In Matthew 24 Jesus teaches His disciples, and us, about the events that will take place throughout history, and those events leading up to His return for His church and following a brief period, his return to rule on earth for 1,000 years as spoken of repeatedly in the Prophets.
Many point to verse 36 in that chapter where Jesus says:
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”
This passage is often referenced to point to the futility of watching for the return of Jesus, because no one can know. But just because we cannot know the day nor the hour (making date setting a foolish practice) we are told that believers who are alert and watching for our Saviour’s return will know the season as it approaches.
In 1 Thessalonians 5, possibly the earliest book written of the New Testament, Paul tells us that ‘the Day of the Lord’ will come upon the world as a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2) But Paul continues in verse 4:
“But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5:4 – 6)
The day of Christ’s return, and His judgment on the world will catch many by surprise. But there is no reason that it should surprise any watchful believer. And so with that in mind, I would like to outline briefly seven of the major events that will take place at the time of Christ’s return, and what we are observing in the world right now that gives us a sense of anticipation – but not just anticipation, challenges each and every one of us to ensure that we are ready for our Lord and Saviour and not caught napping at His appearing.
The Rapture of the Church
It is my conviction that Jesus will return for His Bride, the church, prior to the seven-year tribulation period. This position is the cause of many arguments in the church, and it shouldn’t be. The timing of the return of Jesus for the church is not an issue that will affect a person’s salvation, although it will have a flow on effect on how we view other doctrines. Because it is not a salvation issue, it shouldn’t cause argument in the church, it should cause healthy conversation and prayerful discussion and it should be the source of wonderful encouragement as we look forward to the day when we “shall be ‘caught up’ (raptured 1 Thessalonians 4:17) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”
Can you see how it is possible that if this doctrine causes friction and division, the result is that many will refuse to speak of it (which is a win for the devil) and we miss out on something so precious, that is our “the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13)
So we should talk about the Rapture, and I will continue to do so. While it is not the purpose of this message to outline why I have the conviction that Jesus returns for the Bride (Church) prior to the Great Tribulation, I’m more than happy to have a conversation over coffee sometime if anyone would like to explore this subject with me. In the meantime, I have written a post on the subject if you’d like to look into it further: https://oakleighbaptist.org/why-have-we-lost-hope/
The purpose of this message today is to point to events in the world that demonstrate that these events are unfolding before our eyes. There is no event that points to the Rapture of the Church other than all the things that happen after the church is removed from the earth and kept safely with the Lord until we return with Him for His Millennial Reign. If these other things are rapidly approaching as we speak, which they seem to be, then the Rapture is sooner than any of them, and so we have reason to be excited, and to be ready.
The confirming of a 7 Year Covenant
One of the things that can only happen following the Rapture of the Church is that a world leader who is loved and followed by most will arise, but we know that from the Bible this is not a good man, but the antichrist. This man will confirm a 7 Year Covenant that will be a Covenant of peace between Israel and many nations around her. Let me give you some background and then show you how the stage is being set for this right now.
God speaks of the future in advance through Scripture to give us hope and strengthen our faith. (John 13:19, Isaiah 46:9-10) There are many passages in the Bible that work together to give us an outline of how things play out in the future. A foundation for this is found in the book of Daniel. Daniel 9:20 – 27 outlines the history of Israel in advance and is absolutely astounding in its clarity and accuracy. It describes a period of history, most of which took place in the years leading up to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.
With the presentation of Jesus in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and the rejection of the Jewish rulership that led to the ‘mystery’ that Paul describes so often throughout his letters (see Romans 11:25), God literally pushed the pause button on the timeline of seventy weeks (literally seventy weeks of years i.e. 490 years in total) with one week (seven years still to happen).
That week begins with a specific event, and that event is described in verse 27:
“Then he (the prince who is to come – one of the titles of the antichrist) shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; (Daniel 9:27)
“With many,” speaks of a group of nations, the total amount of which is not given. The Angel Gabriel who delivered this message tells Daniel that this message is for his people, therefore the covenant will be confirmed by the antichrist, between Israel and a group of nations. The fact that it is to be ‘confirmed’ means that it is already in place to some degree.
A previous vision given to Daniel also sheds light on this period. In Daniel 8:24 & 25 we read:
And his (antichrist) power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes (Jesus); but he shall be broken without hand.
There are so many references in this passage that are interesting and important. Notably that it is by peace and through deception (craft in this translation) that he brings destruction upon the nations. In the end – he is so proud that he will even stand up against Jesus when He returns, but that he will be destroyed without human hand – notably at the hand of God alone.
All of this is background to set the scene for what we are seeing take place in the world around us right now. But in summary, after the rapture of the church (and I’m assuming a pre-tribulation rapture here, but if your preference is for a ‘later escape’ then the rest of us will be waiting for you (just tongue in cheek)) the antichrist (the most notable of his names) comes onto the world scene. He is immediately loved by many and Israel believes that he is their Messiah.
He will confirm a covenant, and from chapter 8 we deduce that this is a peace covenant, between Israel and many nations (the most likely scenario being nations that they have been in conflict with, and by which a peace agreement would be celebrated not only in the region but around the world).
Added to this we know that somewhere along the way, the 3rd Temple needs to be rebuilt because halfway through the agreement the antichrist will desecrate the temple. It is believed (though this is not stated in the Bible but it would make a lot of sense) that the permission to build the Temple on the Temple Mount will be a part of the 7-year peace agreement.
The Hebrew word used for ‘confirming of the agreement’ is one which makes it clear that the ‘antichrist’ will make the agreement that is already in place much better or much greater. In other words, he will add to what has already been agreed in a way that will benefit Israel even more.
So what is happening right now that puts all this in play? That is the important question of this study. Firstly, in September 2020, a peace agreement between Israel and the UAE & Bahrain called the Abraham Accords was signed by all three nations. In October Sudan agreed to join followed by Morocco in December.
In the last couple of days the Israeli Prime Minister has indicated that Israel is set to make Abraham Accords peace deals with four more Arab countries in the region. One of the nations that is yet to sign on, but has been spoken about a lot is Saudi Arabia, and indeed this would be a remarkable event if they join the Accords. All of that sets the stage for a ‘man of peace’ to enter the stage and confirm these agreements.
The 7 Year Great Tribulation (technically the last 3.5 years)
The ‘confirming’ of the covenant between Israel and ‘many nations’ by the antichrist begins the period known as the 70th Week in the message given by Gabriel to Daniel and recorded in Daniel chapter 9. Jesus gives us more detail about this period in the passage we began with in Matthew 24.
In that passage, Jesus makes a clear distinction between the first half and the second half of the 7-year period. The first half is a time of peace, where many actually believe this world leader to be the promised Messiah. The second three and a half years is what Jesus calls The Great Tribulation. Of this second half, Jesus declares:
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. (Matthew 24:21)
The Battle of Gog and Magog
The next item on the list is what is often referred to as ‘the Battle of Gog and Magog.’ This is a battle between Israel and a specified group of nations. The prophesy comes to us from Ezekiel 38 and 39. No such battle is known of in history, giving support to the argument that it is a war that happens towards the end of this age. What puts that argument seemingly beyond any doubt is that the description of the fallout from the battle speaks of modern rather than ancient weaponry.
The alliance of nations is significant. The main players that come against Israel include, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Libya and Ethiopia. There are some who believe that this battle and the battle of Armageddon that takes place at the end of the Great Tribulation are the same battle but there seems to be some important differences.
In particular, Armageddon is the nations of the world coming against God, while in contrast, the Ezekiel battle is one for resources. Twice in the passage the attackers are asked, have you come ‘to take plunder and to take booty’ (Ezekiel 38:12 & 13). Interestingly (in relation to the earlier point of the nations who have an alliance with Israel) Saudi Arabia is one of the nations who are not involved but on the sidelines questioning the attackers. They don’t get involved but they are somewhat critical.
We don’t know specifically when this battle takes place, but the most likely place is before the midpoint of the Seven Years. It doesn’t have to be, but some suggest it occurs after the signing of the Peace Covenant because Israel is dwelling at peace with the nations around it, sensing that it has a level of protection and security, presumably through the Alliances that she has formed and has been affirmed by the global community.
This battle has been brewing for quite some time, and those who are watching have watched as more and more pieces fall into place, particularly the alliances and friendships that are forming. In recent times, great oil and gas discoveries made by Israel has brought the ‘take plunder’ statement into play. Until recent years, Israel seemed to be the one nation in the region that had little in these precious resources.
All that has changed now, and with Israel as a global leader in innovation and development, they have recently exploring a new pipeline to transport oil and natural gas from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf, and even a Canal that will be able to transport larger ships from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, via a different route than the Sues Canal.
This kind of infrastructure will have an enormous effect on Russia in particular and so they are likely to do whatever they can to ensure that it doesn’t come to pass. And as we speak, Iran, Turkey and Russia are all positioned on the border of Israel, in the nation of Syria. They are positioning themselves, getting ready for their next move.
The Abomination of Desolation
This highlights why it is likely that the authorisation to rebuild the Temple is a part of the peace agreement, because in order for this event to take place, there needs to be a Temple for the antichrist to desecrate.
By the way, for those who are not aware, the Temple and everything required has been ready to go for a while now, and the belief is that it will take no more than 60 – 90 days before it could be completed.
Ever since Israel was ‘reborn’ in 1948, the topic of the Temple Mount has been hotly protested by Muslims all over the world. It is seen as their 3rd most holy site after Meccan and Medina, both in Saudi Arabia. In 1967, after being attacked, Israel regained control over the Old City of Jerusalem in which the Temple Mount is situated, but immediately handed ‘tenancy’ back to Jordan to maintain. Jews and Christians have been able to visit subject to the rules of the tenants. Both Jews and Christians are expressively forbidden from conducting any form of ‘faith activity’ such as reading Scriptures or Praying. Even seeing your lips move with no sound is cause for being ejected from the Temple Mount.
The thought that any Muslim group, and particularly country, would say anything in favour of a 3rd Temple being built on the Temple Mount has been a long, long way from reality … until the last couple of weeks.
There has been growing support for a Jewish claim to the Temple Mount out of Saudi Arabia, where they claim that their true holy sites are Mecca and Medina. They are saying that the Temple Mount and even the Al-Aqsa Mosque situated there are not important to Islam and that they acknowledge Israel’s claim to the Temple Mount.
What does this mean? That there is now growing support among Muslims for the Jews to build a temple on the Temple Mount. Anyone who has been watching things unfold in the Middle East over the years will find this astounding.
The Mark of the Beast
Now we are really starting to get controversial and push closer to home. Because at this point in the discussion the whole world has become fully engaged. By the mid-point of the Tribulation period, the book of Revelation points to a global government, religion and monetary system. Here is where in chapter 13 we have the famous passage of the Mark of the Beast where everyone needs to take the ‘mark’ on either the hand or forehead in order to be able to buy and sell.
There is a lot of hype at the moment about the current vaccine being a precursor to the Mark of the Beast of Revelation 13. Please hear me correctly, I’m not saying that. In fact I want to make it very clear that the current Vaccine is not the Mark of the Beast. It can’t be for some reasons that I’m not going to go into right now.
Let me also say, in case you are interested in my opinion, that I will personally not be in a hurry to take the jab. I have very grave concerns about the current Vaccine but that isn’t the topic for today.
What I do want to point to is both the readiness and willingness for a great number, possibly the majority in our world today, to accept anything being put into their bodies in order to be able ‘live a normal life.’ Around the world, people are being coerced into taking this Vaccine in order to be able to do ordinary everyday things such as travel, go to work, attend events, enter a store in order to purchase food or goods.
It is this language, and the willingness for people to accept this, along with the preparation of ways to track those who have taken the Vaccine that particularly has me attuned to what is going on. I learned today of Artificial Intelligence that is being developed to be able to track those with the Vaccine, along with other information.
Eighteen months ago, this kind of readiness on behalf of the world to accept this level of control, and I use that word deliberately, would have been laughable, although it was certainly already being talked about and planned for in certain circles. Just most people were unaware, and anyone who pointed to what was going on were considered to be ‘conspiracy theorists.’
What all this means is that everything that needs to happen, at least as far as I and many others can see, is ready to go.
The Battle of Armageddon
The last two events happen towards the end of the tribulation period. In Revelation 16:12 – 16 it describes all the nations being gathered together for the Battle of Armageddon and the reference to Armageddon is a depiction of the location as they are gathered in the valley of Megiddo.
I was talking with a good friend of mine during the week. Before I even brought this information to his attention (He is a Godly believer but knows little about Eschatology (Study of the End Times)). He asked me what I thought was going on with China, and how his wife, who has connections through work is saying that everyone is concerned with the size of the army that they are forming.
My friend said that the expectation is that we will be at war with China in no time. I thought he was referring to Australia, and I simply mentioned that Australia is small fry, and we wouldn’t be able to stand against the might of China, unless their focus was shifted. He said, the worry is not about China at war with Australia – but against the ‘West’ and the nations of the world.
I mentioned to him that is Revelation 16 and the battle of Armageddon. Immediately I thought I have yet another piece of the puzzle to bring as to how the world is shaping up exactly as the Bible foretold over 2,000 years ago.
The 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ
The climax of the story of course as it should be, is the return of our Saviour to rule and reign on the earth for 1,000 years. The Christian Saints (different to Old Testament and Tribulation Saints) will come with Him to rule on the earth.
There are many differing opinions about how His return unfolds. Is it an immediate appearing that the entire world witnesses in one moment? Or does Jesus and His Bride return first and travel towards Jerusalem as some of the Old Testament passages seem to describe.
All that makes for very interesting investigation or discussion for another time.
It is not hard to be overwhelmed by all this, and the more people I speak to about it, the more I realise that many people have very little understand as to what is really going on. Pastors and Biblical Scholars have shut themselves off to many of these things, and we are all the poorer for it. It is time for us to be awake and aware, and I will be doing my best effort to keep people informed.
But what it means for each one of us specifically is what we will be talking about this Sunday (21st March 2021). We are studying the Great Hall of Faith in Hebrews chapter 11. It speaks of the heroes of the Bible and their faith that saw God work in wonderful ways.
The point of this chapter is not for us to be impressed, but to realise that THIS IS OUR TIME! We have been born for such a time as this. Our acts of faith will testify to God at work in His church right now. They may lead some to faith! They will certainly bring us rewards. Most importantly they will glorify our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who is soon coming to take us to be with Him.
My friend, if you are reading this, then this is your time. If you don’t know Jesus as your personal Saviour, and want to learn what it means to be a Christian, you will find video’s here to help you.
If you wish to speak with someone or have someone pray for you for any reason please contact me:
Video’s on becoming a Christian, Baptism, and being a part of a church community
Article on the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church
Article from early 2020 with more information and charts of the timing of Biblical Events in the last days and what is happening in the world right now.