A Brief History of Prophetic Interpretation
27 % of all of the verses in scripture, in the Bible we carry to church, the Word we revere and study, are prophetic. That’s a major portion of God’s revealed Word He has given to us. Why is so much of the Bible prophecy? Simple. He tells us why:
Who told of this from the beginning, so we could know,
or beforehand, so we could say, ‘He was right’?
See, the former things have taken place,
and new things I declare;
before they spring into being
I announce them to you. (Isaiah 42:9)
Declare what is to be, present it—
let them take counsel together.
Who foretold this long ago,
who declared it from the distant past?
Was it not I, the LORD ?
And there is no God apart from me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none but me. (Isaiah 45:21)
I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say: My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.
What I have said, that will I bring about;
what I have planned, that will I do. (Isaiah 46:10- 11[b])
If you were the Creator God of the Universe and you wanted to convince your created human beings that You are who You say You are, how do You do it? One way would be to accurately prophesy the future. I can’t do that. You can’t do that. Sure, we may be correct 10% or even 30% of the time. Weathermen, after all, are right 50% (or so) of the time, but that’s no great shakes. But to be exactly correct 100% of the time, on every prophecy, that would be quite a feat. Besides the fact that, if you could actually prophesy the future 100% of the time, within a fairly short period of time, you would be one of the world’s richest earthlings, much like Biff in the Back to the Future movies. The foreknowledge of how each company’s shares would perform on the world’s stock exchanges would be worth an inestimable sum.
Jesus frequently quoted prophecy. Let me say that again, Jesus frequently quoted prophecy. If prophecy has no application to the lives of humans, why did our Savior not only use the prophetic words from Old Testament Prophets, but also He gave prophecies of His own. At the beginning of His ministry Jesus went up to Nazareth, where He was raised, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as He had been accustomed to doing. At that time various people would be designated to read from the sacred scrolls. On this day, Jesus stood up to read and selected a passage from Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll, found the exact passage He had decided to read and read a messianic prophecy:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Isaiah 61:1-2)
Then Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and He said to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4: 21) What must have led to the stir among the congregation was simply that Jesus didn’t finish the passage. The next part of Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming messiah was that the messiah would proclaim “the day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 61:2[b]). As His fellow residents of Nazareth looked inquiringly at Him, He then did and said not only the unexpected, but more importantly, He proclaimed that what He had just read applied to Him. “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Can you imagine the scene? They had heard prophecies read from the scrolls all of their lives, but they certainly had never heard a fellow human being proclaim that a messianic prophecy had just been fulfilled in their hearing.
Thus, Jesus not only was well acquainted with prophecy (which of course should not surprise us since He is the Word – John 1:1 and “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy” Revelation 19:10), but He also applied it to Himself and declared when the prophecy was fulfilled. We do a similar thing in our time, for example, when we proclaim that prophecies of the return of Israel to the land were fulfilled in May, 1948. Jesus also added to what the Old Testament Prophets wrote on occasion. Jesus was leaving the Temple, a newly built structure given to Israel and paid for by the occupying Roman government. One of his disciples said to Him: “Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here” (Mark13:1). Jesus acknowledged how great the buildings were, but then prophesied that “there shall not left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Mark 13:2). The disciples of Jesus were intrigued by this specific prophecy and wanted to know “when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:4) Jesus then responded with an extended prophecy (97 verses from Matthew 24:4 to 25:46) focusing on end times events, persons and timing, with some prophecies contained in parables. In the middle of this new prophecy, Jesus quoted from Daniel concerning the coming antichrist (Matthew 24:15-16; Daniel 7:8), and referred to prophecies originally given by Isaiah and Zechariah.
Jesus also quoted in His ministry from the Prophet Jonah:
“Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.”
He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.” (Matthew 12:38-41)
Jesus confirmed all of the messianic prophecies given by all of the Prophets, for in Luke 18:31 we read: “Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled”. So, if Jesus believed in prophecy, interpreted prophecy and applied prophecy, shouldn’t we, as His followers, highly value the prophetic Word of God? One final point on this subject. When Jesus came into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey on what we now call Palm Sunday, He wept. Why? It wasn’t because He knew the cross was almost upon Him. He came to die. He wept because the Jewish nation had been given pin point timing prophecies by which they could date His exact appearance as He offered Himself as Israel’s Messiah. By counting down from the order to rebuild Jerusalem in 445 BC, until the Messiah (using Daniel’s 69 weeks of years – that is 483 years), Israelites should have been waiting in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (14th day of Nisan) of the year 32 AD for their Messiah. Some were waiting, most weren’t. Jesus wept because they should have known and understood and applied the prophecies, but ultimately didn’t, and shortly thereafter called for His crucifixion. They could have avoided widespread death and destruction by properly understanding and applying prophecy, just as we can do the same in our time.
Approximately 80% of the prophesies in the Word of God have been fulfilled, over, done with, completed by historical events. Each one exactly correct, as He said they would occur. Many dealt with Israel as it wandered away from its God. Some concerned other nations that had some connection with Israel. Over 300 of those fulfilled prophecies dealt with the coming Messiah, which were all fulfilled in and the through the life of Jesus Christ. The mathematical odds of those prophecies being fulfilled is astronomical, further proving these were all given to us from the hand of God.
That leaves about 20% of all prophecies still to be fulfilled. Almost all of these unfulfilled prophecies center on the “end times”, the “day of the Lord”, the “last days” – those years that occur before Jesus Christ returns to stop the destruction of Israel and His people, and then reigns for 1,000 years over the earth. Those prophesies center on the nations in the world at that time. Over the last two hundred years or so many have wondered where is America in all of these prophetic verses?
One principle of proper analysis of scripture states that one should not base interpretation of scripture on current events, but instead on other scriptures. That’s generally true. In the last century a few wrote that Adolph Hitler was the antichrist, ignoring a number of prophecies that would have ruled him out (not the least significant problem being that Israel had not yet been installed back in their land). However, if this guideline for interpretation were legalistically applied, then the Israelites who lived at the time of Jesus would have all been excused for missing the application of direct prophecies to the precise time that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem, which was a knowable time, based on application of prophecy to the then current times.
Jesus didn’t say, ‘well, since you shouldn’t apply current events to the analysis of prophetic scriptures. The fact that you didn’t watch for my appearing is really ok’. Instead, He said, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” (Matthew 16:2-3 – NIV). The Sons of Issachar were commended because they “understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (I Chronicles 12:32).
What do we learn from our Lord’s words? We are expected to understand the signs of the times, reading all of scripture together, as no scripture is of private, or separate, interpretation. If the Bible contains prophecies about the end times that are related to ‘the signs of the times’, what does that mean? It doesn’t mean that He posts billboards, or signs, and says on those signs what we are to understand is happening in our times. Instead, what understanding the ‘signs of the times’ means is that we are to compare prophecy with current events and arrive at a sound mind conclusion as to whether the two match up. As we do so, we may find that the words and the events may match, or they may not. They may come close, but not really match. So we are told to discern our times in light of scripture, with prayer and a sound mind.
That’s really what Jesus was chiding the Jewish residents of Israel for NOT doing. The prophecies were in print and readily available. What they didn’t do was to compare current events, and current timing, with those prophesied events. God has given us sound minds and the analytical ability to read what He wrote and to conclude if what He wrote has any current application. If what we conclude in our evaluation is contrary to any other scripture, then our conclusions are wrong.
In the late 1970’s commentators and Biblical scholars were in agreement that the Antichrist who would some day come into power would be a European leader who would unite Europe, thus reviving the Roman Empire; that he would change the set times and the laws; he would make a seven year peace treaty with Israel, in the middle of which he would break the treaty and seek to destroy Israel; that he would persecute, martyr and decapitate Christians and Jews across the world; and also, modestly, proclaim himself as God, demanding the worship of the world’s inhabitants. Hal Lindsey’s then best selling Late Great Planet Earth arrived at the same conclusions, also believed by most Christians who studied prophecy.
This continuing and prevailing Christian view of end times prophecies eventually was portrayed in Tim LaHaye’s and Jerry Jenkins’ best-selling Left Behind series, in which they portrayed the Antichrist as a Romanian (Nicholae Carpathia). Coming from a European nation, Carpathia’ s place of birth and political/governmental base was consistent with Daniel’s vision that the fourth world empire would come upon the earth in two separate stages, the first of which was the original Roman Empire and the second a revived Roman Empire. Those who studied prophecy in the last century almost universally interpreted the Antichrist as arising from a united Europe, meaning that the ancient Roman Empire would eventually be revived and would become the political/governmental base for the coming Antichrist.
Of course, thirty five years ago the separate nations of Europe had not yet united, so those who saw in scripture a future united Europe based on interpreting prophecy were correct. For in 1993, under the Treaty of Maastricht, Europe politically united. Why was that important? It set the stage for a fulfillment of prophecy based on a united Europe. Thus, this important prophecy, a requirement before the end times’ final war, has now been fulfilled, as Europe is once again united, as it was under Rome two thousand years ago. But, alas, although Lindsay, LaHaye, this Bible teacher and other Christian writers were correct in discerning from scripture a future united Europe, we all missed the most critical and then still hidden future fact. The then unrevealed future fact was that the Antichrist and his followers won’t be Europeans, as we have traditionally understood the meaning of that word. But, instead, they will most likely be inhabitants of Europe, but who have immigrated to Europe and expanded in numbers. They will eventually conquer the continent, under a terrorist threat to which the European nations will quickly capitulate, raising the flag of their Islamic religion above every government building in Europe, all as a part of the effort to conquer the world, just as John prophesied in Revelation, but not quite as we had all supposed during the twentieth century.
Where did the end times prophecies describing the European location of the Antichrist come from? When Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, which was of a huge figure with a “head of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze its legs of iron, its feet part of iron and part of clay” (Daniel 3:32-33), he explained that the image foreshadowed four great kingdoms. Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar was the gold head; the silver kingdom was Medo-Persia and the bronze kingdom was Greece. Daniel then explained that the fourth world kingdom would be in two stages: a.) the first stage – legs of iron [which shall break in pieces and subdue all things – Daniel 2:39], which became the original Roman Empire (44 BC-395 AD), and b.) the second stage – feet of clay and iron, [with the strength of iron – Daniel 2:41], which would be the future and final world empire arising from the same area of the earlier kingdom of legs of iron. That clearly indicates that the final world kingdom will be in the same area as the Roman Empire, that is, much of the European Union today.
If you have studied Biblical prophecy in the past, you may have wondered, as have I, what kind of political philosophy or what sort of religion the future end times Antichrist would promote, and demand that the world follow. Most of the dictators and despots in the world’s history have been primarily nationalistic in nature, that is, they wanted their nation to conquer other nations. Why? Because they could. But not generally because they wanted to export a set of religious or political beliefs or dogma. They just wanted to conquer, plunder and acquire. Jesus said about the days after He was on earth that “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Matthew 24:7).
The missing piece of any analysis of Biblical prophecy in the past has been this critical piece – what will motivate the coming Antichrist, besides just nationalistic fervor, to conquer the entire world? Just as important, what religious dogma will the Antichrist demand that the inhabitants of the world come to believe? Sure, we always understood that the Antichrist will some day demand that everyone accept his mark on their bodies and that they worship him as God, but is that it? The world is just to worship him, but with no set of religious principles, doctrine or dogma? Before these days, we didn’t have an answer to this question, and commentators and students didn’t deal with it in books about the end times. Now we have an answer.
Before we turn to what we can discern about end times prophecies concerning the fall of America in light of current events, it will be helpful to briefly review what those Christians who came before us concluded about the end times, in light of Biblical prophecy. As soon as the prophecies were dry on the papyrus it was only natural that humans would begin to speculate as to WHEN the prophecies would happen. They didn’t doubt, of course, that God’s prophetic events would occur, they just wanted to know the timing, being the creatures of time that we are. In the remaining hours before Jesus was crucified, He began to tell His disciples what would happen in the end times, starting by saying that the stones of the magnificent new Temple built by the Romans in Jerusalem would soon be thrown down, with not one stone left on the other. The disciples upon hearing this didn’t ask HOW it would happen nor did they question WHO would tear the Temple down. Instead, they quickly asked “When shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:2-3). The WHEN, the timing of the prophecy was their first and paramount question. Jesus then gave a ninety-three verse response to their question in Matthew 24 and 25.
Obviously, many after Christ’s resurrection have been asking when He would return and what the timing would be for the prophesied end times. The Apostle John, in what would appear to be a response to those questions, wrote in I John 2:18: “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.” Thus, John responded by saying we are on this side of the coming of the Messiah, so we are in the last hour (notice John doesn’t say the end times nor the day of the Lord), and John knew that because already there were many persons acting and speaking in the same manner that the Antichrist would some day.
Paul was apparently also responding to similar questions by Christians asking when the day of the Lord would come:
“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.” (II Thessalonians 2:1-2). Thus, we see that intense interest in the fulfillment of prophecy started soon after much of prophecy was given and after Christ’s return to heaven. Not surprisingly, that high level of interest of watchful Christians has continued over the centuries since.
During the years following the resurrection and ascension of Christ, and as the Church grew and spread, it looked at the signs of the times in which it was living for the fulfillment of end times prophecies, a quite logical thing to do. This is because Jesus had given the Church two specific ways of looking at prophecy: a.) “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42); and b.) “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36).
At first glance these two instructions might seem to be contradictory – to WATCH, but no one but God the Father will know WHEN the watched-for events will happen. Upon further analysis, it becomes clear that there is no contradiction between these two directives. We are told to be aware of our times and of the signs of our times, even though we will never know until the watched-for prophetic events actually occur WHEN they will occur. The early Church, particularly as it was under persecution, was naturally doing what Jesus said to do, they were watching what was happening in the world around them, expectantly anticipating the fulfillment of prophecy. The fact that the end times events did not occur in the first 300 years of the Church’s early history may have been a disappointment to early Christians, but could not have seriously shaken their faith, for they had been told by the Lord that the timing of prophecy was only in the hands of God the Father.
In scripture we read of a group of God’s people who were commended for their “understanding” of the times in which they were living: “These are the numbers of the men armed for battle who came to David at Hebron to turn Saul’s kingdom over to him, as the LORD had said: … men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do-” (I Chronicles 12:23 and 32). We should all want to be like “men of Issachar”, having a Godly understanding of what is truly happening in our world, our nation, our communities, our families. Not what the media tell us is happening, what politicians allege is happening, but what God is doing, and t the extent He reveals it to us, why He is doing what He is doing.
Once the Church was recognized by Constantine, who
came to power in 312 AD, history tells us that the Church looked less at the events of their time in a desire to see if the end times were arriving, and more at fitting into a world in which Christians were accepted and not martyred. Again, this was a quite natural response to their changed circumstances.
As the year 1000 AD approached many Christians posited that the turn of the millennium would have spiritual connotations, possibly ushering in the millennial return of Christ. Compare it to our Y2K scare that ended with no consequence. They looked at the world, they watched as Jesus told them to do and they wondered if the end times were upon them. As the year 1000 came and went, scholars turned their attention to the then current events, again watching to see if what was happening around them matched what the prophecies said would happen. The medieval mentality incorporated prophetic verses into literary works. In the later Middle Ages guilds supported by wealthy believers sponsored ‘miracle plays’, which included the last judgment and end times events as part of the script. The Oberammergau Passion Play is a surviving type of such miracle play.
Medieval art frequently captured end times belief in what the artists portrayed. The stained glass windows in the nave of the Milan, Italy Duomo has three sections, one showing scenes from the Old Testament, one with New Testament depictions and in the middle, as the largest and most prominent, displays of colorful depictions of verses from the end times apocalyptic portions of the Bible. Much medieval art likewise focused on prophetic future events. In 1498 Albrecht Durer produced a popular series of large woodcuts of scenes from the book of Revelation.
“Eschatology (the study of the final events in the history of the world) was a central concern of intellectuals in the Middle Ages; it also lay at the heart of popular religion and folk belief.” (When Time Shall be No More, Paul Boyer, 1992, Belknap Harvard) In the mid-fourteenth century Bible scholars watched the Black Death killing thousands around them and tried to place what they saw into end times prophecies. A hundred and fifty years later Christopher Columbus proclaimed that he was called to carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the unsaved in undiscovered areas of the world. He also let it be known that “ he was predestined to fulfill a number of prophecies in preparation for the coming of the Antichrist and the end of the world”. History tells us that Columbus was correct. God used his voyages of discovery to open up the undiscovered world and to eventually lead to the founding of what would become the Daughter of Babylon, a nation about which scripture prophesies many things.
As the Protestant Reformation was launched by Martin Luther in 1517, Luther remained committed to Biblical end times prophecies, even accusing Pope Leo X of attacking him from an Antichrist perspective. John Calvin also concluded that the Pope who opposed their reformist efforts was the Antichrist. This Pope/Antichrist identification, now about five hundred years old, has continued into our times. Most modern books on prophecy conclude that the Antichrist is either the Pope, or that the woman on the beast in Revelation 17 is the Catholic Church. Many have subscribed to these beliefs for a half a century. However, those beliefs are wrong. The Antichrist when he comes, will not be a Catholic, he won’t be the Pope, but he will be a Muslim, fully committed to conquering the world for Allah. For more on this topic see Chapter Four. Revelation 17’s ‘woman on the beast’ is no church, but she does represent an end times nation, as we shall soon see.
As the world approached the year of 1666 many Christians, again watching as Jesus told them to do, thought that the last three digits of that year portended the possibility of the rise of the Antichrist. The great London fire in 1666 fed this widespread uneasiness. In the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Isaac Newton’s works on the book of Revelation attracted more attention than his mathematical and scientific treatises. Many expected the imminent return of Jesus, but were disappointed.
In colonial America, likewise, many watched for signs of the end times. The Puritans who immigrated to America brought with them strong eschatological beliefs. John Cotton, Pastor of Boston’s First Church preached on prophecy and wrote about the book of Revelation. Many saw America as a type of the New Jerusalem, though a minister in Massachusetts warned against such an interpretation as contrary to scripture, as the future end times Israel was prophesied to be where historical Israel had been located. When the Great Awakening swept across the colonies in the early 1700s pastors preached that the revival they were witnessing was a sign that the Kingdom of God was at hand. The highly respected Jonathan Edwards was a student of prophecy, wrote and preached on the subject, but warned against trying to determine the time of Christ’s return and the end times that would precede His return.
By the time of the Revolution, pastors who were preaching from their pulpits for independence from England, also frequently preached on the subject of Biblical prophecy. Some saw King George as the Antichrist. Some warned against the King’s Stamp Act, advising not to touch the stamps or risk acquiring the mark of the beast. As America gained its independence in 1776 Pastor Ebenezer Baldwin saw America as “the principal seat of that glorious Kingdom, which Christ shall erect upon the earth in the latter days”. Jonathan Edward’s grandson, Timothy Dwight, thought that the millennial reign of Christ would begin in the year 2000.
In 1830 a New York farmer named William Miller read Daniel 8:14, which describes a 2,300 day cleansing period of the end times Temple, and then started counting from the authorization of Ezra to rebuild the Temple in 458 BC. He counted one year for each day and arrived at 1843. Miller then proclaimed to the world through tracts, conferences and tent services that Jesus would return in 1843. Israel, of course, was not yet back in the land, so his unsupported, and logically strained prediction was in direct violation of the requirements prophecy stated must occur before the time of the end could come. After 1843 passed, some Millerites then announced that the real return date would be October 22, 1844. After that date passed, many, who did not understand the proper interpretation of prophecy, became skeptics.
In what may have been a response to the Millerite failure in the mid 1800s Samuel Davies Baldwin authored a book holding that America was really the Israel of the Bible. He wrote that to believe that Israel would actually come back into the land was absurd and against common sense. More important was John Nelson Darby, who became the leader of the Plymouth Brethen (also known as the Darbyites). Darby was instrumental in forming the doctrine of dispensationalism, that is, that God deals with mankind in a series of epochs or dispensations. He rejected the teaching that either England or America was the new Israel, holding instead, that Jewish people had an end times position on the world stage and that their nation, Israel, would come back into the land, just as prophesied. Darby was correct, of course.
In the 20th century Dwight L. Moody preached the imminent return of Christ, but without attempting to set any timing for the return. Cyrus Scofield, once saved, after a wretched pre-conversion life, had a major influence through his Scofield’s Reference Bible. The text, which sold millions of copies, was described as the most important of all 20th century fundamentalist literature. He saw prophecy as saying that Israel would return to the land on some future day. He also saw Gog, a nation described in Ezekiel 38 as invading Israel in the end times, as being modern day Russia.
In the 1920s, interest in the end times appeared to fade, for a number of reasons, not the least of which were increasing attacks on Christian beliefs. With tough economic times in the 30s this trend changed as people again watched to see if the signs of their times matched end times prophecies. Harry Ironside, Donald Grey Barnhouse and Charles Fuller stirred interest in the coming return of Christ. One California pastor saw the eagle symbol of Roosevelt’s New Deal as ‘the mark of the beast’.
During the Second World War some thought that the Reichs Chancellor of Germany, Adolph Hitler, was the Antichrist. There were several obvious problems with this conclusion, of course. Israel was not yet back in the land; Europe was not united in a ten nation confederacy; and the land mass of Germany had not been a member of the original Roman Empire. Some saw Benito Mussolini of Italy as the prophesied Antichrist, partially based on his desire to revive the Roman Empire, as Daniel’s vision foresaw. Those speculations were not accurate, nor could they be, because the requirements of prophetic scripture were not yet fulfilled.
After the Second World War, the world entered an era of the Cold War, with increasing tensions with the Soviet Union. In 1950, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, who had a significant broadcast ministry, concluded at that time that “we are living the days of the Apocalypse – the last days of our era.” He further surmised, based on what he then knew and understood, that “Communism is the Mystical Body of the Antichrist; its visible head is Stalin; its invisible head is the devil…its Peter and Paul are Marx and Lenin; its Bible is Das Kapital; and its temporal city is the Kremlin.” (The Last World War and the End of Time, Emmett Culligan, 1970)
After this brief historical review, you may be wondering – if Christians for centuries have not been accurate about the timing of the end times and the return of Christ, then why should we have any confidence that in these days, in our times, that we will witness the fulfillment of the prophesied end times? Great question. The perfectly honest answer, based on Jesus’ admonition that only God the Father knows the day and the hour, is that we don’t know, with specificity either the day nor the hour. But, let’s also be candid about Jesus’ instruction for Christians to WATCH. If the end times were never going to arrive, and if He was never going to return, then when He told us to watch for the end times He was a.) just kidding; or if the end times and His return were in fact some day coming to the earth, he was: b.) serious that we should be alert for what would surely come.
Jesus was quite serious about the ability of human beings to discern prophetic scripture. When He came into Jerusalem to offer Himself as Israel’s Messiah, He wept. Why? He told those who were there why He wept: “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:42-44). Jesus wept because the nation of Israel, His fellow Israelites, ignored God’s prophetic word and would pay with their lives for their error in disregarding prophecy.
If you are a Believer, you know that when the prophecies are ready for fulfillment, the prerequisites for their fulfillment will be in place. Candidly, those who said during the many centuries from the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD until 1948 AD that the end times were upon them and that Jesus was coming soon just didn’t read their Bible. Israel had to be restored, and back in the land, as miraculous as that was, in order for the prophesied end times and the return of Christ to come to pass. People who were fooled by the William Miller prediction that Christ would return in 1843, or, uh, well, 1844, deserved to be fooled, frankly, because they believed man over God’s Word. Likewise, if you believe anything in this book that is contradicted by scripture (scripture itself, not what critics say scripture may say) then promptly discard and ignore what is contradicted by the clear words of God’s Word.
So. Here it is. God gave His Word to us, including many verses telling us what would happen at the end of human history, and in the years right before that end. If you believe in God and His Word, as God-breathed and infallible, then you believe that it will all be fulfilled, every jot and tittle. So, the only question about the end times is not IF these things will happen, for they surely will, but WHEN. The same question Jesus’ disciples asked Him in Matthew 24 as soon as He told them about the future – “WHEN will these things be?”. Thus, they will happen. This book is based on the conclusion that the necessary prophetic pieces are now and very shortly will be, in place for the end times to unfold and be fulfilled in our life time.
It is only in this era of human history that students of the Bible have been able to discern the true nature of what will motivate the Antichrist to attempt to conquer the world, demand worship of himself and to demand the martyrdom of Christians and Jews. It’s not that those in the past twenty centuries who were watching, as Jesus said to watch, were not applying sound principles of prophetic interpretation. It was simply that world events had not yet transpired to the point that the facts of the end times matched the prophecies of the Bible. We are living in the early days of the last days. What is happening around us, set in place centuries ago, but now coming to fruition, will shape our final days on this globe.
How could many students of the Bible not see the role of America, a/k/a the Daughter of Babylon, for most of its history? One of the principles of Biblical interpretation is that as the world approaches the time for fulfillment of a prophecy, it becomes increasingly clear, and abundantly obvious, that what is happening is what was prophesied to happen. Old Testament prophets told Israel, in great detail, about her coming Messiah, even down to prophecies that would allow them to be present in Jerusalem the day, month and year He would appear. For centuries the prophecies were ignored, as they didn’t seem to make sense.
You have now earned a credit hour for studying Prophecy 101.