Over the course of this little series we have looked toward the coming of the final kingdom, that of the Kingdom of God. In order to establish the context of the arrival of His kingdom, we have been examining what Scripture says in regard to the kingdoms that will precede it. As a result, much of this study has focussed upon the final earthly kingdom – that of the anti-Christ.
The book of Daniel has provided us with much in the way of prophecy regarding exactly how these events will unfold in the last days of life as we currently understand it, and it is to Daniel that every believer in Yehovah should turn as we watch for these events and the characters who will play a part in the final gambit of Satan before he is cast into the bottomless pit.
In the last part we looked at the rise of the anti-Christ and at some of the signs which should alert believers to what is to come. As we draw this series to a close, we will look at some of the acts that the main characters of Satan’s final attempt to assert himself as god will carry out. What follows in the next two parts is what is written in Scripture. Scripture doesn’t, I am sure, contain all of the events that will take place, but it does contain the ones which God would have us recognise and understand. The stage is already being set for the final showdown before the return of Yeshua – discernment is required to identify in the geo-political world of today the nations and leaders who are already firmly under the influence of Satan.
It is a valid question to ask yourselves exactly why God has chosen to include so much regarding the signs that reveal the end of the age within the pages of Scripture, and in the words of Yeshua, and His apostles. I don’t believe that His purpose in doing so is so that, after these events, we can look back and spot them in the Bible. I firmly believe that He has given them in advance so that His chosen, His elect can discern them and ready themselves for both the great deception and the dreadful tribulation, which will follow.
There is a tendency amongst believers, particularly the modern charismatic and Pentecostal movements within the church, to think that they are immune to all that will take place; that they won’t be deceived. And, of course, there is the notion of a pre-tribulation rapture, which will whisk away all those covered by the blood to a place of safety in the heavenlies with a ring-side view of the events that will take place. Over this instalment and the next, I want to briefly address both of these points of view before we look at what Scripture tells us must take place in those final seven years.
I think that Scripture tells us that even those whom God Himself considers to be called ‘the elect’ are at risk of being deceived by the anti-Christ and his false prophet. Whilst many might say it is their faith, or confidence in God which secures them, I suspect what is coming will actually cause Jews and Christians alike to believe that the anti-Christ is in fact God incarnate. Right now, such a deception is very hard to envisage. However, when you look at the foundation stones of Judaism and Christianity, both of which are rooted in Scripture (and not in Christ as they should be), it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to see that if a scroll was discovered that brought any of what is written in the Tanakh (the Old Testament) into doubt, both faiths would soon crumble. That is exactly what Muslim eschatology predicts will happen. If, however, you choose to build upon the Rock, which is Yeshua, then no such crumbling will take place, unless you allow it to.
I think Scripture is clear that the identity of the beast is actually Islam’s next caliphate, and that the anti-Christ will be the Caliph who will rule that caliphate. This has been hidden from everyone until fairly recently. Most Christian believers will have already been deceived into thinking that the beast is a resurgent Roman Empire and that, perhaps, even the Pope will be the anti-Christ. God has now revealed the true nature of both the beast and the anti-Christ. Those who continue to look for the signs of the Second Coming in the geo-political landscape of Europe will miss the rise of the anti-Christ and, therefore, run the risk of being taken by suprise – and the end will come for them like a thief in the night.
It would seem that what traps both Jew and Christian into thinking that they won’t be deceived is much less confidence or faith, but rather, arrogance and pride. Neither of these attributes come from God, but from the father of lies; Satan himself. And that arrogance extends itself further when the church clings to the idea that they won’t have to worry about being deceived because God is going to rapture them away before the trouble starts.
I will say, for the record, that I believe that the words of Yeshua, the writings of Paul, and the Revelation given to John all point to there being a pre-tribulation rapture. However, I firmly believe that this rapture will occur only for a certain part of the church, as well as those who have already died ‘in Christ’. We shall come onto the ‘in Christ’ meaning shortly. First, let me explain why the New Testament supports the notion that only a small section of the church will be spared the terror of the Great Tribulation.
The main clue is to be found in the letters to the seven churches in the Revelation given to John. Clearly, Yeshua was speaking to seven separate bodies of believers that existed at the time of writing (around AD 95). Many observers have also noted that the seven also reveal seven ages of the church history. This is widely accepted, despite the theory being flawed because it tries to suggest that one era of church history succeeded the previous. For example, the church of Ephesus (in the theory) represents the Apostolic Age – the age in which the original apostles were still alive. This age lasted from around AD 30 to AD 100. It was succeeded by the Age of Persecution, represented by the church at Smyrna. This age lasted from AD 100 to around AD 313, when Constantine signed the Edict of Tolerance, which ended the persecution of the church by the Roman Empire. As you go through the next few churches, you won’t help but notice that the church at Thyatira is seen to be representative of the Papal Age, or the age of the Catholic church. However, you will also have noticed that, despite the theory stating that the Age of Reformation followed it in the form of the church at Sardis, the Catholic church is still very much in existence.
What the seven actually represent are seven types of church that existed back then in AD 95 and still exist today. If you read carefully (try our series on Revelation here. Better still ask for the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to you directly), you will notice that only one church will be spared the ‘hour of trial that will come upon the whole world’ (Revelation 3:10). And when you read about the church at Philadelphia, you soon realise that what separated them from the other six was their patient endurance, and their faithfulness to the word of God. Now, please don’t confuse being faithful to the word of God with being legalistic. Legalism misses the point completely. Following the letter of the law only leads to death, and never to life. It simply means that the church at Philadelphia believed what God had already said and stuck to that, regardless of the circumstances. And, I believe it shows that in the times leading up to the Great Tribulation, this section of the church will not be deceived, but will stick to what God has already said and will neither stray to the left nor to the right by false prophets or Satan’s signs and wonders.
Remember what Yeshua said when His disciples asked Him what would be the signs of the end of the age? Firstly, He told them not to be deceived. The very first thing He warned them against was deception. If the church of today could face a reality check, then they would read Matthew chapter twenty-four and realise that God is speaking to them. In fact, further evidence of a pre-tribulation rapture for only a certain section of the church is found in that very chapter. Yeshua warns that the day and hour are unknown, even to Him. He says that two men will be working in a field and one will be taken and the other left. He also says that two women will be working flour and one will be taken and the other left behind.
Of course, the church tends to view this as evidence that the whole church will be raptured. That’s because their frame of reference is today’s society when two people might be working together – one a believer, the other not. However, as with everything which Yeshua said, there is a clear cultural reference of that day which gives us the correct context. He was talking to His disciples about the future in terms that they would understand. One thing that is very clear about the early church (of which the disciples were the founding members) is that they all lived and worked together. Take a read through Acts chapters 2,3,4,5, and 6 to see what I mean. They lived in communities, just as the early Hebrews did. No two people would have worked together unless they shared a common purpose. Paul highlights this point in his letter to the church at Corinth later on when he wrote of not being yoked together with unbelievers. Despite our cultural frame of reference of today and the millions of reasons people come up with for why we shouldn’t live like the early church, God’s plan remains that we should live like that. My point is, that even amongst believers, some will be left behind to face what is to come. This brings us to the phrase we mentioned earlier of being ‘in Christ’.
If you can, forget whatever any preacher has taught you, forget whatever you have read in any book, regarding the term ‘in Christ’ because it probably won’t even vaguely line up with the true meaning. The church, and modern preachers in particular, tend to use the phrase as if it reveals the membership of an exclusive club. However, I can tell you, that if you read carefully what is written in the pages of the New Testament, you will see that this is no club which anyone can choose to join. It is not something that happens when you put your hand up to some slick preacher’s altar call. Being ‘in Christ’ describes those to whom God has chosen to reveal Himself and who have responded accordingly.
To be ‘in Christ’ is to be a part of Yeshua – to share in His death, and in His resurrection. It means to accept that you have been bought at a price and that your life is subsequently devoted to Him. It means that your every action, your every word, is designed to bring glory to God. It means to die to one’s self on a daily basis; to humble yourself before God and acknowledge that He owes you nothing, and that you owe Him everything. In short, I am talking of a life of devotion; a life where your own will never matters – where all that matters is His will and purposes. The apostle Paul exemplifies a life of devotion. His mindset reveals what being ‘in Christ’ truly means. It is important that we all hold our own lives up to Paul’s example so that we might see our shortcomings and ask God to have mercy upon us.
The reason why I am making such a point of describing just a small aspect of what being ‘in Christ’ means is that the revelation of what will take place in regard to the rapture which was given to Paul, and who subsequently shared it with believers everywhere, is so there is no misunderstanding about exactly who will be spared the hour of trial. Here’s what Paul has to say on the subject:
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive (in Christ) and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” [1st Thessalonians 4:15-17a NKJV (my brackets)]
I have bracketed ‘in Christ’ because Paul was clearly talking first of those who had died whilst following God, and then continues to say that after the dead in Christ rise to meet with Yeshua in the air, then so too will those who are alive at that time. It is worth making three points here: Firstly, Paul clearly expected this event to take place in his lifetime. This is the stance all believers should take – expect the Lord to return at anytime. And secondly, this event is a separate event to His actual coming to the earth which is described in the Revelation, and in Daniel, as well as by Yeshua Himself, when He will come to the earth along with His army to rescue Isra’el from the anti-Christ and establish His kingdom on earth. The third point is that, unlike today when believers have a tendency to blow hot or cold, the believers of Paul’s day didn’t do anything in half-measures. They knew exactly what is was like to live ‘in Christ’ because they had the likes of Paul to show them how. Paul wouldn’t have been talking of the kind of Christians who can be found in many churches today who may believe that Christ has saved them by way of His blood, but who fail to live out lives of devotion.
I am convinced that having the faith that the blood of Christ is enough to redeem your soul from eternal torment will bring you salvation. I am not convinced that those who choose to stop at that point will escape the Great Tribulation. Just take a close look at the seven churches in Revelation and you will see that only one escapes the hour of trial. One is faithful like Philadelphia but Yeshua tells them that they will face persecution to the very end. I believe that the other five churches represent the mass of believers who will, in one way or another, fall for the lies of Satan and worship him when the time comes.
To end this part, and in preparation for the next in the series, let us briefly outline the sequence of events that are yet to happen.
Iran will invade countries to the West, North, and South almost completely unopposed. This is represented in Daniel 8 by the two horned ram. The two horns are the rulers of Iran (Supreme Leader and President).
Turkey will attack Iran in response. The leader is the single-horned goat also of Daniel 8 – the first king of Yavan. Turkey will dominate the entire region, taking full control.
At the height of his power, the king of Yavan will fall and in place of Turkey, four nations will be formed. From one of these nations the anti-Christ will arise. He will consume the other three nations, but in a peaceful fashion. He will unite the Muslim world and be seen as a man of peace.
A peace deal for seven years will be signed with Isra’el and the third temple will be built. The entire world will marvel at the peace this man brings. Not only will he unite the divided world of Islam, but he will appeal to the entire world.
Three and a half years into the seven year peace treaty, the anti-Christ will reveal his true nature. It is likely that the rapture of part of the church, as well as the dead in Christ, will take place either immediate prior to this or straight afterward. Once those whom God has chosen as His elect have vanished from the face of the earth, the anti-Christ will wage war upon anyone who refuses to accept the mark of the beast (we will look at what this actually means in a later part). His focus will be upon the nation of Isra’el, who will, by now, have all flocked to Jerusalem to visit the temple. He will round up every Jew and every Christian he finds and, once more, God’s people will be taken into exile across the region.
Those not beheaded by the beast’s army will be sold into slavery. By now Sharia law will have been instituted across the Middle East. Countries with heavy Muslim populations will soon fall under the control of the Caliph (the anti-Christ). Muslims who swear an oath of allegiance to Allah and his prophet will be ordered into jihad. The domination of every nation with a large Muslim population will spread quickly. These nations will have already been deceived by the charm of the anti-Christ but now he will use supernatural signs and wonders to convince the world that he is god.
A terror like the world has never seen will begin in every city and town where Islam has roots. The choice will be a simple one – convert to Islam and worship the beast, or be beheaded.
As the three and a half years of the anti-Christ’s reign draws to an end people will start to cry out to Yehovah, realising that they have been fooled into accepting a false god. As the people cry out to Yehovah, the one true God, He will answer. His answer to their cries for help is the same as it always has been – He will send Yeshua, and the Kingdom of God will be established upon the earth.
We will cover all this and more in detail in the next instalment but, for now, Shabbat Shalom.