When you think about the End Times and consider looking to Scripture to study what the Lord has to tell you about them, do you immediately think to read the last book, Revelation?
Most Christians do.
You might be surprised to learn that End Times prophecy begins in the Old Testament, and the End of Days (Day of the Lord, Tribulation, Judgement, etc) is mentioned in no less than 17 books of the Bible. More, actually.
The prophet Daniel had several dreams and visions about the End of Days, and God allowed him to lay out an actual timeframe. Understanding that timeframe has been a challenge for scholars, and they often disagree, but it is generally accepted that in Daniel 9:20-27, the prophet is giving specific periods of time, measured in “weeks of years.” It’s unclear who is speaking to Daniel in verse 24, it’s either the angel Gabriel, or “the man” Daniel had seen before, who was most likely a vision of the pre-incarnate Jesus. (Jesus appeared to several OT prophets.) But one of them spoke to Daniel and in verse 24 began to outline events that would occur over “seventy weeks.” Those weeks are commonly understood to be worth seven years each. So, 490 years total.
From the time the decree was given to rebuild Jerusalem until Jesus’ first coming was to be 7 weeks and 62 weeks (vs25). This was fulfilled in that there were 483 years from the time the decree was given until Christ’s birth, leaving exactly 7 years to fulfill the 70th week at a later time.
In verse 26, Daniel is told that there will be a cutting off, a time of war and desolation. The “Church Age” has no specific amount of time given, the “weeks of years” takes a break for this period.
But then “He” who makes a covenant with many is introduced in verse 27, when Daniel is told about the final week (the final seven years). That “he” is the capital A Anti-christ, and that week will be the seven years of the Great Tribulation.
This timeline (and also Daniel 12:11-13) is referred to by Jesus in Matthew 24:15, and also in Revelation 10:6-7. In Matthew, we are directed back to Daniel for understanding of what Jesus is teaching, for framework. And in Revelation 10:6-7, it is revealed that there will be a moment where “there will no longer be an interval of time, but in the days of the sound of the seventh angel, when he will blow his trumpet, then God’s hidden plan will be completed, as He announced to His servants the prophets.” There is one moment when the last week – that seventieth week from Daniel 9:27 – will kickstart the last seven years of sorrows and woes leading up to the wrath of God. According to Daniel, that moment deals with a peace treaty. Most believe (as do I) that a “permanent” peace treaty between Israel and Palestine that is “backed” by world leaders will be that kickstart agreement.
At some point, Jesus will rapture (catch away, gather up) His Church, and if you take Him at His word, we should expect to see Him in the clouds toward the end of the Great Tribulation period, just before the final and actual wrath of God is unleashed on the Earth. Matthew 24:29 and Mark 13:24 both quote Jesus as saying “after that tribulation” that He will come in the clouds and gather His elect.
Now – before you tar and feather me, let me say, many if not most modern theologians actually disregard what Jesus says and look at other passages that seem to indicate that Jesus will come for His elect much earlier. Many believe He will come before the Tribulation begins, and some believe He will come in the middle – at the point Daniel writes that the Anti-christ will break his peace treaty and set himself up as god in the new temple. Rabbi Kaduri prophesied before his death in 2006 that the Messiah would come (sometime) after the death of Ariel Sharon, who as of 1/11/14 is now deceased.
I personally don’t disregard Jesus’ timeframe, because He was very specific. But, if the “pre-tribulation rapture” view is right, then BONUS because I’d much rather go sooner than later.
Although I am confident about my perspective, I’ve learned that this is not something God wants to see us arguing over. This is HIS TIMING and not mine, not yours, not Spurgeon’s, not Sproul’s, and not anyone’s. Scripture is clear that there will be what we call a “rapture” event, and what I will say without a doubt, is that if you believe the rapture is going to happen before the Tribulation begins, then we will find out if you are right in the very near future. Even this year.Regardless of our viewpoints, we can have unity though, simply by agreeing to wait and see.
(You may be surprised to learn, however, that the “pre-tribulation” rapture idea is very new. It just showed up on the religious scene in the early 1800’s, just in time for modern high-pressure evangelism techniques to hit the scenes.)
I’m not date-setting, I’m discerning the Times. We are about to begin the final week. In those 17+ books that prophesy about this last generation, are many signs to give those who are watching an understanding, a way to know what to expect. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:4 that we are not in the dark, so that these things would come on us like a thief in the night. He says in verse 6 that we should stay awake and pay attention.
All the signs in the sociological, geo-political, zoological and astronomical spheres have lined up with Biblical prophecy about the last days in a way they never have, and never could have before.
Every generation since the first apostles walked the earth has believed that they would see Jesus in the clouds, but YOU are part of the chosen generation that really will see the fulfillment of these things. Until Israel was reinstated as a nation in 1948, it simply couldn’t be the last days – and Jesus promised that the generation that saw that happen would not pass away before the rest of “these things” come to pass. (Matthew 24:34) YOU were born for such a time as this, and YOU have a job to do.
I recommend that anyone seeking to understand the “End Times” begin not with Revelation…but in Matthew chapters 24 & 25. When Jesus refers to Daniel, you can flip back to Daniel 9:27 & 12:11-12. Just those passages will get you started on solid footing, understanding the basics and the timeframe of what is to come.
Then to understand what happens after the rapture, go to Revelation 20:4, and Isaiah 65:17-25. When Daniel’s 70th week is over, the 1000 year reign of Christ begins on the restored earth with those who had been martyred and those who are raptured. What a fantastic promise that is! Isaiah 65 gives so many tidbits of information about what that 1000 years will be like.
Understanding these things gives us the hope and the encouragement to press forward as we watch the world deteriorate around us, and I hope it will give you a profound sense of urgency to share the good news of salvation to everyone you encounter. It’s time to look up from the fog of the cares of this world and be about our Father’s business.
If you’d like to dig even deeper, to meet other believers and discuss current events through the lens of Scripture in a private setting, feel free to join our group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/BTCEwithMik