Bible Prophecy and the End Times
Fulfilled Bible prophecy is one of the main reasons the Bible can be trusted (see Can the Bible be Trusted?). But the prophecy in the Bible seems to get little attention in many churches today. Actually, about one-third of the Bible is prophecy; much of this has already been fulfilled, which shows the authenticity of the Bible, and the rest of this prophecy deals with the end times, termed Eschatology. While prophecy can certainly be taken too far in its interpretation, this article avoids uncertain specifics.
The Bible contains a great deal about the end of the world, which can be found in numerous books of the Bible, although much is contained in the book of Revelation.
While the Bible has plenty to reveal on the subject of end times, considerable confusion exists regarding what various prophecies indicate. We should take note that there are many different "Christian" groups which hold to strange interpretations of the Scriptures. We must be especially careful whenever someone says that something should be taken allegorically instead of literally. (Why? Well many, many prophecies that have already been fulfilled both in Christ and in other things have not been fulfilled allegorically. Also, what usefulness is there in this scripture if it is not to be taken literally?)
While this article is by no means exhaustive, hopefully it will help you understand a few of the mountain peaks of end time prophecy. Starting from where we are today, and moving on to eternity, this is just a simple summary of what the Bible says will unfold.
Currently we are in the church age, also referred to as the day of grace. This period of church history started at the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2), nearly two thousand years ago. Much of the New Testament contains Christian doctrine for this period. Our main purpose as Christians should be walking with God and telling and teaching others (as well as learning more ourselves) about the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word.
...Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel... (Mark 16:15) Christians should also be waiting for the Rapture of the Church, in which the Lord Jesus Christ will suddenly take His Church unto himself and into Heaven; this could come about at any moment (see The Rapture).
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51,52) Now at some point after the Rapture, the Christians, now in Heaven, will be rewarded for their works done on earth, whether good or bad. This is called the Judgment Seat of Christ.
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18)
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
For we [Christians] must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10, see also Romans 14:10) But back on earth, immediately following the Rapture there will be a seven year period of tribulation, when God pours out judgment on those who had not believed His Son. The beginning of this period of tribulation will likely start in a state of confusion resulting from the sudden vanishing of perhaps millions of Christians.
It should be mentioned that the last half of the tribulation (three and a half years) is called the 'great tribulation' or 'the time of Jacob's trouble', which will be a time of great affliction for the inhabitants of the earth, and the Jews in particular. (see Matthew 24:21, 22)
We read in Revelation about literal judgments that will take place throughout the course of the tribulation: the seal judgments (see Revelation 6-8), the trumpet judgments (see Revelation 8-10), and the vial judgments (see Revelation 16). These terrible judgments will cause great destruction and will persecute the people left on the earth.
Now, there are a few things in particular to mention that take place during the tribulation. As this is just a summary, little is included on each subject.
For one, God will appoint 144,000 men, twelve thousand from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, to spread the Gospel. "And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel." (Revelation 7:4, see also Revelation 14:1,3)
Also, God will set forth two witnesses, (see Revelation 11) who will prophesy for three and a half years, bringing about all sorts of plagues. Eventually, the antichrist, or false messiah, will make war against the two prophets and kill them. All people will see the two prophets' bodies laying on the streets of Jerusalem for three and a half days. The Bible says people will rejoice and send gifts to each other because of their demise. Then God will raise them from the dead and call them up to heaven, and great fear will come upon those that see them.
Likely the most significant incident to take place during the tribulation will be the abomination of desolation, when the antichrist sets his image in the rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem and demands worship. At this point the Jewish people will realize that he is not their Messiah, but a false christ.
...The abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not... [in the holy place, see Matthew 24:15] (Mark 13:14) At the end of the tribulation a great battle will take place, when the nations of the world will all gather together for war. Our Lord Jesus Christ will come down at this time with His saints and end the battle. He will then judge all the nations of the world, and divide "his sheep from the goats". (see Matthew 25:32)
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4)
And he [speaking of the antichrist] shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. [until the end of the last 3 ½ years] (Daniel 7:25, see also Daniel 9:27)
And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh. (Revelation 19:19-21) Then, after Satan has been bound and cast into the bottomless pit, our Lord Jesus Christ will set up His throne on the earth, and His saints will rule and reign with Him for a thousand years.
And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. (Revelation 20:1-3)
But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. (Daniel 7:26, 27) In the millennium kingdom peace and obedience will be evident. Everyone will be subject to the Lord, although there will still be those who inwardly do not love the Lord Jesus Christ.
And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:2-9) Although Satan is bound for the millennium kingdom, he is released when the thousand years expire, whereupon he goes out and deceives the nations of the world, and brings them to battle against the saints. Then fire comes "down from God out of heaven" and devours them. Then "...the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." (Revelation 20:10)
After this follows the Great White Throne Judgment, in which all the unbelieving people, that is, all those who did not put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ who will have ever lived will be judged. Then they will all be cast into the Lake of Fire, (also called Hell) to be perpetually tormented.
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15) Then God will burn with fire the existing heaven and earth and will make a new heaven and a new earth.
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)
For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed…The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD. (Isaiah 65:17-20,25) While the unsaved will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire, the Christian can look forward to a grand eternal future in Heaven. Eternity in Heaven with the Lord will be unimaginably great.
But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men....Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (2 Peter 3:7,12,13)
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. (Revelation 21:1, see all the way through to Revelation 22:5)
I hope reading this article has helped you to understand a few points and issues of Bible prophecy more clearly, and most of all given you expectancy of the Lord's imminent return.
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:13-14)
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)