Discerning the Signs of the Times

Bible Prophecy In Chronology series (post #2)

In my first post from this series, I explained that the human race has been living in the “last days” time period of history ever since the birth of Jesus. But the real question on most people’s minds is: Are we living in the final, closing days of that period? That’s a question that is open for debate, and in today’s post I’m going to offer my opinion.

To get things started, I’ll name four pieces of evidence that seem to suggest that we are living in the closing years of the “last days.” Each one of these is produced by taking the Bible in one hand and real-life events in the other. See what you think.

  1. The rebirth of Israel as a nation: You won’t study the Bible’s record of future events long before you run into some event involving the nation of Israel. Okay, so what’s the big deal? The big deal is that in the year A.D. 70 the Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem, burned the Jewish temple, and put an end to Israel as a formal nation. Because of this, for centuries students of Bible prophecy had a major problem understanding future events in the light of Israel’s current status. All that changed, though, after World War II as in the wake of the Holocaust the United Nations approved a plan that would create two states in the land of Palestine: one Arab, one Jewish. The new state of Israel was officially declared on May 14, 1948. Since then Israel has been a formal nation and held a portion of their ancient homeland of Canaan (Israel, Palestine).
  2. The reuniting of Europe: The book of Daniel teaches that the coming Antichrist will rise to power from what Daniel’s prophecies describe as a Roman empire revived in the end times. The ancient Roman empire, you’ll recall, in its heyday ruled over much of Europe. Once that empire fell, Europe remained divided into independent, autonomous countries for many centuries. Leaders such as Charlemagne, Napoleon, and Hitler all tried to unite Europe under their rule the way it had once been under Rome, but they all failed. However, what no dictator could do from a military standpoint the nations of Europe have now done from an economic one. The roots of this uniting can be traced back to the days following World War II, but the current edition of the union is known as the European Union, which replaced the previous European Common Market. Many students of prophecy see the European Union as a revived Roman empire.
  3. The explosion in technology: Daniel 12:4 says that in the time of the end “knowledge shall increase.” Surely we have to admit that the 20th and 21st centuries have seen a veritable explosion in knowledge – certainly technological knowledge if nothing else – and this explosion can be understood to have a definite bearing on certain prophetic passages. I’ll mention two examples. Example #1: Revelation chapter 13 describes the coming Antichrist and his right-hand man, the False Prophet. The chapter famously says that these two men will require the citizens of earth to receive a mark (the “mark of the beast”) on the right hand or in the forehead. Without this mark no citizen will be able to buy or sell anything. The means of implementing such a mark, complete with the mark’s impact on buying and selling, used to befuddle prophecy experts. Now, though, in this day and age of computer chips, scanning devices, bar-code technology, etc., anyone who has ever checked out at Walmart understands how the “mark of the beast” could work. Example #2: Revelation chapter 11 describes a time when the Antichrist will kill two men who are described as God’s “two witnesses” and people across the whole world will see their bodies lying in the streets of Jerusalem. For centuries it simply wasn’t possible for people across the whole world to witness any singular event. But now we have satellites, televisions, the internet, computers, and smart phones, and if a major news event happens in Jerusalem we can all see it instantaneously.
  4. The army of 200 million: Revelation 9:16 talks about an army of 200 million soldiers. While there is some debate as to whether this is an army of humans or an army of demons, the best interpretation is that it’s an army of humans who do the bidding of the four powerful demons (fallen angels) that are described in Revelation 9:13-15. If this interpretation is correct, the passage teaches that the army of 200 million will kill a third of mankind and the four demons will get the credit for the kills. That’s astounding enough, but what makes this prophecy even more incredible is the fact that when it was written there weren’t even 200 million people alive on the earth! That’s why for centuries an army of 200 million soldiers seemed like a fantasy to those who studied prophecy. It’s little wonder that many of them concluded that the army must be one of demons rather than humans. However, in this 21st century, world population numbers have now reached a point where China alone could send out an army of 200 million. This, of course, is to say nothing of China forming an alliance with some of the other countries of the far east (Japan, North Korea, South Korea, India, etc.). Along these lines, it’s probably not a coincidence that Revelation 16:12 talks about an alliance of “the kings from the East.”

Okay, I’ll admit that these pieces of evidence make a compelling case that we really are living in the closing years of the “last days.” However, before we run off completely unchecked with this idea, we should give a hearing to a couple of pieces of evidences that don’t quite fit the idea, at least not yet. Again, see what you think.

  1. The lack of a rebuilt Jewish temple: Some of the prophecies that involve the nation of Israel center around a rebuilt Jewish temple. Prime examples of these prophecies are 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, Revelation 11:1-2, and Daniel 9:27. The obvious problem here is that the last Jewish temple was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 and there hasn’t been one since. In 1987, an organization called The Temple Institute was founded in Jerusalem. This organization is devoted to the goal of building a new Jewish temple, complete with a full priesthood as well as authentic reproductions of the ancient priestly garments and ritual items that were used in temple services. This means that the building of a new Jewish temple (the one that is mentioned in prophecy) could take place in a relatively short amount of time if the Jews ever cleared all the political, logistical, and geographical hurdles to build it. It hasn’t happened yet, though. I should point out that many prophecy experts assert that the new temple will be built after the Rapture (and I’ll talk about the Rapture in the next post), and I myself tend to agree with that assertion. In all honesty, though, there isn’t anything in scripture that indicates that the temple has to be built after the Rapture.
  2. The numbers problem in the European Union: I’ll readily concede that the current European Union might be the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecies about a revived Roman empire in the end times. The problem, though, is that Daniel describes that revived empire as being a division of ten. I won’t go into all the symbolism and prophetic interpretation of Daniel’s prophecies, but we see this division of ten in the ten toes of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2:1-45 and the ten horns of the fourth beast in Daniel’s dream in Daniel 7:1-28. For that matter, we see the same thing in the symbolic description of the Antichrist wearing ten horns in Revelation 13:1, with these horns being fully explained in Revelation 17:12. What all these passages teach is that the revived Roman empire the Antichrist will use as a springboard to power will be a union of ten. But how many countries are currently a part of the European Union? 28. I suppose it’s possible that the European Union could eventually set up ten districts or regions to categorize all these countries into broader territories. That might fit Daniel’s prophetic profile. It’s also possible that Britain’s recent “Brexit” vote to leave the European Union could start a domino effect that whittles the Union down to ten countries in the near future. As of now, though, the high number of countries in the European Union poses a problem for prophecy students who think the E.U. is the fulfillment of Daniel’s end-times prophecy.

Well, I trust that this post has offered a balanced take on the question: Are we living in the final, closing days of the “last days” time period? And now I’ll humbly offer my best current answer to the question. After studying Bible prophecy for over twenty years now, I am of the opinion today that the table is just about 100% set for the events that are prophesied to take place in the closing last few years of the “last days.” As I’ve pointed out, every single detail might not be precisely in place at this very moment, but I don’t think we should ignore the table, the tablecloth, the plates, and the silverware simply because the napkins aren’t on the table just yet. We’d be foolish to do so. That’s my opinion, anyway.

Of course, I could be wrong. I mean, it’s not like I claim to have any hidden knowledge that isn’t available to anyone else. Furthermore, I’m certainly not about to start setting dates and encouraging people to sell their homes and businesses so that we can all head out to a mountaintop to wait on Jesus to come. All I’m saying is that it seems to me that an awful lot of things are currently firmly in place for the Bible’s record of the closing years of the “end times” to start coming to pass. Jesus Himself rebuked the Pharisees of His day for not being able to discern the signs of the times (Matthew 16:2-3). That shows us that He expects us to keep up with what’s going on in our world in regards to scripture and prophecy. And when we do that today it really is hard not to think that this whole thing might be winding down a lot faster than most people realize.

 

 

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One Response to Discerning the Signs of the Times

  1. Malcolm Woody says:

    Good job on these two installments. This past summer my class pulled me kicking and screaming into a study of Revelation. I entitled it “The Final Chapter.” I read, studied, read again, wrote, and wrote more… I also dug into the many different interpretations. Very interesting, and also very challenging.

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