Category: (02) Surviving the end times – what do I need to know?


  Revelation 17:1-2 tells us, “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.’” Revelation 17:5 goes on to say, “And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” Who is this “whore of Babylon” and what is “mystery Babylon”?

Revelation 17:3 gives this description: “Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns.” The beast mentioned in this verse is the same beast as in Revelation chapter 13:1, “And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.” The beast in Revelation chapter 13 is understood to refer to the Antichrist, the man of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Daniel 9:27). So, the whore of Babylon, whoever it is, is closely affiliated with the end-times Antichrist.

The fact that the whore of Babylon is referred to as a mystery means that we cannot be completely certain as to her identity. The passage does give us some clues, however. Revelation 17:9 explains, “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits.” Many commentators link this passage with the Roman Catholic Church because in ancient times, the city of Rome was known as “the city on seven hills” because there are seven prominent hills that surround the city. However, verse 10 goes on to explain that the seven hills represent 7 kings or kingdoms, five of which have fallen, one that is and one that is to come. Therefore, the “whore of Babylon” cannot refer exclusively to Rome. Revelation 17:15 tells us, “Then the angel said to me, ‘The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.’” The whore of Babylon will have great worldwide influence over people and nations. Verses 10-14 describe a series of eight and then ten kings who affiliate with the beast. The whore of Babylon will at one time have control over these kings (Revelation 17:18), but at some point the kings will turn on her and destroy her (Revelation 17:16).

So, can the mystery of the whore of Babylon be solved? Yes, at least partially. The whore of Babylon is an evil world system, controlled by the Antichrist, during the last days before Jesus’ return. The whore of Babylon also has religious connotations – spiritual adultery with the beast being the focus of an ungodly, end-times religious system.

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The seven seals (Revelation 6:1-17, 8:1-5), seven trumpets (Revelation 8:6-13; 11:15-19), and seven bowls/vials (Revelation 16:1-21) are three succeeding series of end-times judgments from God. The judgments get progressively worse and more devastating as the end times progress. The seven seals, trumpets, and bowls are connected to one another. The seventh seal introduces the seven trumpets (Revelation 8:1-5), and the seventh trumpet introduces the seven bowls (Revelation 11:15-19, 15:1-8).

The first four of the seven seals are known as the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. The first seal introduces the Antichrist (Revelation 6:1-2). The second seal causes great warfare (Revelation 6:3-4). The third of the seven seals causes famine (Revelation 6:5-6). The fourth seal brings about plague, further famine, and further warfare (Revelation 6:7-8).

The fifth seal tells us of those who will be martyred for their faith in Christ during the end times (Revelation 6:9-11). God hears their cries for justice and will deliver it in His timing—in the form of the sixth seal, along with the trumpet and bowl judgments. When the sixth of the seven seals is broken, a devastating earthquake occurs, causing massive upheaval and terrible devastation—along with unusual astronomical phenomena (Revelation 6:12-14). Those who survive are right to cry out, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:16-17).

The seven trumpets are described in Revelation 8:6-13. The seven trumpets are the “contents” of the seventh seal (Revelation 8:1-5). The first trumpet causes hail and fire that destroys much of the plant life in the world (Revelation 8:7). The second trumpet brings about what seems to be a meteor hitting the oceans and causing the death of much of the world’s sea life (Revelation 8:8-9). The third trumpet is similar to the second, except it affects the world’s lakes and rivers instead of the oceans (Revelation 8:10-11).

The fourth of the seven trumpets causes the sun and moon to be darkened (Revelation 8:12). The fifth trumpet results in a plague of “demonic locusts” that attack and torture humanity (Revelation 9:1-11). The sixth trumpet releases a demonic army that kills a third of humanity (Revelation 9:12-21). The seventh trumpet calls forth the seven angels with the seven bowls of God’s wrath (Revelation 11:15-19, 15:1-8).

The seven bowl/vial judgments are described in Revelation 16:1-21. The seven bowl judgments are called forth by the seventh trumpet. The first bowl causes painful sores to break out on humanity (Revelation 16:2). The second bowl results in the death of every living thing in the sea (Revelation 16:3). The third bowl causes the rivers to turn into blood (Revelation 16:4-7). The fourth of the seven bowls results in the sun’s heat being intensified and causing great pain (Revelation 16:8-9). The fifth bowl causes great darkness and an intensification of the sores from the first bowl (Revelation 16:10-11). The sixth bowl results in the Euphrates River being dried up and the armies of the Antichrist being gathered together to wage the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-14). The seventh bowl results in a devastating earthquake followed by giant hailstones (Revelation 16:15-21).

Revelation 16:5-7 declares of God, “You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged; for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve. … Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments.”

The concept of ultimate reconciliation—the idea that God will ultimately reconcile every soul at some point so that they willingly spend eternity with Him—once again caused quite a stir in the theological world with the March 2010 release of Emergent Church leader Rob Bell’s book Love Wins. Decrying the historical theological position of a literal and eternal hell, Bell writes, “A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. It’s been clearly communicated to many that this belief is a central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.”

What biblical support does Bell offer for ultimate reconciliation? Bell cites Matthew’s statement of Elijah coming who “will restore all things” (Matthew 17:11), Peter’s sermon in Acts 3 that states there will be a “period of restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21), and Paul’s statement about the Father using Christ to “reconcile all things to Himself” (Colossians 1:20). Bell also argues that God, being omnipotent, should be able to get what He wants, and the Bible clearly says that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Bell implies that God would not be loving and great if He was unable or unwilling to save everyone: “How great is God? Great enough to achieve what God sets out to do, or kind of great, great most of the time, but in this, the fate of billions of people, not totally great. Sort of great. A little great” (Love Wins, pp. 97–99).

Is God going to ultimately save everyone as Bell asserts? Does the Bible teach an ultimate reconciliation of all created beings at some point to the Creator? These questions can be answered by first examining the debate from a historical perspective, then understanding the concepts of mercy and justice in God, and finally making a tour through Scripture to see what the Bible has to say on the subject.

Ultimate Reconciliation – A Look Back at History
Although the doctrine of ultimate reconciliation has been championed by a variety of individuals down through history, there are two that stand out. The first is Origen of Alexandria (185-254 A.D.). The African theologian, who took an allegorical approach to Scripture and was heavily influenced by Greek philosophy, did not believe in the eternal suffering of sinners in hell. For Origen, all created beings, even demons and the devil, would eventually achieve salvation, no matter how long it took in the current life or in the life to come. He reasoned that because God’s love is so powerful, it will eventually soften even the hardest heart. This thought is echoed by Bell who says, “No one can resist God’s pursuit forever because God’s love will eventually melt even the hardest hearts” (p. 108).

Origen saw the church as the great “school of souls” in which erring pupils are instructed and disciplined, but for those who do not choose God in this life, they would continue their ‘tutelage’ in the next through an atoning and sanctifying process of purging fire. Origen believed that hell cannot be permanent for any soul because God could not abandon any creature. Since God respects human freedom, the process of winning over His created beings may take a long time in some cases, but God’s love, Origen believed, will ultimately triumph. Or as Rob Bell puts it, love wins.

Origen’s restoration of all beings, known as apokatastasis, is the Greek word used in Acts 3:21 for ‘restoration, and can be traced back to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who stated that “the beginning and end are common.” Origen’s belief in ultimate reconciliation was eventually refuted by Augustine and condemned in 543 A.D. in a council at Constantinople.

The second major personality in history contributing to the teaching of ultimate reconciliation was an Italian theologian named Laelius Socinus and his nephew Faustus, who lived in the 16th century. Together, they revived the fourth century heresy of Arianism—officially condemned at the council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.—and taught that the trinity was a false doctrine and that Christ was not God. In that sense, they were “Unitarian” in their teaching.

But Socinus went further and said that some of God’s attributes (e.g. His omniscience, immutability, etc.) were optional and not necessary, meaning He didn’t have to manifest them if He chose not to. Socinus claimed that God’s justice was optional, but His mercy is mandatory. In other words, God always had to be merciful, but He didn’t always have to be just toward offenses committed against Him. Therefore, the logic of Socinus progressed as follows: if God’s justice is optional, but His mercy is mandatory, and if God loves all the world and Christ died for everyone who would ever live, then all people will be saved by God. In this respect, Socinus and his nephew were Universalists.

Both Origen and Socinus’ teaching preceded Rob Bell by centuries, but the text contained in Love Wins echoes their conclusions perfectly. The question becomes, then, how can such a thing occur from a practical standpoint? How can all souls be reconciled to God? This is where Bell and his predecessors greatly err in their theology; they misunderstand and misconstrue the Scripture’s teachings on God’s mercy and His justice.

Ultimate Reconciliation – Understanding God’s Mercy and His Justice
It is important to understand that the concepts of mercy and justice are understood in a unique fashion in Christianity. In every other religion in the world that holds to the idea of a supreme deity, that deity’s mercy is always exercised at the expense of its justice. For example, in Islam, Allah may grant mercy to an individual, but it’s always done at the expense of his justice. In other words, the offender’s punishment that was properly due him/her is brushed aside so that mercy can be extended. Islam’s Allah, and every other deity in every other non-Christian religion of the world, lays aside the requirements of the moral law in order to be merciful. Most people would have a major complaint against any human judge who acted in such a fashion.

Christianity is different. In Christianity, God exercises His mercy through His justice. The Christian doctrine of penal substitution states that sin and injustice were punished at the cross of Christ, and only because the penalty of sin was satisfied through Christ’s sacrifice does God extend His mercy to undeserving sinners.

And while Christ did indeed die for sinners, He also died as a demonstration of God’s righteousness. The Apostle Paul makes this clear when he says, “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:24-26). In other words, Paul says that although God didn’t immediately punish the sins of those who lived before Christ and extended mercy to them, He did not forget about justice. Instead, His righteousness (i.e. His justice) was demonstrated by Christ’s death on the cross. So God’s mercy was and is exercised through His justice.

While this teaching is beautiful and gives God glory, it can be misconstrued by some to mean that everyone will be saved through Christ’s death on the cross. In addition to the scriptures mentioned by Bell in his book, some Universalists point to verses such as: “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2), and: “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

The problem with such thinking is that there is enormous biblical evidence that leads in the opposite direction. Instead of echoing Origen, Socinus, and Bell’s conclusion that everyone will eventually turn their heart toward God and be reconciled to Him, the Bible states conclusively that most will experience eternal separation from God and only few will be saved because not all will believe and embrace Christ as their savior.

Ultimate Reconciliation – The Biblical Case for Hell
While some theologians may struggle to ascertain whether Jesus believed in a literal hell, a number of atheists experience no such difficulty. The skeptic Bertrand Russell wrote, “There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and it is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. . . . one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching. . . . I must say that I think all this doctrine, that hell-fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty.”

A plain reading of the text shows that Russell is right in his conclusion that Christ believed in hell. Consider Jesus’ discourse found in Luke 16: “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. “And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us’” (Luke 16:19–26).

Bell believes that hell is a “period of pruning” and “an intense experience of correction” (pg. 91), and yet verse 26 of the passage above speaks of a chasm so great that none who are in hell may cross over. In other words, hell is permanent. Perhaps this is why Jesus spoke more about hell in the Gospel accounts than He did heaven.

Consider Jesus’ other statements about eternal punishment and how the unsaved will experience God’s wrath:

• “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13–14)
• “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” (Matthew 7:22–23)
• “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day” (Matthew 11:23)
• “So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness” (Matthew 13:40–41)
• “So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:49–50)
• “Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matthew 22:13)
• “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:15)
• “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” (Matthew 23:33)
• “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;” (Matthew 25:41)
• “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46)
• “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43)
• “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:5)
• “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36)
• “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29)
• “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death’” (Revelation 2:11)

Notice that Revelation 2:11 has Jesus speaking of a “second death”, which is important to remember. This term is used three other times in the book of Revelation to speak of the fate of those who are unbelievers:

• “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6)
• “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14)
• “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

In Scripture, death denotes separation, oftentimes referring to the passage of life from a human body or the division of spiritual life from the soul of a person. In these verses, the author speaks to the fact that unbelievers are born once, but die twice; first they lose their physical life and then they lose their hope for eternal life with God.

There is no second chance, no matter how much Origen or Rob Bell wish it were otherwise. The writer of Hebrews plainly states, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Reconciling God’s Mercy with the Biblical Case for Hell
In arguing for ultimate reconciliation, Rob Bell asserts that God would not be great, loving, or merciful if He assigned people to hell. But nowhere does God’s justice ever factor into Bell’s thinking. While God’s justice is portrayed and is present throughout the entire Old and New Testament, what is absent in the Bible is Bell’s belief in a post-mortem evangelistic campaign that eventually reconciles those dying without Christ in this life to God in the next life. This reversal of scriptural support proves to be Bell’s theological Achilles’ heel.

At the heart of ultimate reconciliation is the difficulty over reconciling God’s mercy and the reality of hell is a lack of understanding of God’s antecedent and consequent wills. God indeed antecedently desires all to be saved, but He consequently wills the sinner to experience His punishment. Or as Thomas Aquinas explained it: “Hence it may be said of a just judge, that antecedently he wills all men to live; but consequently wills the murderer to be hanged. In the same way God antecedently wills all men to be saved, but consequently wills some to be damned, as His justice exacts.”

Redefining hell as Origen and Bell do (a place of temporary correction before entering eternal life with God) does every person who hears and accepts their teaching an incalculable injustice, and in a very real sense makes them irrelevant as theologians and teachers. On an American troop ship, the soldiers crowded around their chaplain asking, “Do you believe in hell?” “I do not,” replied the chaplain. “Well, then, will you please resign, for if there is no hell, we do not need you, and if there is a hell, we do not wish to be led astray.”

Unlike false shepherds like Rob Bell, the Bible-believing Christian needs to heed the command given to Ezekiel, which applies to us today: “Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself” (Ezek. 3:17-19).

Charles Spurgeon paraphrased Ezekiel’s words this way: “If sinners be dammed, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”

Ultimate Reconciliation – Conclusion
It is sobering to remember that the first doctrine to be denied in Scripture is judgment. The Bible records Satan saying to Eve, “You surely will not die!” (Genesis 3:4). Unfortunately, many Universalists feel the same way and deny that an eternal separation from God is a reality for anyone who refuses Christ as their savior. But simply put, those who reject Jesus Christ in this life will have their request honored also in the next.

The doctrine of ultimate reconciliation or universalism may be appealing to human sensibilities, but it is simply wrong and unbiblical. Scripture teaches that beyond this life, there are no second chances. Instead, the Bible declares, “Today is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Love does indeed win for those who turn by faith to Christ in this life and embrace Him as Savior. Those who don’t and dismiss the concept of hell will find out eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong. As writer Os Guinness puts it, “For some, hell is simply a truth realized too late.”

Often, people experience anxiety when they think about the future; however, it does not have to be that way. For those who know God, thoughts of the future bring eagerness and comfort. For example, describing a woman who knows and trusts God, Proverbs 31:25 says, “She smiles at the future.”

Two key thoughts to keep in mind about the future are, first, God is sovereign and in control over everything. He knows the future and absolutely controls what will happen. The Bible says, “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’ . . . Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it” (Isaiah 46:9–11, emphasis added).

The second thing to remember about the future is that the Bible outlines what will occur in “the end times” or “latter days.” Because the Bible is God’s revelation to humankind, and because God knows and controls the future (as Isaiah says above), then it stands to reason that when the Bible speaks about what will occur in the future, we can believe it. Concerning predictions about the future, the Bible says, “No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:21). This truth is evident in the fact that, unlike the false prophecies made in other religions or by individuals such as Nostradamus, the Bible has never once been wrong – every time the Bible has predicted a future event, it happened exactly as Scripture said it would.

When considering how to understand and survive in the end times, answer these three questions:

1. How should I interpret what the Bible says about the future (biblical prophecy)?
2. What does the Bible say will happen in the end times?
3. How should what the Bible says about the future affect the way I live today?

How to Interpret Biblical Prophecy
There are a number of viewpoints on what methods should be used when interpreting passages concerning the end times. While there are good people espousing different beliefs, there is good reason to believe that biblical prophecy should be interpreted (1) literally, (2) with a futurist view, and (3) in what is called a “premillennial” manner. Encouraging a literal interpretation is the fact that there are over 300 prophecies that concern the first coming of Christ, all of which were literally fulfilled. The predictions surrounding the Messiah’s birth, life, betrayal, death and resurrection were not fulfilled allegorically or in a spiritual manner. Jesus literally was born in Bethlehem, performed miracles, was betrayed by a close friend for 30 pieces of silver, was pierced in His hands and feet, died with thieves, was buried in a rich man’s tomb, and was resurrected three days after His death. All these details were predicted hundreds of years before Jesus was born and were literally fulfilled. And, while there is symbolism used in various prophecies (e.g., dragons, horsemen, etc.), all of it portrays literal beings or events, in much the same way as Jesus is spoken of as a lion and a lamb.

Regarding a futurist view, the Bible clearly states that prophetic books like Daniel and Revelation contain not only accounts of historical events, but also predictions of future events. After John was given his messages for the churches of his day, he received visions concerning what would occur in the end times. John was told, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things” (Revelation 4:1, emphasis added).

Perhaps an even stronger argument for a futurist view involves the promises God made to Abraham (cf. Genesis 12 & 15) concerning the land of Israel. Since God’s covenant with Abraham was unconditional, and His promises have not yet been fulfilled to Abraham’s descendants, then a futurist view of the promises to Israel is warranted.

Lastly, with respect to prophecy being interpreted in a “premillennial” manner, this means that, first, the church will be Raptured, then the world will experience a seven-year Tribulation period, and then Jesus Christ will return to reign over the earth for 1,000 literal years (Revelation 20).

But what does the Bible say will happen before then?

What Does the Bible Say Will Happen in the End Times?
Sadly, the Bible predicts a downward spiral of catastrophes, human sin, and religious apostasy before Christ returns. Paul writes, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. . . . Evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:1, 13). The world will continue to reject God, His Word, and His people.

Some day in the future – a day no one knows – God will end the Church Age which began in the first century on Pentecost (cf. Acts 2) with an event known as the Rapture. At that time, God removes all believers in Christ from the earth in preparation for His final judgments. Of the Rapture, Paul says, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 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 not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:14–18).

The erosion of peace and increase of turmoil that precedes the Rapture will reach epic proportions when untold numbers of people disappear from the earth. Such an event will cause panic and demands for a strong leader who will have answers to all the world’s problems. Preparation for this leader has been in progress for some time, as historian Arnold Toynbee has noted, “By forcing on mankind more and more lethal weapons, and at the same time making the world more and more interdependent economically, technology has brought mankind to such a degree of distress that we are ripe for the deifying of any new Caesar who might succeed in giving the world unity and peace.” Out of a revived Roman Empire, one that is organized in a European ten-constituency fashion (cf. Daniel 7:24; Revelation 13:1), the Antichrist will arise and sign a covenant with the nation of Israel, which will officially begin God’s prophetic seven-year countdown to Christ’s second coming (cf. Daniel 9:27).

For three and a half years, the Antichrist will reign over the earth and promise peace, but it is a false peace which will entrap the people of the earth. The Bible says, “While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3). Wars, earthquakes, and famines will escalate (cf. Matthew 24:7) until the end of the Antichrist’s 3.5-year reign, when he will enter a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and proclaim himself to be God and demand worship (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Matthew 24: 15). It is at that point that the true God responds to the challenge. For another 3.5 years, a Great Tribulation will occur, such as has never before been seen. Jesus predicted, “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matthew 24:21–22).

Untold loss of life and destruction of the earth will occur during the Great Tribulation. Also, large numbers will come to faith in Christ, yet many will do so at cost of their lives. God will still be in control as He gathers the unbelieving armies of the world in order to judge them. Of this event, the prophet Joel wrote, “I will gather all the nations And bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there On behalf of My people” (Joel 3:2). John records the battle this way: “And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon [Satan] and out of the mouth of the beast [the Antichrist] and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. . . . And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon” (Revelation 16:13–16).

At this point, the Messiah Jesus will return, destroy His enemies, and claim the world, which is rightfully His. “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’ Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in mid-heaven, ‘Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.’ And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh” (Revelation 19:11–21).

After Christ has defeated all the armies gathered in the valley of Armageddon, He will reign with His saints for one thousand years and fully restore Israel to her land. At the end of a thousand years, a final judgment of the nations and all remaining mankind will occur, which is then followed by an eternal state: either spent with God or separated from Him (cf. Revelation 20-21).

The above events are not speculations or possibilities – they are exactly what will take place in the future. Just as all the Bible’s prophecies of Christ’s first coming came true, so will all the Bible’s prophecies of His second coming.

Given the truth of these prophecies, what impact should they have on us now? Peter asks this question: “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! ” (2 Peter 3:11–12).

The Effect of Bible Prophecy on Us Today
There are four responses we should have to Bible prophecy. The first is obedience, which is what Peter speaks of in the verses above. Jesus continually tells us to be ready for His coming, which could happen at any time (cf. Mark 13:33-37) and to live in such a way that we are not ashamed of our behavior.

The second response is worship. God has provided a way to escape His end-time judgments—His free gift of salvation offered through Jesus. We must be sure we receive His salvation and live in gratitude before Him. Our worship on earth will one day become worship in heaven: “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation’” (Revelation 5:9).

The third response is proclamation. The message of God’s salvation and the truth of His second coming need to be proclaimed for all to hear, especially to those who don’t yet believe. We must give everyone the chance to turn to God and be saved from His coming wrath. Revelation 22:10 says, “And he said to me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.’”

The last response to God’s prophetic Word is service. All believers should be diligent about carrying out God’s will and performing good works. Part of Christ’s judgments will be of the works performed by believers. They do not determine a Christian’s acceptance into heaven, but they do show what each believer did with the gifts given him or her by God. Paul says of this judgment, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

In summation, God is sovereign over all events and people of the world. He is firmly in control of everything and will bring a perfect end to everything He has started. An old Christian song puts it like this: “All is God’s creation … Fashioned by One hand … Satan and Salvation … Under One command.”

Fulfilled prophecy is one proof that the Bible is a supernatural book. Hundreds of Old Testament prophecies have already been fulfilled, and it is reasonable to conclude that what it says about the end times will be fulfilled as well. For those who know Jesus and have trusted Him as their Lord and Savior, His coming will be their blessed hope (cf. Titus 2:13). But for those who have rejected Christ, He will be their holy terror (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:8). The bottom line is this: to survive the end times, make sure you are a believer in Christ: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).