For almost 2000 years sincere Christians, with the Bible as their guide, have always anticipated the soon approach of the end. Indeed, if a believer did not anticipate the return of Jesus within his or her own lifetime then that person was often thought of as lacking in faith! Its almost as if every generation has produced scholars able to interpret the Bibles prophecies in a way that has kept them applicable to each and every time period over the centuries. The end has always been near and there has always been an "Antichrist" out there to be afraid of, from the Roman Caesars to the Huns and the Muslim Sultans, to the Catholic Popes, and down to Napoleon and Hitler.
What is not generally understood is the fact that Bible scholars were forced to come up with some very creative interpretations to make their own time periods or personal views and agendas compare favorably with the prophecies in the Bible. The theological and textual gymnastics that were involved to make this happen were very creative. These scholars could make the Bible say anything they wanted! Its all symbolism you see, and all they had to do was insert the desired interpretation. Prophecy was not to be taken literally, and you had to be a very well respected Church leader if you wanted your own personal interpretation to be accepted by the believing public. For hundreds of years everyday people studying their Bibles at home were considered lost if not for guidance from the "professional" Bible readers.
Sir Isaac Newton, the celebrated scientist, astronomer and mathematician was also a very serious student of Bible prophecy. He lived from 1642 to 1727, and during his day he saw much of this type of Biblical "interpretation." He made a prediction of where all of this nonsense was headed,
"About the time of the end, a body of men will be raised up who will turn their attention to the Prophecies, and insist upon their literal interpretation, in the midst of much clamor and opposition."
Aha! Literal interpretation! My goodness, if this were accepted then the professionals would be out of business! Interpreting the prophecies of the Bible using a "literal" interpretation means that scholars are not allowed to see everything as a symbol, and not allowed to change the actual meaning to whatever they desire. It means that professional scholars are not allowed to "interpret" the Bible, they are only allowed to "read" the Bible, just like everyone else. "Literal interpretation" means that what the Bible says is what the Bible means. Sure there are many symbols in the Bible and in the book of Revelation, but the symbols are almost always explained within the Bible itself. If its not described as a symbol and not explained as a symbol, then its most likely not a symbol!
For instance, the Bible often refers to "Israel" in end-times prophecies. For centuries Bible scholars assumed that the Jews were finished. They had rejected Christ, had their Temple destroyed, and been scattered throughout the world. Certainly Israel must be symbolic of something else, they thought. Some thought "Israel" referred instead to the entire world, or to the Church itself, which was believed to have replaced her. Some scholars even became famous interpreting that Israel referred to Great Britain.
The Bible also predicts an end-times Temple. What did this mean to scholars long ago? Well, it couldnt refer to a physical Jewish Temple, they thought. Instead it must "symbolize" a Christians own body, or perhaps it referred to the Church, or to St. Peters Basilica.
What about the Jews? Even the "Jews" are mentioned in Revelation. But certainly the Bible must intend something else. No, they thought, Jews were Gods chosen people, but after Christs death Gods new people became the Christians, so "Jews" in an end-times prophecy must refer instead to Christians.
Well, when the idea of "literal interpretation" came along those holding to it believed that it was wrong to re-write the Bibles predictions. With "literal interpretation" when the Bible predicts something about Israel, it means Israel; when it mentions Jews it means Jews, and when an end-times Temple is clearly predicted then the Bible is talking about an end-times Temple!
The amazing thing is that all of this is unfolding right before our eyes. Israel is back. The Jews are returning to their land. And occult groups, Jewish groups and even some misguided Christian groups are promoting the rebuilding of the ancient Jewish Temple. Those abiding by a "literal interpretation" are being vindicated, and those who believe ones God-given intellect must be set aside before reading the Bible, to allow for schizophrenic "symbolic interpretations" to be accepted, are fighting an uphill battle. The Bible is a book that needs common sense logic applied to it. It was meant to be understood by everybody, not just by the "professionals." It was meant to communicate a message. The only way it does so is if the Bible means what it says, plain and simple.
Sir Isaac Newton was right. Today we have seen the appearance of a number of scholars, only within the past century or so, who insist on letting the Bible speak for itself. Their views have appeared "in the midst of much clamor and opposition," and they are resisted by many who would like to see Bible prophecy remain an enigma. Unfortunately many of these resistors are Christians themselves. Many Christian groups, denominations and traditions are built on foundations that were set long ago by scholars who twisted the Bible around to support their own personal agendas, doctrines and theologies. Men have dedicated their entire lives to defending these traditions, and so as their views are threatened they respond in protest.
With this conflict in mind, look at what is happening today and at what most people have been conditioned to believe: Now at the beginning of the 21st Century the concept of a future day of Divine Judgment has been pushed aside, and is entirely removed from the public discourse. This fearful notion is something that, if held, is usually kept private, because these days people who believe in this type of thing are looked upon as backward, irrational and sometimes even as dangerous! Were all supposed to pretend that we, mankind, have everything under control and that were headed for a blissful utopia if only we can elect more Republicans, or Democrats, or Ralph Nader!
To keep our minds occupied on the here and now, and to distance us from the idea that God might actually be in control, the mainstream media have taken it upon their shoulders to explain to the poor masses just how convoluted and inexplicable the Bibles end-times prophecies really are. Media giants such as Time, Newsweek, and PBS have approached the topic of the Biblical end-times Judgment with a sort of sensationalist, patronizing fascination. They have filmed documentaries and published articles in which they appear to do their best to explain to the uninitiated what Christians believe, but they always make sure to keep a materialistic perspective and to discredit anything that might threaten that perspective. They make sure to leave the audience in a sure state of comfort, unworried at the conclusion that anything as far out as The-End-of-the-World-as-We-Know-It might ever intrude on our existence.
These so-called "educational" pieces make sure that they leave every last vestige of human logic behind when they examine the different prophetic views out there. For every person they interview who actually explains the prophecies as they are plainly written, the media is sure to counter with an "expert" who is pushing an out-dated, man-made, nonsensical interpretation that purposely confuses the issue.
Because of this type of coverage over the years, and yes, because of widespread "Christian" infighting, it has now become normal to believe that Bible prophecy has long since been discredited, and that it is now believed by only a handful of wild-eyed apocalyptic fundamentalist kooks. If you agree, then you know that your viewpoint is shared by the vast majority of our societys intellectuals. Everybody who is anybody in science, media, or academia is secure in an attitude of patronizing disbelief towards the Bible, towards prophecy and even towards the very idea of God.
This book intends to get a foot in the door of this humanistic, comfortable presumption. Indeed, if the skeptics are right, then the Bible --a collection of sixty-six books written by about forty different authors (all claiming "divine inspiration!"), over almost 1500 year-- must be a very confusing book indeed! To the skeptic the prophecies in the Bible must be an incomprehensible jumble of contradicting predictions, strange symbols and delusional visions. Only a person brainwashed into blind faith could see anything worthwhile in them, and the Bibles prophecies could not possibly be assembled into any sort of rational order or make any sort of unified grand prediction. Its entirely impossible and undoubtedly inconceivable!
This book will challenge that notion. Christian expectations of the apocalypse are indeed based on faith (a scary thought to many), but the reader will also learn, by using the controversial "literal method of interpretation" which maintains that the Bible means what it says (!!!), that our expectations are also entirely rational and logical given the evidence before us. The prophecies of the Bible do combine to create a virtually seamless compendium of knowledge, despite the fact that the individual predictions were given in stages, through scores of different authors and hundreds of years apart. That is because each author had but one Source, a Source that exists outside of time and space and knows the future before it happens.
If the reader is willing to consider the profound and very frightening possibilities raised by this book then let us begin with a very simple introduction. There are three basic subjects that must be addressed to begin to understand what the Bible predicts.
The first is the Olivet Discourse, which is a sermon that Jesus gave to His disciples. They asked Jesus the same question that we wonder today, and the answer that Jesus gave has been preserved for almost two thousand years. The following passage is from Matthew 24:3-30:
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" Jesus answered:
"Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, I am the Christ, and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
"Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
"Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
"So when you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel --let the reader understand-- then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.
"At that time if anyone says to you, Look, here is the Christ! or, There he is! do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.
"So if anyone tells you, There he is, out in the desert, do not go out; or, Here he is, in the inner rooms, do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.
"Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory."
The Olivet Discourse is also known as the "Little Apocalypse," because Jesus basically summarized what was later recorded in the book of Revelation. This is not the complete sermon, 1 but the above portion does tell us several basic and important things:
-First of all, Jesus told his disciples what would not be a sign that the end was near. He said to not be alarmed at the rise of false Christs and of scattered conflicts around the world. These signs would not indicate the approach of the end-times.
-Second, Jesus told them of the signs that would indicate that the end was near. He said that a major conflict involving many kingdoms and nations, and an increase in famines and earthquakes would be signs indicating that the end was very near. These would be the "birth pains" of the time of the end.
-Third, Jesus went on to describe that a major and worldwide persecution of believers would be a sign that the time of the end has come. When believers are hated by "all nations" (Jesus meant what He said!), then believers would be experiencing the time of the end, and they must endure until the very end. When every single nation, as official policy, engages in the persecution of Christians then believers will know that the time of the end has come.
-Fourth, Jesus described the most extreme time period that would fall within the time of the end. Jesus told His disciples, and believers today, that the abomination of desolation would stand in the Holy Place. The disciples understood this as a reference to the Holy Place of the Temple and we should understand it that way as well. There is no symbolism involved here. The person who wrote the Gospel of Matthew (lets irritate the "experts" and assume it was Matthew), included the words "--let the reader understand--." Apparently the abomination of desolation was an important subject to be understood, and Matthew inserted that reminder within the text of Jesus sermon. It has remained there for centuries and exists in every ancient copy of the Gospel of Matthew that we possess. Jesus said that this abomination of desolation would signify the most terrible time of distress and tribulation that the world has ever seen in the past, or will ever see in the future! Clearly this terrible time of tribulation is in mankinds future, and to aid in our understanding Jesus pointed us to the prophet Daniel.
-Lastly, Jesus predicted that His Second Coming would be an amazing cosmic display, and that He would come on the clouds of heaven with power and glory. If you are a genuine Christian, then this is what you believe and this is what you expect. The real Christ will not come in secret, appearing in UN buildings or at scattered New Age lectures and communes incognito or via trance-channeling. He will come with a massive, visible and public display of his power and glory after the worst time of tribulation that the world has ever seen, and after the abomination of desolation stands in the Holy Place.
The Olivet Discourse is the first basic subject that should be understood when tackling the subject of the end-times. Its not complicated, and it means exactly what it says.
The second prophetic subject that must be addressed is the book of Revelation, the Apocalypse written by the disciple John. He was the last of the twelve disciples to pass away, but before he passed, Jesus allowed Him to view the end-times events and His Second Coming in a vision. Before you throw up your hands in despair before even trying to understand this book, lets take a moment to describe how it is laid out.
The book of Revelation unfolds over three separate sequences of judgments:
These judgments begin with the opening of a seven-sealed scroll. This scroll looks very much like an ancient Hebrew title or property deed. It is in fact the legal document that signifies ownership of the earth. You see, prior to the time of Jesus it was Satan who enjoyed legal possession of the earth. Mankind had lost it at the time of the Fall. When Jesus first began His ministry He was tempted in the desert by Satan, who said "Worship me and I will give you all the kingdoms of the world." 2
This was not a bogus offer. Satan did indeed own all of the kingdoms of the world. During Jesus ministry He referred to Satan several times as "the prince of this world." 3 The apostle Paul referred to him as the "god of this world," 4 and he warned believers that their real battle was against " the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." 5 Satan is indeed the ruler of this planet, and the legal owner of every human soul who has not put their faith in Jesus Christ.
The authority to take this planet back from Satan was gained by Jesus Christ when He was sacrificed for us on the cross. In Revelation Jesus is described as the one who is " worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." 6 If God does have legal possession of all men, then why did He need to send His Son to die in order to purchase us? The answer is that God does not own us or this earth. Satan is in charge here and Jesus is our only way out.
Jesus became worthy to end it all when He was sacrificed on the cross, but He has waited to take the scroll and open the seals because He wants as many people to repent and be saved as he can possibly get. 7 When the judgments of the seven seals have been fulfilled, then the earth will become Christs possession.
The seventh seal is a judgment that brings forth the second sequence of judgments, which come about through seven angels who blow seven trumpets. Because the seven trumpets are a part of the seventh seal, this means that the blowing of the seventh trumpet then signifies the completion of what was written on the scroll. Here is what happens at that time,
"The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever. And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great-- and for destroying those who destroy the earth. " 8
After the seventh trumpet is sounded then heaven responds by saying that the world is now legally in Christs possession. Then we are told that the time has come for: 1) Gods wrath, 2) Judging the dead, 3) Rewarding believers, and 4) Destroying the destroyers of the earth. Those responsible for destroying the earth are the Antichrist and the nations that follow him. It is this last task which must take place first, because when the seventh trumpet sounds the Antichrist still rules (now illegally) over the earth below. The heavenly elders say that "your wrath has come," and it is through wrath that the task of destroying will be accomplished. This seventh trumpet signals the start of the third and final judgment sequence within Revelation:
"I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues--last, because with them God's wrath is completed... After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened. Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests." 9
After the bowls are poured out then Jesus will return and destroy
the armies of the Antichrist that will be gathered at Armageddon. Satan will be captured
and imprisoned and the Antichrist will be thrown into the fires of hell. Jesus will then
remake the earth, and mankind will experience the real New Age, as our Messiah
rules the earth in justice and truth for 1000 years.
These then, are the most important subjects in Revelation, which make it easier to understand:
-The Judgments of the seven Seals, seven Trumpets and seven Bowls.
-The Beast: also known as the Antichrist, the son of Satan, and Satan incarnate.
-The Image of the Beast: which establishes the mandatory worship of Satans son.
-The Mark of the Beast: which creates a worldwide economic system under the Antichrists control.
Revelation is the second basic subject that must be understood in order to comprehend the broader picture of the end-times.
The third subject is a very important prophecy given to the prophet Daniel. It is the prophecy that Jesus referred to within His Olivet Discourse when He mentioned the abomination of desolation, and it will be discussed in Chapter 1.
The book of Daniel is one of the most authenticated books in the entire Old Testament. History records that it was translated into Greek along with the rest of the Hebrew scriptures in 270 BC. 10 It is quoted from in the Mishnahs, Targums and Talmuds that the Jews recorded in the early centuries after Christ, and eight copies of this book have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, along with every other book in the Old Testament except for Esther.
The Essenes were a sect of Jews who lived near the Dead Sea at Qumran. They are believed to have been the keepers of the scrolls. In their writings they speak highly of Daniel. They recognized his writings as prophetic and they even developed apocalyptic chronologies based on them. The Dead Sea Scrolls were buried in the years before the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, and many of them date back perhaps as far as the 3rd Century, BC. They were preserved in sealed clay pots in caves in the desert, and were finally uncovered in 1948. With this find scholars were able to prove that the Bible had not been changed, edited and re-written over the years, because the Dead Sea copies of the Old Testament books are almost 100% identical to contemporary copies of those very same books.
The book of Daniel is ancient indeed, and it is hardly a coincidence that this prophet's predictions can combine seamlessly with the book of Revelation, with the words of Jesus and with the predictions from the other prophets to point to one final fulfillment for them all. Daniels book ends when He questions the angel who had given him all of the prophetic messages. He asks for an explanation, because he did not understand what he was recording. The angel simply tells him not to worry, and that the understanding of it will be made clear at the time of the end,"I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, My lord, what will the outcome of all this be? He replied, Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end." Well now we have reached the time of the end.
1. The Olivet Discourse: Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21:5-36 (and perhaps Luke 17:22-37).
2. Matthew 4:8-10
3. John 12:31, John 14:30
4. 2 Corithians 4:4
5. Ephesians 6:12
6. Revelation 5:14
7. 2 Peter 3:3-9
8. Revelation 11:15-18 NIV
9. Revelation 15:1-6 NIV
10. The Septuagint Greek translation, or LXX