "When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory" (Colossians 3:4).
What about the Millennium and the Final Judgment?
The defeat of Satan
At this point in time, the Antichrist has come, established himself as head of a ten-nation confederacy, and has led them into the bloodiest battle of all time, Armageddon! At the end of this horrible massacre, Jesus Christ returns, and He throws both the Antichrist and the False Prophet into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:1–14).
Regarding Satan, the Scriptures tell us, "For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into Heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.' Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit" (Isaiah 14:13–15).
This is Satan's day of humbling. Though he was at the top of the heap of demon powers, he is now bound by a single angel.
All the hosts of the fallen angels, the demons, the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and the world of nonbelieving people were under his complete domination until this day. Now Satan is bound in the bottomless pit with his cohorts—chained for 1000 years!
A world of peace
"He will bring justice to the poor of the people; He will save the children of the needy, and will break in pieces the oppressor. They shall fear You as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing, like showers that water the earth. In His days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace, until the moon is no more. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth" (Psalm 72:4–8).
What kind of world will there be when Satan is chained? The wolf will dwell with the lamb—animals will be tame and docile (Isaiah 6:6–8). There will be no more disabilities, suffering, or crime (Revelation 21:4).
"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; in the habitation of jackals, where each lay, there shall be grass with reeds and rushes. A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray" (Isaiah 35:5–8).
There will finally be world peace
"He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" (Isaiah 2:4).
The curse that came upon the world because of sin will be lifted
"For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God's curse. All creation anticipates the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us" (Romans 8:19–23 NLT).
Believers ruling with God
"And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them" (Revelation 20:4).
Jesus, in giving out our rewards, says, "Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities" (Luke 19:17).
Who will believers judge? It would seem we would rule different aspects of the Lord's kingdom on earth. It will be a rule of love, but there will be a tremendous number of people on the earth who will need direction. The tribulation believers who have survived will still be in their physical bodies and will still have sinful natures. They and their children can choose to rebel against God, and some of them will.
Satan is released.
One thousand years in the bottomless pit doesn't change Satan. Upon being released, Satan once again begins to deceive the world. Amazingly, though man has enjoyed great security, prosperity, peace, perfect ecology and government, he still desires to rebel against God.
"The heart is the most deceitful thing there is and desperately wicked. No one can really know how bad it is" (Jeremiah 17:9).
Satan is sent to Hell.
The great deceiver is thrown into Hell, for eternal torment. "The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever" (Revelation 20:10).
The Final Judgment
God is no respecter of persons. Whether a pauper or a prince, no one will be exempt from the Great White Throne Judgment, except believers. The Bible states, "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18).
It is important to understand on what basis we will be judged. It's not on the basis of what I have done for God, but rather, what God has done for me!
Back in the Garden of Eden, God told Adam, "In the day that you eat of it [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17). The Bible teaches there are actually two deaths; one physical and the other spiritual. Jesus warned that we are to fear the second death more than the first death. He discussed the second death as Hell, which is eternal separation from God. Jesus indicated that the death of the body is nothing compared to the conscious everlasting banishment of a soul from God.
The purpose of this final confrontation between God and sinful man is to clearly demonstrate to the nonbeliever why he is already condemned.
One of the books which will be opened at the Great White Throne Judgment will be the book of God's Law. Anyone who had been exposed to the truth of God's law will be held responsible. For those who might say, "I lived by the Ten Commandments," it will clearly be shown they did not.
Perhaps another book that will be used will contain a record of everything we have said or done. "For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
"But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment" (Matthew 12:36).
Another book may show how humanity fails to live up to its own standards. "Even when Gentiles, who do not have God's written law, instinctively follow what the law says, they show that in their hearts they know right from wrong. They demonstrate that God's law is written within them, for their own consciences either accuse them or tell them they are doing what is right. The day will surely come when God, by Jesus Christ, will judge everyone's secret life. This is my message" (Romans 2:14 NLT).
Then, there may be a book that has a record of all the times the gospel was heard and then rejected. Knowledge brings responsibility!
Finally, the Book of Life will be opened. The nail-scarred hands of Jesus will scan the book for names.
"Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). If you don't know him now, He won't know you then.
Lake of fire
The lake of fire is the final destination for Satan and his followers. You will decide. Where you spend eternity is not based on how bad or good you are, but on what you have done with Jesus Christ. Say "yes" to Him now, and He will say "yes" to you then. Say "no" to Him now, and He will say "no" to you then.
Remember, your life is a gift of God to use and invest for His glory.
What About Hell?
"One God, one law, one element; and one far off, divine event to which the whole Creation moves." —Inscription in the Dome of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.
The great unknown
Many people are uncomfortable with the thought of dying. Why? Because we are afraid to die. The Bible speaks of those who are being held in bondage by fear of death (Hebrews 2:15). Death is stepping into the great unknown, and it's the fear of the unknown that upsets most people. In the oldest book of the Bible, Job describes the death of the wicked:
"The light of the wicked indeed goes out, and the flame of his fire does not shine. The light is dark in his tent, and his lamp beside him is put out. The steps of his strength are shortened. . .He is uprooted from the shelter of his tent, and they parade him before the king of terrors" (Job 18:5–7, 14).
A very real place
Hell is not merely a figure of speech, but a very real place! The Bible describes Hell as being a real place that is not an eternal party, but rather a place of eternal torment and darkness.
Jesus, who told us of Heaven with all its glories, also told us of Hell with all its horrors. In fact, Jesus spoke more about Hell than all the other preachers of the Bible put together! Of the 1870 verses recording words which Jesus spoke, 13% are about judgment and Hell. More than half of the 40 parables that Jesus told related to God's eternal judgment of sinners.
A Description of Hell
The Bible describes Hell in several different ways.
Hell is like a garbage dump
The word that is often translated "hell" in the New Testament is Gehenna. This was a place where the garbage was dumped in New Testament times. Every kind of garbage was thrown there, including the corpses of criminals. Worms bred and fed in the filth while smoke filled the place due to continually burning fires.
"Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of Hell?" (Matthew 23:33)
Jesus, warning His disciples of the opposition they would face, added the encouragement, "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell" (Matthew 10:28).
Hell is like a prison
One of the clearest pictures Jesus gave of Hell was that of a prison. He told a parable of a king's servant who was sent to jail for cruel and unforgiving behavior, then adding this warning, "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses" (Matthew 18:35).
Hell Is a Place of Complete Darkness
Jesus spoke of those who would be "cast out into outer darkness" (Matthew 8:12). Jesus does not merely describe Hell as darkness but as "the darkness," as if to emphasize that it will be infinitely worse than any physical, moral, mental, or spiritual darkness ever experienced here on earth.
Elsewhere, Peter writes of those who "have eyes full of adultery" and "are trained in covetous practices," and then pronounces their doom: "blackest darkness is reserved for them" (2 Peter 2:14, 17).
The unquenchable fire
More than any other picture used of Hell is the one of an unquenchable fire.
Jesus often spoke in parables. However, in Luke 16:19–31 He is relating a true story! Here is an incredible, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the invisible world. When Jesus related the story about the rich ruler and Lazarus, the beggar, he was addressing it to people who were obsessed with greed and materialism, people who were possessed by possessions.
The story in Luke is one of two men. The one who owned everything ended up with nothing, while the other owned nothing but inherited everything. One went to eternal comfort and the other to torment.
The rich man – A man of means, with considerable resources at his disposal, the rich man was clothed in purple, signifying royalty. However, the rich man's sin was not wealth but his disregard for spiritual values which revealed itself in his prideful flaunting of resources and his neglect of a starving disabled man at his door.
Lazarus – While the rich man lived in splendor, Lazarus ate the crumbs from this man's table. We also read that Lazarus was carried and laid at the gate, possibly indicating that he was crippled also. When Lazarus died, the angels carried him to Heaven; however the rich man didn't get the same treatment.
Death is the great equalizer. The rich man died, just as Lazarus did, but rather than being carried to Heaven, he speaks of torment.
Prior to the death of Jesus, Hades had two sections:
- Abraham's Bosom: a place of comfort for the believers, those who died in faith.
- Torment: a place of suffering reserved for nonbelievers.
When Jesus died on the cross, He went to Hades to take those to glory who were waiting for the Messiah.
In Hades, people are fully conscious. There is an ability to communicate, but it is a place of great pain. Hell consists of torture, suffering, and eternal separation from God. Eventually, Hades will be emptied of its occupants who will stand before God at the Great White Throne Judgment.
"The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:13–15).
The rich man had five brothers he wanted to warn about the torment of Hades. He thought that if someone came back from the dead, his brothers would believe.
However, Scriptures detail the resurrection of another Lazarus (not the same one as in this story) who rose from the dead only to be pursued by the religious authorities who wanted to eliminate him because he was living evidence of the power of God. And of course, our Lord Jesus rose from the dead, but that did not turn the hearts of all nonbelievers back to God.
God Wants You in Heaven!
Because God is a God of love and justice, He created Hell for Satan and his fallen angels. It was not made for people! In fact, God took radical measures to keep us out of Hell. Jesus prayed, "I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory" (John 17:24).
When you love with someone, you want them with you. God so loved us that He poured out His wrath on His own dear Son so we wouldn't have to face it! Now we can be with Him for all eternity.Back to Top
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New King James Version™. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ™. NIV ™. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by biblical, Inc. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.