Thursday, August 26, 2010
By Britt Gillette
End Times Bible Prophecy
What are the signs of the end times?
It's important to know so we can explain to others why Christians believe what we believe.
As Peter says:
"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." 1 Peter 3:15 (NLT)
Unfortunately, too many Christians are unable to explain why they believe we're in the last days when the opportunity presents itself.
One argument in particular seems to catch today's Christians off guard.
Peter forewarned us of this argument:
"Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, 'What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.'" 2 Peter 3:3-4 (NLT)
The particular version I hear most often is, "Sure, you think Jesus is coming, but so have previous generations."
The implication is that our generation will pass without the Second Coming just as those previous generations passed without His Coming.
Aside from being illogical, this assertion flies in the face of plain observation as well as mountains of irrefutable evidence.
A Sign of the End?
Is the prevalence of Peter's end time skeptic argument in-and-of itself a sign of the end times?
But let's take a second look at what he said:
"They will say, 'What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.'" 2 Peter 3:4 (NLT)
How many times have you heard someone say, "It's the same now as it's always been" or at least something along those lines?
Probably a lot.
But is it?
Is it really the same?
When non-believers tell you there are no signs of the end times which are unique to our time, you need to be prepared to set the record straight.
Below are at least seven signs of the end times.
Commit them to memory, and as Peter says, "be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."
Clear Signs of the End Times
Below is a list of seven clear signs of the end times, which highlight the nearness of Christ's return. In fact, He's so close He's knocking on the door:
1) The Holocaust and the Re-Emergence of Israel
One of the preeminent signs of the end times is the Jewish survival of the Holocaust and the re-emergence of the nation of Israel as a Jewish state.
Over 2,600 years ago, the prophet Ezekiel foretold these events:
"Then he said to me, 'Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, 'We have become old, dry bones - all hope is gone.' Now give them this message from the Sovereign Lord: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord." Ezekiel 37:11-13 (NLT)
As God says, the bones in Ezekiel 37 represent the people of Israel - otherwise known as the Jews.
Following the first century Roman conquest of the Holy Land, the Jews were banished from the land of Israel. The Romans renamed the area Palestine, and exiled its people to the farthest corners of the Roman Empire.
Yet, in Ezekiel 37, God promised to bring the Jews out of exile. He promised to bring them back into the land of Israel.
Not only did He promise to restore their nation, but God promised to do so by opening their "graves" at a time when the Jews feel that "all hope is gone."
The aftermath of Hitler's Holocaust of the Jewish people created these very conditions, nearly destroying an entire race of people and draining the hope of countless survivors.
But out of the Holocaust, God brought the Jewish people back into the land of Israel, just as He had promised.
On May 14, 1948, the nation of Israel reappeared in fulfillment of not just Ezekiel 37:11-13, but countless Old Testament prophecies.
Of all the signs of the end times, the re-establishment of Israel as an independent nation is the clearest and most unmistakable sign that we are in the last of the last days.
2) Jerusalem Is a Burden to the World
Another visible sign of the end times is the world diplomatic struggle over Jerusalem.
The prophet Zechariah foresaw this event centuries ago:
"I will make Jerusalem and Judah like an intoxicating drink to all the nearby nations that send their armies to besiege Jerusalem. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone, a burden for the world. None of the nations who try to lift it will escape unscathed." Zechariah 12:2-3 (NLT)
Since 1967 when the Israelis retook Jerusalem in the Six Day War, the division of Jerusalem and ownership of the Temple Mount in particular, have been a source of countless U.N. resolutions, diplomatic crises, and calls for war.
The struggle over the "Peace Process" in the Middle East is the stated number one priority of world diplomats, and Jerusalem resides at the center of discussions about "land for peace."
With the threat of World War III casting a shadow over every decision to rebuild Jewish settlements or expand Israeli society, the City of Jerusalem is no doubt "a burden for the world."
Is this "the way it's always been?"
Until this generation, Jerusalem was not "a burden for the world." In fact, prior to 1948, world diplomatic leaders rarely mentioned it.
3) The Dramatic Increase in Travel and Knowledge
One of the signs of the end times that anyone can easily recognize is the recent explosive increase in travel and knowledge.
In a vision, God revealed to Daniel that in "the time of the end," travel and knowledge will increase:
"But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end. Many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase." Daniel 12:4 (NLT)
According to the book of Daniel, two things will increase in "the time of the end" - travel and knowledge.
Is this the case now?
At the time the Book of Daniel was written, horses were the world's the fastest mode of transportation.
In fact, horses remained the world's fastest mode of transportation for over 2,000 years until the Industrial Revolution spawned such innovations as the steam boat, the locomotive, and the horseless carriage.
Prior to the 20th Century, most people rarely traveled more than 30 miles from where they were born. Today, people routinely travel from one continent to another within the same day.
Today's world is definitely not "the way it's always been."
Frequency and speed of travel have markedly increased!
What about knowledge?
In Daniel's time, few people received a formal education. In fact, basic literacy was a foreign concept to all but an elite minority of the world until the past 100 to 150 years.
Yet, in the past century alone, human knowledge of science, biology, technology, and countless fields of endeavor has exploded. And the advent of the Internet has created a worldwide archive of human knowledge that far exceeds even the wildest dreams of the great ancient civilizations.
Is humanity's knowledge base today "the same as previous generations?"
Absolutely not. Human knowledge has also markedly increased.
Given that all this can be ascertained from mere observation, how can anyone say with a straight face that "things today are the same as they've always been?"
4) Exponential Growth Marks the Times
If a marked increase in travel and knowledge constitute one of the most clearly observable signs of the end times, then the two are merely components of a much larger sign of the end times - exponential growth.
Jesus pointed to exponential growth as a sign of His Coming:
"Later, Jesus sat on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and asked, 'When will all this take place? And will there be any sign ahead of time to signal your return and the end of the world?' Jesus told them, 'Don't let anyone mislead you. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Messiah.' They will lead many astray. And wars will break out near and far, but don't panic. Yes, these things must come, but the end won't follow immediately. The nations and kingdoms will proclaim war against each other, and there will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this will be only the beginning of the horrors to come.'" Matthew 24:3-8 (NLT)
This translation fails to communicate an important revelation from Jesus - that the end times will be analogous to the birthing process.
According to Strong's Concordance, the word "horrors" as translated above comes from the word "odin" which is best translated as "the pain of childbirth" or "birth pangs."
This means that, much like birth pangs, signs of the end times will appear with greater frequency and intensity as Christ's return draws near. This is why Jesus mentioned this sign first when answering his disciples' questions "When will all this take place? And will there be any sign ahead of time to signal your return and the end of the world?"
According to Jesus, three things in particular will increase in frequency and intensity as the world draws closer to His return:
Have we seen these three things increase in frequency and intensity in the recent past?
Let's take a brief look at wars, famines, and earthquakes over the past 500 years.
Wars - A Sign of the End Times
According to a Wikipedia list of wars, the past 500 years have witnessed an increase in the frequency of wars:
•15th Century - 29 wars
•16th Century - 59 wars
•17th Century - 75 wars
•18th Century - 69 wars
•19th Century - 294 wars
•20th Century - 278 wars
The first decade of the 21st Century has already witnessed 55 wars, putting humanity on course for 550 wars over the next one hundred year period.
Have these wars increased in intensity?
For most of human history, wars were fought through individual hand-to-hand combat. But the past few hundred years have witnessed the ascension of more accurate guns, machine guns, and aerial bombing. Today, a single weapon of mass destruction can kill hundreds of thousands of people.
Famines - A Sign of the End Times
According to a Wikipedia list of famines, the past 500 years have also witnessed an increase in the frequency of famines:
•15th Century - 6 famines
•16th Century - 10 famines
•17th Century - 24 famines
•18th Century - 28 famines
•19th Century - 30 famines
•20th Century - 44 famines
The first decade of the 21st Century alone has already witnessed 12 famines, putting humanity on course for 120 famines over the next one hundred year period.
Have these famines increased in intensity and severity?
As the population of the world has grown, famines have caused more and more death and destruction in their wake.
In fact, while the Roman Empire's entire population at the time of Jesus is estimated to have been approximately 55 million people, the first half of the 20th Century alone witnessed these famines:
•The 1921 famine in Russia (5 million+ dead)
•The 1928-1929 famine in China (3 million+ dead)
•The 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine (2.6 and 10 million+ dead)
•The 1932-1933 famine in Kazakhstan (1.2 and 1.5 million+ dead)
•The 1936 famine in China (5 million+ dead)
•The 1942-1943 famine in China (1 million+ dead)
•The 1946-1947 famine in the Soviet Union (1 million+ dead)
That's an estimated 18.8 to 26.5 million who perished from famine just from these seven famines alone!
And from 1959 to 1961, the Great Chinese Famine is estimated to have killed more than 36 million people.
Famines have dramatically increased in both frequency and intensity since Jesus first answered His disciples' questions.
Earthquakes - Another Sign of the End Times
According to a Wikipedia list of earthquakes, the past 500 years have witnessed the following number of earthquakes described as a magnitude 7.0 or greater:
•15th Century - 2 earthquakes
•16th Century - 3 earthquakes
•17th Century - 7 earthquakes
•18th Century - 13 earthquakes
•19th Century - 29 earthquakes
•20th Century - 123 earthquakes
The first decade of the 21st Century has already witnessed 144 earthquakes with a magnitude of 7.0 or greater, putting humanity on course for 1,440 such earthquakes over the next one hundred year period!
The dramatic increase in devastating wars, famines, and earthquakes from the time of Jesus until today is one of clearest signs of the end times.
5) Rise of the Gog/Magog Alliance
Yet another sign of the end times is the current rise of the Gog/Magog Alliance.
The details of this future military alliance against Israel are found in the Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 38 and 39:
"This is another message that came to me from the Lord: 'Son of man, prophesy against Gog of the land of Magog, the prince who rules over the nations of Meshech and Tubal. Give him this message from the Sovereign Lord: Gog, I am your enemy! I will turn you around and put hooks into your jaws to lead you out to your destruction. I will mobilize your troops and cavalry and make you a vast and mighty horde, all fully armed. Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya will join you, too, with all their weapons. Gomer and all its hordes will also join you, along with the armies of Beth-togarmah from the distant north and many others.'" Ezekiel 38:1-6 (NLT)
The nations cited in the verses above are associated with their Old Testament predecessors, but they all represent nations that exist today.
Below is a list of those nations, each followed by its modern day equivalent:
•Magog, Meshech, and Tubal = Russia
•Persia = Iran
•Cush = Ethiopia
•Put = Libya
•Gomer = Turkey
•Beth-togarmah = Turkey, Armenia, and the Turkish-speaking people of Asia Minor
According to God, Russia will mobilize a coalition that includes these nations in the last days.
Throughout human history, there's never been a cooperative military alliance between the nations of Russia and Iran - at least until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Since then, a cooperative diplomatic and military alliance between Iran and Russia has formed and slowly expanded, ultimately leading to Russia's assistance in providing Iran with the necessary support to make the Bushehr nuclear power plant operational in 2010.
So when does the Bible tell us this alliance will form?
It definitely says, "in the last days":
"Get ready; be prepared! Keep all the armies around you mobilized, and take command of them. A long time from now you will be called into action. In the distant future you will swoop down on the land of Israel, which will be lying in peace after her recovery from war and after the return of her people from many lands. You and all your allies - a vast and awesome horde - will roll down on them like a storm and cover the land like a cloud." Ezekiel 38:7-9 (NLT)
According to Strong's Concordance, "in the distant future" is better translated as "achariyth shaneh" which means "end years."
6) The Rise of Global Government
Another sign of the end times is the current trend toward globalization.
According to the Book of Revelation, globalization involves more than just multinational corporations and global commerce. One day, a single man will rule all the people and nations on the earth:
"And he was given authority to rule over every tribe and people and language and nation." Revelation 13:7 (NLT)
With each passing day more and more nations are ceding their sovereignty to larger institutions such as the European Union, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Court.
Given the current global financial crisis and the potential catastrophe of a global war, more and more diplomatic leaders and world politicians are calling for global government.
And as human technology continues to advance and mature, we're quickly reaching a point where global totalitarian rule will be possible.
7) The Good News Preached Throughout the World
Jesus revealed the following sign of the end times to His disciples in response to their questions about the end of the age and the sign of His coming:
"And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come." Matthew 24:14 (NLT)
According to Christ, His Coming is preceded by the preaching of the Gospel "throughout the whole world."
This idea is reiterated in the Book of Revelation.
"And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world - to every nation, tribe, language, and people. 'Fear God,' he shouted. 'Give glory to him. For the time has come when he will sit as judge. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all the springs of water.'" Revelation 14:6-7 (NLT)
In the time of Jesus, the Gospel was confined to a relatively small number of people in and around Israel. And much of the earth's land mass was completely unknown to the disciples of Jesus, so the odds of the disciples preaching the Gospel of Christ "throughout the whole world" in their own time was quite remote.
Yet, 2,000 years later, the Gospel is preached in every nation, the Bible is translated in hundreds of languages, and the Gospel of Christ is delivered through thousands of ministries via radio, cable TV, satellite, and the Internet.
Is this "the way it's always been?"
The truth is our generation is closer to preaching the Gospel "throughout the whole world" than any preceding generation.
Signs of the End Times
These are just seven signs of the end times, but they aren't the only signs.
The Bible has much to say about the last days and the time of the end, and as followers of Christ, we are warned to recognize the signs of the times.
"Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near." Matthew 24:28 (NLT)
Because if we acknowledge the signs of the end times as well as our Lord's command to stay awake and alert, we will be driven to live Godly lives. Paul emphasized this in his letter to the Romans: "Another reason for right living is that you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for the coming of our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed." Romans 13:11 (NLT)
Remember, all prophecy exists to give a clear witness for Christ:
"For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus." Revelation 19:10 (NLT)
And prophecy is telling us that Christ is coming.
"In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door." Matthew 24:33 (NLT)