The Signs of the Times

What do you think about concerning the current world events?

The message presented by Pastor Terry this evening really made me think about what is going on in the world today. How about you?

Just think about it. The United States actually wants to let the Iranian regime continue its buildup of nuclear capacity. This coming from the country that for years has announced it will destroy the “Great Satan” (i.e. the United States) and the “Little Satan” (i.e. Israel). As a result, Saudi Arabia is pursing the purchase of nuclear weapons from Pakistan. All this while severe persecution of Christians is occurring throughout the Middle East, especially in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Iran, not to mention the Far East.

As we have been studying through the Book of Daniel, one cannot help but wonder what the future events will be. Of course, no one can be 100% certain how the future will unfold, but it seems to me there are three primary events that must happen before Christ’s return. A critical statement made by Pastor Terry in this evening’s message was that “God is not yet finished with Israel.” That means that whatever happens in the future must be centered on what is happening to Israel.

This we do know—the world, almost unanimously, is turning its back on Israel. In the past, Israel’s strongest supported was the United States; however, judging by the contents of the proposed agreement between the US and Iran, we are also moving our support away from Israel.

So, what are the events that seem to be necessary before the return of Christ?

  1. The Rapture of the Church
  2. The Gog-Magog War
  3. The Tribulation

Let’s briefly consider these three events—and the order of these three events (at least the way I see them unfolding).

The Rapture of the Church

The Church will be taken from the earth by means of the rapture (1Thes 4:13–18) before the events of the Tribulation begin. The rapture will result in Christ’s bride being taken into heaven to stand before His judgment seat (2 Cor. 5:10). Following the Tribulation, Christ will come with His saints to earth to reign for a thousand years. This is done so that a large portion Israel will come to Christ during the Tribulation period. There are three primary supporting arguments for this position.

First, God has exempted the church from divine wrath. Paul taught that believers should wait for Christ to return for them and that He will deliver them from the wrath to come (1 Thes 1:10). Just after Paul provided instruction regarding the rapture of believers (1 Thes 4:16-17), he discussed that those who trust in Christ will be exempt from the wrath of God (1 Thes 5:9). Daniel considered the entire 70th week as the Day of the Lord, i.e. a day of Godly wrath (Dan 12:1, 7, cf 9:24). The Tribulation will last seven years. The first half will have relative peace and the second half will be the Great Tribulation (Dan 9:27). Paul also discusses the wrath of God in his letter to the Romans (Rom 1:18; 2:5, 8; 3:5; 4:15). The wrath of God will result in revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Rom 2:5) to be exacted upon those who obey unrighteous (Rom 2:8). But Paul tells us that having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him (Rom 5:9). Those who trust in Christ need not fear hell (John 5:24; Rom. 8:1) nor will they be the objects of God’s coming retributive wrath (1 Thes. 1:10; 5:9).

Second, the Church is promised exemption from the time of wrath (Rev 3:10). Christ will keep those who persevere from the hour of trial to come over the whole world. Christ fully intends to keep His Church from enduring the time of the Tribulation. Christ did not intend this to mean the Church would be preserved through a time of trouble. Nor did He mean the Church would be taken out from within the Tribulation. He meant exactly that they would be removed from that hour, i.e. the Church would not be present during the time of the wrath of God. The word hour supports pretribulationism, since the only way to be kept from a section of time, such as an hour, is not to go through any of it. The promise is not merely to keep them from trials but also from the time in which the trials occur. Believers cannot be kept from part of the hour, as with midtribulationism, or none of the hour, as with posttribulationism; the only way to be kept from an hour is not to be in any part of the hour.

Third, there must be time between the rapture of believers and the second coming of Christ. This is true for a couple of logical reasons. First, there must be a distinction between Christ coming for His saints (John 14:2-3) and His coming with His saints (Rev 19:14). Second, there is the need for some saints to come out of the tribulation in nonglorified bodies so that they can populate the Millennial Kingdom. Though evil in the Millennium will be greatly reduced, people will still sin—thus the need for sacrifices (Ezek 43:13-27; Isa 19:21)—and people in nonglorified bodies will be involved in a final revolt against God (Rev 20:7-10).

I personally find great solace in knowing that the rapture of the church can occur at any time.

The Gog-Magog War

I am primarily interested in discussing the Gog-Magog events of Ezek. 38–39. Gog and Magog is a phrase that apparently denotes representative rebellious nations or groups. In Ezekiel, the term describes the defeat by the Lord Himself of an army invading Israel.

The Gog-Magog battle is indeed difficult to place in the prophetic time-line. We know that Israel is to be regathered into the Promised Land to be restored physically and spiritually. This process began in 1948 with the nations coming together to reform the state of Israel. This was the first time Israel was recognized as a country since they fell to the Romans in 70 AD and were scattered throughout the world. The events of Ezek 38 and 39 seem to discuss the physical restoration of Israel to the Land.

For four reasons, I believe the event will occur before the start of the tribulation. First, the passage describes Israel in into present state. It has been brought back from the sword (Ezek 38:8) through a regathering of the people from many nations (Ezek 38:8, 12), and they now dwell securely (at least they have borders) (Ezek 38:11, 14). Second, Russia (Gog) is still eying that part of the world and seeks to expand its influence through its relationship with Iran. Third, by placing the event before the tribulation, the issue of cleaning up for 7-years is possible (Ezek 39:9). (I do not see this cleanup extending into the millennial kingdom). This does not impact imminence since the timing of this event could be precipitated by the Rapture.

Thus, I see the Rapture occurring quickly, in the chaos of the time, followed by this invasion of Israel, and then the signing of the covenant between Israel and the anti-Christ. Finally, since the agreement between Israel and the anti-Christ breaks down 3½ years into the tribulation, this event should occur at least 3½ years before the tribulation period begins. Therefore, I see a short gap between the Rapture and the beginning of the tribulation.

What will shatter the tranquility of the Middle East at the close of the period of peace? The tranquility of the Middle East is actually disrupted by the “abomination of desolation” by the antichrist of the temple. This arrogance by the antichrist and his lust for power will destroy the peace as he attempts to establish the kingdom of Satan. Some believe the battle of Gog and Magog (Ezek 38-39) will be the event that shatters the peace in the Middle East.

The theory is supported primarily by the reference to the peace under which Israel exists at the time. Many believe Israel will not have this peace until the covenant between the antichrist and Israel is signed. A very plausible explanation is the period of peace discussed here is “perceived peace” forced by the other world rulers.

Following the rapture of the Church, great turmoil exists throughout the world and Israel is no longer the focal point of the world. This becomes an opportune time for factions of the world (Russian and Muslim) to unite in their efforts against Israel. Thus, they attach with a vengeance (Gog and Magog). God intervenes and destroys the Muslim/Russian armies that are bent on destroying Israel. This gives room and opportunity for the rise of the Antichrist and the ushering in of the Tribulation.

Thus, the armies sent to destroy Israel are themselves destroyed at the battle of Gog and Magog. The antichrist rises to world domination and seizes total power. Israel sees some peace for a time as the Antichrist rises to power. But that peace is broken by the Antichrist as he begins to establish a global policy of anti-Semitism.

The Tribulation

The Tribulation is a period characterized by the outpouring of the wrath of God; it is a distinct period of time in which “there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again” (Matt 24:21).

It is a worldwide event (Rev 3:10) during which time men will act as if they think the end of the world is near (Rev 6:16). The Tribulation is the 70th week of the prophecy of 70-weeks and it therefore represents a period of seven years. It is the “Day of Lord” when God judges the world (Joel 2:30-31; 1 Thes 5:2; 2 Thes 2:2). The Great Tribulation (Matt 24:15), i.e. the designation of the second half of the Tribulation, is an intense period of God’s retribution which begins with the “abomination of desolation” (Dan 12:1; Jer 30:7).

The Tribulation will be marked by cosmic disturbances (Joel 2; Rev 6-18) and the retribution of God will come down upon mankind through the “seal,” “trumpet,” and “bowl” judgments. Destruction during the Tribulation will come swiftly and without warning (1 Thes 5:2-11). Sin will become rampant because the “man of Lawlessness” (the Antichrist) will self-deify (2 Thes 2:3; Rev 13:8-15; 14:11) and the Restrainer (i.e. the Holy Spirit) will stop restraining evil (2 Thes 2:7). Many of those converted during the tribulation period will be put to death at the hands of Satan’s man (Rev 6:9-11).

This is truly going to be the absolutely worst time ever to occur on the face of the earth.

So What?

Most people within Christendom have little time or interest in considering these events. I, however, think we must seriously study these end-times events for a number of reasons.

First, God’s patience toward mankind will not go on forever. The time is coming for His wrath to be poured out.

Second, we have time now to change the way we change our lives. Knowing that God’s wrath is coming (perhaps sooner than later) should challenge us, as Pastor Terry said, to “purify ourselves” (1 John 3:2-3).

Third, all people will appear before Christ— either at the Bema Seat or at the Great White Throne. Christians will appear at His judgment seat, i.e. the Bema Seat. At this seat each one has the opportunity to receive rewards in the form of crowns. The crown is a victors crown given to an overcomer—one who has won a race. Note: not everyone who appears before Christ at the Bema Seat will receive crowns. The scriptures speak of five crowns (there may be more, but God has not revealed that to us)

  • The imperishable crown (1 Cor 9:24-25): This crown is given to those who exercise self-control and gain mastery and victory in the spiritual life. They have gained victory over the old sin nature.
  • The crown of rejoicing (1 Thes 2:19): This crown is given to those who win souls for Jesus the Lord. It is a crown available to all those who do the work of evangelism and the fruits of their labors are seen in people coming to the Lord through them.
  • The crown of life (James 1:12; Rev 2:10): This crown is for those who endure trials. It is given particularly for those who suffer martyrdom for their faith.
  • The crown of glory (1 Pet 5:2-4): This is the crown for faithfully feeding the flock of God. It is available to those pastors, elders, and others who feed the sheep with the milk and meat of the Word of God.
  • The crown of righteousness (2 Tim 4:7-8): This crown is for those who have kept the faith both doctrinally and morally in spite of adverse circumstances. It is a crown given to those “who have loved his appearing,” those who look longingly for the return of the Messiah. This last crown is given to those who long for Christ’s return and as a result have kept the faith.

Are you looking for Jesus to come for His Bride? Are you ready?

Are you living a life purity?

Will you be embarrassed as you stand before our Lord on that Day?

 


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